9 Best Portable Tire Inflators of 2023, Tested by Auto Experts

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9 Best Portable Tire Inflators of 2023, Tested by Auto Experts

Low tire pressure can be risky for anyone behind the wheel as well as passengers, so it’s important to frequently monitor your tires to ensure they have enough air. An air compressor for your car, or a portable tire inflator, is a useful tool to have on hand as it enables you to quickly add air to an under-inflated tire. It’s especially handy when temperatures shift and a tire’s pressure may fluctuate. To make sure you’re prepared as soon as you notice that low tire warning light, our experts recommend having these air compressors for your car's tires on hand, including portable air compressors, cordless tire inflators and more.

The engineers and product analysts at the Good Housekeeping Institute test auto gear from the best cars of 2023 to the most durable windshield wipers, car waxes, car vacuums and more. To narrow down the best air compressors for cars out there, we partnered up with the auto experts at Car and Driver, who evaluated nearly a dozen portable tire inflators firsthand for their ease of use, performance, extra features and more. Below you’ll find the best portable tire inflators of 2023 for unexpected roadside emergencies as well as routine auto maintenance.

After our top picks, continue reading to learn more about what to look for when shopping for a portable air compressor for cars.

If you have to keep one tool in your car, make it this portable, cordless tire inflator. Powering it up is no problem thanks to two options: You can use the detachable 20-volt battery or your car's 12-volt outlet. We like that it has a few handy extra features as well, like a digital display gauge for pressure readings, an auto shut-off setting once the desired pressure is reached, a USB port for charging devices and a built-in light so you can use it in low-light settings.

According to the auto pros at Car and Driver, this tire inflator reached desired pressure levels faster than other competitor models. Plus, the rubberized handles are comfortable to grip and the value is hard to beat. Just keep in mind that it's not suitable for larger truck tires, according to the manufacturer.

This Amazon best seller has over 30,000 reviews with an average 4.5-star rating. Its lightweight, compact and super portable design makes it a great tire inflator to leave in the car at all times, and we like that it features an LED light as well as a digital display. On top of compatibility with most car and SUV tires, you can also use it to inflate bike tires, basketballs and motorcycle tires.

While it may not feature a battery option, the pros at Car and Driver like that the VacLife plugs into your car's 12-volt outlet (or a wall outlet with an adapter) and how a long, 12-foot cord makes it easy to reach all four tires. In their tests, they found that inflation times fell somewhere in the middle — not the fastest yet not the slowest — which may be a sacrifice you're willing to make for such an affordable price.

Much like our best overall pick, this air compressor has two power options so you can use it with a fast-charging battery or via your car's 12-volt outlet. Either route you choose, this cordless tire inflator is one of the easiest to operate thanks to its lightweight, portable design. The pros at Car and Driver explain that all you have to do is "set the desired PSI, clamp on the connector and pull the trigger." According to their tests, inflation times were faster than other units featured, albeit noisy. We also like that a carrying case is included, along with a second battery.

No time to waste? This powerful air compressor will get you back on the road in no time. In Car and Driver's tests, it blew other tire inflators out of the park with super speedy inflation times. However, its efficient performance goes hand-in-hand with the unit's larger, heavier construction which may be better suited for your garage. It also skips out on a few features like a built-in LED light, and the battery and charger are not included in the price.

Owners of Black + Decker’s 20V MAX battery system will be pleased to learn that this multi-purpose tire inflator is compatible, and an excellent choice for inflating both tires and items around the house. It’s unique as it offers three power sources: A rechargeable Li-Ion battery and the possibility to be plugged into DC 12V sockets as well as wall outlets. According to auto experts at Car and Driver, this unit wasn’t the fastest inflator out there and the battery and charger must be purchased separately, but it includes multiple attachments and is not quite as bulky as other console units tested.

The Viair 88P is a reliable choice if you need to inflate a tire quickly, and it has an average 4.7 Amazon star rating to back it up. Though not a dealbreaker, it features an analog gauge instead of an easy-to-read digital one and it lacks a built-in light. Also keep in mind that it has only one power source, which requires connecting alligator clips to the car's battery. Nevertheless, this portable air compressor is a powerful tool to have and one that comes with a variety of attachments and accessories like a carrying case.

Slime markets this tire inflator as "nothing fancy," but that doesn't mean it won't get the job done well. Though it feels flimsier than other tire inflators, its performance was comparable to other units when it came to inflation speeds and we like that it comes with a lengthy 10-foot cord that plugs into your car's 12-volt outlet. Plus, a bright LED light is included as well as various attachments. Though there's no other power source, this air compressor remains "efficient, easy to use and super-portable" according to Hearst Autos Gear Team.

Both a tire inflator and deflator, we recommend this pick if you already use Ryobi's ONE+ power tools, vacuums and other household items as you can share the battery across devices. (FYI: It's not included with your purchase.) In Car and Driver's tests, inflation speeds were solid and the console was smaller and lighter than others — though auto pros do point out that they wish more than one power source was available. But even without an alternate source of power, you should have plenty of battery life to inflate several tires.

Car and Driver's team of auto experts was impressed by not only the great value of this tire inflator but also by its portability and quietness. It includes a digital display, LED light and three extra adaptors should you need to inflate other household items like bike tires or air mattresses. Best of all, it has two power options, making it ideal for indoor and roadside use — just plug it into your car's 12-volt outlet or into a wall plug. We also like that it's available in a multitude of colors, though testers point out that it wasn't the sturdiest among the bunch.

For this story, the product analysts at the Good Housekeeping Institute relied on our decades of expertise in testing autos and auto equipment, from our favorite cars for parents like three-row SUVs to home EV chargers. While we haven’t yet tested each air compressor or tire inflator formally in our Lab, our analysts reviewed popular picks among online consumers for factors like price, design and more.

To learn even more about air compressors for cars, we partnered with fellow Hearst brand, Car and Driver, whose auto experts have tested portable tire inflators firsthand. To narrow down the best ones, their team evaluated factors such as each tire inflator’s ease of use, weight and portability, power (how fast the compressor was able to increase a tire’s pressure levels), corded vs. wireless design and the noise levels while in operation. They also factored in whether the compressor came with any extra features such as a light, digital display, carrying case or USB port.

✔️ Type: There are two main types of tire inflators: Portable and handheld models vs. console units. Handheld devices are ideal to always keep in the car in case of emergencies as these tend to be lightweight and compact, while console units are better suited for the garage as they're heavier and larger but, on the bright side, can inflate almost anything from basketballs to air mattresses and tend to be more feature-rich.

✔️ Power: Consider whether you want a battery-powered tire inflator that can be recharged, or if you prefer one that plugs into your car’s 12-volt outlet (or both!). Some tire inflators are even able to be plugged into wall sockets to make it easier to use on items other than tires. Our experts recommend opting for a portable tire inflator with at least one other alternate source of power. ✔️ Extra features: Some extras to consider when shopping for a tire inflator include a built-in light to help you see in low light conditions, a digital display for pressure readings and a clamp-style valve attachment which tends to be easier to use than screw-on counterparts. Having a variety of attachments is also handy when inflating items other than tires.

Media and tech reviews analyst and writer Olivia Lipski oversees product testing and covers everything from consumer tech to autos, travel, home and more. She continues to stay on top of the industry’s latest innovations and helps readers make better buying decisions by testing and reviewing the best gadgets to hit the market. Not only does she regularly collaborate with the Good Housekeeping Auto Lab to evaluate some of the best family cars, but she reviews handy car accessories and equipment.

To select the picks featured above, she consulted our partners at Car and Driver and the Hearst Autos Gear Team, who have more than 206 years of automotive publishing experience. Hearst Autos combines the forces, talent and knowledge of three of the largest, most influential automotive publications in the world: Autoweek, Car and Driver and Road & Track. The Hearst Autos Gear Team promises to deliver honest evaluations, hands-on tests and product reviews driven by decades of knowledge and experience.

Testing for this story was conducted by Deputy Commerce Editor at Car and Driver Jon Langston. An avid motorcyclist and gear collector, his work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Cycle World, The Drive, Rider, Iron & Air, Motorcyclist and more. Collin Morgan, an Associate Commerce Editor at Hearst Autos, collaborated with Langston to test the best portable tire inflators. He's a former Rust Belt mechanic and gadget enthusiast who presents the best gear for your automotive endeavors.

Olivia (she/her) is a media and tech product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering tech, home, auto, health and more. She has more than five years of experience writing about tech trends and innovation and, prior to joining GH in 2021, was a writer for Android Central, Lifewire and other media outlets. Olivia is a graduate of George Washington University, with a bachelor's degree in journalism, political science and French, and she holds a master’s degree in communications from Sciences Po Paris.

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9 Best Portable Tire Inflators of 2023, Tested by Auto Experts

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