Cheap VS Expensive Air Purifier: The Big Differences

There are huge differences between cheap and expensive air purifiers. From the build quality, cost, size, function, and filtration depth, every dollar counts. Both target different audience groups with specific requirements. That said, many people are confused about what they are getting at and blindly opt for the fanciest air cleaners with the biggest claims. To help you understand your needs, this post will address the common questions related to price points and help you decide which model is best suited for you.
Short answer
Every dollar counts.


Air purifiers come in many different shapes, sizes, and prices, but they all do the same thing: clean the air. It is the first line of defense against airborne pollutants like dust, mites, pet dander, mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses. With an activated carbon filter, it can even neutralize smoke and odor like VOCs, CO, CO2, radon, and, formaldehyde.

Cheap Air Purifiers VS Expensive Air Purifiers

It is not just brand, marketing, and hype. In general, an expensive air purifier offers better filtration and can remove more pollutants in the air than cheap air purifiers. You will also get better performance, better build quality, and wider cleaning coverage cater to bigger room sizes. Expensive air purifiers tend to have better specifications than cheap air purifiers with a longer warranty and smart features such as Wi-Fi enabled, built-in sensors, air quality monitor, auto mode.

However, it is not all doom and gloom with cheap air purifiers. You will pay significantly less for similar tech air cleaners while still capable of cleaning the air. The filter replacement cost is also much lower, so you will not be burdened by any recurring fees. Adding to that is the silent and efficient operation given the modest airflow delivery rate. Most cheaper air purifiers are compact portable and can be placed on a tabletop, work desk, cabinet, and nightstand. You can even bring it with you during work or travel.

Which Air Purifiers Perform best?Cheap
Air Purifiers
Air Purifiers
Air Purifiers
CostUnder $100$101-$300$300 and above
Filter Replacement CostLOWMEDIUMHIGH
Remove Airborne ParticlesGOODBETTERBEST
Remove Smoke, Chemical, And OdorsAVERAGEGOODBEST
Number Of Filters1-33-53-7
Smart FeaturesVARYYESYES

Cheap Or Expensive Air Purifiers: Which One Should I Get?

At the end of the day, it all boils down to your needs. A medium-sized model should do the trick in a typical bedroom size. While premium models are worth the money you paid for, most people don’t need the most expensive air purifier to clean the air. You can get decent-performance air purifiers with respectable features and filter replacement costs, all under the 300 dollars price range. Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Room size – Make sure the air purifier’s suggested room size is at least sufficient to cover the area you intend to place. Remember, the bigger the coverage, the bulkier and more expensive the air purifier will be.
  • Types of pollutants – What are the irritants you are concerned about? Is the pollution coming from indoor or outdoor like wildfire smoke, haze, traffic pollution? Are the allergens causing respiratory issues like asthma and severely affecting your health? Be specific about your problems and find an air purifier that has the capacity to remove all that. Expensive doesn’t always mean better.
  • The features – Usability is essential in an air purifier. Sometimes, you need a specific function such as timer, remote control, auto mode, sleep mode to ease the operation. Knowing that you can pinpoint what you are looking for regardless of whether it is coming from a cheap or expensive air purifier.
  • Recurring cost – Perhaps more concerning to the selling price. Most mechanical air purifiers come with an annual filter cost that will stack up quickly on frequent use. Look into the filter replacement cost, and are you up for paying it yearly? If not, look for other more budget-friendly alternatives. Side note, we don’t recommend opting for cheap after-market filters as a) Sub-par quality and likely poor-fitting, and b) there could be limited availability.

To help you get started, we split 3 different price tiers that grouped them by the brand as such:

  • Cheap air purifiers – Elechomes, Envion, Hamilton Beach, HoMedics, hOmelabs, Intelabe, Jinpus, Kolos, Levoit, Mooka, Okaysou, Partu, Rigoglioso, SilverOnyx, TaoTronics, Tredy
  • Inexpensive air purifiers – Airfree, Medify Air, Bissell, Winix, Coway Airmega, Fellowes, Gocheer, GermGuardian, Honeywell, InvisClean, Oreck, PureZone, Sharp, Philips, Panasonic, Mi
  • Expensive air purifiers – Airgle, Alen, Austin Air, Airocide, Air Oasis, Blueair, Dyson, IQAir, Rabbit Air, Molekule

The Many Types Of Air Purifiers

Besides the specification, you will find different types of air purifiers with a particular air-cleaning technology to remove particulate matter. Some technologies are on the affordable side, while others are expensive to own and maintain. So before you invest in either one, here is the breakdown of the cost, pros, and cons, so you know which type suits you best.

Mechanical Air Purifiers With HEPA/ Carbon Filter

The safest and most effective type to remove airborne pollutants in the air. It is the most popular choice because the price range can vary from dirt cheap, and inexpensive to very expensive based on the size. The cheaper air purifiers (under $100) will have lower CADR ratings, weaker coverage, fewer filters, smaller size, and limited features. Depending on the price point, the expensive air purifiers (above $300) will obviously have a higher CADR, stronger performance, better filtration, and premium features.

Beware of HEPA-type filter that typically comes in a cheaper air purifier. It is not certified with a lower 99% efficiency on particles as small as 0.3 microns. Always go with a True HEPA filter that meets the standard set by the United States Department of Energy. A True HEPA filter removes 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 micrometers (uM).

How it works: The built-in motor fan will pull air in to pass through a series of filters for capturing. Pre-filter will trap large particulates like dust, hair, lint. The HEPA filter will capture microscopic particles like mold, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, and viruses. An activated carbon filter neutralizes smoke, pet odors, and toxic fumes like VOCs, cigarettes, formaldehyde, radon. Some models even come with a UV-C light or ionizer that further purifies the air before releasing clean air back out.

Ionizer/ Negative Ion Generators

Ionic air purifiers are gaining traction among buyers because they can clean the air without a filter. In other words, a filterless technology with no filter replacement cost to worry about. The pricing varies from $30 to above $300, depending on the specification. In general, it is inexpensive, but the air cleaning performance is below HEPA air purifiers standard. Avoid going for the cheapest one as some ionizers are poorly made with no carbon brush and inferior components. This causes longer oxidization and more production of ozone. Ionizer will also generate ozone byproducts even though it is at a very low concentration level approved by CARB. Ozone is a colorless toxic gas harmful to our health, particularly children, elderly, and asthmatic people with weakened immune systems.

Note: An negative ion generator is not an ozone generator/ ozonator. The former generates safe negative ions approved by CARB, the latter generates ozone and is not recommended by any health agencies.

How it works: A negative ion generator releases millions of negative ions in the air that attach to other positive ions pollutants. The joined, heavier contaminants will fall from the air and all over the room like the bed, sofa, cabinet, table, wall, carpet, floor. You will need to vacuum and clean thoroughly to prevent the fallen particles from going back up into the air again.

Electrostatic Precipitators

Similar to an ionizer but come with an additional collector plate or rod to collect the fallen particles. It is much more efficient as you will not have to vacuum daily to remove the adhered particulates. However, Electrostatic Precipitators are much more expensive, even the cheapest model will easily cost more than $200. Unless you really want the filterless technology, a HEPA air purifier would be the better bet.

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation Cleaner/ UV air purifier

UV technology can be found in many household appliances as a disinfection tool. So naturally, you will also find it in an air purifier as a standalone unit or part of a multi-stage filtration. We have seen plug-in UV sanitizer from GermGuardian under $40 and can go above $1000 with models like Airocide (PCO). Cheaper UV air models have a small light bulb with weaker light intensity and a shorter lifespan. Expensive UV air purifiers come with a bigger, longer-lasting light bulb, resulting in better sterilization. So if you are going for a UV air purifier, either get an expensive standalone model or a HEPA air purifier with UV light.

The biggest drawback with UV-C light is the slow sterilization. With the reducing light intensity, you will see a gradual dip in the performance on continuous use. UV-C air purifiers will also produce ozone byproducts at a low concentration level depending on the wavelength. Most ozone will usually dissipate before it manages to leak out of the air cleaner.

How it works: Air will be drawn inside the chamber for sterilization. The UV-C light will radiate a broad wavelength (222 nm or 254 nm) to kill microorganisms like mold, bacteria, and viruses trapped inside. Clean air will be released, and the deactivated microbes have no chance of growth.




Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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