LAST UPDATED: April 2, 2019
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
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON April 2, 2019
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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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
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
A car air purifier can get rid of all the pollutants in your vehicle. It fills the interior with negative ions that trap and eliminate dust, pollen, cigarette smoke, and other pollutants. The Craftronic NanoActive purifier releases up to 5.6 million negative ions, eliminating VOCs, PM2.5 particles, bacteria, viruses, dust, cigarette smoke, and formaldehyde. It also gets rid of airborne contaminants that increase the chance of allergies.
The Negative Ionic Air technology used in this car air purifier is also used by Sharp (Plasmacluster filter), Mercedes-Benz (Air Balance Ionization system), Lexus (Nano-e), and Panasonic (Nano-e). Sharp uses the Plasmacluster filter in its commercial refrigerators and air conditioners to maintain food freshness longer and prevent mold growth.
The air purifier produces a light natural scent that’s similar to the earthy rain smell. Its blue LED light, indicating the sanitizing process, enhances your car’s interior.
But after you use the purifier for a while, it may start to produce a clicking noise. Some users have also complained that it does not purify the air fast enough.
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.
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 percent 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, the 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.
The Airthereal offers a three-stage filtering system and is a great car air purifier for heavy pollution. Thanks to its True HEPA filter, it can eliminate the tiniest particles, as small as 0.3 microns. It also monitors the quality of air in your car with its smart air-quality monitor. This increases and decreases the fan speed, keeping the air you breathe in fresh. An alert lets you know when you should change the filter.
If you don't want an air purifier that produces noise, you'll be delighted to know that this one doesn't. Simply put it on sleep mode and it will produce a mere 22 decibels. You can even use it to purify the air in your bedroom at night. It comes with a 12-volt adapter that allows you to use it in your car or at home. It also has a child lock, so your kid won't be able to change the settings accidentally.
However, as is the case with HEPA filters, you can't clean this purifier’s filter—you can only replace it. The device also weighs close to 5 pounds and is not as portable as most car air purifiers. You may have difficulty finding a spot for it in your car.
The QUEENTY HEPA car air purifier will make your car smell fresh all day long. It uses a three-stage filtration system to get rid of contaminants in the air. Its three filters include a True HEPA filter, a carbon filter, and an air pre-filter. The True HEPA filter eliminates particles as small as 0.3 microns, the carbon filter gets rid of smells, and the pre-filter removes larger particulates found in the air. The car air purifier has a small profile and a beautiful design that will enhance the look of your car.
Once you connect the device to your car's cigarette lighter, it starts working automatically. It removes 99.97 percent of smoke, dust, pollen, pet dander, odor, and other air contaminants. It’s small, so you can place it on your dashboard and it won't block your vision. Its eight LED indicator lights turn on when it's connected.
You can add essential oil to the purifier’s filter and it will function as an oil diffuser, creating a serene, fresh-smelling environment. The manufacturer gives a 30-day money-back guarantee for the device.
However, it may not be sufficient in a highly polluted environment. Additionally, you can only install it on your dashboard and other flat surfaces in your car.
An ozone generator like the NWK portable car air freshener produces the gas ozone, which is used for water purification. It eliminates almost every chemical contaminant in your car. The ultramodern design of this air purifier works well with any car. Its control button also makes it easy to use.
This ozone generator removes bacteria, particles, and odors in your car. It automatically shuts off the moment you get in your car so that you don't breathe in ozone gas. The manufacturer recommends ventilating your vehicle for up to 15 minutes before you get in to ensure you don't breathe in the gas.
But if you specifically want an air purifier that removes particulates like pollen and dust from the air, you may want to look at the other options we’ve reviewed here. Ozone generators do not remove these particulates or those that are responsible for allergic reactions. And because ozone can be harmful to your health, you must vacate your car when the device is running.
An ionizer emits ions to help filters trap contaminants in a car. Many of the best car air purifiers feature ionizers to capture particles that are too small to filter out. This air purifier and ionizer will completely clean the air in your car, removing 99 percent of impurities. It emits a safe amount of ozone gas that kills bacteria, germs, and viruses.
This is a great car deodorizer for smokers, as the ozone gas it emits naturally eliminates smells instead of covering them up. It discharges up to 5.6 million negative ions that attach to positively charged air pollutants and allergens, making them too heavy to stay airborne. They attach themselves to your car's surfaces.
But unlike air fresheners, this purifier does not work instantly. It purifies a car in approximately 30 minutes, and its ozone gas gets rid of stale odors in five to seven days. The ionizer emits a safe amount of ozone that does not pose a health risk. However, some users say it’s not built well and the top part may come off easily.
This mini air purifier is designed to be portable. You can use it in your car and then carry it to your office or home. It has a three-stage filtering system that eliminates cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, and even formaldehyde. It also gets rid of unpleasant scents like body odors and food smells. It is a powerful car ionizer that produces up to 8 million negative ions to keep your car smelling fresh all the time.
The air purifier has an automatic air quality indicator that notifies you about the air quality in your car using differently colored LED lights. You can use it almost anywhere because it's powered via USB cable. It's small enough to fit in a cup holder, so you don't have to worry about where to put it. You can also choose the silent mode setting and use it at night as you sleep.
The air purifier accommodates essential oils and aroma pads and has three airflow speeds. But it's worth mentioning that essential oils can damage its housing. The device doesn't hold a charge for long, so you may have to charge it several times a day. Its bottom part may also pop off easily.
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.