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What Is The Best Portable Air Compressor?

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I only started looking into a selection of the best portable air compressor only recently – being more familiar with the much larger variants, I was somewhat surprised to see what was on the market at far less weight, yet pretty decent power nonetheless.

  • To many people, portable air compressors are enough. A lot of folks aren’t looking to drive nails or do high-maintenance work. They just want to be able to carry around an air compressor light enough and strong enough to get their tires pumped up on a whim while out on the road and miles from the nearest station – and if they can manage to get their hands on the best portable air compressor for the job, all the better.
  • So, if you’re one of those people, and you’ve been making an effort looking for the best portable air compressor, then welcome to the club. There’s plenty out there to choose from – but for today, I made a pick of two from the same company, Viair, to tell you how they’re different, and why you really want one over the other.

VIAIR 90P Portable Compressor

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Our first candidate for the best portable air compressor is Viair’s 90P. I haven’t had many problems with filling tires on the road, but I’ve had an incident or two where a few unfixed leaks led to me constantly getting low on pressure at a quick rate. That’s my primary motivation for getting into portable air compressors – to ensure that, if I’d be caught in a situation like that again, especially on a road trip, I wouldn’t be at the mercy of my tires.

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So, I started out by checking out the 90P. To my surprise, it’s really simple to use – snap on the alligator clamps on your battery, carry the compressor (which weighs all of a pound, mind you) to your tire, and get pumping.

  • At 100 to 120 working PSI, it works pretty fast (completely flat to around 30 inches, in just a few minutes). It isn’t noisy either, and definitely lasts – at least so far.
  • Downside? It’s got a pretty bad run time, at only 15% – meaning it works at 100-120 PSI for 90 seconds, then cools down for 8 and a half minutes. That’s a while. I’m not too fond of using alligator clamps either, since some compressors come with car accessory plugs, and I’ve noticed that the pressure gauge on my unit isn’t the most reliable one. Although, I’m not 100% sure whether that’s just a fault in my unit, or if it’s a more widespread problem.

VIAIR 00088 88P Portable Air Compressor

Viair’s newer 88P outperforms the 90P, I found, and wins my title of best portable air compressor. First of all, there’s the run time. The 90P’s abysmal run time is knocked out of the park with the 88P’s run time of 4 and a half minutes, before requiring a 5 and a half minute cool down. That’s a lot better. It’s also cheaper, and fills a good extra inch or two on your tires than the 90P does. It also retains the low noise levels.

It’s still a pound heavy, and has a much longer air hose, too, at 12 feet versus the 90P’s 5 feet. It doesn’t have a car accessory plug, and neither does it come with the free bag the 90P has, but I find it to be a better product anyways.

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However, it doesn’t come without its cons. Firstly, reading the pressure gauge takes some practice, as it can fluctuate quite a bit, and the PSI isn’t quite consistent throughout the machine’s run-time. It’s still good enough to fill your tires up at a rapid rate without too much of a fuss, though.

Conclusion

The 88P is the 90P’s younger descendant, and it shows. Being nearly seven years younger, the 88P easily outperforms the 90P in a number of aspects.

  • It’s smaller than the 90P, does a better job at filling the tires, has a much longer air hose and power cord, and even comes a few bucks cheaper online.
  • I bought the 90P first, but in hindsight, it was a bit of a waste. (For more details, you can read this post: “portable air compressor reviews“).

Now, with both air compressors being near/over the $ mark, you’ll know that despite their size and relatively low power, these are two of the candidates for the best portable air compressor, and they’re quite expensive – but, with the 88P, so far I can say that you pretty much get what you pay for. Finally, reading one more article about “portable air compressor reviews” is really what you should do NOW to learn more about them.

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