Best Car Tire Pumps

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
407 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best car tire pumps

Last Updated November 2019

Professional race car drivers and their pit crews have been known to obsess over the pressure of their tires because even 1/4 of a pound one way or the other can change the speed of their car. The same thing holds true of your car tires. You may not be gunning it for the checkered flag, but you want to be safe out there on the road, and you probably want the best gas mileage possible. Under-inflated tires literally suck the mileage out of your car. Gas prices are always going up and down, so every penny counts.

Car tire pumps vary in their maximum psi, which determines what type of tires they can inflate. In addition, they vary in their controls, display, and other features that will determine how easy it is to get your tires back up to full when you’re on the side of the road on a chilly winter night.

Keep reading; we’ll cruise you through all the features and aspects you need to consider on your way to purchasing the best car tire pumps for you and your family.

Emergency equipment needs to be tested on a regular basis. At least once a year, take out your car tire pump and test it to make sure it works.

Key considerations

Psi limit

The majority of car tire pumps top out around 30 or 35 pounds per square inch, or psi, which limits them to inflating car tires, motorcycle tires, inflatable toys, air mattresses, and other small items. Trucks, SUVs, and RVs have tires with much higher pressure requirements, so finding a tire pump that is up for the job is crucial.

Many pumps can reach 100 or even 150 psi. This should be enough for more of the heavier vehicles in your driveway or garage.

In general, the higher the psi limit, the more expensive the car tire pump.

Size

Most of the car tire pumps we’ve seen are around a foot or so on the longest side. They can be stored easily in the trunk of your car or under a seat. Usually, the carrying case that comes with the pump (if there is one) is form-fitting or snug, so it doesn’t take up additional room. However, a few car tire pumps come with an oversized carrying case that nearly doubles the “size” of the pump in storage.

Weight

Car tire pumps that run off the cigarette lighter are lightweight, usually between 1 and 2 pounds. However, some models weigh 5 pounds or more. If you have difficulty lifting heavy objects, check the weight of any pump you are considering.

Power source

Car tire pumps are generally powered by one of two sources: a cigarette lighter or 120-volt outlet.

Cigarette lighter

Nearly all pumps have an electric cord that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the dashboard of your car. This means the car has to be running when you’re using the pump. Otherwise, you’ll drain the battery of your car.

Electrical plug

Some of the pumps also include a regular electrical cord to draw AC power from a standard 120-volt outlet. This is convenient when you’re pumping up basketballs, footballs, air mattresses, and other inflatables with the pump and don’t want to start up your vehicle.

EXPERT TIP

Clean the pump with a soft cloth or use compressed air to blow grit out of the threads on the stem connector.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Material

The cases of car tire pumps are made of durable ABS plastic, stainless steel, powder-coated steel, or aluminum. If you expect to use your pump regularly, consider a model with a durable case that won’t crack or dent after heavy use.

Color

Some manufacturers give you a choice of colors. Common options include black, silver, blue, red, green, and yellow. In the event that you have to use your tire pump on the side of the road, a brightly colored pump will increase your visibility.

Controls

Most car tire pumps have simple controls that are easy to read and use, even in low lighting, and some models feature backlit LCD screens that display readings clearly. However, a few pumps on the market still use the old circular gauges with no lighting. These can be challenging to use in low-light situations.

Cord and hose length

If the power cord is too short, you could find yourself stranded on the side of the road with a perfectly good pump that you can’t use. It’s a good idea to measure the distance from the cigarette lighter in your car to the tire farthest away from it.

Just as limiting — or liberating — is the hose length. Though a long power cord can allow you to position the pump right next to the tire, a long hose is still convenient.

When considering the overall reach of a pump, add the total length of the cord and hose. Most power cords are around 10 feet long, while hoses average around 2 feet in length.

Carrying case

Carrying cases are standard issue for most tire pumps. However, some cheaper models may come without a carrying case. Before you pull out your wallet, double-check to make sure a case is included with the pump you purchase. Getting an after-market case that fits is difficult, while included cases are usually form-fitting. Carrying cases are usually made of soft polyester or denim.

Additional features

As you compare mid-range and high-end car tire pumps, you will start finding additional features that will make inflating your tires easier.

A flashlight, often in the form of powerful, long-lasting LEDs, can help you find the stem if your tire in any lighting.

Some models may include additional nozzles for inflating more than just car tires.

More expensive models may include a built-in tire gauge so you can measure your tire pressure before you start filling them up.

EXPERT TIP

If you find yourself using your tire pump on the same tire more than once a month, something is wrong with the tire or the rim.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Extension cord: EPAuto 12V 12-Foot Heavy Duty Extension CordSometimes, the electric cord on your pump isn’t quite long enough to reach from the cigarette lighter to the tire. This 12-foot extension cord from EPAuto will ensure that never happens to you.

Pressure gauge: AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Pumps can tell you when you reach your desired air pressure, but they don’t always have a built-in pressure gauge. This backlit digital air pressure gauge from AstroAI can tell you the current pressure of your tires. It even has an LED at the front to help you connect to the tire stem in the dark.

Hose Adapter: LUMITECO Locking Air Chuck Hose Adapter
If you’re tired of using a twist-on connection from the pump to the tire stem, use this adapter from LUMITECO to switch to an easy, quick-release snap-on style of connector. With this adapter, there’s no more hissing from loose connections, either.

Car tire pump prices

Low-priced car tire pumps fall below $15. These pumps won’t have snap-on connectors for the most part and usually skimp on carrying cases too. The reliability of these pumps can vary.

Most trustworthy tire pumps can be purchased for between $15 and $45. These will have simple controls, good backlit displays (in most cases), and decent connectors. Some have dual electric cords for AC or DC power.

High-end car tire pumps range in price from $45 on up to $80 or more. These will generally be able to deliver greater pressure than the other models and have longer hoses and electric cords.

EXPERT TIP

Under-inflated tires can increase the wear and tear on a tire by as much as 5%. Your tire pump can save you the cost of a new tire.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Unless your tire is obviously flat, check the pressure before you pull out the tire pump. If your car is driving strangely, there could problems other than the tires. Eliminate the possibilities one at a time.
  • Your car has to be running before you plug in your tire pump. Plug in the power cord, and then connect the pump to the tire stem in the tire.
  • Use the controls to preset the desired tire pressure you want for the tire then hit “start” or “on.” The pump will automatically stop once it reaches the correct tire pressure.
  • You can expect your tires to lose pressure when the temperature drops as the air in the tires becomes denser.

Other products we considered

If you didn’t find what you were looking for in our top recommendations, we have a few other pumps for you to consider.

We like the FORTEM Digital Portable Air Compressor, and so do hundreds of customers. The controls are utterly simple, which can be a lifesaver when you're inflating a tire by the side of the road in bad weather. It includes attachments for air mattresses, sports balls, and more.

We also recommend the WindGallop Portable AIR Compressor. The all-copper motor will inflate a tire from 0 to 35 psi in just five minutes. The controls are simple, and it has bright LED lights for safe roadside work and two extra nozzles for inflating a variety of household items. The 11-foot  power cord easily reaches from the cigarette lighter to any tire on your car. However, it won't work on high-pressure truck and RV tires.

Car tire pumps can help you save at the pump. Under-inflated tires will increase your car’s gas consumption by 2% or more.

FAQ

Q. Can these tire pumps be used to inflate beach balls?
A.
As long you have the correct nozzle, yes. You’ll have to read the packaging the beach ball came in to determine the correct air pressure, though. Otherwise, the pump will try to reach whatever pressure you key in and could pop the beach ball.

Q. How do I know what the psi of my tires should be?
A.
Most vehicles list the required psi on the inside of the driver’s side door. It should be listed on a sticker on the doorframe.

Q. What if I don’t have a tire pressure gauge?
A.
A car tire pump will inflate itself to whatever psi you set it to. While it is helpful to have a tire pressure gauge to check your tires, it isn’t vital.

The team that worked on this review
  • Andrew
    Andrew
    Writer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Michael
    Michael
    Writer

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