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Keeping a car in good shape takes a lot of routine maintenance and cleaning. While most people focus on the outside of their car or what’s under the hood, you can't ignore the car’s interior if you want to maximize its value and lifespan. A car’s interior quickly collects dust, debris, oils, and more as it is driven on a daily basis. For a quick and routine cleaning, you'll need a car vacuum.
Like home vacuums, these cleaning tools come in many shapes, weights, and sizes. Tending to be smaller and less powerful, you will need to decide between the consistent performance and limited range of a corded vacuum or the limited use and greater range of a battery-powered option. You should also keep an eye on the different accessories a vacuum offers to make the cleaning quicker and easier, like attachments for upholstery or small corners of your car.
Here, the best car vacuums on the market.
Best Overall: Hotor Corded Car Vacuum
Weight: 2.44 pounds | Bin Volume: Not listed | Cord Length: 16.4 feet | Included Accessories: Brush tool, soft hose, plastic tube
Reasonable price point
Functions best when car is running
While you should not expect a lot of suction and power out of a car vacuum compared to traditional household options, the best car vacuums will not leave you hanging when it comes time to clean the car. In fact, a good car vacuum balances power, suction consistency, and portability so you can weave your way around a car’s interior effortlessly anytime you need or want.
Weighing less than three pounds, the Hotor 4th Gen Car Vacuum takes the top spot for the portability and reliability it offers when you need to clean the car quickly anytime, anywhere. The vacuum comes with a small but powerful motor capable of a 4.5kPa suction level and a trio of attachments that will take care of most dust and small debris. Using the car’s 12V plug, you can plug this corded vacuum in and use it anywhere, even on the road.
Best for Pet Hair: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum
Weight: 3 pounds | Battery Life: 20 minutes | Bin Volume: 23 ounces | Included Accessories: Brush tool, pet tool, crevice tool
Motorized brush attachment
Steeper price point
Brief battery life
While it may be nice to have a pet beside you during a drive, your car’s interior may suffer from more hair and dirt. Pet hair can be a challenge to remove for most vacuums, but Bissell's Pet Hair Eraser is a powerful handheld vacuum with a specialized array of accessories to clean up after your furry friend. While the motorized brush tool dredges up embedded messes, the upholstery tool cleans up your car's seats, and the crevice tool removes pesky messes in between seats and in corners.
In addition to its attachments, this cordless vacuum is equipped with a lithium ion battery, which keeps it running for up to 17 minutes at a time. With unwavering suction and a three-level filtration system, this model from Bissell can handle messes from even the most excessive shedders.
Best Budget: IonVac Lightweight Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Weight: 3 pounds | Battery Life: 20 minutes | Bin Volume: 3.4 ounces | Included Accessories: Brush tool, extension wand
Saving money on a vacuum can mean sacrificing suction and battery life for the sake of a bargain. But IonVac's handheld vacuum comes at a fair price and runs for an intense 20 minutes before needing a recharge. This model features a sleek appearance, USB-chargeable battery, and relatively high-capacity dust cup given its diminutive size. Clocking in at less than three pounds and 13 inches long, this car vacuum is small but mighty, with surprising suction power.
This model's slight design allows it to reach tight spaces around your car's interior. And anything it can't reach on its own is made accessible with the help of the included crevice tool. It also comes with a soft hose and dust brush attachment, so the areas under and around your seats won't go uncleaned.
Best High End: Hoover ONEPWR Dust Chaser Cordless Mini Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Weight: 2.5 pounds | Battery Life: 35 minutes | Bin Volume: 3.84 ounces | Included Accessories: Upholstery tool, crevice tool
Limited dust cup capacity
With twice the suction power as Hoover's regular ONEPWR dustbuster and a battery life of 35 minutes, this little vacuum is an unexpected workhorse. It's a great pick if you're willing to spend a little more money on your next car vacuum.
The Hoover ONEPWR Dust Chaser comes with an extendable nozzle and a 2-in-1 crevice and dusting brush, allowing it to efficiently clean narrow spaces, floor mats, and upholstery. Plus, it weighs less than three pounds, so even longer cleanups won't feel like chores. The dual stage HEPA media filter captures 97.9 percent of dust, dirt, and allergens and the 3.84-ounce dirt cup releases and empties with ease. This model's suction won't fade with use and its filter can be rinsed and reused. If you're looking for a high-quality car vacuum that's built with small spaces in mind, this option from Hoover is a worthy investment.
Best for SUVs: BLACK+DECKER Flex Car Vacuum
Weight: 3.31 pounds | Bin Volume: 19 ounces | Cord Length: 16 feet | Included Accessories: Brush tool, flexible hose, wide nozzle tool, crevice tool
No cord wrap
SUVs present a unique challenge when cleaning since they have larger interiors and more space to cover. The main challenge with many car vacuums and SUV interiors is the cord. A limited cord length means you only have a small range to clean unless your SUV has multiple 12V outlets in the back rows. This is where a vacuum with an extra long cord comes in handy, like the 16-foot cable that comes with the Black+Decker Flexi Automotive Vacuum.
This model takes a unique approach to vehicle vacuum design. Featuring cyclonic suction often found on larger vacuums, this option creates a consistent and continuous air suction that is not affected by larger dust and debris. The included hose and pivoting nozzle make it easy to reach in between seats and into cracks when necessary as well. Despite its power and wide array of accessories, this car vacuum remains relatively lightweight, clocking in at slightly over three pounds.
Best Compact: Bissell AeroSlim Hand Vacuum
Weight: 1.37 pounds | Battery Life: 12 minutes | Bin Volume: 3.3 ounces | Included Accessories: 2-in-1 crevice tool and dusting brush
Limited dust cup capacity
Those who want to be ready to pick up a mess at a moment’s notice may be best served by keeping a smaller vacuum right in their car. Bissell’s AeroSlim model is a handy, compact option that’s small enough to fit in the trunk, back seat, or glove compartment. The two-in-one crevice tool and brush attachment stores alongside the vacuum for maximum space efficiency and reaches dirt and dust under, around, and even in the car’s seats.
Despite this model’s diminutive size (it weighs less than a pound and a half), it boasts powerful suction and a 12-minute battery life. Users can charge it through a regular power outlet or a USB port if they’re on the go.
Best With Accessories: ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner
Weight: 2.4 pounds | Bin Volume: Not listed | Cord Length: 16 feet | Included Accessories: Brush tool, flexible hose, plastic tube
Wide variety of sophisticated attachments
Less suction than expected
With the right attachments, you can clean every corner of your car, not just the mats and seats. The ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner provides users with all the necessary tools to clean their vehicle’s interior from top to bottom, with a 16-foot power cord and maneuverable weight (less than two and a half pounds) to make it happen. Its flathead nozzle creates a small profile for cracks and under the seats. Its extension tube reaches deep under the seats. Finally, its brush head is perfect for getting clinging hairs and larger debris out of the seats and mats without needing a full-size vacuum.
In addition to its attachments, ThisWorx’s model empties cleanly into the trash and comes with a filter-cleaning brush, plus an extra HEPA filter when the time comes to replace the current one.
Best Wet Vac Car Vacuum: Rigid 4 Gal. Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
Weight: 18.32 pounds | Bin Volume: 4 gallons | Cord Length: 20 feet | Included Accessories: Extension wands, utility nozzle, car nozzle
For heavy-duty cleaning
Not designed for narrow crevices
Heavier than average car vacuum
The only downside to most car vacuums is the lack of power they have compared to other suction devices. For really dirty cars, you may need something with a larger capacity and more powerful motor. Wet/dry vacuums, often found in homes and wood shops for better suction, are the perfect option for a good, deep clean. When designed for use in a car, this type of vacuum is the best choice for tough jobs.
The Ridgid 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vac is the tool to choose when nothing else will get the job done. As a wet/dry vacuum, the motor offers 5 horsepower which overshadows the normal handheld options you will find for the car. Of course, its size and power means it weighs quite a bit more than your average car vacuum, clocking in at more than 18 pounds. In addition to its sheer cleaning power, this vacuum's extension hose, utility nozzle, specialized car nozzle, and 20-foot power cord provide ample reach to get a deep clean of the seats and the car's interior overall.
The Hotor Corded Car Vacuum (view at Amazon) checks all of our essential boxes for a car vacuum: It’s portable and reliable, with a convenient 12V plug for on-the-go cleanups. You can trust its consistent suction to remove dust, dirt, and other annoying messes that accumulate in your car with ease. For a lower price, your best option is the GALSOAR Handheld Car Vacuum (view at Amazon), an affordable model that can tackle wet and dry messes anywhere in your car, thanks to its flexible hose and crevice attachments.
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.
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.
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, a can of compressed air, which can blow fine debris out of even the smallest spaces, is a great supplementary cleaning tool. However, if you have the time, the most efficient way to clean around your car's seats is to remove them completely, then put your car vacuum to work.
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 cleanup will completely deplete your battery, but if you're worried or vacuuming the whole interior, you might be better off starting the car and letting it run while you clean—if for no other reason than for your peace of mind.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Sara Coughlin, a freelance writer and The Spruce’s small appliances expert. From canister models to dustbusters, she’s researched what it takes for a vacuum to stand out in a vast and broad market—and what to look for in up-and-coming models.