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Best car air fresheners 2020

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

Despite selling in there hundreds of thousands every year, air fresheners are still either loved or hated by drivers. Spray versions tend to be the best solution for many people, because they can get rid of unpleasant smells, but don’t hang around in the interior for weeks.

From mirror hangers and vent mounts to designs that pop under the seat or in a cup-holder, there’s plenty of choice and an array of scents. So which will clear the air in your car? We sniffed out 12 to find the perfect cabin companion.

How we tested them

Fragrance was at the heart of the test, so we lined up a panel of eight ‘tasters’ to rate the perfumes. We also assessed durability over three weeks to see how long each lasted. Scratch and sniff panels that let you try before you buy scored points, as did some way of controlling the fragrance flow. Prices quoted are RRPs, although these played a relatively small role as no product was expensive.

Verdict

Lynx surprises here and comes out on top while previous winner Jelly Belly take second place. California Scents also impressed, taking the third spot.

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  1. Lynx Africa Gel Can
  2. Jelly Belly Spray Air Freshener
  3. California Scents Coronado Cheery

Reviews

Lynx Africa Gel Can

  • Price: Around £4
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Size: 122g

None of our testers found the ‘warm African spices and aromas’ Lynx reckons are in this long-running fragrance, but it was a firm favourite that very clearly outscored its rivals here. Most assessors mentioned an aftershave smell, yet one female tester rejected it because it ‘smelt of teenage boys’. Fair enough. It was certainly strong at first, but this can be controlled by unscrewing the container top to progressively seal the vent.

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There’s a high-quality finish to the unit, which can slip into cupholders. You get a hefty 122g of the gel, which barely faded over three weeks in gusting winds, giving us no reason to doubt the claims of a 30-day life. Add in a keen price and you have our pick.

Buy now from Halfords

Jelly Belly Spray Air Freshener

  • Price: Around £3
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Size: 59ml

The small-button spray bottle is perfect for keeping in centre consoles or gloveboxes for that quick freshen-up to remove the smell of garden rubbish, wet dog or takeaway food. You pay for that convenience, however, because it’s the most expensive choice here per ml.

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Key to its success is that great tangerine smell, which was all our testers’ favourite. It has none of the cloying sweetness often found in air fresheners, and just delivers a citrusy aroma.

Buy now from Amazon

California Scents Coronado Cherry

  • Price: Around £5
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

This single unit’s price does it no favours, because it’s available a fair bit cheaper in multipacks and elsewhere online. Marzipan and cherryade were common fragrances detected, but our panel either loved or loathed it. It has an impregnated pad to hold the perfume and, while still clearly present, it had started to fade a little at the end of our test.

Buy now from Halfords

Refresh Scented Gel

  • Price: Around £6
  • Rating: 4.5 stars

Refresh was no-one’s favourite. However, it wasn’t disliked either, scoring middling-to-low with nearly all our testers. No-one spotted the new car smell, but soap or laundry was mentioned when naming perfumes. It remained a match on durability throughout our test, and twisting the top controls the fragrance flow. Like the others, a scratch-and-sniff patch means you can try before you buy.

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Angelwax Eden

  • Price: Around £14
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Size: 300ml  

In an often basic or gimmicky sector, there’s a rare upmarket feel to this “heavenly air freshener”. The piano-black cap delivers a measured dose of fragrance and odour eliminator even after the trigger has been released. This is a neat touch, and it means you don’t risk applying too much by repeatedly pumping the spray.

It is designed to be sprayed on to fabrics and carpets, so you need to keep it off leather and hard surfaces. Eden has staying power, too, still clearly present a week after being applied; it’s the best on test in this respect. It’s sold alongside the firm’s Bliss scent, with the Eden fragrance said to be a mix of exotic fruits. Our testers noticed hints of these, but  other products have a strong smell such as the Jelly Belly  Spray. This isn’t cheap, either, with pricing similar to the small-pack Jelly Belly Spray.

Buy now from Angel Wax

Jelly Belly Air Vent

  • Price: Around £4
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Type: Vent
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Jelly Belly has been close to the top of our past two tests, but this time has just missed out on a podium place. Standing out this time is the blueberry air freshener, which impressed our tasters with its blend of citrus and sweet notes. It lasted well, and the effective scratch panel lets you try it first. You can’t control the flow apart from via the car’s heater blower, but that great fragrance makes it our vent pick.

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Buy now from Halfords

Febreze Car

  • Price: Around £4
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Type: Vent

Home-turned-car air freshener Febreze claims this “eliminates odours”, and the cotton fresh perfume here is certainly strong. There was a little too much of the toilet freshener about the fragrance for some of our tasters, so it couldn’t match the popular Jelly Belly, but at least the flow can easily be controlled. Price is competitive and makes this well worth considering if you find a perfume you like.

Buy now from Amazon

Richbrook Air Freshener Pump Spray

  • Price: Around £3
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Type: Spray
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Sharp peppermint fragrance of this Richbrook pump spray divided opinion and prevented it from finishing higher. Like the Jelly Belly spray, you can only try before you buy by using it, but it is cheaper as you get 60ml here for a pound less. If you want the control of using an air freshener only when needed, this Richbrook could be just the answer.

Buy now from Richbrook

Autobrite Direct Chocolate Orange

  • Price: Around £10
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Size: 500ml 

Part of Autobrite Direct’s new six-strong range of air fresheners and odour eliminators, many with food fragrances. The chocolate and orange can be detected in the spray, but there was a harsh edge and it was the least popular here.

It’s not all bad, though, because the aroma was by no means unpleasant and was faintly present after a week. This product is also good value in this company, with its big 500ml bottle coming in at less than half the price of rivals.

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Buy now from Autobrite Direct

CarPlan Bahiti Island Scent in a Can

  • Price: Around £3
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Type: Can
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Designed to slip into a cup-holder or under the seat, this CarPlan can is similar to our winner with a twist top to open and close a control vent. Sadly the cherry blossom flavour didn’t “transport the senses” of our taster panel to “paradise islands of white sand, indigo sea and fruit cocktails”. Too cloying for some, although others loved the whiff of marzipan which lasted well in our durability test.

Buy now from Amazon

Yankee Candle Car Jar

  • Price: £5
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Type: Hanger

Neat kitchen jar in miniature design houses the most popular fragrance on test. Our panel loved the sweet “coconut bay” aroma, which just stayed on the right side of sickly sweet. Sadly, this wasn’t enough for the Car Jar to overcome its drawbacks – namely that there’s no way to try before you buy or to control the flow of scent. If you can do without these features, chances are you’ll love the Yankee Candle perfumes.

Buy now from Amazon

Refresh Anywhere

  • Price: Around £5
  • Rating: 3 stars 
  • Type: Vent, can, visor

This American air freshener comes with all you need to fix it to your car’s sun visor or air vent, plus it’s shaped to slip in the bottom of a cup-holder. You can control the flow, too, albeit not as effectively as those with twist-top vents – the casing is either open or shut, with nothing in between. Sadly, the ‘New Car Scent’ the maker claims failed to find as many fans as rivals, placing it down the ratings.

Buy now from Amazon

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