13 Best Portable Air Compressors For Cars & More
Portable air compressors can be a huge asset and time-saver on a variety of projects, at construction sites, on the road, and even at home. These powerful machines can quickly send air to your nail gun, impact wrench, air chuck, or sandblaster. Portable air compressors can improve job accuracy, workflow, and efficiency, and make your to-do list shorter sooner.
When choosing the best portable air compressor, you have to take a few things into consideration. What type of tools are you running? Does the compressor have the proper CFM output? Is the PSI high enough?
Is the compressor lightweight enough to be moved around easily? Generally speaking, a good portable compressor will have a minimum PSI of 120, CFM of at least 2.0, and air storage of 20 gallons or more, unless you’re using it just for tire inflation. If this is the case, you can get away with a small 1-gallon tank and 1 CFM.
It’s fair to say that there’s an overabundance of air compressors on the market, which is why it can be difficult to pick the best one for a particular activity you may be performing. If you’re simply using it to inflate tires, you won’t need anything too hefty, but if you’re using it for construction or continuous use, you’ll want something with a little more ruggedness and power to it.
Our top pick for the best portable air compressor is the Rigid 4.5 Gallon Air Compressor because it has a high CFM rating for most applications, a max PSI of 200, and weighs only 61 lbs.
In this article, we’ll break down our favorite portable air compressors based on use, CFM, PSI, and weight. We’ve thoroughly tested and researched each one to ensure accurate information.
Best Portable Air Compressors
|Rigid||5.1/6.1 @ 90/40 PSI||200||61 lbs|
|GSPSCN||2.3 /5.65 @150/40 PSI||150 PSI||6 lbs|
|DeWALT||1.0/2.0 @ 90/40 PSI||135 PSI||21.5 lbs|
|Milwaukee||1.2/1.6 @ 90/40 PSI||135 PSI||30 lbs|
|Pittsburgh||0.5/1.35 @ 90/40 PSI||150 PSI||11.5 lbs|
|All-Top||5.0/6.35 @ 90/40 PSI||150 PSI||16 lbs|
|California Air Tools||5.3/6.4 @ 90/40 PSI||125 PSI||114 lbs|
|Stealth||5.0/6.0 @ 90/40 PSI||150 PSI||121.4 lbs|
|Makita||6.5/7.5 @ 90/40 PSI||140 PSI||75 lbs|
|ARB||6.16/4.65 @ No load/ 29 PSI||150 PSI||16 lbs|
Our Top Picks For Portable Air Compressors
1. Rigid 4.5 gallon Air Compressor– Best Overall
We chose the Rigid 4.5 Gallon Air Compressor as the best overall because it’s compact and lightweight enough for use in all environments.
When you want a portable air compressor, you have to take weight and CFM into consideration. The compressor shouldn’t be so heavy that it can’t be portable, even with wheels. Fortunately, this medium-duty compressor weighs just 61 lbs. It’s 61% smaller than competitor brands and takes up less space.
The Rigid compressor has a maximum PSI of 200 PSI. It can fill from empty to full in about 4 minutes and from half full to full in about 2 minutes. 200 PSI is the ideal pressure for some of the toughest applications. There are two universal push-to-connect quick couplers that allow ¼” plugs with an easy single-hand connection. Even with two tools connected, we never had an issue with the compressor maintaining optimal pressure.
When it came time to operate our various pneumatic tools, we found ourselves impressed by the high CFM output. We obtained 5.1 CFM @ 90 PSI and 6.1 CFM @ 40 PSI. We used it to operate an air hammer, framing nailer, impact wrench, paint sprayer, and sander with ease and no sign of bogging down.
Interestingly enough, this compressor has an oil-free design. This means that you won’t have to perform maintenance as often as you would on an oil-lubricated machine. The parts will last longer and you don’t have to worry about changing or checking the oil.
If we had to complain about one thing, it would be how loud the compressor is. It has a working decibel rating of 77, which is much louder than comparable models. However, if it’s being used outside, it’s not much of an issue.
2. GSPSCN Air Compressor – Best for Overlanding
The GSPSCN Air Compressor is one of our favorites for Overlanding. It may not seem like much due to its small physique, but it’s an extremely powerful machine. When you’re Overlanding, you won’t want to bring a big, bulky machine. You’ll want something compact, such as this one. It weighs just 6 pounds.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like much, but we found that it was quick to inflate just about anything we threw at it. It took about 90 seconds to get up to 35 PSI from empty and filled an 18” tire from 0-40 PSI in about 2 minutes. This was extremely useful for blowing up an air mattress we were using as well. If you wait until it’s up to about 150 PSI, you’ll want to give the compressor roughly 10 minutes or so.
The compressor plugs into a standard cigarette lighter with via 11.5 ft power cord attached to the device. It has a 1.8 ft inflation tube and swingable handle for ease of use. We were impressed by the powerful 150 max PSI rating. It has a CFM rating of 5.65 @ 40 PSI, 2.3 CFM @ 90 PSI, and can run for 40 minutes continuously at 40 PSI. However, it’s recommended that you turn it off for between 5-10 minutes after every 20 minutes of use to avoid overheating.
If you’re concerned about the durability of this tiny machine, don’t worry. It has a dual cylinder motor that assists in the speed of inflation. Not only that, but it’s direct-driven to reduce the rotating speed for minimal noise output. Our only issue with the compressor was that the pressure gauge seemed to be a little inaccurate.
3. DeWALT DCC2560T1 – Best for RV Tires
RVs have plenty of storage space and sometimes don’t have access to power through a battery or 12v port, so since it’s battery-operated, we chose the DeWALT portable air compressor as the best for an RV. It’s relatively small, weighing just 21.5 lbs, and can fit in some of the smaller storage spaces under and in an RV.
This small compressor has a 1.2 CFM rating at 90 PSI and 2.0 @ 40 PSI, which was adequate to inflate our RV tire from 0 to 35 PSI in a little over 2 minutes. We also timed how long it took for the 2.5-gallon compressor tank to fill from 0 to 135 PSI in about 4 minutes and halfway in just under 2 minutes.
We like the design of the DeWALT portable air compressor because it has a heavy-duty roll cage to keep the components protected. Additionally, it has a one-turn regulator for easy pressure adjustment and a quarter-turn ball drain valve to release fluids from the tank.
Unfortunately, this unit is pretty loud. It measured about 78 decibels, which is uncomfortably noisy for a small compressor. It’s okay if you’re using it for blowing up tires, but not for anything you may need to do inside the RV, such as blowing up an air mattress.
4. Milwaukee M18 – Best for Truck Tires
The recommended size compressor for truck tires is between 2-3 gallons, which is why we chose the Milwaukee M18. It’s a portable 2-gallon compressor designed for multiple purposes.
It’s rugged and compact enough to sit in the bed of your truck without taking on damage from constant motion. You don’t even need to plug it in since it’s powered by a compatible battery pack.
When we turned it on, we timed how long it took for the compressor to fill halfway and all the way. It took about 1 minute to fill halfway and 3 minutes to fill all the way to 135 PSI, which is the maximum. Once it was full, it took about 5 minutes to fill a 20” truck tire from 0 to 40 PSI.
This compact air compressor can put out 1.2 CFM @ 90 PSI and 1.6 CFM @ 40 PSI, which is plenty enough to perform various tasks other than blowing up truck tires. If you work on a construction site, you can use this compressor for smaller pneumatic tools. It can actually shoot 1,600 nails per charge if you use it on a job site.
We also noticed how quiet the compressor is. It operates at about 68 decibels, which is much quieter than comparable units. It’s also oil-free, so minimal maintenance is required. Even though this unit is very well made, we think that the battery life could be improved. It seemed like no matter which compatible battery we used, it drained very quickly.
5. Pittsburgh 12V 150 PSI Compact Air Compressor– Best for Cars
The Pittsburgh High Volume Air Inflator is a compact air compressor that snugly fits in the trunk of even the smallest cars. When you’re ready to use it, simply plug it into your cigarette plug via a 10 ft power cord. The only issue with this is that if you’re inflating multiple tires, you’ll need to relocate the cord or move the compressor.
For such a small device, it does quite a good job with car tires. It can fully inflate various car tires in three minutes or less depending on the size. We tested this on one of our 17” tires and it inflated in about 2 and a half minutes. It’s not the quickest, but it got the job done. It took just about 3 minutes to get up to full pressure as well.
It has a maximum PSI rating of 150, which is higher than most small comparable compressors. It can also put out a maximum of 1.35 CFM @ 40 PSI and a wimpy 0.5 CFM @ 90 PSI. It may be enough to inflate a smaller car tire. We didn’t have an issue with inflation though. The only problem we seemed to run into was that the compressor would heat up pretty quickly and become hot to the touch.
Overall, even though it has its flaws, the Pittsburgh Compact Air Compressor was impressive and did what it was supposed to. Weighing just 4 pounds, the compressor was easy to transport and the self-coiling cord kept it from tangling, which was one of the most common complaints we saw about other portable compressors.
6. All-Top Air Compressor Kit – Best 12V
This compact 12V air compressor is a great addition to any vehicle. It performed well on multiple off-road vehicles, bikes, motorcycles, RVs, trucks, cars, and more. If it has a 12V outlet, it can run this compressor.
We found that this compressor has some pretty beefy attributes. It weighs just 16 pounds and was surprisingly easy to transport in the included heavy-duty nylon tool bag. It has a long 6.5 ft power cord with battery clamps. It was easy to hook up to our car battery when we didn’t want to use the 12V outlet. There’s also an auto-thermal cut-off switch and safety valve protection for the motor.
Once it was connected, it took just three minutes to obtain its full PSI of 150 with the help of the oil-less direct drive motor. After that, it would run for 40 minutes at 40 PSI with a maximum duty cycle. It did get hot after a while, so we suggest turning it off every 15-minutes or so to avoid blowing the fuse.
We were impressed by the high CFM rating of 6.35 @ 40 PSI and 5.0 CFM @ 90 PSI. It took just 2 minutes to inflate all 4 of our 37” tires from 20 PSI to 36 PSI. For such a small machine, it does a great job with large and small tires. It also came with 2 nozzle adapters and a long 26’ rubber air hose. We didn’t have to move the compressor around too much due to the longer hose.
7. California Air Tools Ultra Quiet Electric Compressor – Best 110V
California Air Tools has always provided us with extraordinary products. Take their 110V 20 Gallon Air Compressor for instance. It’s one of the quietest 20-gallon air compressors on the market, coming in at just 70 decibels of sound. It was one of the first things we noticed when we turned it on.
The 2.0 HP motor does a fantastic job of creating more than enough power to operate multiple pneumatic tools with ease. It has a 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI and 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI rating. We were able to operate a large impact gun, air drill, nailer, sander, and other various tools. We didn’t notice much bogging down when we used higher CFM-required tools either.
The 20-gallon tank holds a maximum PSI of 125 and took only 4 minutes to fill from empty and a minute from about 95 PSI. It has a 100% duty cycle, which means it will constantly run without needing a break. We suggest turning it off after half an hour of use to avoid pump malfunction, which isn’t common. The pump itself has a life cycle of 3000 hours before noticeable wear. It’s oil-free so there’s little maintenance needed.
Fortunately, this machine has a low amp draw of just 14 and is 110V/60Hz. There are 2 pressure control gauges that are easy to read and 2 universal ¼” quick connectors for multiple tool usage at one time. Moving the compressor from place to place was simple with the pneumatic wheels.
If we could change a couple of things about this compressor, we could add a cover to the pump, so we don’t risk burning our hands by accidentally touching the exposed pipes. We would also move the drain valve closer to the edge of the cylinder for easier access. These are small issues that we found, so nothing serious.
8. Stealth 20 Gallon Compressor – Best for Continuous Use
The Stealth 20 Gallon Compressor is our pick for best for continuous use while also being portable. It’s a vertical hotdog tank with rubber wheels for simple mobility. We found this compressor to be well worth the money.
First, we want to mention how quickly this fantastic compressor fills. It took just 1 minute and 10 seconds to fill the tank from empty to the max of 150 PSI and less than 30 seconds to fill from 80 PSI. This greatly reduced any downtime we anticipated and allowed us to do more work for longer periods.
If you plan to operate multiple pneumatic tools, you won’t be disappointed. The compressor puts out 5 CFM @ 90 PSI and 6 CFM at 40 PSI. We were able to easily power impact wrenches, sanders, hammer drills, nail guns, and grinders. There was very little bogging down when we attempted to operate multiple tools at once.
We were also impressed by how quiet this large medium-duty compressor is. It has a working noise of only 68 decibels. We were easily able to have a conversation in the same room with the compressor was running.
It also supports cold weather and low voltage start. Our only issue with the machine was that when we ran a die grinder, it would trigger the thermal overload protection and it would shut itself off. We would have to wait 10 minutes or so to restart the compressor.
9. Makita 3.0 HP Big Bore Compressor – Best For Construction
When you’re on a construction site, you need access to all tools at all times, which means you also need access to an air compressor. The Makita Big Bore is a workhorse and can meet most of your construction needs. We used it around our property with tools that would be used on a construction site and we weren’t disappointed.
This compressor may seem small, but it has a powerful 3.0 HP motor that puts out a whopping 6.5 CFM @ 90 PSI and 7.5 CFM @ 40 PSI. We tested the CFM on larger pneumatic tools that required that particular amount or more and we can honestly say that the compressor didn’t bog down and still gave us the air demand we needed.
Speaking of air demand, to fill this 5.2-gallon tank to the maximum PSI of 140, it took just 2 minutes and 45 seconds from 75 PSI. It allowed us to maintain our working speed since we didn’t have to wait too long for the tank to fill back up. It’s quicker than most of the larger air compressors we reviewed.
Construction sites can be quite hard on air compressors. This particular compressor has a durable cast iron cylinder that refuses wear and tear. Additionally, the pump is oil-lubricated for cooler running temperatures. This does mean that you’ll have to check and change the oil in the compressor from time to time. It’s inconvenient, but it does extend the life expectancy of the compressor.
If we had to nit-pick about anything, it would be how heavy the compressor is. It does have a folding handle and wheels for portability, but it’s still pretty heavy to lug around.
|Product||CFM||Duty Cycle||Max PSI|
|Porter Cable C2002||2.6||75%||150|
|California Air Tools CAT 4620AC||5.30||75%||125|
10. ARB Off-Road Air Compressor Kit – Best for Off-Roading
The ARB Off-Road Air Compressor Kit is one of the best for off-roading due to its high CFM rating. The first thing we noted was that it’s mounted in a waterproof carry case made from heavy-duty impact-resistant polymer. The case stores all accessories nicely.
The CFM rating of the compressor is 6.16 with no load and 4.65 @ 29 PSI. With the generously long 20-foot hose, we were able to reach all four tires without having to move the compressor each time. It took roughly 2 minutes to fill our 17” tires from flat to 34 PSI. 21” tires took 4 minutes to fill from empty.
ARB (CKMTP12) 12V Twin Motor High Performance Portable Air Compressor
The integrated aluminum air tank and pressure switch help regulate pressure between 135 PSI and 150 PSI.
We were able to operate the compressor at 100 percent duty cycle under room temperature conditions. If it’s hot outside, the compressor will only run at between 50% and 75% duty. The compressor hooks directly to a battery with attached jumper cables. As long as your vehicle has power, the compressor will also have power.
When the compressor got too hot, it was instantly cooled down by the brushed DC cooling fan and anodized aluminum motor mounting brackets. This is what keeps the compressor running at 100% duty, as aforementioned. It’s quite unfortunate that this compressor is so expensive. That’s the only thing we don’t like about this small unit.
Many off-roading tires range from 33-37”, so your compressor should have a CFM output of 2.3-3. S.The best air compressors for off-roading require a duty cycle of about 50%.
|Product||CFM||Duty Cycle||Max PSI|
11.Campbell-Hausfeld DC080500 – Best Portable Air Compressor
111Campbell-Hausfeld DC080500 is somewhat lightweight (60 lbs), quiet, and offers decent power for a portable air compressor. It is one of the quietest air compressors on the market producing only 68dB.
The oil-free, maintenance-free pump is designed to last up to four times longer than most other oil-free compressors.
Horizontal or Vertical Tanks
Horizontal tank portable air compressors tend to be more stable than vertical tank air compressors. The trade-off of taking more floor space versus an accidental tip that can damage valves, fittings, or even the pump itself is worthy of consideration.
For home use, a horizontal tank lends itself to being put under a workbench or other location out of the way.
Vertical tanks tend to stand too high to fit in out-of-the-way places, making them more of a problem if you are short of space. The DC080500 air compressor is as close to having a true commercial-grade compressor without the much steeper cost.
In terms of features and ability, the Cambell-Hausfeld DC080500 will get the job done. If you need a larger air tank and want the long life offered by the dual piston oilless air pump offered by the Cambell-Hausfeld DC080500 air compressor, you won’t be disappointed.
- 120V, 60mHz
- 125psi max
- 2.4cfm @ 90psi
- 8-gallon large tank
- Weighs 60.8 lbs
12. California Air Tools 10020C
The California Air Tools 10020C is a quiet and powerful 10-gallon compressor. It requires very little maintenance and money. This is an ideal compressor for home or shop use as it’s durable and safe to operate. Let’s check out what more it has to offer.
13. Ford Silent Series 15-Gallon Vertical Tank
Built Ford tough, right? This is what you would expect from a Ford Silent Series 15-Gallon air compressor. This rugged air compressor is exceptionally quiet, requires little maintenance, and features never-flat wheels for maximum portability. Let’s check out some other features:
High Air Pressure
This 15-Gallon tank can put out 2.9 CFM @ 90 PSI and 3.9 CFM @ 40 PSI thanks to the powerful 2 hp motor. It has a maximum PSI of 125 and runs off of 120V, 60Hz, You can keep an eye on the air pressure with the two easy-to-read pressure gauges located on the top of the unit.
Unbelievably Quiet & Portable
This is by far the quietest air compressor on the list. It only puts out 59 Decibels of sound while being operated. You can use this compressor anywhere you need to without worrying about earplugs or disturbing the peace.
Additionally, you can move the compressor wherever you need to thanks to the mobility kit. The compressor has a handle and never-flat tires with some pretty snazzy F-150-inspired rims on it.
14. Stealth Ultra Quiet Air Compressor
If you’re a professional, there are a few things you need from an air compressor. You need them to be portable, durable, and flexible with the tools you are using. The Stealth Ultra Quiet Air Compressor gives you all of that plus more. Let’s take a look at what else it has to offer:
Powerful & Quiet
Sometimes you just can’t find both of these options when it comes to air compressors, but this one does have both. It features an innovative <65 dBa quiet system that is 80% quieter than its competitors and has a 3x longer life.
It has a 1.3 hp motor in it that drives the dual air pump to give you continuous compressed air. It will start in even the coldest temperatures.
Ideal Air Flow Output
The strong 1.3 hp motor can give you 3 CFM @ 90 PSI with a peak of 150 PSI. It only takes 70 seconds for it to recover from an empty tank, which holds around 4.5-gallons of air combined. The twin stack tanks allow more air capacity without compromising storage space.
Portability & Durability
The Stealth Ultra Quiet Air Compressor can be toted around easily and quickly thanks to the handy rubber reinforced handle. There are two 6-inch rubber wheels on the bottom of the unit so the tank can be easily transported.
When done, wheel it to where you’re storing it for later use. Don’t worry about dings and dents. The housing is constructed of Q235B steel for optimal durability.
High Air Delivery & Power
Thanks to its powerful 2 hp motor, the 10020C delivers 6.40 CFM @ 40 PSI and 5.30 CFM @ 90 PSI. This allows you to run all of your pneumatic tools with ease.
It has a low amp draw, only 14 Amps, keeping your breakers from flipping. It fills from empty to full in 120 seconds and takes around 25 seconds to recover from 95 PSI to 125 PSI.
If you’re working in a shop, the last thing you want to deal with is a loud compressor leaving you with ringing ears well after you’re done using it. This compressor only puts out 70 Decibels of sound, which is a lot quieter than most of its competitors.
Durable & Oil-Free
This compressor requires absolutely no oil. It features large dual pistons, a cast aluminum cylinder, Teflon cylinder rings, and a stainless steel reed valve.
These are durable materials meaning that they will require very little maintenance, saving you money in the long run. Additionally, since it’s oil-free, there’s cleaner air coming from the machine to allow for better tool operation.
Stealth Ultra Quiet Air Compressor, 64 Decibel 4.5 Gallon Peak 1.3 HP Max 150 PSI, Oil-Free Air Pump, 3 CFM @ 90 PSI Portable Air Compressor W/Wheel for Garage, Workshop, Jobsite SAQ-1413
1 used from $212.15
Things To Look For When Selecting A New Portable Compressor
Power Source: Gas or electric
How and where the portable air compressor will be used is another consideration. Electric air compressors tend to need less maintenance and upkeep. Gasoline-powered compressors tend to be larger and heavier.
However, some job sites may not have electricity, and a gasoline-powered air compressor is the only option.
The larger the tank, the expectation is that the air compressor itself will not have to work as hard to keep up with demand and that you can use more tools. This is partially true. Tools that use a higher CFM of compressed air will benefit from a larger tank to buffer the air pump from the rise and fall in demand that most air tools create.
Airflow is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM) and determines how many tools you can safely run from your portable air compressor. You should know the CFM requirements of your tools and plan your air compressor purchase so that you have adequate airflow for your tools with a bit of extra margin.
Oil-free or oil flooded
Portable compressors offer two options in the way the air pumps are lubricated. Most of the smaller portable air compressors are now considered oil-free.
These compressors are engineered to use special alloys of metal in the cylinder and special sealing piston rings made of Teflon or carbon fiber that doesn’t require any kind of liquid lubricant.
Oil-flooded compressors use a lubricating oil that helps cool the air pump as well as make the moving parts slide easily together without damage or excessive wear.
Are Portable Air Compressors Worth It?
Portable air compressors are absolutely worth it because you can use them just about anywhere you need compressed air as long as you have the proper power source. If you travel a lot and need to have compressed air, then a portable air compressor with a 12V cigarette lighter hook-up is certainly worth it.
As long as your car has power, your compressor will have power. These are great for RVs, trucks, cars, motorcycles, outlanding, off-roading, and more. We like to have one while we’re camping to blow up air mattresses and bike tires.
If you are a DIYer or are on a construction site, a larger, heavier-duty compressor is worth the price. Whether it has wheels or a convenient carrying handle, you can transport the compressor wherever you need to use it. These are generally powered by a regular outlet and have more PSI.
How Well Do Portable Air Compressors Work?
Portable air compressors work quite well as long as it’s powerful enough to supply sufficient air to whatever you’re using them for. Smaller portable air compressors that don’t actually store compressed air are best when used for tire inflation or anything that needs compressed air such as a raft or inflatable mattress.
Larger portable air compressors work best when they have a higher PSI and CFM rating. There’s no point in buying a large compressor if it doesn’t store enough air for you to use.
At that point, you’ll be lugging around a giant cylinder of metal for nothing. Ensure the larger compressor can supply your tools with adequate airflow for optimal performance.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of portable air compressors to choose from. Some of them don’t hold air while others hold a lot of it. We highly suggest the Rigid compressor if you are looking for something with a high CFM output.
If you’re looking for something more for tire inflation, then we suggest the Milwaukee M18. It can inflate all tire sizes and doesn’t require a power cord.
It simply runs off of a battery for when you need it the most. Remember to check the CFM and PSI ratings of what you’re looking to use the compressor for to ensure proper air supply.