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Are OEM VW Cabin Air Filters Better Than Aftermarket?

Does your Volkswagen have a cabin air filter that needs replacing soon? It’s time to decide whether to get an OEM or aftermarket replacement cabin air filter. Does it even matter which type you get? The answer is a resounding yes.

It actually makes a big difference what kind of cabin air filter you put in your car. One type of cabin air filter is more reliable and longer lasting than the other one. Which one is it? Let’s go over the main features to consider while shopping for a cabin air filter. We’ll also discuss how OEM and aftermarket cabin air filters stack up against each other.

1. Material Quality

OEM cabin air filters offer a lot of filtration benefits because of the way they’re built.

Filter Material

Changing filer1

Image Credit: Craigs DIY Car

Volkswagen made sure to use durable and porous filter material in its cabin air filters. The filter material is porous enough to allow enough air through, but not too porous. It's also thick and sturdy enough to withstand the constant airflow.

Some aftermarket air filters have durable and porous filter material too. Yet, most do not. Aftermarket filters are inexpensive partly because they use low quality filter material that's:

  • Flimsy and easy to tear
  • Too porous or not porous enough

An Amazon user reported that their aftermarket cabin air filter made their car smell weird. They wrote, "After I installed my aftermarket air filter, my car smelled weird when I turned on the A/C. I even removed the filter and used the A/C without the filter. It didn't smell. So I just replaced my air filter."


The filter's frame is another important part. It has to be rigid. It also has to make a good seal.

OEM Volkswagen cabin air filters come with a rigid frame and gaskets to seal the filter. It's beneficial in a couple of ways:

  • Easy installation
  • No dirty air will leak into the cabin

Aftermarket cabin air filters don't always come with well-built frames. In fact, plenty of them are flimsy. Some don't even come with the right gaskets to create a good seal. If you look on Amazon, you'll find a lot of reviews about this issue. We included a couple:

  • "I was very disappointed in the build quality [of my aftermarket cabin air filter]. The biggest problem is the white foam gasket on the bottom. It is flimsy and doesn't make a good seal. Aside from being very difficult to install due to not having notches cut into the sides, the gasket does not seal and it leaks air. This produces a loud humming/whistling sound."
  • "My aftermarket cabin air filter is inexpensive, but also cheap, as in flimsy. It's much less rigid than OEM filters. That makes installing it in the (very snug) filter slot very difficult without damaging it in the process. I finally got it fully inserted after much haranguing. I'm not confident it's sealed properly to prevent air flowing around the edges (carrying dust, pollen, etc. with it). Next time, I'll stick with an OEM filter."

2. Dimensions

The dimensions more or less determine how well your cabin air filter will fit. OEM cabin air filters are direct replacements. That means they always have the correct dimensions. That makes installation a cinch.

Aftermarket manufacturers don't always design their cabin air filters to OE specs. This results in a plethora of aftermarket cabin air filters that are too long, too short, too thick, or too thin. A lot of Volkswagen owners end up with poor-fitting aftermarket cabin air filters. Here are a couple of reviews we found on Amazon:

  • "[The aftermarket manufacturer] said that [my aftermarket cabin air filter] would fit my car, but it didn't. It was too expensive to return the filter, so I just ate the money."
  • "[My aftermarket cabin air filter is] absolutely a garbage product. It did not fit, and it was so flimsy that it ended up in the trash."

3. Pleat Count

Pleat count is another area you should pay attention to. You want a cabin air filter with deep, tightly packed pleats. It's because the deeper the pleats and the more packed they are, the more surface area the filter material has. The bigger the surface area, the more dirt and debris it can catch over time.

VW has always been good about packing its cabin air filters tight with deep pleats. The pleat count in aftermarket cabin air filters is usually low and not packed tight at all. That means most aftermarket cabin air filters don't have as much surface area as OEM filters do.

The Bottom Line: OEM Cabin Air Filters Are Better Than Aftermarket Filters

Cabin filter1

If you want a replacement cabin air filter that doesn’t cause a lot of issues, go the OEM route. OEM cabin air filters:

  • Contain thick and durable filter material
  • Come with a rigid frame
  • Create a good seal to keep any dirty air from passing through to the cabin
  • Always fit
  • Come with deep pleats that are packed tight

Wholesale Pricing For Genuine OEM VW Cabin Air Filters

Here’s a secret: you can score a genuine OEM cabin air filter at wholesale pricing. At VW Parts Vortex, we’re authorized sellers of genuine OEM Volkswagen parts, including cabin air filters.

Look up your Volkswagen model to see if we carry an OEM cabin air filter for your car!

More on why OEM air filters are better.