Air Inflator vs Air Compressor | What Are The Differences?

Air Inflator vs Air Compressor

Thanks to tools like inflators and compressors, inflating things like mattresses, basketballs, or tires has become a pretty easy task these days. However, there are a few differences between an inflator and a compressor. You may choose whether to use an inflator or a compressor based on your demands and work specification. 

An inflator is a tool that works like an air pump, and it’s designed to inflate items like a truck or car tires. You can also consider the inflators as a miniature version of a compressor. Moreover, the inflators have the advantage of being portable and having additional functions such as lighting, emergency signals, and USB connections.

On the other hand, we have the compressor. A compressor is a larger device with a tank powered by an AC outlet. You can also use a compressor to pump air into a car tire. Moreover, you can also use a compressor on the construction site where high-pressure air is required. In this article, we will compare the features of both the inflator and compressor, so you can decide which one you need for your job.

Difference Between Inflator and Compressor

In this article, we will compare the features of both the inflator and compressor, so you can decide which one you need for your job.

Operation Method

Let’s start with the operational difference between an inflator and a compressor. Even though both the inflator and compressor do the same thing, there is a bit of a difference in their operational process. In terms of inflating an object, an inflator employs a piston to force air into the desired location. Air is drawn into the pump through the inlet when the piston is lifted up. When the pump chamber fills with air, it depressurizes, and as the piston is thrust down, the air gets compressed. After closing the intake, the air then exits through the outlet or vent of the inflator. The piston repeats the cycle repeatedly to continue this compressing and air-pumping process. 

A compressor works by forcing air into a container and pressurizing it. Afterward, the air gets driven through a hole in the tank, which builds up pressure. The transmission becomes more accessible and more efficient when the air gets compressed.  Unlike inflators, the compressor can not transfer liquids through a system the way it does with air. Because compressing and reducing the volume of liquids is extremely difficult. 

Structure And Size

Next up is the structure and size. Well, the most prominent difference between an inflator and a compressor is their size. Compressors are larger and almost certainly include a tank. As they are larger in size, they become less portable. However, a compressor is a versatile and efficient unit, making them ideal for home and garage usage.

An inflator is also called a miniature version of a compressor as they are pretty compact and portable. You can also find some inflators that are cordless and battery-powered, thus they can even fit into your hands as well. If you’re working with an inflator, you can put it almost anywhere, and since a compressor is a larger unit and comes with a long hose, it’s a bit difficult to bring it outside.

In terms of structure, a compressor is comprised of a motor, input filter, valves, storage tanks, drain, casing, and other components. Whereas the motor, casing, impeller, volute, and shaft are some of the basic components of an inflator. 


Compressors can only transport gases, but Inflators can transport both liquids and gases. Since the compressor doesn’t need a battery or charging, it is more functional for a wider range of applications. For example, while operating an automobile or tire business, you should get a compressor with a higher capacity to ensure that you always have enough air. Spray painting, nail guns, framing crews, and airbrushing tools are just a few of the common uses for air compressors. In addition, compressors can also fill vehicle tires.

Some of these inflators have battery packs that may be used to jump-start a stranded car. These small units are ideal for rescuing stranded automobiles or pumping tires on trash cars. You can use an inflator to fill up a balloon or your bicycle tires as well. You can rapidly inspect and inflate your tires using an inflator, reducing tire wear and boosting fuel efficiency.


Another thing to consider when comparing a compressor and an inflator is that their maintenance requirements are also different. Compressors are more difficult to maintain than air pumps. There are several things to maintain in a compressor; you can check the air leaks, and belts, look for any noise or vibration, clean or replace air filters, tighten the bolts, and many more. Since there are different types of compressors, you should do the maintenance work following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Just like compressors, there are types of inflators: manual and digital. However, inflators don’t need that frequent maintenance, you only have to repair them when it’s not performing as expected. Thus the maintenance cost of an inflater is pretty low.

Powering Pneumatic Tools

A compressor is a much more suitable option for powering a pneumatic tool. This is because a compressor can constantly deliver high-pressure and stable airflow for long periods of time. Besides, a small to the medium-sized compressor can power a variety of pneumatic equipment, allowing you to do tasks around the house or in the garage faster. However, an inflator doesn’t come with a compressed air tank, so they don’t have the ability to power pneumatic equipment.

Production Capacity

Capacity refers to the amount of air that a compressor or inflator can pump out. Each compressor and inflator boasts a different level of output capacity. However, one thing is for sure the air pressure output of a compressor is substantially larger than the output capacity of an air pump.

With that being said, we have reached the end of this article, and now you can differentiate between a compressor and an inflator. An inflator is a very convenient option when you have to inflate pool toys or basketballs and blow up a flat tire in an emergency. It’s a portable tool, so you would be able to use this on the go. Along with that, the maintenance cost of an inflator is much lower as well. However, an inflator can’t power pneumatic tools.

Along with inflating tires, a compressor is capable of powering pneumatic tools as well. A compressor definitely beats an inflator when it comes to power and output capacity. However, a compressor is pretty heavy and the maintenance cost is higher than an inflator.

Leave a Comment