Beefing up your tires or inflatables, blowing away debris and powering pneumatic tools is easier when you own the best portable air compressor. For me, this is one of the handiest tools in a home workshop.
I like my 6-gallon machine for its all-around usefulness. It stood by my side during small spray painting job, it fueled many garage and household applications and even saved me when I punctured my tire during a road trip in the middle of nowhere.
Here's a list of Best Portable Air Compressor
Portable Air Compressor
From basic models with few accessories to high-end units equipped with all accouterments, a portable air compressor is simply a DIYer’s best friend.
Different Types of Air Compressors
Air compressors come in all shapes and sizes, but they can all be grouped into a few basic types.
Electric or Gas-Powered
Air compressors are either electric or gas-powered.
Oil-Lubricated or Oil-Free
Portable air compressors can be further broken down into oil-lubricated and oil-free machines.
What to Look for In a Portable Air Compressor
1. CFM Factor
The cubic feet per minute - or CFM factor - is perhaps the most critical feature to consider. It determines how fast your portable air compressor can supply air to the tools. If your pneumatic tools use the air faster than the compressor can provide it, you’ll have to stop working and wait for the tank to refill. Portable air compressors have CFM ranges from 0.6 to 2.8 and in my experience, the higher, the better.
2. PSI Factor
Although acclaimed by DIYers, PSI (pounds per square meter) isn’t as important as it seems. Most manufacturers test how their machines perform when used with common tools, and almost all models provide plenty of pressure for your domestic tasks. On the other hand, a higher PSI allows a smaller tank to hold more air, which ultimately improves performance.
The horsepower rating is another figure that raises no concern, but it can give you a sense of the unit’s power. Typical horsepower ratings of portable air compressors vary between 1.5 and 6.5 HP but don’t mistake this number for the CFM. It is the latter to provide power to your tools.
4. Tank Size
Most portable compressors come with tank sizes between 1 and 6 gallons, except for those that are tankless. An average unit with a 3-gallon tank is usually sufficient for inflating tires, inflatable toys, or beach mattresses but a 6-gallon machine brings an all-around versatility. Powerful compressors with high CFM may need no tank at all to deliver exceptional performance.
Besides all mentioned above, there are a few other features you should consider.
- Multiple couplers: a few portable air compressors come with two or more air hose outlets. These are great if you want to use the unit for various parallel tasks.
- Oil-free pumps: unless you’re using a small compressor for heavy-duty projects, an oil-free unit can save you the hassle of maintenance.
- Noise level: my advice is always to check the noise level of the model you like. Most portable air compressors emit between 60 and 80dB but for your comfort, choose the quietest unit that meets your needs.
- Portability: as weird as it may seem, some portable air compressors are just more portable than others. While a nice heft is essential, shape and size also matter.
- Accessories: if you’re investing in a portable air compressor, odds are you’ll want to use it for the most diverse tasks. Choose a unit equipped with various nozzles and accessories, and that can adapt to most domestic needs.
Top 5 Portable Air Compressors in 2018
1. Tcisa 12V Portable Air Compressor
- 1.23 CFM
- 150 PSI
- DC 12V/12A power source
- 10ft power cord
- 20 minutes of continuous operation
A fine example of a portable air compressor, the Tcsia 12V uses smart preset inflation designed to minimize tire damage due to over-inflation. Just preset the air compressor to your target PSI and the unit will automatically shut off at the threshold.
Tire Pressure Monitor
A digital pressure gauge allows you to monitor your tire’s pressure even when there is no gas station around. The indicator can read the current load down to 1/10th, a useful feature if you’re inflating balls or beach equipment. A digital backlit monitor with variable display units complete the design of this tire pressure gauge.
Compromising on CFM but with a higher than average PSI, the Tcisa 12V brings an excellent value for the money. It’s powerful enough to inflate four sedan tires in under 10 minutes, a shut-off guard and smart inflation management. Furthermore, three adapters for inflatable sports and leisure equipment add versatility.
Tcisa Portable Air Compressor Video Review
2. EPAuto Portable Air Compressor
- 1.6 CFM
- 100 PSI
- Cigarette light socket plug
- Auto shut off
- Four display units - PSI, KPA, KG/CM, BAR
- LED flashlight
The EPAuto DC12V is the best portable air compressor for casual domestic use. The unit is engineered with manageability in mind and conveniently plugs into your vehicle’s 12VDC socket. It can be used to inflate vehicle or bicycle tires, balls, and other inflatables. A 9ft cord ensures freedom of movement and suitability for various applications.
Auto Shut Off
A distinctive feature of this air compressor pump is the auto shut off technology which acts on a dual level. Built-in sensors conveniently turn the unit off when the desired tire pressure is reached. An overheat protector shuts down the unit if it exceeds 167°F, prolonging its lifespan. Some consumers have found this feature useful as the unit tends to overheat.
This portable air compressor is perfect for its intended purpose. It inflates tires in a breeze, comes with multiple accessories including a zip-up travel bag, and it can be conveniently used in the dark thanks to its flashlight function.
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Video Review
3. Kensun Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor
- 0.71 CFM
- 100 PSI
- AC/DC adaptable
- Analog pressure gauge
- Multiuse nozzles
The Kensun Swift is one of the most acclaimed portable air compressors due to its rather unique feature - it plugs into both a wall socket and a cigarette lighter outlet. A decent yet lower than average CFM inflates your tires in a breeze and delivers sufficient power to your DIY pneumatic tools including most spray guns.
This unit is perhaps the best portable air compressor regarding portability. The Kensun Swift weighs merely 3.3lbs and has a convenient built-in handle for easier transport. A sturdy carrying case keeps the unit protected when not in use while the compact dimensions allow you to store the compressor even under your car seat.
The Kensun Swift may not be the most powerful unit on the market, but it indeed is the most versatile. With an air flow rate up to 20L/min and three useful nozzle attachments, the product adapts to a whole range of indoor and outdoor applications.
Kensun Swift Performance Portable Air Compressor Video Review
4. Bostitch Oil-Free Compressor
- 2.6 CFM
- 150 PSI
- 6-gallon tank size
- High flow regulator
- High-efficiency motor
- Oil-free pump
Two Universal Couplers
A highly performing portable air compressor, the Bostitch Oil-Free boasts a high flow regulator and two couplers designed to maximize air tool performance and to support two users. This unit adapts to multiple tasks, from casual garage and leisure applications to complex DIY projects. A 2.6 CFM delivered at 90 PSI also ensures a long run time and short recovery.
The Bostitch Oil-Free was built with convenience in mind. A nice heft of only 26lbs makes the unit fairly easy to carry while the low 78.5dBA keeps the environment quiet during operation. The lack of maintenance and an easy-to-start motor define this high-end unit adaptable to most DIY and light professional applications.
Bostitch Oil-Free is not the most portable unit, but it’s one of the best portable air compressors regarding performance. A sizable 6-gallon tank holds sufficient air to power pneumatic tools or to inflate tires and equipment. An outstanding CFM and proper PSI ensure a long run time. Operation versatility is guaranteed by the dual couplers that support up to two users at any given time.
Bostitch Oil Free Compressor Video Review
5. Audew Portable Air Compressor
- 1.23 CFM
- 150 PSI
- DC12V power source
- High precision digital display
The Audew portable air compressor was constructed with driver’s safety in mind. It impresses with a rough shape inspired by the famous hazard triangles and draws the attention thanks to a bright yellow center highlighted by a black border.
Lightweight & Compact
Weighing under 3lbs and boasting a compact shape, this air compressor is easy to transport and store. Built-in grooves help keep the 10ft cord organized for mess-free transport, and a convenient carrying handle eliminates the need of a carrying case.
Audew portable inflator is a budget-friendly option capable of inflating almost all tires including truck and RVs. The compressor vamps an auto shut-off feature and a one-touch on/off switch. Bright LED lights, a convenient digital display and a range of accessories complete the unit.
Audew Portable Air Compressor Video Review
Finding the best portable air compressor is not exactly a breeze, but now you are aware of some of your top options. Whether it’s a small, compact unit for on-the-road emergencies or a more powerful article capable of driving pneumatic tools, an appropriate compressor will undoubtedly bring versatility to your workshop.