10 Best 12V Portable Air Compressors for Small Demand

Best 12V Portable Air Compressors

Air compressors are devices that have been designed to convert power into potential air in the form of compressed air. These pneumatic tools either use electric or gasoline or diesel engines to force compressed air into their storage tank which increases the pressure. The upper pressure limit of the tank is achieved the air compressor automatically shuts off. The compressed air can be used in various ways one of them being inflating vehicle tires. Now the range of application of these units greatly depends on the size and power of the air compressor.

The 12V portable air compressor we are about to review are designed for use mostly on vehicles and other similar small projects. While these units are readily available on the market, you will need to pause for a moment and learn what makes any of the units best for your purchase. To help you make this all-important decision, below are reviews of some of the best 12V portable air compressors available on the market.

EPAuto AT-010-1Z 12V DC Portable Air Compressor

The EPAuto AT-010-1Z portable air compressor comes with a plug that connects to the car cigarette lighter socket. With this plug, the air compressor has the convenience of being used pretty much anywhere. The socket should, however, be able to support 15 Amps since the unit needs a maximum of 15 Amps. Be sure to countercheck this since many cigarette lighter sockets average 10 Amps.

With the auto shutoff feature, you will not have to constantly monitor the pump as it inflates. The shutoff technology will automatically shut off the unit when the maximum PSI is achieved which makes the use of the unit easier.

This air compressor inflates tools at a speed of 1.06 CFM. There are individuals who have gone on record to complain that this speed is slow. But upon a closer look, for a small portable DC air compressor, this is an expected speed. This product has a 100 PSI rating and also comes with an overheating protection that keeps the unit from damage from the internal heat generated. These safety features make the unit one of the safest air compressors available.

The EPAuto AT-010-1Z comes with a metal screw on connector instead of a quick release connector. While this is new for many, especially those who have used larger air compressors before, this connector has been reported to be easy to attach as well as detach.

The air compressor comes with digital easy to read display units. In addition to this, the unit features a LED flashlight that which comes in handy in dimly lit environs.

Pros

  • Quiet and powerful
  • Automatic shutdown for safety and convenience
  • Accurate digital gauges
  • Overheating protection safety feature

Cons

  • Fairly expensive though comes with good value
  • At 3.8 pounds and awkward shape it is not highly convenient to store in the trunk

Who Should Buy?

This unit is perfect for individuals looking for a small air compressor and not too keen on the power. Individuals on the road most of the time will benefit from the DC electric requirement of the air compressor.

#2. Viair 85P 12V Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4.4 / 5)

Viair 85P 12V Portable Air Compressor

The Viair 85P succeeded the Viair 70P model and came with several upgrades hence the reason may individuals term it as the best portable air compressor. The air compressor runs on direct current and is designed to be connected directly to the cigarette lighter sockets in cars.

For tires measuring 195 mm in width and 14 inches in diameter on the rim and have a 70% aspect ratio the filling rate is about 2 minutes at between 0 and 30 PSI and 1 minute at between 15 and 30 PSI. Reviewers and consumers have gone on record to state that the unit can fill larger tires from 20 PSI to about 30 PSI in just 2.5 minutes.

With the above ratings and speeds, the Viair 85P is one of the fastest air compressors for its size and also is relatively quiet. Simply put, the speed rating of this unit is 1.26 CFM at 0 PSI. The maximum working pressure this unit can develop is 60 PSI drawing only 12V.

Also, this air compressor features an easy to read tire pressure gauge and a LED light that lights up when the unit is connected to the socket. Note that given that this unit is plugged into the cigarette lighter socket, the engine has to be running for the air compressor to work.

Pros

  • Easy to read pressure gauge
  • Features a strong and durable construction
  • The unit is fast for a small air compressor
  • Features a lightweight design

Cons

  • The gauge readings may be inaccurate in some instances
  • The unit has in some instance been reported not to work at optimum capacity

Who Should Buy?

For individuals looking for a versatile unit, the Viair 85P proves to be the best option. The steel frame and high speed with the addition of inbuilt sensors make this unit perfect for individuals who take the inflating business seriously.

#3. LifeLine AAA 300 PSI 12-Volt DC Air Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4.3 / 5)

LifeLine AAA 300 PSI 12-Volt DC Air Compressor

This is a mini air compressor that weighs only 2 pounds. But despite its small and compact size, the unit has been designed to provide maximum pressures of 300 PSI, which is the highest pressure rating on this list. As for the power, this air compressor has been made to be connected to a cigarette lighter outlet. This provides you with great convenience. The unit comes with a quick connect system and an 18-inch air hose as well as a 10-foot long power cable.

The air pressure comes equipped with a pressure gauge to tell you the tire pressure though many claim it is not easy to read. This 12V air compressor in addition to the above sports 3 inflation nozzles which offer convenience. But while the maximum air pressure is unmatched by most units, the LifeLine AAA should not be expected to fill up inflatables like air mattresses or child pool toys.

Pros

  • Designed to be Lubricant free
  • Goes for a reasonable price
  • Given the compactness and size, the unit is easy to carry
  • The air compressor requires no maintenance costs

Cons

  • It can be quite noisy
  • The pressure dial tends to be inaccurate

Who Should Buy?

This air compressor is perfect for persons looking for an extremely lightweight and easy to carry unit. The compact design of this unit allows it to be carried in the car covertly without getting in the way of storing other items.

#4. Viair 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4.4 / 5)

Viair 70P Heavy Duty Portable Compressor

The Viair 70P air compressor is a 12V 100 PSI maximum unit tool that requires having the engine running to be in use. The air compressor has been designed to run on a DC current and needs a minimum of a 15 Amps rating. The air compressor connects to the car battery using some brass twist on tire chucks. True, they are not the most reliable, but at the price, they are not a bad option.

The unit supplies air speeds rated at 1.27 CFM at 0 PSI. Agreed this is not the best rating available and might not be impressive for most, but considering the size and portability of the air compressor, this air speed rating is quite commendable.

Speaking of portability, the unit weighs 5.9 pounds. This is probably the biggest marketing feature of this unit. The unit also measures 10.5 x 6.8 x 5.8 inches which add to the portability. And as though that is not enough, the unit features a deluxe carrying bag that is just a perfect fit for the unit. The carrying bag makes the unit one of the most portable air compressors available irrespective of the weight.

The on board gauge is decent enough and gives accurate readings. Adding to this, the unit features a 15-foot long power cord so you will not struggle to have to connect the unit. It is also worth noting that this unit is one of the quietest there is on the market.

Pros

  • Cheap and affordable
  • Oil free motor and pump
  • Portable courtesy of its 5.9-pound weight
  • Needs little to no maintenance

Cons

  • Not very powerful
  • The plug is made from plastic

Who Should Buy?

For persons looking for a unit Viair air compressor that will not drain their finances, the Viair 70P is a perfect choice. Not only is this product from a reputable company, is durable and sturdy, it has been designed to be a heavy-duty unit, a feature not many air compressors in its level cannot brag about.

#5. P.I. Auto Store PIAS003 Premium Digital Tire Inflator

Editor's Rating:  (4.4 / 5)

P.I. Auto Store PIAS003 Premium Digital Tire Inflator

This air compressor is designed to be plugged into a 12V cigarette lighter socket or just about any other socket that has a 12V rating. This unit features an improved design hence the futuristic and unique look. Speaking of which, the design allows for the unit to be used either in a vertical or a horizontal position.

On the side is a backlit LCD displaying gauge that comes with a high accuracy rating of +/- 1 PSI. Complementing the high accuracy of this unit is the strength of the air pressure. The unit can inflate a midsized car from 0-30 PSI in just 4 minutes. The maximum pressure is 150 PSI which gives other top grossing and larger units a run for their money. Speaking of large units, this is the one of the smallest air compressors at 7 x 3 x 6.5 inches.

With the unit, you also get 8 spare dust Cps, an executive digital guide and a Presta valve. All these are guaranteed to provide you with value for your money.

Pros

  • Versatile use on bikes, cars, RVs, SUVs, ATVs and trucks
  • Powerful with a 150 PSI rating
  • Simple to use and lightweight
  • High quality and improved design

Cons

  • Might not handle heavy machinery
  • Quite loud and noisy

Who Should Buy?

This unit is perfect for individuals who are in love with futuristic gadgets. The design of the P.I. Auto Store PIAS003 is unique and resembles something you would get in the future years.

#6. EPAuto AT-006-2 12V DC Auto Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4.5 / 5)

EPAuto AT-006-2 12V DC Auto Portable Air Compressor

Described as one of the best portable air compressors for vehicles, medium-sized sedans, and motorbikes, the EPAuto AT-006-2 is light and compact which makes everyone fall in love with the unit. Adding to the very stylish design and appearance is the emergency LED flashlight that many other units lack and a digital display gauge. The LED flashlight is convenient when you are working under low lighting while the digital display has been made to be accurate and gives pressure readings in BAR, PSI KG/CM, or KPA.

The air compressor also comes with an auto shutoff feature that shut down the unit when the desired pressure is achieved. This helps to prevent over inflation. Ideally, the unit is capable of generating 100 PSI.

You will also be pleased to note that this air compressor weighs 2.3 pounds and measures 11.6 x 7.3 x 3.3 inches. With these dimensions, this unit is one of the smallest and most compact air compressors. In addition, the air compressor comes with an air hose length and power cord measuring 20 inches and 9 feet respectively. This unit runs on a DC current and requires a standard 15 amps socket to run efficiently.

Pros

  • Long air hose and power cord length
  • Cool and attractive design
  • 4 display unit types
  • LED flashlight

Cons

  • The build looks cheap
  • The price is high considering the power it provides

Who Should Buy?

This unit is perfect for individuals who foresee themselves having to work under the cover of darkness. The bright LED flashlight will help you fill up your car tires with great ease. Also great for individuals looking for convenience in reading the pressure gauges. This unit provides 4 different measuring standards.

#7. Hausbell 3035 12V DC Auto Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4 / 5)

Hausbell 3035 12V DC Auto Portable Air Compressor

With the small, compact and well thought out design, this is easily the best looking air compressor units available on the market. This unit is capable of inflating 31-inch tires fast and with great ease courtesy of the 140 PSI pressure rating and speed that allows it to deliver 30 liters of air every minute. The Hausbell 3035 has a low amp draw of electricity and requires only a 12V power connection to power up.

This unit can be connected to a cigarette lighter socket or to the battery using alligator clips. This makes the unit very easy to use as well as connect. The pressure generated by the gauge can be monitored by the mounted tire pressure gauge that has great accuracy.

In addition to these the Hausbell 3035 features a 9 feet power cord, as well as a coiled air tube that extends for about 8 feet and that makes it easy and hassle-free to reach to all the vehicle tires. The unit also comes with 3 nozzle adapters which are perfect for different size inputs and has a hard protecting carrying case that provides for a secure portability and a hassle free storage.

Given the above features, the unit is ideal for pickups, van tire inflating and pickups as well as beach balls, sports balls, and airbeds.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Features a mounted pressure gauge
  • Comes with a 9-foot power cord and 8 feet coiled air tube
  • Strong and sturdy design and construction

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • At 100 PSI, it is not as powerful as other units in its level

Who Should Buy?

Individuals who love quality looking and strong gadgets should purchase this unit. This air compressor is in all manner and forms durable and efficient at what it has been designed to accomplish.

#8. Q Industries MV50 SuperFlow 12V Portable Air Compressor

Editor's Rating:  (4.3 / 5)

Q Industries MV50 SuperFlow 12V Portable Air Compressor

This is the best portable air compressor to use on SUVs, trucks and full sized vehicles. The unit is also referred to as the MF-1050 by most individuals. With regards to the airflow, the MV50 provides about 72 liters every minute which honestly is comparable to what the Viair 400 produces. The unit is intended to inflate tires measuring up to 35 inches. The one advantage the unit has over the Viair 400 is the price that is almost at half price.

This small air compressor is connected directly to the battery and comes complete with alligator clips for the job. The unit, however, draws a total of 30 Amps which is sufficient to blow fuses on lighter sockets (good thing it works from 12V car batteries). The valve air connector features a screw on type mechanism instead of the common quick release.

The maximum pressure rating is 120 PSI making it a high-powered air compressor. In addition to this, the unit has a high duty cycle at 40 minutes at 40 PSI. At 11 pounds, this is obviously not the lightest of all portable air compressors, but it still is portable.

Pros

  • Comes with a storage bag
  • Incudes a 16-foot coiled hose
  • Powerful for a small and compact air compressor
  • Perfect for off-road cars

Cons

  • Quite expensive
  • Heavier than most units in its level

Who Should Buy?

This unit is ideal for off-road enthusiasts as well as daily drivers. The performance of this unit is diverse and covers a broad spectrum. For individuals who love to take road trips, this unit is perfect.

#9. Black & Decker ASI500 12V Cordless Air Station Inflator

Editor's Rating:  (4 / 5)

Black & Decker ASI500 12V Cordless Air Station Inflator

This is probably the best battery-powered portable air compressors. This Black & Decker ASI500 is cordless. Unlike many units available on the market, this is powered by an internal battery that takes about 4 to 5 hours to recharge. To indicate full charge the unit features a LED indicator. But even while the unit runs on a battery, like your phone, you can plug it into a 12V power source for instant power.

The air compressor comes with a maximum 160 PSI air pressure and also features a digital pressure gauge that provides highly accurate readings. The accuracy is down to +/- 1 PSI. Speaking of pressure, it is worth noting that the unit comes with 2 pressure settings that you can use either low or high. To accommodate these pressure settings, 2 hoses are provided, the universal valve adapters hose and a high volume hose. You should prefer the low setting when working on rafts and the high setting when working on bike and car tires.

The air compressor comes with an auto shutoff safety feature that prevents the inflatable items from being over inflated. Overall, the unit weighs 5.2 pounds and has an attractive design. Another cool feature is the LED light the unit sports at its front. It is perfect for when you are working in the dark.

Pros

  • Ability to inflate 4 tires on a single charge
  • Highly portable given the cordless design and construction
  • LED lighting at the front
  • On-board accessory storage

Cons

  • Slightly complicated to use
  • Downtimes of 4-5 hours waiting recharge

Who Should Buy?

Individuals looking for a more portable air inflator can and should consider this unit. The Black & Decker ASI500 features no cord which makes it more portable and convenient than most corded portable air compressors.

#10. Slime 40022 12-Volt Digital Tire Inflator

Editor's Rating:  (4.3 / 5)

Slime 40022 12-Volt Digital Tire Inflator

At 0.2 pound, this is the lightest air compressors and by far one of the most affordable as well. But even with its affordable nature, the unit features high-quality features that give high-end and large units a run for their money.

This unit has been designed to be perfect for inflating mid-sized car tires in just under 6 minutes. In addition to this, the unit has been designed with an Inflate-Right Technology which is designed to automatically shut off the unit when the desired air pressure has been achieved.

The Slime 40022 is a 12V air compressor that is made to plug directly into a car cigarette lighter with a 15-Amp fuse rating. This unit inflates car tires with a maximum of 35 PSI. You will be pleased to note that this unit is compact and powerful and is rubberized which is perfect for ample stability. Finally, the unit features a long lasting and bright LED light for use during the night.

Pros

  • Comes with a digital pressure gauge
  • It is easy to carry courtesy of its compact size
  • It goes for a reasonable price
  • Has an automatic shutoff feature

Cons

  • Is quite noisy
  • The unit is slow

Who Should Buy?

Individuals looking for an air compressor with a unique design and a modern look should prefer this unit. Those looking for a unit with a competitive edge despite the price point will also fall in love with this unit.

12V DC vs. 12V AC Air Compressor

With 12V portable air compressors, you should note that there are two types. There are those that operate on Direct Current and those that work on Alternating Current. The differences between the two are distinct and they each have their pros and cons.

#1. Pressure Tank

Instead of storage tanks to hold the compressed air, the 12V DC air compressors pump air direct into the desired item. The motor draws air directly from the atmosphere and forcefully pumps it into the desired object. This mechanism makes these units far less effective in pumping objects that require larger volumes of air to achieve recommended pressure levels.

#2. Portability

Given that 12V AC air compressors feature storage tanks, they are bulkier and hence lesser portable than the 12V DC air compressors. The 12V DC air compressors though less powerful are, however, efficient and can run on electrical systems found on cars and boats making them the best tools for those who find themselves on the road or floating on the waters a lot.

#3. Power Source

This is probably the more obvious difference between the two types of 12V air compressors. The DC air compressors are designed complete with plugs that allow them to be connected to cigarette lighter sockets, while there are some still that come with alligator clips which aid in their connection to the car batteries when the need arises. These designs make the tools more convenient.

#4. Run Non-Stop

With the lack of compressor tanks, the 12V DC air compressors are forced to run continuously. AC air compressors, however, only need to run until the tank if filled after which they automatically shut off until the pressure reaches the minimum levels and restarts. But even though they have been designed to run continuously, you should be careful to shut off the air compressor from time to time during its use lest it overheats.

Things to Consider When Buying a 12V Air Compressor

#1. Portability

12V Air Compressor

Sure all 12V air compressors are portable. However, their weight, which affects their ease of portability, varies. In addition, there are some units that feature easy to carry designs coming complete with handles and others that do not. Many of the 12V air compressors weigh anywhere between 2 and 6 pounds. You should choose a unit that is not only light but has perfect weight distribution.

#2. Noise Levels

When working with your air compressor, high chances are you will be keeping a close eye on the unit. During this time, it can get pretty annoying when the unit you are working with is noisy. As such, it is important that you consider the noise levels of the air compressor you choose. The noise levels are measured in decibels (dB), and with these 12V portable air compressors, you should expect the levels to be anywhere between 76 dB and 85 dB even though there are those that are much quieter with a 65 dB rating like the Viair 77P.

#3. Build Quality

The quality of the air compressor you choose will affect how long the air compressor will serve you. Air compressors are designed to be placed on the floor. With their pumping action, most vibrate so much that they move around slightly while in operation. These vibrations make the reading of the gauge a difficult process and over time have the potential to damage the unit.

For protection against wear and tear over time, some units feature rubber stands which absorb the shock from the vibrations and some are built from high-quality material.

#4. Run Time

12V air compressors, DC air compressors especially, are made to run continuously. They, however, vary in duty cycles which describe just how long the air compressor can run before needing to be shut off and let to cool down. This down time is important because they tend to heat up.

Most portable air compressors have a run time of 10 to 15 minutes after which they should cool down for 30 minutes though there are some exceptions of the Viair models that can run for periods of up to 25 to 40 minutes depending on the type and specifications.

#5. Power Cord and Hose Length

The length of the power code and hose will determine the flexibility and ease with which you work with the various models. Longer hoses provide you with more flexibility than shorter ones. The length of hoses varies from 4 inches to 30 feet. Some models even have hoses stretching for 18 and 26 inches. The length of power codes, on the other hand, vary between 21 inches and 16 feet though most power cords range between 8 and 11 feet.

Along with the length of the hose and cord, you need to consider the size of the storage cavity. When the cavity is too small you might have to stuff the hose or cord to keep it from dangling.

Resources: Thewirecutter.com