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Deciding what kind of car air freshener will work best for you and your vehicle can be tricky. What scent do you want? What do you want it to look like? Does it need to eliminate strong odors? In this review, we’ll help you answer these questions and more to find the best car air freshener for your needs. 

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Review Standards

To determine which car air fresheners to include in our evaluation, the Motor1 reviews team scoured Amazon for the best options looking at a variety of factors, including price, Prime shipping eligibility, customer rating, number of customer reviews, and Amazon superlatives. 

After choosing the top five, we ordered each product and tested their effectiveness in one of our team member’s cars. Initially, we considered the fragrance of each air freshener and how easy they were to set up. We then separately placed each one in a car with smelly shoes for 24 hours. After the 24 hours had passed, we assessed what the car smelled like, how strong the scent was in the car and how well the product covered up the shoe odor. This in-depth testing helped us rank each product based on personal experience.

 


 

Best Overall: Febreze Car Unstopables Air Freshener Vent Clips


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Febreze Car Unstopables is our pick for the best overall car air freshener because of its ease of use and customizability. All you have to do is bend the clip up until it clicks into place and attach it to your air vent. Its location and size make it inconspicuous.

This particular pack comes with two different scents so you can alternate fragrances. It also has a dial on top that controls how much scent is released so you can choose the right amount for your fragrance preference.

Key Features

  • 4 vent clips
  • 2 scents: fresh and shimmer
  • Dial to control how much scent is released
  • Clip to attach to vent
  • Free of phthalates, formaldehyde, and flammable propellants
  • Fragrance life of up to 150 days

What Customers Are Saying

The Febreze vent clips received an Amazon rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars with 254 customer reviews, which is 0.3 stars higher than the Amazon average for the car air fresheners we reviewed. After gathering reviews from other top ecommerce websites, its score decreased slightly to 4.4 stars. This is equal to the average score for all the car air fresheners we reviewed across other ecommerce websites. 

Amazon customers raved about the fragrance options, but they gave mixed reviews about how long the scent lasts. If you use the lowest setting on the dial and on your A/C vent, the product should last 150 days, but if you want more scent or are blasting the A/C, it will only last a few weeks. Another complaint was that the pocket of liquid can burst in the heat. 

Our Experience

Set Up

We found the vent clip easy to set up, just bending the clip up into place until it clicked. Then, we slid it onto one of the air vent slats and moved the dial on the top to full blast to allow the maximum scent to be released.

Aesthetics and Space

This vent clip is meant to be subtle. It’s not large and takes up hardly any space, since it’s out of the way attached to the air vent. It’s not unappealing to the eye, and your passengers probably wouldn’t notice it unless you tell them it’s there.

Fragrance

We tried the “fresh” scent, which smelled like laundry detergent. The scent was at its strongest when the car was in use because the air was on and circulating through the vent clip. There was still a light scent when the car was in park.

Odor Masking/Elimination

When the car and air were on, the vent clip covered up the scent of the smelly shoes. However, the smell of the shoes started to build up overnight when the car wasn’t on and air wasn’t passing through the vent. In the morning, you could smell both the shoes and the air freshener. Therefore, we suggest only leaving smelly items in the car when the car is in motion and the air is on.

 


 

Best Value: Little Trees Hanging Car Air Freshener


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A pack of Little Trees Hanging Car Air Fresheners can keep your car fresh for an entire year, as it contains 24 trees that can each last up to seven weeks. You also have a variety of choices, as the company offers 41 scents to choose from.

Each tree is wrapped in a clear plastic bag. You hang the tree from your rearview mirror and pull the bag up or down to expose more or less of the tree. The more you expose, the stronger the fragrance and the shorter the tree’s life.

Key Features

  • 24 cardboard trees
  • 41 scent options
  • String to hang from rearview mirror
  • Bag to expose more or less of the tree
  • Fragrance life of up to seven weeks

What Customers Are Saying

Little Trees received a rating of 4.4 stars from its 3,000 customer reviews on Amazon, which is higher than the 4.2 Amazon average for all of the air fresheners reviewed. Ratings from other ecommerce retailers increased its score to 4.6, which is 0.2 stars higher than the overall average of 4.4 stars.

Customers appreciated the product’s variety of fragrances, as other car air fresheners on the market usually smell fruity or like laundry. The biggest complaint was that certain scents last less time than the advertised fragrance life. One scent that was mentioned often was the leather scent. While consumers liked this scent, it only lasted a few days before the scent faded enough that it no longer covered up odors.

Our Experience

Set Up

To set up this air freshener, we took the tree completely out of the plastic wrapping and hung it from the rearview mirror using the included string. 

Aesthetics and Space

This car air freshener doesn’t take up a lot of space, but it is the first thing you notice when getting into the car because of its location on the rearview mirror. It’s not a small tree either, so it does block a small portion of the driver’s view of the right side.

Fragrance

We tested out the “black ice” scent, which was pleasant. But because we took the tree completely out of the plastic bag, the scent was strong and sometimes overpowering. 

Odor Masking/Elimination

The tree’s strong scent meant that it was the only thing you could smell when getting into the car. However, we did unwrap the tree completely, which means the tree will last less time. Therefore, toward the end of its life, it probably doesn’t do a good job of masking bad odors if fully unwrapped.

 


 

Most Unique: Yankee Candle Fragrance Spheres


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Yankee Candle Fragrance Spheres are a great option for enclosed spaces like your car. Its cylindrical shape and small size means it fits easily into your cup holder.

This product offers 21 fragrance options. If you want more of your favorite fragrance, just give the can a shake. As the beads start to dry out and release less fragrance, you can add water to the container to extend its life.

Key Features

  • 1 can of scented beads
  • 21 scent options
  • Lid with holes
  • Fragrance life of up to 30 days

What Customers Are Saying

Over 2,000 customers reviewed this product on Amazon, giving it an average rating of 4.1 stars out of 5. This is 0.1 stars lower than the Amazon average for the five car air fresheners reviewed, but the rating increased to 4.4 after adding in ratings from other leading ecommerce websites. 

Based on reviews, customers thought these worked better than Yankee Candle’s other car air freshener products. The scent is subtle, but you can increase the amount of fragrance released by shaking the can. A few customers also said that you can extend its life by refilling the can with water once it dries out. One major complaint is that it’s easy to spill because the can’s holes are large and not adjustable.

Our Experience

Set Up

To set up this air freshener, we took off the lid and removed the plastic ring and foil cover. We then replaced the lid and placed the canister into the vehicle’s cup holder.

Aesthetics and Space

We thought this air freshener was the most interesting because of the gel-like balls in the container. However, it did take up the most space. The tester drove a sedan that only came with two cup holders at the front of the car. For this car type, it’s not ideal to give up one of those for an air freshener. 

Fragrance

We bought the “bahama breeze” scent, which has a sweet scent. It wasn’t an overpowering fragrance, but when we wanted to smell more of it, we were able to shake the can to release more fragrance.

Odor Masking/Elimination

We placed the smelly shoes in the passenger seat next to the cup holder with the air freshener. It covered up the shoe scent, but may not be as effective if it’s placed further away from the source of the odor. 

 


 

#4 Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Re-Fresher


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Meguiar’s Whole Car Air Re-Fresher was designed to eliminate foul odors that penetrate your car’s upholstery. All you have to do is leave your recirculated cold air on full blast, as the can sprays. After 15 minutes, you open your windows and let the car air out.

Not only does this product eliminate odors, but it also replaces them with a new scent. You have five scents to choose from, even a new car scent, which makes it smell like you just drove off the dealership lot.

Key Features

  • 3 cans of spray
  • 5 scent options
  • Automatic-lock sprayer
  • Permanently eliminates odors

What Customers Are Saying

Over 700 Amazon customers gave this product an average score of 4.2 out of 5 stars, which is equal to the Amazon average for all five of the car air fresheners reviewed. Its rating increased by 0.1 stars to 4.3 when adding in customer ratings from other ecommerce websites, which means its overall score is lower than the 4.4 average.

Customers said the product does what it says it will and eliminates odors in your vehicle. However, the fragrance it leaves behind is overwhelmingly strong initially and then fades away within a week or two. Customers felt like the fragrance should last longer than it does, considering its premium price. Overall, customers felt like it was best at eliminating foul odors, but isn’t the best option for everyday use.

Our Experience

Set Up

The instructions for this car air freshener are a little more detailed, and it took some trial and error to figure out how to use it. It wasn’t immediately clear reading the instructions that you had to keep the can spraying the entire 15 minutes while the air is blasting. But once you turn on the automatic-lock sprayer, it’s impossible to stop it without breaking the nozzle off, so we figured you had to keep the can spraying until it was empty.

Aesthetics and Space

Aesthetics and space aren’t really a factor with this product because it’s not meant to stay in your car. You’re just supposed to use the entire can and throw it away afterward. In fact, it’s probably best not to keep it in your car because if it gets too warm, the can can explode. If you bought a pack with more than one can, we recommend keeping the extra cans in your home so they're not at risk of exploding. 

Fragrance

We used “new car smell." The smell was initially overwhelming, but by the next day, the scent strength had decreased significantly.

Odor Masking/Elimination

This car air freshener did the best job at eliminating the odor of the shoes. After following the instructions for use, any odor besides the one that came with the can was completely unnoticeable. The scent of the can may not last a long time, but it certainly eliminates the odors in your car at the time of use.

 


 

#5 Yankee Candle Car Jar Ultimate Hanging Air Freshener


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If you get headaches from strong fragrances, this may be the car air freshener for you. Its subtle scent means that you won’t be bombarded with its smell every time you get in your car. 

Like the Febreze Unstopables, it comes in a variety pack so you can change up the scent. It’s also easy to set up, as all you have to do is remove its plastic wrapping and hang it from your rearview mirror.

Key Features

  • 3 jars
  • 3 scents: black coconut, bahama breeze, turquoise sky
  • String to hang from rearview mirror
  • Fragrance life of 2-4 weeks

What Customers Are Saying

This product has an Amazon rating of 4 stars with just over 2,500 customer reviews. While its Amazon score is lower than the rest, it significantly increased after averaging in customer ratings from other top ecommerce sellers to become 4.5 stars. This makes it 0.1 stars higher than the average using data on all five of the air fresheners from other online retailers.

Customers complimented the fragrances and liked how they came in the same scents that Yankee Candle has for its candles. However, the overwhelming majority of customers said that the scent was weak. It really only fills your car and covers up other odors if the weather is warm or you have the heat on, making this product best for customers who don’t need odor elimination and get headaches from strong scents.

Our Experience

Set Up

The set up for this air freshener was similar to that of the Little Trees. We took the jar out of its plastic wrapping and hung it from the rearview mirror with its string. The only difference is that you don’t have the option to keep the plastic wrapping on this one like you do with the Little Trees.

Aesthetics and Space

We like the aesthetics of this air freshener because it looks like a mini candle. Like the Little Trees, it takes up a little space in your vehicle but is smaller so it doesn’t block the driver’s view of the other side.

Fragrance

We tested the “turquoise sky” scent. It smelled fruity, but we could only smell it when we put our nose directly up to the jar. Therefore, we agree with other customers’ assessment that this air freshener won’t fill up your car with fragrance.

Odor Masking/Elimination

Because of how faint the fragrance is, it did the poorest job of all the products tested at masking or eliminating the odor of the smelly shoes. After leaving both the shoes and air freshener in the car overnight, the car still smelled like the shoes the next morning.

Shoes in Car

 


 

Types of Car Air Fresheners

Car air fresheners come in a variety of types that release scent and attach to your car differently. You’ll want to learn about each to find the type that you prefer.

Cardboard

This is the most affordable air freshener, but you get what you pay for because it only lasts a short period of time. They most commonly come in the form of trees that are hung from your rearview mirror.

Plug-In

A plug-in air freshener usually has a cigarette-lighter end with a liquid container attached. It works like a home air freshener that plugs into a wall outlet. Once it is plugged into the lighter and the car is on, the liquid is heated up, and its scent is released into the air.

Can

This type of air freshener comes in a plastic or metal canister with a gel-like substance in it. The lid of the canister has holes, and you can usually twist the lid to decide how many holes you want open. The more holes that are open, the more scent the gel will release. You usually place one of these in a cup holder.

Vent Clip

This is similar to the cigarette lighter plug-in because it has a container of liquid. It differs though because you clip them onto your air vents, and the scent is released once the air passes through the clips.

Spray

A spray air freshener isn’t like the others that release scent over a period of time. It comes in a can that you spray yourself whenever there is an odor you want to mask. With this type, you have the option of directly spraying the area that smells.

 


 

Buying A Car Air Freshener: Factors to Consider

Every person will have different preferences in terms of what they’re looking for in a car air freshener. Here are some factors to consider as you decide the best car air freshener for you and your vehicle.

Fragrance

Scent is arguably the most important factor when choosing a car air freshener because it will determine how your car smells for the foreseeable future. 

Aesthetics

This ties into the types of car air fresheners because each of them look different. Some, like the spray, are only meant to be functional and eliminate odors as they arise. Others, like the plug-in, are meant to be more aesthetically pleasing. You’ll have to decide how important aesthetics are to you before picking the right air freshener for your car.

Space

Again, this relates to the type of air freshener. A can is going to take up one of your cup holders, which is a lot of space to give up if you have a sedan with only two at the front of the car. A plug-in may not be that large, but it does take up a cigarette lighter that could be used to charge appliances. If you want a car air freshener that’s as unobtrusive as possible, a rearview mirror one or vent clip is your best bet.

Variety

You’ll want to pick a brand that offers a variety of scents so that you can find one you like. Even better is a brand that offers a variety pack so you can try them out all at once and don’t have to return one scent and wait for the next scent to get to you. You’ll also be able to switch scents around if you get sick of one after using it for a while.

Duration

The duration of the scent will determine how often you have to buy a new car air freshener. A more expensive one, like the vent clips and clip-ons, will last longer.

Odor Masking vs. Elimination

Good quality air fresheners will eliminate scent completely but will cost more. You’ll have to decide if you’re willing to settle for a freshener that simply masks the odors with its own scent for a reduced price.

 


 

Car Air Freshener FAQ

What is the best long-lasting air freshener?

In our testing, we found that the car air freshener with the longest fragrance life was Febreze Unstopables. It was miles ahead of the other air fresheners we reviewed with a lifespan of up to 150 days, which translates to about 21.5 weeks.

What is the most popular car air freshener scent?

There isn’t one scent that works for every person. That’s why most car air fresheners come in a variety of scents so you can choose one that works best for your fragrance preferences. Most brands will at least have a clean laundry scent and a fruity scent.

How do I keep my car smelling good all the time?

Car air fresheners are a good start to keeping your car smelling fresh. You can also vacuum your car to clean out debris, clean the carpets to eliminate smelly stains, and take all of your trash with you when you leave the car.

How often should I change my car air freshener?

It depends on the type of car air freshener you purchased. The instructions usually give a fragrance life, but those aren’t always accurate because factors, like the climate and how often you drive, can affect its life. Therefore, the best rule of thumb is to change it once you no longer smell the scent.

Is hanging a car air freshener from the rearview mirror illegal?

It depends on the state and the size of the air freshener. For example, Virginia law says that you can’t hang anything from the rearview mirror that can obstruct the driver’s view. A recent court case found that a hanging tree like the one we reviewed can obstruct view. Therefore, the tree air freshener we reviewed may not be best for Virginia drivers, but you could get away with the hanging jar because it’s significantly smaller. It’s best to know your state’s law before purchasing a hanging car air freshener.