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Best 12-Volt Air Compressor for RVs, Cars, and Trucks in 2020

(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)

Maintaining proper tire pressure is something you must do to keep your tires healthy.

Nobody wants to have a blowout caused by low tire pressure.

Yet this is exactly what can happen due to improper inflation while cruising at highway speeds.

Repercussions can even be worse if your vehicle is a fully loaded RV or a truck towing a travel trailer.

A 12-volt air compressor gives you the ability to maintain proper tire air pressure in your RV, SUV, car or truck while on the road.

No more having to find the elusive gas station with a working tire inflation station.

Below, we have reviewed the best 12v air compressors on the market, with explanations to why we chose them as the best.

Read on for the portable air compressor reviews.

Portable Air Compressor Guide

A portable air compressor might seem like a fairly simple device, and really it is.

But there are a few factors to consider when choosing which is the best 12-volt air compressor for your particular situation. As well as things to consider about maintaining proper vehicle tire pressure.

Read our Portable Air Compressor Guide to learn everything you need to know.

12-Volt Air Compressor Reviews

Below you will find the best portable 12v air compressor reviews for a selection of Viair compressors.

We have chosen what we feel are the best portable air compressors for a variety of use cases.

Keep in mind that going with a larger air compressor than what you may currently need only means that you will have room for future 'growth'.

Also, if you find yourself needing to air up larger vehicle tires in the future, you will already be set.

Why Only Viair 12v Air Compressors?

Viair 12v air compressors are some of the best you can buy and are very easy to use.

They have a reputation for being a high quality unit that gives years of reliable service (if you don't abuse them) while inflating your car tires quickly.

Yes, there are many different options out there. Especially on the low end of the pricing spectrum. But you know how the saying goes- you get what you pay for. 

Considering several of the Viair models reviewed on this page are well under $100, do yourself a favor and go with what many consider to be the best brand out there of small air compressors available.

Best RV Air Compressor

Viair 400P-RV / 450P-RV

Viair 450P-RV air compressor

Pros

  • 60 feet of air hose to reach all tires
  • Automatic which allows you to fill all tires without turning compressor off
  • Able to read tire pressure while running compressor (inflating tire)
  • 100% or 33% duty cycle - your choice!
  • High CFM to quickly inflate tires
  • Can also be used for car or truck tires

Cons

  • Power lead clamps directly to vehicle battery

There are many factors to consider when shopping for an RV air compressor.

Two key ones are having the ability to quickly inflate larger tires (like motorhomes) and having enough air hose to reach all of your rig's tires. Read the rest of the review for sizing information.  

Viair 400P-RV Auto

Viair 450P-RV Auto

Continue Reading Viair 400P-RV & 450P-RV Air Compressor Review

Best 12-Volt Air Compressor for Car, SUV and Truck Tires (up to 31" tires) - Cigarette Adapter

Viair 84P / 85P

Viair 84P portable truck air compressor

Pros

  • Quiet yet powerful
  • Good duty cycle
  • High quality at a reasonable price
  • Available with either press-on or screw-on style air chuck
  • Doesn't need to be clamped directly to battery

Cons

  • Requires 15 amp / 180 watt 12-volt outlet
  • Lowest CFM (air flow) of reviewed units
  • Maximum pressure of 60 PSI
  • No thermal protection
  • Shortest power cord and air hose of reviewed units
  • The Viair 84P and 85P compressors require a 12-volt power outlet (round, cigarette lighter style) that is capable of providing at least 15 amps (180 watts) of power. Check to make sure your vehicle(s) has this capability. If not, purchase the Viair 88P, which connects directly to your vehicle's battery.

If you need the best 12-volt air compressor for car tires, SUV tires and (most) truck tires, the Viair 84P and 85P compressors are excellent choices. 

Viair 84P (press-on chuck)

Viair 85P (screw-on chuck)

Continue Reading Viair 84P & 85P 12-Volt Air Compressor Review

Best 12v Air Compressor for Car, SUV and Truck Tires (up to 33" tires) - Battery Clamps

Viair 88P

Viair 88P 12 volt portable compressor

Pros

  • Higher CFM (air flow) than 84P / 85P
  • Maximum pressure of 120 PSI
  • Suitable for most car, truck, and SUV tires (up to 33")
  • Good duty cycle
  • High quality at a reasonable price

Cons

  • Power lead clamps directly to car battery
  • Have to turn off compressor to get accurate tire pressure reading
  • Screw-on style air chuck only
  • No thermal protection

Suitable for most common sizes of car, truck and SUV tire, the Viair 88P is one of the best 12v air compressors you can purchase for most tire inflation purposes. 

Continue Reading Viair 88P 12-Volt Portable Air Compressor Review

Best Off-Road Air Compressor (33" and Larger Tires)

Viair 400P Automatic / 450P Automatic

Viair 450P Automatic 12v portable air compressor

Pros

  • 400P/450P Auto comes in an RV version as well, so it can serve dual purpose
  • Can fill 4 tires w/out turning compressor off
  • Able to read tire air pressure while inflating/compressor on
  • 100% or 33% duty cycle - your choice!
  • High CFM to quickly inflate tires
  • Compressor won't sink into loose ground

Cons

  • Power lead clamps directly to car battery

The best off-road air compressor will quickly fill up your vehicle's tires after a day of being out on the trails. While an aired down tire is great for rocky 'goat paths' where you need a softer ride and better traction, when it comes time to head back home, you will need to air back up.

Viair 400P Automatic

Viair 450P Automatic

Continue Reading Viair 400P Automatic & 450P Automatic Air Compressor Review

These Are Tankless Air Compressors

All 12-volt portable air compressor reviews on this page are for tankless models.

This means that they do not use an external storage tank that holds a supply of pressurized air.

Instead, they provide a continuous 'stream' of air while they are on.

This makes for a compact unit that is relatively easy to tuck away for storage.

12v Air Compressor Accessories

Below are a few accessories/additions that are optional but may be of use for your Viair 12v air compressor.

30-Foot Braided, Coiled Air Hose Extension

This hose extension is the same one that comes with the 400P-RV and 450P-RV Automatic air compressors.

If you find that you need even more hose, or wish to extend the reach of your 400P Automatic or 450P Automatic (which only come with a single length of 30-foot air hose), this is your ticket.

This hose is rated for inflation pressures up to 200 psi and has a 1/4 inch stud on one end and a 1/4 inch quick disconnect on the other. Carry bag is included.

Viair braided 30 foot extension hose

6 Foot Air Hose Extension for Viair 85P and 88P

The 85P and 88P come with a twist-on type of air chuck body, which is compatible with this 6-foot hose extension. If you need just a little more reach (or a full person's worth), grab one of these affordable hoses and get to filling your tires.

Viair air hose extension

Digital Tire Inflation Gun

  • Only for use with Automatic Viair 12v air compressors. Which are the 400P-RV, 450P-RV, 400P Automatic, and 450P Automatic reviewed on this page.

If you don't like reading analog pressure gauges, this inflation gun brings you into the digital age. 

The battery operated, 120-psi pressure gauge takes the guess work out of your tire pressure. The backlit gauge has a rubber surround for protection.

The inflation gun works the same as the one that comes standard with the Viair Automatic compressors reviewed on this page.

There is a 12-inch air hose with a press-on style air chuck. Integrated bleeder valve and 1/4 inch quick disconnect stud are there.

Carry bag included.

Viair digital tire inflation gun

Replacement Air Filter Elements

The Viair 400P-RV, 450P-RV, 400P Automatic, and 450P Automatic 12v air compressors use an air filter assembly to keep dust and such out of the compressor internals.

You can buy replacement filter elements as a four pack.

Viair air filter element

12v Air Compressor Usage Precautions

Ouch, That's Hot!

During use, the compressor (and hose quick disconnect couplers, if equipped) WILL get hot, especially the metal components. This is normal.  

Don't grab the hot bits with your bare hands. Let the compressor cool before handling.

Don't Kill Your Battery!

When using your Viair 12v air compressor, you MUST run your vehicle's engine.

Why? These 12-volt air compressors draw a high amount of amperage. If you don't run the engine,  voltage will drop to a level lower than what the air compressor is happy with.

Also, prolonged use of the air compressor may drain the battery if the vehicle's engine isn't providing a charge. Both situations are no good, so run your vehicle when using your Viair compressor.

Air Pressure Release Warning!

For Viair compressors with detachable air hoses and chucks, always release air pressure from the hose(s) before removing the air chuck (or inflation 'gun') from the hose.

To release pressure, turn off compressor and disconnect the hose from the air compressor, and the chuck from the tire.

Pull trigger on inflation gun until all air pressure has been released. Only at this time is it safe to disassemble the hoses and chuck from one another.

Conclusion

Hopefully by now you should know which is the best 12v air compressor for your needs, depending on what type of passenger vehicle(s) you own and the size of tire you are inflating.

Even the best portable air compressor doesn't cost a small fortune, so you don't have to break the bank to make sure your tires are properly inflated.

Yes, avoiding a low pressure situation is important and having a 12-volt air compressor available makes it very easy to maintain cold tire pressure.

Don't obsess over it, just have a better understanding of your tires as you drive down the road to your next grand adventure.

Get out there and Camp On, Addicts!

Camp Addict Kelly
Kelly Beasley

Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.


Marshall Headshot
Marshall Wendler

Camp Addict co-founder Marshall Wendler brings his technical expertise to help explain RV products in an easy to understand fashion. Full-time RVing since April 2014, Marshall loves sharing his knowledge of the RV lifestyle.

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