The portable air compressor varies in cost from under $50 to $500 plus. We run a set of mid-grade compressors, which costs about $175 each. They are beefier and faster than the super-cheap auto store options, but not as much as the ARB suitcase style dual compressors. They take around 5 minutes per tire to air from mid-teens back up to the low 30s. They do get extremely hot in use, and need to cool a bit after around 4 tires in the summer.
A Powertanx setup utilizes compressed CO2 in a portable tank, regulator, and hose and costs around $700 complete. It’s biggest advantage is speed – what takes 5 minutes with a portable compressor like ours takes under 30 seconds. Instead of 20+ minutes, you are done with your entire rig in under 5. You do give a little of that time back when you have to re-fill the Powertanx (available at 4×4 shops like High Country Performance 4×4, but also most liquor stores and grow stores can fill CO2 tanks).
For your average-Joe, a quality air compressor will be just fine. Early on the cost difference between the two can represent a significant budget improvement in other areas (such as suspension, or additional recovery gear) so if your build budget is tight and you aren’t wheeling everyday, we recommend a compressor. If your budget isn’t as fixed, or you wheel alot, or you really want to get back to that fresh beer ASAP, a Powertanx is a solid investment in time savings.