What to Look for in an Air Purifier for Your Car

Picking the most appropriate air purifier for your vehicle entails looking for certain features that can help you achieve optimum levels of air purification. However, this is a lot easier said than done so you’d better get yourself ready as we’re going to share with you some of the things you have to look for in a car air purifier.

  • Method of Air Purification

Currently, there are three methods employed by car air purifier manufacturers in making sure that cabin air is cleansed of contaminants. These are filters, ionizers, and ozone generators. Your choice among these three methods will help you zero-in on what is best for your car.

fresh air from car air purifier

Car air filters draw in cabin air so that they will be able to separate microscopic particles before the air is sent back into the circulation. The particles are usually directed towards a mechanism on the device that filters them according to their size. If the size of the particle is bigger than the holes in the filter, then this particle is not recirculated or is not sent back to the air inside the car’s cabin. These often come with HEPA filters as well as carbon filters which help trap microscopic particles including bacteria and viruses and odor molecules, respectively.

On the other hand, ionizers don’t draw in circulating air to exert their purifying effects. Instead, the device lets out a steady stream of negatively-charged particles called anions into the air. These anions interact with the surfaces of anything and everything that has positively-charged ions so that they are effectively neutralized. All particles will have both negative and positive electrical charges in their surfaces. Anions interact with the positive ions to create a denser molecule. This effectively neutralizes the activity of such molecule.

Ozone generators are especially regarded for their ability to neutralize strong odors. In many ways, ionizers can also produce ozone because of their ability to dislodge ions from molecules. The good news with ionizers is that the ozone that they produce is not sufficient to cause harm to the human body, but should be enough to affect its odor-neutralizing activity. Ozone generators, on the other hand, produce three molecules of oxygen or ozone to help neutralize even the most offensive odor in your car. In large industrial establishments, large-scale ozone generators are also used to combat the stench of many byproducts. Unfortunately, as we’ve already implied, ozone can have negative consequences on the human body if exposed to it chronically.

  • Multiple Layers of Air Purification

Many of the car air purifier systems today come with a combination of different methods of air purification. For instance, most come with a combination of the air filter and car ionizer. As we have said, one of the byproducts of ionizers is ozone so they can also be considered as ozone generators. However, they do not really produce ozone as their primary function. It’s just a normal outcome of ionizing the atmosphere. Your best chance of cleaning the air inside your car is to get a system with multiple layers of purification.

Most systems require plugging into a car’s 12-volt cigarette lighter socket while others will require a USB adaptor plugged into the socket itself. Some will come with a single-button operation while others will feature several buttons to tinker with. Choose one that is a lot easier and more convenient to operate. Ozone generators require that there is no human or pet inside the car once it is operating. So you might want to take this into consideration.

Air filter units require some degree of maintenance which can include cleaning and replacing the filter with a recommended replacement unit. Dedicated car ionizers, on the other hand, don’t really require any maintenance as long as you keep it clean.

Benefits of Using Car Air Purifier

There are many reasons why you should consider using an air purifier in your car. Here are some of them.

  • Provides safer and cleaner air for everyone in the car

The principal function of air purifiers is, as the name implies, the purification of air. While it is really impossible to get rid of all airborne pollutants, at the very least, these devices can help provide for safer and cleaner for everyone inside the car. This means that it’s not only you and your family that can benefit, even your pets can benefit, too.

  • Keeps the car interior smelling fresh and clean

Smoke, volatile oils from food, and fumes, as well as other sources of the nasty smell inside the car, can really make riding an unpleasant one. Having air purifiers working to neutralize these odor molecules and removing them from circulation can provide for a car interior that not only looks nice but also smells clean and fresh as well.

  • Eliminates allergens and disease-causing germs

Being able to remove as much allergen as possible from the air can have significant implications among individuals (and pets) who have allergies. The same is true for individuals who may have respiratory problems such as pneumonia and bronchitis as the removal of airborne pathogens can help prevent the exacerbation of the symptoms of these disorders.

Car Air Purifier Maintenance

Manufacturers of car air purifiers have their own way of maintaining the optimal operating performance of their products. As such it is always best to refer to the product manual.

Generally, however, car air filter systems typically require some degree of maintenance. The filters have to be inspected from time to time since it can get clogged up with dust, dirt, and debris like any other filter. Most filters can be easily cleaned with plain water. If the filter is non-washable, it can be cleaned using a vacuum cleaner. Some systems require replacement after 3 to 6 months. You should, thus check your product about the specific time frame for replacement.

Sources of Air Pollution in a Car

There are many sources of air pollution inside any car. Drivers and passengers who simply cannot quit smoking are just two of the main instigators of in-car air pollution. Pet parents who love to take their cats and dogs with them during travels are guilty, too, of worsening the air quality inside the car as pets can leave behind dander, pet odor, and other substances. Driving with an open window can allow dust, dirt, debris, pollen, and even fumes from other vehicles to enter the cabin of the car. Eating your favorite food inside the car will also tend to emit odors that are characteristically yummy, but are nonetheless reactive to the other charged particles already inside the cabin. Technically, your car’s interior can be considered a microcosm of what is actually happening to the world – pollution.

Best Car Air Purifier FAQ:

Q:  How do car air purifiers work?

A: Car air purifiers work in different ways, depending on the type of mechanism that is embedded into the design of the device. Some work by sending out streams of negatively-charged particles into the air to help neutralize any vulnerable particle. Some also draw in air in an effort to filter out the different particles that are present in the air. The just-cleaned air is then recirculated into the cabin. There are also devices that produce ozone which can neutralize really bad odors. Carbon filters can also do the same job, albeit they have to draw air.

Q:  How can I install the air purifier in my car?

A: Installing an air purifier in a car is as easy as plugging the device into your car’s cigarette light socket. Some products only come with a USB-Micro-USB interface so you may want to get a USB adaptor that can be plugged into the cigarette light socket of your car. It should be noted that modern cars do have their own cabin air filter system which is typically located somewhere under the dashboard. This is different from the air purifier systems we featured in this article.

Q:  What is the difference between air filters, air ionizers, and ozone generators?

A: Air filters draw in air that is circulating inside the cabin. The air is pushed through several layers of filters including HEPA and carbon filters. HEPA filters are great for removing bacteria, some viruses, parasites, and fungi from the air. Carbon filters work by trapping odor molecules. The end-result is air that is free of these contaminants. Air is then recirculated back into the cabin.

Air ionizers create a steady stream of anions or negatively-charged particles that interact with the positively-charged ions on the surfaces of molecules or particles floating in the air. This effectively neutralizes these contaminants. Unlike air filters, air ionizers don’t need to draw in cabin air to clean it. The continuous wave of anions effectively eliminates susceptible particles in the cabin air.

Ozone generators produce ozone, a molecule composed of 3 oxygen atoms. Its principal purpose is in the elimination of really bad odors. As such, if the main issue inside your car’s cabin is a really strong stench, then ozone generators are an excellent choice.

Q:  Do car air purifiers really work?

A: Results are mixed when it comes to the effectiveness of car air purifiers, this is especially true for car ionizer systems. While it is true that the ozone that these devices generate is almost negligible, the mere fact that ionizers produce ozone should already raise a red flag. There really is no guaranteeing that any of these devices will give you 100% germs, contaminants, and pollutant- free air inside your car. Do they work? Yes, they do work. But just like what we said in the beginning, don’t put your hopes too high since there are many sources of air pollution that these devices may not be able to handle 100% efficiently.

air purifier for cars

Our Top Pick

Among the car air purifiers we’ve featured in this list, the AUTOWIT Fresh Multi-Purpose Air Purifier with True HEPA is our number-one choice. It’s new, yet it is showing many of the fine qualities of renowned auto air purifier systems. It combines air filter, car ionizer, and car freshener functionalities into a sleek, elegant, and ultra-modern design. The triple filtration system effectively addresses particles that are already rendered harmless by its ionizer functionality, making sure you have a much cleaner, fresher air circulating in the car cabin. The addition of an aromatherapy pad slot helps provide for a more soothing effect than just simply removing these nasty odor molecules. It may be priced higher than most, but given its design and multiple methods of air purification, the AUTOWIT easily outperforms the competition.

Car air purifiers come with different methods of purification, style, and ease of operation. Your choice of car air purifier ultimately boils down to whether you want a simple system of filtering particles or one that also involves deactivation of these particles so they no longer bring harm to you or your passengers.


  1. Do Car Air Purifiers or Ionizers Really Work? – Livewire
  2. Features to Seek in a Car Air Purifier – Kent
  3. How to Choose a Car Air Purifier. Do They Work? – Oransi