Qualities of the Best Tire Inflators
The best tire inflators are high-quality and possess the power to inflate a full-size car tire without bogging down. Cheap tire inflators, such as those designed for bicycles, often lack the “torque” so to speak for inflating a real tire.
Tire inflators should also be designed to work with a car’s 12-volt DC power system or be battery-operated with a sufficiently high-quality power storage system. Old battery-powered tire inflators used cheap batteries that take days to charge and lose power over time. The best new tire inflators use a 12-volt DC car plug or lithium batteries.
And on that note—the plug needs to be long enough. Nothing is more inconvenient than a plug-in tire inflator that can’t reach the tire that needs inflating.
Cheaper tire inflators often include lots of gizmos that aren’t really relevant to the job at hand. A tire inflator that comes with a crank radio, two flashlights, and a compass is interesting, but it’s a sign of low-quality construction. A tire inflator should do just that—inflate tires—without useless junk that detracts from its original purpose.
Finally, a great tire inflator is also affordable. A quality tire inflator isn’t a masterpiece of modern engineering, so it shouldn’t cost hundreds of dollars. It should also be compact enough to fit in a trunk or behind a seat, where you can leave it for the comparatively unlikely event of a flat.
Tire Inflators to Avoid
Avoid cheap tire inflators that cost less than $20. These are probably poor-quality replicas of brand-name tire inflators. The best result with these is that they work once or twice and then break. The worst is that they could explode (pressure is no joke) or start an electrical fire due to low-quality plugs.
You can find these kinds of bad tire inflators on eBay, usually for $15 or less. They’re often shipped in from out of the country where their origin and factory quality control are unknown. It’s best to avoid these altogether and just shell out the extra $10 or $20 for a legitimate tire inflator. Plus, you won’t have to wait two months for a package that may never even arrive.
Best Affordable Car Tire Inflators
These days, a good tire inflator is usually pretty affordable. You can get a serviceable unit for less than $50 online, which is usually cheaper than the local parts store. Based on customer reviews and previous testing, here are five of the best tire inflators for your car, truck, or SUV.
1. DeWalt 20v MAX Cordless Tire Inflator
DeWalt is famous for its high-quality cordless tools, and this cordless tire inflator is no exception. The DeWalt DCC020IB is a battery-operated compressor that can also run directly off an automotive 12-volt socket, giving you flexibility for filling car or trailer tires.
The DeWalt DCC020IB features a tire gauge with an accurate digital display, which is easy to read and helps you fill tires precisely. Additionally, it features a tough plastic outer casing that stands up to plenty of abuse at home, in your car, or at the shop. Due to its durability and quality, many people use the DeWalt DCC020IB as a garage tire inflator.
This DeWalt unit is a no-frills tire inflator with one exception—a small but strong LED light. An LED light is the only extra option that makes sense on tire inflators, as it’s useful for filling tires at night or in a dark garage. This unit also features a storage compartment for accessories, such as nozzles and cords.
This DeWalt unit is slightly larger than the average tire inflator, which is a potential downside if you’re working with limited space. However, it’s a tool-grade piece of equipment that’s versatile and ideal for heavy-duty mobile applications. Plus, it works with your standard DeWalt power tool batteries.
You can buy a DeWalt DCC020IB portable tire inflator on Amazon. The battery isn’t included, but you can run it with the 12-volt cord with or without a battery.
2. VacLife Portable Air Compressor and 12V Tire Inflator
The VacLife Portable Air Compressor and Tire Inflator is a fairly typical modern tire inflator, and it has proven to be quite robust for the price. This compact inflator is designed for car tires, bicycle tires, air mattresses, basketballs, and virtually anything else that needs inflating. But most importantly, this inflator is powerful enough to pump up any tire to pressures up to 50 psi.
A 50 psi tire inflator might not sound like much, but remember that the average car tire has a maximum pressure of 35 to 40 psi. Anything beyond that could cause damage, and you’d need a much heftier unit anyway. The VacLife tire inflator allows you to precisely fill your tires with minimal effort, thanks to an automatic shutoff feature.
Like the DeWalt unit mentioned previously, this no-frills tire inflator comes with a bright and energy-efficient LED light for nighttime operations. Additionally, it has a power cord that’s nearly 12 feet long, which is plenty for inflating common car and truck tires on all sides.
The VacLife tire inflator comes with multiple nozzles, including one for a standard tire Schroeder valve. Multiple nozzles are useful, as you can bring this unit camping or to the lake for inflating boats, air mattresses, and virtually anything else. It works with most tires on cars, trucks, SUVs, and trailers.
You can buy a VacLife portable 12-volt tire inflator from Amazon with free domestic shipping.
3. Teromas Portable 12-Volt Tire Inflator
Here’s a portable tire inflator that works with 12-volt DC car power and 110-volt AC domestic (home) power. This tire inflator is also highly compact, making it ideal for use in smaller cars. The Teromas tire inflator is surprisingly powerful and works with pressures up to 150 PSI.
The Teromas car tire inflator works remarkably fast for its size. According to the company, this unit can inflate a typical 35 PSI car tire in under four minutes. Plus, it comes equipped with an automatic start/stop function to make tire inflating safe and hassle-free.
The unit is equipped with a standard Schroeder valve coupler, which is what you’ll find on virtually every car, truck, SUV, bike, or motorcycle tire in existence. It can also fill standard inner tubes, such as those found in small tractors.
This is a corded unit, which means you aren’t limited by battery capacity. It’s designed to work with a wall plug in your home or garage or with your standard 12-volt DC car cigarette lighter socket. The unit also comes with three additional attachments, which can be used to inflate everything from pool floaters to inflatable mattresses.
You can purchase a Teromas portable air compressor and tire inflator from Amazon and it’s available in green or red.
4. Avid Power Tire Inflator
Battery-powered tire inflators come in all shapes and sizes. And for some, a familiar and user-friendly shape in a compact package is an immediate plus. The Avid Power tire inflator is shaped like a compact power drill and works with high-capacity rechargeable tool batteries.
The Avid Power tire inflator is designed for cars, trucks, SUVs, bicycles, and motorcycles. It’s not made for large truck tires, but most portable units aren’t either. It features a locking Schroeder valve coupler, which allows you to secure the inflator tube without holding it in place or losing air around the sides.
This convenient tire inflator is surprisingly modern and comes with a precise digital tire pressure gauge that’s accurate to within +/- 1 PSI. It also features an automatic stop feature, which cuts pressure once your tire reaches the desired PSI. Like many cordless drills, this Avid Power inflator features a bright LED point-light that activates when the unit is in use.
The unit comes with a 20-volt lithium-ion battery pack, which is exactly what most portable power tools use. Additionally, it comes with a 12-volt cigarette lighter cord and a car charging adapter. A bag is included, which you can also use to store a tire patch kit or other related road safety tools.
You can purchase an Avid Power drill-style cordless tire inflator from Amazon. This unit is available in red, blue, or black.
5. Kosmegal Portable AC/DC Tire Inflator
This compact air compressor is a great accessory for your car or truck and works just as well in the home. The Kosmegal portable tire inflator is a compact corded unit that runs off a 12-volt car outlet or a standard two-prong 110v AC home outlet and works on almost all car, truck, SUV, and bike tires.
This tire inflator is one of the most compact units on our list, and it’s surprisingly affordable. It features a digital display and an LED light for working in the dark. Additionally, the Kosemgal inflator allows you to switch between units like PSI, BAR, and KG/CM2. As you might expect, this digital unit also comes with an automatic stop feature with an easy preset function.
The digital display is backlit, which allows you to read it at night. This is a major benefit, as many tire inflators come with a forward-facing light but no backlit screen. Controlling this unit is exceptionally easy, as it only takes a couple of button presses to set the desired pressure and get to inflating.
The Kosmegal portable tire inflator comes with a convenient carrying case and four adapters for filling tubes, air mattresses, and other items that need inflating. Additionally, it comes with a 12-volt cord and a 110-volt home power cord. The 12-volt cord measures 126 inches in length, and the home power cord is 60 inches.
You can buy a sleek and compact Kosmegal portable tire inflator on Amazon with free shipping.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding