The Best Portable Tire Inflators: Avoid Getting Stranded

Keep your tires at just the right pressure with an on-the-go inflator you can keep in your trunk.

byHeather Fishel| UPDATED Feb 8, 2023 12:02 PM
The Best Portable Tire Inflators: Avoid Getting Stranded

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BYHeather Fishel/ LAST UPDATED ON February 8, 2023

When your tire pressure warning light starts glowing on your dash, it can be incredibly frustrating. It could be a sign of a leak, a nail in your tire, or just because your car sat for too long or in the cold. It could also simply mean your tires are in need of some extra air. Over time, even with a regular watchful eye, the weight of and wear on your vehicle can lead to low tire pressure.

When that happens, you lose safety, reliability, and fuel economy. And that's no bueno. To keep yourself safe on the road no matter when you might find yourself needing some air, a portable tire inflator is the answer. These compact air compressors fit in your cargo area and are designed to be used anywhere. Best of all, they’re easy to set up, carry, and use with just a moment’s notice. Check out these favorite tire inflators.

Best Overall
Ryobi 18-Volt One+ Portable Cordless Power Inflator

Ryobi 18-Volt One+ Portable Cordless Power Inflator

The ultimate in portability, this tire inflator is convenient and easy to use with a swappable power source that can be used in multiple power tools.
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Easy to read gauge
  • Works up to 150 psi
  • Batteries aren’t included
  • Hose is shorter than other inflators
Best Value

Gerchway Portable Tire Inflator

This affordable portable tire inflator is nicely sized yet still delivers quick, efficient inflation and lets you stay in charge with an easy-to-read display.
  • Speedy inflation for its size
  • Compact, portable size
  • Built-in gauge and automatic shut-off
  • 12-volt power is your only option
  • No cord storage
Honorable Mention

Viair Portable Air Compressor

If it’s speed and efficiency you’re looking for, this portable tire inflator delivers quick inflation to get you back on the road in no time.
  • Easy to adjust psi settings
  • Fast inflation
  • Relatively quiet operation and low decibel level
  • No cord storage
  • Heavier weight

Summary List

Our Methodology

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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To choose my picks for the best portable tire inflators, I dove into the many options available online and put them through their paces. I tested the air compressors, assessing their ease of use, power, speed and efficiency, and ability to work on different items (and tires) of varying sizes. Those that were reliable, performed quickly, and were easy to work with, both in portability and ease of inflation, became my top product recommendations.

Best Portable Tire Inflator Reviews & Recommendations


  • Size: 9 x 2.86 x 6.4 inches
  • Power Source: Battery
  • Weight: 1.6 pound


  • Lightweight and designed for portability
  • Snap-and-go battery
  • Easy-to-read digital gauge
  • Convenient adapter storage


  • Batteries not included
  • Hose is short

The Ryobi 18-Volt One+ Portable Cordless Power Inflator is possibly the most portable and convenient tire inflator you can buy. This device is lightweight and easy to handle, whether you’re crouching to fill a tire or carrying it in your trunk. It weighs less than two pounds and is ergonomic and comfortable to wield while you inflate. The inflator is powered by the interchangeable, rechargeable Ryobi One+ battery, which allows you to use a single battery between multiple power tools. This portable tire inflator, however, doesn’t actually come with the battery. It has to be purchased separately.

Overall, this inflator is durable and convenient to use. It’s also nicely priced, delivering an array of adapters plus storage space for them along with protective hard plastic and rubber housing. And you’ll enjoy the flexibility this handheld device offers when you’re on the go too. Likewise, managing editor Jonathon Klein owns this particular tire inflator outside our test, and uses it for motorcycles, his Honda Ridgeline pickup truck, as well as his Can-Am X3 Maverick UTV. It's never let him down.


  • Size: 8.7 x 5.9 x 3 inches
  • Power Source: Power cord
  • Weight: 1.96 pounds


  • Affordable
  • Small and compact
  • Easy to set up
  • Handy for emergencies


  • No cord storage
  • 12-volt only

If you’re looking for a portable tire inflator that’s convenient to carry and perfect for your budget, the Gerchway Portable Tire Inflator just might fit the bill. This device, which weighs just less than two pounds and is small enough to stash in your back seat, conveniently plugs right into your car’s available outlet (or cigarette lighter socket) and uses 12-volt power to deliver air via a firmly fitted hose. It’s easy to operate, allowing you to get inflating with just the tap of a couple buttons, customized pressure settings, and a built-in flashlight that’s especially helpful at night. Easy to store and built for efficient inflation, it’s particularly great to add to your car’s emergency kit.

The two biggest drawbacks of this portable tire inflator are its lack of storage for its lengthy cord and its somewhat inaccurate power information. It’s tough to keep the cord nicely organized with the device. And though the product description touts 110-volt power via an adapter, there’s actually no external input to plug into.


  • Size: 9.25 x 5.5 x 6.75 inches
  • Power Source: Power cord
  • Weight: 4.3 pounds


  • Easily adjustable psi
  • Inflates fast
  • Relatively quiet operation
  • Runs on accessory power


  • No cord storage
  • Heavier than other inflators

Need speedy inflation? The Viair Portable Air Compressor delivers. This portable tire inflator may be heftier in weight compared to smaller models, but it packs a serious inflation punch. Powered by your car’s own outlet or socket, this device lets you set the psi (up to 60 psi) and get to work. It’s fast and impressive, getting tires reinflated in less time than the competition. In tests, it felt quicker than its product description advertised. Plus, it’ll make quick work of other inflation needs. Although this portable tire inflator is heavier than other options, its power and speed are great tradeoffs. And little extras, like sturdy screw-in adapters with in-device storage space, make it extra solid.

Keep in mind that you don’t have any cord storage built into this inflator, which can be a bit frustrating. It does come with a bag for easy transport and storage, however.


  • Size: 12.17 x 8.54x 7.6 inches
  • Power Source: Power cord
  • Weight: 6.05 pounds


  • Versatile
  • Built-in gauge with auto shutoff
  • Quiet


  • Works slowly
  • Air hoses are short

For versatile inflation needs, the Avid Power Tire Inflator is a great on-the-road companion. It can be powered by either 12-volt or 110-volt power, allowing you to use it in road emergencies as well as right in your own garage. Easy-to-control switches and buttons let you choose your pressure and fill up without any real effort. However, this inflator is heavier than most portable models. However, it’s steady, durable, and feature-filled, which gives you some beneficial versatility whether you’re dealing with low pressure or a leak. And while it’s running, you can rely on its built-in gauge, which keeps tabs on the pressure within 0.5 to 1.0 psi with an automatic shutoff that turns off the pressure once your tire is properly full.

Keep in mind that the hoses on this device are a weak point. Not only do they run a bit short, but the low-pressure hose (which is best for inflatables, not tires) is plastic and likely to crack on you.


  • Size: 9.5 x 6 x 3.5 inches
  • Power Source: Power cord
  • Weight: 2.4 pounds


  • Easy to use
  • Simple controls
  • Built-in cord storage
  • Instructions listed on inflator


  • 8- to 10-minute run time
  • Only works with tires up to 9.5 inches

The VacLife Air Compressor Tire Inflator may not be the fanciest or most powerful portable tire inflator, but it is one of the most convenient. And you can’t overlook its budget-friendly price. Slim and lightweight, this device can fit nicely into the storage space in your car, either in your trunk or your spare tire’s hidden spot. Rated for 50 psi, it’s a great pick for first-time users thanks to the easy controls, built-in light, and instructions printed right on the front of the device. And it operates pretty quietly in comparison to similar portable inflators. Best of all, this inflator is nicely priced and affordable for just about every budget, making it a solid addition to an emergency kit.

Unfortunately, this portable tire inflator does have some noticeable drawbacks. In our tests, the device failed multiple times. It does offer nice features and a road-ready size, but it’s limited in both its air compressor functionality and the size of tires it can work on.


  • Size: 13 x 9 x 10 inches
  • Power Source: Power cord
  • Weight: 12.35 pounds


  • Plenty of power
  • Inflates large tires fast
  • Well-built
  • Suitable for many tires


  • Heavier weight
  • Air gauge isn’t the most accurate

Not all portable tire inflators are tough enough to handle tires of all sizes, but the Smittybilt Universal Air Compressor is up to the job. This inflator is no slouch; it’s seriously heavy and well built but not too heavy that it can’t be easily carried in hand or in your car’s cargo space. In fact, it’s even designed to be bolted down in your car. It’s speedy and makes quick work of inflation on tires big and small. Plus, it doesn’t heat up or weaken under its workload. From the finishing to the motor, it’s designed to be durable and last you a long time with its great level of power.

The bulkier size and weight of this portable tire inflator make it less convenient to maneuver, but that’s not necessarily a drawback when you’re looking for a lot of power. You will want to keep an eye on the gauge, as testing found it to be inaccurate at times.

Our Verdict

The Ryobi 18-Volt One+ Portable Cordless Power Inflator is great because it’s the ultimate portable tire inflator, able to be wielded easily and recharged effortlessly. Plus, the interchangeable battery makes it ideal for anyone who owns other Ryobi One+ tools. However, when you’re looking for a combination of value and power, the Gerchway Portable Tire Inflator is another solid pick thanks to its ease of use and efficiency.

What to Consider When Buying Portable Tire Inflators

Portable tire inflators can vary widely in their size, power, and portability. To help you pinpoint the best option for your vehicle and needs, make sure to keep these key details in mind as you shop. 

Types of Portable Tire Inflators

12-Volt Plug/110 Volt

The best portable car tire inflators and portable truck tire inflators can be used on the road. During an emergency, you can supply some models with power by plugging them into the cigarette lighter socket/12-volt power source in your vehicle. This is particularly useful if your car or truck has 12-volt DC outlets in more than one place. Some inflators also operate on 110-volt power so you can plug them into an outlet in your garage or outside power source.  


The best cordless inflator is typically powered by a lithium-ion battery. They are generally easy to use and are very portable. These inflators are handheld and provide a good amount of power. It's critical that you keep the battery charged or else you may get stuck with a flat tire.

Direct Power

These tire inflators clamp on directly to the battery for maximum power so you don’t have to have the vehicle running. However, a tire pump can suck the charge out of a stand-alone battery in about 20 minutes. 

Portable Tire Inflator Key Features

Digital Gauges

The best digital tire inflators will display the inflated pressure on the gauges. Some newer models will show this information on an LCD screen, while the more traditional products will display the pressure with dial and needle gauges. A digital display will give you readings that are a bit more precise. Another added benefit is you will be able to read it in low light if the screen is backlit.

Automatic Shutoff

The auto shutoff feature enables you to set the desired psi, and the car tire inflator will run until it reaches the desired pressure. This is a practical feature because the tire inflator will not over inflate the tire. You can walk away from the device as it does its job and not worry about the tire bursting.


You can find small, ready-for-the-road portable tire inflators at just about every price point. Budget-friendly models with streamlined features and simple functionality are $25 to $50. If you spend $55 to $100, you’ll find more advanced options with increasingly more features. And if you’re looking for a hefty, premium air compressor that’s portable yet larger and more versatile, you can spend $100 or more.


You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: What does psi mean?

A: It stands for pounds per square inch, and it's used to measure tire pressure. For example, 300 psi means 300 pounds per square inch. In air compressors, a psi gauge tells you how much pressure is in the tire.

Q: How do I determine a tire’s maximum psi?

A: Look at the tire’s sidewall. Tire dealerships also have charts to give you psi information that take into account factors such as the amount of weight your car or truck is carrying.

Q: How do I check my tire’s air pressure?

A: Remove the valve stem caps and press the tire pressure gauge into the valve stem. Check the reading on the pressure gauge to determine the tire’s air pressure. Reinstall the valve stem caps.