Editor’s Pick
Viair 450P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit

An oil-free electric air compressor that is portable and powerful.

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Most Portable Compressor
Ryobi ONE+

A quick-filling portable tire inflator that runs on a lithium battery.

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Most User-Friendly
Kobalt Portable Air Compressor

A tire inflator that’s especially easy to use with most vehicles.

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Fastest Inflation
DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor

A heavy-duty portable air compressor pump for big jobs.

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Budget Pick
Slime Tire Inflator

A low-cost but quality tire inflator that adds psi to your tires quickly.

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A portable air compressor is a convenient means to keep your car’s tires properly inflated. Maintaining the right tire pressure is not only a matter of safety but can help improve fuel economy and save money in the long run.

We’ve tested several types of portable air compressors, from lightweight pancake compressors to handheld tire inflators.

5 Best Portable Air Compressors

Portable Air Compressors

  1. Editor’s Pick: Viair 450P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit
  2. Most Portable Air Compressor: Ryobi ONE+
  3. Most User-Friendly: Kobalt Portable Air Compressor
  4. Fastest Inflation: DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor
  5. Budget Pick: Slime Tire Inflator

#1 Editor’s Pick: Viair 450P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit

Viair 450P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit

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The Viair kit is designed primarily for RV use. It has a 60.0-foot coil hose, allowing it to reach from your automotive battery to the rear tire of any trailer you may be towing. It comes with angled chucks to access almost any type of tire.

This kit can inflate large tires up to 150.0 psi and does so quickly. Another useful feature is that it can operate on a continuous run cycle, so no need to wait for it to pressurize every 30 minutes.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $390
  • Power source: 12V DC battery connection
  • Weight: 13.0 pounds

What’s In The Box?

This kit includes a number of attachments to get you started out of the box. Along with the Viair Compressor, this kit also includes:

  • Primary and extension air hoses
  • Tire inflation gun with gauge
  • Battery clamps
  • 90-degree twist on chuck
  • 45-degree extended reach chuck
  • Three-piece inflation tips kit
  • Canvas carry case

Our Experience

Viair 450P-RV Automatic Portable Compressor Kit

It only took the Viair 50 seconds to add 10.0 psi of pressure to our test wheel. The included attachments are all quality-built, and we were especially impressed with the high-quality carrying case, which conveniently stowed the entire kit.

We did find the instructions poor and mostly unhelpful. While we were able to figure out how to use this compressor, it took us a few failed attempts before connecting the required parts in the proper order.

Overall Rating4.2 out of 5
Inflation Speed4.5
Ease of Use3.5
Portability4.5

What Customers Are Saying

The Viair has an Amazon average rating of 4.8 based on over 1,500 ratings. The vast majority of reviewers are happy with this compressor, with 96 percent rating it 4 or more stars.

A lot of reviewers give this compressor a full 5 stars. Many praise it for its fast inflation speeds and easy use. Some appreciate the continuous run cycle, especially those that need to inflate several tires at once. This is an especially popular compressor for those with RVs or high psi tires.

Some people are frustrated that the chuck heads do not lock on to the tire air valves. Most aren’t bothered by this because the tires inflate so quickly that it isn’t too much trouble to hold them down yourself. This could be annoying for an especially long inflation, however.

#2 Most Portable Air Compressor: Ryobi ONE+

Ryobi ONE+

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The Ryobi ONE+ is a tire inflator, so it won’t be able to power pneumatic tools. However, this air compressor is good for inflating tires. It operates on a rechargeable lithium battery and is small and lightweight. This is a good pick for people who want an easy-to-use tire inflator that they can keep in their trunk for emergencies.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $80
  • Power source: Lithium battery
  • Weight: 4.0 pounds

What’s In The Box?

When you purchase a Ryobi ONE+, you get nothing but the inflator itself. The batteries are sold separately or as a bundle. You’ll need to purchase a battery charger separately.

Our Experience

Ryobi ONE+

While easy to use, the Ryobi doesn’t inflate as quickly as bigger air compressors. It took a minute and 30 seconds to add 10.0 psi to our test tire. That said, if you’re only keeping this around to maintain tire pressure in a single vehicle, this slower inflation rate isn’t much of an issue.

We like the digital psi reader, which is helpful for precise filling. Checking the reading of the Ryobi against our test car’s tire pressure monitor showed the Ryobi’s reading to be accurate.

Overall Rating4.2 out of 5
Inflation Speed3
Ease of Use4.5
Portability5

What Customers Are Saying

With around 200 reviews on Amazon, the Ryobi ONE+ has an average score of 4.6, with 91 percent of reviews rating this inflator 4 or more stars.

Many reviewers keep the Ryobi in their vehicle or garage to top off and maintain tire pressure. One reviewer notes that the battery maintains its charge well. This person keeps it in their car and it holds a charge for months while stored.

The most prevalent complaint about the Ryobi is that the battery charger is not included. This was not obvious to everyone that purchased this tire inflator, so some were frustrated that they had to purchase a separate item to use their tire inflator.

#3 Most User-Friendly: Kobalt Portable Air Compressor

Kobalt Portable Air Compressor

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The Kobalt portable air compressor is compact and user-friendly. It can be powered either by plugging it into an AC outlet or your car’s DC cigarette lighter. As with the Ryobi, this air compressor is good for inflating tires only, and will not run air tools.

This air compressor is a good choice for a tire inflator to keep in your car. While a little bigger than the Ryobi ONE+, it has the advantage of not needing a charged battery.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $90
  • Power source: AC corded electric or DC cigarette lighter
  • Weight: 6.1 pounds

What’s In The Box?

Nothing other than the inflator itself is included with the Kobalt Portable Air Compressor. The compressor itself features a digital display and two power cords (one for AC and one for DC).

Our Experience

Kobalt Portable Air Compressor

We love the design of the Kobalt. Not only does it look good, but it is very intuitive and easy to use. The digital psi readout is accurate and matched the readout of our test vehicle’s pressure sensors.

This was the slowest acting compressor, taking a minute and 50 seconds to add 10.0 psi to our test tire. However, this was the easiest-to-use compressor, because all you need to do is set the desired psi and press the start button. The Kobalt automatically shuts down once the proper psi is reached.

Overall Rating4.2 out of 5
Inflation Speed3
Ease of Use5
Portability4.5

What Customers Are Saying

The Kobalt has an Amazon’s Choice designation and an average score of 4.7 based on more than 900 ratings. A whopping 92 percent of reviews rate this portable inflator 4 or more stars.

Many reviewers purchase this gauge for a quick and easy tire inflator. The Kobalt is light and easy to store and it attaches easily.

Some downsides mentioned are that the air hose is a little short. A couple of reviewers also don’t like that the hose cover doesn’t secure in place. There is a plastic piece that covers the air hose when stored, but it does not click into place and the hose can easily fall out if not coiled perfectly.

#4 Fastest Inflation: DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor

DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor

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While it stretches the limits of “portable” at 30.0 pounds, this relatively quiet air compressor could reasonably fit in a trunk for job site transportation. It isn’t difficult to maneuver and is capable of running a variety of air tools. A high flow regulator maximizes the performance of these tools. And if you need to inflate a tire, the DeWalt can do so in no time. It’s also backed by a one-year warranty.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $180
  • Power source: AC Corded Electric
  • Weight: 30.0 pounds

What’s In The Box?

The DeWalt pancake air compressor doesn’t include any extras or attachments. In fact, you’ll need to purchase these attachments separately to use this compressor for any job, even inflating a tire.

Our Experience

DeWalt Pancake Air Compressor

It took the DeWalt only 25 seconds to inflate our test tire from 30.0 to 40.0 psi, making it the fastest of the air compressors on this list. Operation is straightforward once the machine is plugged in. Because it did not come with any inflation tools, we used the inflator that came with another of the air compressors we tested and it attached seamlessly to the DeWalt.

Overall Rating4.3 out of 5
Inflation Speed5
Ease of Use5
Portability3

What Customers Are Saying

With over 4,400 ratings, the DeWalt pancake air compressor has an average Amazon rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. More than 93 percent of reviewers give this air compressor 4 or more stars.

A lot of users say they like this compressor because it is light and easy to use. It’s a great tool for small projects and runs quietly compared to other air compressors with a similar tank size.

There are a couple of reports from reviewers that received faulty products. In some cases, compressors arrived with pieces detached.

#5 Budget Pick: Slime Tire Inflator

Slime Tire Inflator

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The last item on our list is also not suitable for powering air tools and is mainly for inflating tires. The Slime is a low-cost tire inflator that connects directly to your car battery for power. This makes it an excellent roadside emergency inflator. It works quickly and can be stored in a solid plastic case.

Key Features

  • Approximate cost: $95
  • Power source: 12V DC battery connection
  • Weight: 9.4 pounds

What’s In The Box?

The Slime tire inflator comes with:

  • Plastic carrying case
  • Tire gauge
  • Three-piece inflation nozzles kit
  • Direct connect jumpers

Another feature of the Slime is that it has a built-in LED light.

Our Experience

Slime Tire Inflator

Because you need to connect it to your battery, the Slime takes a little longer to set up than some other gauges. It’s also worth noting that it does not work with hybrid batteries, so if you drive a hybrid vehicle, you’ll want to pick something else.

The inflator head screws into the tire valve, making for a more secure fit. We found the analog gauge to be less precise than the digital gauges that we tested, though generally accurate (within a couple psi).

It took the Slime 35 seconds to inflate our test tire by 10.0 psi, making it one of the faster tire inflators.

The final thing that we noted during testing is that the included carrying case is made of flimsy plastic. It is good enough to keep the unit protected during storage, but not an especially impressive case.

Overall Rating3.7 out of 5
Inflation Speed4
Ease of Use3
Portability4

What Customers Are Saying

With over 1,500 ratings, the Slime portable air compressor has an average Amazon score of 4.5. It has earned an Amazon’s choice designation, and 86 percent of reviewers give this air compressor 4 or more stars.

Reviewers consider this inflator a reliable compressor excellent for roadside emergencies. Compared to battery-powered or 12.0-volt inflators, the Slime inflates especially quickly. Reviewers also appreciate the twist-on connector which is easy to attach.

Some say the tire gauge can be difficult to read, and others (like us) comment that the case is flimsy and could be better built.

Portable Air Compressor Buyers Guide

When shopping for a portable air compressor, start by considering how you’ll use it. Air compressors can be used to inflate tires, but also to power certain tools such as nail guns or orbital sanders.

Maximum Pressure And Airflow Rate

Air compressors will have a maximum pressure per square inch (psi) as well as a maximum output measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). When using an air compressor to inflate tires, these metrics determine how quickly it can pump up your tire. Most air compressors are capable of inflating a tire, even those with low maximum psi and CFM outputs.

If you’re buying an air compressor to run tools, psi and CFM become much more important. You’ll need to match the pressure and flow rates to the tools you plan to use, or you risk damaging them. Learn the requirements of the tools you plan to use and match your air compressor specs accordingly.

Weight

A portable air compressor should be portable. While larger compressors may offer higher psi and CFM, they may not be so easy to lug around. If you’re looking for a portable compressor to keep in your car to inflate tires in an emergency, choose something lightweight.

Power Source

Portable air compressors can run on battery power or an AC current. Those that you need to plug in are typically more powerful, but less portable. Some air compressors can run off DC current by connecting directly to your car’s battery. This type of compressor requires that you pop the hood, but has the advantage of being useful on the side of the road.

What Is The Difference Between An Air Compressor And An Inflator?

Many tire inflators are air compressors, but most air compressors can do a lot more than inflate tires. An air compressor can be used to power tools like a nail gun, air impact wrench, or air hammer.

Our Review Standards

The portable air compressors in this article went through two rounds of reviews. We started by searching Amazon for top products, looking at customer reviews, inflation power, and reliability. Our product testing team ordered the five portable air compressors that best met these standards.

Portable Air Compressor Testing Process

A team member tested each product on a car, taking note of how quickly each compressor could inflate a tire according to instructions (if there were any included), as well as build quality, ease of use, and quality of additional attachments. We timed how long it took for the compressors to raise the tire psi from 30.0 to 40.0. Each air compressor was given a rating out of 5 stars based on these criteria.

Why You Can Trust Us

Each year, we test over 350 auto products on vehicles and in our testing lab. Our team of product testers thoroughly researches top products, unboxes and puts our hands on each component, and tests the items on real vehicles before making recommendations to readers.

We publish hundreds of product and service reviews to bring car enthusiasts detailed guides on automotive tools, detailing kits, car seats, pet products, and much more. For more information on our testing methodology and how we evaluate every product, check out our methodology page here.

Best Portable Air Compressor: FAQs

*Data accurate at time of publication.