It's not recommended to drive without a cabin air filter, even if it doesn't have a direct impact on engine performance. Cars without cabin air filters are more prone to getting leaves and garbage stuck in the system, depending on the size of the inlet. The filter efficiency of all cabin air filters is between 35-60% for particles with sizes of 520 nm. Once the air filter has reached its useful life, particles from outside begin to enter the HVAC system and accumulate in the heater and air conditioner.
An air filter may not seem like an essential component, but it's more important than you think. It handles the air entering the car through the heating and air conditioning system, and if it's dirty, you may notice reduced air circulation, reduced heating and air conditioning performance, or a musty smell. You may also notice more dust in the environment when it needs to be replaced. Refer to your car's owner's manual on how to clean the cabin air filter or watch a video that explains how to remove and clean it.
The cost of the filter depends on whether you need an electrostatic, carbon, or standard cabin air filter. On some cars, you can find it under the hood or behind the dash more at the cabin air cleaner location. An air filter should be changed at the manufacturer's recommended intervals, but even that may not be frequent enough. A cabin air filter that hasn't been changed recently can cause the car's air conditioner to not work or work as efficiently.
In conclusion, it's not recommended to drive without a cabin air filter as it can cause various issues with your car's heating and air conditioning system. It's important to refer to your car's owner's manual on how to clean or replace it.