Best Portable Air Compressors of May 2017: Reviews & Buyers Guide

Oh crud.

Another flat tire?

We’ve all been there, you wake up in the morning, look at your car tire, and realize you are screwed for the day, or at least temporarily.

Another scenario may look something like this: you’re sitting in morning traffic on the way to work and your wife calls saying she’s got a flat tire. You have a few options 1) call AAA, 2) turn around and help your wife, 3) buy a portable air compressor so it doesn’t happen again.

After all, this is Dad’s Toolshack and boy do we have experience with both of those scenarios!

What is A Portable Air Compressor?

Simply put, it’s a hand held or relatively light machine that pushes pressurized air on command into whatever device you need it to. This can be for things such as inflating a flat car tire, spray painting, or a multitude of other scenarios around the house.

A portable compressor works very close to it’s big brother (the traditional air compressor) in that it consists of two core parts

  1. the power source – think of this as the electric motor that powers it
  2. the compression system – this of this as a piston, impeller, vane, etc
  3. the pressure knob – used to release the built of pressure from components 1 & 2

The compression system component creates a reduction in atmospheric air volume while simultaneously increasing the pressure with assistance from the supplied power source. Once that pressurized air has built up, the person utilizing the portable air device can then utilize the 3rd component, the pressure knob. When you activate the pressure know you are releasing that pressurized air to complete whatever task you are attempting to solve (filling up a bike tire, air brushing a canvas painting, etc).

It’s also important that we understand what qualifies as a mobile air compressor device. We consider anything that is capable of being carried or pushed by a single average individual to qualify as portable, not exactly pocket size as say a portable survival knife or something like that.

Recommended Overall Portable Compressors

In order to purchase the right compressor for your needs, it is paramount that you understand at least roughly what you will be doing with it. For example, if you’ll be primarily using it for auto body work, chances are you don’t need a mobile air compressor, instead you would be fine with a heavy duty one with a well built retractible coil cord. These are all things to consider when doing your shopping.

Frequent Asked Questions For Purchasing

Is it a gas engine, elector compressor, or a single stage piston?
This is a question that is important because you’re going to want certain kinds of engines depending on what you are trying to do.

Gas engine or elector motor: These are typically best used for industrial style applications. Imagine trying to use a single stage piston for repainting a care, it would just simply take way too long and be way too slow.

Single stage piston: These are typically best used for at-home and hobby applications. For example, a gas powered compressor is complete overkill for inflating a football or blowing up a bike tire.

What kind of power supply does the air compressor have?
An electric compressor is powered by an outlet plug and cord, making it much quieter when compared to gas air compressors. Electricity powered ones tend to also cost lest to maintain over the life of the equipment and there is no need to always have gas on hand. You will find more often than not that this is what powers the popular mobile air compressor reviews on the market which typically use 120v standard home current.

Gas compressors obviously requires gas on hand, and if not you are simply out of luck until you purchase more. They are noisy, and that is why they are best suited for outdoor and heavy duty usage as they tend to produce a higher PSI and thus are much more powerful. Believe it or not there are actual portable gas powered compressors on the market!

What price range should I stick to?

Again we find this absolutely depends on what you are trying to do.

Should I purchase a lightweight air compressor?
Again, it depends on how much power you need and what you’re trying to do. Blowing up bike tires, footballs, and other small things? Yes, grab a lightweight air compressor.
What is a good horse power air compressor?
You don’t really need to worry about horsepower for small projects, however it definitely matters for large scale projects

  • 1 Horsepower
  • 1 – 2 Horsepower
  • 2 – 4 Horsepower
  • 5+ Horsepower
What are the different types of portable air compressors?
Pancake Compressors: These take up a smaller amount of space compared to the other types of portable options out there. Typically they resemble a flat storage tank.

Twin-Stack Compressors: Cylinder shaped tank, and tend to be designed horizontally typically mounted to a metal frame with wheels.

Wheelbarrow Compressors: 2 cylinder shaped horizontal tanks stacked on top of one another in effort to reduce wasted space while still producing a high volume of power.

Hotdog Compressors: Another option with 2 cylinder tanks.

What is a stationary air compressor?
These are industrial grade air compressors built to stay in a fixed location. More often than not, they operate as a 2 stage compressor utilizing twin pistons. They produce a much higher PSI than their portable counterparts. They output a higher level of horsepower and operate much larger storage tanks.You will most often find these stored in vertical fashion as well since they are so big and powerful.
What is an inflator?
These are the smallest type of air compressor found on the market, a step down from even portable compressors. They do not contain a storage tank system, but they run off a mounted air support and are not limited to a tank. Water tubs, floats, sporting equipment, and tires of all kinds is what these are generally used with.

Best 12 Volt Air Compressors

A 12 volt compressor works for inflating both bicycle and vehicle tires. They are quite handy for a variety of small tasks, and generally are something you should keep on hand. Inflating sports balls, lawnmower tires, bicycle tires, air mattresses, etc.

If we could comment on any general complaint it would be that the 12 volt air compress can be noisy, however this is the case for just about all types of compress devices.

Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor

Viair 00088 88P Portable Air CompressorA durable compressor, this is a great device for hand held and will save your family money over its lifetime, no doubt. Featuring a 1.94 CFM free flow at 0 PSI, as well as alligator clamps that connect directly to the battery and a 12 volt pressure engine, you can expect it to last. The alligator clips on an air compressor are probably our favorite feature here.

Viair tests all of its air blowers through rigorous tests before releasing to the public. During these tests they concluded that the Viair 88P is capable of inflating tires up to 33 inches in under 10 minutes.

  • Reasonable Price

  • Can be considered noisy

Dad’s Note: I was pretty pleased with this air compressor when reviewing it. If you are looking at 12 volt compressors, this should be your top pick.

Viair 00073 70P Portable Compressor

Viair 00073 70P Portable CompressorNumber two on our list, and also made by Viair the Viair 70P mobile air compressor is another great option for the busy family. This particular unit tends to be used more in vehicle situations and is an extremely durable unit. The 70P requires a 15 amp ranked power interface in order to be effective.

Perfect for readers interested in utilizing  for OEM, sport suspension riding, 4×4 off-roading. This will get your tired blown up when you are in a pinch, and make it so you won’t be worrying. It’s made of extremely sturdy material and also comes with a carrying case (something you don’t see extremely often). The 15 amp interface required should plug right into your vehicle with the built-in vehicle adapter you can see on the picture to the left (if you can’t see it, just click here to be taken to Amazon for viewing).

  • Extremely quiet

  • Cigarette adapter can be a bit long

Best Pancake Air Compressors


Porter-Cable PCFP02003 Pan reviewDesigned as a pneumatic air compressor, the Porter Cable is  capable of outputting up to 135 PSI Max, and is designed for use with air powered tools such as nail guns, screw guns, etc. It handles well for both at-home uses as well as on the job heavy duty uses, and is extremely easy to use as well.

The PCDP02003 part is an oil-free model which means it is both cheaper to maintain in the long run as well as easier when compared  to its oil based counter parts. It features a aluminum body build to withstand a beating.

  • Ideal for both home and business use

  • Can be considered noisy

Dad’s Note: Customers seem to love this air compressor. I know Porter Cable is a reliable brand, and the only neutral feedback I’ve seen when researching is that this can be a little loud. It seems to be a worthy investment though.


DEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake CompressorDEWALT DWFP55126 Pancake CompressorWe all know and love the Dewalt brand. They’ve been around for years and are known for their reliable tools and construction equipment. The DWFP55126 is a 6 gallon oil-free that features a maximum of 165 PSI. That’s quite a bit! It comes with an elevated motor, aiding in startup time in cold temperature environments.

Other stand out features include the high flow regulator and oil free pump that are both used to reduce maintenance, improve the life of the product, and increase the performance. Sitting at a relatively quiet 75.5 DBA, it’s not too loud like some other pankcake compressors can be.

  • 75.5 DBA, relatively quiet
  • Up to 165 Max PSI

  • Ball valve replacement quicker than anticipated

Dad’s Note: It’s Dewalt, not sure what else I need to say. I own sanders, power drills, and impact drivers from them. Everything has lasted assuming I take moderate care.

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Russ Kannigan

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