It could be all about the size, or maybe it is the ability to store them wherever you want. Could it possibly be the power? There are a lot of things to like when it comes to portable air compressors. Whether they meet your specific demands is another story, as you’ll see below that there are different kinds that cater to different needs. The best portable air compressor has a combination of high quality parts, is small enough to store move, and has enough power to where its use extends beyond blowing up a tire or a basketball. Not that there’s anything wrong with being simple, but for a portable unit a healthy combination of features allows it to be more useful in real world scenarios and regular projects alike. You don’t need a powerhouse, but you do need an air compressor that can at least handle a simple brad nailer.
About the only unit on the list that gets away with being average and lacking power is the Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor which is a gift from heaven for motorcycle users. They are an often overlooked bunch, and if you’re a rider and you’re looking for the perfect unit, this would be it. As for others that are looking for something more for everyday use, there are a lot of brand named items on the list that can benefit from a read-through. There are some clear winners, and not so clear losers. Making an informed buy the first time around will be your best option, as unfortunately warranties don’t cover changing of minds. Here is a list of the best portable air compressors for your money.
- Kensun YS-205
- Brand: Kensun
- Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 6.8 x 5.2 inches
- Item model number: Kensun-AirComp-D1002
- Warranty: Manufacturer
- Viair 00088 88P
- Brand: Viair
- Product Dimensions: 11 x 6 x 7 inches
- Item model number: 00088
- Warranty: Manufacturer
- DEWALT DWFP55126
- Brand: DEWALT
- Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 16.6 x 20.1 inches
- Item model number: DWFP55126
- Warranty: Manufacturer
- PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003
- Brand: PORTER-CABLE
- Product Dimensions: 18.1 x 17.2 x 18.5 inches
- Item model number: PCFP02003
- Warranty: Manufacturer
- 1 1. Kensun D1002 AC (Home 110V)/ DC (12V Car) Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator
- 2 2. Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
- 3 3. DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
- 4 4. PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor
- 5 5. VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor
- 6 6. Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor
- 7 7. PORTER-CABLE CMB15 150 PSI 1.5 Gallon Oil-Free Fully Shrouded Compressor
- 8 The Accessory Bubble
- 9 Power
- 10 Portability
- 11 Battery VS Wall
1. Kensun D1002 AC (Home 110V)/ DC (12V Car) Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator
First on the list is the Kensun D1002 a multi-function inflator that is very low priced and easy to deal with out of the box. It operates under DC 12V or AC 110V to work through your cars cigarette lighter or in the wall plug directly out of your home. A 21.7 inch rubber air hose is included along with the 9ft. 10 inch cord when using the cigarette plug and the 6ft. 7 inch cord with the wall outlet plug. Quality with the unit is maintained on tires up to 33 inches and it can pump upwards to 40 PSI with an air flow rate of 11 liters per minute. The included gauge measures up to 250 PSI and should be ideal for most situations when needed. There are 3 nozzle adapters included with the unit that will work well for tires, sports and camping equipment, and toys.
Total weight is pretty respectable at only 4.7 pounds, and with a width and height that makes it friendly to store in multiple spaces. This is the upgraded version of the D1001 model and is represented as the 2015 version, with better features and stability all around. There may be compatibility issues with some cars, most notably expensive higher end cars that will probably require a different fitting than what’s in the package. There is also the known problem with these types of compressors where ambient temps above 85 may cause some malfunctions when it is stored or operated for two long. This is a good starting compressor to have a portable unit, and you won’t be disappointed. For users with high end vehicles you may want to do some homework first before making a purchase. As for other users this will not only meet your portable air compressor needs, it will surely exceed it.
2. Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
Another low-priced option is this 12 volt Viair 00088, with 120 PSI max working pressure with the only caveat being that the engine needs to be running while it’s in use. This won’t be the best option for everyone because of that need, but it still shines as a portable unit. There’s 1.94 CFM free flow @ 0 PSI for great all around stability no matter the use. It uses high grade alligator clamps so that you can get a good tight fit on your battery rather than worrying about cheaper plastic option slipping off. There’s some decent power in this little unit that can work well for ATV’s, trucks, SUV’s and even sedans. Clear lights and a foolproof design means it’s easy to recognize what everything does. There is a 9 foot power cord, 12 foot air hose and up to 3 tips to use for inflating various items.
Read Also: 9 Ideal Air Compressors for Inflating Tires
This is an extremely small item, we’re talking about 1 pound here, which puts it as one of the lightest on the list. It’s easy to store, and can comfortably fit in small places without being a hazard. There is also the claim that Viair is he only compressor company that dual specializes in 12 and 24 volt industrial grade compressors, although recently the competition has been doing some catching up. They are however one of the most durable portable air compressors your can buy, and the quality will hold up for years before you see a decline. It doesn’t have a carrying or storage case so that is a little bit of a letdown, but for the most practical purposes it hits the mark greatly. This is another great choice on the list and you can’t go wrong for if you’re looking for a portable air compressor. If having a hard time and you end up with this as your final 3, it won’t be a bad choice at all.
3. DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
This 6 gallon beast from brand leader Dewalt is a high priced 165 max PSI model with 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI pump. Because of the high efficiency motor the unit can start up in cold weather, and even at peak use has a rated 75.5 dBA noise level to keep you from disturbing people nearby. Air tool performance is maximized with the high flow regulator and couplers, both of high quality. There is little to worry about with maintenance of the unit, as for the most part it takes care of itself. It was built from the ground up to withstand tough long hours of heavy workload so is out of the box more capable than half of the air compressors on the list. With an oil free pump and easily removable console cover, this unit will spend more time working for you than you sending it off for repair.
The included couplers are universal meaning that two users can simultaneously use the unit at the same time, with tank draining being quick and easy with the ball drain valve. When moving the unit the floor as well as the machine itself is protected by rubber leg covers. It’s not as portable as some of the other units on the list at 30 pounds, but is convenient enough to have a cord wrap feature so it can easily be tucked away where you need it. This is a powerful air compressor that will meet needs far beyond tire, sport, and toy use. It’s powerful enough to use with tools like a brad nailer and beyond, but in having that extra amount of power you will lose some portability. This is however one of the best on the list, and will last you for years after initial use.
4. PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 3.5-Gallon 135 PSI Pancake Compressor
Another sought after name brand is Porter-Cable, with this powerful 135 PSI pancake compressor with 2.0 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI pump in a 3.5 gallon tank. Not only will you be able to output more power, but you’ll have an incredibly quick recovery time in the process. The pump is oil free to help with durability issues that may plague lesser costing air compressors. The price for this unit is in the high range, but not too outrageous. Like the previous unit the weight may be an issue since it clocks in at 26 pounds, but it makes up for its size with a 120v motor with low amperage. It’s a bit on the loud side with a dbA of 82, but coms with 2 gauges and a quick connect coupler.
For the ambitious it supports multiple trim finishing nailers for bigger projects beyond inflating tires and sports products. It can be used in home improvement, to power tools, even on framing or roofing jobs. The one thing lacking from this great purchase is accessories, which isn’t a big deal if you already have them in your possession. For a new user this is going to result in an extra purchase that may hinder their decision on buying the unit in the first place. This is still one of the most powerful units on the list, even if it doesn’t have the portability of the smaller units. For someone looking for a unit that will last them for years, this is easily in the top 3 on the list. If you can tolerate the high noise levels and vibration then this is the one to buy, especially since it is brand named. But if you’re looking for something to carry in your car, then you may want to opt for the smaller units.
- VIAIR 300P
- Brand: VIAIR
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.5 x 5 inches
- Item Model Number: 30033
- Warranty: Manufacturer
- Viair 00073 70P
- Brand: Viair
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 8.5 x 8 inches
- Item Model Number: 00073
- Warranty: Manufacturer
- PORTER-CABLE CMB15
- Brand: PORTER-CABLE
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 13.2 x 20.5 inches
- Item Model Number: CMB15
- Warranty: 1 Year Warranty
5. VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor
As one of the higher priced models on the list, the VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor is a 12 volt 150 PSI unit that depends on the car battery to run correctly. One of the requirements with the unit is that the engine has to be running in order to use it, so use caution when depending on this product. There is a pretty standard 2.40 CFM Free Flow a 0 PSI and a 33% duty cycle for long running. The battery clamps that powers the units are direct and heavy duty, so won’t fall off while in use. They are very easy to attach, and with a 40 amp inline fuse it can handle a good bulk of tasks without overtaxing the unit or the battery. Accessories include a carrying bag, and tray with vibration isolators, an 8 foot power cable and an inline fuse holder.
Read Also: Top 6 Air Compressors for the Money
Included is a 5 in 1 inflator/deflator inline pressure gauge, which is one of the best on the list and highly accurate. If looking to inflate 33 inch tires quickly, this is the machine you want to get as it can output 150 PSI for 15 continuous minutes at a time. The entire unit is easy to use, the gauge is clear and easy to read, and the overall operation is so smooth that very little needs to be done on your end once it’s up and running. Tips are included, and you’ll get 3 of the most universal ones in the box. The bag isn’t just a throwaway, and is high quality with zipper compartments for storage. There are no worries on the warranty, and you’ll get a 1 year limited that covers the basics. This isn’t a bad choice for a portable air compressor, although the engine running requirement may stop some people from coming to purchase. This is really a great unit and a hard one to pass up if you’re looking for something reliable and competitively priced.
6. Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor
For a Viair product that won’t hit the wallet hard, the low priced Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor is a nice alternative to the previous model on the list. It’s a 12 volt 100 PSI unit that needs to have the engine running while in use. There is the below standard 1.27 CFM free flow at 0 PSI, but for the most part that can be ignored in favor of the portability. It includes a similar but small deluxe carrying bag that does the bare minimum, and the unit connects to the battery using a brass twist-on tire chuck. This isn’t the most reliable way, and is a long way from high quality clamps, but it really isn’t bad considering the price. The onboard gauge is pretty decent, and you can use it to check the pressure to get a mostly accurate reading.
This is one of the lightest on the list at 6.2 pounds, and can easily be stored in the trunk or tucked away in storage. The power cord is 15 feet, so there won’t be a hassle trying to get it to connect. The unit is also one of the quietest ones on the list, but that is with a tradeoff of lacking any type of punch in the power department. It lacks considerable power and is one of the weaker choices you can make if looking for something to handle anything beyond inflating a couple of car tires. So don’t think of it being quiet as a feature, but more so as the way it was made since it isn’t as powerful as the others on the list. There aren’t many on the list that would work well with motorcycle users, which puts this in unique company. If using for a motorcycle or something smaller, this is actually perfect. Anything that requires a little bit more power, and you’re better off looking elsewhere.
7. PORTER-CABLE CMB15 150 PSI 1.5 Gallon Oil-Free Fully Shrouded Compressor
This interesting unit from Porter Cable is the last on the list, and is a high priced shrouded compressor with some unique features. The 2.0 SCFM at 90 PSI saves you a lot of time during use, and doesn’t slow down over time. The tank capacity is 1.5 gallons with a water drain valve and rubber feet to protect the unit and your floors. It amazing has a 150 PSI max that stores a lot more air in the tank than other models, and gives it the ability for longer tool runtimes. The pump is of course oil free and easy to maintain over the years with light keep up. If using in cold weather it starts up easily due to the 120 volt low amp motor. The design and the weight of 20 pounds makes this an ideal enough unit to use around the house for heavier work but just light enough to bring along in your car. It’s right at that number where it can be considered in the middle, so not light enough but also not heavy enough.
For noise concerns it is basically average, pumping out 79 dBA, so not great but also not bad. Concerns about touching hot or moving parts are alleviated with the enclosed design that protects you. A long 25 foot coil hose and generous 8 piece accessory kit handles a variety of inflation and tool tasks. The warranty is decent enough, and covers compressor components from general failure. The universal tips included are great to have, but are much lower in quality than the unit itself. So even when you have the adapters you need, for optimal performance it may be necessary to make an extra purchase online or at your hardware store. The size is perfect for small tasks and some around the house task, but with a 1.5 gallon tank you’re going to run into problems that wouldn’t take place if it was at least 2 gallons. It’s still enough for its size to be worth a look, and with all of the included accessories despite their quality, this is still a nice buy.
The Accessory Bubble
Don’t get too hung up on the universal tips or adapters that don’t come with units. The average is that 3 tips will be included, but it is not guaranteed with every unit. Even if a unit ships with tips, it doesn’t mean that they will be high quality tips. So in the end the tradeoff with price with getting a unit without tips and paying for them later is possibly a better bet than getting a unit with tips. For owners of air compressors already then this is a no brainer, as you will have some already laying around.
Don’t short yourself on adapters if you are paying a premium for a great unit, as that can make the difference in whether the purchase was worth it to begin with. And don’t be afraid to clamor over units that come with their own carrying bag since the entire idea of a unit is to be portable, and if you’re bringing it with you in your car it is better in the bag that open and exposed. This is something else to keep in mind if you plan on traveling with a portable unit-if you buy one without a case or bag, do you feel comfortable with it being exposed? Thinking of it like that will help you to make a wise purchase when the time is necessary.
We could talk PSI all day but it won’t really matter if that’s all you’re looking at with a portable air compressor. The price of power comes with a long waiting time, unit overheating, and even long term damage. That’s why this list only contains the highest quality items that don’t skimp on power, but have a respectable waiting time in order to use that power.
There are plenty of units on the market that can blow these on the list out of the water in a battle of straight up power, and yes they are portable. But the problem is that those units are unreliable, cause problems, and in some cases can even damage the items they are using like a car battery. Try not to get too wrapped up in PSI battles, and keep in mind that you also have to factor in the waiting time with larger PSI units that promise you the world. There are better units to be found on this list that will last you for years and give you better value for your money. If for some reason things go south, all of the units on this list at the very least have a limited warranty.
One of the bigger blunders when it comes to portable units is thinking that smaller should mean less power. While most in the industry get this right and can balance the amount of power in a unit with its size, there are some that was just not up to the task. They are great air compressors, but they’re only good portable air compressors. A great portable air compressor takes the features of a bigger model and compacts it into a small travel size that can be stored and tucked away at will. It also consumes less power, has cord management, and is easy to read and use.
That doesn’t mean that the product is a cheap plastic toy that can easily break, it merely means it is an advanced portable unit that is just as capable as a larger unit. The only real differences should be that of power, which the larger unit is expected to dominate with. There is also the lone motorcycle user, who probably only has 2 solid choices out of this entire list. At the very least those are two very good choices, so even if it’s a narrow choice it’s at least available. As the industry grows they may never fully cater to motorcyclist, but they will at least know that they are an available source. When that happens, expect a lot of good product to roll out their way as they work this untapped commodity.
Battery VS Wall
There are a couple of units that use a car battery rather than a wall outlet as a means to power the unit. While this has its pros and cons, the biggest con would be that the units that require the car battery also require the engine to be running. This can be a problem in multiple instance, but shouldn’t deter you from a particular unit.
In most cases you will be fine, but in those special cases you’ll probably wish you had made a different purchase. It’s just something to keep in mind when deciding on a unit that requires the car engine to be running. These are still very capable units that will get the job done 95% of the time, so don’t fret too much about the details when going in for a purchase.
Don’t be afraid to look around this list until you find exactly what you want. There are a lot of big choices to make when choosing the best portable air compressor, and they go beyond price. Portable air compressors themselves aren’t too expensive, even the best models from the name brands. A name brand unit is very affordable, but even so may not be the way you want to go when deciding on a portable air compressor. There is going to be some doubt on the first look but if you take the information here and compare it to a feature list of your own, then there is no doubt you will come away with exactly what you need.