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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best USB car essential oil diffusers

Last Updated May 2019

There are many reasons why an essential oil diffuser for your car is a good idea. It can help eliminate unpleasant odors, add moisture to the air, and help calm and focus you in stressful situations. Some essential oils might even be able to help you overcome motion sickness. You're going to be in your car for your commute anyway, so why not use that time to help you get to the best version of you?

But not all essential oil diffusers are appropriate for the car. Some are better suited for home or office use.

Reading through this article will provide you with the information you need to pick the best essential oil diffuser for your car. It will also answer your questions, offer some usage tips, and list the essential oils that may be better for use while driving.

Essential oils are not fragrance oils. Any oil that is labeled with the word "fragrance" or "perfume" is synthetic, not natural.

What is aromatherapy?

The sense of smell has been called our most powerful sense. Perhaps that is why aromatherapy has been in use for thousands of years. It is the practice of using natural plant extracts to improve the mind, body, and spirit.

Essential oils are potent because they work on an emotional and a physical level at the same time. Proponents of aromatherapy often profess that it's as much of an art as it is a science.

The four types of essential oil diffusers

The best way to reap the benefits from essential oils is by inhalation. There are four types of essential oil diffusers: nebulizing diffusers, ultrasonic diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat diffusers.

Nebulizing diffusers

This type of diffuser uses pressurized air to disperse the oil in a fine mist. This method tends to dispense the oil more evenly than other types of diffusers. These models cost considerably more than other types of diffusers.

Ultrasonic diffusers

This type of diffuser uses water and ultrasonic vibrations to dilute and dispense the essential oil into the air as a mist. This method also functions as a humidifier. In most instances, this is the type of diffuser that is used in vehicles.

Evaporative diffusers

With an evaporative diffuser, the oil slowly evaporates into the air. Often, a fan is used to help hasten evaporation. This method of diffusion is not as effective as the other methods.

Heat diffusers

Heat diffusers speed up the evaporation process using heat. Unfortunately, higher levels of heat can change the chemical composition of the essential oils, making them less effective. Lower heat models work best.

Clean, relaxing air

This conveniently sized portable oil diffuser is designed to fit in your vehicle's cup holder, and it can remove distasteful odors like smoke, sweat, and wet dog. It features two misting modes – continuous and intermittent – and seven LED colors that can be set to one shade, changing colors, or off. The mist mode and the lighting buttons are located on the top of the device for easy access.

Key features

Now that you have a better understanding of what aromatherapy is and how diffusers work, there are a few key features you will want your essential oil diffuser to have.

Appealing design

Essential oil diffusers come in a variety of shapes and styles. You can find one with a wood grain finish, one that looks like a cactus, and you can even find one that looks like a cup of coffee. Look for the diffuser that best meets your aesthetic needs.

Auto shutoff

If you don't shut off your ultrasonic essential oil diffuser when the water gets low, you run the risk of damaging it. The best models have an automatic shutoff feature so you don't have to worry.

BPA-free

The current stance on BPA is that it is bad. Until conclusive evidence is found that reveals otherwise, BPA-free items are the desired option.

Ease of operation

There are already enough things going on while you're driving that can distract you. You do not want to be fumbling for a control switch and be forced to take your eyes off the road just to adjust your diffuser. Look for a model that has easily accessible controls, preferably on the top of the unit.

Lights

While it doesn't affect the way a diffuser works, many people enjoy the soothing lights of a color-changing model. If this sounds like something you'd enjoy, look for an essential oil diffuser that can light up and change colors.

Misting modes

The best ultrasonic diffusers have two operating modes: continuous and intermittent. In the confined space of a vehicle, continuous mode might be a little too much for some users, so having an intermittent option is usually preferable.

Quiet operation

Look for a model that is quiet. You don't want to miss important sounds, such as car horns and sirens, because your diffuser is too loud.

Timer

A timer is not essential, but it can be nice to have. This feature will make sure you don't inadvertently leave the diffuser on for extended periods of time when you're on a long road trip.

EXPERT TIP

To be safe in your car, you need to be able to secure your essential oil diffuser so it doesn't tip or fall when driving. Some diffusers might clip onto a vent or hang from your rearview mirror, but the most common solution is a diffuser that sits securely in your vehicle's cup holder.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If you are allergic to the food or plant, you will be allergic to the essential oil. Always exercise caution when using an essential oil for the first time.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Inhaling is the fastest, most effective way to use essential oils. It can take mere seconds for inhaled oils to start working.


Staff  | BestReviews

The best essential oils for driving

Each essential oil can be used to treat a variety of ailments and conditions. We've created a list to help you decide which essential oils might be best for driving.

To help you stay calm

  • Allspice

  • Amyris

  • Angelica Root

  • Basil

  • Bergamot

  • Blue Tansy

  • Frankincense

  • Pine

  • Rose

  • Rosewood

  • Vetiver

  • Ylang Ylang
     

To help you stay alert and focused

  • Basil

  • Bergamot

  • Cinnamon

  • Clary sage

  • Coffee

  • Douglas Fir

  • Lemon

  • Patchouli

  • Rosemary

  • Sage
     

To help you stay awake

  • Cinnamon

  • Eucalyptus

  • Grapefruit

  • Lemongrass

  • Orange

  • Peppermint

  • Pine

  • Rosemary
     

To help combat motion sickness

  • Basil

  • Cardamom

  • Cassia

  • Clove Bud

  • Coffee

  • Fennel

  • Ginger

  • Nutmeg

  • Orange

  • Peppermint

  • Spearmint

  • Vanilla Absolute
     

Note: Certain essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, may make you feel drowsy. If any of the essential oils listed above make you feel tired or in any way adversely affect your driving, stop using immediately.

Quiet, portable, and relaxing

The compact design of this essential oil diffuser makes it about the size of a soda can. The unit can be used as an air freshener, air purifier, essential oil diffuser, or humidifier. It features an automatic shutoff when the water level gets low and offers two misting modes along with seven LED colors.

USB car essential oil diffuser prices

The pricing corridor of USB car essential oil diffusers is very narrow. As a matter of fact, there is only about a $6 difference between the low end and the high end of most models.

Decent units start at $14 and can cost up to $23. As with any product, there are outliers, but the sweet spot to look for the best value is $15 to $20. In that range, you should be able to find everything you need.

Other products we considered

There are two essential oil diffusers that we haven't mentioned yet that might fit your needs. These two models are both outliers, with one residing below the average price and one residing above. If budget is your primary concern, one of the lowest priced models that still has favorable reviews is GenLed's Portable Car Essential Oil Diffuser. This tiny, positionable fan unit might just be your best budget-conscious choice. On the other end of the price spectrum, you’ll find Organic Aromas' Rechargeable Nebulizing Diffuser. This diffuser uses no heat, no water, and no plastic. It is also not a USB device. Rather, it uses two rechargeable lithium batteries that can last up to 18 hours per charge.

Essential oils do not last forever. Factors like oxygen, heat, and light can reduce the shelf life of some more volatile oils to as little as one or two years.

FAQ

Q. How long should I run my diffuser?

A. Moderation is the key. Users can develop sensitivity if they are overexposed to essential oils. There are no set times, but around 15 to 20 minutes is currently the agreed upon average time to let your diffuser run.

Q. My car is a little older and doesn't have a USB port in it. What do I do?

A. You have two options. The first is to get a USB charger for your car. This will convert the lighter to a USB port so you can power your diffuser. The other option is to get a model that can hold a charge or run off of batteries.

Q: Do I need to clean my essential oil diffuser?

A: Yes, you do. Often, it only requires a wipedown or a gentle cleaning with a dab of dish detergent or white vinegar once or twice a month. However, to be sure you do not accidentally damage your essential oil diffuser, always consult your owner's manual for the recommended cleaning practices.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Austin
    Austin
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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