Best 12V compressors 2021

Keep your tyres pressures just right with these 12V compressors

If you want an easy way to be safer while saving cash and the planet, keep your tyre pressures just right. Pressures below those recommended in your handbook can lower your fuel economy, adversely affect handling and braking, and increase wear. Investing in a 12-volt mini compressor is the most convenient way to check your tyres. 

Despite the varying power outputs of our test samples, they all allowed us to preset a target pressure, so you don’t have to keep a permanent eye on the unit when inflating. But which is the one to keep in your boot? We powered up eight to find out.

How we tested them

We inflated a 15-inch tyre from 20 to 30 pounds per square inch (psi), measuring gauge accuracy and the time taken. We used an iPhone app to log the noise level of each unit in decibels (dB) from an ambient of around 32dB. We also timed each one adding 5psi to a 16-inch space-saver tyre to its 60psi maximum. 

Points were gained for hose and power cord length, practical features that made each compressor easier to use, such as clear displays and controls, and extras such as adaptors and bags or cases. The final factor was price from online sources.

Verdict

For normal use, the Ring RCT1000 stays at the top, with the Wolf and Sakura both worth checking out. When extra performance is required, the Ring RAC830 or Michelin Superfast should be on your list. 

  1. RTC1000 Premium Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator
  2. Wolf Glovebox Genie 3 in 1 Digital Tyre Inflator
  3. Sakura 12V Digital Air Compressor SS5332

RTC1000 Premium Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator

  • Price: £45.64 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 1:43/0:42
  • Contact: 0113 213 2000, www.ringautomotive.com
  • Rating: 5/5

BEST BUY The RTC1000 stays top by combining good results in all the areas we checked. We love the huge backlit display, easy-to-use rotary preset control and the neat addition of a spare fuse and four dust caps. The large on/off button is easily found and can even be operated by foot. 

Only the much more powerful machines beat it in the race to 30psi, and it was well in the hunt with the space saver. It was also among the quietest, at 42dB, and we liked the thick padded case, longest power cord (3.5m) and the superb, easy-to-turn brass valve connector.

Buy now from Ring Automotive

Wolf Glovebox Genie 3 in 1 Digital Tyre Inflator

  • Price: £18.98 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 1:55/0.36
  • Contact: 0330 123 0001, www.ukhs.tv
  • Rating: 4.5/5

RECOMMENDED It's not the best performer nor the best equipped, but the Wolf scored heavily in terms of value, because it was the cheapest on test. At 53dB, it was quite noisy, but its 20-30psi result was surprisingly good, its space saver figure was third best and the gauge was only 0.5psi adrift overall. 

Its specification is fairly standard; there’s a light with flashing option at one end and a recess for the 2.6m power cord at the other. The air hose is reasonable, at 66cm, although we’d have liked a case or bag, and it seemed stingy to just have two leisure adaptors.

Buy now from Amazon

Sakura 12V Digital Air Compressor SS5332

  • Price: £25.33 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 2:10/0.47
  • Contact: 01488 689400, www.saxon-brands.com
  • Rating: 4/5

RECOMMENDED The Sakura looks similar to the Wolf (opposite), and it performed in largely the same way, gaining in some areas and losing in others. It was a touch quieter, at 51dB, although that’s still pretty loud, it delivered the second slowest 20-30psi figure and one of the least effective results on the space saver. 

However, it comes with a soft carry bag, has an excellent three-metre power cord and at less than a kilo, it will be easy enough to carry. While we liked the three-function LEDs, it only came with two adaptors, while the gauge read 1.5psi adrift overall.

Buy now from Amazon

Ring RAC830 12V Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator

  • Price: £64.99 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 1:03/0:25
  • Contact: 0113 213 2000, www.ringautomotive.co.uk
  • Rating: 4/5

The first of our big hitters, this was closely matched throughout with the Michelin Superfast. Aimed at larger vehicles, the bigger motor meant more weight, a hefty 2.6kg, but it was no surprise that its 20-30psi performance was the second best, likewise its space-saver time, but it was the joint noisiest, at 55dB. 

We liked the long power cord (3.5 metres), the simple controls and chunky padded bag, the latter being handy because there was no power cord or air hose storage, and if left loose would be really untidy. 

Buy now from Amazon

Michelin Programmable Superfast 4x4/SUV Digital Tyre Inflator

  • Price: £75 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 0:46/0:23
  • Contact: 0845 057 9000, www.halfords.com
  • Rating: 4/5

A true monster, at almost 3kg, the Superfast certainly lived up to its name, blasting through our performance tests in record-breaking times. Better yet, it was second quietest to the winning RTC1000 by a single decibel, at 43dB. 

We liked the neat folding handle, but thought the display was a tad small. We reckon it deserves a Ring-style zip-up case rather than a thin nylon bag, and wrapping the hose and long 3.09-metre cord around the outside was a bit of a Heath-Robinson affair. It’s similar in many ways to the RAC830 (left), but its price dropped it a spot. 

Buy now from Halfords

Michelin 12312 Programmable Rapid 4x4/SUV Digital Tyre Inflator 

  • Price: £70 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 1:10/0:27
  • Contact: 0845 057 9000, www.halfords.com
  • Rating: 3.5/5

Similar to its Superfast sibling (p59), this Michelin was slightly slower on the pressure performance tests, albeit not by much and with still-impressive results – third best on both overall. Lighter, at 2.25kg, the design has a neat carry handle and we like the nodule for storing the dust cap. 

As with the Ring twins, we found the brass/plastic screw connector a bit awkward at times. At 42dB, it was noticeably quiet and, while only a thin bag was provided, with this model there was a recess and neat flap for cord storage.

Buy now from Amazon

Halfords Rapid Digital Tyre Inflator 239074

  • Price: £39.99 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 1:46/0.53
  • Contact: 0845 057 9000, www.halfords.com
  • Rating: 3/5

The Rapid is aging nowadays, and although the same could be said of the similar Wolf and Sakura, their price takes this into account, while Halfords charges more. We like the three-metre cable, but the 60cm air hose is a bit short. 

The 20-30 psi result was good, although it struggled with the space saver, recording the slowest time. It was quite noisy, at 51dB, and 1.5psi adrift on the 20/30psi readings. For the price, we’d expect a case or bag and deflator button. Overall it was par for the course in terms of spec and performance, but it costs too much. 

Buy now from Halfords

Michelin Compact Top Up Digital Micro Tyre Inflator

  • Price: £30 
  • Time 20-30psi/55-60psi: 4:20/N/A
  • Contact: 0845 057 9000, www.halfords.com
  • Rating: 2/5

This resembled Michelin’s larger machines, but was pocket-sized, at 110 x 140 x 40mm. It was noisy and buzzy, topping out at 55dB, and its less powerful motor meant it could only handle pressures up to 40psi, so we couldn’t attempt the space saver test. The shortage of power was evident when it took well over four minutes to add 10psi.  

There’s no storage case or bag, the power cord is a plug-in item, while the air hose was a mere 15.5cm. This meant the valve had to be in exactly the right place if you wanted to leave the unit on the ground. It’s a neat set-up, but at this price there’s too little for too much money. 

Buy now from Halfords

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