Last night, I watched the low tire pressure sensor on my car come on (because it only ever comes on when I’m driving late at night). And while looking for a gas station that didn’t seem too creepy, I thought to myself “I really should’ve ordered that 12-volt air compressor,” as I’d much rather fill up my tires in the safety and comfort of my own driveway than at some sketchy gas station.
Not only are 12-volt air compressors great for filling tires, but there’s a host of other uses that make them worth the investment. Keep it in your garage or your vehicle for quick and easy access. I’ve compiled a list of the top 12-volt air compressors on the market along with an informative buying guide that will help ensure you get the best air compressor for your needs and that you’re not stuck paying $4 for air at the only open gas station in town at midnight.
Best Overall: GSPSCN Portable 12V Air Compressor Pump
Best Budget: Ablegrid 12V DC Portable 150PSI Air Compressor
Honorable Mention: Kensun Portable 12V Air Compressor
Best For RVs: All-Top Air Compressor Kit
Best For Off-Road: Viair 300P Air Compressor Kit
Most Versatile: Inclake Heavy Duty Portable Air Compressor Pump
When it comes to choosing the best 12-volt air compressors, I wanted to provide you with a well-rounded list that features a good variety of reputable manufacturers with solid track records of providing high-quality, reliable products. I included a wide range of price points to suit any budget. I focused on air compressors that use the latest technology and that feature innovative, compact designs suitable for a wide variety of uses. For more information on the selection criteria, click this link to The Drive’s Gear About page, which explains our methodology further.
Best 12-Volt Air Compressor Reviews & Recommendations
If you’re looking for an ideal combination between functionality, user-friendliness, compact sizing, and reasonable price point, my top pick overall has to be the GSPSCN Portable 12V Air Compressor Pump. It’s a heavy-duty 150 psi 12-volt air compressor that runs directly off your vehicle’s battery with two rugged alligator clips.
If you want a budget-friendly option, but don’t want to sacrifice quality and durability for price, consider the Ablegrid 12V DC Portable 150PSI Air Compressor. It’s an affordable, powerful, and lightweight air compressor that comes backed by a solid two-year warranty for added peace of mind.
Things to Consider Before Buying 12-Volt Air Compressors
When it comes to portable 12-volt air compressors, many people think it’s a one-size-fits-all thing and that there’s really not much to consider. While that may have been the case decades ago, it’s certainly not the lay of the land in today’s market. Today’s 12-volt air compressors come in a wide variety of sizes and functions suitable for different uses. Be sure to get the one that most suits your specific needs.
The power capability of your 12-volt air compressor will be the number one key feature to pay attention to. Most decent 12-volt air compressors will have a psi rating of 100, which is just enough to inflate most regular sized car tires. For truck or SUV tires, you might need something stronger, in the range of 120 to 150 psi. For small power tools, you’ll likely want to look for a 12-volt compressor with a psi above 150.
If you’re planning on keeping your 12-volt air compressor in your trunk or the bed of your truck, you’ll want something highly portable, with a durable body or case that won’t rust or crack easily if it rolls around. If you’re looking for a compressor for your workshop or to take between job sites, you’ll want something rugged with a higher power capacity that might be somewhat less portable than just an air compressor that’s used for tire management.
Since you’re likely using your car’s battery to run your 12-volt air compressor, you’ll need to be mindful of how much power it draws. You don’t want to over tax or damage your battery, so look for an air compressor that pulls about 120 watts or less.
Consider buying a 12-volt air compressor that’s backed by a solid warranty. The best companies will offer at least a one-year warranty, but some will offer even a two- or three-year protection plan against manufacturer’s defects.
12-Volt Air Compressor Pricing
If you want a basic, straightforward 12-volt air compressor that will inflate most car tires and sporting equipment, you can get a decent model for between $30 and $80. For stronger and more powerful 12-volt air compressors that are suitable for larger tires and off-road capabilities, you’ll need to up your budget to between $120 and $200.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.