Best 120 Volt Portable Air Compressors in 2021 (Reviews and Comparison)

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It’s no fun being stuck on the side of the road due to a flat tire or if they’ve blown out. But tires do lose air over time, and you want to do everything within your power to ensure you’re equipped for tire pressure issues. An air compressor is just what you need. We’ll review five of the top 120 volt portable air compressors by comparing their features and the pros and cons. In the end, we’ll tell you the one we recommend as the best.

COMPARISON CHART

Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor 1. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
  • Durable cast iron cylinder
  • Less noise
  • Industrial power
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PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002) 2. PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free
  • Highly portable
  • Easy to use
  • Versatile
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DEWALT Air Compressor for Trim, 200-PSI Max, Quiet Operation (DWFP55130) 3. DEWALT DWFP55130 Heavy Duty
  • Oil-free pump
  • Versatile storing
  • Space saver
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AAA - 4024AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12 Volt DC Air Compressor 4. AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12V DC Air Compressor
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Portable
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Kobalt 120v & 12v Portable Air Compressor Inflator Tire Pump Nozzle Needles 120 PSI LED Display 5. Kobalt 120v & 12v Portable Air Compressor
  • Lightweight
  • Versatile
  • Electric
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Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

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Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

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Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor

Specification

MAX PSI 130 PSI
Weight80.8 lbs.
Capacity4.2 gallons
Power SourceElectric
MaintenanceLow maintenance
Number of air couplers1
Is it lightweight and compact?No
Oil-free?No

The Makita MAC2400 compressor runs at a lower RPM which produces less noise. It’s jobsite ready with a 4.2-gallon twin-stacked tank with an operating pressure of 130 PSI. It has a durable cast iron cylinder that reduces wear and increases pump life. It’s efficient and runs cooler and at half the RPM of most competitive units.

WHAT WE LIKE

The Makita is a good, durable product. It’s efficient and runs cooler and at half the RPM of most competitive units. This results in better motor and pumps life and lower noise.

PROS

  • Durable cast iron cylinder, less noise, industrial power.

CONS

  • Oil-lubricated pump, very low maintenance though (still more when compared to most), price a little higher than other compatible brands.
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PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

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PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

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PORTER-CABLE Air Compressor, 6-Gallon, Pancake, Oil-Free (C2002)

Specification

MAX PSI150 psi max
Capacity6-gallon
Weight30 lbs.
Number of air couplers2
Power Source 120 V
MaintenanceNone
Is it lightweight and compact?Lightweight
Does it have automatic shut-off?No
What’s the build quality likeDurable
Oil-free?Yes

The Porter-Cable has a pancake structure that allows for stability. It also includes a water drain valve and rubber feet that are exceptionally tough. The design is high-pressure and optimizes air tool performance. This compressor requires little to no maintenance, and transporting is effortless.

WHAT WE LIKE

The Porter-Cable is a good, durable product at an affordable price.

PROS

  • Highly portable, easy to use, versatile, stores a lot of air, durable, comparative price, even works well on camper tires, starts easily in cold weather.

CONS

  • A bit noisy.
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DEWALT Air Compressor for Trim, 200-PSI Max, Quiet Operation (DWFP55130)

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DEWALT Air Compressor for Trim, 200-PSI Max, Quiet Operation (DWFP55130)

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DEWALT Air Compressor for Trim, 200-PSI Max, Quiet Operation (DWFP55130)

Specification

MAX PSI200 PSI
Capacity2.4 gallons
Weight36 lbs
Power Source Electric
MaintenanceMaintenance-free
Is it lightweight and compact?Lightweight
Oil-free?Yes

The Dewalt supports a variety of applications. Easy and convenient storage options; can be stored horizontally or vertically. The oil-free pump delivers a lot for long tool runtime and quick recovery.

WHAT WE LIKE

Dewalt is a good sound choice for a tire compressor.  It’s convenient, versatile, and saves space.

PROS

  • Oil-free pump, versatile storing (vertical or horizontal position), space saver, quiet, very light, easy to maneuver.

CONS

  • A little more expensive than comparable brands.
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AAA - 4024AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12 Volt DC Air Compressor

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AAA - 4024AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12 Volt DC Air Compressor

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AAA - 4024AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12 Volt DC Air Compressor

Specification

MAX PSI300 PSI
Weight2 lbs.
Power Source 12 Volt
MaintenanceNo maintenance
Is it lightweight and compact?Yes
What’s the build quality likeHigh-quality construction
Oil-free?Yes

The AAA Lifeline is a mini air compressor that inflates a tire from 0 to 35 PSI in eight minutes. It’s an affordable price, lightweight and functional for inflating other objects as well.

WHAT WE LIKE

This is not a heavy-duty compressor. So as long as you’re not wanting a tire compressor that’s heavy-duty, this is a good buy for what you get. True to AAA’s brand, this is a product you can trust when on the road. It’s easy to use and lightweight.

PROS

  • Lightweight, compact, portable, good price, versatile, includes nozzle adapters.

CONS

  • Complaints about build quality, not good for large capacity items, can be a bit noisy, no wall outlet.
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Kobalt 120v & 12v Portable Air Compressor Inflator Tire Pump Nozzle Needles 120 PSI LED Display

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Kobalt 12-Volt Multi-Purpose Portable Car Sport Air Inflator

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Kobalt 12-Volt Multi-Purpose Portable Car Sport Air Inflator

Specification

MAX PSI120 PSI
Weight6.35 1bs.
Power Source 12 Volt
MaintenanceNo maintenance
Is it lightweight and compact?Yes
What’s the build quality likePlastic
Oil-free?Yes

The Kobalt air compressor is a dual power inflator that provides up to 120 PSI. It’s perfect to keep in your vehicle and is versatile to be used on other products, like bikes, ATVs, beach toys, etc. 

WHAT WE LIKE

This product is low maintenance; question its durability.

PROS

  • Lightweight, versatile, electric

CONS

  • Plastic material

Why Is Tire Pressure Important?

When your tire does not have a proper amount of air in it, bad things happen. One of them is it can fo flat — and this can happen when you’re on the highway. Whether it’s too much air pressure or not enough air pressure, it’s a bad thing and can cause you time and money that could have been avoided. Eventually, this could even affect your fuel economy and tire wear. 

Even cars that come automatically equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system can only guide you so far. The light usually comes on when the tire pressure is below the manufacturer’s recommendation. Hopefully, at the time it comes on you’re in a good place to pull over and adjust your tire pressure as needed. But even then, you need to be ready to react or you may be calling for assistance. So, it’s important to have an air compressor to ensure your tires are at the correct pounds per square inch (PSI).

Benefits of an Air Compressor

  • When your tires are at the proper pressure it gets better gas mileage by up to 3%, making for better fuel efficiency.
  • When your tires aren’t properly filled, it’s always a safety hazard. This can affect braking ability or even cause you to hydroplane. Knowing your tires are properly filled is better safety all around for your vehicle.
  • It’s cost-effective to have an air compressor on hand. When your tire light comes on, you usually have to find an air compressor or drive to one. But if your tires are already low in pressure, the last thing you want to do is take it out on the road and drive for who knows how long. It’s just more cost-effective to have it with you at all times.
  • It’s also more convenient. Not only are they to be used on vehicle tires, but they can also be used on other things, like inflatable beach and pool toys, bike tires, air mattresses, etc. 
  • They take up very little space. Most of them are compact and lightweight, and easy to transport anywhere.

How Much Is an Air Compressor?

You can purchase an air compressor for less than $50 that will get the job done to keep your vehicle safe on the road. These are pretty basic models without extra bells or whistles. You could also invest a little more — up to $150 to ensure you have a high-quality compressor with supplemental functions. Either option is good, depending on what you’re looking for in a compressor.

Review Summary

As we look at some of the key features of an air compressor, some of the key things to look for include: the power source to know where it draws its power from, the max psi, the weight and how compact and portable it is, and the level of maintenance required for upkeep. We’ll also check out some other notable features.

The brands we’ll be comparing are AAA Lifeline 300 PSI 12V DC Air Compressor, PORTER-CABLE C2002 Oil-Free, DEWALT DWFP55130 Heavy Duty, Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor, and the Kobalt 120v & 12v Portable Air Compressor. In the end, we’ll give you our top choice for air compressors.

Tips When Using an Air Compressor

  • It’s a good idea to let the air compressor cool down after using it to not damage it from overheating.
  • A  compressor performs more efficiently if it can breathe properly during use. For this reason, use it in an open place for better performance.
  • Before you make your pick, be sure to check the compatibility of the hose extensions with your tires.
  • Store your compressor indoors so it won’t get dusty, especially if you’re in a humid area.
  • Your compressor should be part of your vehicle emergency kit when you’re on the road, so make sure the hoses and extensions are always in the car as needed.

Conclusion

While all of the air compressors are good, our recommendation for the best tire air compressor is the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor as the best choice. This air compressor is equipped for better output which results in better performance, and it also comes with an oil and 1/4 -inch universal quick coupler. It’s a bit pricey, but worth every dollar.

Other Recommendations:

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