The best cabin air filter

Heating, Cooling & Air Quality

Cabin air filters are equipped with several different material layers to ensure they diligently remove pollutants, smells and allergens, creating an improved and fresher airflow.

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Why change the cabin air filter?

In the overall vehicle maintenance scheme, changing the cabin air filter may get lost in the shuffle. Although less of a priority than changing the oil or worn-out tires, the need to do so should be obvious: the cabin air filter prevents unwanted elements from infiltrating the air inside the car’s cabin. 

Whether these elements are dust, bugs or other undesirable elements, a cabin air filter exists to siphon out the harmful particles and foster better airflow. The filter will get clogged up as it does its job, so swapping it out should become routine like any other item on the maintenance checklist. 

We’ve researched several cabin air filters and winnowed the list down to a handful that stood out. If you’re interested in learning more about cabin air filters and our top picks, including our best of the best choice (the FRAM Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter), continue reading. 

What to know before you buy a cabin air filter

Cabin air filters are small in size, but their performance to purify the air is outsized. From allergens to debris, they’re made to keep the unwanted particles and smells away. While they have the same function, cabin air filters come in different shapes, sizes and features. While some are billed universal fit (designed to fit all cars), it’s important to make sure the cabin air filter you choose fits properly. 

Outlined below are several considerations to keep in mind when selecting the best cabin air filter for your car, SUV or truck.  

Vehicle compatibility

As your starting point, refer to your vehicle’s manual to determine the specific size or recommended type of cabin air filter. Next, remove the current air filter to see its condition and note its size and brand. Once you have this information, it’s easy to look up filters specifically designed for your vehicle’s make and model. 

HVAC system circulation

Many car owners don’t bother to replace their factory cabin air filter or even grasp that it’s necessary to improve the HVAC system circulation. Filters accumulate particles and get clogged over time, leading to strange smells and noise. Want to breathe better while on your daily commute or a more extended trip? Buy and install a new cabin filter to ensure your HVAC system is functioning optimally.

Different filter types 

There are several types of cabin air filters, each of them having its own advantages and disadvantages. Which type you ultimately choose depends on your preference as much as the substances you want to prevent from getting into your air ventilation system. For example: are you more interested in eliminating allergens or pollutants, or both? The four types of cabin air filters include charcoal filters, activated carbon cabin filters, electrostatic filters and particle cabin filters.  

What to look for in a quality cabin air filter

Material 

Particulate cabin air filters that use baking soda and carbon could also come with an electrostatic layer to improve the ability to trap the smallest particles. The denser the material, the more effective it will be in removing the pollutants, mold and allergens. 

Longevity

It’s recommended that cabin air filters be replaced at regular intervals, either annually or 12,000 to 15,000 miles. When choosing your preferred filter, read the manufacturer’s recommended mileage lifespan and make sure it meets your expectations. Opting for the longer mileage may be a trade-off for the filter’s capability to capture most – if not all – elements and particles.

Filtration method

Most cabin air filters on the market combine layers of material to increase their ability to filter out most substances that would otherwise prevent the air from being fresh. Popular baking soda and carbon-activated filters can remove up to 98 percent of various contaminants and keep their air fresh over a more extended period.  

How much you can expect to spend on a cabin air filter

High-quality cabin air filters are inexpensive, starting at under $10. The pricier filters in the $10-15, and $15-$20 (and higher) ranges usually come with unique features and vary across activated carbon, electrostatic or charcoal elements. Carbon air filters are generally designed to last an entire year or 12,000 miles – whichever comes first – before they need to be replaced. 

Cabin air filter FAQ

Which brands of filters are considered the best?   

A. There are certain brands of cabin air filters whose manufacturers you may be familiar with, but most are aftermarket companies that specialize in niche auto products. It’s best to compare and contrast the material, warranty and price points to reach an informed decision. 

Where is the cabin filter located?  

A.  The vast majority of cars manufactured in the 21st century are equipped with cabin air filters, and the filter is typically located behind or under the glove compartment. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for the exact location in your make/model. Some luxury cars from European automakers made in the 80s and onward may have as many as three filters. 

Why has the airflow in my car’s HVAC system gotten worse?

A. The filter’s ability to siphon out dirt and particles and create a crispy airflow degrades over the length of use. If the airflow is restricted, inconsistent or noisy, it’s a telling sign to inspect your filter. It’s prudent to see whether it’s clogged and can be cleaned or perhaps it could be time to buy a replacement.   

What’s the best cabin air filter to buy?

Top cabin air filter  

FRAM Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter 

FRAM Fresh Breeze Cabin Air Filter 

What you need to know: Offering seamless install for DIYers, this filter fits many Honda and Acura models and removes up to 98% of contaminants such as dust and pollen, leveraging Arm & Hammer baking soda with carbon. 

What you’ll love: The combination of baking soda and carbon offers multilayer protection against elements and odors, keeping your car cabin smelling good and the air clean.

What you should consider: This filter is a bit more expensive than other offerings, and it’s vehicle-specific (Honda/Acura).

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cabin air filter for the money

EPAuto Premium Cabin Air Filter

EPAuto Premium Cabin Air Filter

What you need to know: Comparable to pricier filters, but gets the job done effectively with baking soda and carbon filtration of debris and contaminants. 

What you’ll love: Quick and easy install and a seamless fit in multiple Honda and Acura models will give your cabin the refresher you want, but at a lower price than the competitors.

What you should consider: The gray color of this filter may make it harder to notice dirt, and it may be less effective against exhaust fumes. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

AC Delco CF188 GM Original Equipment Cabin Air Filter 

AC Delco CF188 GM Original Equipment Cabin Air Filter 

What you need to know: Features durable, multilayered material to filter out most particles and improve airflow, but doesn’t use baking soda.

What you’ll love: Three layers of materials ensure reliable capture of even the smallest contaminants, and meets rigorous GM standards, ensuring perfect fit and performance. 

What you should consider: Without baking soda added, this filter may remove most debris and particles, but the air may not be as fresh as when soda is deployed.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Slav Kandyba is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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