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7 best cheap air purifiers, according to our tests

Being on a small budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality — look no further than these cheap air purifiers
By
Updated on December 2, 2023
Written by
Danny Ashton
Danny is the founder of HouseFresh and has been writing about air purifiers and indoor air quality since 2010. He is our lead tester, conducting all the tests we use to evaluate air quality products. That is why you will always see his name attached to our reviews.

Air purifiers used to be nice gadgets for those who could afford them. But COVID-19 changed everything.

Since 2020, there has been an explosion of interest in devices that can clean airborne particles from the air. In addition to this, reputable organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have stated that portable air purifiers can be an excellent tool for improving ventilation indoors and removing harmful airborne particles from the air.

All this to say that everyone is much more aware now of how the air we breathe can impact our health and that of our families and communities. This, in turn, has led to online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay becoming flooded with cheap units that promise to do it all for a quarter of the price.

After testing over 50 air purifiers in the last two years, I am here to tell you that not all cheap air purifiers are created equal.

  1. In our home lab of 728 cubic ft, we light an incense stick to generate particle pollution and VOCs.
  2. We set up our trusted Purpleair Indoor Sensor with the latest Bosch gas sensor to track levels of PM1ug/m3, PM2.5ug/m3 and PM10ug/m3 and VOCs in the air.
    purpleair
  3. We switch the air purifier to its highest speed and measure how long it takes to get our room air quality down to PM1 level to 0.
  4. We use an energy meter to measure precisely how much electricity is used when running the unit at the lowest and highest fan speed settings.
    enery meter
  5. We track sound levels emitted by the air purifier at different fan speeds with the help of a commercial sound meter.
    sound meter

I used the data we collected from our tests to build a shortlist of solid air purifiers that will not cost you an arm and a leg to buy and to run in the long term.

That’s right, I didn’t just focus on upfront costs. When choosing the best budget air purifiers, I did the math to determine how much it could cost to run each unit across 12 months, including energy consumption and filter replacement costs.

Tip

When you’re on a budget, the best way to get the best cleaning power is to use multiple units instead of just one. If your unit has a CADR of 150 CFM, two units working together will have a CADR of 300 CFM.

 

Staff picks: Top 3 budget air purifiers

If you don’t have time to read our full article, you’ll find our top recommendations in the table below.

👑 BEST OVERALL💰 FOR TIGHT BUDGETS🛋️ FOR LARGE SPACES
Levoit Core 300Levoit Core MiniTaoTronics AP003
Air cleaning speed40 minutes1 hour and 53 minutes29 minutes
CADR rating145 CFM 32 CFM226 CFM
Filter technology3-Stage Filtration 3-Stage Filtration H13 HEPA with activated carbon pellets
Max room sizeup to 219 sq. ft.up to 178 sq. ft.up to 322 sq. ft.
Weight7.48 lbs (3.4 kg)2.2 lbs (1 kg)18 lbs (8.16 kg)
Our reviewCore 300 reviewCore Mini reviewTaoTronics AP003 review
PricePrice not available$49.99$99

Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Let’s do this then. These air purifiers will give you the best bang for your buck when looking at the ratio of air cleaning power to money spent:

1. Best overall: Levoit Core 300 ($99 upfront + $107 per year)

One of the best units in terms of air cleaning performance per $ spent, the Core 300 is a great choice for those who don’t care about smart functions.

The Levoit Core 300 changed the budget air purifier game forever when it arrived on the scene. Back then, budget air purifiers were useless or had ionizers that could actually make things worse by adding dangerous ozone to your air.

What we really like

Second-best value for cleaning power per $ spent
H13 filters combined with activated charcoal pellets are much better than the impregnated fabric you sometimes see at this low price point
Small design that doesn’t have too big a floor footprint
Excellent performance — cleaned our test room in 40 minutes
Great clear screen onboard sensor
Nearly silent on the lowest fan speed and still able to clean our test room in 25 minutes

What we think could be better

It doesn’t come with app support and auto-mode — if those are important to you, you can go with the Core 300S
The original 300 had a power draw of 45 watts, which is much higher than the latest models with bigger air cleaning performance.

Levoit brought an air purifier capable of 145 CFM for $99.99 to market. Previously, you could get 100 CFM with the Honeywell HP100, but now you can get 1 CFM for 68 cents. Our performance test cleaned our test room in 40 minutes of particles measuring 1 micron or less.

Keeping the air clean no longer needs large, costly devices beyond most American households’ budgets. Levoit, we salute you!

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:40 minutes
Air purifier technology:3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter for large particles, main filter for airborne particles, high-efficiency activated carbon filter for odors and gasses)
Recommended room size:219 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):145 CFM (246 m3/h)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):8.7L x 8.7W x 14.2H inches (22L x 22W x 36H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):7.5 lbs (3.4 kg)
Noise level (low – high):24 – 50dB
Filter life:6 – 8 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Estimated energy consumption:$47.30

2. Best for small spaces: Levoit Core Mini ($49.99 upfront + $89 per year)

At less than $50, it’s one the cheapest air purifiers we have tested and does an excellent job of cleaning the air.

It’s still a small unit, so bear in mind that it will not be suitable for rooms bigger than 178 sq. ft., but it’s still powerful enough for a small space like a car, an RV, or a campervan. 

What we really like

Less than $50 and cleaned our test room in 113 minutes, which compared favorably to many other units that cost far more
Super efficient with a max draw of 6.4 watts for 32 CFM, which is 70 cents per CFM which is decent compared to other budget air purifiers
Small enough to bring on travel trips with a small plug, so perfect for use in an RV or campervan
Filter uses HEPA H13 and activated charcoal

What we think could be better

Not suitable for any large-sized rooms as it will likely fail to remove pollutants quickly enough
Filter costs can quickly add up if used for very polluted spaces.

The Core Mini’s power usage stood out in our testing, with only 6.4 watts pulled at its highest speed, equating to less than $20 a year in electricity costs if you used it daily. You will be disappointed if you try to use this small purifier in a larger room — it took one hour and 53 minutes to remove all the pollutants in our relatively small office with large ceilings. But if you are looking for a way to clean the air in your RV or campervan, nothing on the market can provide the level of air cleaning from such low power usage. 

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our test room:1 hour and 53 minutes
Air purifier technology:3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter for large particles, main filter for airborne particles, high-efficiency activated carbon filter for odors and gasses)
Recommended room size:178 sq. ft.
Clea; you delivery rate (CADR):32 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):10.4H x 6.5D x 6.5W inches (26.4H x 16.4D x 16.4W cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Noise level (low – high):25 dB – 44 dB
Filter life:4 – 6 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Estimated energy consumption:$6.31 per year

3. Best for medium-sized rooms: TaoTronics TT-AP003 ($99.99 + $65 per year)

The performance of the TaoTronic AP003 is better than the 33 minutes we saw with the Levoit Core 400S, which is $219.

The TaoTronics TT-AP003 is a game changer in budget air purifiers. Sold directly, it goes for $79.99 and has a CADR of 384 m³/h/226 CFM, similar to the Coway AP-1512 and Winix 5300, which cost nearly $200. 

With a CADR cost of 35 cents per 1 CFM, this is the ultimate budget air purifier as of Spring 2023. When we tested this unit in our home lab, we found that it could remove all pollutants in 29 minutes, matching the manufacturer’s CADR results. 

What we really like

Best price per CADR CFM on the market
Filter costs are at the lower end when compared to similar-sized units
Super efficient power usage, we saw a max draw of 29.2 watts
The high-quality screen for the onboard particle sensor that also changes color based on the current level of pollutants

What we think could be better

It’s not readily available on Amazon after the parent company was kicked off for paying for reviews

The cherry on top for the budget unit is that it also comes with an onboard sensor that gives the same pollutant levels for PM2.5 and PM10 — we usually see such extras on units that cost upwards of $300. 

I’m not sure how Taotronics made such a great unit at such a low price, but as a consumer, I’m not complaining, and I’m sure the other air purifier manufacturers will need to up their game.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:29 minutes
Air purifier technology:H13 HEPA with activated carbon pellets
Recommended room size:322 sq ft (30 m²)
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):226 CFM (384 m³/h )
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):21.8 x 14.1 x 7.9 inches (55.4 x 35.8 x 20cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):18 lbs (8.16 kg)
Noise level (low – high):32dB – 52dB
Filter life:3 – 6 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:1 year
Estimated energy consumption:$30.48 per year

4. Best DIY option: Corsi-Rosenthal Box ($80 upfront + $95 per year)

For around $80, you can buy everything you need to build your own air purifier — the Corsi-Rosenthal Box performs as well as many of the highest-rated units we’ve tested.

If you have a box fan and some extra HVAC filters, you might be able to get an air purifier running in your home without spending a thing. The Corsi-Rosenthal box requires you to build your device with the help of duct tape and cardboard.

When we got to test this air purifier in the same test we use for all purchasable air purifiers, it cleaned our test room in 25 minutes of particles sized 1 micron or less. This was the same level of particle removal speed as the $900 IQAir Healthpro Plus, so it’s not too shabby for something you can build yourself from easy-to-find parts.

What we really like

If you have the filters and box fan, you can make this for no money spent
Two separate filters, so less cost if you don’t need odor or VOC cleaning
It’s super efficient with power use; we saw a max draw of 14.7 watts
Outstanding performance — cleaned our test room in 25 minutes
Great price per CADR CFM

What we think could be better

You have to build it yourself
No activated charcoal filter, so it can’t deal with gasses and odors

For those needing an air purifier as quickly as possible, the Corsi-Rosenthal Box is the best solution out there, and that’s why it is our top recommendation for the best air purifier for wildfire smoke.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★★
Time to clean our test room:25 minutes
Air purifier technology:HEPA Merv 13
Recommended room size:680 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):Estimated: 247 CFM (419 m/hr)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):20L x 20W x 20H inches (50L x 50W x 50H cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):10 lbs (4.5 kg)
Noise level (low – high):49 – 54 dB
Filter life:Every 6 months
Estimated energy consumption:$52.56 (it pulls 50.1 watts when running at its top fan speed)

5. Levoit Core 200S ($89.99 upfront + $83 per year)

If you are looking for a smart air purifier for a small bedroom, the Core 200S is a unit that is well worth considering.

The Levoit Core 200S is the smallest model in the core series that comes with smart features normally only found in bigger units. Its performance lies between the Core Mini and the Core 300s, and it cleaned our test room in 61 minutes compared to the much larger Core 300S, which did it in 40 minutes. 

What we really like

Small footprint with a good-looking design
App support that is the same as what we see with the much pricier Core 400S and Core 600S
Light enough to travel with at 6.6 lbs
Max sound level at 48dB is one of the lowest we have tested

What we think could be better

As with the Core Mini, filter costs can soon add up — it’s worth considering the larger Core 300 S version if you have severe issues with your air quality as it will be similar in filter costs a with higher cleaning power
It doesn’t include an auto-mode, which is only found on the Core 300S and above

This is the cheapest air purifier on this list that has app support. This means the Core 200S is a good choice for those who want to schedule the air purifier before bedtime or when you are out at work. 

As you would expect with a smaller unit, it doesn’t pull too much power, with a max of 28.82 watts at its highest speed. 

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆☆
Time to clean our test room:61 minutes
Air purifier technology:3-Stage Filtration (Pre-filter for large particles, main filter for airborne particles, high-efficiency activated carbon filter for odors and gasses)
Recommended room size:183 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):118 CFM
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):12.6H x 8.07W x 8.07D inches (32H x 20.5W x 20.5D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):6.6 lbs (3 kg)
Noise level (low – high):24 – 48dB
Filter life:6 – 8 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:2 years
Estimated energy consumption:$30.48 per year

6. TaoTronics TT-AP005 ($65.99 upfront + $67 per year)

An affordable, high-performing air purifier ideal for small to medium-sized rooms. 

The TaoTronics TT-AP005, is the smaller brother of the AP003 and has a very similar size and shape to our number one budget air purifier, the Levoit Core 300. In our tests, it managed to clean our test room in 36 minutes, which is impressive considering it should cost $49.99. 

What we really like

High cleaning power for a very low price that was in line with what we see for $100 units
Includes an auto-mode that shows the level of particle pollutants and lights up depending on how bad the air is
H13 HEPA filter with activated charcoal-impregnated fabric
Footprint is small so easy to use it around the house

What we think could be better

It is hard to find it for a good price on Amazon
It would prefer to see pelleted activated carbon used as we see in the AP003

Energy costs and filter replacements are some of the lowest on the market, but the major downside to this unit is its lack of availability on Amazon. Sadly, the company that makes them has been banned from Amazon, but there are a few third-party sellers out there, but they are often more expensive than buying direct. 

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★★☆
Time to clean our test room:36 minutes
Air purifier technology:Pre-Filter, H13 True HEPA and Activated Carbon Filter
Recommended room size:270 sq. ft. 
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):147 CFM (250 m³/h)
Price:$65
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):14.9H x 8.8W x 8.8D inches (37.8H x 22.4W x 22.4D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):7.9 lbs (3.58 kg)
Noise level (low – high):25 – 50 dB
Filter life:3 – 6 months
Manufacturer’s warranty:1 year
Estimated energy consumption:$30.48 per year

7. IKEA FÖRNUFTIG ($74.99 upfront + $74 per year)

I am glad to report air purifier from IKEA is the real deal — solid air cleaning performance in a good-looking package for an affordable price.

Many manufacturers in the air purifier space like to say how complex air cleaning is. However, this model from IKEA shows that it’s as simple as a good fan combined with a HEPA and activated carbon filter

The HEPA filters can be found for $11.99, and the activated charcoal filters are $21.99. They are all available online, and in-store so that you can pick up some spare air filters the next time you visit for Swedish meatballs. 

What we really like

IKEA design means that it doesn’t look like an air purifier
Two separate filters, so less cost if you don’t need odor or VOC cleaning
It’s super efficient with power use; we saw a max draw of 14.7 watts
Great price per CADR CFM

What we think could be better

You have to buy it either from IKEA online or in-store
The lack of on-board sensor or any smart features

As you would expect with a gadget from IKEA, this air purifier has no bells or whistles. The device has one wheel to change speed and no air quality sensor. It doesn’t look like an air purifier, which might be a plus point for many — you could easily hide it in a living room without attracting too much attention. 

It’s a great budget device, but the lack of features and overall costs means it doesn’t make our top spot.

SPECS & FEATURES

HouseFresh Rating:★★★☆ ☆
Time to clean our test room:61 minutes
Air purifier technology:Pre-filter, HEPA 12 filter and Activated Carbon filter
Recommended room size:85 — 105 sq. ft.
Clean air delivery rate (CADR):70 CFM (119 m³/h)
Dimensions (in inches / in cm):18H x 12W x 4D inches (45.7H x 30.5W x 10.2D cm)
Weight (in pounds / in kg):6.7 lbs (3.04 kg)
Noise level (low – high):28 – 60dB
Filter life:6 months
WarrantyFÖRNUFTIG does not come with a warranty from IKEA
Estimated energy consumption:$15.77

Other budget air purifiers that we tested but don’t recommend

We test many air purifiers here at HouseFresh and while we are continually looking for units like the Taotronics AP-003 that move the performance needle forward, we also come across a lot of duds. This is especially true at the sub $100 level, and so we felt it our duty to also point out those air purifiers you should avoid in this budget range. 

  • AROEVE MK01 – I could not find a published CADR for this unit, which would make sense as when we tested it, we found it took 163 minutes to clean our room to the levels recommended by the WHO guidelines. Remember that our test room (728 cubic feet) is the smallest in our house, so we can assume that this unit will be underpowered for most home use cases and should be avoided. The budget doesn’t have to be the thing that holds you back from having clean air in your home. Pay $20 extra and get the TaoTronics.
  • GermGuardian AC482e – This air purifier seems awesome on the surface, especially as you will find glowing reviews from well-respected media organizations if you decide to Google it. There is only one problem — it’s not good at all. It might have been an OK choice a few years back, but the AC4825e failed to perform well in our home lab tests with a poor performance of 104 minutes. When the Levoit Core 300 can achieve this in 40 minutes, you must wonder what you are paying for with the GermGuardian AC4825e.

How to avoid wasting money when buying a budget air purifier

Air purifiers offer an excellent way to remove harmful particles and improve indoor air quality, but many high-end models come with a hefty price tag.  You just need to know what to look for in a quality air purifier, and you’ll discover many high-performance units that are affordably priced. And we’re here to help! 

Our guide for the best budget air purifiers outlines the critical things to consider when buying an air purifier.

1. HEPA + Activated carbon is a must

The filtration technology used in an air purifier is the most important thing to consider when buying an air purifier on a budget. Here’s a breakdown of the different filtration technologies on the market.

  • HEPA Filters.

    The “gold standard” in filtration technology is HEPA or high-efficiency particulate air filters. HEPA filters are great at trapping microscopic allergens like dust, pollen, dander and mold spores. These filters capture large and small particles down to 0.3 microns that move through them.

  • Activated Carbon Filters

    Where HEPA captures large and small particles from the indoor air, the best budget-friendly air purifiers include Activated Carbon technology. 

    The porous nature of activated carbon helps absorb odor and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Gases in your home are usually present as cigarette smoke and pet odors. 

    Units with Activated Carbon do a stellar job of removing these odors.

    If you want to remove odor from your home, you’ll need a unit with activated charcoal. We recommend choosing a unit with pellets rather than impregnated fabric often found in cheap air purifiers. 

  • Negative Ion Purifiers
    Ionizers can create chemical byproducts, making them unsafe. Many ionizers from the early 2000s created dangerous ozone levels that can harm your health. For this reason, we don’t recommend these types of air cleaners.

    Also, avoid other technologies like PECO and UV, as these don’t perform as well as HEPA-based systems. Look at a minimum of True HEPA H11 to H13 Medical Grade. 

    These technologies are proven to remove particles as small as viruses.

2. Measure the room size and consider its CADR score

Room size is another critical factor when buying an air purifier. Air purifiers aren’t created equal. Larger units can effectively clean air in larger rooms, like classrooms, while smaller units might not. 

Manufacturers usually provide the recommended room size for each unit, so this information shouldn’t be hard to find. 

See the table below for the recommended room size and CADR rating.

      Room Size (sq. feet)            CADR (CFM)
300 — 500 ft²One air purifier with a CADR of at least 150 
500 — 900 ft²One or two air purifiers with a combined CADR of 300 — 500 
1,000 ft² and over One very large or 2-3 air purifiers with a combined CADR of 600 or higher

CADR, or clean air delivery rate, measures the air volume an air purifier can clean in a given time. A higher CADR means the air purifier can effectively remove more pollutants from your room, so pick the unit with the highest CADR score. 

Feel free to use our free tool that provides you with 4.8 air changes per hour, which is what the EPA recommends for portable air purifiers:

4. Smart features are not a must, so don’t overpay for them

Air purifiers with smart technology, like auto mode and app support, are easier and more convenient to operate. 

However, units with such technology tend to be more expensive and might be above your price range if you’re working on a tight budget. 

Focus more on performance rather than features. You can find units with similar performance as the smart models but at a lower price. 

For example, the Levoit 300 performs as well as the smart Levoit Core 300S but is $50 cheaper.

5. Be wary of very cheap air purifiers

The device’s low price can often be a trap. 

In our many years of experience testing air purifiers, we have yet to find an excellent unit for less than $50, yet Amazon has many units. In our experience, you need to spend at least $80 for something like the TaoTronics AP003 or $99 for the Levoit Core 300 to get a unit capable of cleaning your home air well./thing

Common questions about cheap air purifiers

As of when I’m writing this, the cheapest air purifier for getting the most cleaning power for $ spent is the TaoTronics AP-003 with 35 cents for a CADR of 1 CFM. You can use multiple products for larger spaces and still benefit from the cheap performance. 

If you’ve researched the best air purifiers on the market, you may have noticed that most are in the $200 to $300 price range. 

Budget-friendly air purifiers are challenging to find. Even the units advertised as “cheap air purifiers” range somewhere between $100 to $150. But that doesn’t mean you can enjoy clean, fresh air in your home without breaking the bank.

Plenty of bucket picks on the market are just as effective as the pricey models. The Taotronics AP-003 costs $79.99 directly but can be found for a little more with third-party sellers on Amazon. 

HEPA alone won’t do anything about odors or VOCs. You must also use an activated charcoal or carbon filter to deal with smells and gasses. Activated charcoal has a proven record of removing odors and gases that get trapped inside. 

If you have severe odors or issues with VOCs, you will want to look at air purifiers with a large amount of activated carbon. Be sure to look at our list of the best air purifiers for VOCs which has a few examples of these types of air purifiers. 

On a basic level, to make an air purifier, you will need to attach a HEPA filter to a fan. The challenge is that the fan needs to be kept safe, so you are better off looking at resources like this guide on how to build a Corsi-Rosenthal Box from UC Davis. 

Instructions in this helpful guide on the Smart Air blog can also be provided.

DIY projects are great when you have to use something today, but if you plan to use it regularly, you will find it better to invest in a cheap air purifier as it will last much longer and require less maintenance.

Small air purifiers can be the right choice when you are in a minimal space like a car and traveling by plane. 

Still, for the home, I recommend choosing a unit at least as large as the Levoit Core 300, as otherwise, you will spend a lot on filters and will find it hard to have enough performance for even the smallest rooms. 

Opening a door or a window is a significant first step to cleaning the air in your home. The challenge is when the air outside is worse; this is when a cheap air purifier can provide a way to clean the air without letting any more pollutants inside.

Wrapping up

Being on a small budget doesn’t mean you have to compromise on quality. Ensure your new unit has HEPA and Activated Carbon filters, and go for as high a CADR as your budget allows. 

Smart features are nice but not essential for the budget buyer. Any units on this list give you quality at a great price, so you won’t go far wrong. Remember, we have tested every unit ourselves, so we know what we’re talking about. 

About HouseFresh

I have been writing about reviewing air purifiers since 2010 and have put 53 different air purifiers through our unique air performance cleaning test in our 705 cubic feet home lab since 2020. This primary data obtained through our in-house testing allows us to evaluate any air purifier on the market even when they don’t publish CADR.

Unlike other publications, a large media company does not own us, and we are only focused on indoor air quality. We aim to improve indoor air quality powered by our in-depth performance tests and reviews. If you have any questions about our testing process or have a query we haven’t discussed, email me directly: danny@housefresh.com

At HouseFresh, we have been reviewing air quality products since 2010. In all these years, we learned not to rely on manufacturers’ claims and the ever-so-glowing marketing materials. That is why we buy products with our own money, so we can write unbiased reviews after we’ve had enough time to evaluate air quality products in our home lab. Every unit we recommend has been thoroughly tested to assess its performance, energy consumption, and noise levels emitted in real-life environments. If you have any questions about our testing process for different types of air quality products, just drop us an email at hello@housefresh.com.

Last update on 2023-12-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About the author

Danny Ashton

Danny is the founder of HouseFresh and has been writing about air purifiers and indoor air quality since 2010. He is our lead tester, conducting all the tests we use to evaluate air quality products. That is why you will always see his name attached to our reviews.