Looking for a way to breathe fresh, odor-free air in your car, truck, or SUV? A true, in-car air purifier is the best way to remove airborne contaminants and odor in your vehicle. The filter technology we’re about to cover will help destroy lingering fast food funk, gobble up pollen, and strip away contaminants from the air you breathe. But, before we continue we’d like to provide a word of caution. The best car air purifier is not cheap. It is not a plug in ionizer. It is not a gimmicky piece of gear you’ll find near a filling station cash register. The best car purifier is however, very similar to a high quality unit you would use in your home or apartment. Only smaller.
What does that mean? It means that you should be looking for a unit that effectively cycles air through a HEPA filter and activated charcoal before returning the air back into your vehicle’s cabin, free of airborne pollutants, odor, and allergens. Breathing pure air should be a priority for anyone who spends time behind the wheel; from soccer moms, to carpool pals, to long haul truck drivers. After significant research, trial and error, and discussion we feel that the following purifiers from Philips do the best job of replicating the performance of an in-home air purifier.
Just like an in-home unit; the best car purifier will feature a True HEPA filter to remove more than 99% of airborne particulate matter. Top-rated units also provide the user with odor absorbing charcoal.
GoPure SlimLine 230
GoPure Compact 100
Philips GoPure Compact 200 Car Air Purifier
What we like: The GoPure Compact 200 from Philips is a great option at a very reasonable price. The 2.6 pound unit only draws 3 watts so you don’t need to worry about a negative impact on your vehicle’s battery. Beyond its low price and power draw it has another awesome feature that lazy people like us really appreciate; auto on and off. Thanks to its auto on and off feature, you will need to do perform next to nothing other than mounting and powering the unit. And, when it comes to mounting; we prefer using the strap to attach the the unit behind a headrest. But, even directly behind your head the noise produced is negligible. Oh, and it will even tell you when it’s time for a new filter.
Specs & Features
- Three stage filter eliminates up to 99 percent of airborne pollutants (harmful gases, pollen, smoke, bacteria, dust, pollen, viruses, pet dander) and absorbs odor.
- HESA technology removes tobacco smoke three times better than a common ionizer
- Integrated healthy air indicator light provides instant feedback on current air quality (blue = excellent, yellow = fair, and red = poor)
- 13 foot 12 volt power cable gives you flexibility in mounting locations
- Included mounting accessories (attachment belt, suction cup, and anti-slip pads
What we don’t like: At roughly 7″x7″x3″ we think this particular unit is a bit on the bulky side of the spectrum. However, we do understand that a lot of that real estate is occupied by filter. So taking that into consideration we’d compromise size if it means cleaner air. Another are we think needs improvement is the design of the case. In our opinion the soft, rounded design looks a bit dated… and kind of cheap.
Recommendation: For the price and performance, it’s tough to beat. However, if you’re a car nut or gadget lover… this unit may leave you wanting more when it comes to looks and features. Buy it if you want clean, fresh smelling air for you and your family. Skip it if you’re looking for something to show off to your friends.
Philips GoPure SlimLine 230
What we like: At roughly twice the price of the GoPure Compact 200, the Slimline 230 will purify ten cubic meters of air each hour. For its size, that’s a pretty impressive CADR (clean air delivery rate). In about 13 minutes it will cycle through a typical vehicle’s interior air volume. And, as an added bonus you can even add some fragrance via an included cartridge.
We also like the way it looks. More like a sleek new Apple TV, and less like an early Discman. We find it to blend with modern interiors much better that the GoPure Compact 200. Plus, you can mount this model in a cup holder. In the right cup holder on the right console, we think this option looks pretty solid. But, in most cases we’d mount it in the same way mentioned above. Behind a headrest using the included strap.
What we don’t like: For the increase in price, we would like to see a few more features. Although, for some the performance increase and the appearance will justify the larger cash outlay. However, if you aren’t going to see it, or you own a large van/SUV, we might go with two cheaper purifiers. One for the front, and one for the rear.
Recommendation: If you have a newer vehicle or prefer a sleek aesthetic, we would go with this model. It looks right at home in late model interiors; especially in black interiors.
Ionizer vs a Car Air Purifier
We’ve noticed that a lot of websites are promoting car ionizers or ozone generators. And, that’s a shame. First… generating ozone in a car (that you’re sitting in) is a bad, and dangerous, idea. We’ve gone over this a lot in our site, but if you’d like to hear from a third party the EPA has a lot of info on the subject. With that said; a commercial style ozone generator, used properly will help destroy extremely stubborn odors. But, that should be a last resort. Bottom line… we strongly recommend against buying an ozone generator to clean the air in your vehicle.
What about car purifying ionizers? Well most of them don’t really do much. They don’t move air… they don’t capture anything. Well… they do capture your hard earned money pretty well. You’re much better off replacing your in-cabin air filter, buying a car-specific HEPA purifier, or picking up a HEPA in-cabin replacement filter from Bosch.
If you want a car air purifier that works as well as the one you use in your home; it needs to have a HEPA filter. Other “filters” or “purifiers” will leave you disappointed.
Pollutants in your Car
A lot of the searches that lead people to our site involve fighting allergies, pollen, dust, smoke, and pet dander. And, those are all very common airborne pollutants you’ll find in the home. Your car also exposes you to those common household contaminants… plus others.
The NIH has an interesting article posted on their site. It brings to light other pollutants we encounter on the open road. Driving exposes you (and your passengers) to elevated PM 2.5 air pollution. Brake dust, hydrocarbons, and even VOCs off-gassed by your car’s interior also contribute to a fairly hazardous environment. To be honest, we didn’t realize how hard driving can be on your respiratory system.
Car Air Fresheners
You really need to be careful if you use an air freshener to cover up smells in your vehicle. Many of them contain harsh chemicals that “smell good” but wreak havoc on your health. If you use an aerosol freshener, powder, or spray you should definitely check it out on the EWG website. They grade about 300 air freshening products… many of them don’t score very well.
If you want to fight odor we recommend odor prevention and activated carbon. We’re especially fond of odor absorbing activated charcoal bags in the car. Once you get rid of the source… or prevent it from getting in your car carbon/charcoal works wonders. Baking soda also works, but it’s messier and doesn’t work as well. If you’d like to add a scent to your vehicle we would only use natural plant-based products that don’t rely on aerosol propellants. But, to be honest… we don’t use anything in our personal vehicles to add a scent.
Best Car Air Purifier – Final Thoughts
Either if these air purifiers will serve you well. Both will scrub the air, removing a plethora of nasty airborne contaminants. It really comes down to which one better suits your style, and needs. Just please don’t think one of the twenty dollar cigarette lighter ionizers is a solid alternative. These models from Philips are legitimate air purifiers; with HEPA filtration and odor removing technology. Next time someone sneezes, coughs, or breaks wind in your car… you’ll be thankful you went with the best car air purifier available.
Just be careful when shopping for car air purifiers. Type “best car air purifier” into a search engine and you’re bound to see a bunch of small cigarette lighter “ionizers.” They’re no where near as effective as the HEPA filters and odor killing rech in the Philips models, above. In fact they’re probably not effective at all. If you’re going to go that route (cheap tiny “ionizer”) just do your best to make sure that you aren’t filling your car with harmful ozone.
If you can’t afford a real car purifier, check Amazon to see if one of the Bosch cabin filter replacements fits your car. They’re true HEPA filters that actually work. The downside is that they’re a little more restrictive than OEM versions. So your fan will lose a bit of oomph.