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Best Car Tire Inflators for 2023, Picked by Experts

Jan 29, 2024

Our car experts choose every product we feature. We may earn money from the links on this page.

Portable car tire inflators are flooding the market right now, but they come in all shapes, sizes, brands, and styles. Which ones are the best? We turned to the Gear Team to find out.

If you've ever been stranded roadside with a flat tire, you know that it can bring the most cheerful among us to a fit of rage. Fussing with your car's factory jack, rusted lug nuts, and cumbersome spare can turn a quick trip into a multi-hour affair. However, all of that time and effort could have been saved had you had a portable tire inflator with you. A tire inflator won't save you in every case, but if you've developed a small to moderate leak, an inflator may be just the thing to get you home or to a service center.

Being that there are literally (not literally) a million different tire inflators out there, we thought we'd cut through the jargon and reach out to our colleagues on the Gear Team, who recently put a bunch of handheld and console-type portable tire inflators to the test. Here's the verdict:

With so many tire inflators on the market, a lot of them manufactured by unfamiliar brands, it's important to know what you're shopping for. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind.

While there are numerous types of tire inflators, including a slew of flashlight-sized models and, of course, the good ol' analog hand pump, for this article we're concerned primarily with handheld and console air compressors.

Portable Handheld Inflators:

These compact and lightweight inflators are designed for on-the-go use. They are suitable for emergencies and can be easily stored in a vehicle. They typically run on vehicle power outlets or rechargeable batteries and often come with digital gauges, LED lights, and quick-inflation capabilities.

Console Inflators:

Console inflators are larger units designed for household use and more versatile applications. They can handle inflating not only tires but also sports equipment, air mattresses, pool toys, and other inflatables. They often come with multiple power options, attachments, and advanced features, making them a versatile choice for various inflation tasks.

When selecting a portable car tire inflator, prioritize models with alternate power sources. For battery-powered handhelds, ensure they have a backup 12-volt car plug. Wall plugs are suitable for filling your tires at home, but proximity to an outlet or an extension cord is necessary. Direct-to-battery power options offer maximum power but can be cumbersome.

Attachments and Nozzles:

Many tire inflators include various attachments and nozzles to inflate different types of items, such as sports balls, air mattresses, and pool toys.

Digital Gauge:

A digital gauge allows you to set and monitor the desired tire pressure accurately, ensuring precise inflation.

LED Work Light:

Built-in LED lights illuminate the tire valve area, making it easier to connect the inflator, especially in low-light conditions.


This feature automatically stops the inflator once the set tire pressure is reached, preventing over-inflation.

Alternate Power Source:

Some battery-powered inflators can also be powered by vehicle 12-volt outlets, wall sockets, or both, providing versatility.

Deflation Function:

Some inflators can deflate tires or other items, making them versatile tools.

Overheat Protection:

Safety features like overheat protection prevent damage to the inflator from prolonged use.

First, in order to find out which inflators experts thought were best, we surveyed the editorial staffs of Car and Driver, Autoweek, and Road & Track to gauge their favorites. Then, we turned to our colleagues at the Gear Team, who test automotive products for a living and recently published a thorough deep-dive into tire inflators. We also searched the internet to find which inflators were the highest-rated, best-selling, and most popular. In the end, we considered the opinions of the editors, online ratings and reviews, and the Gear Team's expertise to choose the best portable inflators.

Of the two pistol-style inflators the Gear Team included in their tests, the AVID Power Cordless was more than a full minute faster reaching both 30 psi and 45 psi than the AstroAI unit.

The AVID Power elevates itself above the competition without significantly raising the price. It offers a backup power source through the 12V socket in your car, and two of each type of valve adapter are included in the package. It also comes with an extra 12V DC power cord rather than an extra battery.

The Gear Team preferred the rubberized handle of the Avid to the hard plastic grip on the AstroAI, and it was even a little bit quieter. When you factor in the quicker inflation time, the USB port on the battery (for charging phones and other devices on-the-go), and the alternate power option, at just under a hundred bucks, the Avid Power Cordless was an easy pick for Best Overall Tire Inflator.

The Milwaukee 2848-20 M18 Inflator far outperformed competitors with astonishing inflation times: 30 psi in a little over a minute and 45 psi in about two-and-a-half minutes. This was significantly quicker than all the other units tested.

Unfortunately, despite its power, this bulky unit isn't practical for daily transport. Is it "portable"? Sure, it can be moved wherever you need it. But could you keep it in your trunk in case of emergencies? Not unless you drive a Crown Vic. Another big downside is that it relies solely on Milwaukee's M18 Li-ion battery, which isn't included.

The 2848-20 could be a great addition for off-roaders or overlanders already invested in Milwaukee's M18 battery system. It would also be very handy around the house for general inflation purposes. However, for occasional or emergency tire inflation, smaller portable options are recommended. (Note: Milwaukee's 2475-20 inflator is smaller and lighter than the one tested here, but it relies on the less-powerful M12 battery.)

The stylish neo-industrial design of the tiny Viair 88P is visually and ergonomically appealing. Moreover, the 88P impressed the Gear Team with remarkably fast tire inflation, significantly outperforming most of the other competitors. Unfortunately, its sole power supply—connecting directly to the car battery with alligator clips—and charming-but-wonky analog gauge hinder its usefulness for everyday drivers.

According to Viair, the high power demands of the unit's compressor motor (16–19 amps) necessitate a direct battery connection, as the typical 12V car accessory port or AC wall plug don't provide enough amperage to power this unit's compressor motor. While this explains the Viair's comparatively rapid inflation time, it also reduces the 88P's usefulness for drivers who don't want the hassle of accessing the car battery every time they want to top off their tire pressure. Moreover, the analog gauge consistently displayed higher-than-actual readings, requiring multiple top-offs.

While the tiny Viair 88P's performance shines, its power supply and outmoded gauge prompt hope for more a user-friendly portable tire inflator from this industry leader in the future.

Easy to use, this flat, box-shaped device inflated the Gear Team's Hyundai's test tire to both 30 and 45 psi in a respectable 4 minutes and 28 seconds and 9 minutes and 11 seconds, respectively. This is about 30 seconds faster than the similarly designed VacLife inflator.

The Teromas includes two tapered stems and a ball needle, and its 21.7-inch hose is a big plus. While it may be a bit more expensive than the VacLife, the optional power supply and the longer hose give the Teromas the edge.

A top Amazon seller, the AstroAI tire inflator lived up to its popularity in the Gear Team's test. Its compact design suits emergencies, fueled by a quick-charging 20V 2.0Ah Li-ion battery (a full charge takes about an hour) or a cord connected to a wall outlet or car cig lighter with an adapter. The pistol-style design is user-friendly: Just set desired psi, attach the connector, and pull the trigger. In our test, it was relatively speedy in inflation time, if a bit noisy.

Two included USB-equipped batteries and a carrying case enhance its appeal, fitting easily in cargo spaces. Remarkably affordable, the AstroAI Cordless Inflator defied cost/quality norms.

The Black+Decker model BDINF20C stands out due to its versatile capabilities, catering to a wide range of needs both in everyday scenarios and high-power requirements. This makes it an excellent choice for various users, with a particular appeal to those already integrated into B+D's popular 20V MAX battery ecosystem.

The inflator offers the convenience of cordless operation through its Li-ion battery, and it also accommodates car usage via the 12V outlet, alongside a wall plug option for use within your home. This eliminates concerns about battery maintenance and the need to invest in yet another battery system if you're already utilizing the 20V MAX setup.

While the Black+Decker name carries a reputation often associated with garage equipment, this particular model is better suited for household inflation tasks than automotive ones. Despite its commendable attributes such as a high-flow hose, versatile attachments, and enhanced portability compared to other console-type units the Gear Team tested, it struggled to meet the demands of larger tire inflation. It boasted a respectable inflation time to 30 psi, but when facing the challenge of inflating our typical SUV tire, it fell short, taking over nine minutes to get to 45 psi.

If you're an existing 20V MAX battery user seeking an inflator mainly for household applications, this model is a fitting choice—provided you've already got at least one B+D 20V MAX battery in your arsenal. The unit they tested did not come with one, and most of the units for sale online don't, either.

Ryobi ONE+ inflator/deflator utilizes its proprietary Li-ion battery, which offers plenty of juice to inflate all four tires, but the ONE+ battery is not included in this package, and there is no backup power option available.

While compact and robust, the Ryobi would be more suitable for household use. Respectable inflation times (30 psi in over four minutes, 45 psi in eight minutes) are on par with the competition. Manipulating the screw-on valve indoors is simple, but not in cold conditions. Like the Black+Decker unit, if you're already invested in Ryobi's ONE+ battery system, this inflator works great. Next time, we'll try Ryobi's P737D pistol-grip tire inflator.

RoofPax, typically known for cargo carriers, distinguishes itself with a rare triple power option and deflation capability. Despite its dual motors, its 30 psi inflation time lags behind handheld alternatives, though its 45 psi time is mid-tier. It does offer a SUP-specific attachment. Suitable for home use, the RoofPax with its power choices holds appeal, but a faster inflation rate and lower cost would elevate its standing.

To assess the tire inflators, the Gear Team used a 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV with 235/55R19 tires. Starting at 10 psi, they timed each machine's inflation to 30 psi and then 45 psi, which is typical for SUVs.

They then measured the average decibel output of each unit during operation and cross-checked their integrated pressure gauges with handheld gauges before and after inflation.

Final rankings compared these measurements with factors like size, weight, air-hose length, connector type, attachments, features, and power source(s) for each inflator. Price was not a primary concern, as finding the best-performing unit was the goal.

The Gear Team's test of portable tire inflators raised some interesting points and brought valuable insight for potential buyers:

Most portable tire inflators are designed to handle a range of tire sizes and pressures. However, it's important to check the manufacturer's specifications to ensure the inflator is suitable for your specific vehicle's tire requirements.

Some portable tire inflators come with attachments that allow you to inflate other items like sports equipment, air mattresses, and beach toys. Check the product specifications to see if it offers this versatility.

Regular maintenance involves keeping the inflator clean and storing it in a dry place. If the inflator uses a rechargeable battery, follow the manufacturer's guidelines for battery maintenance and charging.

Road & Track and its sibling publications at Hearst Autos represent three of the most influential automotive publications in the world. We rely on decades of experience in the automotive and gear spaces to help readers make informed purchasing choices. Read more about our testing process here.

With the legacies of Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track behind us, the Hearst Autos Gear Team is more concerned with the trust our readers have in us than our bottom line. We won't tell you to buy something if we wouldn't buy it ourselves or recommend it to our friends, and we'll never claim to have used or tested something if we haven't. We've evaluated dozens of products, from Tire Pressure Gauges and Tire Shines to Garage Flooring. Our picks and recommendations of products and gear are based on testing and knowledge, not hype.

The Assistant Commerce Editor for Hearst Autos, Justin Helton is an enthusiast with a passion for heavily depreciated autos and a penchant for philosophical debate. As a lifelong Manhattanite, he has mastered the ins and outs of classic car ownership in one of the least car-friendly cities in the world.

Jon Langston is an avid motorcyclist and gear collector whose work has appeared in Men’s Journal, Cycle World, The Drive, Rider, Iron & Air, Motorcyclist, and more.

Collin Morgan is an Associate Commerce Editor at Hearst Autos, where the former Rust Belt mechanic and gadget enthusiast presents the best gear for your automotive endeavors.

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