Top 5 Best Portable Tire Inflators 2024

A person inflating a tire using a portable tire inflator
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In the old days, people didn’t have portable tire inflators. They had to inflate their car tires using a hand pump or a spark plug tire inflator that plugged in one of the car engine’s cylinders. Those days are long gone, luckily.

Nowadays, you don’t have to unplug a spark plug or use brute force to generate enough PSI to get the required tire pressure. However, there are so many different options on the market to choose from, that it’s hard to get the right portable tire inflator that suits your specific needs best.

You may want a portable tire inflator to keep in your trunk “just in case” or you might want to use it more frequently to top up your tires. Maybe you’re looking for a do-it-all kind of compact portable inflator that also airs large inflatables, balls, beds,… or one to deflate and inflate your offroad rig’s huge mud diggers simultaneously. You might not want to spend too much or want the very best… 

All those different needs require different types of portable tire inflators.  

No pressure (pun intended), we went out on a hunt for the best gear in different situations and for different budgets and came back with some awesome stuff!

Check out our selection of best portable tire inflators:

Different types of portable tire inflators

There are basically two types of portable tire inflators: corded and cordless. However, some inflators can switch between 2 or 3 different power sources: battery power (internal or removable), 12V (cigarette lighter outlet), or 110V (wall outlet).

Corded Inflators:

These inflators need to be plugged into your vehicle’s 12V cigarette lighter socket or a 110V wall socket. Corded inflators sometimes have both options, but most only have a 12V cord.

Corded inflators are always ready to use and need no charging or maintenance. That makes them more reliable than battery-powered ones that may have a dead battery when you need them. Batteries are expensive too, so you generally get more bang for your buck buying a corded tire inflator. The flipside, of course, is that they are less mobile because of their power cord and the necessity of having an outlet nearby. 

Pros: 

  • Always ready to use, no recharging needed
  • Virtually unlimited running time
  • Store & forget: no batteries that can die or age
  • Can be used in extreme temperatures
  • Generally more bang for your buck because they need no expensive battery pack(s)

 

Cons: 

  • Limited mobility due to their power cord
  • Need a power outlet nearby (12V / 110V, depending)

Cordless Inflators:

Cordless tire inflators are powered by a rechargeable battery. This can be an internal, dedicated battery or a removable one. Most cordless tire inflators with a removable battery are part of a tool system and share their battery with other power tools you use. That’s why the battery and charger aren’t normally included. 

This works great and is very cost-effective if you only use and keep the inflator at home where your other power tools are. However, if you permanently keep the portable tire inflator in your vehicle with its battery pack (of course), you’ll have one less battery pack to use at home for your other power tools. That’s something to consider. If you live in an extreme climate and want to leave your battery-powered tire inflator in your vehicle, you should also take into account that storage and use of Li-Ion batteries is limited between -4° F and 130° F.

Pros: 

  • Most portable, unlimited mobility
  • Most convenient, no hassle with cables

 

Cons: 

  • Needs regular recharging to keep the battery topped up
  • Limited running time
  • More expensive than comparable corded types
  • Storage and use of Li-Ion batteries is limited between -4° F and 130° F

Things to consider when buying a portable tire inflator

Depending on the task at hand, how often you’re going to use it and how fast you want your portable inflator to do its thing, you’ll need different kinds of portable tire inflators. 

These are the different categories you need to consider:

 

  • Inflation / Deflation Speed: Most compact tire inflators generate enough air pressure (PSI), but they don’t push out a lot of air volume (airflow / CFM). This means it can take a long time to get your tires fully inflated. When time is of the essence, or when your vehicle has large tires, you want to consider buying a portable tire inflator with larger airflow.Some inflators have both a high pressure inflation setting for car and bike  tires, and a setting for large air displacement that is used with a high flow outlet that connects to a larger diameter air hose, allowing for a higher flow rate. This large air displacement option works great to air up large pool inflatables, balls, etc…
  • Power Source: Portable tire inflators can be powered by an internal battery, a removable battery pack, a 12V cigarette lighter cord or a 110V mains cord. Battery packs are best for maximum mobility while corded types are always ready for action, don’t run out of juice and don’t have to be charged. Some types combine multiple power options.
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Not all portable tire inflators have auto shut-off. Auto shut-off enables you to digitally set the desired tire pressure, and the device will shut itself off automatically when it reaches that pressure.
  • Portability and Storage: Compact, lightweight designs are easy to carry and store in your vehicle without taking up too much space. Sizes and weights vary widely depending on the requirements and accessories. Heavy-Duty tire inflators with large air displacement will inevitably be larger and heavier.
  • Additional Features: Although not essential, some inflators come with built-in LED lights, a backlit display and preset pressure settings which can be convenient.
  • Check for Accessories: Not all portable tire inflators come fully equipped with a protective cover or case, hose, nozzles and adapters. Some manufacturers specify that their inflator can also run on 110V but the power cord is an optional accessory, or the battery and charger it needs to be operated cordlessly is optional. If the accessories you need are not included, before buying, first check availability and pricing. Often buying a few accessories doubles the initial price.
  • Versatility: Make sure that the inflator of your choice can do all the different things you expect it to, if you expect it to do more than top up your car tires. Don’t just assume it can. Check for the right battery, cords, voltage, adapters, nozzles… Make sure it delivers enough pressure and volume for what you aim to use it for. That way you won’t be disappointed. 
  • Noise Level: The honest, short answer: don’t bother checking, all compact portable tire inflators are loud. That’s the cold hard truth, in reality they’re all about 90dB, no matter what manufacturers claim. That’s because their tiny internal piston(s) have to move at crazy high RPMs to fill the large volume that a car tire is. Our advice: keep your distance while the inflator is running or wear protective earplugs. Remember, it won’t run all night, just for a few minutes…
  • Heat Buildup: Tire inflators that run for a couple of minutes can get really hot. This is inherent to the design of all compact tire inflators and is completely normal. Inflators are essentially tiny air compressors, and they get so hot because compressed air gives off heat. In turn, the compressor’s cylinder walls and the fittings and tubes the air passes through get hot. Because this is physics at work, it’s a characteristic all portable tire inflators share.To prevent overheating, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and respect the tire inflator’s cool-down intervals, also called “downtime”.

How we did our review

Over the years we’ve tried and tested many different portable tire inflators for our cars. Some did an excellent job, others didn’t do so well or quit after a few uses. It’s also worth mentioning that most weren’t able to handle other useful tasks like airing up pool inflatables, which can come in handy.

For this review we also dove deep in the manufacturer specifications and researched loads of genuine customer reviews to see what their experiences were. In this review, we only recommend portable tire inflators that we liked best and that also did an excellent job for the vast majority of other car enthusiasts. We’ve selected portable tire inflators for different applications, to make it easy for you to choose the right one for your intended use and budget.

Check out our favorite portable tire inflators:

Most Versatile Portable Tire Inflator

Most Versatile
Specs:
  • Type: Corded + Cordless
  • Power Source: 12V DC, 110V AC, 20V battery (optional)
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Fast
  • High Flow Outlet: Yes
  • Size: 11.75 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 3.8 lbs
Most Versatile
Specs:
  • Type: Corded + Cordless
  • Power Source: 12V DC, 110V AC, 20V battery (optional)
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Fast
  • High Flow Outlet: Yes
  • Size: 11.75 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 3.8 lbs

We love this handy, affordable do-it-all that inflates all kinds of tires effortlessly. The Craftsman V20 Tire Inflator comes with different valve adapters and runs on 3 different power sources too: a 12V cigarette lighter plug, an AC wall plug or an optional 20V battery pack. It also has a high volume outlet with a separate large-diameter tube. This is great to fill large air volumes like pool inflatables or air mattresses. Versatility galore!

It’s certainly not the smallest in our selection, but it is the jack-of-all-trades at an incredible price. You could add the optional battery and charger, but we don’t feel that this is really necessary. After all, when you need to top up your car tires, you’ll always be able to use the cigarette lighter plug. At home, when you’re inflating a ball, mattress or pool inflatable, you’ll most likely have a 110V wall outlet nearby. The main reason to get the battery is to go camping or working off-grid with no car nearby. It’s nice to have this option nonetheless, just in case…

What we do recommend is the Hermitshell protective case to protect beat up rolling around in your trunk or pickup bed. It’s available with a battery compartment too.

The large customer base likes the “leakless” thumb-press hose connector and its quick inflation time. They state that the digital pressure display and automatic shutoff work well and that it’s nice to have both an AC and two DC power options. Compared to other inflators they’ve owned, this one has very easy storage of power cord and inflation hose, they claim.

PROS:

  • Very versatile
  • Runs on 12V DC, 110V AC and 20V Battery (optional)
  • Choice between High Pressure (tire) or High Volume (inflatables)  
  • Shuts off automatically when set air pressure is reached
  • Practical on-board accessory storage
  • Protective cases available

 

CONS:

  • Battery, charger and protective case not included    
  • Portable and versatile, but by no means tiny  

Best Budget Portable Tire Inflator

Best Budget
Specs:
  • Type: Corded
  • Power Source: 12V cigarette lighter outlet
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Medium
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: 6.14″L x 2.95″W x 7.64″H
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs
Best Budget
Specs:
  • Type: Corded
  • Power Source: 12V cigarette lighter outlet
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Medium
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: 6.14″L x 2.95″W x 7.64″H
  • Weight: 1.9 lbs

Don’t think that Fortem’s nimble tire inflator is no good just because it is so inexpensive. It really performs well in emergency situations. It is a tool you can “store and forget”, meaning that you can chuck it in your vehicle, never once look at it, and when you need it a couple of years later it’ll be there and work as well as the day you put it there, contrary to those tiny fancy-looking Li-Ion battery-powered tire inflators.
That’s Fortem’s forte in a nutshell (pun intended).

We’ve had to use this portable tire inflator a couple of times for a flat on road trips, but we use it too for the occasional top-up because it’s so easy to take around the yard. It’s childishly easy to operate: set tire pressure with the “+” and “-” buttons and push high (II) or low (I) inflation speed. It’ll automatically shut off once the pressure has been reached. It has never failed us yet.

This simple yet effective tire inflator gets very high marks from a ton of users. Its ease of use and accuracy is a major topic. Many claim it has already made them money not having to pay for air at a local gas station. Customers love the fact that its backlit display shows current as well as target pressure. The vast majority would recommend this little helper to their friends and family.     

PROS:

  • “Store and forget”: no maintenance or charging, always ready for action
  • Childishly simple to use
  • Auto shut-off
  • Backlit digital display for nighttime use shows current and target tire pressure
  • Integrated LED flashlight

 

CONS:

  • Needs 12V cigarette lighter outlet

Best Cordless Portable Tire Inflator

Best Cordless
Specs:
  • Type: Cordless
  • Power Source: Battery Powered
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Fast
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: 7,8 x 6,4 inches
  • Weight: 7 lbs (without battery)
Best Cordless
Specs:
  • Type: Cordless
  • Power Source: Battery Powered
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Fast
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: 7,8 x 6,4 inches
  • Weight: 7 lbs (without battery)

If you own one or several large vehicles with room to spare and you’re looking for the ultimate battery-powered tire inflator you can take anywhere off-grid, the Milwaukee M18 Tire Inflator is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s the fastest in the tests and it can take a beating. It’s a Milwaukee, after all…

This powerful tire inflator hits it out of the ballpark when it comes to speed and reliability. It has an awesome ultra-precise pressure check feature too, that double-checks tire pressure when it’s done inflating. 

The sturdy design features a large size handle and anti-vibration feet. Its hose connects to the valve stem with an all-brass Schrader chuck. If you prefer a fast-connector, this adapter fits. Included accessories are: an inflation needle, an inflator nozzle and a presta chuck. 

You can be sure this quality unit with its large backlit digital screen won’t disappoint. 

It’s worth mentioning though that it doesn’t come with a battery or charger. It shares the same M18 batteries that power the rest of the Milwaukee power tools. If you’re new to the Milwaukee brand, you can get the battery and charger separately. There’s a handy carrying case with pockets for spare batteries available too.

Customers say that this tire inflator outperforms all the ones they’ve owned previously. They think it’s great that when the desired pressure is reached, the pump shuts off temporarily and then checks the pressure again. If pressure is still slightly off, it starts again. Once the tire pressure is exactly where it should be, it turns off. They state that the readings are very accurate.

PROS:

  • Very fast
  • Reliable Milwaukee build quality
  • Cordless, ideal for off-grid use 
  • Very accurate Auto Pressure Check system  

 

CONS:

  • Only battery-powered, no other power options
  • Carrying case, battery and charger not included

Fastest Portable Tire Inflator

Fastest Portable Tire Inflator
Specs:
  • Type: Corded
  • Power Source: 12V
  • Automatic Shut-Off: No
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Fast
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: 14.25 x 8.5 x 4.5 Inch
  • Weight: 25.5 lbs.
Fastest Portable Tire Inflator
Specs:
  • Type: Corded
  • Power Source: 12V
  • Automatic Shut-Off: No
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Fast
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: 14.25 x 8.5 x 4.5 Inch
  • Weight: 25.5 lbs.

This beast is in a league of its own when it comes to inflating tires. With its dual cylinder design, it’s the ultimate High Capacity portable tire inflator. Make no mistake though: it’s not light and we wouldn’t call it petite, but it really packs a punch!

Thor’s 1080 Watts Lightning Bolt True Dual Air Compressor connects directly to the car battery with its included battery clamps. It pumps an incredible 10.6 CFM through its 22 feet long rubber air hose and comes with an inflator/deflator air gun with digital pressure gauge. All hoses are equipped with professional grade quick connectors too. This makes it ideal for large size tires with high air volume. 

It can deflate and inflate 4 huge off-road tires simultaneously anywhere in the sticks, in mere minutes using the optional Thor’s Multi-Tire Air System. It’s also ideal for jobsites with Heavy-Duty machines, industrial or agricultural use. It’s obviously not the kind of tire inflator you’d keep in your glove box. But man, what a cool device from an all-American company!

Customers say that it is crazy fast and that it’s a good price compared to its competition. One satisfied user states that it inflates 295-70r18s from 63 psi to 81 psi in 73 seconds, which is incredibly fast for this large tire size. 

PROS:

  • Very fast
  • Heavy Duty build quality
  • Dual cylinder High Output
  • 22’ Heavy Duty air hose and digital tire pressure gun included
  • Capable of inflating/deflating 4 tires simultaneously (optional accessory) 

 

CONS:

  • Big and chunky   
  • No auto shut-off

Best Compact Portable Tire Inflator

Most Compact
Specs:
  • Type: Cordless
  • Power Source: Battery powered
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Medium
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: ‎4″L x 2.24″W x 7″H
  • Weight: 1.37 lbs
Most Compact
Specs:
  • Type: Cordless
  • Power Source: Battery powered
  • Automatic Shut-Off: Yes
  • Tire Inflation Speed: Medium
  • High Flow Outlet: No
  • Size: ‎4″L x 2.24″W x 7″H
  • Weight: 1.37 lbs

Pirlotte’s best-selling 18000 mAh battery-powered tire inflator is so compact and light that it fits in your hand. It looks awesome too, with its smartphone-inspired design and full-size lit touchscreen. It’s not designed to inflate large truck tires of course, but it does a great job in emergency situations or to top up your car tires. 

Its compact size and light weight allows for easy storage no matter how little free space you have in your vehicle. It comes with a small pouch, a USB charging cable and several types of air valve adapters.

This smart device can be switched between 4 different preset modes: ball,  bicycle, motorcycle or car and it has a convenient LED flashlight and flashing hazard lights for roadside safety too. It also doubles as a power bank. The dual PSI reading shows preset pressure value as well as real-time tire pressure and shuts off automatically when the requested tire pressure has been reached.

We highly recommend upgrading the flimsy storage pouch to a protective case if you plan to chuck it in your trunk. It would be a pity if this thing of beauty got all scratched up sliding around in there. This optional protective case also has a zipped inner compartment that keeps the accessories separate so they don’t damage the inflator or get lost.

Users say that this little wonder is very convenient and that you can use it anywhere. They state that the touch screen is intuitive, and that the battery lasts remarkably long. They claim that the inflating speed does not disappoint, especially for small and medium-sized vehicles and that the various lighting options make it incredibly user-friendly, even at night.

PROS:

  • Small and easy to store or take with you
  • Beautiful smartphone-like design
  • Long battery life
  • Auto Shut-Off
  • Convenient LED flashlight and flashing hazard lights for roadside safety
  • Doubles as a power bank

 

CONS:

  • No protective case included  
  • Not designed for Heavy-Duty use

Comparison Table Of The Best Portable Tire Inflators

Brand Name
Most Versatile Craftsman V20
Best Budget FORTEM Digital Tire Inflator
Best Cordless Milwaukee M18 Inflator
Fastest Portable Tire Inflator Thor's Lightning Air Systems Portable 12V True Dual Air Compressor
Most Compact Pirlotte Portable Tire Inflator and Air Compressor

Final Thoughts

Here comes the million dollar question: which portable tire inflator is the overall winner? Well, in this case there are no winners or losers. Our recommendation is to select one of our 5 preferred portable tire inflators based on what you will use it for and how often you will use it:

If you’re looking for an inexpensive emergency tire inflator that’s always ready to go whenever you need it and doesn’t take much space, you’ll love our “Best Budget” pick. If you don’t mind paying a little bit more to get a sleeker design and cordless freedom, our “Most Compact” is the most appealing.

Allergic to power cords? No worries, Milwaukee’s got your back with the fastest battery-powered portable inflator your hard-earned dollars can buy. It got our well-deserved title of “Best Cordless”.

Still not fast and powerful enough to deflate and inflate your huge 4×4 tires? Step aside, here comes the ultimate portable beast: our “Fastest” portable tire inflator only needs mere minutes to air them up simultaneously with the optional multi-tire air system. If that don’t cut it, nothing will!

Finally, if you want the best of all worlds at a great price, why not choose our “Most Versatile”? It’s got 12V, 110V, High Air Pressure, High Air Volume, the most common air adapters and optional battery power. It’s not the smallest or lightest, but not the bulkiest or heaviest either, it’s something in between that suits most people’s needs.

No pressure! (pun intended) No matter which portable tire inflator in our selection you decide to go for, we’re sure you’ll love it, they’re all great choices!

Stay safe!

Happy cruisin’!

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