I carry a little compressor, like the ones pictured above, behind the seat in my truck, and my girlfriend carries one in the trunk of her car. And you’d be surprised at how much crap I catch for it. “Why do you bother with that thing?” they ask. “I’ve got a great [insert whatever compressor they bought here] back at the shop.” That’s the trick, though, isn’t it? It’s back at the shop. Incredibly, I have most of my tire leaks away from home. I can’t tell you how many times the one I carry has saved my ass.
I’ve used it numerous times to pump up slow leaks, adding a little air to buy me another day to make arrangements to drop by my local tire shop. Hell, I even used one of these and some coffee to re-set a tire that came slightly loose from the rim — just enough that it wouldn’t hold air without re-seating. Years ago when I was more active, I used it to pump up basketballs and so on, too.
The one I carry cost less than either of the ones you see pictured at the top of the article. I inherited it from my dad (“Put this in your car, son.”) at least 20 years ago, and I’m pretty sure he snagged four or five of ’em on sale somewhere, probably Harbor Freight or some dime store. I expect it to quit any time now, but it just keeps chuggin’ away.
I primarily recommend just picking up the cheapest one you can find. I mean, really, it’s not like you’re going to stand around in a parking lot with the trunk open comparing these with your buddies. If it moves air, you’re good. If you have a choice, though, I suggest nabbing one of those that’s permanently mounted in a relatively square plastic box that also holds the hose and cord. This doesn’t affect performance at all, but it does make the thing easier to stow behind or under a seat.