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
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BY Sarah Wynder / LAST UPDATED ON March 21, 2021
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.
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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 293 hours in their car in one year. That’s a lot of build up of bacteria if you don’t give your car 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 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.
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, and is 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 2020
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 Craftronic NanoActive car air purifier because it is able to handle a vehicle of any size and is powerful enough to remove virtually all allergens and particles from the air.
The 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.