Buyers guide

5 Top Air Purifiers Under 100 Dollars – Breathe Better Affordably!

On a budget but need fresher air? I totally understand! Shopping for a good model can be tough and time consuming.

To help I’ve put together a list of top air purifiers under 100 dollars for nearly every budget. You’ll find helpful details, reviews, and pros & cons for each too.

I’ve also added some helpful information to better understand what air purifiers do, how they work, and which are the safest & most effective.

Contents

Air purifier types

Although many different names & product descriptions can be found in today’s marketplace, there are 2 common types of air purifiers:

  1. Ozone generators and ionizers
  2. Filter-based (HEPA) purifiers

1. Ozone generators and ionizers

Ionizer and ozone generator examples image

Shown: Examples of readily available ionizers (left) and an ozone generator (right). Unlike filter-based air cleaners, they don’t physically trap nasty elements in the rather. Rather they use “ions” (electrically charged air molecules) such as ozone to attract to them and either catch them or cause them to fall to the floor.

Have you ever noticed a unique fresh air smell after a lighting storm nearby? That smell is a sign that ozone is around you. The same principle that occurs in nature is used to cleanse the air in this case.

Normally, oxygen atoms in your breathing air have 2 atoms and stay this way.

How are ozone or ions made? The science simplified

By developing a high-voltage point within the device, nearby oxygen atoms are attracted to other oxygen atoms and ozone molecules are formed. That’s why you can smell ozone sometimes after a thunderstorm – the super-high voltage of lightening creates it in the air when it strikes.

Because the third newly attached atom (an ion) can break free, and due to its negative atomic charge, in theory this can attract particles in the air. The idea is then to remove unwanted contaminants in the air this way.

The remaining unused ozone floats freely in the air until it disperses and normal oxygen remains once again.

Diagram showing ozone production and pair particles

However, it’s important to note that ozone is harmful to humans and animals in high quantities as it can enter & damage mucous tissues as well as your lungs & respiratory passages.

So much so that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standardized the tolerable limits for people in the workplace.

Unfortunately, the market is flooded with low-quality products sold as “ionizers” and “air purifiers” with levels of ozone produced that aren’t safe, and the products, in fact, have very little air purification ability.

The most significant drawback to these types of products is that while they work to cleanse the air, they can’t clean air as quickly or as thoroughly as filter types.

2. Filter-based (HEPA) purifiers

How air purifiers reduce dust diagramFilter-based purifiers like the GermGuardian AC4825 work by pulling in dirty air and permanently trapping allergens, dust, dust mite matter, and pet dander. Clean air is pushed out of the exhaust side. Air purifiers work by circulating and filtering air continuously.

Based on a simple but proven principle, these air purifiers work by pulling air through a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. A fan is used to move air through one or more filters and trap contaminants permanently.

Many sold today feature an extra 2 stages of filters to first trap larger particles and debris like hairs and larger dust.

An active carbon filter section attracts and traps chemical substances in the air like odors and gasses.

Which type of purifier do I need?

To get the best and healthiest results, you need a HEPA-type filter air purifier.

They work well, produce great results, and don’t produce any irritants or unwanted by-products.

How do HEPA filters work?

Diagram showing HEPA filter efficiency
A “true HEPA” is a filter meeting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard set back in the 1950s. In ensures that the filter can trap 99.97% of all substances entering it, down smaller than an incredible 1/1,000,000 of a meter (1 micron)!

For reference, dust mite waste products – one of the most common sources of allergies in households – have been measured at 5 microns and larger.

Therefore you can easily see why they’re excellent performers and work so well.

Unlike ozone generator purifiers, they trap an amazing 99.97% of every 10,000 microscopic particles that enter – only 3 out of every 10,000 escape!

Pet owners rely on them to greatly reduce the effects of pet odors and dander that cause allergy symptoms.

What is a pre-filter/activated carbon filter?

The most effective air purifiers include both the HEPA filter section and a pre-filter/activated carbon section, too. They work together to remove not just microscopic particles (as the HEPA filter is best at) but also odors, vapors, and larger elements like pet hair or dust.

Th pre-filter is a thin, first-stage way to removing larger particles like dust and hair before they can become trapped in and fill up the HEPA filter.

Most quality brands include an activated carbon treatment. Activated carbon can absorb and trap odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are potential irritants.

They’re also ideal for air quality problems like cigarette smoke and pet odors.

In many cases, the pre-filter can be replaced separately from the HEPA filter at a reduced cost. It’s a great option as under light or normal use the HEPA filter may not need replacement, so why waste money?


★ 5 top air purifiers under $100 ★

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 best-selling model that’s also a good value, too.

Best seller product review badge graphic image

Hands-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

Good air purification 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.

AC4825E top controls image

Top-down view of the control panel. A simple 3-speed fan rotary control is easy to use for anyone. The power indicator LED will blink to remind you when it’s time to check the filters.

A 3-speed fan control is provided and a great choice for those who prefer simple controls & operation.

The filter is easy to remove and replace by opening the rear door and simply swapping it out. A replacement reminder is included as well.

UV-C germ killing feature

GermGuardian AC4825 side view UV-C feature glowing

When switched on, the UV-C feature also doubles as a nice glowing blue trim around the front and sides. It’s a cool look I love as I own one myself!

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
  • Better overall value for the dollar vs competitors
  • Great filtering performance
  • Quiet fan operation on low speed setting
  • Germ & microbe-killing UV-C feature not found in many others
  • Filter replacement reminder
  • Nice blue glow when UV-C is on
  • Soft LED when power is on
  • Tower shape is great for corners or areas with 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 (can vacuum)
  • Older design vs competitors like Levoit
  • Warranty requires paying for return shipment for service

As a happy owner, I can say it’s a solid, reliable purifier that works well to clean the air and is definitely a good choice for the money. I love mine so much I bought other GermGuardian models to use and test, too!

It’s a great match for your dorm room or bedroom while you’re at college.

Take a moment and see why it's one of the all-time best selling purifiers today 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 – A great small to mid-sized room purifier with nice features.

Levoit LV-H132 purifier white front view

Although it provides less coverage than the GermGuardian AC4825, the Levoit makes up for it some great features. It’s also one of the quietest air purifiers I’ve ever tested!

It’s also a great looking choice for small rooms or light duty use in medium-sized rooms.

It uses a 3-stage true HEPA filter that’s great at eliminating odors, allergens, pet dander, dust mite by-products and so much more.

Levoit LV-H132 features image

The LV-H132 provides electronic touch controls. It’s simple to use and works well. Additionally, a memory feature means that upon the next power up it returns to the last settings you used.

Of the products listed here, it offers the most features in addition to a very pleasant and quiet operation.

A built-in night light with 2 brightness settings is a bonus feature.

The convenient filter replacement reminder lets you know when it’s time to inspect the filter and replace it if needed.

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

Overall, I’m impressed. After much testing and use, I really enjoyed using it.

PROS:
  • Shorter height than competing 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

It’s an excellent purifier with wonderful buyer reviews and great air cleaning performance.

Be sure to check out why it's one of the best sold today and was awarded 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: Great office, dorm, or small room air cleaning and germ killing.

GermGuardian AC4100 angle view

A great budget-priced model (around $50 or so), the AC4100 has an excellent reputation and is a nice little purifier that’s great for smaller rooms.

Measuring only 7.5 x 6.5 x 11″ in size, like other best-selling GermGuardian models it uses a true HEPA filter & activated carbon section to produce fresh, clean air and permanently remove those terrible air contaminants and odors that make your college dorm uncomfortable.

Check out what you’ll get for how little you pay:

  • True HEPA filter
  • UV-C germ killing feature
  • Super-easy filter maintenance
  • Inexpensive replacement filters
  • Separate pre-filter for reduced costs
  • Filter check reminder wheel
  • Also available in kids version (AC4150) in 3 colors w/ night light

Ultraviolet (UV-C) germ killing feature

You wouldn’t expect it for the price, but you’ll also get a germ killing feature activated by a switch on the front. A UV light along with titanium dioxide works to destroy germs and microbes for healthier air and reduced sickness.

Filters and replacement

GermGuardian AC4100 filter replacement how to image

Filter maintenance on the AC4100 is super-easy! Just pull the tab and remove the rear cover. Next, you can easily remove the filter assembly. You’ll be done in seconds.

Replacement filters cost about $10+. For your convenience, there’s a filter installation date wheel on the rear to help you know when it’s time to replace it.

Image of a GermGuardian AC4100 showing HEPA and activated carbon filtersOperation is simple: a 3 speed fan control. It’s quiet and generates a pleasing low noise level on the lowest setting. When set to high a sound like white noise is produced.

Unlike other models, the UV-C is an on/off switch and not a pushbutton control.

Also, I’m not thrilled that there are no indicator lights for the UV-C feature being turned on or filter replacement.

However, those are fairly minor complaints and the unit is overall a great one for small rooms, as it’s well-made and affordable. It’s a great model that I reviewed here.

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 reminder
  • No more colors offered
  • No indicator light for UV-C “on”

Following the same great quality that has made GermGuardian purifiers some of the best today, it’s a great choice.

Definitely worth reading the many great buyer reviews that helped a best seller at Amazon.

4.  Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet – Affordable, compact, and quiet!

Hamilton Beach True Air purifier black front view

Do you have a slightly tighter budget? The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet isn’t just a low cost but also a well-made and compact popular model.

The HEPA filter can be vacuumed clean. With the exception of heavy use, you won’t have to replace it as often as other products. That’s a great way to save money!

Hamilton Beach True Air purifier black top view

Controls are simple and easy to find on top. There’s an easy-access release for opening the filter for maintenance, too.

The rotary 3-speed fan switch is simple. The unit yet works quietly during operation unlike other lower-priced purifiers on the market.

It’s small at only 8.5 x 13.5″ but the room coverage is a great 140 square feet. It’s a good choice for small rooms & offices.

One great feature is that the True Air purifier can be placed on its side to fit into smaller areas.

Nice! With the True Air, you can easily vacuum off the HEPA filter for extended life. It’s a great feature I love.

One drawback is that there’s no activated carbon/pre-filter section like some more expensive competitors or the GermGuardian AC4100. However, the easy access for cleaning the HEPA filter helps make up for that.

It’s available in both a nice black color and white as well. One weak point is the lack of odor absorption, so if bad smells are an issue in your room it’s not a good choice.

Otherwise, if you’re in the market for a small room purifier that’s affordable (below $50) and great for dorms, it’s a great option.

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 (not recommended for heavy hair or dust conditions)
  • No power indicator lights or filter replacement reminder
  • No sleep or auto-shut off mode

It’s a great choice if you’re looking for affordable allergy relief. Head over and find out why it's one of the best-selling small purifiers at Amazon.

5.  Holmes HAP9240 HEPA-type desktop purifier – A low-cost performer & great for dorms!

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.

I’ve enjoyed mine and I’m sure you will, too! Be sure to check out the great buyer reviews at Amazon.

Choosing the best model on a budget

When possible, I recommend buying a filter-based product.

You’ll get the best results especially if you have air quality issues with particles like pet dander and dust. When possible, also get the best you can afford from the recommended list above.

Have questions about purifiers or just want to learn more? Check out my Information page with lots of air purifiers and other air quality posts.

Have any questions or need buying advice? Feel free to comment or send me a message!

Your comments are welcome!

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