A flat tire is a guaranteed way to deflate your day. Luckily, we live in a world with gadgets designed to help pump up your tires, so you can be on your way in no time flat.
We traveled down the highway of options for you to select the best products for the job. We also talked with Tom Piippo, secretary/treasurer of the Automotive Service Association, along the way. “Get one with the features you would use the most,” Piippo advises. “If you need a small size, it will likely take a long time to inflate a car tire.”
Kensun Portable Air Compressor Pump
Easy to use
Fits just about anywhere
Long electric cord
Ample on-board cord storage
No electronic gauge
Who also chose it? Bob Vila, Forbes Wheels
Whether you have an SUV, hatchback, or bicycle, this lightweight pump does it all. The electric inflator is equipped with an adapter to connect to your vehicle’s power output source. It’s small enough to store in your car, so it’s always ready just in case you find a tire low when in the grocery store parking lot.
At home, plug it into a standard AC outlet to inflate rafts, pool toys, and balls. (A pin is included, as well as two auxiliary nozzles, excepting a Schrader valve for some bicycles.) All cords and nozzles conveniently stow in on-board compartments.
Its only downside is its lack of an electric pressure gauge, so this model might not be suited for those who struggle to read analog devices. Also, it may take long to fill a severely deflated tire.
Price at time of publish: $70
Power Source Type: Electric (DC, AC) | PSI: 120 | Hose Length: 19 inches | Weight: 3.38 pounds
Gerchway Tire Inflator Portable Air Compressor
Easy to use
This small tire inflator is priced lower than many comparable units and is easy to use if you encounter a flat. Its small size allows it to fit snugly in the back seat. Rated for a maximum fill pressure of 130 pounds per square inch (PSI), it plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet and attaches to the tire with ease.
You preset the machine to inflate your tire to a designated pressure, plug it into your car’s power outlet, and start the vehicle engine to ensure a continuous source of power. The digital dial tells you when the desired pressure is achieved. The manufacturer claims that it takes only four to six minutes to inflate a standard midsize car tire.
You can use this unit to blow up an inflatable mattress with ease, thanks to the included attachment. You also can find add-ons to fill balls and other inflatables.
We like the onboard flashlight, so you can see what you’re doing if you have to fill a tire at night. Its cord is long, at 11.5 feet, which is helpful, but although the air hose winds around the unit’s underside, there’s no similar way to store the power cord. The manufacturer cautions that this product is not adequate to fill tires of large vehicles, such as trucks, vans, and ATVs.
Price at time of publish: $33
Power Source: 12V power | PSI: 130 | Hose Length: 11.5 feet | Weight: 1.96 pounds
VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor Kit
Fast fill-up in under five minutes
Runs directly off vehicle battery
Suitable for large tires
Needs a lot of space
VIAIR is a trusted name in air compressors, and this model is its top of the line. Suitable for all tires, from truck to bicycle, it quickly supplies air with an easy-to-use hose. The included eight-foot-long power cord connects to your vehicle’s battery terminals. (Your vehicle’s engine must be running to use this product so you won't drain the battery.) It is not suitable for home use.
The manufacturer claims that the product takes less than six minutes to inflate a 35-inch tire or smaller from 0 to 30 PSI. Its listed maximum pressure is 150 PSI, but we have noted that the digital gauge reads only to 100 PSI. However, since most passenger vehicle tires inflate to only about 35 PSI, that should not be a major issue.
It would have been convenient if this product automatically were to shut down when the desired pressure level were achieved. But you need to turn the unit off manually.
Price at time of publish: $230
Power Source: 12V battery | PSI: 150 | Hose Length: 25 feet | Weight: 10.4 pounds
BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Cordless Tire Inflator
Easy to use
Works on household items
Works on most vehicle tires
Battery not included
The Black and Decker 20v cordless inflator is suitable for just about any tire needing a fill-up—or anything else, including bikes, beach toys, and camping mattresses. The package includes a ball needle as well as adapters for various non-standard valves.
We note that one battery charge may be enough to inflate two 35-inch tires. However, the lithium-ion battery required for power must be purchased separately unless you ante up for the manufacturer’s higher-priced kit.
A digital pressure gauge and automatic shutoff take the guesswork out of trying to decipher whether a tire is full. We note that this unit may be quieter than similar products, and its small size makes it stowable and packable for life on the road or just to keep around the home for everyday needs.
Price at time of publish: $75
Power Source: 20V lithium-ion battery (not included) | PSI: 120 | Hose Length: 12 feet | Weight: 5.2 pounds
Ryobi P737D 18-Volt ONE+ Cordless High Pressure Inflator
Easy to use
Can be used on multiple items
Ryobi’s 18-volt cordless inflator, with digital gauge, is perfect for most-size tires and inflatables, up to 150 PSI. Its five-pound weight makes it extremely easy to carry around, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your vehicle’s trunk. The provided carry bag accommodates the inflator and its included lithium-ion battery, as well as auxiliary nozzles to fill inflatables besides car tires.
This model also features LED lights, which help you work in the dark, as well as pressure settings that shut off automatically when the desired tire pressure is reached. We like the pistol grip, which makes it easy to use this product, especially when only a few minutes are needed to inflate a standard-size tire.
The screen is easy to read and is extremely accurate. If you would like to save money, you can also purchase a similar model with an analog pressure gauge only.
Price at time of publish: $25
Power Source: 18V battery | PSI: 120 | Hose Length: 8 feet | Weight: 5.2 pounds
Best 12V Tire Inflator
AstroAI Tire Inflator Portable Air Compressor
Easy to use
May need to wait in between tires for best results
What buyers say: 88 percent of 55,800-plus Amazon users rate this product four stars or higher.
Your vehicle can power many machines through its 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet. While a number of tire inflators can get their juice this way, we especially recommend this affordable pump, which features a 10-foot power cord and an easy-to-read digital display. Despite its 8 x 7-inch size, it has the power to inflate a standard vehicle tire from 0 to 35 PSI in under five minutes, according to the manufacturer.
We especially appreciate that this product is three-button programmable, so the machine shuts off after it reaches the pressure you set. Because you may need to inflate a tire in the dark, the LCD screen is backlit for easy visibility, and the unit also includes a handy built-in flashlight.
The package also includes a nozzle to blow up other inflatables, including those with Schrader or Presta valves, as well as an AC adapter for home use. You can attach the air hose to the intake valve using the included quick connector or the screw rotation.
Price at time of publish: $33
Power Source: 12V | PSI: 150 | Cord Length: 10 feet | Weight: 2.2 pounds
Best Without Compressor
AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge with Inflator
Easy to read
Includes bleed valve
What buyers say: 91 percent of 23,000-plus Amazon reviewers rate this product four stars or higher.
Unlike the other products in this roundup, the Astro AI is designed for use with a separate air compressor. It includes a gauge, hose, and bleed valve, allowing you to inflate and deflate a tire, and check its pressure. Since most motorists aren't likely to stow a separate air compressor in their vehicle trunk, we recommend this sturdy unit, made of heavy-duty stainless steel and high-quality brass, for in-garage use only.
To operate the unit, which requires three AAA batteries (included), you attach it to an air compressor via the Astro's quick-connect fittings. Once you lock the air hose onto the tire valve, using the straight locking chuck, and power on the air compressor, the Astro turns on automatically. You control air flow by depressing the Astro AI’s handle. And the unit shuts off after its been idle for 20 seconds.
You can track progress on the digital readout. The manufacturer claims accuracy to 1 percent from 3-250 PSI. If you overinflate, a button on the side of the handle allows you to bleed air until the desired pressure is reached.
Price at time of publish: $27
Power Source: Battery | PSI: 160 | Hose Length: 2 feet | Weight: 10.6 ounces
Best for RVs
ALL-TOP Air Compressor Kit 12V Portable Inflator
Designed for heavy-duty vehicles
Easy to read
Runs off car battery
This heavy-duty portable was designed to work with RVs, ATVs, trucks, and 4x4 vehicles. (It also works with standard 35-inch tires.) Everything about this unit is heavy duty, from the auto-thermal cutoff switch to the compressor’s sand-proof body. It’s meant to be used out in the elements and for when you need reliable tires a maximum of 150 PSI, with an air flow of 6.35 cubic feet per minute.
The unit gets its power from your vehicle’s battery via a 6.5-foot power cord, with clamps. A 26-foot air hose should be long enough for the largest of recreational vehicles. If you’re an RV road warrior through all seasons, you can use this inflator at temperatures ranging from minus-67 degrees to 221 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the manufacturer.
The carrying case it comes with is well stocked with power cords and three nozzle adapters. The display is easy to read, and the unit comes with a 24-month warranty.
This piece of equipment is hefty at 16 pounds, so it is not the easiest to carry everywhere you go.
Price at time of publish: $120
Power Source: 12V | PSI: 150 | Cord Length: 26 feet | Weight: 16 pounds
Best for Trucks
OlarHike 12V Portable Air Compressor
Easy to use
This tire inflator was designed for use on large tires, such as you would find on a 4 x 4 pickup truck. Consequently, it can fill up to 150 PSI, and the manufacturer claims that it can fill a 255/40 R20-size tire from 25 PSI to 40 PSI in under two minutes.
Given its output, you would expect this to be a noisy machine, but it is fairly quiet at a stated 78db (about the sound of an alarm clock). Despite being intended for large-size tires, the unit comes in at a light 4.74 pounds. It is also usable on anything you have that needs inflating, from pool toys to ATV tires.
The inflator runs either off your cigarette lighter plug or straight off your vehicle’s battery, with the included nine-foot power cord. It features an auto shutoff that stops as soon as ideal pressure is reached. You can monitor progress on the LED light, and its ten-foot-long cord is easy to use and stash.
Price at time of publish: $34
Power Source: Car battery | PSI: 150 | Hose Length: 10 feet | Weight: 4.9 pounds
Best Home Plug-In
TEROMAS Tire Inflator Air Compressor
Can be used in home or car
Works on most inflatables
What buyers say: 88 percent of 14,700-plus Amazon reviewers rate this product four stars or higher.
While numerous tire inflators can be used at home for toys, balls, and the like, we recommend the Teromas for its lightweight portability (under 2.5 pounds), ease of use, and accuracy. With a maximum pressure of 150 PSI, it inflates just about anything that needs air, thanks to the included three additional adapters.
With this package, you get a five-foot AC cord. If you notice in the garage that your car’s tires are low, you can just plug the unit into a standard outlet and fill them up. (You also get a 10.5-foot power cord that plugs into a vehicle cigarette lighter for on-the-go use.) While this product is a little slower than many we evaluated for this article, you can still expect it to inflate a standard car tire from 0 to 35 PSI in less than four minutes.
To operate it, you program the desired pressure, press a button, and wait for the pressure to be achieved. The unit automatically shuts off when finished. You can track the process on the digital gauge.
Price at time of publish: $40
Power Source: 110V home or 12V car | PSI: 120 | Cord Length: 5-foot AC, 10.5-foot DC | Weight: 2.42 pounds
Best for Bicycles
AIRBANK 150 psi Car Tire Inflator
Inflates tires fast
Has a light
Battery needs recharging frequently
This tiny tire inflator is a lifesaver for any bicycle enthusiast. The 9-inch height and 1-pound weight make it a good fit for most saddle bags.
Super-easy to operate, you set it to a desired tire pressure or choose from five pre-sets, including bicycle mode. (That setting has a 65-PSI pressure limit, which is fine for mountain bike tires but far too low for road tires; however, you can set the inflator to 150 PSI.) It even can remember your last setting. Since so many bikes are Presta-valve equipped, this product comes with an adapter that allows you to fill such European-style tires.
The inflator automatically shuts off when the desired tire pressure is reached. It also features an LED light, so you can see what you are doing, even on the darkest nights, and the large LED screen makes it easy to track your progress.
We were skeptical of how well this diminutive product can fill car tires, but the manufacturer claims that a single charge can effectively fill three of them. It takes about two hours to charge, from a USB port.
Price at time of publish: $40
Power Source: Rechargeable battery | PSI: 150 | Cord Length: 285 millimeters | Weight: 0.59 kilograms
If you are searching for a powerful, easy-to use tire inflator, pick up our Best Overall, the Kensun Portable Air Compressor Pump. If you are looking for a pump to fill larger-than-standard tires, check out All Top Air Compressor Kit.
What to Look for in a Tire Inflator
Most tire inflators are rated for 150 pounds per square inch (PSI). Since most vehicle tire manufacturers specify a pressure of 32 to 35, does that mean they are all alike? No, says Tom Piippo, Secretary/Treasurer of the Automotive Service Association. A tire inflator’s pressure capability plays directly into how soon you can be back on the road.
"The higher the pressure, the quicker it fills a tire," he says. "If you purchase a small-size tire inflator, it will likely take a long time to inflate a car tire.”
Piippo also says he uses “the rule of 50 percent capacity: [the inflator] may reach 60 PSI, but that means it is most usable to 30 PSI. If you need 60 PSI, get one rated 120 PSI.”
We mostly evaluated tire inflators that include compressors, which power the air that fills the tires. Those compressors require power sources. Generally, you can run across two options: cordless and corded.
Corded inflators usually plug directly into your car via the 12v cigarette lighter. They run off of your car battery, so to avoid draining your car’s battery, nearly all tire inflator manufacturers strongly advise running your car’s engine while using the units or if you use a corded version that connects directly to the car battery. Those products include specific power cords with clips to attach to the battery terminals. Some tire inflators also have standard AC power cords that plug into home outlets, making them available to inflate balls, pool toys, and bicycle tires.
Cordless inflators are gaining in popularity because they do not rely on a car’s battery to function. A cordless inflator is only as good as it is charged, so ensure that it has a full battery before starting out.
A tire inflator for your car needs to travel where you do. Most of the popular models we recommend are compact enough to fit comfortably into a vehicle trunk.
A tire inflator needs to connect to the targeted tire with an air hose. If you use a corded tire inflator, which needs to also be connected to your car’s power, make sure that the included hose is long enough to reach comfortably from the cigarette lighter or battery terminal to the intended tire.
What is the difference between an air compressor and a tire inflator?
While nearly all of the tire inflators we evaluated for this article include air compressors, some don’t and require separate units to inflate your tires. But the air compressors included in our recommended tire inflators are more than enough to fill your car’s tires.
Stand-alone air compressors, which connect to hoses that supply air to inflatables, are best suited for the garage, where they also work for brushing tools and supplying power to nail guns.
Does a tire inflator drain a car battery?
Yes. If you use a corded tire inflator powered by your car’s battery, whether the battery itself or the cigarette lighter, make sure your car is running, to ensure that you do not run the battery down. We have noted that you can probably get away with little more than 30 minutes of use without discharging the battery below its ability to start your vehicle.
Are digital tire inflators accurate?
Digital gauges are more accurate than the analog varieties. We have seen that most manufacturers admit to a 1 percent margin of error, so you might need to do a little math to make sure you inflate your tire slightly above the called-for PSI. We also strongly recommend that you include a standard tire-pressure gauge in your glove box, just to double-check where your tires are, post-inflation.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Amanda Rose Newton, a freelance writer for The Spruce. As an avid road tripper and world traveler, she is always on the lookout for DIY options to keep the adventure going. To make this list, Newton tested each product for ease of use, functionality, and accuracy. She also consulted with Tom Piippo, secretary/treasurer of the Automotive Service Association, for his take on what consumers need to know when purchasing a tire inflator.