If you are looking to inflate your car or bicycle tires, your natural breath won’t cut it. Ideally, you’d have to go all the way to a gas station and make use of their facilities, but what if you got a flat in the middle of nowhere? This is where a portable air compressor comes in!
Portable air compressors have, in recent times, been made smaller and compact enough to keep at home, or comfortably fit in the trunk of your car for the more outlandish journeys. Despite their small size, they now come with enough power to perform most functions of any larger air compressor. Some can be used to power small tools and even feature LCD displays and pressure gauges which will be good for inflating or deflating tires up to their required standard. For longer life, they are made with durable materials and have auto-shutoff features in place for extra safety.
That said, choosing one that fits your particular need might be a daunting affair. You might need one, for example, that is able to source power from the battery of your vehicle. To help ease your selection process, we have compiled a list of the best portable air compressors out there today.
Top 10 Portable Air Compressors Of 2020 Reviewed
1. EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor PumpPortable Air Compressor For Car Tires
The EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump is a plug-in model that can be used to inflate tires as well as balls and inflatables (adaptors included). The display units (all four of them) are easy to read showing PSI, KPA, BAR, and KG/CM. The compressor also features an LED flashlight. It comes with an automatic shut off when you reach the desired tire pressure. The power cord is pretty long, reaching about 9 feet while the filler is around 2 1/2 feet. We love the fact that it’s fast and quiet. The fact that there’s an automatic shutoff means you don’t have to constantly watch the pump.
However, the pump isn’t as fast at a higher PSI. The screw-in valve connector is easy to use but will require you to take off your gloves during winter which isn’t ideal. And while we appreciate the carry bag, it is hard to fit the compressor inside.
- Very quiet
- Automatic shut-off
- Compact and lightweight
- Screw-in valve connector; not quick connect
- Not for inflating truck tires
- The carry bag is a bit tight
2. PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake CompressorPortable Air Compressor For Nail Gun
While this air compressor won’t fit in the trunk of your car, it can easily be carried around the house whenever you need it. It features a six-gallon air tank with 150 PSI maximum tank pressure for extended run time. It is an oil-free tank that is shaped like a pancake for better stability and weighs only 30 lbs. You can easily use this to fill tires or fire nailers (up to 3 at the same time!).
This is a very impressive air compressor that won’t require much maintenance and yet consistently produce lots of power. It only takes a couple of minutes to reach 110 psi. It can run through your entire list of tasks from nailing to painting without breaking a sweat. Finally, it even comes with two gauges and quick-connect couplers.
However, the attachment air nozzle is flimsy and doesn’t work well. Also, it can get hot while running and can be loud.
- Very powerful
- Compact and light enough to carry around the house
- Can run for an extended time
- Air nozzle is flimsy
- Tends to run hot
3. Kensun AC/DC Rapid Performance Portable Air CompressorPortable Air Compressor For Truck Tires
This is truly a portable air compressor as it only weighs 5 pounds. It’s incredibly compact and easy to store away. This is an AC/DC air compressor so you can plug it into the cigarette lighter socket of your car or in a wall socket at home. It features a digital pressure gauge with LCD display and unit conversion. There’s a built-in white LED light and the compressor comes with 2 attachment nozzles to help you inflate anything from car tires to balls and inflatables. Plus, you even get a carry bag to put all the accessories in along with the compressor.
However, the display isn’t easy to read and the pressure settings revert back to 35psi (the default setting) whenever you unplug the compressor. You’ll need to reset it to your desired pressure every single time. The cord is also a bit on the short side.
- Very lightweight
- AC and DC cables
- Comes with 2 attachment nozzles
- Very short cable (24 inches only)
- Limited use; not for truck tires
- Not very powerful; slow to reach 35 PSI from 25 PSI
4. VIAIR 85P Portable Air CompressorPortable Air Compressor For Truck Tires
The Viair 85P is one of the best plug-in air compressors we’ve ever tested. It is well-known for its quality build and consistently fast inflation times. It’s compact and easy to use. It makes use of a powerful direct-drive motor and has a 60 PSI maximum working pressure. The pressure gauge is mounted on the compressor and is easy to read. The built-in LED work light, a 10-feet long power cord, and a 3-foot long air hose.
However, it does make use of a screw-on tire chuck. Also, there’s no easy way to store the power cord and air hose. We like the built-in heat sink so you don’t have to worry about overheating the tool right away. It’s very quiet but it does take a bit of time to inflate small spare tires, around under 2 minutes, so inflating flat tires may take a bit longer.
- Lightweight and compact
- Built-in heat sink; does not run hot
- Very quiet
- Built-in LED is weak
- The reading in the pressure gauge is sometimes off
- Slow to fill up regular-sized tires
5. AUDEW Portable Air Compressor PumpPortable Air Compressor For Truck Tires
The Audew Portable Inflator is a portable air compressor pump that has an automatic shut off feature, LED lights, and three different tips that you can use to pump tires of cars, bikes, motorcycles, SUVs, trucks, and inflatables.
This little compressor is fast in inflating tires. The maximum pressure is 150 PSI and the maximum operating current is 10A. The cords are pretty long and can easily be hidden for storage. And unlike some of the other picks, the built-in LED light on the Audew is bright though it doesn’t seem to have an off switch. However, it would be nice if this came with an AC to DC converter.
- Hidden cords for storage
- Fast inflation time
- Automatic shut off feature
- Does not include an AC to DC 12V converter
- The DC cord is a bit on the short side
- The pressure gauge is not accurate
6. STANLEY J5C09 Jump Starter with 120 PSI Air CompressorPortable Air Compressor And Jump Starter
There’s a whole lot to love with this air compressor because it’s not solely that. It has 500 Instant Starting Amps which can be used to charge personal electronics with its 12-volt and USB outlets or kick start your car if your battery won’t start. And if you don’t use the clamps incorrectly, an alarm will sound out. There’s also a high-powered LED light that rotates 270 degrees. The 120 PSI Compressor with a backlight gauge can inflate flat tires. As an air compressor, it works great considering it’s battery-powered.
It doesn’t fill tires as fast as some of the plug-in units but it is consistent. It is bulky and heavy so this is not something you can carry with you on a bike. However, if you have space in the trunk of your car, RV, or boat, you can definitely depend on this in an emergency. Plus, there’s no quick connect; instead, you need to thread the filler.
- Consistent performance
- Great power source
- No quick connect
- Heavy and bulky
- Fills tires but does it slower compared to plug-in models
7. Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free CompressorPortable Air Compressor For Truck Tires
This oil-free compressor from Bostitch is a maintenance-free pump that has a 6-gallon tank, a maximum of 150 PSI, and a high efficiency 0.8 HP motor. Now, despite its lower horsepower rating, this little baby can easily reach its max 150 PSI within 3 minutes. The compressor comes with a high flow regulator and couplers for air tool performance. The compressor is solidly built and pretty easy to use. Plus, it comes with two hose connections so you can opt to use two tools at the same time.
However, it seems to be noisier than other similarly designed compressors. It weighs 29 pounds so it’s very easy to carry around the house. It will require you to use an extension cord if you want a longer range. Keep in mind that this compressor is built more for small jobs like stapling and a bit of nailing. You can also paint with this compressor but only small stuff like a door.
- Quick to inflate tires
- Lightweight and compact
- Two hose connections
- Not for big jobs
- The air hose is only 15 feet, not 25 feet
8. Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air CompressorPortable Air Compressor For Painting Cars
This is an oil-lubricated cast iron pump that is run using a 2.0 HP motor and features a large automotive style filter, a 2.6-gallon tank, and a roll bar handle which is for carrying the compressor and serves as additional protection when used at a job site. The maximum pressure is 130 PSI. For an oiled compressor, this is a very quiet one. The quality of the build is top-notch. It runs smoothly and won’t let you down.
However, it’s pretty heavy so older individuals may not find this so easy to carry this around. It does come with a quick connect hose fitting, a metal-air filter housing, foam filter, and compressor oil. However, first-time compressor owners may find that the manual is not as informative as they’d like. Also, the packaging and shipping of the compressor leave much to be desired as there are several reports of broken crankcase covers. Fortunately, the manufacturer is fast in providing repairs.
- Very quiet
- Solidly built
- Very heavy (56 pounds)
- Needs a better manual
- Poor packaging/shipping
9. California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S Light & Quiet Portable Air CompressorBest Lightweight Air Compressor
If you are looking for the best lightweight air compressor, you have come to the right place. The California Air Tools CAT-1P1060S weighs only 29.5 pounds, which is half most of the other machines on the market. This makes it a highly portable machine. It is easy to maintain, given that it has an oil-free pump. This compressor operates at a sound of only 56 decibels, which is quieter than most of the other devices on the market.
It features a 1-gallon steel tank that holds enough air for onward transmission to where you want it. The machine has a powerful 0.6 HP motor and can produce a 1.20 CFM or pressure at 90 PSI. So, you can use it for virtually any task that requires an air compressor. It has been designed to run for more than 3,000 hours before it starts to wear off.
- A lightweight, portable air compressor
- A durable air compressor that lasts long
- Requires little or no maintenance, thanks to the oil-free pump
- Complaints about it having a terrible finish and fit
- Reports of air leaking through the diaphragm
- The company has poor customer service
10. Oasser Portable Air CompressorSmall Portable Air Compressor
Ok, let’s be real. Yes, this is a portable air compressor but it’s not going to be doing any household applications with you. However, for a bike tire inflator, this really hits the sweet spot because it’s pocket-sized and does the job really fast. It’s made from stainless steel and features a lithium battery. It comes with an AC/DC adapter and can get a full charge in less than 2 hours. There’s an LCD digital pressure gauge with a backlight that makes it easy to read. The maximum pressure is 150psi. It even has two LED lights that you can turn on independently when needed.
Now, you can definitely use this to inflate a car tire. However, you need to limit the inflation time to under 8 minutes to prevent overheating which means that you’re probably not going to be able to finish inflating multiple car tires in one session.
- Quickly inflates bike tires
- Easy to use
- Slow to fill car tires
- Can overheat if the session is more than 8 minutes
- The battery runs out fast
Choosing The Best Portable Air Compressors – The Ultimate Buying Guide
Ok, so you’re in the market for a portable air compressor. Well, air compressors are pretty useful tools in and outside the home. It can inflate tires and other objects such as air mattresses and balls. It can power tools such as nailers, sanders, and sprays. However, these little machines come in various shapes and sizes with differing PSIs, weights, noise levels, and accessories. And with so many to choose from, how does one figure out which product will do the job perfectly?
To help out, we’ve compiled a list of features and some in-depth explanations (which is basically a long way to say “guide”) to help you figure out just what it is you’re looking for.
What is PSI and what number should I go for?
PSI is short for pounds per square inch which is the measurement of how much air pressure is generated by the compressor. It also indicates how long a tank will refill. What this all means is that an air compressor with higher PSI will refill a tank faster and able to handle heavy-duty jobs better and more quickly.
It also means that you get more air in the tank and can use your tools longer. If you’re looking for something to power your tools for DIY projects or for use in your small workshop, then a portable air compressor that is able to generate more than 100 psi should be enough to do a bang-up job.
What is CFM and why do I need to know it?
CFM is short for cubic feet per minute which is the measurement of airflow. To put it simply, this is the amount of compressed air provided by your air compressor. If you plan on using a portable air compressor for inflating tires and the like, this rating isn’t so important. However, CFM rating does affect whether or not your compressor will be able to power your tools.
Ideally, your compressor should be 1-2 CMF more than the CFM rating of your tools. Also, this rating should be measured at 90 psi as this is the standard for comparison.
What about Horsepower?
Now, the horsepower rating of a motor lets you know how powerful an air compressor is. The higher a motor’s HP is, then the faster the compressor will reach working pressure as well as fill up the tank. The Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor, for example, has a 2 HP motor which means it will work harder and faster compared to the motor used in the Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor which is only 0.8 HP.
How Big should my Tank Size be?
Tank size is measured in gallons and lets you know how much-compressed air can be stored inside. This means that a larger tank will allow you to operate your tools longer than a small one. However, tank size will affect portability. To choose the proper tank size, you’ll need to consider what kind of work you plan to do with your air compressor. Inflating tires and other similar objects won’t require you to get a large tank. You won’t even need one, to be honest.
However, if you plan on using several air tools, a large tank will allow you to create an air reserve. What this means is that you can run your tools while the air compressor is shut down as long as it has already filled up the tank at the pressure you set. So, not only can you work longer, you can work more quietly.
What are some of the Features I Need to Look out for?
Oil-free pumps are better for those who aren’t mechanically-inclined since they are low maintenance and don’t require you to change the oil periodically. However, the cylinders in oil-free pumps will wear down eventually. Because these cannot be replaced, you will need to buy a new air compressor. The good news is that this wear and tear occurs slowly over time so you still enjoy using your compressor for a good many years provided it’s a top-quality one. The PORTER-CABLE C2002-WK Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor is an oil-free pump that is very solidly made and very powerful to boot.
Some portable air compressors come with multiple couplers which means that you can use several tools without having to disconnect and connect each one every single time. The Bostitch BTFP02012 6 Gallon 150 PSI Oil-Free Compressor, for example, features multiple couplers for air tool performance.
Keep in mind that some air compressors do not come with air hoses so you’ll need to add that to your list of purchases if you decide on an air compressor that lacks that particular accessory. Some like the Kensun AC/DC Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor come with extra nozzles or adapters for increased versatility.
Another feature you might want to consider is the pressure gauge. You’ll want to be able to easily read it. Some like the Oasser Portable Air Compressor features a backlight so you can see the PSI even in the dark.
Noise level is another factor that you might be interested in looking at. Some air compressors are so loud that you feel like your eardrums are about to break. However, you need to remember that noise is not equal to power. How an air compressor is built affects how quiet the compressor will run. For example, the EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump and the Makita MAC700 Big Bore 2.0 HP Air Compressor are both very quiet air compressors though the latter is more powerful and bigger than the former.
If you’re planning to use the portable air compressor for emergencies such as flat tires, then you need to make sure that it will fit in the trunk of your car. If you want to use it in and around the house, you need to make sure that it’s easy to store in the garage.
Here’s one last tip: when buying a portable air compressor, it’s much easier to go bigger in terms of tank size and PSI than smaller because you can never go backward. You can never get more power when you don’t have any to spare but you can also use less power than what you have.