Best car air fresheners

Get your car smelling nice again as we choose the best car air fresheners from brands like Lynx, Jelly Belly and Yankee Candle

Our cars can start to lose their ‘new-car’ smell and develop other, less-pleasant, musty odours over time. Bad smells can be caused by dampness brought on by a leaky convertible roof, pets or a previous owner smoking in the car and although they can be persistent, a car air freshener can help mask or even eliminate these odours. 

Your car doesn’t even have to smell bad in the first place – some of the best smelling car air fresheners help to add an ambience, and scents can include anything from ice cream or leather to more obscure smells like bacon. Some studies even suggest that fragrances like rose and peppermint can improve driver well-being and help calm angry drivers, so it could be worth a try if you find you get a little hot-headed behind the wheel.

As well as a constantly expanding range of perfumes on the market, car air fresheners are also coming with increasingly varied methods of delivery – the traditional rear-view mirror hanger, vent-mounts, or some that sit below the seat or in a cup-holder, or car air freshener sprays for use as and when you need them. 

Here, we focused on a variety of vent-mounted options to ensure the test was like-for-like, getting up close and personal to find out how they compared.

How we tested them

We chose a variety of vent-mounted car air fresheners for under £10. We assessed each air freshener in multiple areas: the ease of installation, whether it affected the vent’s normal use, if the freshener could potentially damage the trim, and looked for a way to control the amount of fragrance.

We checked the air freshener’s durability over a period of three weeks, and a panel of seven fragrance testers rated the perfumes. Ultimately, we took into account the price of each option and whether it was worth the money.

Verdict

Lynx may be better known for their deodorants designed to attract a hoard of potential partners (according to their marketing), but they’ve done an excellent job of using this expertise in the automotive scent market, coming top out of all the air fresheners we tested. It was the most popular fragrance with our panel. The minimalist and good-value Little Trees takes second, while Sensi-Qui was our pick of the controllable solutions.

  1. Lynx Car Freshener Black
  2. Little Trees Invisi Sport
  3. Sensi-Qui Parfum & Gel New Car

Reviews

Lynx Car Freshener Black

  • Price: Around £3.99
  • Rating: 5 stars

Bringing bathroom fragrances to your car isn’t the most obvious move, but it works because Lynx takes victory here. Despite trying the Black version rather than the ever-popular Africa fragrance, it also topped our taste panel’s scores, and this is at the heart of its success. It fitted the vent well, with relatively short prongs reducing the chance of clashing with controls. There’s also little risk of harming trim, because the fragrance sponge is held in a plastic casing.

Little Trees Invisi Sport

  • Price: Around £8.50
  • Rating: 4 stars

We ordered Little Trees online, and although the German-language version turned up, the product remains the same. While the price may appear expensive, you get four of the 6.5cm U-shaped impregnated strips, which just slip over a single vent slat, meaning most designs will continue to work unaffected. 

Usefully the strips come in separately sealed packs, so you get full use from each one. They were one of the strongest-smelling at the end of our test. Add in second-place spot in our tasting panel’s assessment, and you have a solid runner-up.

Sensi-Qui Parfum & Gel New Car

  • Price: Around £2.99
  • Rating: 4 stars

If you want to control how much of the fragrance is dispensed, this is our pick. A slider opens and closes a vent above the glass jar of fragrance gel. It means the unit is quite heavy, but it fitted securely in our test car. You get a decent 50g of gel, which showed no signs of fading in our test, lending credence to its 75-day fragrance claim. None of our testers spotted the new- car perfume, but they liked the subtle mix of aromas and put it third in their ranking.

Air Wick Vanilla & Spices

  • Price: Around £4.99
  • Rating: 4 stars

This product divided our testers, with some barely able to get close to the relatively harsh vanilla and spice mix, while others had it among their favourites. This was a shame, because otherwise it ticks a lot of boxes.

You might be able to find a more acceptable fragrance in the range, and there’s even a scratch-and-sniff test patch to help you decide. You get a hefty 6ml of perfume in the glass jar that slots into the base of the holder, which has a lever to control a sliding vent that varies the amount of perfume released. 

Little Joe Cool Mint

  • Price: Around £3.49
  • Rating: 4 stars

There’s a pleasant, minty whiff with a complementary menthol edge to this cute cartoon-style character. The pack claims 45 days’ life, and it was one of the strongest scents at the close of our test. Our panel also liked the fragrance (which could be sampled via a scratch-and-sniff sticker), putting it in the top four. But, in a closely matched top group, it lost marks and places because it has no protective cover so it needs to be kept away from trim to avoid damage.

Jelly Belly Very Cherry Duo Vent Air Freshener

  • Price: Around £3.99
  • Rating: 3.5 stars

As the name suggests, you get two lozenge-style air fresheners in this pack. Usefully, the second one is held in a sealed pouch, so you can use them consecutively without losing any durability. A former winner with its tangerine fragrance in various formats, Jelly Belly’s cherry variation was a bit too much for some of our testers, who found it cloying. You can try before you buy, but it suffers from the same damage risk as Little Joe.

FRSH Scents Calm Scents Lemon 

  • Price: Around £3.99
  • Rating: 3 stars

There’s a distinct citrus flavour to this perfume, which was generally popular among our panel. But a couple found a harsh edge to it, and those poor scores dropped it down the rankings. The perfume is safely held away from trim, and the second pod in the pack remains sealed until it’s needed. Uniquely here, FRSH Scents says it is a plastic-neutral company and is part of the Plastics Bank, which is working to reduce ocean pollution.

Febreze Car Blossom & Breeze

  • Price: Around £5.99
  • Rating: 3 stars

This familiar household name made a good start, because it has a lever to control the fragrance release, and the perfume is kept safely away from trim in a glass bottle. It also fitted easily over the vent slat with short prongs. Less good is the lack of a scratch and sniff sticker, or instructions for putting the unit together.

It also started to fade compared to rivals by the end of the test. That was just as well, because our panel didn’t really warm to the perfume.

Also tested...

Yankee Candle Car Vent Stick Black Coconut

Medo Cherry Gecko

  • Price: £2.99   
  • Rating: 2 stars

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