Best Car Air Purifiers: Your Guide to Finding the Right Purifier for Your Vehicle
The best in-car air purifiers can help with allergies and odors
TheDrive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
With so much time spent in your vehicle, you’ll want to provide yourself and your passengers with the best air quality possible, especially during those grueling allergy-ridden days when you just can’t catch a break between sneezing and blowing your nose. Air purifiers are a great solution for better air quality. Check out the best car air purifiers we’ve picked out.
- Best OverallPure Car Air Purifier 3-in-1SummarySummaryOur best overall pick because of its compact size and affordable price tag. Comes with a HEPA and ionic filter. Includes USB ports for charging.ProsProsIt’s compact and plugs into the cigarette adapter. There are two USB quick-charging ports for Apple and Android devices. The ionic filter releases 5,600,000 negative ion concentrations. Includes car air freshener.ConsConsWon’t ship to California. Is a little larger, causing it to not fit in all vehicles. A blue LED light stays on constantly, which could be distracting.
- Best ValueFRiEQ Ionic Air PurifierSummarySummaryA great value option since it has powerful odor removal and kills harmful bacteria/viruses for its size and price. Includes ionic filter.ProsProsPlugs into your cigarette adapter. Powerful for its affordable price. No filter replacement and virtually silent.ConsConsDoes not use a HEPA filter. Has a blue LED light that stays on constantly. Will not ship to California.
- Honorable MentionPhilips GoPure Compact 200SummarySummaryOur best honorable mention for its three-step filtration process, light sensor warnings, and ability to mount anywhere. Includes multiple mounts and HEPA filter.ProsProsPlugs into the cigarette outlet. Light sensors reflect the quality of the air inside your vehicle. Runs off of a pre-filter, HEPA filter, and HESA filter. Can mount anywhere.ConsConsFilter replacement is needed based on usage. It’s quiet but not silent.
Benefits of Using a Car Air Purifier
- Reduce air particles and allergens. The main goal of an air purifier is to make the air you breathe in healthy and clean. Most systems can clean the indoor air in your car by 99.97%.
- Make breathing easier. People with respiratory problems, such as chronic bronchitis or emphysema, will notice a difference in the quality of air inside their vehicle. You don’t have to have a severe illness to notice a difference. When there is clean air, there is clean air.
- Reduce bacteria. Do you ever have a year where you are constantly getting sick, just one time after another? You may never think your car would have something to do with it. If so, you’d be wrong: The average American spends 293hours in their car in one year. That’s a lot of build up of bacteria if you don’t get a regular cleaning.
- Reduce odor. Most car air purifiers have been shown to reduce cigarette odors, pet odors, food odors, new car smell, etc. Ionic purifiers have shown the most improvement in odor elimination versus the HEPA systems.
- Low maintenance. Ionic purifiers don’t have a filter so you won’t need to regularly check to make sure your purifier is still doing its job. Some do have a metal plate that catches the particles, which will need to be cleaned, but you won’t usually find this in air purifiers for your car. HEPA air purifiers will most likely have a filter that may need to be changed every couple of months to a year.
Types of Car Air Purifiers
HEPA Car Air Purifier
HEPA air purifier systems pass air through small physical filters that collect dust, allergens, pet dander, and most other airborne contaminants. After circulating through the system, it pushes out the clean air. With HEPA air purifier systems, you will have to occasionally change the filter, depending on how long the machine runs and its size.
Car Ionic Air Purifier
Ionizers work a little differently. They don’t necessarily filter the air in the same manner as HEPA systems. Ionic air purifiers release electrically charged ions that attach to particles within your car and make them too heavy to keep floating around. With ionic systems, you will notice you’ll probably have to vacuum a little bit more often. Once the particles drop from the weight of the ions, they have to go somewhere and that is usually on the indoor floor, walls or plate inside the purifier.
Top Air Purifier Brands
Philips was founded in 1891. In 1990, it started the production of healthcare products. Its headquarters are in Amsterdam, Netherlands and serves many countries including Europe, Asia, and the United States. One popular item it sells is the Philips GoPure Compact 200.
The Pure Company
The Pure Company was recently started in 2018, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Known for its chic design and well-crafted products, one of its popular items is the Pure Car Air Purifier 3-in-1.
- $10-$30: Air purifiers at this price tend to get the job done but aren’t as effective. They are typically very simple and don’t contain as many filters as a higher-priced one would to really purify the air.
- $31-$62: This price range is a good budget range. You will still get a good purifier, but it might not have as much strength and power. If you are looking for a purifier that will work quickly and effectively without the major costs, this is the price range you will want to check out.
- $62-$90: With this price range you are getting into the larger, more equipped, quality purifiers. You’ll notice more features and a stronger product with the ability to filter 3x more contaminants than others.
- $90-$100+: Once you get past the $100 mark, you’re looking at the best quality, best features, and technology.
Car air purifiers usually have a light sensor system that will tell you the quality of the air inside your car at a specific time—green meaning good quality, orange/yellow meaning fair, and red meaning poor.
Three-Part Filtration Process
HEPA car air purifiers will most likely have a three-part filter system. The pre-filter will catch larger particles such as dog hair and dust. The second filter catches gasses and odors. The third, the HEPA filter, will catch small and ultra-small allergens, viruses, bacteria, and micro-sized dust. This process leads to a reduction in allergens, irritants, and bacteria.
Both ionic and HEPA car air purifiers have an automatic shutoff timer or sensor. Some will turn off after two hours, and some will shut off with your car. Once you plug it in for the first time, you won’t have to worry if it’s draining your battery.
It’s very difficult to keep a car clean. After you throw in kids, dogs, road trips, fast food, and smoke, it can build up and start to smell a little funky. Unlike air fresheners which mask the smell, a car air purifier can reduce the smell and even eliminate it.
- Size: If you have a small vehicle with space already limited, having a larger purifier might deter you. Because they make so many different models and sizes, make sure you check which one would be right for you. There are some you can just plug into your cigarette lighter, and there are some that sit on the dash.
- Living in the State of California: In 2010, California’s Air Resources Board banned the use of some car ionic air purifiers. A very limited amount of companies have produced ionic air purifiers that emit what’s called ozone. In high volumes, ozone can be harmful.
Best Car Air Purifier Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Car Air Purifier Overall: Pure Car Air Purifier 3-in-1
This one made the top of our list because of its affordability and its powerful ability to get rid of odor, allergens, and bacteria. What is different about this car air purifier is that it is the best of both worlds—being an ionic filter as well as a HEPA filter, your air quality will noticeably improve.
It also includes two USB ports to quickly charge your phone. An added bonus is that it’s not plastic like most other purifiers; it’s quality stainless steel. Having both means 2x better air quality inside your vehicle. Being an ionic car air purifier, all dust mites, allergens, bacteria, mold, and bad odors will be grounded.
If you live in California, unfortunately, they won't ship to you. This purifier also won’t fit in every car; the adapter might be too large for some smaller cars. It's quiet, but not completely silent. There is also a light that does not turn off unless the vehicle is off or the purifier is unplugged. It could be a potential distraction for some drivers.
Best Value Car Air Purifier: FRiEQ Ionic Car Air Purifier
This compact ionic car purifier is the best value for its size. Even though it is small, it offers powerful odor-fighting technology. Not only does it fight the most powerful odors, it also kills harmful bacteria and viruses. Plug it into your cigarette lighter or adapter, and it’ll start working immediately.
It releases negatively charged ions, which help fight odors and bacteria. To be exact, it releases 4.8 million ions per cm. Negative ions attract the particles that are floating around and ground them, so they can no longer move around in the air. When they are grounded, they attach to the floors, walls or plate inside the purifier. This is a great option if you want to remove odors quickly and not spend hundreds of dollars.
Unfortunately, this model won’t ship to California. The FRieQ ionic purifier also has a blue light that can’t be turned off, unless it’s unplugged. This could potentially be a distraction to some people.
Best Car Air Purifier Honorable Mention: Philips GoPure Compact 200
This HEPA car air purifier has sensors that tell you the air quality in your car in real time. The system contains three filtration systems, guaranteeing 99% air purity. Also, it can mount virtually anywhere.
On the purifier, there are three different lights that tell you the current quality of air. When the light is blue, air quality is excellent. If the light is yellow, air quality is fair. If it is red, air quality is poor. Unlike other air purifiers, it contains a three-step filter process, pre-filter, HEPA filter, and a HESA filter. With this three-step system, 99% of fine particles and bacteria are removed.
One thing to consider with this specific purifier: It will shut off automatically after two hours. If you plan on being in the vehicle longer than two hours, you will have to turn it on again. Also, this system was designed to be quiet, but it is not completely silent.
Tips & Advice
- Routinely check your filters when you have a system that requires changing them out. You’ll want to make sure your air purification system is running as it should. Checking the filters will give you a good estimate of the time between filter changes.
- It’s best practice to not have your purifier on while the windows are down. Allergens, dust, and bacteria can build up a lot quicker in your filters.
Q: What happens if the filters aren’t changed?
A: Leaving the filters in the machine for too long could result in very poor air quality. The allergens, hair, and other things won’t go through the machine as intended, leaving most of what the purifier is supposed to catch still floating around.
Q: Can filters be reused?
A: It is not recommended to reuse any filter for in-car air purification systems. The filters are disposable and only intended to last a certain amount of time. Using it more than once can affect the quality of the air, in a negative way. Some machines won’t even let you reuse a filter.
Q: My car has a cabin air filter. Is it necessary to have an air purifier as well?
A: While your car air filter does a good job at cleaning the outdoor air as it comes into the cabin of the vehicle, it might not get rid of odors and other small bacteria and dust mites. In-car air purification systems can remove more than just dust and smog from the outside.
Q: Will the purifier continue to run after my car is shut off?
A: Most car air purifiers have an automatic shut-off time. Since the majority of car air purifiers are connected to your battery, they will shut off as soon as the car is turned off. With (AA or AAA) battery-operated car air purifiers, it could be a different story. You might want to check if they are on a timer or if you have to manually shut them off before buying a battery-operated purifier.
As our top pick, we chose the Pure Car Air Purifier 3-in-1 because it is able to handle a vehicle of any size, and it’s powerful enough to remove virtually all allergens and particles from the air.
FRiEQ ionic car air purifier is our best budget buy. With its ability to work fast to remove odors and bacteria, it’s a great solution for a job that needs to be done in a hurry.
Car air purifiers can make a big difference in your car’s air quality. Which car air purifier works best for you? Leave us a comment of your pick below.
- RELATEDBest USB Car Chargers: Stay Charged Wherever You GoOur top picks for the best USB car charger for your devicesREAD NOW
- RELATEDBest All Weather Floor Mats: Protect Your Car Year Round With These Top PicksFor all-season protection of your car’s floor, check out these all-weather floor matsREAD NOW
- RELATEDBest All-Season Wiper Blades: Our Top Picks for All-Weather ProtectionOur top picks for optimizing visibility in harsh weather conditionsREAD NOW
- RELATEDBest Windshield Covers: Guard Your Car From Snow and DebrisMake sure you have a windshield cover with you to protect your windshield from the elementsREAD NOW
- RELATEDBest Car Scratch Removers: Our Top Picks to Cover BlemishesCorrect your paint with our top picks for the best car scratch removersREAD NOW