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10 Best Car Air Fresheners For 2021 [Buying Guide]

Ditch Unpleasant Odors With These Top Car Air Fresheners

Best Overall Choice

Febreze Car Air Freshener

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Best Budget Choice

Little Trees Car Air Freshener

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Best Premium Choice

Arotags Wooden Car Air Freshener

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best car air fresheners

When you spend so much time inside your vehicle, it is bound to pick up unpleasant smells. Food, cigarette smoke, coffee, and pet odors are just some of the unwanted scents your car can absorb. Luckily, you can get rid of all of them using one of the best car air fresheners. These products will get your car smelling nice once again. And that new car smell might even give you a throwback to when you first got your vehicle. Moreover, using an air freshener in your car is an easy upgrade that makes even cheap cars feel posh.

There are hundreds of car air purifiers, and they come in all shapes and smells. In order to pick the best car air freshener for your needs, we compiled a buying guide of the best fresheners on the market. You’ll learn what features to look out for, how to install your air freshener in your car, and how to make it last longer.

Best Car Air Freshener Buying Guide: What To Look For

Before you go out into the “real” world and place your order for your next car air freshener, there are a few things you should consider. Keeping these things in mind will make it easier for you to pick the best car air freshener for you and your car.

Perfumed Air Freshener vs. Odor Eliminator

First, decide if you want to simply neutralize smells or if you want to add a specific scent to your car. This will depend on your personal preference and on what you hope to achieve with the air freshener.

For example, if you’re trying to get rid of pet odor, you will want to get a car air freshener that has an odor eliminator. This way, you’re not just masking the smell, you’re actually eliminating the cause of the odor. If, on the other hand, you aren’t dealing with any unwanted odors and you just want to spice things up and make the interior of your car smell more interesting, a scented air freshener could be the right choice for you.

However, if you’re trying to eliminate the smell of cigarette smoke, you may want to play with both kinds of fresheners. It may take a combination of both products plus airing out your vehicle frequently to speed up the odor elimination process.

Types of Car Air Fresheners

When you think of car air fresheners, what comes to mind? Perhaps an object that looks like a pine tree? If so, you’re thinking of the iconic hanging mirror freshener. These well-known air fresheners work like a charm and are very affordable.

Unfortunately, they are not legal in 26 states in the United States. California, Texas, Nebraska, New York, and New Jersey are just some of the states with anti-windshield obstruction laws. If you live in any of these states, you will have to skip the hanging car air fresheners.

Car vent clips are a good alternative. They’re a tad more sophisticated and usually last longer than the hanging mirror ones. Since they’re in direct contact with the car’s ventilation system, they act faster and get rid of bad smells more quickly.

Though these two styles are the most common, you can find a host of different car air freshener options on the market. There are fragrance oil candles, fabric bags with oil diffuser balls inside, and even car aerosols.

Aromas and Scents

If you’ve decided you want a scented freshener, now is the time to decide what you want your car to smell like. The most popular car air freshener scents are pine, citrus, and flowery scents. However, there are plenty more smells to choose from. If you have a sensitive nose, look for air fresheners with a mild scent as you don’t want it to be too overpowering.

Longevity and Cost

Finally, think about how long the air freshener will last you and how expensive it is. The goal is to get a good balance between price and use. Many air fresheners are sold in multi-packs so you can have a supply on hand whenever your current freshener is finished.

10 Best Car Air Fresheners On The Market Today

Now, for the most important part, what is the best car air freshener? We have compiled a list of the 10 best products on the market to make shopping easier and save you the time of digging through the thousands of options available. We have included a wide variety of products so you can rest assured you’re getting the best product when choosing your next air freshener. 

Best Overall Choice

1. Febreze Car Air Freshener

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The Febreze car vent clips are well known for a reason. They’re affordable, easy to install, and smell fantastic. Each freshener usually lasts for up to 30 days. Plus, you can subscribe to Febreze and get a new product delivered to your doorstep every month so you never have to worry about running out.

This pack of five clips comes with four linen and sky-scented clips and one heavy-duty clip that Febreze claims has up to twice the odor-eliminating power. In addition to perfuming your vehicle, this two-in-one product also eliminates odors.

You can also adjust the scent level, an awesome feature that you won’t find in many air fresheners. If you like your car extra fragrant, rotate the knob to the right. If you want a more discrete scent, turn it to the left.

Pros

  • Affordable and easy to use
  • Blocks odors and perfumes your car
  • Lets you adjust the scent level

Cons

  • Only one scent to choose from
Best Budget Choice

2. Little Trees Car Air Freshener

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Obviously, the iconic hanging tree car freshener had to be on this list! This option, from Little Trees, lasts for up to a month and can also be used around your home.

Little Trees has a long history of making scented products, making them one of the market leaders in the United States and Canada. Besides the bragging rights, this also means they’re trusted by thousands of customers every month.

On Amazon, there are forty-one different scents available for you to choose from. They include everything from bold, brisk scents like Black Ice to the more tangy citrus fusion of Sliced.

Since these car air fresheners come in a 24-pack, you will have plenty on hand to replace old ones as they lose their scent. Plus they are a great value — once you do the math, each tree costs less than a dollar.

Pros

  • Lots of positive reviews over the years
  • Many different scents to choose from
  • Lasts for 30 days straight

Cons

  • Some reviewers say the scents aren’t strong enough
Best Premium Choice

3. Arotags Wooden Car Air Freshener

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These wooden car air fresheners act as mini oil diffusers to upgrade your car with a pleasant aroma.

The wooden hang tag diffuses the scent from the oil throughout the car, replacing any accumulated smells with a more pleasant odor. The activated bamboo charcoal filling is will dispose of bad scents quickly. Plus, since it isn’t scented, it won’t simply cover up odors.

Thanks to its stylish design with a mountain range print and “Live Life” motto, you can use this air freshener with a bit of stealth since it looks more like a decorative tag than an odor eliminator. Passengers might think you have a cool decoration, rather than thinking you’re covering up any odd or off-putting smells.

Each Arotags kit comes with the tag as well as a 30ml or 50ml supply of oil. You can choose from Backwoods Birch, Beach Bum, Vanilla Lavender, or Cool Breeze scents. The fragrance oils are chemical-free and provide a natural scent that is not overpowering. Each kit lasts over a year, and you can refresh the smell with a few drops of oil on the tag.

 

Pros

  • Fully natural, eco-friendly product
  • Lasts a very long time with low maintenance needs
  • Comes with several aroma options

Cons

  • Oil can be messy if spilled

4. Yankee Candle Car Jar Air Freshener

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This Yankee Candle Car Jar isn’t what you’re thinking — you won’t need to light any candles while driving. This air freshener is actually a gel-based product made by the same company known for the scents of their candles.

The built-in string allows you to hang the Yankee Candle air freshener from your rearview mirror or from any other convenient location in your car. The scent of this product will last about four weeks.

This particular pack comes in Midsummer Night scent although you can shop around to find other Yankee scents in the car jar package. Generally, the scent of these air fresheners is very mild, which can be good for people with sensitive noses.

Pros

  • Look different and unique
  • Variety of scents to choose from
  • Made in the U.S. by a trusted established brand

Cons

  • The faint scent is a deal breaker for some

5. mEssentials Aromatherapy Car Air Freshener

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If you’re a fan of aromatherapy, the mEssentials car diffuser has you covered. It uses reusable pads which are infused with natural and essential oils to help refresh the interior of your car.

Simply clip this stylish diffuser straight onto your car’s air conditioning vents. Then, as the air circulates, it brings out the smell (and benefits) of the oils.

This product is perfect for you if you already have a bottle of natural oils at home. You can just place one or two drops on the reusable pads and voilà, you have an aromatherapy essential oil car air freshener.

Once you notice the smell starting to fade, simply place another drop of your favorite essential oils on the pad, and you’re good to go.

Pros

  • Durable and long lasting
  • Reusable with no need to charge it
  • Allows you to use any essential oils you like

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a bottle of essential oil

6. Chemical Guys Leather Scented Air Freshener

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With this product, you can get your car smelling like brand-new leather with just a few sprays. It’s the perfect way to spruce things up.

This car spray works as a two-in-one: it is both an odor eliminator and a scented air freshener. Thus, it won’t just mask the smells, it will cut the problem at the root. If you’re more into subtle smells, you can dilute the product in two gallons of water or less to get the desired scent level.

Nothing beats the leathery smell of a new car, but the Chemical Guys Leather scent is pretty close.

Pros

  • Pleasant leather smell
  • Aerosol is perfect for sporadic use
  • Enzymes act as an odor eliminator

Cons

  • Only releases scent when you spray it

7. Febreze Unstopables Car Air Freshener Vent Clips

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This low-profile Febreze air vent clip provides a pleasant scent and cleans away odors. With a more intense aroma profile than Febreze’s other car products, this one is ideal for people who want a more vibrant, noticeable smell.

The vent clip not only absorbs odors but also releases a strong, noticeable scent. And you can control the intensity of the smell. For a stronger scent, crank up the intensity dial and for a more subtle scent, ratchet the dial back a bit.

If you’re a fan of using Febreze in your home, you’ll appreciate the familiar scents, which smell fresh, clean, and not overpowering. The clips only last for about four to six weeks, but they come as a four-pack so you should set for a few months on a single purchase.

The clips come in either the Fresh scent, which is a bright, clean aroma, or Paradise scent, which has a fruity, beachy smell.

Pros

  • Disposes of bad smells and replaces them with fresh aromas
  • Easily applies to air vents
  • Adjustable aroma strength

Cons

  • Only lasts a month or so per clip

8. Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Freshener

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The Meguiar’s air freshener is somewhat unique. It is a one-time use product that eliminates all the bad odors in your car in one go.

The product comes in a small aerosol with a trigger button. When you are ready to use it, turn your air conditioning on high, activate the trigger button, and close the car doors for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the air freshener to circulate. Then, air the car out for another 10 to 15 minutes.

While you won’t be able to use the Meguiar’s freshener more than once, you can trust that the bad smells in your car are gone for good. This product acts instantly, unlike traditional air fresheners which may take days to rid your car of odors.

Additionally, it will also perfume your car. You can choose from scents like sparkling berry, spiced wood, and new car scent.

Pros

  • Immediately rids car of bad odors
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Can only be used once

9. Glade Car Air Freshener

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These cute hanging car air fresheners look like candles and leave your car smelling fresh. You can use the string to hang them from the rearview mirror. However, if your state has anti-windshield obstruction laws, you can hang also hang this air freshener from other spots in the car.

They’re made from high-quality durable cardboard that has been infused with delightful scents. Glade makes them in five different scents: apple cinnamon, clean linen, Hawaiian breeze, lavender vanilla, and Hawaiian breeze & vanilla passionfruit.

No matter what scent you pick, this Glade air freshener will cover up any bad smells you have for up to a month. So with this six-pack of air fresheners, you should be set for up six months of odor-free driving.

Pros

  • Affordable and long lasting
  • Variety of scents to choose from
  • Easy to install and starts working immediately

Cons

  • Won’t eliminate odors, just cover them

10. Refresh Your Car! Scented Gel Can

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The last item on our list is this odor -eliminating gel which, according to hundreds of Amazon customer reviews, works miracles to remove cigarette smoke from cars.

This small plastic jar has a water-based gel inside. It is easy to use too, as all you have to do is place it somewhere near the driver’s seat (in the cupholder, for example) and let it work its magic. It can also be used in small rooms or offices.

As the air circulates through your car’s interior, the bad odors will get trapped in and neutralized by the gel. Any bad scent — from wet-dog to cigarette smoke — will be taken care of in just a few days by this product.

It also releases a scent to get your car smelling fresh, and you can pick from nine different scents. You can regulate how intense you want the fragrance to be by twisting the scent-control lid on the jar.

Pros

  • Neutralizes bad odors
  • Easy to install and perfect for states with windshield obstruction laws
  • Lasts for several months if the cap isn’t opened to the max

Cons

  • Does take up some space in your car




Frequently Asked Questions

How do car air fresheners work?

Car air fresheners are constantly releasing scent molecules into the air. The more air circulates inside your car, the faster this scent will be released and the quicker your car absorbs that nice smell. This is true for those hanging car fresheners, for the car vent clip ones, and for the fabric pouches that have potpourri, gel, or bamboo charcoal inside.

Spray fresheners, which are also made specifically for cars, work in a different way. When you spray these aerosols, the scent molecules are immediately dispersed into the air which is why you’ll notice their smell right away.

Odor eliminators or odor-eliminating compounds, on the other hand, usually utilize some type of active ingredient such as activated charcoal to actually break down the organic compounds that cause the odor in the first place.

Where do I place an air freshener in my car?

Where you’ll place an air freshener in a car depends on what kind of product you’re getting.

If you have a hanging car freshener, you should place it around the rearview mirror. However, since some states prohibit any objects hanging from the front mirror, you need to check your local laws. If you buy a clip air freshener, you can place it on your car’s vents.

If you buy any other kind of freshener, you should place it somewhere along the front of your vehicle where it won’t move or get in the way. The cup holder, for example, is a good place to put a gel-can or other air freshener container.

Are hanging car air freshener illegal?

In some states, it is illegal to hang a car air freshener from your rearview mirror. Twenty-six states have anti-windshield obstruction laws that completely forbid anything from hanging from the rearview mirror. Eight additional states have laws that place some restrictions on what you can put on the front mirror. The best thing to do is to check your state’s windshield laws before making your purchase.

Are car air fresheners bad for you?

If you don’t have a freshener allergy or a serious lung disease, a car air freshener should not cause you any harm. Nowadays, they are made from safe, soft scent chemicals that are tested thousands of times before being commercially released. You can also look for eco-friendly and all-natural options.

How do I get the air freshener smell out of a car?

Much like getting any other smell out of your car, you can air out your car to help eliminate the smell. Roll down the windows the next time you are driving and let the fresh air do the work.

What is the longest lasting car air freshener?

In terms of air fresheners, f you don’t set the fragrance levels to the max, the Refresh Your Car! air freshener or other gel-can air fresheners can last for several months.

 





About Billy Brown

Billy Brown loves automotive adventures. He has tested and reviewed autos for various print and digital outlets for the past decade. His testing methods have included doing donuts in a Volvo XC90 in Barcelona, drifting a Lexus ISF around switchbacks in Northern California, and jumping a Subaru Crosstrek in a mountain bike park in Miami. If you couldn't guess, Billy loves to have fun with vehicles and share his enthusiasm and expertise with others.

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