What is the Best Car Air Purifier?

What is the Best Car Air Purifier?

Best Car Air Purifier

Air purifiers are machines that, quite literally, purify the air in the area surrounding the machine. In the case of a car air purifier, that means that you will be cleaning your car’s air. Your car’s air can (and does) get quite filthy over time, and an air purifier works to cleanse the air of all of those pesky odors and allergens.

The best air purifier for your car requires a lot of the same qualities as a standard air purifier. As is the case with all air purifiers, there will need to be certain deviations from the normal “best” option for your specific needs (i.e. if you have allergies, or your car smells like smoke). 

We hope to share our air purifier knowledge with you as you move forward in your research for the best cabin air purifier. We will compare and contrast a few of the systems you will run across, and then tell you which system we find is the best. We also hope to address a few of the various reasons why you may be looking for an air purifier, and share with you your best remedy. 

There are hundreds of car air purifiers on the market today, but, as we are sure you know, they may not all be the best out there. But, where do you start in your search for the best air purifier for your car? We recommend starting at the basic question of “What do you need your air purifier to do?”

Select Your Air Purifier Need

Different air purifiers work in different ways, which means that some are better at cleaning certain things from the air than others. If allergens are an issue for you (i.e. dust, pollen, dander) then you will need to buy an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can also help to fight odors in your car! If odors are your main concern, you had best purchase an air purifier with a carbon filter. In fact, some carbon filters work by simply leaving them in you car! The final (common) option with car air purifiers is an air ionizer. These ionizers are effective at cleaning the air you breathe, but they move the particles in the air onto every surface in your car, rather than remove them altogether as a filter does. 

In-Car Air Purifiers

Many in-car air purifiers are portable, and have a battery which means you can take them anywhere you go. This means that your purchase gets a lot more bang for its buck, as your car air purifier suddenly doubles as a home air purifier and office air purifier as well. If you purchase a unit that has a battery, rather than a plugin that is made for your car’s cigarette lighter, then you should keep in mind that you can use it anywhere. 

Most personal air purifiers can double as in-car air purifiers, and they can be a lot more versatile as well! Visit our post on personal air purifiers to learn more about these systems, which, fortunately, are also very affordable! To learn more about finding other affordable air purifier options, check out our article on finding cheap air purifiers worth purchasing

What do you need to look for in an in-car air purifier?

Filtration Type

Is your car air purifier an air ionizer, or does it utilize a filter, like a HEPA filter? Both of these filters can be effective at cleaning your car’s air, but a unit with a HEPA filter is superior to air ionizers in several ways, which we will discuss later. 

Many in-car air purifiers utilize carbon filters, be it an activated carbon filter, or an impregnated carbon filter. Some designs rely solely on a carbon filter, which means they won’t be filtering out any of your car’s dust, they will just take care of odors. 

Power Source

Do you plug your air purifier directly into your car’s cigarette lighter, or is it battery operated? Many portable air purifiers, like those made for cars, can be powered with a USB charger (like the one that charges your phone).

If your cabin air purifier runs off of a battery, or a USB plug, then you’ll be able to use it just about anywhere you go, which can make or break your purchase. If you do get a unit that can go anywhere, then you may want to go the extra mile and find a machine that has a large coverage area of clean air, as this will make it even more useful to you. 

Battery Life

If your air purifier has a battery, then it will need recharged from time to time. Some allow you to charge your unit as you use it, which can be useful for your car’s air purifier. Just keep in mind how long you can go without recharging your machine, and how long you spend in your car, and make sure to give yourself some leeway!

Coverage Area

If you are purchasing an air purifier exclusively for your car, then just about any air purifier on the market which claims to be a “car air purifier” will likely provide you with all of the coverage you need. 

If you purchase a portable air purifier, then you may want to find a unit that can cover a greater area than your standard car air purifier, as this will make your unit more helpful in more settings. Your portable unit will be able to clean your car’s air, and if you purchase a machine with a larger coverage area, you may be able to clean your bedroom’s air for when you sleep, which can provide a cost savings (as opposed to purchasing an air purifier for your car, and then a separate unit for your home).


Although most air purifiers seem to last forever, things can sometimes go wrong. This is where it is important to find an air purifier that has a warranty. Although many air purifiers for your car are relatively cheap, it is a nice added bonus to have the safety net of a warranty.



Ionizers and HEPA filters are two very different machines. In fact, even ionizers can be divided into two different groups as well! We made a table to help you visually see the pros and cons of HEPA filters, Air Ionizers, and Ionizers with Collection Grids.


HEPA Filter

Air Ionizer

Ionizer With Collection Grid

Which Air Purifier is the Best?
1st Place

We see this as the best, it works great, and isn’t too expensive.

3rd Place

The cheapest, and dirtiest, but it is effective.

2nd Place

Arguably the best, but generally the most expensive

Does it Clean the Air?YesYesYes
Does it Remove Allergens?YesSomewhatSomewhat
How Does it Work?Uses a fan to push your car’s air through a filter.Releases charged particles which will work to clean the air.Uses a fan and releases charged particles within itself. 
Pros of How it Works-Removes particles from the air, locking them away in the filter.-Removes particles from the air.-Removes particles from the air, and locks them away on its collection grid.
Cons of How it Works-Filter will need replaced from time to time.

-Its fan may be distracting.

-It may have a short battery life.

-Particles will attach themselves to every surface in your car, which means you’ll have to dust your car more often. 

 -It may make a high-pitched noise as it operates. 

-Collection grid will need washed from time to time.

 -Its fan may be distracting.

-It may have a short battery life. 

Is it Good at Removing Allergens?The BestFairFair
Is it Good at Removing Odors?One of the BestNoNo
Which has the Longest Battery Life? NoLongest Lasting Battery Life No
Does it use a fan?YesGenerally, NoYes
What do we Recommend?Highly Recommended! It’ll Work Alright It’ll Work Better Than Just an Ionizer, But It Costs a Lot
What is the Best Car Air Purifier? 1

Our Choice Portable Air Purifier

To save you some time, we found a great air purifier for your car that has a HEPA filter and activated carbon too.

It plugs into a USB port and you can get adapters that plug into your cigarette ports and let you plug in your USB to them.

Sound like a good fit for you? You can order it here!

Why We Recommend Air Purifier Over Ionizers

There are several reasons why we recommend an air purifier over the two ionizers. The greatest reason is the fact that they remove particles from your environment at a price that isn’t prohibitive. Ionizers with a collection grid may also remove the particles, but they generally are a lot costlier. Standard air ionizers just remove particles from the air, and they make a mess everywhere else in the process. 

To learn more about air ionizers and air purifiers, we have a post for you! What Are Air Purifiers With Ionizers? answers just about every question you’ll have on the subject!

In addition to the cleanliness and price aspects, HEPA filters are the only filter out of these three that can fully address allergy issues, which really sets it apart. Ionizers can capture some allergens, but they aren’t designed to do so. In addition to this, HEPA filters can also remove odors from the air, which an ionizer on its own simply cannot do. 

To learn more about what HEPA filters can do, check out our post on the importance of air filters! This article will tell you a bit about several kinds of air filters that are out there. It will also shed some light on the different levels of HEPA filters on the market.

All of that being said, we aren’t saying you can’t buy an air ionizer. These units are so cheap, easy to use, readily available, and can last longer on a single charge. They may not do the best at their job, but they do do their job well, which we have to point out. If the mess isn’t an issue for you, then these units can be a great addition to your car!


If you don’t have allergies, or you only spend a few minutes in your car, then you may not need an air purifier at all. However, if you do have allergies, or if your car has obnoxious odors, or if you drive with someone who has asthma, then you will likely benefit from owning a car air purifier. 

Cars develop odors over time, despite some of our best efforts to keep them clean. Rather than use an air freshener that releases chemicals into the air in order to combat/smother these odors, it is best to simply remove them. An air purifier is your best (and healthiest) option for reducing car odors. Carbon filters in particular seem to be the best car air purifier, since they are the most effective at odor mitigation.

Even if your car hasn’t developed an odor yet, it can still be full of microscopic bacteria, viruses, allergens, and other potentially harmful particles. All of these invisible threats can be harmful to your health, especially if you are stuck in your car for an extended period of time (say, a road trip or another day stuck in rush hour). Your best bet, and your safest bet, is to purchase a cabin air purifier for your car to make it a healthy environment!


If you are the only person who travels in your car and if you don’t mind the smell and dog hair, then there is no reason to purchase an air purifier to take care of your car’s pet odors. However, if you don’t like smelling like your dog after a drive, or your passengers don’t like it, then you may need to purchase an air purifier to take care of the issue.

A growing number of people are developing allergies to common household pets, like dogs. This means that, for them, driving in the same vehicle as a dog can be unbearable. Many allergy sufferers get watery eyes, runny noses, hives on their skin, or struggle to breathe when they are exposed to areas with concentrated amounts of allergens, like a car with a dog in it.

The best cabin air purifier for a car with a dog will need a HEPA filter to catch the allergens, and a lot of the odors. In order to maximize your filter’s life, you may need to find a unit with a pre-filter, which will catch your pet’s hair before it clogs your main filter. To remove the most possible odors, a carbon filter will be required. Generally, air purifier which claims to be combination units and say something along the lines of “3 in 1 Car Air Purifier” will be a great purchase. 

To learn more about the best air purifiers for people with pets, check out our article “What is the Best Air Purifier for Someone with Pets?” This post will go into detail on why you need an air purifier for your pet, and what you’ll need it to be capable of!


The best cabin air purifier for smoke will combine a HEPA filter with a carbon filter. The HEPA filter will serve as your line of attack against the smoke you can see in the air, while the activated or impregnated carbon will take care of the smell of the smoke. No one likes sitting in a smelly, smoky car, so an air purifier can save you (and your passengers) the discomfort. 

Roses in car air

Whether you smoke, or someone has smoked in your car in the past, an in-car air purifier can help in combating the ever-present odor of smoke. Car ionizers simply will not cut it in your efforts to reduce the smell of smoke in your car, so you will have to splurge and buy a unit with a HEPA filter and a carbon filter. If you do not smoke, and there is just the lingering smell of smoke, then you can save some money and just buy a carbon filter for your car, which will help to remove the foul odor of smoke, along with countless other smells.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Get an Ozone Generating Air Purifier For My Car?

No, never purchase an ozone generating machine for your car, if you intend to use it as you drive. Ozone is hazardous to your health, especially when it is concentrated in a small area (like your car cabin). These units are, however, useful at neutralizing odors and pathogens, but again, they are not recommended to use with people in the vehicle.  

What Is Ozone?

Ozone is a gas that is comprised of 3 oxygen atoms, while the air we normally breathe just has 2 atoms. Ozone is created when an electric current is passed through oxygen. Ozone is an effective tool for sterilizing areas, and it also protects our planet from solar radiation.

Where Can I Get An Air Purifier?

Air purifiers are sold worldwide, all you have to do is look online, or go to a local home improvement store or department store. We recommend looking online so you can find the largest selection of machines, and also compare prices much easier. 

What Are VOCs?

VOCs also known as Volatile Organic Compounds are chemicals that are released by everyday items such as cleaning solutions, aerosols, and paint. They are known to cause diseases later in life, and they can worsen the effects and severity of Asthma.

Jonathon Silva

Jonathan Silva is our longtime Air Purifier Essentials author. He has been writing on air purification technologies for his entire professional career.

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