11 Best Car Vacuum Cleaners: Your Buyer’s Guide

car vacuums

123RF (Ian Allenden)

Cleaning the car is something most of us wish we did more often. Remembering to stop by the car wash, where you often have to have cash or coins on hand for the machines, to vacuum up the beach sand from a few months ago can often slip from the priority list. Keep your car looking its best and preserve value by investing in a car vacuum cleaner you can easily use at home.

Which car vacuum cleaner is best?

Adam's Barrel Car Vacuum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 20 foot cord and 10 foot hose
  • 5 gallon capacity
  • 1200 watts for powerful suction
Price: $79.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
METROVAC VNB-94BD Vac N' Blo Auto Vacuum Cleaner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Four peak horsepower
  • Works as a vacuum or as a blower
  • Heavy duty casters
Price: $299.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Wet/dry capability
  • Small and light for good portability
  • On-board accessory storage
Price: $55.70 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Bissel Multi Auto Cordless Car Hand Vacuum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Car-focused toolset
  • Cordless and compact
  • LED lights and on-board storage
Price: $159.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Dyson V7 Car+Boat Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum Cleaner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Cordless
  • Extremely powerful for a handheld
  • Easy to empty
Price: $339.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
ThisWorx TWC-02 Car Vacuum Cleaner Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 16 foot long 12V power cord
  • Includes carrying case
  • Comes with a number of nozzles
Price: $39.97 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black & Decker Dustbuster Advanced Clean+ HHVK515J00 Cordless Handheld Vacuum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Two speeds for tough dirt
  • Long crevice tool built-in
  • Easy empty receptacle
Price: $89.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Ryobi P7131 One+ 18V Lithium Ion Battery Powered Cordless Hand Vacuum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Part of the Ryobi One+ system of tools
  • Includes a combination brush/crevice tool
  • Fast charging and solid battery life
Price: $35.55 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Shark WV201 WANDVAC Handheld Vacuum Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very compact, especially for the power
  • Charging base keeps things tidy
  • One-touch emptying
Price: $99.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Bissel Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum/Blower Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 32 foot hose for full coverage
  • Seven piece attachment kit
  • Wet/dry function with 12 amp power
Price: $178.60 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Miele Compact C2 Electro+ Canister Vacuum Bundle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Six speeds for optimal performance
  • Very powerful suction
  • Expected 20 year life span
Price: $659.15 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Adam’s Barrel Car Vacuum

    Pros:
    • 20 foot cord and 10 foot hose
    • 5 gallon capacity
    • 1200 watts for powerful suction
    Cons:
    • Not cordless
    • No wheels
    • Some units arrive damaged

    We’ve featured Adam’s detailing products on previous posts for car cleaning kits and car wash soaps because they offer a full line of solid products to keep your car looking its best. This car vacuum splits the difference between a shop vac style canister vacuum and a dedicated detailers tool.

    Though it’s not cordless, it does have a generous 20 foot cord, which should be considerably longer than most shop vac cords. It also comes with a ten foot rubbarized metal hose for easy access to all areas of the car.

    Three specialized tips are included: a brush attachment, a chisel and a narrowed round attachment. The onboard filter is washable and reusable, while the canister itself can hold five gallons.

    Compared to the average shop vac, suction level is about the same, if not a bit better, but this one is quite a bit quieter for the power level. You also get a one year warranty in case you should have any issues.

  2. 2. METROVAC VNB-94BD Vac N’ Blo Auto Vacuum Cleaner

    Pros:
    • Four peak horsepower
    • Works as a vacuum or as a blower
    • Heavy duty casters
    Cons:
    • Not cordless
    • Not a wet/dry vac
    • Requires vacuum bags

    If you need a lot of power for your car cleaning, you might consider this four horsepower, 1,350 watt vacuum that is mounted to a four-wheel dolly for easy portability. It also comes with a shoulder strap, so you can easily carry it with you around your car, which could be particularly handy in trucks.

    In addition to being a powerful vacuum, this is reversible and can be used as a blower. Sometimes when cleaning a car, it can be helpful to drive out some stuck dirt by just blowing it out, particularly in the case of stubborn sand.

    This ships with several attachments to make cleaning easier: two 20 inch extensions, carpet tool, Pik-All nozzle, crevice tool, dusting brush, blower nozzle, inflator adaptor, and a micro cleaning tool kit. Vitually all of these are squarely aimed at cleaning cars in particular, while other options on this list tend to favor more general-purpose attachments.

    You’ll need to have dust bags on hand, and they do tend to reduce power when cleaning very fine dust. If you prefer to carry the unit and don’t want the dolly, go for the Model VNB-83BA.

  3. 3. ArmorAll AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

    Pros:
    • Wet/dry capability
    • Small and light for good portability
    • On-board accessory storage
    Cons:
    • Not cordless
    • Suction could be a bit stronger
    • Latches holding the halves together could be more secure

    Like Adam’s, ArmorAll makes a wide variety of car cleaning products, including this handy compact wet/dry vac. It’s very comparable to the Shop-Vac 2036000, but comes with tools more specifically focused on car cleaning.

    This lightweight vacuum includes a 2.5 horsepower motor and 2.5 gallon tank attched to a 10 foot cord and six foot hose. It weighs only seven pounds, making it easy to relocate to all parts of your car.

    Those included tools are a 2-in-1 utility nozzle, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle, and detail brush, in contrast to the similar Shop-Vac’s crevice tool and standard flat nozzle. All of these and the cord store on the vacuum itself so they’re always ready to hand.

    This is cheap enough that replacing it once or even twice would keep it below the cost of many other options on this list, but still includes a two-year warranty in case you should have any problems.

    To augment this for smaller cleanings, you could also pickup the ArmorAll AA12V1, which is a small dust buster style vacuum that can handle wet/dry jobs and plugs into a 12v socket in your car.

    If you like this general idea but want a lot more power (and have a lot more to spend), you could consider pairing a Ridgid 50313 4000RV Portable Wet Dry Vacuum, which has five peak horsepower, with Rigid’s Six-Piece Auto Detailing Vacuum Accessory Kit.

  4. 4. Bissel Multi Auto Cordless Car Hand Vacuum

    Pros:
    • Car-focused toolset
    • Cordless and compact
    • LED lights and on-board storage
    Cons:
    • Not wet/dry
    • Suction is not quite up to competitors
    • Short battery life

    Bissel makes this competitor to Dyson’s car-focused model, offering a compact vacuum with the right tools for car cleaning. It’s also cordless, using a 22V lithium-ion battery that works for about 20 minutes per charge.

    The tools include a hidden two foot extension hose which resides in the body of the machine. A crevice tool, motorized brush, and dusting brush are also included. All but the motorized brush can store on the device itself so they’re always handy. There’s also an LED light for better visibility in dark cracks.

    Ultimately, this will work best as a spot cleaner between deeper cleans with one of the corded options on this list. The suction isn’t on the same level as those, but still, the size and price are just about right for a decent, lithium-ion powered hand vac.

    Bissell also maeks the AutoMate, which takes a more traditional handheld vacuum form factor.

  5. 5. Dyson V7 Car+Boat Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

    Pros:
    • Cordless
    • Extremely powerful for a handheld
    • Easy to empty
    Cons:
    • Expensive
    • No crevice tool included
    • Only half an hour on a charge

    If you’re a fan of the high-powered Dyson designs, they make a handheld vacuum cleaner that would work nicely for car cleaning. It even ships with a car charger in case you want to have it in the car with you. Some cars have 12v outlets in the cargo area, which would be perfect for keeping this charged.

    The big draw of any Dyson is the very high power relative to their size, and the fact that the power doesn’t fade with use. The power also doesn’t fade as the battery draws down and remains at peak power until there isn’t enough charge to run the vacuum, usually around half an hour.

    Tools are included with this vacuum in addition to the car charger: an extension hose, a combination brush tool, and a motorized tool. The motorized tool is good for pulling pet hair out of upholstery especially. There is no crevice tool, although interestingly if you opt for the blue version, that bundle swaps the car charger for a crevice tool and is otherwise very similar. You can also get a third-party attachment set that works with the D7.

    Dyson vacuums all come with a two-year warranty covering parts and labor in case you should have any issues.

  6. 6. ThisWorx TWC-02 Car Vacuum Cleaner

    Pros:
    • 16 foot long 12V power cord
    • Includes carrying case
    • Comes with a number of nozzles
    Cons:
    • Not cordless
    • Somewhat loud for what it is
    • Some units are a bit glitchy

    The original ThisWorx car vacuum – the TWC-01 – has been enormously popular for some time and is inherently car-focused. Rather than being a rechargable cordless device, this uses the 12V socket in your car via a generous 16.5 foot cord to provide constant power.

    This is the second version, which offers a power increase over the original and adds a light to the top. It’s also slightly more compact and with a flatter bottom for easily sliding under seats.

    The tool kit includes a two foot hose, a crevice tool, and a brush tool. Interestingly, this is billed as wet/dry, which is somewhat rare for devices like this. The HEPA filter is reusable and they also ship a small brush for cleaning it out.

    There are many variations on this design, including Hotor Corded Car Vacuum and the Bagotte Car Vacuum. The ThisWorx is the best-selling of them, though, and worth considering, especially since the price is very reasonable.

  7. 7. Black & Decker Dustbuster Advanced Clean+ HHVK515J00 Cordless Handheld Vacuum

    Pros:
    • Two speeds for tough dirt
    • Long crevice tool built-in
    • Easy empty receptacle
    Cons:
    • Only about 10 minutes on a charge
    • Very loud
    • Only one tool

    As the progentiors from which all Dustbuster-branded items descend, Black + Decker still make very many variations on the theme. This particular model, the Advanced Clean+ HHVK515J00, is among their most powerful using 20v power in a very compact form factor.

    Rather than supplying a bunch of different car tools, this one has but one: an extendable crevice tool. It also has two speeds; one a normal suction and one a Powerboost function that can deal with difficult spots.

    The internal filters are the standard Dustbuster filters everyone recognizes, which makes them cheap and ubiquitous. Interestingly, the run time on this is among the highest of any of their devices and tops out around 10 minutes. To be fair, it’s supplying a fair bit of power and it may not even take that long for a decent clean-up of your floors and seats. Certainly good enough for maintenance and spot cleaning.

    Among Black + Decker’s many other offerings is the Max Flex Handheld Vacuum, which is often mentioned as a good option for car care. There’s a Flex Car Vacuum, as well, which uses a 12v cord and skips the battery altogether. Neither of them are quite as compact, but you may prefer the hose to the extenable crevice tool.

    If you like the idea of this Dustbuster but don’t want to spend this much on it, you can also opt for Model HHVK320J10, which is a 16V version and is considerably cheaper at the time of this writing. You can also still find outgoing models for a lot less, but they aren’t as powerful. Of course, just about any Dustbuster can clean up simple spills in the car, so feel free to browse them all before making a decision. We think the combination of crevice tool and max power should do the job in most situations.

  8. 8. Ryobi P7131 One+ 18V Lithium Ion Battery Powered Cordless Hand Vacuum

    Pros:
    • Part of the Ryobi One+ system of tools
    • Includes a combination brush/crevice tool
    • Fast charging and solid battery life
    Cons:
    • Battery sold separately
    • Not as specialized as other options
    • Battery pack makes it on the heavy side compared to rivals

    Ultimately, this is a fairly normal Dustbuster-style hand vacuum, but what makes it a good fit as a car vacuum is the fact that it is part of Ryobi’s One+ battery system as opposed to needing its own dedicated outlet or charger. If you have other Ryobi tools already or are thinking of investing in a set, you’ll always have charged batteries on hand to clean your car with.

    That said, the batteries for this are sold separately, but the price of the vacuum and a two battery kit are lower together than some of the vacuums on this list by themselves, which don’t grant additional utility outside of cleaning. This is especially good if you have only infrequent need for your power tools as giving these batteries multiple jobs increases their value.

    The vacuum itself is a robust hand vac unit using a double filter system, one half of which is replaceable. A combination brush and crevice tool is included for tight spots. Especially compared to other household rechargeable hand vacs, the suction power is better, as is battery life, though it still can’t compete on the level of corded versions. Still, rather than a device whose internal battery will eventually weaken, this will always have steady portable power.

    If you don’t have any Ryobi gear but still like the idea of a modular battery system for this purpose, Hoover offers the ONEPWR line, which features a hand vacuum, a cordless stick vacuum, a floor and rug cleaner, and a spot upholstery cleaner that all use the same replaceable, rechargeable lithium ion battery. A combination of the hand vac and upholstery cleaner would make a good car cleaning kit of themselves, but they are on the pricey side.

  9. 9. Shark WV201 WANDVAC Handheld Vacuum

    Pros:
    • Very compact, especially for the power
    • Charging base keeps things tidy
    • One-touch emptying
    Cons:
    • Small receptacle capacity
    • Very loud
    • Short battery life

    Shark’s line of vacuum and vacuum-adjacent products exist almost solely to provide a lower-cost alternative to Dyson products. Most of them feature mechanisms with no loss of suction and they’re robustly built with very good power overall. This model updates their previous cordless handheld vacuum into a very modern, relatively advanced unit.

    I owned the Shark Pet-Perfect II and can attest to the fact that the motor is strong enough to cause some torque spin when in operation. This new version has a better battery and similar power but comes in a more compact form factor. It also includes a charging base, which is a key upgrade because the cord on the one I have was notorious for falling out, which was a problem because the charge time was excessive.

    In addition to being a relatively tapered unit on the whole, this ships with a crevice tool and a multi surface tool to extend cleaning performance. Those tools store on the recharging base, as well.

    Due to its small size and powerful motor, performance time on a charge is relatively low, usually around ten minutes of constant use. This makes it best for spot cleaning or for smaller cars.

  10. 10. Bissel Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum/Blower

    Pros:
    • 32 foot hose for full coverage
    • Seven piece attachment kit
    • Wet/dry capability
    Cons:
    • Very long hose is hard to clean when clogged
    • Must be installed indoors
    • Suction could be a bit better

    Most of this list focuses on smaller or at least portable vacuums, assuming you have to bring the vacuum to the car. But if you have a garage and can bring the car to the vacuum, you might try the total opposite approach and try this wall-mounted option specifically designed for cars.

    Once mounted, this vacuum (which also has a reverse mode and can double as a blower, if needed) attaches to a 32 foot hose so you can easily clean all areas of your car from the fixed point on the wall.

    Included with this is seven attachments and two extension tubes for maximum versatility. All of them are usable for both wet and dry messes, which makes this a wall-mounted shop vac, as well.

    The four gallon tank is somewhat see-through so you can gauge the fullness at all times. A great option for the garage owners among us.

    Of course, this isn’t the only wall-mounted option going. You could consider the VacuMaid GV50PRO Professional Wall Mounted Garage and Car Vacuum, which has a 50 foot hose, but uses paper HEPA bags and isn’t wet/dry. The motors are more robust and they have stronger suction, but they’re more expensive and can’t be used for wet messes.

  11. 11. Miele Compact C2 Electro+ Canister Vacuum Bundle

    Pros:
    • Six speeds for optimal performance
    • Very powerful suction
    • Expected 20 year life span
    Cons:
    • Not cordless
    • Requires bag and filter replacement
    • Expensive

    Unlike their upright home-cleaning brethren, canister vacuums are designed to make use of the hose, which makes them a good choice for car cleaning. Upright vacuums tend to include the hose as a bonus, but they’re usually not well-considered and they’re certainly not the focus. Additionally, canister vacuums tend to be far more powerful for their size, and that’s certainly true of virtually all Miele models.

    This vacuum is made in Germany with superior build quality compared to many options on the market. These are regularly in service for 20 years or more and their power-to-weight ratio is excellent.

    This particular model features six speed settings so you can customize to your needs, or just keep the noise down when maxiumum power isn’t required. It weighs less than ten pounds and has a 20 foot cord that retracts into the machine via a footswitch for convenience.

    This bundle pack includes a crevice tool, an upholstery tool, a brush tool and a floor tool for a variety of jobs. Also included are 16 FJM Airclean FilterBags, a AH-50 Air Clean Filter, and four pre-motor filters, all of which can be purchased in a separate bundle when they need to be replaced.

    While this is already quite a pricey unit, it’s designed to last and generates good power. You could still upgrade further, however, to the Miele Blizzard CX-1 Cat & Dog Bagless Vacuum Cleaner, which of course has the advantage of being bagless. There’s also the upmarket Complete C3 Marin, which is among their most advanced offerings with a price that reflects it.

What are the best handheld vacuums?

Handheld vacuums - all of which descended from the original Black + Decker Dustbuster that debuted in 1979 at the National Hardware Show - make great car vacuums because they're portable and easy to maneuver into small spaces.

Our list features multiple handheld options, including the corded ThisWorx TWC-02, battery-interoperable Ryobi P7131, and even the latest and greatest from Black + Decker themselves, which is an upgraded unit of one of the most popular handheld vacuums on the market, the Black + Decker CHV1410L.

There are a multitude of dirt cheap off-brand ripoffs like the Moer Sky Wet/Dry Handheld, and Black + Decker even has an option under $30 at the time of this writing. The ones we've recommended on this list feature something car-specific about them, even if it's just the included tool bundle, but if you just want something cheap and easy, there are plenty of them out there.

Ultimately, we find that handheld vacuums work best for everyday, continual maintenance and you are likely to need to pair them with something a lot more powerful and often corded for deep cleans.

Does a car vacuum drain my car's battery?

If you're using a corded version designed for use with your car's 12v outlet, you'll be draining the battery as long as you're running the vacuum.

The ThisWorx TWC-02 requires constant power, whereas the Dyson V7 can use the car's power port to recharge and doesn't need constant power after. Of course, any normal household corded vacuum can also be run from your car with the help of a car power inverter.

The more powerful your vacuum, the quicker your car's battery will drain. You may need to run your car while you perform deep cleans, but it shouldn't be necessary for spot cleaning, unless you've got a very weak battery.

It's a good idea to take your car for out for a bit of a drive after using the battery to power something so the alternator has a chance to recharge the car's battery for the next start.

Car Vacuum Cleaners vs. AC System Vacuums vs. Vacuum Pumps

By now it's obvious that the point of this post is focused on interior car cleaning and care, in the vein of car cleaning kits. However, some valiant web search efforts can be stymied by overlapping terminology when it comes to the concepts of car plus vacuum.

A car vacuum cleaner is a straightforward device everyone should have some familiarity with, particularly after reading this article.

They cannot be used, however, to vacuum the AC system of your car. The air conditioning system is a closed loop of hoses that, in short, circulate air to the AC compressor, which uses rerfrigerant to generate cool air that can be blown into the cabin.

Sometimes that refrigerant runs low and requires refilling (which 99% of the time should be done by a professional). If you opt to do it yourself, it's necessary to vacuum the AC system, which means removing foreign debris and moisture so that the whole assembly runs optimally and doesn't cause damage to the parts therein.

Generally speaking, you should have a trained professional do this, but if you do the recharge yourself, it's something to keep in mind.

There is also such a thing as a vacuum pump in vehicles. In some engines, these pumps are used to power things like the brake system and air conditioning. If you're having issues like extremely poor fuel economy or the AC isn't working, the vacuum pump could be to blame. This is another item best left to the professionals.

Cleaning your car at home, though? That's easy, especially with the help of one of the car vacuum cleaners on this list.

See Also:

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