Other Options We Tested
Eufy by Anker HomeVac H30 Venture: We loved how compact this vacuum is for quick cleanups, and it even previously earned our Best Cordless title. However, after testing additional models, this vacuum’s small dust bin and high-pitched operating volume didn’t stand up to other designs. However, if you want a vacuum that can go from cleaning up minor messes in a car to dusting your desk, then this may be worth the investment.
Black+Decker HHVK515JPO7 Furbuster Handheld Vacuum for Pets: We were excited by this vacuum’s potential. However, the motorized pet brush proved to be more of a nuisance than a help when it came to clearing pet hair. It was too wide to maneuver in certain areas of a car, and it didn’t have the necessary suction power to remove hair embedded in the carpet.
Bissell AeroSlim Lithium Ion Cordless Handheld Vacuum: Although this vacuum looks similar to several picks in our roundup, we found that its performance was best suited for a different setting. This vacuum was great for picking up larger debris like cereal, but it struggled to suck up hair and sand. The exhaust vent also blew the sand away while we were trying to suck it up. We think this model would be much better in an office setting, for cleaning up around a desk and computer.
ionvac Turbo Car Vac: Overall, we were disappointed in the ionvac Turbo Car Vac because its performance was lacking in every category. While its compact design would be great for storing in the trunk of a car, it’s not actually powerful enough to pick up typical car debris. It also became quite hot after running for 11 minutes, which makes us concerned about its long-term performance and safety.
Dirt Devil Scorpion Plus Corded Handheld Vacuum Cleaner: We enjoyed using this vacuum for the major problem areas in a car, but it wasn’t the best model for cleaning up tight nooks and crannies. Although the attachments may have helped with cleaning up hair and sand, none catered to the long reach (not even the crevice tool) needed for cleaning under seats around the console.
How We Tested the Car Vacuums
We’ve purchased and tested over 30 car vacuums at home and in The Lab, putting each option to work in our own cars and in real-world situations. Whether tested in our lab or tested in our own cars in the real world, we’ve continued to use the same testing process over the past year. To begin, we unboxed and set up each vacuum, noting how difficult or easy the process was, how long it took, and whether the instruction manual was clear. Next, we tested the effectiveness of each car vac on both hard surfaces (like the cup holder and dashboard) and soft surfaces (like the floor mats, seats, and trunk) in a car. On soft surfaces, we spilled ¼ cup of Cheerios, sand, hair, and rubber mulch to mimic the messes you might encounter in your own vehicle. On hard surfaces, we spilled ¼ cup of sand. For vacuums that we exclusively tested in the real world, we made sure that a variety of debris was already present in our cars before proceeding with our testing period.
We noted how many passes it took to suck up the debris, and whether any got stuck or tangled in the vacuum. We tried out the different included attachments to see how easy it was to use them and whether they were effective. During this test, we also rated each car vacuum for maneuverability, noting whether it was easy to navigate each into tight crevices and between vents. We also rated the portability and noise level of each pick. We noted whether you could hold a conversation over it or not, and whether the corded or cordless design was easy to carry and hold, or whether we had to adjust our grip often.
After all of these tests were complete, we tested the ease of emptying each vacuum, evaluating how messy or simple the process was from start to finish. We then considered our entire testing experience when rating the overall value of the vacuum. For 20 car vacuums that we only tested in our lab, we took eight of the top-performing models home and used them in our own cars for two months to determine how they might perform long-term. We reported our experiences and incorporated the results alongside our lab-testing insights. All of the data turned into this list of what we believe are the very best car vacuums for keeping your interior fresh.
What to Look for in a Car Vacuum
For a handheld cleaning tool like a car vacuum, weight is a key feature to take into consideration before you make your final purchase. Most models should be relatively lightweight, especially corded models that aren’t laden with a rechargeable battery. Meanwhile, cordless car vacuums, as well as ones that come with an array of accessories, may weigh slightly more and, therefore, be a little more cumbersome to handle while cleaning. At about 7.5 pounds, our Best for Detailing pick, the Armor All VOM205P Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum is our heaviest pick on this list.
Most car vacuums can plug directly into your car’s 12-volt outlet, making them a breeze to take with you and clean on the go. “Corded vacuums are ideal because they are more powerful, long-lasting, and you don’t have to worry about running out of power in the middle of the job,” says Igor Pomishchyk, owner of EcoStates Elite Car Detailing. Of course, these models are corded, which limits their reach and mobility.
If you opt for a cordless option instead, make sure to consider its battery life and how it recharges. Some models can recharge via a USB-C port, while others will need access to a conventional household outlet for three to four hours at a time. Our Best Overall pick, the Baseus A2 Pro Car Vacuum Cleaner, charges through a USB-C port, which is similar to the port used for charging most iPhones. This model will have to be plugged into a household outlet, but its longer-than-average runtime makes it a great option for busy families.
If you hope to use your car vacuum for deep cleaning, make sure it has the attachments to get the job done. A crevice tool can access tight spaces, an extension hose can reach under seats, and an upholstery brush can dredge up ground-in dirt from seats and floor mats. A model that lacks these accessories might not be able to clean your vehicle as thoroughly as you’d like. You can learn more about the best way to clean floor mats and to properly clean cloth car seats by reading our guides.
Our Best for Attachments pick, the Dewalt 20-Volt Max Stick Vacuum, comes with five tools that will help you achieve your optimal clean. Notably, though, a corresponding battery often has to be purchased separately.
It’s no secret that the filter of a car vacuum gets dirty quickly. Sucking up fine particles, like dirt, dust, and sand, can quickly clog filters and hinder the vacuum’s suction power. Car vacuums equipped with a washable filter make for easier maintenance and don’t require frequent replacement. Just allow the filter to dry fully before reassembling and using the vacuum. Manufacturers usually recommend 24 hours of drying time.
Some sophisticated car vacuums may come with a HEPA filter, which can filter particles as small as 0.3 microns. These filters are best for people who suffer from allergies or are looking to clean pet dander smells out of their cars and homes. You can learn more about HEPA filters by reading our guide.
For battery-powered car vacuums, a charging dock is a valuable feature to look for. The convenience of a cordless car vacuum is quickly ruined by a low battery, but a charging dock helps to reduce the likelihood of that occurring. By putting your cordless car vacuum back on the charger after each use, it maintains a full battery and is ready to go at any time. Our Best Overall, Runner-Up pick, the Black+Decker Gen 2 Flex Vacuum, has a charging dock that allows the vacuum to sit upright and near an outlet, without having to prop it against a wall or piece of furniture.
Some charging docks also include accessory storage. This can be a big plus since it puts attachments like a brush or crevice tool within easy reach when it’s time to clean.
Whether you keep your car vacuum stashed in the trunk of your vehicle, on a shelf in the garage, or tucked into a coat closet, a storage bag keeps the vacuum and its accessories organized and accessible. A bag can save time and frustration when you need to clean up a mess in a hurry and don’t want to waste time searching for accessories, or when you’re carrying the vacuum and its various attachments to your vehicle. Our Best Compact vacuum, the Auto Joe ATJ-V501 12-Volt Corded Car Vacuum Cleaner, not only includes a storage bag but also comes with several accessories to make cleaning your car’s interior a breeze.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erica Puisis has been a writer for The Spruce since 2017, specializing as a product researcher for both large and small appliances. To find the best options for car vacuums, she personally tested 15 models in her vehicle, comparing each vacuum’s ability to capture debris (including cereal, sand, mulch, and hair) from hard and soft surfaces. Notes were also made regarding maneuverability, portability, noise levels, and how simple it is to empty the dustbin.
- Emma Phelps, an associate commerce writer for The Spruce, added the latest tested models to this roundup, including ones we thought fell short of expectations in recent testing. Phelps also incorporated long-term testing feedback seen in the “How It Performed Long-Term” callouts throughout this roundup, noting our experiences with products after formerly testing them in The Lab.
- Igor Pomishchyk, owner of NYC-based EcoStates Elite Car Detailing, provided input on the design features to look for in a car vacuum, as well as factors to consider when deciding on corded versus cordless car vacuums.