The Best 12V Air Compressors: Be Prepared on the Go

Enjoy the power of free pressurized air, anytime and anywhere

byAndra DelMonico|
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BYAndra DelMonico/ LAST UPDATED ON June 21, 2021

There are plenty of tools people would consider integral to their collections. Whether you’re a car enthusiast, a sports fan, or just someone with a large collection of inflatable pool floats, a 12v air compressor should, undoubtedly, be a part of your stockpile. You never know when you’re going to run into car trouble, and if you’re in a precarious location like the middle of the woods or in a remote area with no service, you’ll be thankful that you opted to keep a portable air compressor on hand. You’d be surprised at just how often an air compressor comes in handy. It’s essentially a portable roadside tire service — only self-serve, of course. This list covers 12-volt air compressors, most of which aren't powerful enough to drive pneumatic tools. As a result, a lot of them double as tire inflators. For those of you who do not have a 12-volt air compressor — or at least looking to make a significant upgrade — there are plenty of fantastic options available.

Best Overall
Viair Portable Air Compressor

Viair Portable Air Compressor


Fill almost anything with air when you have this 12v compressor. It has a max psi of 120. To monitor the status of your compressor, there are LED indicator lights.

  • 10-foot power cord
  • 16-foot air hose
  • Three inflator tips
  • No digital display or LED  indicator
Best Value

EPAuto Portable Air Compressor


Fill almost anything with air when you have this 12v compressor. It has a max psi of 120. To monitor the status of your compressor, there are LED indicator lights.

  • Three inflator tips
  • Four display units
  • Doesn’t support truck tires
  • Can fail prematurely
Honorable Mention

Potek Portable Power Source Air Compressor


This 300-watt compressor has a peak amps of 1500 and an instant amp power of 750. There are LED status lights and a psi needle dial to monitor your compressor’s status. 

  • 150psi tire inflator
  • Included 18AH lead-acid battery
  • Two AC charging ports
  • USB port
  • No light included
  • No digital display

Benefits of 12V Air Compressors

  • Free air. If your car tires need air, you can quickly and easily fill them with your 12v compressor. No more having to pay for air at the gas station to use their pump. 
  • Emergency preparedness. Having a 12v compressor in your car is a great emergency preparedness tool. If you suddenly find yourself with a tire that doesn’t have enough air, you can fill it and be on your way. 
  • Less effort. If you find yourself huffing and puffing to blow up pool toys and floats, then it’s time for something easier. A 12v air compressor can quickly fill your toys, so you’ll spend less time blowing them up and more time having fun. 

Types of 12V Air Compressors

Large Handled 

This compressor-style has a body where the motor is located and a large handle on the top. This makes them the easiest to pick up and carry around with you. The large handle on the top is shaped or cushioned to reduce the stress on your hand. The downside of this large handle is that it makes the compressor bulkier. This makes it harder to store in your vehicle. You’ll find that these compressors are some of the most powerful of the 12v compressors. 


These compressors are like a block or box of some shape or size. This makes them compact and convenient to store in your vehicle. You’ll find them in a wide range of psi levels, which makes it easy to find one that fits your needs. Their downside is that they can be a bit awkward to carry. They’re also typically made with a plastic outer shell, making them not as durable as other options. 


These small compressors have a similar size and shape to a standard drill. The body of the compressor is the handle, and you hold it upright. Instead of a drill bit, there’s a short hose with an inflator tip. This style of compressor tends to be the weakest psi. However, they’re also the easiest to use and the most lightweight. These compressors are so small that they can fit in most glove boxes. However, they may not be powerful enough to fill large SUV and truck tires. 

Top Brands


Founded in 2007, car owners around the world trust in EPAuto’s products. Its product line included tools, parts, and emergency preparedness tools. The company remains popular for producing reliable and affordable automotive equipment. Check out this compact 12v Portable Compressor for Vehicle Tires


Since its founding in 1947, the Schumacher Electric Corporation has exceeded customer expectations. It has repeatedly proven the value of its product through patents, awards, and a commitment to its legacy. The Schumacher Rechargeable Power Station is a compressor and so much more. 


Thanks to its commitment to a quality user experience, the VacLife products improve the customer experience. You’ll appreciate its commitment to research and development of small household products. The VacLife Air Compressor Tire Inflator is reliable and durable. 

12V Air Compressor Pricing

  • Under $50: You’ll find small and lightweight 12v compressors in this price range. They will still have accessories, but these compressors are best used for emergencies. 
  • $50 to $150: These mid-range 12v compressors are perfect for the majority of applications. They’ll come with a variety of features and accessories for versatility. 
  • $150 and up: These are high-quality compressors that are made of steel or some other metal. They’ll come with the most amount of accessories. 

Key Features

Maximum Air Pressure

The maximum air pressure is the level of pressure the air can be when the compressor is running. You’ll typically see this measurement expressed in psi, or pounds per inch. The higher the max psi, the more powerful the compressor is and the bigger jobs it can tackle. Most quality 12v compressors have a max psi in the range of 30 to 80. 

Power Draw 

Since these are 12v compressors, they will use your vehicle’s battery as the power source. It’s important to know how much power it’ll consume from your battery. The higher the power pull, the more risk there is that the compressor could drain or damage your battery. A quality and safe 12v compressor will have a power draw of 120 watts or less. 


Many 12v compressors come with an accessory kit. This is nice because it gives your compressor more versatility and functionality. Look for one with extra fuses, a carrying bag, optional power attachments, and interchangeable inflation tips. Alligator clips are nice because you can skip the cigarette lighter plug and attach the compressor directly to the battery. Common additional inflation tips let you use your compressor to inflate bicycle tires, balls, and pool inflatables. 

Other Considerations

  • Display. Look for a compressor that has a display that’s easy to read. Many have backlit digital displays. This makes them legible during the day and night. Pay attention to the information that’s displayed. You’ll want one that comes with a complete readout for the easiest operation. Some simpler compressors simply have LED lights that indicate a particular status. 
  • Cord Length. Nothing is more frustrating than plugging in your compressor, only to realize that it’s a few inches too short of reaching what you need filling. You’ll notice that 12v compressors have shorter power cords than their AC counterparts. Look at the cord length and the air hose length to ensure it’s long enough to reach your vehicle’s tires.  
  • Durability. Since most people plan on taking their 12v compressors with them, you’ll want it to be durable. The outer casing should be either metal or tough plastic. It should also be able to handle a wide range of temperatures, from very cold to very hot. Steel or cast iron are the most durable but also heaviest. Some plastics are tough and lightweight. Beware low quality plastic that can crack, chip, and warp. 

Best 12V Air Compressors Reviews & Recommendations 2021

This 12-volt air compressor is perfect for any motor vehicle. It features an impressive 120 PSI of max working pressure. Although it’s ultra compact, it can be used on tires up to 33 inches, making it a great choice for regular sedans as well as trucks. Plus, there’s an LED light indicator that lets you know exactly when you’re finished filling your tires. The full Viair set also comes with a 16-foot air hose and a three-piece inflation tip kit, solidifying this compressor as a top option for both beginners and auto experts alike. You should know that it does not feature a digital gauge, nor does it include a light. While it is still easy to use, it can be hard to see in the dark.

For something a little more cost-effective, this is an excellent alternative. It might not be as powerful as some of its rivals, but it’s undoubtedly effective, not to mention super convenient. Instead of attaching to your car battery, it features a 12v DC cigarette lighter socket plug, which is great for the not-so auto savvy. It’s great for cars, bikes, sedans, and even midsize SUVs. Plus, you can even use it for inflatables, basketballs, etc., especially considering it features an auto-shutoff feature when the tire pressure is too high. It also has advanced auto heat detection. As to be expected with the low price point, it lacks a bit in performance. While it is perfect for small vehicles, most SUV and truck owners may want to consider something more powerful. You may also experience trouble with the overall quality. Some users even report receiving models that fail prematurely. 

Less of an actual air compressor than a super-convenient multi-functioning tool, the POTEK is a 3-in-1 power source, jump starter, and air compressor molded into one. This versatile tool comes with a 750 instant amps car jump starter and is equipped with a powerful 18AH lead-acid battery for emergencies. Almost as a bonus, it features two AC charging ports and a USB port for electronics and appliances under 300W. The 150 PSI tire inflator can have any standard tire at full capacity in just 6-8 minutes. Two drawbacks to this model are the price and size. However, the high price is made up for with its performance. But because it combines so many features into one package, it can take up a considerable amount of space in a vehicle.

Speed is a major determining factor in finding the right air compressor, so if speed is your number-one concern, this is a clear choice. The compressor’s impressive 120W solid metal motor produces quick airflow and inflation, making it an all-around easy and painless experience. This air compressor is also versatile, at least when it comes to power sources utilized. It comes with an AC/DC 12V outlet plug as well as a 110-volt wall plug, making it perfect for home use or road use. The Kensun also contains a backlit LCD. Plus, it features an ultra-bright LED work light that allows you to inflate in the dark; it is a must for emergencies. Overall, the performance and features drive the price point considerably higher than other models. This wouldn’t be worth mentioning if it were capable of filling larger tires than comparable models.

Of course, all 12v compressors are portable, but this particular model is easily one of the best compact options. With dimensions of 9.2 x 7.1 x 2.8 inches and weighing just under three pounds, this is one of the smallest options you’ll find — at least with such advanced capabilities and power. This TEROMAS tire inflator features both a 12-volt outlet plug and a 110/120V plug. It also provides three different adapters for inflating various items. It can generate 150 PSI, which is a bit surprising considering its small size. Plus, it features an auto-off function, a digital display and LED lighting, and a convenient carrying bag for portability, making this easily one of the best space-saving options available. There are limitations, though. This model has some limits in terms of reach, and on larger vehicles, it may not offer enough length for use on all four tires.

If you’ve got an off-road vehicle, this compressor demands your attention. This powerful design is capable of inflating 35-inch tires, something many others fall short of. It can produce a 150 PSI maximum operating pressure and fill a 35-inch tire in approximately five minutes. It comes with a 30-foot air hose and an 8-foot power cord to ensure you can reach all four corners of a vehicle. This reach is also perfect for aiding other motorists. This is by no means a compact compressor; in fact, size may be an issue. It weighs in at just under nine pounds and measures 12-inches long. Even with the dedicated storage bag, this is a considerable amount of space to sacrifice.

This air compressor features an easy-to-use digital control system with decent illumination levels for use in the dark. Furthermore, it includes a built-in LED flashlight to aid in such scenarios. As for performance, it can produce 150 PSI and is an excellent choice for use with motorcycle and car tires. The 10-foot power cord offers enough to reach all four corners on small cars. It also includes interchangeable attachments for other uses. At this listing price, you can expect some limitations. Its 2-foot air hose isn’t doing anyone any favors and will likely lead to one having to switch between power sources during operation. The gauge also lacks accuracy, but not so much that it won’t get you back on the road.

When building a complete roadside emergency kit, this is yet another obvious contender. That is because it is a combination of a jump starter, power source, and air compressor. While it is not the only all-in-one tool on the list, it is the more affordable of the two. The jump starter can deliver 1200 amps and is more than enough to jump light trucks with small engines. Furthermore, the five different power sources can prove very useful, and the 150 PSI compressor quickly fills tires. However, the imbalance of this design is something to be aware of. The compressor is more than capable of inflating large tires, but the jump starter may struggle with big engines. Owners of vehicles with an engine displacement of 5.7 liters or more may want to consider a more powerful jump starter.

We recommend this compressor for those on the hunt for a model that easily stores in any vehicle. Its slim design, respectable operational speeds, and decent reach make an excellent choice for cars and motorcycles. While the company doesn’t offer much information on the specs, reviews state that it can fill tires to 35 PSI in under 10 minutes. It also features an easy-to-use digital control system that accurately reads tire pressure. It also incorporates ample LED-lighting despite the small size. This model is compact, and it is easy to store anywhere. However, it doesn’t come with a carrying bag or dedicated storage case. That may not seem like a drawback, but power cords and air hoses can tangle, and the included attachments are very easy to lose.

This is the compressor for those with a tight budget. It lists well under the average price and will fill nearly any car tire in an emergency. This model is very compact and measures 8 x 6 x 4 inches. Despite its small footprint, it can generate a whopping 300 PSI and fill car tires in under 10 minutes. It is also effortless to use with a simple power switch and analog pressure gauge. However, if you’re looking for something that can do more, this isn’t the tool — except for the attachments, it’s just a compressor. And while it does have a 10-foot power cord, the 1.5-foot air hose poses some limitations in reach.


  • Look for a compressor with more than one power connector and multiple inflator tips. This will give you the most versatility and functionality out of your compressor. 
  • Look for a compressor that has an auto shut off feature. This takes the guesswork out of filling your tires. You set the compressor to your desired psi and let it get to work. 
  •  Look at the noise level generated by the compressor. No one wants to turn on their compressor and have it be annoying to everyone around them. Look for one between 40 and 60 decibels. 


Q; What is the best 12V portable air compressor?

The best air compressor is the one that’s powerful enough to supply the right amount of power and pressure to the task you’re trying to perform. 

Q: How do you repair a 12 volt air compressor?

Start by taking the compressor housing apart. Then inspect the inner components. Look at the cylinder head and piston to ensure they are working. Check the hose to make sure it isn’t leaking. If there are rubber seals, they should be pliable and seated correctly. Any electrical connections should be secure. 

Q: What should I keep in mind while using a 12v air compressor off the road?

The most common use for a 12v air compressor off the road is to inflate tires. In this situation, you need a compressor that’s strong enough to inflate your tires to the correct PSI. The duty cycle isn’t as important unless you’re inflating multiple sets of tires. 

Final Thoughts

The Viair Portable Air Compressor has the ideal amount of power and generous power and air cables. For a more affordable option, the EPAuto Portable Air Compressor displays air pressure in four units and comes with three inflator tips. 

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