When you search “portable tire inflators/air compressors” online, you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of gadgets that claim to be the “best” in inflating automobile tires. Which one is right for you? We’re here to help you cut through the clutter.
To discover the truth, we gathered a truckload of best-sellers and well-known brands and put them against one another in our testing garage. Which one was the winner? Which tire inflators caught us off guard or disappointed us?
How did we choose our candidates? To begin, we polled the editorial staffs of Car and Driver, Autoweek, and Road & Track to determine which inflators our experts suggested. Then we looked on the internet to see which inflators were the most popular, top sellers, and highly rated. Finally, we used our skills and automotive understanding to reduce the list to a reasonable 13.
We chose numerous brand names we know and trust, as well as a slew of best-selling off-brand compressors with (typically) cheaper pricing and (often) higher reviews, to ensure a balanced and impartial sampling of portable tire inflators. To showcase the many varieties of portable tire inflators on the market, we compiled a wide range of sizes, power, and designs. Finally, we purposefully avoided the abundance of tiny portable inflators that resemble gaming controllers or cellphones rather than air compressors.
Our Top Picks: Portable Air Compressor
1. TEROMAS Tire Inflator Air Compressor
- Quieter operation compared to most competitors.
- Offers two corded power options for convenience.
- Available in four stylish colors.
- Some users report that the needle attachment can create excessive pressure in balls, causing the unit to stop before the ball is fully inflated.
The TEROMAS Tire Inflator Air Compressor shares many similarities with the VacLife inflator, including its compact design, efficiency, and affordability. However, the TEROMAS model offers added value with its inclusion of a 120-volt household-outlet adapter in addition to the 12V outlet plug. It boasts a flat, user-friendly design and outperforms the VacLife by inflating a test tire 30 seconds faster to both 30 psi and 45 psi. It also operates more quietly, making it an excellent choice for everyday use. The longer hose and inclusion of two tapered stems and a ball needle further enhance its versatility.
2. BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Tire Inflator
- Provides three power source options, making it versatile.
- Equipped with two hoses, one for high-pressure applications like tires and another for high-volume uses such as inflating air mattresses.
- The quietest inflator in our tests.
- More suitable for household use than for inflating car tires.
- Battery not included, requiring a separate purchase.
The BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX* Cordless Tire Inflator, model BDINF20C, is a highly adaptable inflator that caters to various applications. It operates cordless using a Li-Ion battery and can also be connected to a car’s 12V outlet or plugged into a wall socket for household use. This flexibility is especially beneficial for those who already own BLACK+DECKER’s popular 20V MAX battery system. While it offers impressive inflation times to 30 psi, it takes a bit longer to reach 45 psi. This model excels as a household inflator but may not be the best choice for automotive needs.
3. AstroAI Cordless Tire Inflator Air Compressor
- Comes with a 10-foot power cord and 12-volt and 120-volt wall outlet adapters.
- Lightweight, user-friendly, and often available at discounted prices.
- Offers fast inflation times and a carrying case for added convenience.
- Louder operation compared to other inflators.
- The digital gauge and light remain on for 5–10 minutes after releasing the trigger, consuming battery life.
The AstroAI Cordless Tire Inflator Air Compressor is a top-selling choice on Amazon, and its performance in our tests validates its popularity. This portable compressor, powered by a fast-charging 20V 2.0Ah Li-ion battery, is perfect for emergency use and offers remarkable speed in inflating tires. Its versatility is enhanced by a power cord that can be plugged into either a wall outlet or your car’s cigarette lighter. While it operates a bit louder than some competitors, its efficiency, portability, and affordability make it a compelling choice for many.
4. Milwaukee Air Compressor M18
- Boasts super-fast inflation, making it ideal for truck tires.
- Features sturdy rubber feet for stability.
- Durable construction ensures long-lasting performance.
- Lacks an integrated work light.
- No alternative power source, requiring the Milwaukee M18 battery and charger (not included).
The Milwaukee 2848-20 M18 Inflator impresses with its exceptional inflation speed, capable of inflating a test tire to 30 psi in just over a minute and reaching 45 psi in around two and a half minutes. While it offers considerable power and efficiency, it’s a relatively large and heavy unit, making it less suitable for daily driver use. Additionally, its screw-on valve attachment can be inconvenient in extreme weather conditions. This inflator relies on Milwaukee’s proprietary M18 Li-ion battery, which is not included, making it an ideal choice for those who already own this battery system.
5. Slime 40051 Tire Inflator
- Easy to store and operate, with a 10-foot power cord.
- Equipped with an LED work light and various attachments.
- Ideal for emergency use in your vehicle.
- No alternative power source, relying solely on a 12-volt car outlet.
- Digital display positioning may require a closer look for pressure readings.
The Slime 40051 Tire Inflator, despite being the smallest and lightest in our test, offers surprisingly competitive performance. It plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt outlet via a 10-foot cord and attaches easily to Schrader valves. Its inflation times for both 30 psi and 45 psi are on par with the competition, showcasing its efficiency. However, its compact size may give the impression of being more delicate compared to larger models. It’s an excellent choice for emergency use, but may not be the best option for rough handling.
What to Look for in a Portable Tire Inflator
When searching for a portable tire inflator, consider the following factors:
Handheld inflators are perfect for emergency use and should feature a work light, digital gauge, auto-shutoff, and a 12-volt plug.
Console units are more suitable for household and recreational inflation, offering multiple power options, various attachments, and added features. They are less portable and often slower at tire inflation.
Look for inflators with alternate power source options, such as battery-powered handhelds with a backup 12-volt plug. This ensures reliability when your vehicle’s battery is drained.
Remember to periodically charge the battery of any battery-powered device stored in your car to prevent unexpected power depletion.
Choosing the right portable tire inflator depends on your specific needs, whether for emergencies, household use, or recreational activities. Consider the type and power source that best aligns with your requirements to make an informed decision.
Finding the best portable air compressor for your car depends on your vehicle. The BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX* Cordless Tire Inflator offers versatility but is better suited for household use. The AstroAI Cordless Tire Inflator is a top-seller for a reason, providing efficient inflation and portability. The Milwaukee Air Compressor is a powerhouse but may be more suitable for off-road adventures. Lastly, the Slime 40051 Tire Inflator, despite its small size, proves to be an excellent choice for emergency use. When selecting a portable tire inflator, consider the type and power source that align with your specific requirements to make the right choice for your car maintenance needs.