Buyers guide

The Best Inexpensive Air Purifiers – 5 Great Buys

If you’re concerned about air purifier costs you may be wondering if you can even afford one. Or maybe you simply want something affordable that actually works well.

Where to begin? In order to help I’ve put together a list of 5 of the best inexpensive air purifiers. Here you’ll find the details & pros and cons to know before buying.

Wondering how air purifiers work and which kind is best suited for you? There’s a buying guide and basic information here to help, too.

Contents

A basic air purifier buying guide

There are quite a few products out there today but most fall into 2 major categories:

  1. Ionizers or ozone generators
  2. Filter-based (HEPA) purifiers

1. Ionizers and ozone generators

Ionizer and ozone generator examples image
Left: An O-Ion B-1000 ionizer. Right: An ozone generator. Ionizers are a type of air purifier that use an electrostatic charge to collect airborne particles on plates, removing them from the air. Some also have filters to capture dust & particles. Ozone generators are sold as air purifiers as well but don’t effectively clean air. Ozone also can be irritating to your internal passageways and potentially harmful at higher levels.

Ionizers

As I go into more detail in my post here, ionizers work by generating electrical charges and using plates and/or electrodes to affect air particles. A fan is used to move air through the purifier and as it does, airborne particles get a charge and are attracted to plates of a different charge, trapping them.

Some models have reusable or replaceable filters. Others may include additional features like an activated carbon filter to trap odors or ultraviolet light (UV) germ killer.

One unique property of ionizers is their ability to act as air sanitizers and kill sickness-causing germs.

When compared to filter-based (HEPA) air purifiers, however, they can’t quite compete. I’ll cover that below.

Ozone generators

Diagram showing ozone production and pair particles
Ozone generators work by using a high voltage corona effect to create ozone molecules. Ozone is the funny smell you may remember sensing outdoors after a lightning storm or from an electric train or car sets. It is generated from voltages change oxygen molecules.

The main principle behind it is taking regular oxygen from the air and combining 3 oxygen atoms into an ozone molecule. This molecule has a charge and the atoms 3rd oxygen atom can bond with contaminants in the air.

That’s the idea, at least. However, in practice, ozone generators aren’t very effective. Some do use filters also, but they’re not very efficient and simply aren’t worth the money.

Ozone can be breathed in by humans and pets where it can irritate the respiratory system. It’s especially a bad idea for those suffering from health problems like emphysema.

At higher levels, it’s also potentially harmful to the human body.

Ozone generators are often misleadingly sold as “air purifiers” and while technically that’s true to a lesser degree, they aren’t very efficient as I mentioned. Also, companies often do not include information about the amount of ozone produced, and whether or not they’re safe.

I recommend staying away from ozone generators. They’re a poor use of your money!

2. Filter-based purifiers

How air purifiers reduce dust diagramHEPA filter air purifiers like this GermGuardian AC4825 work by drawing air through filters to capture and remove air contaminants. Clean air blows out and back into the room. They work in a cyclic fashion, continually moving and filtering air. Some also include a type of germ-killing feature in addition to an activated carbon filter to remove odors.

These work based on a simple but effective principle. Fans are used to move air through a very dense filter material called a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA filter. They’re very effective and are safe as these types of purifiers don’t emit anything into the air you breathe.

Additionally, many have additional features to compliment the HEPA main filter. These are an activated carbon filter to remove odors and chemical vapors and a pre-filter for larger particles.

As they run the air in a room is circulated and continually cleaned. As they work very well for common air quality issues like pet allergies & odors, cigarette smoke, dust, and others they’re very popular.

Most also have selectable fan speeds and can be used on low for more quiet operation at night. You can also find some with additional bonus features like a germ killer to reduce microbes.

How effective are HEPA purifiers?

Diagram showing HEPA filter efficiency

The HEPA name denotes a standard first put into use commercially in the 1950s in the United States. It’s a standardized level of air cleaning efficiency that ensures:

  1. The filter is 99.97% efficient at removing particles
  2. Particle sizes of down to 0.3 uM are captured

For reference, 1 uM (micrometer) is equal to an incredibly small 1/1,000,000 of a meter in size! That’s far smaller than the human eye can see. Truly microscopic in size.

This is important because with purifiers using “true” (genuine) HEPA filters you’re assured of how effective they are.

Additionally, many airborne particulates are very small and you’ll have to have an effective purifier that can remove elements of those sizes if you truly want relief.

Which type of air purifier do I need?

I recommend picking a quality HEPA filter air purifier like those below. Ionizers typically don’t have the proven performance of a good filter based purifier.

They also often have a lower fan speed and can’t move air as quickly.

Filter-based purifiers are also much more suited at trapping dust. Models with a carbon filter can definitely help with odors and other chemical substances in the air.

I own and have personally tested several below and I can vouch for how well they work!

HEPA purifiers have proven, demonstrated effectiveness which is important when buying products like this. You don’t want to spend money on something based on marketing hype, only to find out it’s not helping you.


★ 5 of the best inexpensive air purifiers ★

Our top picks at a glance

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ OUR #1 CHOICE ★GermGuardian AC4825
  • Best seller and overall an excellent value! Easy to use and quiet.
  • 155 sq ft coverage, 100+ CADR lab tested rating
  • True HEPA, carbon filter for odors, UV-C germ killer
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageULTRA QUIET!Levoit LV-H132
  • Electronic controls and super quiet operation
  • 129 sq ft, true HEPA + carbon filter
  • Touch controls, night light, and memory feature
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageGermGuardian AC4100
  • Great for dorms and small rooms
  • Same HEPA filter + carbon filter quality as larger models
  • Includes germ-killing feature
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageHamilton Beach TrueAir
  • HEPA filter can be vacuumed for longer life
  • Works upright or on its side. Great compact, effective air cleaning.
  • Simple 3-speed control. Available in pet version and 2 colors.
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageUnder $50Holmes HAP9240
  • A great budget choice! Affordable version of a true HEPA filter.
  • Built-in ionizer for additional cleaning. Up to 109 sq. ft. coverage
  • Simple/easy controls. Works on its side or vertically
Check at Amazon

Product reviews and details

1. GermGuardian AC4825 – A winner! Best-selling, effective cleaning with good value.

 

Best seller product review badge graphic imageHands-down, the GermGuardian AC4825 is one of the all-time best-selling air purifiers today and it’s easy to see why!

You’ll get not only more room coverage for your money but the addition of an ultraviolet (UV) germ killing feature, too.

Take a look at why it’s one of the best well-rounded values today:

  • True HEPA filter
  • UV-C germ killing feature
  • Super-easy filter maintenance
  • Inexpensive replacement filters
  • Separate pre-filter for reduced costs
  • Filter check reminder feature
  • Carrying handle for easy moving
  • Available in white or the AC4900 style, too
  • Lab-tested CADR rating of 100+
  • 155 sq. ft. room coverage

Solid features and performance

The true HEPA filter and odor-absorbing pre-filter work together to keep your dorm room fresh, reduce allergies, and let you breathe & enjoy college the way you deserve.

Nasties such as dust, hair, and more get blocked by the pre-filter which can be replaced separately to keep costs down. The HEPA filter works great to block all kinds of terrible allergens, dust mites, pollen, and even mold spores to freshen the air you breathe and reduce sickness.

Unlike many competitors in its price range, the AC4825 also offers lab-tested performance with a CADR of 100+.

While it may lack the fancier features found in others, it’s one of the easiest to use and very reliable as well. I’m a big fan as I own one myself!

In fact, you can read more in my detailed review of the AC4825 here.

GermGuardian AC4825 top view of controls

The AC4825 features one of the easiest-to-use control setups you’ll find. It’s incredibly easy to use! Set the rotary control to one of the 3 fan speed settings. Use the UV push button to switch the germ killing feature on or off. A power-on indicator LED lights when the purifier is working.

A rotary 3-speed fan control is used to change fan speeds and turn it off. The filter is easy to remove and replace by opening the rear door and simply swapping it out. A filter replacement reminder is included too.

GermGuardian AC4825 side view UV-C feature glowing

The lovely blue trim ring lights up when the UV-C feature’s in use. Don’t worry though – it’s perfectly safe, as the ultraviolet light is trapped inside. It’s a great-looking way to see when the feature is on. I like it!

The ultraviolet light feature (UV-C) works with titanium oxide to break down & destroy illness-causing microbes & germs in the air around you. It’s a nice addition that most competitors don’t offer. 

When switched on, you’ll see a soft, safe glow in the translucent trim around the base of the top that lets you know it’s working to destroy germs.

Overall opinion

At 22 inches in height, it’s not as compact as other models but fits well into corners or other spaces. Replacement filters cost about $15-20 and last about 6 months depending upon use. You’ll also find many 3rd part options offered for those of you on a budget, too!

The GermGuardian line of purifiers is one of the most reputable on the market, and without a doubt the AC4825 is a true “workhorse” that people love, judging by the thousands of great buyer reviews.

I’ve enjoyed mine, too, and I love how hassle-free it is to use. The fan speeds are good, it’s relatively quiet, and works well to solve a whole range of air quality issues.

The true HEPA filter and pre-filter are some of the easiest to replace I’ve ever used! If you’re in the market for a good value but not a wimpy purifier, it’s a great compromise between cost & performance.

While it’s not as quiet as some competitors, it’s still pretty low in noise when running. But that’s one of the few tiny gripes I have since I’ve enjoyed mine so much.

PROS:
  • Simple 3-speed fan switch is great for nearly everyone
  • Good overall value for performance & room size vs. the Levoit LV-132
  • Great filtering performance
  • Quiet fan operation on low speed setting
  • Germ & microbe-killing UV-C feature not found in many others
  • Filter replacement reminder
  • Soft LED when power is on
  • Nice blue glowing trim when UV-C is on
  • Vertical size is great for corner or areas with more vertical space
  • Good room size coverage (155 square feet)
  • 3-year limited warranty
CONS:
  • No auto-sensing modes
  • No electronic controls
  • No auto-off feature
  • Cannot wash & reuse filter
  • Design is less stylish and attractive than other competitors in its price range (ex. Levoit LV-H132)
  • Warranty requires paying for return shipment for service

As a happy AC4825 owner, I understand why it’s so popular. It’s well made, works great for cleaning the air, and is frustration-free. Maintenance is cheap, too.

Don’t wait any longer for healthy, fresh air! Head over now to see the thousands of great buyer reviews and current low price at Amazon.

NEW GermGuardian AC4825W white model

Good news! You can now get the AC4825 we happy owners love in white as well.

Want some a bit different looking? Check out its twin, the sleek AC4900CA version here.

2. Levoit LV-H132 – Nice features, performance, and a good choice for small to mid-sized rooms.

Levoit LV-H132 purifier white front view

The LV-H132 provides less room size coverage than competitors like the GermGuardian AC4825 but makes up for it with a lot of great features. It’s a popular model and best seller.

Well suited for small rooms or light duty use in medium-sized rooms, it’s a well-designed model you’ll enjoy using.

It’s also one of the quietest purifiers I’ve ever owned & tested, too!

The 3-stage true HEPA filter is great for eliminating odors, allergens, pet dander, dust mite allergens and so much more.  Odors are no problem, either.

Levoit LV-H132 features image

The Levoit LV-H132 is sophisticated yet still easy to use. Electronic touch controls are provided and beep when operated. After power is switched off the last settings are saved. Upon the next use, the purifier remembers your last settings and restores them automatically.

Of the inexpensive purifiers listed here it has the most features.

The LV-PUR131 uses a 3-stage design similar to others: a fine preliminary filter, an activated carbon filter, and a true HEPA filter that captures and removes dust very effectively.

Sound levels are pleasant and operation is quiet during use. There’s also a lovely night light with 2 brightness settings built in.

The filter replacement reminder indicates when it’s time to check and change the filter if needed.

Levoit LV-H132 filter replacement image example

Filter replacement is a bit different for the LV-H132, but very simple. Turn the unit upside-down, rotate the cover, and then you can pull out and replace the old 3-in-1 filter assembly. Note: unlike some competitors, in most cases, you can’t replace the carbon prefilter separately. It’s something to keep in mind.

Replacement filters run around $30 and are easy to replace by opening the top cover.

PROS:
  • Lower height than tower purifiers
  • 2-year warranty
  • 3 fan speeds
  • Night light with 2 brightness levels
  • Nice looking, modern design
  • Electronic soft button controls
  • Quiet operation on low level won’t disturb sleep
  • Filter replacement reminder
  • Great build quality & high reliability
  • Easy filter replacement
CONS:
  • Smaller room coverage than others in its price range (129 sq. ft.)
  • No auto-off timer feature
  • No air quality sensor
  • Electronic controls may not be suitable for some

Of all the air purifiers I’ve owned and tested the LV-H132 had the lowest noise during operation. I was honestly surprised how quite it was!

It’s an excellent choice.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Be sure to check out why it's one of the most popular models and received the Amazon's Choice label.

Levoit LV-H132 black model

UPDATE: A sleek new black version is now available too!

3.  GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1: Got a small room? Get great performance for less money.

GermGuardian AC4100 angle view
Affordable? Yes. Low on quality? No! I’m an AC4100 owner too (yes, I test many different kinds!) and I can tell you it shares the same quality and performance the GermGuardian purifier family is known for.

It’s a modern looking, well-performing purifier. Measuring only 7.5 x 6.5 x 11″ in size, there’s a true HEPA filter along with a pre-filter/charcoal section to produce fresh, healthy air you’ll enjoy.

The AC4100 is a great choice for small rooms, dorm rooms, offices, and many other places.

Mine works great and it’s a great way to reduce dust if you have problems with it like I do.

GermGuardian AC4100 filter replacement how to image

Filter replacement on the AC4100 is easy! Just open the rear cover, pull out the old filter, and insert the new one. You can also use a vacuum to remove larger particles like dust. As you can see my AC4100 caught more and more dust as I used it!

The UV light (along with titanium dioxide) kills germs to sanitize your air and reduce sickness. Replacement filters cost about $18. A filter installation date wheel is available to mark when you installed a fresh filter.

Image of a GermGuardian AC4100 showing HEPA and activated carbon filters

A 3 simple rotary control adjusts fan speed and turns it off. It’s quiet and generates a pleasing low noise level on the lowest setting. When set to high somewhat similar to white noise is produced.

It’s different from other GermGuardian models in that the UV-C is an on/off switch rather than a push button control. Also, I’m not so happy that there are no indicator lights for the UV-C feature being turned on or the filter replacement.

Those are fairly minor complaints, however. Overall, it’s a great choice for small rooms and I’ve been happy with the ones I’ve owned and tested.

PROS:
  • Simple 3-speed fan control and on/off UV-C switch
  • UV & titanium dioxide design to kill germs
  • Great filtering ability for its small size
  • High speed setting moves a lot of air for purifying quickly
  • Filter replacement reminder wheel (month installed)
  • Low filter replacement price (about $19)
  • Filter replacement date wheel (marks month installed)
  • Sleek, modern design
CONS:
  • 1 year warranty is shorter than other models
  • Fan speed on high could be slightly better
  • No filter replacement light
  • No additional colors offered

The AC4100 provides the same quality that earned GermGuardian its reputation as a top air product company. I definitely recommend it for both its great value and low price.

Be sure to check it out! Head over and see the great buyer reviews and low price today at Amazon.

4.  Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet – Inexpensive, compact, and quiet too.

Hamilton Beach True Air purifier black front viewThe Hamilton Beach TrueAir is not just a well-made purifier that’s with that’s inexpensive but one that also helps keep ownership costs down.

The HEPA filter can be vacuumed clean. Under normal use won’t have to replace it as frequently as you would for other brands. It’s a great way to save money.

Hamilton Beach True Air purifier black top viewUsing it is super easy! A simple rotary control lets you select the fan speed desired.

Operation is simple using the 3-speed fan control. It runs quietly during operation unlike some other products out there.

The compact size (8.5 x 13.5″) lets it fit in more spaces. Hamilton Beach rates the room coverage at a nice 140 square feet. Perfect for small to medium sized rooms like offices and bedrooms.

Hamilton Beach TrueAir purifier features image

The Hamilton Beach TrueAir fits neatly into small spaces – especially shelves – as it can be used on its side. Remove the rear cover to vacuum the filter for extended life. It’s a great way to keep costs down.

Another great option it has is the ability to be placed on its side – soft feet keep it steady when rotated.

Unlike the others, there are no additional pre-filter or carbon filter sections. I don’t recommend it, therefore, for odors and smoke for that reason.

(Note: If you have pets, check out the pet version TrueAir Pet Specialized Cleaner).

Color options include both black and white. Note that the different colors may be priced differently from time to time.

PROS:
  • HEPA filter is effective for average dust and allergen removal
  • Main (HEPA) filter can be vacuumed and reused – low maintenance costs
  • Can be used on its side for even more convenience
  • Quiet operation
  • Nice design
  • Simple 3-speed operation control
CONS:
  • Limited room size coverage
  • No pre-filter or carbon filter section (odors and cigarette smoke)
  • No power indicator lights or filter replacement reminder
  • No sleep or auto-shut off mode

It’s a nice, affordable option for many people. You’ll be pleased to find out the low price and see the many happy buyer reviews at Amazon.

5.  Holmes HAP9240 HEPA-type desktop purifier – Low on price, high on value.

Holmes HAP9240 air purifier product imageLooking for a competent but lower-priced choice? The Holmes HAP9240 may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. You’ll get a great compromise between performance, filter options, and price.

It’s not the smallest but measures a reasonable 14.8 x 11.4 x 7.2 inches in size.

Featuring a small size that’s perfect for countertops, shelves, and even desks, the Holmes can also be placed vertically on its back. The purifier features built-in rests on the rear to allow it to stand on its end.

For around $50 or so, it’s a good value. Check out the features:

  • Near-HEPA air filter quality for less money (filters 99% of particles)
  • Up to 100 sq. ft. room size coverage
  • 3 cleaning speeds and low noise operation
  • Filter reminder indicator light
  • Optional ionizer feature
  • Can be used in a vertical position
  • Black color option (availability may vary)
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Washable pre-filter
  • Affordable replacement filters
  • 12 month HEPA filter life

The Holmes desktop air purifier includes a washable filter and HEPA-type filter (left). (Right) Have special air cleaning needs? You’ve got some good options! Pick one of the 3 additional filter options for specialized air cleaning relief.

It uses a HEPA-type filter that’s similar to the filtering qualities of a true HEPA filter. The filter can remove 99% of all particles down to 2 microns in size (as opposed to the 0.3 micron standard of a genuine HEPA filter.)

It’s a budget model but still a good performer for many common air quality problems. The 2-micron particle size rating works well for pet dander, dust, and standard allergens.

I wouldn’t recommend it for cigarette smoke, however, at least not without a carbon filter.

Shown: The Holmes HAP9240 controls are super-simple to understand and use. The filter reminder (left) shows the filter condition and can be reset as needed. Right: The optional ionizer feature is as simple as an on/off switch with light. Center: Choose from Off or 3 fan speeds with low-noise operation.

A built-in ionizer with off/on control is an extra feature that produces a safe level of charged molecules that bond with pollutants in the air. While it’s not the main air cleaning contributor, it’s a nice touch you may enjoy.

Filter check reminder

At power up, the unit will check and show you if it’s time to check and clean or replace the filters using the dual-color light on the control panel. When needed, you can easily reset the check filter light using the reset button provided.

It’s unique in that the pre-stage filter can be removed and washed to be reused. Fan speed is adjustable and while not as quiet as the Levoit and others here, it does offer low noise when at low speed.

Room size coverage and air cleaning performance

It’s recommended for rooms up to 100 square feet in size – just right for dorm rooms! The air cleaning performance is good, too, as it removes allergens, dust, pet dander, and much more from the air very well.

While there are quieter models out there, you’ll pay at least $30-$40, and in my opinion, it’s very quiet on the lower 2 settings. Overall, it’s a nice little budget model I’m sure that’s a great match if you’re on a budget.

Just like experience with it, buyers love it, too, as it’s one of the best-reviewed budget purifiers today.

PROS:
  • One of the most affordable and biggest sellers on the market
  • 100 sq. ft. room coverage
  • Easy slide control switches & 3 speed settings
  • Pre-stage filter can be cleaned and reused
  • Low replacement filter cost
  • Additional filter options
  • Can be positioned vertically
  • Includes ionizer with on/off control
  • Lower cost version of a true HEPA filter with nearly the same standard of performance
  • Available in black
  • 3-year limited warranty
CONS:
  • Not as sophisticated as pricier models
  • No germ-killing feature like the GermGuardian products offer
  • Cannot turn off light indicators on panel
  • Styling is more bland

Overall, it’s a very good budget air purifier that’s a great combination of price, performance, and features.

It’s a great little purifier for those on a budget! Find out the current price & availability now at Amazon.


Summary – The best air purifier under $100

The GermGuardian AC4825 is my top recommended for an affordable air purifier below $100 and it’s often on sale at Amazon for below $80. It’s one of the best values as the room coverage is one of the largest in its price class. The quality and performance are both very good as well.

Based on my own testing and as an owner of the AC4825, I recommend it as the best low-cost air purifier under $100. It’s one of the best-selling models in the world, too.

Additional reading

I personally own the GermGuardian AC4825 and was so impressed I wrote a great review here.

If you’d like to find out more about HEPA type vs. true HEPA filters here’s a great post that explains more.

Feel free to post a comment or contact me if you have comments or questions!

Your comments are welcome!

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