Best 12V Air Compressors of 2021

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Keep a 12V air compressor handy for emergencies.

12-volt air compressors are the ideal device to keep in case of emergencies. They are small, lightweight, and cost a lot less than their larger counterparts. If you have something that needs inflating, it might be time to consider a 12-volt air compressor.

Join us as we rundown the best 12V air compressors to give you the knowledge to buy one with confidence.

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Features
Product Image of the VIAIR - 40045 400P-Automatic Function Portable Compressor
Best High Volume 12V Air Compressor
Viair 40045 400P Air Compressor
  • Maximum 150 psi
  • 33 percent duty cycle
  • Anti-vibration tray
Product Image of the VIAIR Heavy Duty Onboard Air System
Best Off-Road 12V Air Compressor
Viair Heavy-Duty Portable Air Compressor
  • Maximum 150 psi
  • 33 percent duty cycle
  • Vehicle mountable
Product Image of the Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
Best Portable 12V Air Compressor
Viair 00088 88P Air Compressor
  • Maximum 120 psi
  • 25 percent duty cycle
  • Lightweight & portable
Product Image of the TACKLIFE 12V DC Car Tire Inflator Air Compressor Portable Multifunctional Tire Pump for Car Tires Bike Tires and Other Inflatables
Best Compact 12V Air Compressor
TACKLIFE 12V DC Car Tire Inflator
  • Maximum 80 psi
  • Easy to store away
  • Has 3 light modes
Product Image of the Energizer Air Compressor Portable Tire Inflator, 12V DC Air Pump for Car Tires with Digital Tire Pressure Gauge, 120 Max PSI, Preset Pressure Feature, LED, Digital Display - Includes Storage Bag
Best for Tires
Energizer 12V Portable Tire Inflator
  • Maximum 120 psi
  • Comes with LCD
  • 5 light modes
Product Image of the GSPSCN Silver Tire Inflator Heavy Duty Double Cylinders with Portable Bag, Metal 12V Air Compressor Pump 150PSI with Adapter for Car, Truck, SUV Tires, Dinghy, Air Bed etc
Best Heavy-Duty 12V Air Compressor
GSPSCN Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator
  • Maximum 150 psi
  • Fast inflation times
  • Double cylinder pump
Product Image of the GAMPRO 12V 150db Air Horn, 18 Inches Chrome Zinc Single Trumpet Truck Air Horn with Compressor for Any 12V Vehicles Trucks Lorrys Trains Boats Cars (Silver)
Best for Air Horns
GAMPRO 12V 150 dB Air Horn Compressor
  • Maximum 150 db sound
  • Lightweight
  • Chrome-plated casing
Product Image of the VIAIR Medium Duty Onboard Air System - 10003
Best 12V Air Compressor With Tank
Viair Medium-Duty Onboard Air System
  • Maximum 150 psi
  • 25-gallon tank
  • 33 percent duty cycle
Product Image of the Breezz Air Compressor, 12V DC Portable Auto Tire Pump with Digital Display Pressure Gauge up to 150PSI for Car, Bicycle and Other Inflatables
Best Cheap 12V Air Compressor
Breezz 12V Air Compressor
  • Maximum 150 psi
  • LED display
  • Night light
Product Image of the TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator-Heavy Duty Double Cylinders Direct Drive Metal Pump 150PSI, Compressor with Battery Clamp and 5M Extension Air Hose, SUVs/Trucks/Vans/RVs
Best RV 12V Air Compressor
TIREWELL 12V Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator
  • Maximum 150 psi
  • Direct drive double cylinder pump
  • 212 CFM

What Is a 12V Air Compressor Used For?

12V air compressors are small, light, and reasonably quiet compared to larger models. They store away in the trunk of your car, ready for when you need one in an emergency. A 12V air compressor comes into its own when you have a flat tire.

These compressors are also ideal for inflating swimming pools, beach toys, sports balls, and even balloons. If you’re a keen camper, a 12V air compressor is the best tool to inflate your air bed.

How to Choose the Best 12V Air Compressor?

What should you be on the lookout for when selecting the best 12V air compressor? Here’s a handy guide.

Maximum Air Pressure

Air pressure is measured in PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch), and it tells you what the operating pressure of your tire is, as well as the compressor. This is important because if the air compressor lacks the PSI to inflate your tire, it will struggle.

The best advice is to choose a compressor with the highest PSI values. These can vary from 25 or 30 PSI to 150 pounds per square inch. The higher the air pressure rating, the larger the tires you can inflate.

Most car tires average out at 30 to 40 PSI, whereas SUVs and ATVs can jump to 70 or 80 PSI.

Maximum Airflow

Cubic feet per minute, or CFM, is the measurement of the speed of the airflow. Like PSI, the higher the CFM, the more power it has to move the air rapidly. To get the best models, choose the highest CFM rating you can, and make sure there is a buffer of 1.5 times more CFM than needed.

This stops your compressor from overloading.

Maximum Duty Cycle

Duty cycles get a lot of attention when people talk about air compressors. It is the measurement of the continuous timespan you can use the compressor at a maximum of 100 PSI at a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

The most common way to represent this is in percentages as follows:

Duty cycle = compressor on time / (on time + off time) * 100%

Maximum Tank Capacity

12V air compressors are at the smaller end of the compressor scale. They have small tanks and some have none. A 2-gallon chamber should be sufficient to inflate a truck tire easily. If you are looking for a model that’s easy to store, consider the tank size.

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Power Source

12V air compressor power sources come in two forms, namely, clamps that connect directly to your car battery or a 12V socket that slots into your car’s cigarette lighter. You can buy battery-operated versions, but they are less common because you already have a fully-charged battery in your vehicle.

Maximum Power Draw

You should consider the power draw because air compressors that use more power are better at pumping up tires faster. They also inflate truck and SUV tires, thanks to their increased power. However, they draw more current from your car’s battery.

Consider an air compressor rated at 120 watts or less for the best results.

Maximum Cord Length

How far does the cord stretch? This is an important consideration when choosing a 12V air compressor. When you need to reach all four tires a short cord is going to restrict you.

Look for a model with a power cord at about 10 or 12 feet to get the best results. That should be ample to reach all the tires.

Auto Shut-Off

Sometimes called set and forget, an auto shut-off feature is invaluable if you want to avoid overinflating your car’s tires. Just set the required PSI level, and when the compressor reaches pressure, it shuts off.


The Best 12V Air Compressors of 2021

Here are ten excellent 12V air compressors to consider.

1. Viair 40045 400P Portable Compressor

Best High Volume 12V Air Compressor

Viair air compressors feature a lot in this review, for one simple reason; they are excellent products and hugely popular. This 400P model has a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI, and it creates a CFM of 2.3 at zero PSI.

It inflates all sizes of tires up to 35 inches, so it is ideal for maintaining ATV and farm vehicles. It has a duty cycle of 33 percent at 100 PSI, meaning you can run it for just over 3 minutes out of every 10 between rests.

It comes with a carry bag, a 25 ft extension cable, and an 8 ft power cord. It even has an anti-vibration sand tray.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 PSI.
  • 33 percent duty cycle.
  • Anti-vibration tray.
  • 2.3 CFM.
  • Great for high volume use.
CONS:
  • Very expensive.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 8.5
Dimensions (inches) 11 x 4 x 7
Max PSI 150
Max CFM 2.3
Duty cycle (percent) 33
Power source Battery clamps
Price $$$$
Warranty 1-year limited

2. Viair Heavy-Duty Portable Air Compressor

Best Off-Road 12V Air Compressor

So, we come to the second Viair 12V air compressor. This one is an onboard air system because it is designed to be mounted in your vehicle. It has a maximum PSI of 150 and a duty cycle of 33 percent.

The peak airflow is 2.54 CFM, and it has a 2.5-gallon air tank. It means you can fill the tank and store the compressed air until you need it. It is even powerful enough to run some small pneumatic tools.

This kit comes with a selection of tips, a 35 ft hose, and everything you need to mount it.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 PSI.
  • 33 percent duty cycle.
  • Vehicle mountable.
  • 35 ft hose.
  • 2.54 CFM.
CONS:
  • Very expensive.
  • Bulkier than some other models.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 30.15
Dimensions (inches) 26.5 x 14.5 x 10
Max PSI 150
Max CFM 2.54
Duty cycle (percent) 33
Power source Battery clamps
Price $$$$
Warranty 1-year limited

3. Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor

Best Portable 12V Air Compressor

This Viair is less powerful compared to other models. It’s lighter, smaller, and easier to handle. It has a maximum working pressure of 120 PSI and generates a CFM of 1.47 at zero PSI. The weaker motor restricts the types of tires you can inflate, so this model will only handle tires to a maximum size of 33 inches.

Like the other models featured, this one has alligator clamps that attach directly onto the battery, and it has an LED/power indicator and a 10 ft power cord, plus a 16 ft hose and a 3-tip inflation set.

It costs a lot less than the other Viair air compressors, so if you want to save a few bucks, this is the model to get.

PROS:
  • Maximum 120 PSI.
  • 25 percent duty cycle.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • 16 ft hose.
  • 1.47 CFM.
CONS:
  • Lacks power.
  • Only suitable for 33-inch tires.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 4.5
Dimensions (inches) 6.75 x 6.25 x 10.75
Max PSI 120
Max CFM 1.47
Duty cycle (percent) 25
Power source Battery clamps
Price $$
Warranty 1-year
Learn More
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4. TACKLIFE 12V DC Car Tire Inflator

Best Compact 12V Air Compressor

If you want a tire inflator that’s small and stores away in the trunk easily, this could be the best candidate. It only measures 8.9 x 7 x 3.4 inches and weighs just 2.35 pounds.

It can inflate car tires, bike tires, and some small sports equipment. It does have limitations because it won’t work with swimming pools and inflatable kayaks. It has a maximum PSI of 80, 3 light modes, an LCD, and auto shut-off when the correct pressure gets reached.

It’s also cheap when you compare it to the lowest priced Viair model. This compressor is half the price!

PROS:
  • Maximum 80 PSI.
  • Lightweight.
  • Easy to store away.
  • LCD.
  • 3 light modes.
CONS:
  • Lacks power.
  • Limited uses.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.35
Dimensions (inches) 8.9 x 7 x 3.4
Max PSI 80
Max CFM Not stated
Duty cycle (percent) Not stated
Power source 12V socket
Price $
Warranty 2-year

5. Energizer 12V Portable Tire Inflator

Best 12V Air Compressor for Tires

When it comes to inflating tires, this 12V air compressor is pretty hard to beat. It plugs directly into your car’s cigarette lighter, and because it is compact and lightweight, it is a breeze storing away in the trunk of your vehicle.

This model has a maximum of 120 PSI, a preset pressure feature, and an LCD for easy nighttime readings. It also has 5 light modes, including a flashing light and a power-saving setting.

The hose is 3.7 ft long, and the power cord measures 9.8 ft. It can handle small car tires as well as SUVs and sedans, so it is the perfect travel companion.

PROS:
  • Maximum 120 PSI.
  • Lightweight.
  • Easy to store away.
  • LCD.
  • 5 light modes.
CONS:
  • Lacks power.
  • Limited uses.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 4.3
Dimensions (inches) 8 x 4 x 6
Max PSI 120
Max CFM 35 liters per minute
Duty cycle (percent) Not stated
Power source 12V socket
Price $
Warranty 1-year

6. GSPSCN Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator

Best Heavy-Duty 12V Air Compressor

This 12V air compressor is seriously impressive. It has an airflow of 70 liters per minute, which is double that of the energizer model. It means that this compressor will inflate truck, SUV, ATV, and car tires in no time at all.

It has a maximum air pressure of 150 PSI, and it has a double cylinder direct drive pump, which delivers an efficient service to make the compressor quiet and reliable. It comes with all the kit you need to keep you moving in an emergency.

And thanks to the large carry handle, it is portable and easy to stow away. Like other similar models, this heavy-duty compressor clamps directly to the car’s battery, and it has an 11.5 ft coil hose and an 11.5 ft power cord.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 PSI.
  • Lightweight.
  • Fast inflation times.
  • Double cylinder pump.
  • Quiet and vibration-free.
CONS:
  • Limited to tires and inflatables.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 6.6
Dimensions (inches) 11.9 x 9 x 6
Max PSI 150
Max CFM 70 liters per minute
Duty cycle (percent) Not stated
Power source 12V socket
Price $$
Warranty 1-year

7. GAMPRO 12V 150 dB Air Horn with Compressor

Best 12V Air Compressor for Air Horns

If you’ve ever dreamt about driving through the streets of your town sounding like the Dukes of Hazzard, now’s your chance. This GAMPRO compressor and air horn will blast out 150 decibels of sound. That’s enough to wake up the entire block.

The air compressor has an aluminum turbine cavity and a chrome-plated metal case. It is lightweight, compact, and delivers when it’s needed. It connects to any 12V vehicle, from a car to a boat, and is the ideal tool when you need to get noticed.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 dB.
  • Lightweight.
  • Chrome-plated casing.
CONS:
  • Limited uses.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.42
Dimensions (inches) 17.72 x 3.54 x 3.54
Max PSI Not stated
Max CFM Not stated
Duty cycle (percent) Not stated
Power source 12V socket
Price $
Warranty No warranty

8. Viair Medium-Duty Onboard Air System

Best 12V Air Compressor With Tank

This is the final Viair product to appear, and like the Viair heavy-duty model, this one has a 2.5-gallon tank. The compressor and tank are designed to fit your vehicle, giving you a mobile pneumatic station that can power small air tools and inflate tires.

This compressor has a maximum working pressure of 150 PSI and a duty cycle of 33 percent at 100 PSI. It also generates a CFM of 1.77 at zero PSI. Because it is mounted to your vehicle, it can withstand ambient temperatures ranging from -40 degrees Fahrenheit to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

The tank is ideal for storing compressed air for when you need it, and it has a drain valve for siphoning away any excess moisture.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 PSI.
  • 2.5-gallon tank.
  • 33 percent duty cycle.
  • 1.77 CFM.
CONS:
  • Mounts to your vehicle.
  • Expensive.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 10.25
Dimensions (inches) 25.5 x 14.25 x 10.25
Max PSI 150
Max CFM 1.77
Duty cycle (percent) 33
Power source Battery clamps
Price $$$$
Warranty 1-year

9. Breezz 12V Air Compressor

Best Cheap 12V Air Compressor

Budget 12V air compressors are more important than you might think. They give people the ability to own a compressor even if they have limited funds. This Breezz model is a prime example of a cheap 12V air compressor.

It’s compact, lightweight and it does what it says on the tin. With 150 maximum PSI and the ability to fully inflate a 195/65R15 car tire in just 4 minutes, you can see why this is a valuable tool to keep in the trunk of the car.

It has an LED light, an LCD readout, a pressure adjusting switch, and a 10 ft long power cord. For the price, this is pretty hard to beat.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 PSI.
  • Compact and light.
  • LED display.
  • Night light.
  • Excellent value for money.
CONS:
  • Lacks real power.
  • Limited uses.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 2.38
Dimensions (inches) 7.8 x 7.1 x 2.4
Max PSI 150
Max CFM Not stated
Duty cycle (percent) Not stated
Power source 12V socket
Price $
Warranty 1-year

10. TIREWELL 12V Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator

Best RV 12V Air Compressor

If you want an air compressor with a little more power, consider this TIREWELL model. It produces 150 PSI and a CFM of 2.12 at zero PSI. When you have larger tires, airflow is crucial to speeding up the process.

It also benefits from a direct drive double cylinder pump, which is responsible for delivering fast and efficient service to the compressor. It also means this compressor is quiet and as vibration-free as possible.

It works particularly well with RVs and trucks, but it is equally at home inflating kayaks, sedan tires, and other equipment.

PROS:
  • Maximum 150 PSI.
  • Compact and light.
  • Direct drive double cylinder pump.
  • 2.12 CFM.
CONS:
  • Gets super-hot.
  • Build quality issues.

Additional Specs

Weight (pounds) 7.61
Dimensions (inches) 9.88 x 4.26 x 8.26
Max PSI 150
Max CFM 2.12
Duty cycle (percent) 50
Power source 12v socket
Price $$
Warranty 1-year

12V Air Compressor Comparison Chart

Product Best Weight Dimensions Max PSI Max CFM Duty cycle (%) Power source Warranty
Viair 40045 400P  Compressor High Volume 9 lbs 11 x 4 x 7″ 150 2.3 33 Battery clamps 1-year limited
Viair Heavy-Duty Air Compressor Off-Road 30 lbs 26.5 x 14.5 x 10″ 150 2.54 33 Battery clamps 1-year limited
Viair 00088 88P Compressor Portable 4.5 lbs 6.75 x 6.25 x 10.75″ 120 1 25 Battery clamps 1-year
TACKLIFE Car Tire Inflator Compact 2.35 lbs 8.9 x 7 x 3.4″ 80 N/A N/A 12V socket 2-year
Energizer 12V Tire Inflator Tires 4.3 lbs 8 x 4 x 6″ 120 35 L/m N/A 12V socket 1-year
GSPSCN Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator Heavy-Duty 6.6 lbs 11.9 x 9 x 6″ 150 70 L/m N/A 12V socket 1-year
GAMPRO 12V 150 dB Air Horn Air Horns 2.42 lbs 17.72 x 3.54 x 3.54″ N/A N/A N/A 12V socket None
Viair Medium-Duty Air System With Tank 10 lbs 25.5 x 14.25 x 10.25″ 150 1.77 33 Battery clamps 1-year
Breezz 12V Air Compressor Cheap 2.38 lbs 7.8 x 7.1 x 2.4″ 150 N/A N/A 12V socket 1-year
TIREWELL Heavy-Duty Tire Inflator RV 7.61 lbs 9.88 x 4.26 x 8.26″ 150 2.12 50 12v socket 1-year

How To Use a 12V Air Compressor?

12V air compressors are easier to use than the larger models. All you need to do is plug it into the 12V socket in your car and attach the air compressor hose to your tire’s air inlet. Clamp it down so the end won’t disengage with the tire, and you’re ready to set the pressure limit.

Now you can switch it on and wait while the tire inflates.

How To Repair a 12V Air Compressor?

Air compressors fail from time to time, so knowing how to deal with basic repairs could save you a chunk of money. If the compressor springs an air leak, locate the source and use plumbers tape to plug the gap.

If the airflow is weak, grab a screwdriver and turn the upper screw until the flow improves. Also, you may have to restore the power. To do this, reset the switch on the back of the compressor.

FAQs

What Size Compressor Do I Need To Run Air Tools?

Air tools typically use 70 to 90 PSI with a CFM of between 2 and 5, so you need an air compressor that exceeds those limits. Something with a maximum PSI of 135 and a CFM of 5 should suffice.

For larger air tools, you might need a bigger air compressor with a higher PSI and CFM.

What Is a Good CFM Rating for an Air Compressor?

To get the best out of your air compressor and your pneumatic tools, you should look for one with a CFM rating between 2 and 10. Most medium-size air compressors produce about 5 CFM, while larger capacity models can get as much as 10 to 20 CFM.

How Can I Increase the CFM of my Compressor?

The best way to increase your air compressor’s CFM value is to dial down the tank’s pressure. You can do this by adjusting the regulator, so the tank fills more slowly, which increases the CFM level.


Compact 12V Compressors

You cannot deny the benefit of a 12V air compressor. They are small, lightweight, and store easily in the trunk of your car. They come to your rescue time and again, whether you are inflating tires or a swimming pool on a hot summer day.

A 12V air compressor should be on every car owner’s wish list because life gets that little bit harder without one.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
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