When your tire pressure warning light starts glowing on your dash, it can be incredibly frustrating. It could be a sign of a leak, a nail in your tire, or just because your car sat for too long or in the cold. It could also simply mean your tires are in need of some extra air. Over time, even with a regular watchful eye, the weight of and wear on your vehicle can lead to low tire pressure.
When that happens, you lose safety, reliability, and fuel economy. And that's no bueno. To keep yourself safe on the road no matter when you might find yourself needing some air, a portable tire inflator is the answer. These compact air compressors fit in your cargo area and are designed to be used anywhere. Best of all, they’re easy to set up, carry, and use with just a moment’s notice. Check out these favorite tire inflators.
To choose my picks for the best portable tire inflators, I dove into the many options available online and put them through their paces. I tested the air compressors, assessing their ease of use, power, speed and efficiency, and ability to work on different items (and tires) of varying sizes. Those that were reliable, performed quickly, and were easy to work with, both in portability and ease of inflation, became my top product recommendations.
Best Portable Tire Inflator Reviews & Recommendations
The Ryobi 18-Volt One+ Portable Cordless Power Inflator is great because it’s the ultimate portable tire inflator, able to be wielded easily and recharged effortlessly. Plus, the interchangeable battery makes it ideal for anyone who owns other Ryobi One+ tools. However, when you’re looking for a combination of value and power, the Gerchway Portable Tire Inflator is another solid pick thanks to its ease of use and efficiency.
What to Consider When Buying Portable Tire Inflators
Portable tire inflators can vary widely in their size, power, and portability. To help you pinpoint the best option for your vehicle and needs, make sure to keep these key details in mind as you shop.
Types of Portable Tire Inflators
12-Volt Plug/110 Volt
The best portable car tire inflators and portable truck tire inflators can be used on the road. During an emergency, you can supply some models with power by plugging them into the cigarette lighter socket/12-volt power source in your vehicle. This is particularly useful if your car or truck has 12-volt DC outlets in more than one place. Some inflators also operate on 110-volt power so you can plug them into an outlet in your garage or outside power source.
The best cordless inflator is typically powered by a lithium-ion battery. They are generally easy to use and are very portable. These inflators are handheld and provide a good amount of power. It's critical that you keep the battery charged or else you may get stuck with a flat tire.
These tire inflators clamp on directly to the battery for maximum power so you don’t have to have the vehicle running. However, a tire pump can suck the charge out of a stand-alone battery in about 20 minutes.
Portable Tire Inflator Key Features
The best digital tire inflators will display the inflated pressure on the gauges. Some newer models will show this information on an LCD screen, while the more traditional products will display the pressure with dial and needle gauges. A digital display will give you readings that are a bit more precise. Another added benefit is you will be able to read it in low light if the screen is backlit.
The auto shutoff feature enables you to set the desired psi, and the car tire inflator will run until it reaches the desired pressure. This is a practical feature because the tire inflator will not over inflate the tire. You can walk away from the device as it does its job and not worry about the tire bursting.
You can find small, ready-for-the-road portable tire inflators at just about every price point. Budget-friendly models with streamlined features and simple functionality are $25 to $50. If you spend $55 to $100, you’ll find more advanced options with increasingly more features. And if you’re looking for a hefty, premium air compressor that’s portable yet larger and more versatile, you can spend $100 or more.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.