How to Pick the Perfect Portable Air Compressor

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Air compressors and inflators are very similar, but they are not the same. - an online air compressor superstore - explains the differences between the two products.

Inflators and portable air compressors are similar, but they are hardly the same.


Inflators come in a variety of flavors. Some come with safety lights. Some come with built-in vacuums or jumper cables.

“The extra bells and whistles are nice. But, some people overlook what really matters -- how it is powered,” says Jon Hoch, founder of – an online air compressor superstore.

According to Hoch, inflators have three types of power sources:

12-Volt Inflators

Small 12-volt inflators are designed for the road. They plug directly into a cigarette lighter. These inexpensive inflators are great for inflating toys, like beach balls and sporting goods.

120-Volt Inflators

A 120-volt inflator is designed for home use. They plug directly into your household electrical outlet. The 120-Volt inflators tend to be more powerful than their 12-volt counterparts. Hence, they inflate stuff a lot faster.

Cordless Inflators

Cordless inflators are the best of both worlds. They include rechargeable batteries, eliminating the connection to a power cord. Plus, most cordless inflators include 12-volt and 120-volt adapters, so they can be recharged on the road or at home.

“Inflators do a great job at a great price,” said Hoch. “They just don't do it very fast.”

Inflators simply lack the strength to quickly inflate large objects or things requiring a lot of pressure. For example, an inflator can fill a car tire, but it could take up to 20 minutes to reach the right pressure.

Portable Air Compressors

If speed is an issue, Hoch recommends buying a portable air compressor instead of an inflator.

“Small air compressors are more expensive, but they’re more powerful. Portable air compressors pack plenty of punch to operate some air tools,” says Hoch.

According to Hoch, the keyword is "some" air tools. Most portable air compressors can operate short burst tools, such as an air brush, nailer or staple gun.

“Don't expect to build a house or restore your old Corvette with a small portable air compressor. They simply lack the strength and size to power continuous air tools,” says Hoch.

If a homeowner wants to run an impact wrench, grinder, sandblaster or sander, Hoch suggests getting a bigger air compressor designed for "in the garage" use. is an online air compressor superstore owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct, Inc.

The company also runs and

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