Even if you're the only person who sees the inside of your car, it's still important to keep it clean. Dust, crumbs, dirt and dander can quickly build up, making your car feel less cozy and maybe even irritating allergies or other conditions.
There are several vacuum cleaners designed specifically for smaller spaces like cars, making it easy to clean and preserve your vehicle's interior as a spotless sanctuary. They're more maneuverable than regular household vacuums and most shop vacs, and many are cordless and lightweight. They're uniquely for your car though, as most are too small or not powerful enough to clean a house (the Dyson V11 excluded).
Car vacuums come in handy. The only difficult part is finding which cleaner is right for you. Should you get a wet/dry vacuum cleaner? A cordless battery model? A handheld vac?
We've compiled a list of car vacuums that cuts across categories, making it a virtual lock that you'll find something that works for you. Based on their customer satisfaction ratings, here are eight of the best car vacuums on the market.
Best overall car vacuum: Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum
Best overall cordless car vacuum: Black and Decker MAX Lithium Pivot BDH2000PL
Five things to know before you buy a car vacuum
1. Do you need a wet/dry car vacuum cleaner, or just a dry one? A wet/dry vacuum allows you to pick up both wet spills and dry messes, but most vacuums are only approved for the latter.
2. Does your parking setup allow you to use a vacuum cleaner with a cord, or do you need a portable cordless vac? Cordless vacuums may be more convenient, but they also require charging.
3. Weight -- even small differences in weight add up after long cleaning sessions battling dirt and debris.
4. Do you have a pet that rides in your car? If so, they likely leave dander and dog hair, making them a major source of car mess. The HoLife corded vacuum cleaner and the Black and Decker 2000 series cordless are regularly ranked among the best vacuums for picking up pet hair.
5. Suction -- the more suction power a vacuum has, the more effectively it cleans, especially on carpeted surfaces. The Dyson V11 has the highest suction of any cleaner on the list, which is especially impressive given that it's a cordless handheld vac.
Make sure to answer all these questions before you buy anything, so you can then select which car vacuum cleaner is the best for your specific needs.
Car messes are made of more than dust, dirt and crumbs -- sometimes there are also spills and "accidents," and for those moments, you'll need a wet vac. It's even better if you can find a portable wet/dry vacuum to clean all sorts of messes, and that's where the Armor All AA255 comes in.
The Armor All AA255 may resemble a shop vac, but it's specifically designed for cleaning your car, with a nozzle and several crevice tools custom made for getting into nooks and crannies. It also converts to a blower, allowing it to easily remove debris that gathers on the outside of a car, like leaves or dirt.
The AA255 is a corded cleaner, but the six-foot hose adds some flex room to the reach afforded by the 10-foot cord. Its 2.5-gallon tank ensures that even large messes are little challenge. As for performance, the AA255 is consistently among the highest-rated car vacuums on retail sites such as Amazon, Walmart and AutoZone.
The Holife Handheld Vacuum Cleaner may look like a traditional Dustbuster, but it's much more. The cordless cleaner is actually a wet/dry vacuum, picking up spills as easily as soil and other dry debris. Its lithium-ion battery extends cleaning time, and the powerful motor performance offers 6 KPA of suction -- good for a handheld.
As with most handheld cleaning devices, Holife's can be used on minor household messes, as well as cars (one user review on the official website touts the product's ability to pick up cat litter). This makes it an easier alternative to vacuuming.
Basically, there's nothing too fancy about the Holife model, but it works really, really well. It's selling for only $40 on Amazon, making it an accessible and effective auto detailing helper.
Corded handheld vacuums
The Dustbuster-style Hotor car vacuum is a model of efficiency. At only 2.44 pounds, the Hotor is one of the lightest options available, which makes maneuvering in a car or cleaning for extended periods easier. The long power cord (16.4 feet) also gives you less to worry about during a car wash.
One thing to note about the Hotor -- the description on the Sears website notes that the vacuum has trouble picking up debris such as pet hair. If you have a pet that regularly rides in your car, it may be a good idea to consider a different option.
That said, it will be hard to beat a Hotor vac when it comes to price. Usually selling for $40 on Amazon, it boasts a super low price for an elite cleaning machine (its rating on the same site currently sits at 4.3 out of 5 with nearly 10,000 reviews). This means you can maintain a dirt-and dust-free car without breaking the bank.
If the Hotor isn't quite your cup of tea and you have a bit more money to spend, the Vacplus DC12V cleaner is another great option. Like the Hotor, it has a 16.4-foot-long power cord, and a set of attachments. It's also an even lighter hand vac than the Hotor, at just 21 ounces.
The attachments offered by the Vacplus make cleaning nooks in cars easy. There's a brush attachment, a long soft tube and a long-mouthed crevice tool that can reach just about anywhere in a vehicle -- even under the front seats.
Vacplus notes that the DC12V should be shut off after 15 minutes of continuous use in order to preserve the machine's motor service life. That's enough time to clean a car, but if you're looking to clean multiple vehicles, you may want to opt for something else.
With a unique design and an affordable price ($50), the Bissell Cleanview stands out from many competitors. It functions as a portable handheld Dustbuster, but also comes with a hose attachment for cleaning tighter areas. It boasts an 18-foot power cord, which really helps when doing a deep dive into the backseat.
The Cleanview boasts near-universal approval on Bissell's website, with 99% of respondents recommending the vac. People cite its superior suction and ability to reach and clean tight spaces as benefits.
At 5 pounds, the Cleanview is a bit heavier than the other hand vacuums on this list, but part of that weight comes from the large tank, which holds more dirt and debris and is easy to empty.
Cordless handheld vacuum cleaners
The Black & Decker Dustbuster offers a modern spin on an old classic. Like the Pivot, it's got a lithium-ion battery that allows for hours of cleaning (and it holds a charge for 18 months). It also has a sleek rotating nozzle that helps it dig deeper than many other handhelds.
This vac is also an environmentally conscious option if you're concerned with energy consumption. That's thanks to the model's Smart Charge Technology, which uses only half the energy of similar models.
All that, plus an affordable price (around $60 at most retailers). The CHV1410L is currently the top-selling handheld vacuum cleaner on Amazon, with a 4.2 average score based on more than 21,000 reviews.
You know what's annoying? Finally setting aside time to clean your car, and then finding that your vacuum's battery is drained. Fortunately, that disappointment can be all but eliminated with the Max Lithium Pivot, which boasts a lithium-ion battery capable of a four-hour power duration. That's enough time to clean a fleet of limousines!
In addition to the robust battery life, the Pivot has an ergonomic design with an adjustable nozzle that makes it ideal for cleaning hard-to-reach places in your car or home. It also boasts a three-stage filtration system that improves both power and cleanliness.
The Pivot is currently selling for $80 on Walmart, which is more costly than many of the cord vac options on this list. That said, the unique design and properties of the Pivot make it ideal for car cleaning, so the price may actually be a steal.
Dyson has a reputation for making some of the best cleaning machines available, and while they may cost more than their competitors' products, their popularity suggests they're worth the price. The Dyson V11 is no exception: a handheld, cordless vacuum that can clean your whole house just as effectively as it can clean your car.
Each of the various V11 models -- from the $600 Animal to the $800 Outsize -- come with a series of nozzle attachments that allow the Dyson to remove dust and dirt from crevices and tight spaces, making them ideal for a vehicle's interior. These battery-powered cleaners also boast twice the suction of many cordless hand vacuums.
As far as user ratings, the V11 is unmatched. On the Dyson website, it has a 4.8 rating out of 5, and on both Amazon and Costco, different models have 4.7 ratings out of 5. If price were no object, this vac would be the best overall, but it's worth a reminder that you can use it for cleaning your home, making the price more reasonable.
Best car vacuums in 2020
|Armor All AA255 Vacuum Cleaner||Wet/Dry||7 pounds||10 feet||$44|
|HoLife 3MO36BW Handheld Vacuum Cleaner||Wet/Dry||3.4 pounds||Cordless||$50|
|HOTOR B07FXRRHWT Car Vacuum Cleaner||Dry||2.4 pounds||16.4 feet||$40|
|Vacplus DC12V Vacuum Cleaner||Dry||2.5 pounds||16.4 feet||$124|
|Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Vacuum Cleaner||Dry||4.6 pounds||18 feet||$47|
|Black and Decker Dustbuster CHV1410L Vacuum Cleaner||Dry||2.6 pounds||Cordless||$55|
|Black and Decker MAX Lithium Pivot BDH2000PL Vacuum Cleaner||Dry||3 pounds||Cordless||$80|
|Dyson V11 Vacuum Cleaner||Dry||6.6 pounds||Cordless||$600|
Written by Scott Fried for Roadshow.