Table of Contents
- 1 Kensun D1002 A Portable Air Compressor Tire Inflator
- 2 Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
- 3 DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake Compressor
- 4 PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 135 PSI Pancake Compressor
- 5 VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor
- 6 Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor
- 7 PORTER-CABLE CMB15 150 PSI Oil-Free Fully Shrouded Compressor
- 8 The Accessory Bubble
- 9 Power
- 10 Portability
- 11 Battery vs Wall
Whether it’s all about size, the ability to store one wherever you want, or even the power of the machine, there’s a lot to like when it comes to portable air compressors. Whether or not they’ll meet your specific demands is another story because, as you’ll see below, 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 and move around, and is powerful enough to use beyond inflating a tire or a basketball. Not that there’s anything wrong with simple machines, but for a portable unit, a healthy combination of features means it’s more useful in real-world scenarios and regular projects. 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 has an average performance and lacks power is the Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor — a godsend for motorcycle users. They are an often overlooked bunch, and if you’re a rider looking for the perfect unit, this would be it. As for those who are looking for something for everyday use, there are a lot of brand named items on the list that you could benefit from reviewing. There are some clear winners, and some not-so-clear losers. Making an informed buy the first time around will be your best option, as unfortunately, warranties don’t cover change of mind. 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
Kensun D1002 A Portable Air Compressor Tire InflatorFirst on the list is the Kensun D1002, a multi-function inflator that is very low priced and easy to deal with straight out of the box. It operates under DC 12V or AC 110V to work through your car’s cigarette lighter or from the wall outlet your home. A 21.7-inch rubber air hose is included along with the 9-foot 10-inch cord when using the cigarette plug and the 6-foot 7-inch cord with the wall outlet plug. The unit works well on tires up to 33 inches and it can pump upwards of 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. There are 3 nozzle adapters included with the unit that will work well for tires, sports and camping equipment, and toys.
The total weight is pretty respectable at only 4.7 pounds, and with a width and height that makes it easy 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 round. There may be compatibility issues with some cars, most notably expensive, high-end cars that will probably require a different fitting than what’s in the package. There is also the known problem that with these types of compressors, ambient temperatures above 85 may cause malfunctions when it is stored or operated for too long. This is a good starting point for a first-time user, 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 them.
Viair 00088 88P Portable Air CompressorAnother 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 to use it. This won’t be the best option for everyone because of that requirement, but it still shines as a portable unit. It has a 1.94 CFM free flow at 0 PSI for great all-round stability no matter the use. It uses high-grade alligator clamps for a good, tight fit on your battery without worrying about cheaper plastic options slipping off. There’s some decent power in this little unit that can work well for ATVs, trucks, SUVs, and even sedans. Clear lights and a foolproof design mean it’s easy to identify each function. There is a 9-foot power cord, 12-foot air hose, and up to 3 tips for inflating various items.
This is an extremely small item — we’re talking 1 pound total, making it 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 the only company that specializes in both 12 and 24-volt industrial grade compressors, although recently the competition has been catching up. This is, however, one of the most durable portable air compressors you can buy, and the quality will hold up for years before you notice 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. This is another great choice on the list and you can’t go wrong if you’re looking for a portable air compressor. If you’re having a hard time deciding and end up with this as your final choice, it won’t be a bad choice at all.
DEWALT DWFP55126 6-Gallon 165 PSI Pancake CompressorThis 6-gallon beast from brand leader Dewalt is a high-priced 165 max PSI model with 2.6 SCFM delivered at 90 PSI. 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 by the high flow regulator and couplers, both of high quality. There is little to worry about in terms of maintenance; 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 out of the box it is 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 the other way around.
The included couplers are universal meaning that two users can use the unit simultaneously. Tank draining is 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. At 30 pounds, it’s not as portable as some of the other units on the list, 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 your needs far beyond tire, sport, and toy use. It’s powerful enough to use with tools like a brad nailer and beyond, but with that extra power you will lose some portability. This is, however, one of the best on the list, and will last you for years.
PORTER-CABLE PCFP02003 135 PSI Pancake CompressorAnother sought-after name brand is Porter-Cable’s 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 plague less expensive air compressors. The price for this unit is in the high range, but it’s not 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 120-V motor with low amperage. It’s a bit on the loud side with a dbA of 82 but comes with 2 gauges and a quick-connect coupler.
For the ambitious user, it supports multiple trim finishing nailers for bigger projects beyond inflating tires and sports products. It can be used for 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. 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 a smaller unit.
- 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
VIAIR 300P Portable CompressorAs one of the higher priced models on the list, the VIAIR 300P Portable Compressor is a 12-volt 150-PSI unit that runs off the car battery. One of the requirements with the unit is that the engine has to be running in order to use it, so use caution when operating this product. There is a pretty standard 2.40 CFM Free Flow, 0 PSI, and 33% duty cycle for extended running. The battery clamps are secure 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 range of tasks without overtaxing the unit or the battery. Accessories include a carrying bag, a tray with vibration isolators, an 8-foot power cable, and an inline fuse holder.
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 as it has an output of 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. Various tips are included, including 3 of the most universal ones. The bag isn’t just a throwaway; it’s 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 put some people off. This is really a great unit and a hard one to pass up if you’re looking for something reliable and competitively priced.
Viair 00073 70P Heavy Duty Portable CompressorFor a Viair product that won’t break the bank, 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. It has a below standard 1.27 CFM free flow at 0 PSI, but for the most part that can be ignored in favor of its 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 method and is a far cry from high quality clamps, but it really isn’t bad considering the price. The on-board gauge is pretty decent and you gives a mostly accurate pressure reading.
This is one of the lightest units 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 long, so there won’t be any hassle trying to connect it. The unit is also one of the quietest ones on the list, but the tradeoff is that it lacks punch in the power department. It 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 for motorcycle users, which makes this unique. 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.
PORTER-CABLE CMB15 150 PSI Oil-Free Fully Shrouded CompressorThis 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 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 amazingly has a 150-PSI max that stores a lot more air in the tank than other models, and gives it longer tool run time. The pump is of course oil-free and easy to maintain over the years with light up-keep. 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 tipping point of not light enough but also not too heavy.
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, but with a 1.5-gallon tank you’re going to run into problems that wouldn’t arise if it was at least 2 gallons. It’s still good 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 aren’t included with some units. Usually, an average of 3 tips are 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. So in the end, getting a unit without tips and purchasing them separately is likely a better option than spending on a unit with tips included. For current air compressor owners, this is a no-brainer, as you will already have some lying around.
Don’t short yourself on adapters if you are paying a premium for a great unit because they can make all the difference. And don’t hesitate to prioritize units that come with their own carrying bag since the whole idea of these units is to be portable, and if you’re bringing one with you in your car it is better in the bag than open. 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? The answer to this question will help you make your choice.
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 cost of power is long wait times, 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 and stellar parts.
There are plenty of units on the market that can blow these units out of the water when it comes to straight up power, even other portable models. But the problem is that those units are unreliable, cause problems, and in some cases can even damage associated parts like a car battery. Try not to get too wrapped up in PSI, 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 on this list that will last you for years and give you better value for 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 means less power. While most manufacturers in the industry balance the amount of power with its size, there are some units that are 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 should also consume less power, have cord management, and be 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 will accomplish, which is to be expected. There is also the motorcycle user to consider 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 a choice nonetheless. The industry may never fully cater to motorcyclists, but it will at least offer more available options. When that happens, expect a lot of good products to roll out.
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 unit requires the car battery to be running. This can be a problem in multiple instances, but shouldn’t deter you from a particular unit.
In most cases you will be fine, but at times 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 making a purchase.
Don’t be afraid to look around this list until you find exactly what you want. Choosing the best portable air compressor is a big decision that goes 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 biggest factor. 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.