by Joshua Thomas
It is quite obvious that the purpose of an air compressor is to compress air and with this, comes many uses such as inflating your vehicle tires, balloons, sports balls, inflatable mattresses, pool toys, and many others.
However, these tools come in different styles and sizes, which makes the selection process a bit tricky if you do not know what to look for. If that is the case, here is a close up look at the best portable air compressors in the market, from which you can have your pick.
1. Viair 88P (Long Reach)
2. EPAuto AT-010-1Z (Overheat Protection)
3. JACO Superior Products JSP-008 (Best Compact)
4. Viair 85 (Good)
5. Ryobi P731 (Battery Powered)
6. Cartman 4333087842 (Best Budget)
7. Bon-Aire i8000 (Best AC Powered)
What stands out most about this 88P from Viair is its long reach, in which it has a 10-foot power cord and a 16-foot air hose. Combined, this gives you a total of 26 feet, which is enough to reach all the four tires of your car easily.
With a 12-volt DC rating and a 120-PSI max working pressure, this unit is ideal for tires not exceeding 33 inches in size and delivers up to 1.47 CFM free flow, which is quite a high rate.
Other features include an LED work light, LED power indicator, battery clamps for connecting directly to the car battery, secure twist-on solid brass tire chucks and a few adapter accessories for inflating sports balls and other inflatables.
Combined, these features make this the top-rated portable air compressor in our review. However, it is quite expensive and has an analog dial display for checking the pressure level.
Safety features are always important in any electrical or mechanical product and this portable air compressor from EPAuto is equipped with an overheat protection feature, which shuts it off automatically when it overloads by exceeding an operating temperature of 167°F.
Additionally, the unit is rated to operate at a maximum of 15 amps and its power cable is equipped with a 15-amp fuse to protect the circuitry inside. Overall, these features maximize durability, leading to a long lifespan.
Other than that, this compressor is powered by 12 volts DC and is fitted with a cigarette lighter plug that is very easy to use.
Once powered, an easy-to-read LCD backlit screen shows you the pressure measurement in either kPa, PSI, BAR or KG/CM while a bright LED light at the front illuminates your work area in the dark.
Other features include auto shut-off, a 1.06 CFM inflating speed and the inclusion of several adapters for filling up basketballs, kayaks, swimming pool toys, etc.
However, the unit cannot handle truck tires because it has a relatively low max pressure rating of 70 PSI.
Jaco's JSP-008 is a compact and easily portable air compressor that is very easy to handle and comes with a storage/carry bag for easy transportation.
Despite its small size, this piece is well equipped with a lot of features, which include automatic shut-off for easy use and accurate refilling and a digital air gauge with a backlit LCD screen that displays the pressure level from 0-100 PSI accurately to +/-1 PSI.
Also included is a woven, heavy-duty 2-foot air hose, which is quite short, but it is complemented by a long 10-foot power cable with a cigarette lighter plug on one end for extended reach.
LED lighting is built-in for lighting your work area in dark conditions, and it has 4 settings which are: flashlight, red flashing, SOS lighting and off.
Other features include a 3-unit display mode in PSI, kPa and BAR, anti-vibration rubber feet and 2 adapter accessories for sports balls, pool accessories, air beds, etc.
On the downside, the unit is quite slow, delivering 25 liters of air per minute, which is equivalent to about 0.9 CFM.
Viair's 85 is like a smaller sibling to the 88P above, featuring a free flow rate of 1.26 CFM, which is still relatively fast but has a relatively low max working pressure of 60 PSI.
The unit is DC powered and is equipped with a 12-volt cigarette lighter plug for easy and convenient use.
LED lighting is also built-in for convenience by illuminating your work area as you pump in the air into your tires, balls and other inflatables in the dark.
However, the compressor has an analog dial pressure gauge, which is a bit difficult to read as compared to digital models. With this, automatic shut-off also lacks from the setup, which means you have to check the pressure continuously during every refill.
On the bright side, you get a carry/storage bag for easy transportation and several adapter accessories for pumping air into other inflatables apart from tires.
If you are looking for a cordless portable air compressor, then Ryobi's P731 is the best option to consider. This is because the unit is powered by an 18-volt battery and this makes it highly portable.
With this setup, you get a flow rate of 0.33 SCFM at 35 PSI and a free flow rate of 6.9 SCFM at 0 PSI.
The unit also has a high-pressure operating range of 0-150 PSI, with the pressure read-out being shown on an easy-to-read digital display that is highly accurate to +/-1 PSI. This display also shows the reading in either PSI, kPa or BAR, allowing you to choose the units you prefer most.
Other features include wrap-around onboard hose storage, an onboard storage compartment for adapter accessories and automatic shut-off for easy control.
However, the required 18-volt battery and its charger are not included, which means you have to buy them separately. Also, no flashlight is built-in for improved visibility in dark conditions.
Cartman's portable air compressor is the most affordable unit in this review and despite this, it does have a very powerful motor that is two times as fast than those found in normal compressors.
This motor is powered via a 12-volt car accessories outlet, in which it has a cigarette lighter plug for this connection.
Once fixed into the lighter socket, 4 LEDs at the front can be switched on to illuminate your work area in the dark while a long 9-foot, 4-inch power cable gives you extended reach.
Other features include a tough ABS construction that resists damage or deformation from heat, wear and tear, convenient onboard air hose and adapter storage (for the included 2 inflator nozzles), and a built-in carry handle.
On the downside, this compressor features an analog dial pressure gauge with no automatic shut-off feature.
If you don't want to use your car as a power source every time when refilling your inflatables, Bon-Aire's i8000 is a good option to consider because it runs on 120 volts AC.
With this power, the compressor is equipped with a 120-volt direct drive motor that operates very silently and almost vibration free due to its Whisper Soft Technology.
Included in the pack is a long 18-foot air hose (17 feet in PVC, 1-foot rubber) and a 6-foot power cord, which give a total reach of 24 feet, while a couple of adapters ensure you can fill up your sporting equipment, rafts, and other inflatables.
Other features include a built-in carry handle for easy transportation and a high maximum pressure rating of 150 PSI.
However, the unit is equipped with an analog dial pressure gauge that is not as accurate and easy to read as the digital type and has no LED work area lighting.
There are 3 main power sources for portable air compressors. DC is the main one and because most of these units are used for inflating car tires, this is an ideal source for running them on the go.
Most are rated at 12 volts and can either be plugged into the lighter socket or clamped directly to the battery.
The second option is built-in battery power and this has portability as the main advantage since you can use the compressor anywhere. However, battery power is limited and you need to replace or recharge this power source every once in a while.
Lastly, AC power is very convenient for home use in filling up your inflatables and sports balls since you don't need a car. Unlike battery power, AC is limitless, which means no recharging is required.
However, it might be a little tricky to use on car tires, especially when you are not at home or not close to an AC power outlet.
The choice between the three though is down to personal preference because all perform quite well.
This factor is very important to consider, especially if you want a compressor for your car tires. Usually measured in PSI, the pressure rating basically shows the compatibility of the unit to the pressure in different inflatables.
For instance, if you own a truck, SUV or RV with large tires, then you need a compressor rated at least at 100 PSI, with the best being 150 PSI. Anything less than 100 PSI can only work for small car tires.
Read More: The Best Tire Inflators
However, for home use such as in filling up sports balls, pool accessories, inflatable mattresses and the like, almost all types of compressors can be used since the pressure involved is usually not very high.
A portable air compressor can either have an analog or a digital pressure gauge.
Analog gauges are basically composed of dial faces and pointing needles, which point towards the numbered edge of the dial to show the reading. However, they are not that accurate and might be a little bit difficult to read.
On the other hand, digital gauges are very precise and easy to read because the pressure figure is clearly shown on the screen. Additionally, most of them are backlit, which means easy reading even in dark conditions.
Ultimately, digital pressure gauges are better than their analog counterparts and are highly recommended.
Not all cheap portable air compressors are of poor quality. Similarly, not all expensive compressors are the best quality. In the selection process, you need to find what is best for you.
Always consider the features that you need first then select the most affordable unit from your narrowed-down list.
These are the features that simplify the portable air compressor's use. For instance, with automatic shut-off, you only have to pre-set the pressure you want then let the compressor do everything else for you.
LED work area lighting is also important and should be highly considered if the main purpose is to use the compressor for your car tires since you may need to use it out there at night.
Using a portable air compressor is fairly easy. However, there are a few tips that will help you do it right. These include:
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor - Walmart Link
AstroAI Air Compressor Tire Inflator Portable Air Pump for Car Tires 12V DC Auto Tire - Walmart Link
STANLEY J5C09 Portable Power Station Jump Starter: 1000 Peak/500 Instant Amps- 120 PSI - Walmart Link
Oasser Air Compressor Portable Mini Air Inflator Hand Held Tire Pump 2000mAh with Digital - Walmart Link
Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series, 1 HP, 2 Gallon, Oil-Free, Electric Air Compressor - Walmart Link
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator - Walmart Link
Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor - Walmart Link
BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Tire Inflator, Cordless & Corded Power, Tool Only (BDINF20C) - Walmart Link
HAUSBELL Portable air Compressor for Car Tires, 12V DC tire inflator Pump with Digital - Walmart Link
ARB (CKMTP12) 12V Twin Motor High Performance Portable Air Compressor - Walmart Link
Makita MAC2400 2.5 HP Big Bore Air Compressor - eBay Link
AstroAI Air Compressor Tire Inflator Portable Air Pump for Car Tires 12V DC Auto Tire - eBay Link
STANLEY J5C09 Portable Power Station Jump Starter: 1000 Peak/500 Instant Amps- 120 PSI - eBay Link
Oasser Air Compressor Portable Mini Air Inflator Hand Held Tire Pump 2000mAh with Digital - eBay Link
Makita MAC210Q Quiet Series, 1 HP, 2 Gallon, Oil-Free, Electric Air Compressor - eBay Link
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator - eBay Link
Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor - eBay Link
BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Tire Inflator, Cordless & Corded Power, Tool Only (BDINF20C) - eBay Link
HAUSBELL Portable air Compressor for Car Tires, 12V DC tire inflator Pump with Digital - eBay Link
ARB (CKMTP12) 12V Twin Motor High Performance Portable Air Compressor - eBay Link
In conclusion, even though most of these portable air compressors may look alike, there are some fine, hidden details that you need to check such as auto shut-off, maximum pressure rating, voltage, and the power source.
All these are covered in the review and buying guide sections above so that you can have an easier time picking the best portable air compressor that meets all your requirements.
About Joshua Thomas
Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.
He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.
His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.
Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.