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10 Best Portable Tire Inflators [Buying Guide]

Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated – No Matter Where You Drive

Best Overall Choice

EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor

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Best Budget Choice

Lifeline AAA 300 PSI 12 Volt DC Air Compressor

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Best Premium Choice

Viair 88P Portable Air Compressor

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best portable tire inflators

Every vehicle and home garage should have a portable tire inflator on hand. They’re compact, easy to use, and ideal for pumping up tires in a jam. Not only can you make small adjustments to your tire pressure as needed, but you can also use them to pump up your spare tire. You can also use them on bikes, mowers, or tractor tires too for added convenience.

And while there are lots of great portable tire inflators on the market, there are also some scams. Some portable tire inflators don’t have enough power to blow up a pool toy, let alone a tire. And, given that you might need a portable tire inflator to get you out of a jam one day, you want the best portable tire inflators money can buy. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the top ten choices when looking for the best portable tire inflator.

In this buying guide, you’ll find a portable tire inflator option for everyone. Some portable tire inflators are smaller than others, while a few are feature-rich, top-of-the-line units. We also included a couple of budget-friendly choices.

What’s so Important About Tire Pressure?

Properly inflated tires affect both your safety on the road and your wallet. If your tires are underinflated, you’ll end up with premature wear and poor fuel economy. These two factors combined might cost you hundreds of dollars.

Even if your vehicle is equipped with a TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), you can’t always rely on this system to check your tire pressures. Most of the time, the TPMS warning light will only come on when the pressure falls 25% below the recommended tire pressure. By that time, you’re already feeling the effect of driving on underinflated tires.

What many drivers might not realize is you can lose tire pressure even without puncturing your tire. If your tires are only 3 PSI below what’s recommended, you use 1% more fuel and tack on 10% more wear. And you don’t want to overcompensate either. Overinflated tires can be damages easier and create a rough ride.

USA Today says that if your tire is 25% below the recommended pressure, you are three times more likely to get into a crash. If it’s 25% above where it should be, your chances of a crash double. With statistics like that, you should be monitoring your tire pressures often; not just to save money, but also to keep you safe on the road. Make checking your tire pressures a regular part of your car care routine.

Choosing the Best Portable Air Compressor

Many people wonder what to look for in the best portable tire inflators. To answer that question, there are several factors you’ll want to consider.

Price

You’ll find products on the market that range from as low as $15 all the way up to around $100. Though we understand operating on a budget, just be aware that it’s hard to get something for less than $25 that’s really going to last. If you can, shell out a little bit extra to make sure you get a unit that is strong enough to inflate your tires properly.

If you don’t drive a lot, you don’t need the highest-end model. A middle-of-the-road portable tire inflator would be just for the occasional emergency and the occasional at-home fill-up. You can also perform your regular tire pressure checks and maintenance at the gas station. On the other hand, if you commute every day or spend a good amount of time in the car, it would be wise to invest in a higher-priced model for added peace of mind.

Durability

The biggest difference you’ll find between the cheap portable tire inflator and the expensive models is durability. The cheap inflators are usually made with plastic parts and feature small motors. You have to be careful with these units, as they can fall apart or crack easily.

Many of the cheaper models don’t feature any type of thermal overload protection. They will heat up during use and may eventually burn out. You might be able to get a few uses out of them before they break, but they’re not really designed to last.

A higher-end portable tire inflator model is going to feature metal parts that hold up well over time. Many of them also come with alligator clamps as a power supply instead of the typical cigarette lighter socket plug. These models also have more powerful, larger motors. They run quickly and remain cool, plus they often come with thermal overload protection for safety and to prevent overheating.

Convenience

While a low-cost model might be gentle on your budget, it can often be a pain to use. They work very slowly and require breaks to cool off. With a cheaper model, you could spend up to three times longer trying to inflate tires than necessary.

If you plan to service your tires frequently or have multiple vehicles to look after, you want a powerhouse. Time adds up quickly for every four tires you are waiting to fill.

With that said, if you just want a portable tire inflator in case of emergencies, you probably aren’t going to mind spending ten minutes pumping up a tire if it means avoiding calling a tow truck.

10 Best Portable Tire Inflators

Without further ado, here are our picks for the top ten best portable tire inflators on the market. You are sure to find something in this list that fits your budget and your needs.

Best Overall Choice

1. EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor

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One of the best models according to Amazon reviews is this unit from EPAuto. The 12-volt air compressor runs with a maximum of 100 PSI. There’s also an included digital display gauge that you can program to display in kg/cm, BAR, KPA, or PSI.

The auto-shutoff feature ensures you don’t over-inflate your tires. It also includes overheating protection which shuts down the compressor if it becomes overloaded. Many models don’t come with this added protection—if you use your air compressor frequently, it’s probably worth spending a little bit extra for it.

If you need to fill your tires at night, you’ll be thankful for the built-in LED flashlight. Weighing just under four pounds, you’ll find that this inflator is easy to carry and use. It’s also relatively inexpensive considering all the features that come included.

Best Budget Choice

2. Lifeline AAA 300 PSI 12 Volt DC Air Compressor

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This affordable, compact and convenient unit, made from AAA, is reliable when you’re in a jam with a flat tire. It’s ideal for anyone who drives but doesn’t know much about car maintenance because it’s simple to use. On top of that, it’s also lightweight and can fit in most standard glove boxes.

Don’t let the smaller size fool you; it’s rated up to 300 PSI. While it might not actually put out that much pressure, users confirm it’s surprisingly strong. Just plug it into the 12V outlet, attach it to your tire, and turn it on.

The reach is a little smaller than others, as you only get a 10-foot power cord and 1.5-foot air hose. For this reason, we only recommend it for smaller or medium-sized vehicles. The two accessory nozzles it comes with are great for inflating other objects like pool toys or balls. You could even maintain your bike tires with this unit.

If you don’t need the top-of-the-line air compressor and are looking to save some money, this budget-friendly option is a great way to go.

Best Premium Choice

3. Viair 88P Portable Air Compressor

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If you want to take things up a notch, upgrade to this best portable tire inflator. It’s powerful, rugged, and great for anyone that spends a lot of time on the road. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything with more power. It’s made from metal parts, so it’s incredibly durable and comes equipped with a brass chuck.

This portable tire inflator is also quiet. It comes with noise-isolating features and rubber feet, so the vibration and noise are kept to a minimum during operation. Instead of a 12V plug, it operates with alligator clamps directly connected to your battery. If you know how to jump-start your car, you’ll be able to use this air compressor.

The unit also has a built-in fuse, so you don’t have to worry about blowing a fuse in your car. In total, you get 21 feet of air hose and power cord reach; plenty to get around even the biggest vehicles.

Other features include thermal overload protection and an extremely accurate pressure gauge. Because it operates at a maximum of 120 PSI, we’d feel comfortable recommending this as a great portable tire inflator for trucks or SUVs.

4. MasterFlow 12V Tire Inflator

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If you’re looking for a portable tire inflator that can handle heavy-duty truck tires (or possibly RV or trailer tires), this powerful portable compressor from MasterFlow is made for the job.

This 12v air compressor attaches directly to your vehicle’s battery and comes with a 10-foot heavy-duty power cord and alligator clips. The 16-foot self-coiling air hose has a quick connect type M automotive air fitting and easy twist brass inflator. The unit puts out an impressive 5,500 cubic inches of airflow per minute and can inflate a full-size truck tire to 25-35 PSI in less than 2 minutes or a standard passenger tire in under a minute.

Great for off-roaders who are frequently airing up and down at the trailhead, this tire inflator does come with a premium price tag and is geared toward a more specific audience. It comes with a heavy-duty nylon carry bag, two adapter nozzles, and a ball inflation needle.

5. Kensun AC/DC Rapid Performance Portable Air Compressor

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A little higher up on the price scale, this Kensun portable air compressor is a versatile option that works with vehicle DC sockets as well as your home AC outlets. That means you can use it in the car or around the house.

It’s only five pounds, so it’s easy to tote along with you. There’s also an auto shut-off function that makes sure you don’t over-inflate your tires. Before pumping up your tire, you simply set the desired PSI level on the LCD screen.

It also has a small LED lamp that you can use to illuminate small, dark areas for added visibility if you need to work on your tires at night. Considering emergencies happen at any time of day, this is a great additional feature.

When you want to transport or carry the unit, you’ll find that the provided grab handle makes it easier than most other models. This machine reaches a maximum of 90 PSI, which is more than enough to inflate the tires of most passenger vehicles on the road. Plus, it comes with three connector types so you can blow up inflatables and bike tires as well.

6. Slime 40026 2X Heavy Duty Tire Inflator

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If you want a heavy-duty option that is both durable and powerful, this Slime tire inflator should do the trick. The dual-cylinder inflator is powerful enough to inflate a standard car tire in under 2 minutes.

The tire inflator comes with alligator clamps and hooks directly to your vehicle’s battery. With 30-feet of reach to work with, you should be able to reach all four tires on trucks and SUVs with no issue.

The tire inflator comes with three air accessories and a hard-sided storage case. The hose has an in-line tire pressure gauge so you can monitor your tire pressure while filling the tire. For added convenience, you can leave this gauge attached to the inflator or remove it to use it as a tire pressure monitor on it’s own.

7. AVID POWER Tire Inflator

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This versatile tire inflator can run off DC or AC power. In your vehicle, you simply plug the unit directly into the 12V plug for use on the road. The powerful dual motors are engineered from metal parts for added durability.

Uniquely, this compressor has an inflation and deflation mode. While you likely won’t need to use the deflation mode on your tires, it can come in handy for things like deflating air mattresses, rafts, or other inflatable toys that you might have on hand, say for a camping trip or weekend adventure.

The unit comes with three nozzle adaptors and a high-volume hose. The LCD digital display monitors pressure, and you can set it to PSI, Bar, or KPA, making this air compressor super easy and safe to operate. The incorporated LED flashlights is another nice-to-have feature should you find yourself on the roadside at night.

 

8. Viair 85P Portable Air Compressor

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This portable air compressor weighs 4.3 pounds and fills 18-inch tires to 30 PSI in just under three minutes. It has a working pressure of 60 PSI and a duty cycle of 20 minutes.

Some of the features on this machine include an LED work light, solid brass twist-on tire chuck, accessory power plug, and 100-PSI gauge. It also comes with a three-piece tip kit and a convenient carrying bag. You’ll have plenty of room to reach all your tires with the 10-foot power cord and additional 3-foot air hose.

This unit is one of the best 12V portable tire inflators on the market. If you need something stronger, you’ll want to look for a model that connects directly to the car battery instead.

9. P.I. Auto Store Premium 12V DC Tire Air Compressor

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Another mid-price-range option is this tire inflator from the P.I. Auto Store. Because it features a premium 12-volt DC connection, it’s capable of inflating most mid-size car tires to 30 PSI in under three minutes. In addition to that, the company claims that this is one of the quietest portable air compressors around.

This 12-volt option utilizes the car’s outlet for power. It has a backlit LCD so you can easily monitor the tire pressures. And thanks to the auto-shutoff feature, you don’t have to worry about overinflating your tire. This machine only weighs two pounds, so it’s quite compact and easy to take on the go.

Between the air hose and power cord, you’ll have about 13 feet to work with, which should be plenty for most users. There’s also a snap-on connector to make attaching the hose to the tire valves simple. The included carrying case, bicycle valve adapter, and four spare dust caps are a bonus.

10. Fortem Digital Tire Inflator

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There’s no doubt that this portable tire inflator is the most stylish on our list. If you care what your compressor looks like, then this might be an option for you. The 12V unit comes with an LCD screen and a built-in LED light. This makes reading your measurements simple and easy, no matter what kind of lighting you’re in.

The easy-to-use controls are simple, even for someone who’s never inflated a tire before. There’s a handy cord storage compartment located on the back of the machine to make transportation a little easier. At just under two pounds, the unit is easy to transport and store.

It also features a 150 PSI maximum pressure, so this isn’t a joke. You can inflate your bike tires and sports equipment as well without any trouble. This unit will run for eight minutes before it needs to cool off. Most of the time, you shouldn’t need to run it longer than that. Whether you have cars, bikes, or motorcycles, this is a great all ’rounder.

Along with the inflator, you’ll also get an extra fuse, carrying case, and three additional nozzle attachments. In total, there’s about 12-feet of length between the air hose and power cord.



Get One of The Best Portable Tire Inflators

Once you purchase the best portable tire inflator for a car, you’ll be able to refill your tires anywhere. You won’t have to worry if you need to fill up a tire on the side of the road; everything you need will be available to you in a small, compact package. Save yourself some money and protect yourself from danger on the road by ensuring that all of your tires are properly inflated.



Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a portable tire inflator and an air compressor?

Portable tire inflators tend are the smaller version of air compressors. These units are usually 12V and can run from the cigarette port in a car. An air compressor is a device that pumps air into a car tire, and usually has a tank. Air compressors tend to be larger and often plug into AC power though some smaller units run off 12V as well. The purpose of both tools is to inflate your tire.

How long does it take to inflate a tire?

This will depend on how much air you need to add to the tire and how powerful your tire inflator is. On average, it may take several minutes per tire.

How often should I check my tire pressure?

It is recommended to check your tire pressure monthly.

How often do I need to put air in my tires?

Tires generally lose a few points of pressure per month. Assuming you are checking your pressures regularly and don’t have a leak or flat, you will likely need to add a little bit of air to your tires each month when you check your tire pressures.

Does my car need to be running to use a tire inflator?

Refer to the instruction manual on how to safely operate your particular unit. Generally, your car will not need to be running.





About Brian Jones

Brian Jones spent over 30-years at various dealerships as an ASE Certified Master Tech. These days he works with those dealerships to create quality automotive content while spending more time with his family near Dallas, TX. In his spare time, you'll still find him playing with tools, cars, and many other "manly" gadgets. Brian's passions include traveling, pickup trucks, and anything related to motorsports.

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