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Best Portable Inflators For Car Tires, Bike Tires, Camping and Sports Gear

For all tires (car, motorcycle, bicycle, etc.), camping gear (inflatable mattress) and sports (basketball, football, volleyball) having one of these top portable air compressors / electric inflator pumps makes life a lot easier. We review VIAIR 78p and Slime 40051, both under $50.

You can also use these with pool floats, toys, and yard decorations.

For this list of the top portable inflators, we focus on models that will run off of your car’s 15-amp /12-volt ports. These models are smaller, lighter and usually less expensive than their 120V-AC counterparts. The trade-off is that the smaller units may take a little longer to inflate tires, and will have a lower maximum PSI.

Top Pick – VIAIR 78p

The VIAIR 78p Portable Compressor (about $50) gets our top pick for it’s usability, display and quietness.

Inflator VIAIR 78p Portable CompressorWe like that it has a 4-foot long air hose, along with a 16.5-foot power cord, providing more than 20-feet of compressed air from the plug in your car. This is one of the longest reaches we found in researching portable compressors, making it easy to get to all your tires.

Another benefit for the 78p is the 30-minutes continuous run time on the compressor.

Some units will only run for 5 to 20 minutes before automatically shutting down for a cool-off. We’ve found that 30 minutes is more than enough time to get all your tires inflated, or to fill up air-mattresses.

The illuminated / back-lit display is easy to read, and especially nice in the early morning or night time. It’s also pretty accurate for pressure readings. There is also an LED work light on the unit.

The 78p is rated for up to 80 PSI, which should handle all cars and SUVs. Trucks, RVs and Motor-homes may need to go to a larger, battery terminal power device (e.g., the 120 PSI VIAIR 88P ).

The air hose has a flip-lever press-on chuck (not a screw-on), which we prefer. And you get 3-tips (a conical, a circular and a sports-needle) to inflate most everything that isn’t a tire.

At 7.35 x 3.6 x 5.4 inches, and just 5 pounds, it’s easy to store this in the trunk until you need it. It comes in a deluxe carry bag with bright orange lining to make it easy to find.

It’s one of the quietest portable inflators, an doesn’t walk around on the ground like some others.

Order on Amazon for about $50, the VIAIR 78p Portable Compressor, and never worry about tire inflation again.

Here is a nice overview from VIAIR for the entire product line, and how to use a portable compressor:

Alternative – Slime 40051

The Slime 40051 Digital Tire Inflator (about $35) is a good alternative to the VIAIR if you are looking to spend a little less.

Inflator Slime 40051 Digital Tire InflatorIt’s a compact unit, with a nice cord-management wrap-around at the base. Important since this doesn’t come with a carrying case. The power cord is a respectable 10 feet, but we would prefer the hose was a little longer than it’s 2 feet.

The digital pressure gauge on the side is easy to read, and it is accurate. It also has pressure set buttons for auto shut-off when the desired inflation level is reached. This is a nice feature, since it can take up to 6 minutes to fully inflate a car tire.

Similar to the VIAIR, the Slime has a nice LED work light to brighten up the area. This makes tire inflation in low-light a lot easier since you don’t also need to hold a flashlight.

At 7 x 2.5 x 5.8 inches, and under 2 pounds, it’s one of the lightest portable compressors on the market.

For about $35 on Amazon, you can order the Slime 40051 Digital Tire Inflator today and be inflating tomorrow!

Here’s a short clip on the Slime:

You can find another half dozen equally good portable compressor / inflator units, but the VIAIR 78p Portable and Slime 40051 Digital Tire Inflator should meet all of your needs, and budget.

If you are still deciding if you really need one of these, consider the next time you get that dreaded “Low Pressure Warning” light on your dashboard. Especially now with the changing weather and outside temperatures. You won’t need to make a trip to the service station to top off your tires!

And don’t forget to stock up on tire pressure gauges – it’s good to have one in each car.

Also, if you want to power these (or any other cigarette lighter type devices) from your 120V-AC wall outlets, you’ll need an AC-to-DC converter like the Schumacher 1216 12V 15 Amp Power Converter (around $55).

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