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OEM Vs. Aftermarket Toyota Cabin Air Filters: What You Should Know

If you take care of cabin air filter replacements yourself (which you should, because the job is so easy), you might be debating between OEM and aftermarket replacement air filters. What's the difference between them? Which one delivers the most value? Read on to find out.

This guide will help you compare OEM and aftermarket cabin air filters and figure out which one delivers the most bang for the buck.

Size Matters

Filter change

Image Credit: WikiHow

The point of having a cabin air filter in your Toyota is to keep dirt, dust, bugs, pollen, and other pollutants out of your cabin. An ill-fitting cabin air filter defeats the purpose because it'll leave gaps big enough to let the pollutants in.

Since OEM Toyota air filters are designed by Toyota, they're built with OEM dimensions. That means an OEM cabin air filter (made specifically for your Toyota model) will fit like a glove and leave no gaps for the pollutants to pass through. A Toyota owner named Janelle was pleased to see how perfectly her OEM cabin air filter fit into her Toyota. "Installing my cabin air filter was so easy," she wrote in her review. "Initially, I was going to go with an aftermarket brand, but decided that it was probably better to stick with OEM parts for now. Overall, I am very happy knowing that I have nice new filters in my car and that I saved money by installing it myself."

It's not uncommon to have to alter an aftermarket air filter to get it to fit into a car. Aftermarket cabin air filters are usually designed with universal fitment in mind. Even if you find an aftermarket cabin air filter that's supposedly designed just for your Toyota model, chances are it doesn't have exact OEM specs. If you look on Amazon, you'll see a lot of complaints from Toyota owners about how their aftermarket cabin air filter didn't fit.

The Filter Material Makes or Breaks the Part

Filter material

The filter material is arguably the most important part of a cabin air filter. It does all the work trapping the pollutants, after all. It has to be at the right thickness. If it's too thin, the filter material will break easily. If it's too thick, not enough air will get through. An Amazon user who left a review about their aftermarket air filter wrote that their air filter material was too thick. They noticed that the air filter made them lose at least 40 percent of the air flow.

The air filter material also has to have the right amount and size of pores to create sufficient airflow while still keeping the air clean. Toyota spent a lot of time researching and developing an air filter material that works optimally in their cars. It's not uncommon for aftermarket manufacturers to go with one of the cheapest options they could find, which is usually an air filter material that doesn't work well.

A 2014 Camry owner wrote that her OEM cabin air filter fit perfectly in her car. "Once I installed this new OEM filter, the A/C airflow got noticeably stronger, even at 'number 2' A/C mode. It has way better airflow compared to the old aftermarket cabin filter I used that decreased the airflow in my car's A/C. Now that summer is around the corner, a good A/C airflow is very important. I will surely be a repeat buyer."

What the Pleats Tell You About a Cabin Air Filter

The more pleats there are (and the deeper they are), the more surface area the filter material has. That's why you should look for air filters that are packed with deep pleats. Toyota has always been reliable when it comes to that. OEM air filters come with a lot of deep pleats. Aftermarket air filters, not so much. The pleats are usually shallow and spaced far apart. That means there's not a lot of surface area, which means that they'll clog up a lot faster.

OEM Cabin Air Filters Don't Necessarily Have to be Expensive

The aftermarket market is worth millions (or maybe billions) for a reason: OEM parts can be expensive, so a lot of people turn to aftermarket options. OEM cabin air filters can be pretty pricey at a Toyota dealership.

However, not a lot of people realize that you can order genuine OEM cabin air filters from reputable sellers online for much less money. For example, we're an authorized seller of genuine OEM Toyota parts, including cabin air filters. You can save about 30% on the parts you order from us. A high-quality OEM cabin air filter at aftermarket pricing? Yes, please! Visit our catalog of air filters and look up your Toyota model to find the right part number for your car.

Got any questions about OEM air filters? Talk to us.

Written by Jason Lancaster