There are lots of portable tire inflators and air compressors on the market today. Most of them are cheap, under-powered, prone to overheating, and will leave you frustrated when you try to air up large RV tires. The air compressors in the chart below are all used and recommended by RVers for their durability, portability, reliability, and power. Each of the options in the chart will work for inflating RV tires, but for most RVers we recommend the VIAIR 400P-RV Portable Air Compressor. It comes with an extra hose and long-reach air chuck, has a long enough duty cycle for almost all use cases, and will quickly and efficiently fill your large trailer or RV tires.
Why Not Use a Cigarette Lighter Style Air Compressor?
We don’t recommend air compressors that plug into your cigarette lighter outlet. RV and trailer tires carry a higher load than passenger tires, so they have higher inflation pressure and require a larger volume of air than car tires. 12-volt cigarette lighter style compressors don’t have the air flow or duty cycle necessary to quickly fill larger RV and trailer tires.
What does “Duty Cycle” mean?
Duty cycle is typically defined as the amount of time the compressor can be operated in the given time period at 100 PSI at an ambient temperature of 72° F. For example, if a compressor has a one-hour, 50% duty cycle, it can run for 30 minutes, then needs to be shut off for 30 minutes to cool. A one-hour, 100% duty cycle means it can run for one hour continuously before needing to be shut off. We have broken this down in the comparison chart below to give you the actual recommended run time for each compressor.
Our recommended portable RV air compressor, the VIAIR 400P-RV can run for 40 minutes at 30 PSI and 20 minutes at 100 PSI.
What Type of Air Compressor/Tire Inflator Do You Need for Large Tires?
Think battery clamps.
Trailer and RV tires usually run between 65 to 120 PSI, depending on the tire size and load range. Traveling with under-inflated tires causes premature tread wear and overheating while increasing the chances of a blowout. A portable air compressor or tire inflator is a must have for traveling with an RV, fifth wheel, or other trailer, but it needs to be powerful enough to actually inflate RV tires.
If it plugs into the cigarette lighter outlet, it isn’t powerful enough to reliably fill RV tires. Instead, look for a compressor that connects directly to the battery terminals using battery clamps or that can be hard-wired into your vehicle’s 12-volt system.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind running a generator or relying on AC power, the 120-volt AC compressors are considerably more powerful than the 12V DC compressors, but sacrifice portability for power.
Important Things to Look for in a Portable Air Compressor
These are some of the most important features to look for in a quality portable air compressor that will adequately inflate RV or trailer tires. These are also features to look for in a good off-road air compressor.
- Duty cycle – Can it run 100% of the time and for how long without overheating?
- Continuous Run time – Does it need to be shut off periodically or can it run continuously?
- Automatic shutoff to prevent overheating – Protects the air compressor from damage if it runs too long.
- Max PSI – What is the maximum tire pressure it can inflate to?
- CFM – How many cubic feet per minute can the tire inflator pump out? If the CFM is not high enough, it will take a very long time to inflate a large tire.
- Noise Level – How loud is the compressor?
- Hose length – Is the included hose long enough to reach all your tires?
- Power cord length – How far can you move the compressor away from the battery terminals?
- Quick connect – Can you easily attach an extra hose or additional inflation devices, such as a ball needle?
- Tire Pressure Gauge – Is a pressure gauge built in so you can monitor the tire PSI as you inflate it?
What Brand of Portable Air Compressor is Best for RVers?
After loads of research, personal testing of different brands, and speaking with experienced RVers, we highly recommend the VIAIR brand as the best option for portable air compressors (See the chart below for a comparison). VIAIR compressors meet all the expectations we are looking for in a portable air compressor. They are durable, high quality, high performance air compressors that are built to last. Just check out the reviews.
Standard features included with VIAIR portable compressors that make them better than the rest include:
- Oil-less design
- Maintenance free
- Sealed motor housing
- High performance and reinforced PFTE piston ring
- Precision bearings
- Thermal overload protection
Check out this video for an overview of the VIAIR 400P-RV portable air compressor:
Portable RV Air Compressor Comparison Chart
This comparison chart shows the top portable air compressors we recommend for RVers and other travelers that will do the job of inflating those tires to the correct PSI. Use the chart to compare features and the latest best prices.
|Our #1 Pick|
|VIAIR 88P Portable Air Compressor||VIAIR 400P Automatic||VIAIR 400P-RV||VIAIR 450P-RV|
|Best Price||Amazon: |
|Max Pressure||120 PSI||150 PSI||150 PSI||150 PSI|
|Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) @ 0 PSI||1.47 CFM||2.30 CFM||2.30 CFM||1.80 CFM|
|CFM @ 90 PSI||0.64 CFM||1.28 CFM||1.28 CFM||0.97 CFM|
|Duty Cycle||25 min @ 30 PSI||20 min @ 100 PSI||20 min @ 100 PSI||40 min @ 100 PSI|
|Max Recommended Tire Size||33-Inch||35-Inch||35-Inch||42-Inch|
|Automatic Shutoff Function?|
|Power Type||12V DC||12V DC||12V DC||12V DC|
|Max Amp Draw||20 amps||30 amps||30 amps||23 amps|
|Thermal Overload Protection?|
|Power Cord Length||10 ft||8 ft||8 ft||8 ft|
|Hose Length||16 ft||30 ft||60 ft||60 ft|
|Weight||4.75 lbs||10.7 lbs||10.7 lbs||13.05 lbs|
|Additional Accessories Included||3-piece inflation tips kit||Tire Inflation Gun w/ 160 PSI Gauge, Quick Connect Air Hose (30 ft), 3-piece Inflation Tips Kit, Deluxe Carry Bag||Tire Inflation Gun w/ 160 PSI Gauge,Quick Connect Air Hoses (30 ft), Extra Extension Hose (30 ft), 45-degree Extended Reach Chuck, 90-degree Twist-on Chuck, 3-piece Inflation Tips Kit, Heavy Duty Deluxe Carry Bag||Tire Inflation Gun w/ 160 PSI Gauge,Quick Connect Air Hoses (30 ft), Extra Extension Hose (30 ft), 45-degree Extended Reach Chuck, 90-degree Twist-on Chuck, 3-piece Inflation Tips Kit, Heavy Duty Deluxe Carry Bag|
|Warranty||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year|
|Pros||Great price, excellent build quality & durability, perfect for smaller tires and passenger vehicles.||High flow rate for quickly airing large tires. Excellent durability and quality.||Same as 400P, but has extra hose and other accessories for RVers.||Best duty cycle of any portable. Has plenty of power and hose for any RVer.|
|Cons||Slower than more expensive options. Shorter hose. Shorter duty cycle. Pressure gauge is on compressor instead of at the end of the air hose. Max 120 PSI.||Only has 30 foot air hose. Needs to rest after 20 minutes, but this should be sufficient for most uses.||A little pricey, but great quality and has everything any RVer would need.||Most expensive.|
|Bottom Line||Smallest portable air compressor we would recommend for use with RV or trailer tires, as long as the hose is long enough to reach. Best for tires under 80 PSI. Anything higher and it will take too long to fill them. It is best for topping off tires, not for filling them from empty. We recommend getting the extension hose to go with it. This is an excellent compressor for passenger tires, but it is a little under-powered for larger tires.||Good air flow rate, but it will need to stop and rest after 20 minutes of continuous use. This should be enough time to top off 4 tires from 90 to 110 PSI, but if you have more than that, you might want to look into the 450P-RV instead.||Same as the 400P, but it comes with an extra air hose and an extension chuck for easily reaching dually tires. We recommend this one for most RVers due to the extra hose and extension chuck.||Best portable air compressor for large RV and trailer tires. It does not fill as quickly as the 400P and 400P-RV, but it has a continuous duty cycle so it can continue pumping air when other portables need to stop for a break. This is especially important if you need to fill or top off multiple tires.|
The Viair 88P is the smallest and least expensive air compressor we would recommend for RVers, but with the caveat that it has a shorter hose (16 feet) and can only go up to 120 PSI. We would only recommend this one for someone with tires that have a max of 80 PSI. Although the 88P can reach 120 PSI, it will take a long time. The power cord is 10 feet long and the air hose is 16 feet, so if the distance from your battery to your furthest tire is less than 26 feet, this compressor would be an option for you. It is a very reliable and durable compressor capable of inflating tires up to 33 inches.
If you need a longer reach than 26 feet, you can add this extension hose for just a few dollars that will connect properly with the 88P portable compressor.
Pros: Great price, excellent build quality & durability, perfect for smaller tires and passenger vehicles
Cons: Slower to fill large tires, max of 120 PSI, air gauge is located on the compressor body instead of the end of the hose where you can see it while filling the tire.
The VIAIR 400P-Automatic is the smallest portable air compressor we recommend for RVers. It can handle tires up to 35″ tires and a maximum of 150 PSI.
While VIAIR makes smaller portable compressors, they aren’t sufficient for RVers because they either don’t have a long enough hose and power cord, or are not able to put out enough air flow for large tires.
This 400P can run for up to 40 minutes at 30 PSI and 20 minutes at 100 PSI before it needs to be shut off to cool. These times are the manufacturer recommendations for the longest life, but you can actually run it longer than 20 minutes. It has an automatic shutoff feature if it gets too hot, which will protect the motor from burning up.
It comes with a 30 foot air hose and an 8 foot power cord, so if that is long enough to reach all your tires, this would make a good portable compressor for your RV.
Pros: High flow rate for quickly airing large tires. Excellent durability and quality.
Cons: Only has a 30 foot air hose. Needs to rest after 20 minutes @ 100 PSI, but this should be more than sufficient for most uses.
The VIAIR 400P-RV compressor is the same model as the 400P discussed above, but it comes with additional accessories that are perfect for RVers. Accessories include an extra 30-foot air hose, an extended reach air chuck, a 90-degree twist-on chuck, and a larger bag to carry it all.
This model is also available from Camping World and frequently goes on sale, so we recommend checking the price there.
Pros: Same as 400P, but comes with an extra 30-foot hose and other accessories for RVers.
Cons: A little pricey, but great quality and has everything any RVer would need.
The VIAIR 450P-RV is our top recommendation for RVers. It comes with the same additional RV accessories as the 400P-RV, including an extra 30-foot hose, extended reach chuck, and 90-degree twist-on chuck, but it is typically listed at a slightly better price (see the chart above).
This model has a 100% duty cycle, so you can run it for up to an hour continuously before it needs to be shut off to rest. It has a slightly lower CFM than the 400P and 400P-RV, which means it does not pump air quite as fast, but it makes up for that by its continuous operation.
The 450P-RV is recommended for tires up to 42″ in diameter, so it should be able to easily handle any RV or trailer tires out there.
Pros: Best duty cycle of any portable. Has plenty of power and hose length for any RVer.
Cons: More expensive.
Ok, so this one is not really a portable air compressor, but the Porter-Cable C2002 is a very good, inexpensive, and reliable 120V AC compressor that many RVers take along instead of the smaller portables. The biggest downside to this one is that you need AC power, so that means airing up tires when you are at a campground with power or turning on the generator. If you’re OK with that, then this is a great compressor that will fill your tires much faster than any 12V DC portable.
It only weighs 30 pounds, but can put out nearly 3 times as much air as the 12V DC compressors we reviewed. That means it will fill tires much faster. An added benefit is you can use this one with air tools (think impact wrench) and it works great for blowing out the water lines when you winterize your RV.
It does not come with an air hose or accessories, so if you get this one you may want to add an accessory kit.
Other Air-related Accessories You Might Need
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
A Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) adds a sensor to each of your tires so you can monitor air pressure and tire temperature continuously as you travel. This helps prevent blowouts and premature tread wear from underinfated tires and will notify you of a leaking tire or a blowout.
Digital Pressure Gauge
A digital tire pressure gauge is a must for checking your tire pressures before a big trip. On driving days, I always check each tire before heading out. Twice now I have found an underpressure tire due to a slow leak from a nail picked up the day before. In both instances, I’m sure we would have had a blowout while driving if I hadn’t caught it before starting the trip.
If you already have an air compressor and need a longer hose, this is the perfect one. It is 30 feet long and has quick connect connectors on both sides to easily extend your existing hose.