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Air purifiers under $250 – are they any good?

CHOICE experts on what big bucks buys in an air purifier, and whether you can get a cheap one that works.

Last updated: 09 February 2023


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If you're concerned about the pollutants or germs that may be hovering around your personal breathing space, or you suffer from asthma or allergies, you may have considered joining the many people who have invested in air purifiers over the past few years.

"Essentially a fan with a filter inside, air purifiers suck in air and pass it through a filter, trapping floating particles. This can improve air quality and reduce irritants that you'd otherwise be breathing in."

If you've started researching models, you've likely noticed there is a huge variety of sizes and types available across a broad range of prices. You could spend anywhere from $100 or $200 for an air purifier from somewhere such as IKEA, Kmart or Kogan or splash out several hundreds of dollars – up to $1500 or more – on a premium model from brands such as Dyson, Samsung, Philips or InovaAir.  
But what are you really getting for your money, and how do the cheaper models compare to the more expensive ones?

CHOICE experts dish the dirt on air purifiers

Our CHOICE review looks at almost 50 different models of air purifiers. We give each air purifier scores based on how each model performs in aspects such as dust removal, smoke removal and which are best for removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. In our review you can also find out which models are the most energy efficient, the quietest and the easiest to use. 

CHOICE expert, Chris Barnes, says there's no guarantee that buying a more expensive air purifier will give you better performance than a cheaper model. He says there are air purifiers in our review that cost around $600–800 that recorded disappointing results, however, CHOICE air purifier testing does generally find that the models that score the lowest do tend to be cheaper models.

"The cheaper models, say those under $300, tend to be smaller, which means they may struggle to deliver the same air purifying power as a larger model, which could be an issue depending on the size of the space you're using it in," says Chris.

"You may find with the cheaper models that they may perform OK in certain aspects of our testing rather than across the board – for example, they may be OK at removing dust or smoke, but perform poorly when it comes to removing VOCs from the air. But actually, some of the more expensive models aren't great at removing VOCs either.

"Ten models we tested came with a price tag under $250, and although there are a couple of products in that price range that delivered a relatively good performance, Chris says that if you want a top-notch air purifier that scored well in our CHOICE reviews, you're likely looking at spending at least around $500.

There are a couple of cheaper models that cost around $250 or less which deliver pretty good performance for the money you're spending

CHOICE expert, Chris Barnes

"The cheapest of our recommended models are in the $500 range," he says.

"However, outside our recommended models, there are a few cheaper models that cost around $250 or less which deliver decent performance for the money you're spending, so they could be a good option if you're on a tight budget and just after some basic air purifying capability."

Air purifier features you shouldn't compromise on

No matter how much you want to spend, Chris says to ensure the air purifier you are buying has a HEPA filter and suggests it may be worth buying a model that's rated as suitable for a slightly larger room than the one you plan to use it in. 

"A HEPA filter traps very small particles. It's one of the most important features of an air purifier – not all purifiers on the market have this, so make sure you check the product specifications," he says.

"And most models will advertise what capacity room they're suited for. You want to ensure that the air purifier works hard enough – or has a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) that's high enough – so it circulates the full volume of air in your room to clean it thoroughly, otherwise it won't be doing the job you bought it for. These features may mean you need to pay a little more."

What are the best air purifiers under $250?

Below we've rounded up our test results and expert advice on three air purifiers that cost less than $250 but scored higher than other models in that price range. CHOICE members have access to our detailed test results. Log in or become a member to find out more

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