A good air compressor is one of the most useful tools you can store in your car or garage. From inflating tires to driving power tools, air compressors come in handy for many different types of projects. They can even be lifesaving in certain types of emergencies, making portable compressors one of the best tools to have in an emergency kit. With many options available, how do you decide which is the best one to buy?
The term “portability” has different meanings to some compressor manufacturers,... so it’s important to know what kind of portability you need from the compressor. Some compressors are lightweight and portable around the garage if you have a long extension cord. Others are battery operated, allowing you to carry them in the car or on bikes for emergency flats. Air compressors also come in different sizes. Small compressors are good for flats while larger air tanks are necessary to operate power tools.
Here’s a look at the top portable air compressors for a whole variety of needs.
Most portable air compressors tend to be small and underpowered. While they are adequate for basic needs such as inflating car and bike tires, they aren’t as flexible for larger, heavy duty projects you may have around the home or at various sites. To maximize the usefulness of the air compressor, this top pick brings the power of stationary compressors into a smaller, portable package. The VIAIR 400P will inflate a large tire in less than five minutes with a consistent supply of air between 0 to 30 PSI. This capability is perfect for inflating or supplying a stream of air to basic power tools as needed.
Powering this air compressor is easy with a 12-volt, dual battery clamp setup. Simply connect the clamps to a car or separate 12-volt battery and start the motor. You can monitor the amount of pressure and inflation via a five-in-one hose and gauge. The unit is light enough to take off-roading for emergencies where you can’t rely on third party help.
The Porter-Cable C2002-WK acts like a larger air compressor while fitting the most basic definition of “portable.” This isn’t the best option if you are looking for something to store in the trunk of your car, but for an easy to move compressor for the house, yard and garage, this fits the bill. With a six-gallon air tank, the compressor’s capacity rivals larger options in a smaller, lighter weight frame.
The motor will run at a consistent 90 PSI or a maximum 150 PSI when you need extra pressure. It will easily startup in cold weather as well in case you have winter outdoor projects waiting to abuse your future compressor. Using an extension cord, you can easily move the unit around for larger or multi-site projects that require the use of a heavy duty compressor. Finally, a 13-piece accessory kit makes the compressor highly adaptable since you can mix and match hose fittings for different tires and power tools.
For an emergency kit, a basic, budget air compressor is a great value buy without having to spend a lot on the best compressor. Budget compressors tend to be smaller, less powerful and more portable. The Black & Decker ASI300 is specifically designed to reduce the amount of space it takes up in a trunk or cabinet. At just six pounds, the compressor won’t weigh you down as you move around with it tucked away.
Despite the small size, the motor is powerful enough to tackle most inflation tasks while out on the road. From car and bike tires to lawn and sports equipment, it will inflate most items in just a few minutes once it has warmed up. The EZ air dial makes it easy to set the desired air pressure then walk away, knowing the compressor will shut off automatically. The multi-adapter nozzle kit includes a standard car tire attachment, needle inflator and extension nozzle.
For a budget option with a bit more kick, the Audew Portable Inflator does away with an underpowered battery and hooks right up to a car’s cigarette socket. The extra juice makes the compressor faster at typical inflation tasks, with a standard car tire taking just a few minutes to properly inflate. It is also more capable of inflating different types of tires including cars, bikes, RVs, ATVs, trucks and motorcycles.
Beyond the extra power, this compressor provides many user friendly features for people lacking experience with roadside emergencies. An auto shut-off will keep the unit from over inflating the tire. LED lights make monitoring the compressor easy in pitch black darkness. A one-touch switch starts and stops the compressor, so you will know where to reach to begin or end the inflation process.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
Three-gallon air compressors bridge the gap between ultraportable compressors and larger six-gallon tanks. The Campbell Hausfeld FP209499AV is just portable enough to move around the house or multiple work sites while still retaining the power you need for DIY projects. The consistent 90 PSI output is powerful enough to run a wide variety of power tools including staple and paint guns. At 21 pounds, you can move this compressor around as you work without extra effort.
The ten-piece accessory kit will cover all of your basic attachment needs. The kit includes typical tire attachments for car, bike and needle inflators. Other attachments will connect with various power tools. When you are done, the air hose coils up around the compressor for easy storage.
A six-gallon portable air compressor maxes out on the largest air compressor you can reasonably call “portable.” The Bostitch BTFP02012 weighs 29 pounds and operates with a standard 120-volt power connection like a typical household outlet. Extending the range of this compressor requires an extension cord to deliver the most out of the 90 PSI pump.
Despite its larger size, the BTFP02012 is more maintenance-free than other comparable options due to the oil-free, long-life pump. The motor is powerful enough to start up in cold weather without much issue. It also runs at a relatively quiet 78 dBA noise level, so you can use the compressor in tighter or more public spaces without disturbing people around you. This option is also one of the best choices for use with power tools since a high flow regulator will give you maximum control over the air flow.
If your inflation needs are small, and maximum portability is important, a smaller air compressor is required. Coming in with a pocket-sized profile, the Oasser Mini is one of the smallest options available. Long and cylindrical, the compressor is easy to place in a large pocket, emergency bag, or small compartment in a car or on a bike. The motor is powerful enough to handle anything smaller than large truck tires.
Re-charging the battery is simple and flexible. Coming with a home and car adapter, you can re-charge the pump while on the road. Total charge time is around 1.5 hours. To ensure accurate inflation, the visible LCD panel and digital pressure gauge is large and backlit for night use. Operating the inflator is straightforward: Set the desired pressure level and hit the start button.
A dedicated tire inflator is basically a specialized air compressor. Ignoring any use with power tools, an inflation station like the Goodyear i8000 is a great option for mechanics and hobbyists who find themselves needing to inflate tires on a regular basis. The i8000 is lightweight and hooks up to any standard 120-volt wall outlet. In addition to a six-foot power cord, the compressor’s 18-foot air hose will allow you to position the nozzle all over the garage, yard or worksite without having to lug around the entire compressor.
The compressor is small and narrow enough to transport to different projects when you need the ultimate flexibility for inflating a large variety of tires. The motor operates quietly up to 150 PSI of pressure. For standard tires, the compressor can inflate a tire from 0 to 28 PSI in just 2.5 minutes.
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