Home Home & Patio Best 12v Air Compressors [Buying Guide] in 2019

Best 12v Air Compressors [Buying Guide] in 2019

by Jonathan Logtenberg
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Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator
TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator-Heavy Duty Double Cylinders Direct Drive Metal Pump 150PSI, Compressor with Battery Clamp and 5M Extension Air Hose, SUVs/Trucks/Vans/RVs
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Viair 00088 88P
EPAuto 12V DC
TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator
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Viair 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor
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Viair 00088 88P
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EPAuto 12V DC Portable Air Compressor Pump, Digital Tire Inflator
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EPAuto 12V DC
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TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator-Heavy Duty Double Cylinders Direct Drive Metal Pump 150PSI, Compressor with Battery Clamp and 5M Extension Air Hose, SUVs/Trucks/Vans/RVs
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TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator

Air compressors are one of the most versatile tools on the market, and they’re gaining a lot of popularity with professionals and home hobbyists.  They can do almost anything and are a great machine to keep in the car to make sure you’re safe from a flat tire. If you are looking for an air compressor, you may be wondering which option is the right one for you. 

There are so many different kinds of air compressor out there that finding the right option for your needs can seem like a minefield.  Is it better to have a simple portable option or is a standard air compressor best?  Well, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably thinking that a 12v air compressor is the perfect model to fit all of your needs and do everything you need it to.  However, you might need a little further convincing to make sure that this really is the right option and that it will do everything it says on the tin. 

If this sounds like you, keep reading.  Surf’n’Buy have the three best 12v air compressors out there which can service a variety of different needs.  We also have all the information you need to make sure that this decision really is the right one for you.

Top 12v Air Compressors

1. Viair 00088 88P

FEATURES

With a 120 PSI maximum working pressure, the Viair 00088 88P is capable of giving out a large amount of air during use, making it capable of pumping tires of up to 33 inches.  The 20 amp draw is suitable for any battery so that there is no risk of damage or motor failure.  This makes it ideal for use with small ATVs, SUVs, trucks and sedans so you can be sure it will work with any vehicle.

The direct battery connection with two battery terminal alligator clamps is perfect for those who need this on the go to quickly fix a flat tire and get back on the road.  With a 10 foot power cord, 16 foot air hose and 3 piece inflation kit, you have everything you need without having to make additional purchases. The LED power indicator makes it easy to see the tire pressure in the dark so that using this air compressor is as easy as it is convenient.

With a minimum temperature use of -4 degrees Fahrenheit, this air compressor can be used anywhere at any time of year, ideal if you get caught short by a flat tire.  At only 4 pounds, the Viair 00088 88P is easy to transport and keep in the trunk of the car so you have peace of mind that you’re covered should disaster strike.

PROS

  • Capable of pumping tires of up to 33 inches, you can be sure that this air compressor is compatible with any vehicle.
  • The Viair 00088 88P comes with everything you need to get started so you can keep it in the trunk without having to think about additional purchases or missing pieces.
  • The long hoses and power cord make it easy to move around the vehicle when you need to pump your tires so you won’t struggle with difficult restrictions on movement.
  • The LED power indicator and tire pressure gauge give you all of the information you need without having to strain in the dark.
  • The low minimum ambient pressure makes this air compressor perfect for use in even the coldest of regions.
  • The lightweight design is ideal for those who need an air compressor on hand in case of emergency without taking up too much space.

CONS

  • The LED light is not very bright and can still be difficult to see in the dark.
  • To see the tire pressure it is necessary to turn off the pump, which does not allow you to gain a completely accurate reading as pressure may escape from the tire.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The Viair 00088 88P is the perfect 12v air compressor to keep in the trunk when you’re on the go to make sure you are covered from flats and punctures.  Quick and easy to use and with everything you need to get started, you are fully covered from day one.  The long power cord and air hose make it easy to move around the vehicle and with the capability of up to 33 inch tires, this air compressor is perfect for use on almost any vehicle.

2. EPAuto 12V DC

FEATURES

The EPAuto 12V DC plugs directly into the cigarette lighter socket of your vehicle so there is no need to attach anything to the car battery or remember to charge batteries in order to secure your vehicle from flat tires.  The universal valve connector for a Schrader valve is ready to use straight out of the box and additional adaptors are included so that you can use this air compressor with any vehicle up to a 3.5 liter size engine, bicycles and even basket balls.

The easy to read display has four different units: PSI, KPA, BAR, KG/CM and the air compressor even has an LED flashlight to make pumping tires in the dark much easier.  You can also set a desired tire pressure so that the system shuts down when this is reached.  This makes the EPAuto 12V DC ideal to have in case of emergencies. At only one pound, this air compressor is perfect for travelling as it doesn’t add to the weight of the vehicle and is small enough to fit under a car seat.  You can simply keep it in the vehicle and forget about it until you need it.

PROS

  • The lightweight and compact design of the EPAuto 12V DC fits under a car seat and takes up nothing of your weight limit so that you don’t have to factor it in when you get on the road.
  • Attachable to a cigarette lighter, there’s no need to use the car battery, which can be dangerous.
  • Able to work on engines up to 3.5 liters, this air compressor can be used with almost anything that needs to be pumped, making it one of the most versatile on the market.
  • The display has all of the information you need to make sure you are pumping at the right speed and to the right pressure.
  • The auto shut off feature means there is no need to read the tire pressure, the motor will simply stop when it has been reached, making this air compressor much more convenient than most.

CONS

  • The EPAuto 12V DC can only be used with a car, so if you want to pump anything else, you need to bring it to the car in order to use it, which can be irritating if you want to pump something like a paddling pool.
  • The motor can heat up quite significantly, which can be hazardous as it will need to cool before it can be stored and may not be suitable for extended use.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The winner of the best buy for 12v air compressors is the EPAuto 12V DC.  This air compressor is incredibly convenient and versatile, as well as being suitable for almost anything that needs inflating.  The lightweight and compact design and the extensive information provided by the display means you have everything you need even as a first time user.  You can simply keep it in the car and have peace of mind that your covered in case of emergency.

3. TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator

FEATURES

The TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator is designed with rubber feet and a four-rod fuselage to reduce vibration and noise, making sure that all energy goes into pumping up your tires. The double cylinders give powerful and fast airflow and the low rotating speed provides for highly efficient and stable inflation.  With a maximum of 150 PSI, this air compressor will inflate a standard tire in two minutes so that you can get back on the road.

The controls are simple and easy to use, so this air compressor is perfect for beginners, but it also suitable for anything from a bicycle to a truck or SUV.  No matter what your vehicle, you can rest assured that this air compressor has you covered in case of emergency. The 5 meter extension hose allows you to reach the air compressor to any tire, even if your vehicle has a longer than standard wheel base while the high quality battery clamps ensure the safety of both you and your vehicle during use. Although a little heavier than other options on the market, this air compressor is the ideal option for those looking to service any vehicle, any time.

PROS

  • All components of the TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator are made to ensure the highest quality machine as well as the most efficient inflation, making this one of the best quality air compressors on the market.
  • Capable of pumping a tire in 2 minutes, you can get back out on the road as quickly as possible.
  • The simple to use controls and adaptability to any vehicle ensure that this air compressor is ideal for the everyday user as well as truck and van driers.
  • The long extension hose doesn’t restrict movement so that you can get to the rear tires without having to purchase any extension or additional accessory.

CONS

  • The pressure gauge can sometimes malfunction which makes obtaining an accurate reading rather difficult.
  • The electrical cord is not of the highest quality and the battery clamps can sometimes come loose which will cut the motor in the middle of inflation.
  • The TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator is heavier than other models available which might be an issue if you have to work with a weight limit in your vehicle.
  • The motor can get quite hot during use which can damage the hose and might limit the number of tires you can pump before letting it cool down again.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator is a high quality air compressor that is great for use on larger vehicles as well as on incidental inflatables.  The long air hose enables you to reach even the farthest rear tire and the quick pumping speed gets you up and going again in two minutes on a standard tire. The controls are easy to use so that you don’t have to be an expert to pump up a flat tire and you are fully covered so you can just enjoy the open road.

Benefits of Owning 12v Air Compressor

A 12v air compressor is a small and portable machine that you can take with you when you need air flow, making it a great purchase for almost anyone.  However, there are some key benefits of owning a 12v air compressor which might just convince you that this is the right purchase for you.

Portability

The most obvious benefit to a 12v air compressor is that they are very portable and most can fit under the seat of the car.  This makes them quick and easy to take with you so that you have an airflow wherever you need one.  This gives them a whole range of uses, but most importantly gives you peace of mind should you have a flat when you’re out and about.

Versatility

Air compressors are not just for tires, they offer a range of uses so that you can get the most out of your purchases.  Air compressors can be used for inflatables in the summer such as basketballs and paddling pools, they can be used to power tools such as a paint gun to help you decorate the garden, or even some pneumatic tools.  This makes them perfect for the avid camper or the home hobbyist as they will offer the airflow you need for just about anything.

Cost-Effective

The initial purchase is the most you will spend on an air compressor as they are surprisingly efficient for the energy they require for powering.  This means that you will save money when using your 12v air compressor because they do not need a lot of power and the power they do use will not be wasted.  Air compressors can be powered from a variety of sources but the most common is from a car battery or cigarette lighter output.


Portable Air Compressor vs Tire Inflator

If you’re looking to purchase a 12v air compressor, you may be wondering what the difference is between an air compressor and a tire inflator. A tire inflator is designed only to inflate tires and are usually smaller and lighter than air compressors and are more specialized for that function.  They will fit almost any tire and come with useful extra features such as a flashlight or a USB port so that you are covered if you get caught out in the dark.

A portable air compressor is much more versatile in its uses but can be heavier than a tire inflator.  It is adaptable to a number of different nozzles and can be used with different power sources so that you can use it anywhere.  12v air compressors, especially those on our list in particular, are very small, light and portable so that you have all the benefits of a tire inflator with the extra uses of an air compressor.


What to Use a 12v Air Compressor For?

The great thing about a 12v air compressor is that it can be used for almost any purpose.  The most obvious is to inflate tires, which is what many use the machine for, however there are other uses which you may not be aware of.
One of the most common uses for an air compressor is to power a pneumatic tool such as a nail gun or a paint gun.  However, due to the adaptability of the nozzle, you can also use the air compressor to pump up inflatables around the house and for literally anything that requires air.

This doesn’t mean that a 12v air compressor can be used for anything.  Many tools will have a minimum PSI level required to power them.  This means that a 12v air compressor may not be suitable for the higher requirements of some tools.  If you want to use an air compressor on large pneumatic tools, make sure the PSI level is sufficient or you may risk damaging the air compressor or causing a system failure. If you are looking for something that will only keep you secure when you’re out in the car or truck, you may not need an air compressor.  However, because the price is comparable to that of a tire inflator, many prefer the versatility of an air compressor so that they can use it in other areas of the home or for a hobby. 


How to Use a 12v Air Compressor?

Using your air compressor will differ depending on the model you select, so make sure to consult your owners’ manual before you get started so that you understand the instructions and what you need to do to keep yourself safe and ensure the machine works properly.  However, in general, most 12v air compressors work in similar ways.

The first step is to ascertain which kind of socket your air compressor uses.  If you have an adaptable model, you can select the power source you like. If you have crocodile clips, you will need to attach the clips to the car battery and ensure the engine is running to power the air compressor.  These options are slightly more dangerous than others as you will need to attach the clips directly to the battery.  It is recommended to turn the engine off before attaching the clips and then restart it once you are sure the clips are secured.

Similarly, if you have an air compressor powered by a cigarette outlet, you will need to power the air compressor with the engine on.  However, these air compressors are much safer because there is no need to attach anything to the car battery and therefore there is no need to turn the engine off first.

Next, you will need to attach the nozzle of the air compressor to the input of the tire or tool.  Usually, this is a standard fitting which you will simply screw onto the tire input nozzle to attach the air compressor.  However, larger tires and specialized tools may need a certain kind of nozzle to control the airflow.  Make sure that you have this before starting or you may be disappointed when you realize the air compressor is of no use. If the tire or tool has specific settings required from the air flow, make sure to adjust the settings on your air compressor before turning it on so that there is no risk of damage or leaking of air.

Finally, turn on your air compressor and get started.  If you are pumping a tire, there are models which allow you to change the PSI and maximum pressure of the air flow so that the air compressor will shut off when this has been reached.  If your air compressor does not have this function, you may need to turn it off momentarily to obtain an accurate reading.  Make sure that you have a flashlight available for this just in case you have to pump a tire in the dark.  If you are using the air compressor for a tool, you can simply switch the motor on and get started.

Once you are finished, make sure to drain any moisture which has collected in the air compressor to ensure minimum wear and tear and to maintain proper pressure within the tank.  It is also a good idea to regularly maintain the air compressor according to the instructions in the owners’ manual to make sure it lasts and you get the most out of your purchase.


Types of Sockets

There are three main sockets provided with a 12v air compressor meaning there are different ways to power them.  Depending on what you intend to use the air compressor for will determine which socket is the best option for you.  We will run down the main purposes of each socket as well as its relevant pros and cons.

Crocodile Clips

Crocodile clips are the standard socket type for 12v air compressors, usually because they are designed to pump tires.  These clips attach directly to the battery of your car in order to power the air compressor and are ideal for those who want to be able to use the air compressor when out on the road. The main drawback of these clips is safety.  Attaching the clips to the battery can be dangerous and if anything goes wrong, you may be left stranded.  If you have never used a 12v air compressor before or are not used to using crocodile clips, you may want to consider a safer option such as a cigarette outlet.

Cigarette Outlet

A cigarette outlet is another great option for those who want to use the 12v air compressor when out on the road.  These outlets are much safer because there is no need to attach anything to the car battery directly and are portable enough to pump a tire when you’re out on the go. 

Mains Outlet

The third option is a mains outlet for your 12v air compressor.  This is suitable for those who don’t want to use the air compressor with a car and perhaps want to use it for a hobby or to blow up inflatables in the home.  These outlets are safe and easy to use anywhere there is a power outlet so that you can take the air compressor anywhere.

Adaptable

If you are looking for an air compressor that does it all, it is possible to have a model with an adaptable power source.  Some options will have a mains option with a crocodile clip, a crocodile clip and a cigarette outlet option, and some will have all three.  These options are the most versatile as you can take them anywhere and power them from any source.  This option is best for those who want to be able to use their air compressor with the car as well as for a hobby or around the home.


Conclusion

We here at Surf’n’Buy hope that we’ve helped you find the right 12v air compressor for your needs, whatever they may be.  For those looking to make sure they have the tools they need should an emergency strike on the road, the EPAuto 12V DC is the lightest, most portable air compressor out there to tuck under a seat and only think about it when you need to. However, if you’re looking for more of an all-around needs kind of air compressor, the TIREWELL 12V Tire Inflator is perfect for small tools, inflatables as well as tires and the Viair 00088 88P is a close second.
No matter what your needs, these air compressors are sure to fulfil them so you can get on with your hobby and won’t get stopped on your road trip. 


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