Here at Practical Caravan, we’ve tested a range of portable tyre compressors, doing the leg work so you don’t have to.

We think a tyre compressor is an essential caravanning accessory, because you should never head off on your caravan holidays without ensuring that the tyres on both your tow car and your tourer are at the right pressure. As well as keeping you safe on the road, this can also help your fuel economy – according to some studies, tyres that are under-inflated by just a few PSI can hurt mpg by as much as 10%.

However, adjusting tyre pressures can be a fiddly and time-consuming job, especially if you’ve got an SUV with big wheels which need a lot of air, and when you have a car and a caravan to check, therefore instead of using a foot pump, having a portable, powered tyre compressor to hand is very useful.

Every product reviewed in our group test was subjected to the same challenges, so we could compare them directly. We began by seeing how long it took each compressor to inflate a 205/55 x 16 tyre from flat to 30PSI. During connection, we also evaluated each unit’s user-friendliness. We found that long air hoses and power leads make positioning the unit much easier, and cordless devices are even better still. In addition, we noted that some higher power models attach directly to a battery’s terminals, an advantage when checking and adjusting a caravan’s tyres because of the close proximity of the leisure battery. We were also able to assess the coupling between the air hose and the tyre valve – we found that screw-on style couplings are much more simple to use.

So, what other features do we think are good to see on a portable tyre compressor and which functions did we most appreciate? Perhaps it is obvious, but the gauge needs to be easy to read – especially at a glance. We found digital gauges were the best for this. Auto start-stop is another convenient function, meaning you can set the compressor running and leave it, knowing it will switch itself off when the desired pressure has been reached.

Having a deflate button is also useful. In addition, we gave points to products with lights – which make the easy to use at night – and with an integral high-volume low-pressure pump, as that means you won’t need to take a separate pump away with you.

Here we review the Draper 65958, which costs £24.46. The time taken to inflate our test tyre – a slow 5 mins 20 secs — sums up this model: it feels very dated. At this price level we can’t whinge too much about the conventional lever-type valve coupling, but the 30cm-long air hose is too short. If a wheel has stopped with the valve at the top, you have to hold the compressor in place to prevent it hanging from the hose. There are a few lighting options, but this unit is just too expensive for its budget performance levels. 

So if you’d like to consider other products, in our portable tyre compressors group test we also reviewed the Ring RAC900, the Halfords Multi-Purpose Inflator, the Michelin Hi-Power Rapid Tyre Inflator and the T-Maxx Portable Compressor.