Car Air Purifier: Scam or Not? [2022 Guide]

What is the best car air purifier? What are the features to look out for when buying a car air purifier? Are car air purifiers even necessary? In this article, we answer 5 of the most common questions people ask us about car air purifiers.

Car air purifier guide

1. Are Car Air Purifiers Even Necessary?

Previous car air purifier tests we ran showed that the built-in air filters in most cars do a good job of removing particulate pollution like PM2.5 when the car is set to ‘recirculate mode’. If the purpose of buying a car air purifier is to reduce cabin pollution like PM2.5, dust and pollen, then you using your car’s own fan can be surprisingly effective. Just make sure to replace the filters every few months.

Car air filters very effective against PM2.5

However, if VOCs and gases from other cars’ exhaust (e.g. when sitting in a traffic jam) is what you are concerned with, then the filters in most cars won’t be able to trap them. For this you may want a standalone air purifier with an activated charcoal filter.

Car air purifier

2. Do Air Purifiers Lower the Risk of COVID-19 Spread?

If reducing virus transmission is the main objective for purchasing a car air purifier, then an air purifier can add an extra layer of protection. HEPA air purifiers are proven tools to reduce virus and COVID-19 spread.

Car air purifier for COVID-19

A study by the CDC showed concrete evidence that HEPA air purifiers reduce COVID-19 spread indoors. Using an air purifier with other proven tools such as masks and improving ventilation (opening windows) could help reduce the risk of COVID spread.

Car HEPA air purifier reduce risk of COVID spread
In more open environments such as schools, HEPA filters lowered the infection rate by 41%

3. What is the Best Car Air Purifier?

For COVID-19 protection in a car, the best type of air purifier is a HEPA air purifier. HEPA filter air purifiers are highly effective at filtering out particles the same size as COVID-19. Air purifiers with HEPA filters, therefore, are the best car air purifiers on the market. There is no need to buy an air purifier specifically marketed as a “car air purifier”, any HEPA filter will do the job.

In addition, the ideal air purifier is portable and compact. A car air purifier needs to be portable by either being battery operated or having USB charging so it can easily be used in the car. 

Portable car air purifier

If VOCs and exhaust fumes from other cars are the main concern, then a purifier with an activated carbon filter is best. Some air purifiers include both a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter, and therefore can protect against both forms of pollution in the car.

4. What Air Purifiers are NOT Recommended for Cars?

Air purifiers with UV-lights and ionizers are not recommended for cars. Data shows that ionizers can actually create air pollution and may pose as an additional health risk for passangers. They also add to the overall cost of the purifier.

Read More: Don’t Use Ionizer Air Purifiers for COVID-19 Protection

Do not buy a car air purifier ionizer

5. What Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is Needed For a Car Air Purifier?

The ASHRAE’s recommended number of air changes per hour for “airborne infection isolation rooms” is 12 air changes per hour (ACH). This is a conservative value, and a good guide for an enclosed, small space such as a car cabin. Knowing that most car cabins measure approximately 3 cubic meters in volume, a car air purifier would need a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) of 36 m3/hr.

Car air purifier guide

Look for an air purifier with a CADR value in the range of 30-40m3/hr for maximum protection.


Smart Air’s Solution for Clean Air in the Car

Smart Air is a certified B Corp committed to combating the myths big companies use to inflate the price of clean air. The small, portable QT3 HEPA air purifier could be used as a car air purifier to protect those on the go. It has USB-C charging, a built-in battery, is small, lightweight and has a CADR of 40m3/hr.

Car air purifier QT3

Check out the QT3 and experience breathing clean air wherever you go. 


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Smart Air is a social enterprise that creates simple, no-nonsense air purifiers and provides free education to protect people’s health from the effects of air pollution. We are proud to be the only certified B-Corp dedicated to fighting air pollution.