We spend over 290 hours a year in our cars, and using an essential oil diffuser while you drive can make time on the road much more relaxing and enjoyable. Car-oriented diffusers come in several shapes and styles, so we compared nine popular options on their size, design, and durability. While we found that most models offer similar features and functionality, we'd say the InnoGear Car Diffuser is the best essential oil diffuser for cars thanks to its super convenient design. It fits perfectly in any cup holder, plugs in using a USB cable, and can produce aromas for a solid 3-6 hours. Article Summary
When someone mentions an essential oil diffuser, more often than not you probably imagine a larger device sitting atop a table in a house or maybe a doctor’s office. While these are arguably the most common uses, there are plenty of other styles and sizes available for more unique applications – and one that has been gaining traction is essential oil diffusion in cars.
If you really think about it, we spend a lot of time in our cars. In fact, according to AAA, the average American spends 17,600 minutes (over 290 hours) in their car each year! That’s a pretty serious amount of driving time, and for many people, time on the road can be tiring and stressful. Is it possible to make that drive a bit more comfortable? Absolutely. Aromatherapy using essential oils calms the mind and helps to relax the body, so all you need is a good essential oil diffuser designed for your car and you’ll be instantly more relaxed any time you get behind the wheel.
The ideal car essential oil diffuser will be small enough to fit in your average cup holder, while having a large enough oil capacity to provide several hours of scents. You also want something that’s going to be relatively durable and sealed tightly in case it somehow accidentally gets knocked around while on the drive. Because of these requirements, design (in terms of functionality, not just looks) is of utmost importance.
We recently created a guide on essential oil diffusers for large rooms, and alongside that research we also took some time and examined smaller diffusers with car usage in mind. We compared nine models total, looking closely at their designs and capabilities to see if they offered the right size, capacity, and durability for daily use on the road. When all was said and done, the following three models earned the highest scores from us as the best essential oil diffusers for cars.
The best essential oil diffuser for cars
In our opinion, the best car essential oil diffuser overall is the InnoGear Car Diffuser. This super compact device is more or less the same as your traditional in-house diffuser, only scaled down to fit conveniently inside a cup holder. Powered by USB cable, its attractive-yet-neutral design looks good no matter what car you’re using it in, and its price makes it an easy buy for any budget.
InnoGear’s car diffuser is of the ultrasonic type (the most popular style and usually regarded as the highest quality). In other words, it uses ultrasonic vibration to turn the oils from their liquid state into an airborne mist. If you are familiar with essential oil diffusers, you probably know that most in-house models use this exact technology. Since it is ultrasonic, you will have to mix the oils in with water, so the device features a tank that is 50ml in volume. That is enough to give you approximately 3 hours of continuous scented mist per charge, or 6 hours if you choose to mist intermittently.
As you can see from the picture above, InnoGear’s car diffuser is fairly simple in design. Most of the device is made of a black BPA-free plastic, although the front portion is semi-transparent to allow you to monitor the water-oil levels as well as enjoy some LED illumination. The entire container fits perfectly in any cup holder, and is durable enough to stand up to regular car use. It’s also sealed good enough so that it won’t spill in case it’s tipped on its side, although we’d still recommend trying to keep it securely in place to avoid any unexpected damage or issues with performance.
Using InnoGear’s car diffuser is quite easy. In order to power it, you will need a USB port, 12V adapter that allows for a USB connection. There is a 44″ cable included with the device, which should be more than enough to reach just about any USB port no matter where it is in relation to your cup holder. Once you plug it in, you can select between two mist modes. One will offer continuous mist, while the other delivers intermittent misting. LED lights change colors between 7 different shades, but you can always turn them off if you’d rather not use them. Finally, there is an auto shut-off mode that keeps you safe and shuts off the device once the water-oil levels have dropped to a certain point.
Overall, if you want a solid essential oil diffuser for your car, InnoGear’s Car Diffuser offers an attractive, durable design with proven, reliable performance. You even have a 45-day money-back guarantee from InnoGear in case you aren’t completely satisfied. For all of these reasons, we think this is the best essential oil car diffuser out there.
A slightly fancier option
NextGadget is a brand that has a heavy presence in the oil diffuser market. They make quite a few models designed for home use, but their compact series are every bit as high-quality. NexGadget’s 50ml Diffuser was designed with portability in mind, and it makes a great car diffuser. In terms of performance, it works beautifully, but it does lack a few key features compared to InnoGear (which explains why its our second choice as opposed to first). With that said, if you prefer a more luxurious appearance, its faux wood design might win your heart.
One thing that we can praise NextGadget for is the overall design of their diffusers. They always seem to take the most practical route. With this diffuser in particular, it is a near-perfect cylinder, conveniently sized to fit right in any vehicle’s cup holder, and powered by USB cable. Like InnoGear’s model, this is an ultrasonic diffuser, meaning that you will have to use water and oil mixed together for things to work. The tank itself is 50ml in volume, which will provide a fine mist for around 4 hours, according to NexGadget
In terms of aesthetics, you can see from the picture above that this diffuser has a faux-wood finish. From a design standpoint, we think this looks pretty good, but from a functionality standpoint, it would’ve been nice to be able to monitor the water-oil levels (although not a deal-breaker thanks to its auto shut-off function when levels get low). The top portion of the diffuser is where the LED lights are at. These are arranged in a ring that goes around the lid, and what we like about this is how futuristic but non-intrusive it is. There are seven different colors to choose from, each with a dim and bright setting. Of course, you can use this diffuser without lights, if you prefer it that way.
The biggest thing that NextGadget’s car diffuser lacks is mist control. All you have is one setting, which means the device will produce continuous mist from the moment you hit the ‘on’ button. Of course, just because the device lacks mist control doesn’t mean you can’t just control it manually using the on/off button. Thankfully, it does have an auto shut-off feature to automatically shut down once your tank gets low, as noted above.
Overall, NextGadget’s Car Diffuser works great and is very reliable. The only friction comes from its lack of automatic mist control and aesthetics (whether or not you like the faux wood). If you’re fine controlling the mist yourself and you dig the wood appearance, we’d say it’s definitely worth the money.
An easy-to-use filter-free alternative
As a third choice, if the InnoGear or NexGadget weren’t available, we’d go with the Arospa 60ml Diffuser. On the positive side, this has no filters that need to be replaced, so it is one of the easiest to maintain and use. However, on the negative side, it is slightly more expensive, and it only comes with a traditional 12V car plug (instead of USB).
The design of the Arospa is a little more on the basic side. In fact, from a distance, it is very easy to mistake this for a coffee mug or a water bottle. It stands a little taller than most other devices (which also attributes to the water bottle look), but it fits perfectly within a cup holder without an issue. Similar to other higher-end models, this diffuser is of the ultrasonic type, so as usual there is a water tank which holds roughly 60ml of water. This is slightly more capacity than most other essential oil car diffusers, but unfortunately not enough that would make a significant difference in its duration. You can still expect around 2-3 hours of usage before needing to refill.
One of the best things about this diffuser is that it doesn’t require the replacement of filters in between refills, so it’s extremely easy to use day in and day out. Literally all you need to do to use it is continue to refill it with oils and water.
However, there’s also a few minor negatives to be aware of. The first is that fact that it does not come with a USB cable and instead only comes with a regular 12V plug. While this obviously still works fine in any car, we’re thinking long-term usability here, and in the near future, 12V plugs in cars will be outdated and replaced with only USB connections. When that day comes, you’ll wish your diffuser had USB capability. The other drawback worth noting is this model has a higher price tag than others.
If you’re okay with spending a few extra bucks in order to have a more care-free device, the Arospa Car Diffuser works well and has a fairly solid reputation for its reliability. It may be a little outdated in its connectivity, but nothing that would prevent anyone from using it at this time.
How we picked our top three
When you start looking into niche oil diffusers such as those made for car use, your choices narrow down quite considerably. Thankfully, this also makes it a bit easier to find the best models, seeing as your choices are already so slim. We briefly mentioned in the intro to this guide that design was our top priority when searching for the best car essential oil diffuser. To give you a little more insight into our selection process, below are the specific design features we looked at when comparing models.
Mounting gadgets of any kind in your car can be pretty tricky. Finding a good place for your phone is hard enough, let alone something as unusual as an essential oil diffuser. Fortunately, manufacturers realized this and came up with an easy solution. Instead of going with something proprietary that requires its own mount, they just made the diffusers to fit an average cup holder. Sure, this means that one of your cup holders is no longer available for its intended function, but it makes things simple when it could have certainly been more complicated (we’re thankful for that). With that said, the size and dimensions of our picks had to fit this criteria.
There are four main types of diffusers: ultrasonic, nebulizer, heat, and evaporative. Most high-quality diffusers are ultrasonic, which require you to drop your essential oils into a water tank. This mixture of oils and water is later dispersed in form of an airborne mist using a low-frequency vibration. It is generally accepted that ultrasonic diffusers are the easiest to use, which is especially important in confined spaces such as cars. On top of that, they are easy to maintain and are capable of giving you hours worth of operation. Needless to say, we specifically looked for ultrasonic models when choosing our top three, and each of our picks offers this style.
Unlike traditional household diffusers which usually won’t move from their spot once you put them down, smaller car-oriented diffusers may be moved around or even knocked out of place due to an unexpected circumstance while driving (if you’ve ever driven in a busy city, you know how traffic can be). Being portable in nature, car diffusers have a much higher durability requirement than their stagnant cousins. When comparing models, we looked at the quality of the design from a toughness standpoint to see if any weren’t capable of putting up with typical car usage. One of these aspects was also checking their seal to ensure no liquids could spill in the event that the diffuser was knocked over. We’re happy to say that each of our picks offers the necessary durability to be used daily in a car, although we’d recommend you still be mindful and careful when handling them.
Things you should know about using an essential oil diffuser in your car
Although diffusers themselves are pretty easy to use, there are still a few extra things to keep in mind since you’ll be using yours while driving. Knowing what you should and shouldn’t do can help prevent damage to your diffuser, or worse, a potentially harmful situation.
Choose the right essential oils
Since you will be operating a vehicle while inhaling the oils’ aromas, it is important to know which oils work best for this purpose, and which to avoid. For example, we strongly suggest that you avoid floral fragrances as they have been found to make you less alert. Dr. Axe’s Essential Oils Guide is a great place to start to learn about all the different essential oils and their unique effects, but we’d also recommend checking out DMV.org’s Aromatherapy on the Road for more specific information on using essential oils while you drive.
Remember to clean your diffuser
All of the models on our list belong to the ultrasonic category of essential oil diffusers. Ultrasonic devices require a slightly more intensive cleaning process than other categories because of the fact that they use a mixture of waters and oils. Because car diffusers are small, this shouldn’t take too long, but it’s important to do a few times a month to reduce the risk of mold or any other nasty side effects from appearing. On top of that, cleaning will ensure the diffusion system continues to work smoothly over time. DoTERRA has a great guide on cleaning diffusers, and while this guide was created with DoTERRA’s own products in mind, their methods can be used on nearly any diffuser for a good, deep clean.
Unplug your diffuser when not in use
This one might be common knowledge, but leaving any USB-powered devices plugged in when they are not in use is something you should avoid. For the most part, it has to do with reducing stress on the electronics inside the device, but in worse situations, a shortage or spark could start a fire inside your vehicle. By simply unplugging after each use, you can prolong the life of your essential oil diffuser and avoid any fire-filled afternoons.
At the end of the day, having an oil diffuser in your car is a great way to make the journey more pleasant. Whether you have to sit in stop-and-go traffic in the city, or you just enjoy having a soothing aroma where you go, each of the models we’ve chosen offers a quality diffusion system in a compact body. We strongly recommend doing some research on essential oils before driving to ensure you don’t use any that will affect your driving abilities – but other than that, all you have to do is mix some oil and water and you’ll be good to go.