LAST UPDATED: December 19, 2019
Best Portable Air Compressors: Run Your Air-Powered Tools With Ease
A quality portable air compressor ensures your tires are inflated and your air-powered tools can operate well
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON December 19, 2019
If you are planning to use any of your air-powered tools in the field, a portable air compressor is a must-have gadget. With this machine, you can power your staple gun and an air ratchet, and you won’t even have to visit the gas station to inflate your tires anymore. These units come in different styles and sizes to suit your needs. In this guide, we’ll help you choose the right portable air compressor.
The EPAuto compressor is equipped with the necessary plug to directly fit into the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle for a convenient connection. It is compatible with 12V DC, consuming 10-15 amps and 120-180 watts to produce a fast inflating speed of 1.06 cubic feet per minute.
It comes with multiple adapters for cars, SUVs, bikes, sedans, balls, and other inflatables. It has auto-shut protection when the desired pressure is achieved and also auto-heat protection that shuts it down when overloaded—all to prevent damage. It is lightweight and CE certified.
The system is not compatible with a 24V system. Also, its maximum pressure is 70 PSI which means it does not support heavy equipment that requires high pressure.
A cheaper yet strong and fast inflator is the AstroAI air compressor. It is compatible with 12V DC and can hold a maximum pressure of 100 PSI. It features a smart display for easy reading and an LED light for use in darkness.
This fast compressor can inflate within five minutes. It is lightweight and easy to use. It features an ergonomic design and is durable. Its auto-stop inflating feature shuts it off when it reaches the preset pressure. The unit has an independent switch for manual control. One click navigates pressure values.
It is not suitable for large objects such as inflatable canoes and pools. It doesn’t come with storage for its small bits and cords. It can only run for 15 minutes before overheating.
This kit features a low amp draw from your 12V battery, to inflate tires faster using its maximum pressure of 120 PSI. It comes with a tire pressure monitoring gauge for safe and convenient inflating. Additionally, it comes with different valves for a variety of applications.
It is lightweight and comes with a deluxe storage bag for easy carrying. It comes with a one-year warranty covering factory defects and workmanship. Features a 5-foot air hose. It is also quiet, fast, and easy to use.
It cannot inflate tires of more than 31 inches. You have to wait for it to cool for 40 minutes after every use. It cannot be plugged in through your vehicle’s cigarette lighter.
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Benefits of Portable Air Compressors
- Multifunctional. Portable air compressors are used for more than one purpose. Whether you want to use a nail gun, do some spray painting, or inflate your tires, a portable air compressor is the tool for the job.
- Portability. It’s right there in the name. Most air compressors are portable for ease of use. You can pack your compressor and use it whenever you want.
- Time-saving. An air compressor is fast and ensures you spend less time on a given task. Compressed air tools can perform tasks like nailing, spraying, sanding, and hammering in less than half the time required for manual work.
- Great results. A portable air compressor delivers great results. More powerful compressors are able to power more tools, ensuring they work smoothly. The net air yield is what determines a compressor’s power.
- Low maintenance. Portable air compressors are smaller than industrial air compressors. Their construction is also simpler. They only require a little maintenance to function optimally. From time to time, check for leaks, oil the compressor, and clean it.
Types of Portable Air Compressor
Rotary Screw Compressors
A rotary screw air compressor uses positive displacement to output large volumes of air pressure. Portable compressors in this category are quieter and can take the role of old school piston air compressors. They can be used to power heavy-duty devices.
These compressors are used for high output tasks due to their high airflow rate, low-maintenance requirements, and energy-efficiency. They work by sucking air from the inlet, passing the air through rotors, and creating a vacuum. This air ends up in a separator tank in stages. It then moves to service air valves ready for use.
Reciprocating Air Compressors
Most portable air compressors are reciprocating air compressors. They use a mechanism known as positive displacement. Air is sucked into a chamber where the reciprocating piston compresses it in a decreasing fashion. As more air is sucked into the chamber and compressed, the pressure increases.
When the tank is full, excess air is let out through the discharge valve while the pressurized air is stored, ready for use in various applications. These air compressors can either be powered by gas or electricity. Most portable air compressors use electricity as their power source.
Dewalt is an American subsidiary of Black & Decker. It was founded in 1924 in Pennsylvania. Currently, its headquarters are in Baltimore. The company is known as a leader in the manufacture of power tools and hand tools for different industries. Its commitment to quality has been the driving force behind products such as the DEWALT Air Compressor with Brad Nailer.
EPAuto is a certified provider of aftermarket automobile accessories. The company was founded in 2007 and is currently based in Walnut, Calif. It manufactures a variety of car accessories, from air filters to portable air compressors. The EPAuto Portable Air Compressor Pump is a top choice for many car owners.
California Air Tools
California Air Tools is located in California and assembles its products in San Diego. It takes a lot of pride in its quiet portable air compressors, the quietest on the market. Because of the advanced technology it uses, some of its products have a hefty price tag. However, you can still find great air compressors at reasonable rates, like the California Air Tools 8010 Air Compressor.
Viair was founded in 1998 and is currently situated in Irvine, Calif. It is a reputable manufacturer of high-performance air compressors, inflators, oil-free pumps, and other oil-free accessories. The company makes both 12-volt and 24-volt accessories. To experience the Viair touch, get the VIAIR 85P Portable Compressor.
Bostitch’s previous name was Boston Wire Stitcher® Company. It was founded by Thomas Briggs in Arlington, Mass. in 1896. Briggs’ popular invention was a machine that stitched books using a coil of wire. As time went on, the company started designing fasteners, fastening tools, and other products. The BOSTITCH BTFP02012 Oil-Free Pancake Compressor is the company’s pride and joy.
Portable Air Compressor Pricing
- $20-$50: For less than 50 bucks, you can get air compressors that perform basic functions like inflating car tires. Some of the compressors may be cordless and small while some have quality displays and long cables.
- $50-$100: In this price range, you’ll find oil-free pancake-style compressors made by reputable companies. As you move towards the $100 mark, you’ll find compressors that operate at 20 volts.
- $100-$150: You have a wide range of options here from renowned brands such as Makita, SCFM, and Campbell Hausfeld. The air compressors have features such as LCD screens, extra nozzle attachments, and quiet operation. They are very well-built and are durable.
- $150-$200: Most portable air compressors here are bigger and noise-free. They have LED displays, cigarette charger cords, oil-free mechanisms, and can handle bigger projects. Some of the compressors are made using cast iron and rust-resistant materials.
- $200-$500: This price bracket features high-end compressors by big brands. The compressors may be bigger and have more capacity. Their power levels might reach 2 horsepower. These compressors work well in cold weather and hot environments.
This is one of the most important features to look for when getting a portable air compressor. The auto cutoff feature determines when the pressure is enough and shuts off the air compressor. When you’re inflating tires, it automatically disconnects the compressor once the desired pressure has been attained. This means you can perform most tasks hands-free without worrying about your machine.
The charging cord is an emergency feature that may come in handy when you least expect it. For this reason, get a portable air compressor with a cigarette lighter power extension cable. Ensure the charging cord is long and sturdy to withstand a lot of movement. Most manufacturers include a cable in the package.
A display screen shows the important details of any operation in air compressors. It shows the volume of air in the tank or the rate at which air is let out. Some manufacturers furnish their portable air compressors with large LED displays. The displays are backlit and bright, making your job easy whether you’re working during the day or at night.
Portable air compressors have a multitude of uses. Each function may require a different nozzle. Most companies are happy to include additional nozzles in your package—sometimes at an extra cost. Even if you have to pay more, additional nozzle attachments are features worth getting.
- Power. To know how powerful an air compressor is, look at the tank size, maximum air pressure, suction capacity, and net air yield. Compressors do not power all pneumatic tools. Less powerful ones can inflate tires while powerful compressors can spray paint. Spray painting requires a lot of power.
- Shape. This determines how easy the compressor is to carry. It also dictates how much air it can store. Compressors come in two shapes: pancake and cylinder. Cylinder compressors are also called hot dog air compressors. They are heavier and have slightly bigger air tanks. Pancake compressors have a 1-6 gallon tank.
Best Portable Air Compressor Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This is a great tool for personal use and small job sites. It uses 12 volts DC to inflate at a rate of 1.06 CFPM. It consumes 10-15 amps and draws up to 180 watts of power. The compressor comes with a cigarette lighter charging cord you can use in case of an emergency.
The LED panel is positioned at the top and displays up to four units in large numbers for easy reading. There are well-labeled buttons on the panel that help you to operate the machine. Bright LED lights provide illumination at nighttime or in areas with low visibility.
The auto shutoff feature notifies you when maximum pressure has been achieved. To prevent overloading, the overheat-protection mechanism automatically shuts off the compressor. The tire inflator comes with different adapters for different inflatable objects.
However, it can only be used in small applications. It also doesn’t support 24-volt power supply and has a maximum pressure of 70 PSI.
The AstroAI Air Compressor offers top performance on a budget. It has an attractive and ergonomic design that makes it easy to drag around and store. In five minutes, it can inflate a flat tire from 0 to 35 psi. The inflation speed makes it a great tool for emergencies. The LED panel is centrally placed and its blue backlight is gentle on the eyes.
The compressor has three easy-to-use buttons for choosing preset settings and increasing or decreasing pressure values. At nighttime and in places with little light, use its backup LED lights. The tire inflator comes with adapters for inflating bikes, small inflatable home pools, and balls. It has a lower noise level compared to other products in its category. It also shuts off automatically when maximum pressure is attained.
Due to its construction, this air compressor is easy to move around. Its handle provides a good grip to ensure you don’t strain your hand.
However, it can’t be used on large objects like truck tires and inflatable pools. This is partly because it tends to overheat quickly (in 15 minutes). Additionally, the manufacturer provides no storage for the tiny couplers and valves.
The Viair 90P Portable Compressor has a few features we love. It directly connects to your car’s battery using heavy-duty clamps to inflate tires up to 120 psi. What’s more, it draws very little power and doesn’t drain the battery. And while it lacks an LED display, it has a pressure gauge that notifies you about maximum pressure and the rate of inflation.
The portable air compressor comes with a 5-foot air hose to ensure you move less. Its sand tray minimizes vibration to prevent you from getting uncomfortable as you work. Despite its size, it is a fast inflator that does a great job. The manufacturer provides a storage bag with extra pockets for storing additional valves and couplers.
But this tire inflator has its drawbacks. It cannot inflate tires that exceed 31 inches. It also has an overheating problem and needs about 40 minutes to cool down after each use. Additionally, it doesn’t work with a vehicle cigarette lighter plug.
This portable air compressor from Black+Decker has a digital gauge that lets you monitor the current air pressure and set a goal amount of pressure. Once the compressor reaches your desired amount of pressure, it will automatically shut off. This kit includes a ball needle, valve adapter, small inflatable adapter, large volume hose, and deflator.
This compressor gives you complete freedom and portability with three power sources. There’s a 12V DC, 120V AC, and 20V max battery. You’ll appreciate the high volume output that lets you fill higher volume items like mattresses and tires.
Unfortunately, the LED screen is unreliable and can be too dark to read or shows an error message. Over time, it may fail to supply a consistent high-pressure airflow. The AC cord is also quite short, which makes it challenging to use.
This portable high volume compressor is efficient with a direct drive motor. It can inflate a small car tire in under a couple of minutes. You can preset your desired air pressure, and the compressor will stop when it’s reached. It comes with four nozzle adapters that let you inflate toys, motorcycle tires, car tires, bicycle tires, and balls.
You’ll appreciate that this compressor is professionally calibrated to deliver consistent and precise performance. It has a built-in cooling system so that it can continuously run for 60 minutes under 35 psi.
The downside of this air compressor is that the cooling system may not be effective, which can cause the unit to overheat and melt. It can also be difficult to attach the different nozzles.
Use the large carrying handle to move this portable air compressor to where you need it. It comes with four interchangeable nozzles. You can achieve a max psi of 150. It has a 12V DC power supply plug.
You’ll appreciate the small touches of this air compressor. It has a built-in flashlight that makes using this unit easier at night. The LED screen is backlit and bright to make it easy to read. You can set your desired air pressure on the screen with the touch of a button.
Unfortunately, the overall construction of the unit could be better. The connections aren’t secure between the components. It also lacks power supply options that some of the other air compressors on this list have.
This portable air compressor uses a 12V power outlet. It has a built-in tire valve and three additional nozzles. Use the LED screen to set your desired air pressure and then turn the unit on. It will automatically shut off when your set air pressure is reached. The overall design is compact for storage in your trunk and easy carrying.
The versatility and light weight of this air compressor allows you to get a lot of use out of this unit. You can use it on bicycle, car, motorcycle, RV, SUV, and ATV tires. The maximum air pressure you can achieve is 150psi.
Unfortunately, this unit is quite loud, which can be annoying when using it. The airflow of this unit is also low, which means it takes a long time to inflate your ball, toy, or tire.
Plug this air compressor into the 12V plug in your car and use its fast inflation to fill your tires. It has an auto shut-off feature that lets you set your desired air pressure. It comes with four additional nozzles for inflation versatility. It’s compatible for use with your car, bike, motorcycle, ATV, toys, and sports equipment.
One nice feature this air compressor has is the long-range use. It comes with a 13-foot power cable. It also has an LED light so you can use it at night. It also comes with a deflating tool to make deflating tires and toys faster.
One downside of this unit is that it can randomly die. It’s also not very powerful, so it may not be able to inflate to a high enough air pressure.
This portable air compressor is versatile and easy to use. It comes with three extra nozzles and a spare fuse. There are three control buttons and an LCD screen on the front of the unit. There’s a built-in flashlight for nighttime use. You can set your desired air pressure, turn the unit on, and let it automatically shut off when it’s reached.
You’ll find this air compressor to be lightweight and durable. This makes it ideal for portable use. It resists high pressures and encourages maximum airflow. It also has a one-year warranty to provide you with peace of mind.
Unfortunately, the air compressor gauge on this unit is not accurately calibrated. This can result in it filling your tire or toy with more air than intended. The unit is also quite weak and will struggle to reach a higher max psi.
This portable air compressor can inflate a standard-sized car tire in eight minutes. It has a bright LED light for nighttime use. It has a 12V plug for power. It has a 10-foot power cable and a compact design for the unit. The air hose is 2 feet in length.
What’s nice about this unit is that it comes with storage compartments for the additional adapter and cord. This makes keeping everything together easier. Combine this with how lightweight and easy it is to carry. This is the ideal air compressor to keep in your trunk.
Unfortunately, this unit isn’t as technologically advanced as some of the other units on this list. The air pressure gauge is a printed dial with a needle and only goes up to 100psi. There’s also no on/off switch for the LED light, which means it’s always on, whether you want it to be or not.
- When inflating any gadget, make sure you set the required PSI. Many compressors have a cutoff when the set limit is reached. If yours does not have one, make sure to disconnect it when the set level is reached.
- Overinflating may damage a tire structure or even cause it to burst due to excessive pressure. On the other hand, underinflating a tire may cause a condition called “dry rot,” which destroys the tire. Therefore, ensure you inflate your tires to the correct PSI.
- Always make sure you carry your tire chuck. This is a tool that connects the tire valve and the nozzle of the air hose. It works by pressing the valve switch into the tire valve to allow air to flow in smoothly.
- Since an air compressor is an electrical device and mostly metallic, always keep it dry. Moisture may cause short-circuiting or rusting of some components, which can inhibit the air compressor’s performance.
Q: How much pressure do I need?
A: The pressure you need depends on how you intend to use your compressor. If you are planning to use your compressor for inflating tires, the pressure you need depends on the requirements of your tires (30 to 35 PSI for passenger vehicles). However, you may need much more pressure if you are planning on using air-powered tools (more than 100 PSI).
Q: Can I add an extra tank to my compressor?
A: Yes, it is possible to add an extra tank to an already tanked compressor or even to a tankless compressor. Adding a tank prevents pressure loss, increases capacity, and adds consistency to airflow. However, you will need more time to fill the compressor.
Q: What is a duty cycle in an air compressor?
A: A duty cycle refers to the amount of time that a compressor can be operated in a given time period at 100 PSI and a standard temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the duty cycle, the better the compressor can handle heavy use.
For a durable, convenient, easy to use, and lightweight compressor, consider the EPAuto Portable Air Compressor Pump.
However, if you need a cheaper option that will still work well and has a variety of applications, we recommend the WindGallop Portable AIR Compressor.