Family Handyman’s 5 Best Portable Air Compressors for Car Tires

Your tires don’t ask for much—just some basic care and maintenance, and maybe a nice swap over when the seasons change. And when the tire pressure light comes on, swift action to return that PSI to its ideal number. We’re here to offer a few of the best portable air compressors to have on hand when you need to quickly re-fill your car tires. 

Which is the best air inflator for use on cars? While the air compressors on this list are best-in-class for general usage, all should be able to be used as tire inflators with the right equipment and attachments.

5. This Senco is the best lightweight portable air compressor

A grey Senco Portable Pancake Air Compressor against a white background
Senco Portable Pancake Air Compressor | Senco

RELATED: Is It Worse for Tire Pressure to Be Too High or Too Low?

This is one of the best air compressors for car tires thanks to its small size and light weight. The Senco Portable Pancake Air Compressor weighs only 25 pounds and has a one-gallon tank, so it won’t take up too much space wherever you’re working. 

If you’re checking your tires regularly, a small and lightweight air compressor can help inflate tires that may be a little low.

4. The Milwaukee M18 is the best cordless portable air compressor

The Milwaukee M18 Compact Quiet Compressor is a great way to maintain proper tire inflation without needing to haul around a large plug-in compressor. It has a two-gallon tank and runs on an 18-volt battery. It’s one of the most convenient options on this list, while still being plenty powerful. 

It’s also one of the lightest on the list, weighing in at around 31 pounds. This is one of the best cordless car tire inflators for the money.

3. The California Air Tools Quiet Series is the best quiet air compressor

Did you know that keeping a close eye on your tire pressure can increase your tire’s lifespan? The California Air Tools Two-Gallon Quiet Series Air Compressor is a low-volume way to keep your tires feeling their best. 

This tire inflator features a compact two-gallon tank, but it does weigh about 35 pounds. However, it’s one of the quietest air compressors at only 60 decibels.

2. This Ridgid is the best value portable air compressor

The Ridgid Six-Gallon Electric Pancake Air Compressor is one of the largest on Family Handyman’s list. It has a six-gallon tank but still only weighs 35 pounds. It’s also one of the loudest at 80 decibels. However, the price of this air compressor is only $130, which makes it an incredible value. 

The Ridgid is great if you have needs beyond just filling tires. Its size means it’s not great for small spaces, but it’s one of the best garage air compressors for car tires. But if you just need a tire inflator, read on…

1. The Ryobi Cordless High-Pressure Inflator may be all you need for filling your car tires

Ok, this one isn’t actually an air compressor—but stay with me.

If you have no interest in nail guns, pressure washing, or compressed-air-assisted cleaning, you probably don’t need to buy an air compressor, portable or not. For basic tire inflation, Family Handyman recommends The Ryobi 18V One+ Cordless High-Pressure Inflator. It features a digital gauge and is rated for 0-150 PSI. It weighs less than 1.5 pounds. Ryobi covers the product with an impressive 3-year warranty.

And, if you own other Ryobi products, you can use the same batteries and chargers you already own. The best part? This cordless tire inflator is only about $25-30. The only downside is that it’s pretty loud—80 decibels from this pint-sized product.

How do I choose a compressor for my car?

Black sedan with grey and silver wheels. A portable air compressor can quickly fill saggy tires.
Black sedan | Mason Jones via Unsplash

What size air compressor do I need to fill car tires? As you can see above with the Ryobi tire inflator, it doesn’t take much to be able to put air in a car tire. Since most conventional car tires only need to go up to 32-38 PSI, even small air compressors can handle the job.  

When looking for the best portable air compressor for car tires, just be sure to check that the maximum PSI range of the compressor can handle your needs. Some larger trucks and RVs need to be inflated much higher than 35 PSI.

Poor tire inflation can lead to uneven tire wear, shorter lives for your expensive tires, and a higher risk of blowouts. The additional benefit of an air compressor is that it can be used for car detailing and washing as well as inflating tires.

If you don’t want to invest in an air compressor or an inflator, you do have options. Just be sure you know the locations of all the closest gas stations with a tire inflator on location.

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