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The right car vacuum can make cleaning your vehicle's interior easier and more efficient. To find the best options, we purchased 15 car vacuums from a variety of brands and tested them in real-world conditions. We timed each product's unboxing and setup process, evaluated its effectiveness on hard and soft surfaces using debris (like cereal, sand, mulch, and hair), and rated how easy it is to empty the dust bin. When shopping, you'll need to decide between a cordless and corded version, and factor in a vacuum's weight and maneuverability, along with any included accessories.
The BLACK+DECKER Flex Auto Vacuum was the clear winner because it cleared debris from all surfaces and offered steady suction, thanks to its 12V power supply cable. The built-in flexible hose and handy attachments provided us with plenty of reach while cleaning a vehicle, too.
Here, the best car vacuums on the market, backed by our thorough testing.
Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER Flex Auto Compact Bagless Handheld Vacuum
Built-in, flexible hose for extra reach
Easy-to-empty dust bin
Good suction power
Narrow hose diameter
What do buyers say? 75% of 3,200+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
The BLACK+DECKER Flex Auto Vacuum impressed us with its design, suction power, and portability, earning it the top spot among the car vacuums we tested. To start, it weighs 3.3 pounds and is basically assembled out of the box. It took our tester just 42 seconds to unpack this car vacuum and have it ready for action on both hard and soft surfaces. This corded model delivers fade-free suction with the help of a 12V outlet, and has a 16-foot power cable plus an additional 4-foot integrated hose. This gives you 20 feet of reach for accessing every area of your vehicle.
The Flex has a simple accessory package that only includes a combination brush and nozzle tool, along with a long crevice attachment. However, when combined with the reach of the flexible hose, our tester felt like this vacuum covered all the bases for car cleaning. A clever design keeps the footprint small, and its square base means that it can rest on the floor of your vehicle or the ground as you go about your vacuuming. We did find it tipped over during testing, so you will need to keep an eye on the unit if you’re really reaching for a spot and pulling the cord excessively.
When it came to effectiveness testing, the Flex did a particularly outstanding job on clearing sand from hard surface areas, including a dusty dashboard and cup holders. On soft surfaces like car mats, we had to employ the use of attachments to boost the vacuum’s effectiveness, especially for clearing sand and hair, so any pet owner may need to put in a little extra elbow grease. It cleared most types of debris in three or fewer passes, but we did run into a problem with mulch. The diameter of the cleaning hose was just too narrow to pass the mulch to the dust bin. On the plus side, the narrow hose diameter means that children’s toys are less likely to be sucked up accidentally.
All in all, the suction power and user-friendly design were enough for our tester to overlook the car vacuum’s narrow hose diameter. The overall feel and use of this car vacuum is efficient, capable, and convenient. While the noise level was average and we enjoy cord-free operation of a car vacuum, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this car vacuum won’t ever run out of battery power. The clear dust bin is incredibly intuitive to open and empties in a clean, simple way. Despite the small, 0.59-quart dust bin, you also won’t need to run to the garbage to empty it too often, either.
Best Budget: THISWORX Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner
Useful attachments with storage bag
Lightweight and maneuverable
Strong suction power
May spray some fine particles from exhaust vent
Some debris can become lodged in tip of vacuum nozzle
Ready to go out of the box, this affordable car vacuum cleaner is basic, but efficient. It plugs into your car’s 12V outlet and gives you 16 feet of cord to work with you as you vacuum hard and soft areas, like upholstery, car carpeting, and cup holders. In our product testing, we were pleased with its performance on both types of surfaces. The suction was superb, according to our tester: “It’s strong enough to grab pieces of cereal from underneath levers for the hood and gas tank, saving me the step of using a smaller attachment to reach this tight area.” A flexible attachment hose looked flimsy, but proved to be very secure when we connected the crevice tool or brush tool to it. It gives you extra reach for under car seats or into door pockets—spots that are hard to reach with the wide body of this handheld vacuum.
The frills-free THISWORX car vacuum isn’t without its shortcomings, but they aren’t enough to discredit it for light-duty clean-up on your vehicle. We wish that the nozzle tip of the vacuum detached, like some other handheld car vacuums, since a piece of cereal or hair could become lodged at the end of the vacuum. It also only features a basic filter, which did allow some fine particles of sand to pass through. We noticed a few grains of sand escaping from the exhaust on the vacuum, but only after we had vacuumed nearly an entire ¼-cup of sand. If you plan to do a lot of fine particle clean-up (like sand or dirt), it would probably help to frequently empty the dust bin. Our tester found it easy to detach the dust bin and empty it into the trash. It takes just a few shakes to clear the bin of debris before re-inserting the filter and attaching the dust bin to the vacuum.
Best Splurge: Hoover ONEPWR Blade MAX AutoVac Vacuum Cleaner
Plenty of useful accessories
Includes two rechargeable batteries
Large dust bin
Fast battery recharge time
No stand for vacuum or accessories
Can’t reach into tight areas without the crevice tool
If cleaning your car is one of life’s little luxuries, then it’s worth investing in a premium car vacuum. More basic car vacuums may be able to get the job done, but with less convenience and ease than what you’ll find using the Hoover ONEPWR Blade MAX. This cordless car vac offers the longest runtime of the nine cordless options we considered, and includes a slew of accessories that make quick work of large and small debris alike. It’s no surprise that it’s the most expensive option we tested, but it’s worth the splurge for the extra battery life, suction power, and large-capacity dust bin. It also was very quiet on its standard suction mode, resulting in a 5-star rating from our tester for this attribute.
This vacuum looked the most intimidating to assemble and did take nearly four minutes to do so, but the process was far from complex or challenging. The components click together easily and the vacuum is ready for use—once you charge the batteries. It’s worth noting that Hoover includes two lithium-ion batteries with this cordless vacuum to extend the runtime of this vacuum to about 45 minutes. Each battery fully charges in three to four hours, which is about half the charging time of some other battery-operated car vacuums we tested.
When tested on hard surfaces, the Hoover ONEPWR Blade MAX zipped across the car dashboard, clearing sand quickly and easily in a single pass. With the use of attachments, it also reaches into cup holders, compartments, and door pockets. It performs well on soft surfaces too, clearing carpeting of hair, mulch, sand, and cereal in just one to two passes. We found the boosted suction mode works especially well for capturing fine particles that are embedded in car carpeting with less elbow grease when compared to some other car vacuums. The motorized brush tool is also a big help for hair, clearing short and long strands in two passes.
User-friendly features that elevate the experience of using this cordless vacuum include a long, flexible hose and an extra-large dust bin. While the manufacturer doesn’t provide the size of the dust bin, our product tester notes that it’s significantly larger than nearly every car vacuum tested. “It’s simple to release the dust bin from the vacuum and its large opening means that dirt and debris are easily released into the garbage can. It definitely has enough capacity to vacuum my entire sedan before needing to be emptied.” It would be great to see a charging stand for this cordless vacuum, since it feels like something we would want to keep handy at all times, but it does include a useful hanging storage bag to house the attachments.
Best Cordless: eufy by Anker HomeVac H30 Venture
Two modes of powerful suction
Includes charging stand
Very loud on Max mode
Small dust bin
The eufy HomeVac H30 Venture is both convenient and capable, making it our top recommendation for a cordless car vacuum. After trying nine different cordless models, our tester was most impressed by the way this model performed on hard and soft surfaces. (It earned 5 stars for overall effectiveness.) The nozzle of the eufy HomeVac H30 is wide enough to capture large debris, like mulch, which is something that other cordless car vacuums struggled with. At the same time, it also vacuums up even fine debris like sand and strands of hair. We found the 2-in-1 crevice tool very convenient to use since we could flip down the bristles for extra agitation when needed. The dust bin is small, as expected for a compact car vacuum. Still, it didn’t fill up even after capturing ¼ cup of Cheerios, plus hair and mulch. The dust bin is easy to empty and slides out along a track, which did get a little jammed up with sand. It has a washable filter, which is a plus.
At about 20 minutes, battery runtime is average for this cordless car vacuum. A charging stand is included and makes it easier to ensure that the battery stays charged up when not in use. We love the fact that this vacuum includes multiple power modes—Max and Eco—letting us add extra power when needed (like when clearing hair from vehicle carpeting) or conserving battery life for more basic messes. The HomeVac H30 packs some serious suction power, but it’s worth noting that it also was one of the noisiest vacuums of the bunch. Our tester says, “The noise level is annoying, and it even has a piercing or whining noise at times. I wish it was quieter, but I think it's the trade-off for the tremendous suction power.”
Best Corded: BLACK+DECKER BDH1220AV 12V Car Vacuum
Long nozzle provides excellent reach
Large-capacity dust bin
Power cable wraps around base of vacuum
Plastic construction feels flimsy
Narrow nozzle opening
Battery-powered car vacuums offer cordless maneuverability, but experience fading power and a drained battery after as little as 20 minutes or so of vacuuming. If you want to deep-clean your vehicle without worrying about your car vacuum giving up in the middle of the job, a corded model like the BLACK+DECKER 12V Car Vacuum is our top recommendation. We tested six corded car vacuums and this option was our favorite for its dustbuster design, long nozzle, and useful attachments.
The BLACK+DECKER car vac looks similar to a standard household dustbuster, but is designed to operate efficiently in a vehicle. It’s equipped with a 12V charger and a 16-foot power cable, giving you room to reach high and low spots in your car. It has a long nozzle that we found great for reaching under the seat of a sedan as we tracked down cereal, sand, and hair. For extra reach, a flexible hose is included and you can pair it with a long crevice tool or brush. It only took a handful of passes to clear debris from soft surfaces, and a single pass or two on hard surfaces.
However, our tester does report that the nozzle opening of this corded car vacuum is too narrow for especially large debris. “I thought it was doing great capturing large pieces of mulch I spread around the floor of the vehicle. But then, I realized none was entering the clear dust bin. Turns out all the mulch was jammed in the nozzle. It has enough suction to pick up the debris, but too small of an opening to capture it.”
Despite this single shortcoming in our testing, we appreciate how well this car vacuum maneuvered, especially when using the included hose and attachments. The noise level was average for a car vacuum and didn’t make our ears ring. When the cleaning session was over, our tester appreciated being able to wrap the power cord around the base of the vacuum and put all the accessories in a storage bag. “Everything packages up neat and tidy," they said. "It would be easy to store this vacuum in the trunk or a cabinet in the garage.”
Best Compact: Brigii M1 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Includes variety of attachments and carrying case
Good battery life
Small dust bin
Round body of vacuum limits reach
This compact car vacuum is just 10 inches tall and weighs only about 1 pound, but surprised our tester with its capable suction and useful attachments. The Brigii Handheld Vacuum Cleaner features a polished metal exterior and cylindrical body with a clear dust bin. Setup was complete in about 30 seconds and the vacuum can keep cleaning for up to 25 minutes before needing a recharge.
Based on its small size, it’s obvious that this compact car vacuum is meant for quick clean-ups and light messes. When tested on hard surfaces, it cleared sand from our cup holders and dashboard in a single pass. Due to the narrow nozzle opening, we had to make repeat passes to capture the wide swath of sand we spread across the dashboard, but the ergonomic design of the vacuum didn’t make it feel like a chore. On soft surfaces, the Brigii shines with small but firm debris, like the cereal we dumped on the floor and around the seat.
It’s worth noting that mulch was too big to pass through the Brigii’s narrow nozzle, and we wouldn’t recommend it for fine particle pick-up. It eventually succeeded at clearing sand from the carpeting, but not after spreading it around a bit. A washable stainless steel and HEPA filter make maintenance fast and easy for this vacuum, and the filter did a good job of keeping fine particles from reaching the motor. Everything about this car vacuum is lightweight, tidy, and efficient. It includes a carrying case for the vacuum itself and its attachments, so we could see keeping it in the glove box or trunk for easy access.
Best for Detailing: Armor All VOM205P Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum
Huge dust bin capacity
Also picks up wet messes
Must be plugged into 110V outlet
Lacks wheels for better mobility
The Armor All VOM205P Portable Wet/Dry Vacuum is the best choice if you need a car vacuum to tackle any type of mess in your vehicle. It’s hard to beat the versatility of this model if you’re looking for a car vacuum for detailing since it has a strong motor that packs plenty of power and a great selection of accessories to reach into every corner or crevice. Plus, as a wet-dry car vacuum, this shop vac from Armor All can pick up liquid spills along with dry debris. We were also impressed with its large capacity bin, which holds 2.5 gallons. According to our tester, “It’s very simple to empty—like dumping out a bucket. Just be sure that you have good aim into your trash can.”
Despite its power and size, we were surprised during testing with how quiet this vacuum is. It didn’t make us cringe every time we powered it on and you could easily talk over it. The suction was substantial, making large and small debris disappear with one or two passes. It’s worth noting that the attached 4-foot hose isn’t the most effective vacuuming tool on its own, but when paired with one of the many included accessories, it does a great job on either hard or soft surfaces. This car vacuum was also able to easily handle bulky items like mulch, which is something that tripped up a number of other models we tested. The small detailing accessories are well-suited for cleaning air vents, cup holders, or other crevices that need regular attention during car detailing.
We wish that this wet-dry vacuum had wheels, making it easier for the vacuum to follow our movements. It tipped over once during our testing, but no debris spilled from the tightly sealed lid. Keep in mind that this car vacuum needs to be plugged into a 110V outlet. It doesn’t have a battery source or a charger for the car outlet.
The BLACK+DECKER Flex Auto Vacuum is our top choice for a handy, capable car vacuum. It has a compact footprint but substantial suction to clean hard and soft surfaces in your vehicle. It operates using your vehicle's 12V charger, so you never need to worry about battery life. If you're shopping for the most affordable option, we appreciated the basic but efficient features of the corded THISWORX Portable Car Vacuum. It has a bulkier design and basic accessories, but worked well at removing debris and includes a storage bag.
How We Tested the Car Vacuums
We purchased and sent 15 car vacuums to our at-home tester, who put each option to work in their own car and in real-world situations for six hours. To start, they 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, they 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 their car. On soft surfaces, they spilled ¼ cup of Cheerios, sand, hair, and rubber mulch to mimic all the messes you might encounter in your own vehicle. On hard surfaces, they spilled ¼ cup of sand.
They noted how many passes it took to suck up the debris, and whether any got stuck or tangled in the vacuum. In addition, they tried out the different included attachments to see how easy it was to use them and whether they were effective as well. During this test, they also rated each car vacuum for maneuverability, noting whether it was easy to navigate each into tight crevices and between vents. They also rated the portability and noise level of each pick. They 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 if they had to adjust their grip often.
After all of these tests were complete, they tested the ease of emptying each vacuum, evaluating how messy or simple the process was from start to finish. They then considered their entire testing experience when rating the overall value of the vacuum. All of the consistently applied 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.
Most car vacuums can plug directly into your car's 12V outlet, making them a breeze to take with you and clean on-the-go. 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 USB port, while others will need access to a conventional household outlet for several hours at a time.
If you hope to use this 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.
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 be sure that you allow the filter to fully dry before reassembling and using the vacuum. Manufacturers usually recommend 24 hours of drying time.
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 this 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.
Some charging docks also include accessory storage. This is a big plus, since it puts attachments like a brush or crevice tool within easy reach when its 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. This 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 carrying the vacuum and its various attachments to your vehicle.
How do I clean a car vacuum?
Like any other handheld vacuum or dustbuster, your car vacuum likely has a dust cup or bag that you should be able to access, remove, and empty with relative ease. Beyond that, check your car vacuum's manual to determine whether its filter is washable or needs to be replaced. The manual should also note whether it's safe to clean out the interior with soap and water or if you should only use a dust rag. If you wash it with water, let all of its components dry before reassembling.
How do I use a car vacuum to clean between the car seats?
If messes tend to accumulate in the spaces between your car's seats, a car vacuum with the right set of attachments will come in handy. Make sure your model of choice comes with a crevice tool and an extension hose, both of which will allow you to reach tight spaces that the vacuum's main body can't. In addition to these useful attachments, you can blow debris out of even the smallest spaces. Some picks come with a blower feature that lets you target certain areas this way.
Will using a car vacuum wear down my car's battery?
If your car vacuum of choice relies on your car's 12V outlet for power, you might be concerned that running it will drain the car's battery. This is, indeed, a risk, but it will depend on how powerful your battery is, how long you vacuum for, and how weak or old your car's battery is. It's unlikely that a quick clean will completely deplete your battery, but if you're worried or vacuuming the whole interior, you might be better off opting for a cordless model.
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 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 dust bin. We included options for both cordless and corded models, since each one offers its own advantages.
For additional insight on how to choose the best car vacuums, we also interviewed Igor Pomishchyk, owner of NYC-based EcoStates Elite Car Detailing. He 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.