Best Car Air Fresheners With Long-Lasting Scents

Updated: Jun. 05, 2024

New car not smelling so new anymore? Try the best car air fresheners to perk up your ride.

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10 Best Car Air Fresheners Of 2023, According To Auto ExpertsVIA MERCHANT

I like to ride with the windows down. From Minnesota to Texas, in freezing temperatures or triple-digit heat, I need fresh air.

Occasionally I forget to roll up the windows or close the sunroof. When that happens, a comic tragedy often befalls me. I’ve had rain saturate the seats. One time a bird flew in. And more than one early-morning sprinkler system watered the inside of my car along with the Kentucky bluegrass.

So it’s probably understandable that my car doesn’t smell great. I also parent two big dogs, so clearly the odds are against me.

If any of this sounds familiar, we have a solution. We’ve collected the best air fresheners of 2023 to get your car smelling like new—or, if that’s a stretch, at least a lot fresher than it does now.

Febreze Unstoppables via merchant

Best Overall Car Air Freshener

Febreze Unstoppables

If you’re looking for a long-lasting, hard-working air freshener that takes care of any smell your car can throw at it, try Febreze Unstoppables vent-clip car air fresheners. An Amazon No. 1 bestseller, they last up to 40 days, feature an intensity dial and can withstand temperatures up to 150 degrees. The fresh laundry scent gets lots of rave reviews.

Pros

  • Works for up to 30 days
  • Attaches to the car vent
  • Eliminates odors, doesn’t just mask
  • Small, unobtrusive size

Cons

  • Once clipped, fan cannot be adjusted

Yankee Candle Car Jar Ultimate via merchant

Best Smelling Car Air Freshener

Yankee Candle Car Jar Ultimate

You’ve likely heard of Yankee Candle before. This beloved candle typically makes an appearance as a housewarming gift, but did you know that the brand also has a line of well-reviewed car air fresheners? Available in the same aromas as their candles, the Car Jar Ultimate air fresheners deliver delicious, true-to-life scents for up to 30 days.

We love that they come in a little Yankee Jar. They also shrink as they age, giving a good visual of when it’s time to replace. They’re not too smelly, so they won’t give you a headache, either.

Pros

  • Comes in over 23 scents
  • Inserts shrink as they age
  • Attractive look
  • Lasts up to 30 days

Cons

  • Scent is more subtle than artificially fragranced air fresheners

Wonder Wafers 'new Leather' via merchant

Best New Car Smell Air Freshener

Wonder Wafers “New Leather”

Everyone loves the smell of a new car—or, at least, one that doesn’t reek of kids and dogs. Wonder Wafers to the rescue! These patented, under-seat car air fresheners take you right back to the dealer showroom. That’s where many people first encounter them because Wonder Wafers are popular with car detailers. Using them is also much easier than learning how to make your own car freshener.

“Every single person who gets in my car asks me if I got a new car in the same color,” writes an Amazon verified purchaser of Wonder Wafers’ “New Leather” scent.

Pros

  • Very inexpensive
  • Used by car detailers
  • Comes in a wide range of fragrances
  • Small enough to stash around the vehicle

Cons

  • Don’t last as long as other air fresheners on this list

Best Value Car Air Freshener via merchant

Best Budget Car Air Freshener

Little Trees

Little Trees, those ubiquitous dangling car air fresheners, are inexpensive (about a dollar per tree) and last seven weeks if you follow the directions.

Wait, you don’t just rip them open and let ’em fly? Nope. Exposing just a portion of the tree each week prolongs the scent for nearly two months. You can even leave them in your dresser drawers for a little pick-me-up that makes your home smell better.

Pros

  • Over 43,000 positive Amazon reviews
  • Lasts up to seven weeks
  • Over 40 different scents available
  • Very inexpensive

Cons

  • When used incorrectly, scent doesn’t last as long

Fhma23 Le Bonaparte Diffuser Emily Way 01 Ssedit Emily Way/Family Handyman

Best Luxury Car Air Freshener

Le Bonaparte Diffuser

If pine trees hanging from your rearview mirror offends your aesthetic sensibilities, luxury car freshener brand Lelior has you covered. The small, sleek construction of the Le Bonaparte diffuser puts this car freshener into a category of its own. Shopping Editors Emily Way and Daria Smith both use it in their cars and homes.

It charges using a USB-C cable that can connect to cigarette lighters or USB inputs in newer vehicles. Thanks to timers, an auto-shutoff mode and adjustable fragrance intensities, it’s easy to customize the unit to your liking. It also doubles as a small scent diffuser for homes.

Pros

  • Use as a home or car diffuser
  • Fits in a car cupholder
  • Includes charging cable
  • Auto shutoff and timer features

Cons

  • Pricey

Best Car Air Freshener For Smokers via merchant

Best Car Air Freshener for Smokers

Cigarette and cannabis smoke, just as it clings to clothes, seeps deep down into the fibers of your car seats and carpeting—even if you open the windows. Ozium smoke and odor eliminators are gel-filled canisters that slide under your car seats and knock out odors through pores in the lid.

Ozium also makes air sanitizer sprays for eliminating odor-causing bacteria from the air. Use them in tandem to keep your car smelling fresh and smoke-free.

Pros

  • Fits in a car cupholder
  • Eliminates odors rather than masking them
  • Kicks smoke smells to the curb
  • Available in four different scents

Cons

  • Scent is lighter than masking fragrances

California Scents via merchant

Best Long-Lasting Car Air Freshener

California Scents

When California Scents launched its canister air fresheners in 1992, people were skeptical. Now a major player in the $15 billion air freshener industry, California Scents’ claim to fame is its long-lasting fragrance. Just open the top and slide it under your seat to keep your car (or stinky basement) smelling great for two months.

Manufacturers often make claims about their products, but scores of Amazon user reviews confirm its longevity. Kasey, an Amazon purchaser, sums up the consensus: “Wow. This scent is strong and lasts a long time.”

Pros

  • Lasts up to 60 days
  • Sealed can lid keeps smell locked in until use
  • Recyclable aluminum canister
  • Biodegradable fiber pad

Cons

  • Some reviewers wish there was a perforated lid instead

Best Car Air Freshener For Pets via merchant

Best Car Air Freshener for Pets

Our beloved animals are always getting into trouble. Dogs can turn a fun trip to the park into a smelly nightmare when they roll in something disgusting or splash through a mud puddle.

Those smells linger even after your pup has had a bath. But Arm & Hammer Pet Scents deodorizing gel beads harness the odor-absorbing power of baking soda to eradicate them.

“Awesome for the car!” writes Amazon purchaser Brooke. “And most importantly, my car does not smell like dog anymore! Yay!”

Pros

  • Works on pet odors
  • Eliminates scents instead of masking
  • Pet safe fragrances
  • Lasts a few weeks

Cons

  • Some reviewers report the scent is too strong at first

Best All Natural Car Air Freshener via merchant

Best All-Natural Car Air Freshener

If you’re a fan of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day natural home cleaning products, check out the company’s air freshener sachets that you can toss in your car trunk or slide under your seats. These all-natural, cruelty-free sachets, made from repurposed wood and essential oils, are safe for kids, pets and the environment. They last up to 60 days.

Pros

  • Made from renewable ingredients
  • Lasts up to 60 days
  • Available in three different scents
  • Cruelty-free

Cons

  • Not yet available in the brand’s popular honeysuckle or geranium scents

Best Odor Eliminating Air Freshener via merchant

Best Odor Eliminating Air Freshener

Are car air fresheners bad for you?

If your car vents blast a stream of foul-smelling air every time you turn them on, try Armor All’s Fresh FX Rapid Odor Eliminator.

Roll up your windows, set your air conditioner on high and place the canister on the console. Activate it and get out of the car. The penetrating fog goes deep into the air vents to find and eliminate odors. Wait 15 minutes, turn off the car and open the windows and doors to allow fog to dissipate. No cleanup is needed.

Pros

  • Works instantly
  • Removes light dirt in ductwork
  • Eliminates dust
  • Easy-to-follow instructions

Cons

  • Perfumed scent is strong for a few days before settling down

What to Consider When Buying Car Air Fresheners

Farrell says that when considering a new car air freshener, there are a few questions to ask yourself: How strong do you want the smell to be? How long do you want it to last before you need a new one?

When it comes to scents, ensure that the air freshener you choose is something you can live with for a while. Farrell also warns that it’s a good idea to check if it has anything that might bother your allergies. “It’s good to pick something that smells nice without being overpowering, in case scents bother you or your passengers,” he says.

The size of your car matters, too. “Those little ones probably won’t cut it for a big van or SUV,” notes Farrell. “You’ll want to choose one that’s easy to use however you want based on your car. A clip might work better than a hanging one in a small car where space is tight,”

Different Types of Car Air Fresheners

According to Jason Farrell, a certified master technician at Mechanic’s Diary, there are several different types of car air fresheners.

“Each kind is made for different needs, like how strong and how long the smell should be or what it looks like. Some folks prefer a smell that lingers while others want something fresher that matches their vibe,” he says.

Here are the types of car air fresheners, according to Farrell:

  • Cardboard: The cardboard fresheners that hang are probably the most common. They come in all sorts of scents and are really cheap, but the smell typically doesn’t last that long.
  • Vent Clips: Vent clip air fresheners attach to the air vents. When the air blows through, it spreads the smell around the whole car real nice and steady.
  • Gel: Gel air fresheners usually come in a little container. These last longer than the others, and you can put them wherever you want in the car.
  • Sprays: Spray air fresheners let you control how strong the scent is. However, that smell doesn’t linger too long after spraying it.

Why You Should Trust Us

I’m a licensed electrician and freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas. Emily Way is an associate shopping editor for Family Handyman with experience researching products and recommending the best designs to consumers. She researched and updated this piece. Way interviewed Jason Farrell, a certified master technician at Mechanic’s Diary. Farrell has 18 years of experience working on domestic, European and foreign vehicles. He is ASE-certified and has a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology from Pittsburg State University.

How We Found the Best Car Air Fresheners

To ensure we listed the best car air fresheners available, we first spoke to experts to draw up our criteria. All odors have different causes, so we chose a wide range of picks that address every issue. Some folks struggle with offensive odors that require intense air scrubbing, while others just add a little ambiance.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, we found a car air freshener type and intensity for every kind of driver. Shopping experts vetted each pick on the list. We read through hundreds of first-hand reviews found on trusted sites like Amazon, Walmart and Target to discover our top suggestions.

FAQs

While car air fresheners aren’t bad for you per se, it’s always good to check for chemicals and additives if that’s something you’re sensitive to.

“It’s smarter to choose air fresheners made with natural ingredients or weaker scents,” notes Farrell. “Don’t forget to crack a window every now and then for some fresh air flow. That way you aren’t stuck inhaling it non-stop, which could give you breathing problems.”

Where should I put an air freshener in my car?

Where an air freshener should sit depends on which kind it is, according to Farrell. For the cardboard ones that hang, most people hook them on the rearview mirror since that’s easy. The clip-on ones go on the air vents so the smell spreads around the whole car from there. The gel ones are good for flatter spots like the dashboard or a cup holder.

“But no matter what, don’t put it somewhere that’ll get in your way while driving or mess with any of the controls. Safety first! The goal is to have the smell spread nice and evenly without issues. You have to make sure everyone can still see and you can still drive smoothly,” he says.

How do I get an air freshener smell out of my car?

Overdo it on the scents? Farrell has a tried-and-true method for airing things out.

“First thing is to take out whatever was making the smell—like removing one of those hanging trees or emptying a spray can. Then you want to air that puppy out real good. Roll down all the windows even when you’re not driving for a bit.”

“Baking soda or activated charcoal can help absorb the stink too if you leave some around,” he says. “Be sure to give everything a good vacuum and wipe down as much as you can reach too—under the seats, ceiling, everywhere. That’ll remove a lot of it right away. Sometimes even with all that, the smell sticks around—then you might need one of those pro detailers to really deep clean everything and rip the scent out for good. It’s worth it to get that fresh start if nothing else is working!”