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Best 12V Air Compressor in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

A 12V air compressor is a must-have when you think about it. It can help you around the house and in emergencies on the road. It can also help your kids have fun in the backyard.

But what makes an air compressor better than the others? Well, we’ve done some research to help you find the best 12V air compressor.

List of The Best 12V Air Compressor:

Our Top Picks:

CompressorDimensions Weight Maximum PSI CFM Price
VIAIR 400P Compressor 13 x 11 x 9.5 inch 8.5 lbs150 PSI 2.3 CFM @ 0 PSI Check Price
EPAuto DC Air Compressor Pump 13.5 x 8.1 x 5.6 inch 1 lb 100 PS 1.06 CFM Check Price
VIAIR 00088 88P Air Compressor 6.8 x 6.2 x 10.8 inch 4.5 lbs120 PSI 1.47 CFM @ 0 PSI Check Price
Kobalt Air Compressor 12.9 x 7.4 x 9.2 inch6.35 lbs 120 PSI Check Price
Kensun AC/DC Air Compressor 11.8 x 4.3 x 6.7 inch 5 lbs100 PSI Check Price
Master Flow Air Compressor 9 x 8.5 x 7.5 inch 6 lbs150 PSI Check Price
FORTEM Digital Air Compressor 8 x 6.5 x 3.3 inch 1.9 lbs150 PSI Check Price

The 7 Best 12V Air Compressors in 2021

1. VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor – Best Overall

VIAIR 400P Portable Compressor

One of the first things you’ll notice about this 12V bad boy is the durable material it’s made of. In a pool of plastic air compressors, this one stands out with its stainless steel valves, dual-stage metal air filter, aluminum sand tray with vibration isolators, and anodized aluminum.

In addition, the PTFE piston ring protects the air compressor from wearing out, as well as protects it from chemical attacks.

Thanks to its 25ft 5-in-1 quick-connect inflator/deflator air hose, the air compressor comes with multiple functions: air up, air up intermittently, air down, air down intermittently, and check tire pressure. The air pressure gauge provides maximum accuracy.

This baby is better than most in that it can inflate tires for cars, vans, trucks, or any tires that up to 35 inches in size.

It comes with accessories such as zippered soft carry case, 3-piece inflation tips, a 5-in-1 inflator/deflator open-ended air hose, power cable, durable dual battery clamps, heavy-duty tray, and instruction manual.

Finally, the 400P’s oil-free design and moisture-resistant nature make it easier to maintain it on the road.

  • Handle at the top for portability
  • Inflates tires up to 35 in
  • 1-year warranty
  • Dust and moisture resistant
  • Oil-free
  • Durable material
  • Auto shutoff
  • Quiet
  • PTFE piston ring
  • Long air hose
  • Fast
  • Accessories
  • The unit gets hot

Final Verdict

Aside from having to let it cool off for 30 minutes after use, this portable air compressor seems to have it all, while still being easy to carry around and handle. It has definitely earned its place as our top pick. 

2. EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump – Runner-Up

EPAuto 12V DC

This baby is a necessity for car owners everywhere, with a 12V DC plug. It’s a perfect safety net for car emergencies.

You don’t want to be stranded somewhere with an air compressor that’s difficult to use. This one has no learning curve. Its digital interface comes with 4 display units: PSI, KPA, BAR, and KG/CM; these displays make it the easiest to use.

Its bright LED flashlight helps you see everything in the dark, and the automatic shutoff feature, that is activated once it reaches the desired pressure, makes the user feel less anxious about accidental over-inflation.

For even more peace of mind, the EPAuto air compressor comes with overheat protection that shuts off the unit at 167°F. The power cable is long enough to reach all tires, making the whole process hassle-free.

To prove its versatility, it comes with adapters to help it inflate sports balls and swimming pool inflatables.

  • Easy to use
  • Auto shutoff
  • Storage case
  • Affordable
  • Additional adapters for other inflatables
  • Overheat protection
  • Bright LED flashlight
  • Long power cable
  • Lightweight
  • Can’t inflate truck tires

Final Verdict

All in all, this baby is a perfect easy-to-use tire-inflator for cars, bikes, sedans, and midsize SUV. You can also use it to inflate sports balls and other inflatables. However, if you need something to inflate truck tires, this ain’t for you.

3. VIAIR 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor – Best for ATVs

VIAIR 00088 88P

Like its 400P counterpart, VIAIR 88P is made of durable material. Its all-metal design sets it apart from other affordable air compressors made from cheap plastic. The design, with the rubber feet and long piston stroke, helps the unit vibrate less, which makes it quieter than most.

Its alligator clamps really highlight the portable aspect of the 88P. If you’re someone who’s always on the road, a battery-powered air compressor is all you need. Also, it can inflate tires up to 33 inches, which means that it can give all small ATVs, trucks, SUVs, and sedans some love.

The 88P has a high duty cycle of 45%, meaning that at 30 PSI, it can run for up to 25 minutes before needing to cool for 35 minutes. A duty cycle that high helps you inflate four tires in a matter of minutes.

The 88P’s LED light helps you work in the dark. In addition, the long power cord and air hose help you reach all four tires on a truck. Besides, the brass twist-on tire chuck prevents air leakage.

  • High duty cycle
  • Affordable
  • Long power cord
  • Long air hose
  • Durable material
  • Accurate pressure gauge
  • Inflates tires up to 33 in
  • LED power indicator
  • Alligator battery clamps
  • Quiet
  • 1-year warranty
  • No auto-shutoff
  • No storage case
  • The unit gets hot

Final Verdict

If paying extra for a storage case isn’t tragic for you, the 88P will fit you just fine. However, you have to be careful not to over-inflate since it doesn’t have automatic shutoff.

4. Kobalt 120V Tire Inflator – Most Versatile

Kobalt 120V

This adaptable baby plugs into 120V and 12V AC/DC power outlets. The performance isn’t affected by the power supply you plug it in. If you want a portable air compressor that you can use around the house or on the road, this Kobalt baby is for you.

The Kobalt air compressor is small and light, yet extremely versatile. It can inflate car, bike, and ATV tires. Also, it can handle air mattresses and pool floats. Its versatility is proven by its accessories: 2 sports needles, 1 raft nozzle, and 1 Presta valve adapter.

Its LED display is accurate and easy to read. It comes with an automatic shutoff feature that is present and essential for preventing over-inflation. It also has storage compartments for the adapters, which is nice; however, the doors to these compartments open very easily, which is not nice.

  • AC/DC power
  • Affordable
  • LED display
  • Auto shutoff
  • Quiet
  • Accurate pressure gauge
  • Storage for adapters
  • 1-year warranty
  • Doors for storage compartments aren’t secure
  • Power cord could be longer

Final Verdict

Kobalt did well with this one. It is digital, accurate, and simple. Watch out for the flimsy storage doors, though.

5. Kensun AC/DC Digital Tire Inflator – Most User-Friendly

Kensun AC/DC Digital Tire Inflator

Are you new to inflating tires and other inflatables? Are you confused by analog-and some digital-air compressors, but you’re afraid to admit it?

It’s okay. Kensun heard you loud and clear, so it produced one of the most user-friendly air compressors.

Besides being unbelievably versatile and accepting AC/DC power sources, this bad boy has a bright LCD display and LED work-light to make night work a piece of cake.

Also, it has unit conversion (PSI/Bar/KPA) and presets to save you time and effort. The automatic shutoff that happens upon reaching the desired pressure prevents accidental over-inflation, which further protects inexperienced users.

  • AC/DC power
  • Auto shutoff
  • Bright LCD display
  • LED Work-light
  • Unit conversion
  • Presets
  • Accessory Nozzles
  • 2-year warranty
  • Handle for portability
  • Relatively heavy
  • Cords could be longer

Final Verdict

With an extension cord, nothing can stop you and this air compressor.

6. Master Flow MF-1040 – Best for Experienced Users

Master Flow MF-1040

Let’s start with the construction of the 12-volt Master Flow MF – 1040. Made of high-grade steel, it proves that just because an air compressor is affordable, doesn’t mean it has to look or feel cheap. 

The greatest thing about this air compressor is its ability to be directly charged from your 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet using the 10-foot power cord. 

This high-volume baby is for people who just don’t want to spend their day inflating tires and balls. It can fill up to 30 liters of air per minute with up to 150 PSI. That’s impressive enough to inflate large tires of trucks and SUVs.

One of its most unique aspects is that the power cord can be modified for permanent installation. Of course, to do this installation, you’ll need to do some research.

It comes with a convenient storage bag with accessories such as the coil hose with a screw-on inflating nozzle.

  • Coil hose with an inflating nozzle
  • Storage bag
  • Quiet
  • Durable material
  • Long air hose
  • The screw-on adapter can be problematic
  • The unit gets hot

Final Verdict

This air compressor is a gift that keeps on giving. It favors those who know how to use it.

7. FORTEM Digital Tire Inflator – Best Budget

FORTEM Digital Tire Inflator

The FORTEM 12-volt air compressor is a beast with impressive features and a reasonable budget. You shouldn’t have to break the bank for basic safety on the road.

Everybody wants premium quality at an affordable price, but it always feels like a dream. Well, not anymore.

It can reach up to 150 PSI, but only for bicycle tires. It can work for 8 minutes straight before needing to cool off. Note, though, that 8 minutes is not such a long duration. 

It comes with an LED flashlight for maximum safety, which is great because nobody wants to deal with a flat tire in the dark. Its automatic shutoff feature increases your safety even more. Also, the air compressor’s digital display is straightforward and easy to use.

The power cord is pretty lengthy – 9.84 feet- to help you reach all tires easily. The storage case makes carrying the air compressor and its accessories much easier.

  • Auto shutoff
  • Easy-to-read digital display
  • Easy to use
  • Storage case
  • Extra-long power cord
  • Durable material
  • 1-year warranty
  • Really short continuous working time
  • Only good for small tires

Final Verdict

At its price point, the FORTEM air compressor is invincible.

How to Pick a 12V Air Compressor

1. PSI

Short for Pound-force per square inch; it is the air pressure stored in the tank. Some air compressors have high PSI; others have low PSI. 12V air compressors fall in the lower end of PSI, so keep that in mind.

Higher PSI means more air stored in the tank. Getting an air compressor with PSI higher than the tool you’re using it with is essential.

What will decide which PSI is good for you is what you’ll use the air compressor for and the tool you’ll use it with. You don’t need a lot of PSI for inflating balls and tires. You need a decent amount for nailers, though.

2. CFM

Short for cubic feet per minute; it is the flow rate of the air pushed out by the compressor at a given pressure level, mostly at 90 PSI. It is even more important to consider than PSI.

If your air compressor is not faster than the tool you’re using, you’ll run out of air mid-work. Then, you will have to wait for the motor to turn on to catch up and maintain the same CFM.

So, just like with PSI, you have to get an air compressor with a higher CFM than your air tool to be comfortable at work.

3. Tank Size

Air compressors push out air that is stored in the tank. Tank sizes in air compressors range from less than 1 gallon to more than 60 gallons. In tank sizes, the bigger, the better. However, don’t go too big if you don’t need it.

Some tools work in intermittent bursts such as nailers and staplers would be fine with a small-tank compressor. On the other hand, other tools such as sandblasters, grinders, and sanders are more of a continuous-duty kind of tool, so they need a large tank size.

4. Power Socket/Source

An important factor in picking your air compressor is what type of power source you have and what type it needs.

Some air compressors need DC power like a cigarette socket; others need AC power like a wall outlet. Some can even work with both. Others come with a rechargeable battery.

If you’ll use the compressor in your car only, one that comes with a DC plug will be fine. If you’ll work from home, you’ll need one with an AC plug. But if you’ll be moving around, a battery-powered air compressor is the one for you.

5. Portability

Some users need an air compressor that’s flexible to moving around and changing locations. Portable air compressors tend to be small, quiet, and easy to store. Others need stationary air compressors for heavy-duty jobs; these users are in for a loud surprise.

12V air compressors tend to be portable.

What To Use a 12V Air Compressor For

12V air compressors can be used for a variety of things such as inflating car and bike tires, sports balls, rafts, and all beach inflatables.

In addition, they can be used to power air tools such as nailers, staplers, and impact wrenches.

However, don’t expect a 12V air compressor to inflate an inflatable swimming pool or to power sandblasters and grinders.

The possibilities vary from one air compressor to another, though. 

Final Words

In case you need a recap for everything above, I would say that if your main priority is a budget win, check out the FORTEM or the EPAuto air compressors.

What about user-friendliness? The FORTEM, the Kensun, and the Kobalt would be your best bet.

John Graham

My name is John Graham, a 32-year old avid DIY-er. Ever since I was young, my father used to prompt me to help fix things around the house or even building my own cupboards and shelves. That’s why I developed the habit of doing everything on my own. And since this is the only way to reach the unique results I really want, I don’t like depending on any services. With all the projects I’ve worked on, I’ve gained a lot of experience and wanted to gather it all in one place. And that’s where the idea to create “Tool Dizer” dawned on me, and here I am trying to connect with all the DIY enthusiasts out there.

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