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Best Car Vacuums for Easy Cleaning, From Cordless to Corded Models

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Updated February 21, 2024

Vehicle owners range from those who rarely give their car a second thought to those who border on the obsessive when it comes to car maintenance. The former often have a passenger or back seat that doubles as a junk drawer where you can find everything from a spare hat to a pen to a week-old granola bar. The latter are the type who prohibit eating or drinking of any kind in their car, insist on passengers wiping their feet before getting inside, and routinely use a pressure washer to blast road muck from the exterior.

Obsessive types notwithstanding, many people find it difficult to remember to regularly clean the interior of their car, van, or truck. Matthew Baratta, VP of Operations at Daimer Industries, a globally recognized leader in innovative and technologically advanced commercial and industrial cleaning equipment, says that regular vacuuming is essential to prevent potential damage to your car’s interior caused by dirt, debris, and road salt.

Jason Jaap, founder of Jim's Scratch & Dent remembers one case of a car with an interior so filthy “that it took almost eight hours of work by a complete team to get it back to the condition in which it had naturally come.” He also said that he’s found all sorts of odd objects while vacuuming interiors; things like forgotten toys, unfinished snacks, and all kinds of simple items you’d never expect to find in someone’s car. 

To prevent your vehicle from becoming a similar, cautionary tale, add ‘vacuum car interior’ to your weekly or (at least monthly) chore list. There are numerous vacuum cleaners available to assist you, with varying features, attachments, and price points. I put together this list to help you find the best one for your needs.

What to consider before buying car vacuums  

Corded or cordless

While cordless vacuums generally have lower suction capabilities than corded models, they provide a portability component that allows you to keep them in your car to tackle messes and spills shortly after they happen. They’re also easier to maneuver into all the nooks and crannies of your vehicle’s interior. 

Their smaller canister capacities mean you’ll need to empty them more frequently, though. The runtime of most cordless models falls somewhere in the 15 to 30 minute range, so they also need to be recharged often.

Speaking of, consider also the charging method. Some require a USB-C cable while others use a removable battery pack (like power tools). The former can be charged via your vehicle’s USB port while the latter must be inserted into a charging station plugged into a standard wall outlet. Vacuums that use removable battery packs mean you can keep extra charged ones on hand.

Corded vacuums, on the other hand, offer unlimited run times, more powerful suction, and larger dust and debris canisters. 

Canister capacity

As far as canister capacity goes, consider what type of debris you might encounter and how often you anticipate needing to sweep. Compact, handheld vacuum models offer convenience and portability but they also usually have to be emptied often, while larger corded vacuums can feature capacities of 6 gallons or larger—that’s a lot of dirt!

Suction power

Choosing a car vacuum with the requisite suction capacity is important for achieving maximum cleanliness, says Jaap.  

“From personal use, vacuum cleaners with suction power of about 12 amps or higher produce desirable results in clearing dirt, mud, and other carbonizing matters from the interior parts of a car,” he said. 

Filter system

Look for vacuums with filtering mechanisms to guarantee comprehensive work cleaning, suggests Jaap. HEPA filters are great for siphoning dust and other contaminants. 

Attachments

One of the most important features are the number of different attachments available that provide you with ample cleaning options for any fine crevice and tight corner you might find in your vehicle, says Jaap. Look for a vacuum with a full range of attachments, including multiple brushes and angled tools. 

Our picks for the best car vacuums   

Best budget car vacuum: Armor All AA255W Wet/Dry Car and Shop Vac

Best budget car vacuum
Armor All AA255W 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Utility Wet/Dry Car and Shop Vac, 2.5-Gallon, Orange

Armor All AA255W 2.5 Gallon 2 Peak HP Utility Wet/Dry Car and Shop Vac, 2.5-Gallon, Orange

Baratta recommends this vacuum from Armor if you’re on a budget. Not only is it reasonably priced but it’s also effective, featuring wet and dry capabilities as well as doubling as a blower and inflator. It comes with a hose and a variety of attachments for different areas of the car including a blower/adaptor nozzle, crevice tool, round dust brush, deluxe car nozzle, utility nozzle, detail brush nozzle, and floor brush. Plus, it has a longer extension wand to do traditional floor vacuuming.

“The wet and dry function is especially crucial for deep cleaning,” said Baratta. The Armor All includes a wheelbase and carry handle making it easy to maneuver between multiple vehicles or from house to garage.

Specifications:

  • Type: Corded canister
  • Weight: 11 pounds
  • Charge type: Corded 2 peak HP motor
  • Battery life: N/A
  • Canister size: 2.5 gallons
  • Warranty: 2-year limited
  • Price on publish: $68.02

What we like:

  • Onboard storage for accessories
  • Both wet and dry pick-up abilities
  • Variety of accessories 

What we don’t like:

  • Loud 

The bottom line:

Budget friendly, full featured, wet/dry, corded canister vacuum with a variety of accessories including car specific cleaning tools.           

Get it here: Armor All AA255W Wet/Dry Car and Shop Vac


Best vacuum for car detailing: Ryobi 18V One+ Performance Hand Vacuum Kit

Best vacuum for car detailing
ONE+ 18V Cordless Multi-Surface Handheld Vacuum Kit with 2.0 Ah Battery and Charger

ONE+ 18V Cordless Multi-Surface Handheld Vacuum Kit with 2.0 Ah Battery and Charger

For consumers who want a simple but effective cleaner, Jaap recommends the Ryobi 18V One+ Performance Hand Vacuum Kit because of its excellent suction ability along with plentiful and flexible attachment options. The 18V battery is compatible with all other Ryobi power tools. “This vacuum is efficient not only for daily routine maintenance but also when tackling difficult messes,” he said. It comes with a battery, charger, and a HEPA filter. The universal nozzle accepts all 1 1⁄4 inch accessories though the four-piece accessory kit, which includes a dust brush, crevice tool, utility nozzle and hose, is sold separately for $24.97.  

Specifications:

  • Type: Cordless handheld
  • Weight: 2.08 pounds
  • Charge type: 18V battery and charger
  • Battery life: 15-minute runtime
  • Canister size: 2.6 cups (20.8 ounces)
  • Warranty: 3-year
  • Price on publish: $79.97

What we like:

  • Excellent suction
  • Battery and charger included
  • HEPA filter 

What we don’t like:

  • Accessories not included 

The bottom line:

18V handheld vacuum with great suction ability and accessory compatibility.

Get it here: Ryobi 18V One+ Performance Hand Vacuum Kit


Best cordless car vacuum: Dewalt 20V Cordless Car Handheld Vacuum

Best cordless car vacuum
Bagless 20V MAX Stick Cordless General Dirt Filter Handheld Vacuum (Tool Only)

Bagless 20V MAX Stick Cordless General Dirt Filter Handheld Vacuum (Tool Only)

Equipped with a HEPA filter, the Dewalt 20V cordless car vacuum delivers 46 cfm (cubic feet per minute) of suction power to pick up dust, dirt, and random debris (including small screws and nails) from any surface in your car. It runs on a 20V battery (not included) compatible and interchangeable with all Dewalt power tools. 

Attachments include an extension tube, floor nozzle, flexible hose, crevice tool, gulper brush, and round brush. There's a belt hook that frees up your hands for more work efficiency and a LED light for dark corners.

Specifications:

  • Type: Handheld cordless
  • Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Charge type: Dewalt 20V battery charger
  • Battery life: 21.4 minutes runtime
  • Canister size: 23.6 ounces
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Price on publish: $149.00 

What we like:

  • LED light
  • Lots of attachments
  • 20V battery works with other Dewalt tools

What we don’t like:

  • Battery and charger not included

The bottom line:

Powerful, handheld, 20V battery vacuum from Dewalt with a plethora of car-friendly attachments and LED light.

Get it here: Dewalt 20V Cordless Car Handheld Vacuum


Best handheld vacuum for car: MetroVac Vac N Blo 500 Watt Hi Performance Handheld Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for car
MetroVac Vac N Blo 500 Watt Hi Performance Handheld Vacuum

MetroVac Vac N Blo 500 Watt Hi Performance Handheld Vacuum

With a fan enclosed motor, the MetroVac Vac N Blo puts out 500 watts of power, making it one of the more robust handheld options available. Unlike many portable models, it’s made from sturdy steel. As the name suggests, it works as both a vacuum cleaner and a blower, meaning you can use it to inflate things like an air mattress or tire. And it uses disposable bags (five are included), making emptying and cleaning the vacuum itself easier than some others. It comes with a variety of attachments including a 19-inch flexible hose, crevice tool, dust brush, turbo brush, nozzle, extension wand, and an inflator adaptor.

Specifications:

  • Type: Handheld corded
  • Weight: 5.33 pounds
  • Charge type: 120V corded
  • Battery life: N/A
  • Canister size: (bags) 0.75 liter
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Price on publish: $159.99

What we like:

  • Disposable bags
  • Steel construction
  • Also works as a blower 

What we don’t like:

  • Cord can be cumbersome

The bottom line:

Sturdy, all steel, handheld corded vacuum with multiple attachments and ability to function as a blower.

Get it here: MetroVac Vac N Blo 500 Watt Hi Performance Handheld Vacuum


Best portable car vacuum: VacLife Handheld Vacuum

Best portable car vacuum
VacLife Handheld Vacuum

VacLife Handheld Vacuum

Baratta recommends this handheld vacuum from VacLife because it’s very effective for its size and has a HEPA filter for trapping smaller dust particles. “It has enough battery life to serve a full sweep-through of the car, and most reviewers are very satisfied with the suction power despite it being a battery-powered model,” he said.

Included attachments are a crevice tool, dusting brush, and nozzle. Charging to full in two to three hours, it features an LED light so you can easily see all the debris lurking in the dark corners of your back seat or trunk. The powerful motor runs at 28,000 revolutions per minute to easily suck up all of that said debris. 

Specifications:

  • Type: Handheld cordless
  • Weight: 1.46 pounds
  • Charge type: Lithium-ion battery with corded charger
  • Battery life: 20 minutes
  • Canister size: 1 liter
  • Warranty: Lifetime money back guarantee
  • Price on publish: $44.99

What we like:

  • Great customer service/warranty
  • Excellent suction power
  • Lightweight small size

What we don’t like:

  • No wall storage bracket 

The bottom line:

Small portable vacuum with excellent suction power for its size at a budget friendly price. 

Get it here: VacLife Handheld Vacuum


Best car vacuum for pet hair: Bissell 1782 Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum

Best car vacuum for pet hair
BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Pet Bagless Vacuum | Black/Chacha Lime | 1782

BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Pet Bagless Vacuum | Black/Chacha Lime | 1782

If you’re looking  to keep on top of pet shedding in your vehicle, this vacuum from Bissell offers a great choice. “The lightweight, portable model makes it ideal for getting the spots where fur commonly collects,” Baratta said, “although the battery life is rather short.”

It comes with specialized pet tools including a motorized brush to remove embedded hair, a crevice tool for hard-to-reach areas, and an upholstery tool with felt strips for attracting more pet hair. Felt, especially that which is made from wool, is a great collector of all pet fur. (If you own a wool coat—and have fur children—you’re likely engaged in an ongoing, never ending quest to keep the coat clean.)

Specifications:

  • Type: Handheld cordless
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Charge type: Lithium-ion battery 14.4V with charging station
  • Battery life: 15 minutes run time
  • Canister size: 0.7 liter
  • Warranty: 1-year limited
  • Price on publish: $69.99

What we like:

  • Pet specific attachments
  • Great suction power
  • Lightweight 

What we don’t like:

  • Battery doesn’t last very long 

The bottom line:

Portable, handheld cordless vacuum with attachments made specifically for cleaning up pet hair. 

Get it here: Bissell 1782 Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum


Best heavy-duty car vacuum: Bissell Multiclean Wet and Dry Auto Vacuum

Best heavy-duty car vacuum
MultiClean Wet and Dry Auto Bagless Vacuum | Mambo Red | 2035M

MultiClean Wet and Dry Auto Bagless Vacuum | Mambo Red | 2035M

With a large 6-gallon tank, both wet and dry capabilities, as well as a blower function, the Bissell Multiclean auto vacuum tackles a variety of jobs and messes with ease. It comes with a robust accessory kit which includes a wet floor cleaning tool, multi-surface floor tool, dusting brush, crevice tool, wet suction tool, upholstery brush, precision blower, detailing device nozzles, and a tool adapter. The 19-foot cord gives you plenty of roaming capability and the 6.5-foot hose extends your reach when working inside your vehicle.

Specifications:

  • Type: Corded canister
  • Weight: 16.1 pounds
  • Charge type: Corded
  • Battery life: N/A
  • Canister size: 6 gallons
  • Warranty: 2-year limited
  • Price on publish: $154.49 

What we like:

  • High tank capacity
  • 19-foot cord
  • Great assortment of attachments 

What we don’t like:

  • Small wheels don’t roll well over carpeted surfaces

The bottom line:

Wet and dry vac with blowing function, a high, 6-gallon capacity tank, and numerous attachments. 

Get it here: Bissell Multiclean Wet and Dry Auto Vacuum


Best compact car vacuum: Fanttik Slim V8 Mate Cordless Car Vacuum

Best compact car vacuum
Fanttik Slim V8 Mate Cordless Car Vacuum

Fanttik Slim V8 Mate Cordless Car Vacuum

This slim V8 cordless vacuum from Fanttik is your perfect companion for quickly taking care of dry messes in the car. It features excellent suction for its size and convenient USB-C charging (so you can charge via your vehicle’s USB port). There’s also a removable HEPA filter and dust cup for easy maintenance. 

The Fanttik Slim comes with a multi-surface brush, crevice nozzle, push-in brush, pet brush, and flexible hose as well as a cleaning brush (for dust cup maintenance), storage bag, and USB-C cable.

Specifications:

  • Type: Handheld cordless
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Charge type: USB-C
  • Battery life: 30 minutes on Eco mode, 12 minutes on High Speed mode
  • Canister size: 90 ml
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Price on publish: $79.99 

What we like:

  • Slim, compact design
  • HEPA filter
  • USB-C charging 

What we don’t like:

  • Small capacity means lots of emptying required for larges messes

The bottom line:

Super slim, compact, battery-operated vacuum with multiple attachments for routine car cleaning.

Get it here: Fanttik Slim V8 Mate Cordless Car Vacuum


Best car vacuum for multiple garages and locations: Dewalt Portable 6 Gallon Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Best car vacuum for multiple garages and locations
6 Gal. Portable Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vacuum

6 Gal. Portable Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vacuum

The Dewalt 6-gallon wet dry vacuum features a toolbox design for easy carrying, an ultra- flexible 20-foot hose, both cartridge and foam filters, and a wireless remote control power switch. As well as having a blower function, it quickly sucks up all kinds of trash including dust, leaves, and liquids. It includes a complete assortment of attachments: claw and crevice nozzles, round brush, muffler, floor nozzle, utility nozzle, and extension wands. And, there’s a wall mount bracket for easy storage.

Specifications:

  • Type: Corded canister
  • Weight: 20.94 pounds
  • Charge type: Corded 120V
  • Battery life: N/A
  • Canister size: 6 gallons
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Price on publish: $159.99 

What we like:

  • Wireless remote control power switch
  • Great suction power
  • Lots of included attachments

What we don’t like:

  • Some reviewers pointed out that the hose is quite heavy making it a bit unwieldy 

The bottom line:

Heavy duty, corded wet and dry vacuum from Dewalt with a long 20-foot hose and plenty of attachments. 

Get it here: Dewalt Portable 6 Gallon Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner


Best car vacuum for tight spaces: Baseus A3 Lite Car Vacuum Cleaner

Best car vacuum for tight spaces
Baseus A3 Lite Car Vacuum Cleaner

Baseus A3 Lite Car Vacuum Cleaner

This mini vacuum from Baseus works as an inflator, pump, blower and, yes, a vacuum making it an extremely useful and diverse vehicle tool, especially for those who like to camp and ride bikes. It efficiently blows up air mattresses and sleeping pads and pumps bike tires (with an adaptor). It includes a crevice tool, a two-in-one suction nozzle, small, medium, and large air nozzles, a silicone air nozzle, and replaceable HEPA filter. To empty, simply press a button and the dust bin cap pops open—keeping your hands away from the dirt. Weighing less than a pound, it fits conveniently in a standard car cup holder and charges via a USB-C cable.

Specifications:

  • Type: Handheld cordless
  • Weight: 0.96 pounds
  • Charge type: USB-C
  • Battery life: 30 minutes
  • Canister size: 130 ml
  • Warranty: 2-year
  • Price on publish: $79.99 

What we like:

  • Vacuum, blower, and inflator
  • Fits in car cup holder
  • Charges via a USB-C cable

What we don’t like:

  • Not suitable for big jobs (best for spot cleaning)

The bottom line:

Compact, battery-operated vacuum, inflator, pump, and blower suitable for spot cleaning and inflating air mattresses and sleeping pads. 

Get it here: Baseus A3 Lite Car Vacuum Cleaner


How we selected the best car vacuums   

To select the best car vacuums, I consulted online customer reviews, documentation, and professionals in the cleaning and auto detailing businesses to come up with this list of recommendations. I took into consideration price, available attachments, ease of use, and features to find the best choices for the largest range of consumers.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How many times should I vacuum my car?

As an auto detailer professional, Jaap recommends cleaning your car’s interior at least once a week to keep any dirt that accumulates from general use from getting out of hand. This is especially important during the winter months and for those who operate a work truck for a construction site, farm, or ranch. Vacuuming once a week ensures that salt, dirt and other debris don’t creep under the floor mats and cause damage to the upholstery, said Baratta.

If, however, you live in a warm climate and only drive your car for everyday activities such as work and errands, you can likely get away with detailing every one to three months, Baratta says. Note that the key stipulation here is “warm climate.” Winter road salt is corrosive and can cause damage if left to fester. 

How much suction power is best for a vacuum cleaner?

“Air watts are the first indicator of the overall suction power of a vacuum as they combine the airflow power with the water lift metric,” explained Baratta. This metric (determined by multiplying the water lift by the airflow cfm and dividing by 8.5) ranges significantly between handheld vacuums and large commercial wet and dry extractors used in auto detailing shops.

Most handheld models will have suction powers of around 15 to 30 air watts, says Baratta. Depending on the size of the motors, commercial and industrial extractors used for auto detailing can be well over 1000. Cleaning all the corners and crevices inside your car or truck will be easier with higher suction powers.

“Using a standing model vacuum with a hose and various attachments may be beneficial as these larger models come with higher suction power and wand attachments specifically made for crevices,” said Baratta.

To determine which level of suction power is best for your situation, consider your lifestyle. Does your vehicle get a lot of dirty foot or paw traffic? Do you haul things regularly? Do you spend a lot of time outdoors, or do you traverse dirt roads, etc? You also want to consider your budget, and what level of portability you want in a vacuum. It might make sense to keep a small, handheld one in your car for quick sweep ups and a larger, corded model in your garage for more thorough cleanings. 

Can I plug my car vacuum into the auxiliary outlet without draining my car’s battery?

Jaap says yes—as long as you use an appropriate automotive vacuum and plug it directly into your car’s auxiliary outlet. If you do this, though, he recommends keeping the engine running to prevent mechanical issues or putting undue strain on a car battery. “On average, an auxiliary vehicle outlet produces 120 watts,” says Baratta, “so your vacuum's wattage should be below this to avoid damage.”   

How do you know if a vacuum has good suction?

Most manufacturers should include an air watt measurement for their vacuums. The higher that number, the more suction power the vacuum will have. 

Can I use a regular vacuum to vacuum my car?

“Yes,” said Baratta, “you can use a regular vacuum in the car, although it may be very difficult to maneuver without the proper attachments.” If for instance, your vacuum comes with a few standard wand attachments, a long cord and hose, you can plug it into an outdoor outlet and use it in the car quite easily. However, he pointed out, if you’re looking for a more on-the-go solution a handheld model might be best.

The car vacuum cleaners are lighter and easy to carry and maneuver, especially inside a car, said Jaap. With features that target each unique space found in your vehicle, a car-specific vacuum will allow you to clean more efficiently. Work smarter, not harder.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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