• April 22, 2024, 3:30 pm

The best car vacuums in 2023 SoftAIT

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Update : Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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You—plus family and friends—spend a lot of time in your vehicle(s), which means so does dirt, crumbs … and, hopefully, a car vacuum cleaner. You probably drop food, spill beverages, and have hairs everywhere, especially if you have kids and/or a dog. Plus, there are all the things that might have traveled on the bottom of your shoes. All good reasons to keep a portable vacuum in your car, truck, SUV, EV, etc. We researched and tested a variety of options to find the best car vacuums for any and every need and preference.

How we chose the best car vacuums 

As a freelance journalist for over 10 years, I’ve reviewed home and tech products for publications including CNN Underscored, NBC News Select, Popular Mechanics, Architectural Digest, Tom’s Guide, The Daily Beast, USA Today’s Reviewed, TechRadar, Better Homes & Gardens, and Bob Vila. Our car vacuums were selected based on personal testing, extensive research, recommendations from fellow critics, and user impressions.

The best car vacuums: Reviews & Recommendations

Vacuuming your car can be tricky. There’s insufficient space to let a robot vacuum roam freely in your vehicle. And those bulky uprights won’t even fit. No, you need something with different features to reach those french fries under your car seat and the pet fur on every surface. Effectively removing debris from upholstery, floor mats, and carpets can take your car detailing efforts to the next level, and you can unlock that achievement with one of our picks for the best vacuums for cars.

Best overall: Black+Decker 20V Max Flex

Why it made the cut: Dirt and debris can’t hide from the 4-foot hose on this vacuum, which can clean your car’s interior from top to bottom.

Specs

  • Type: Cordless hand vacuum
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Battery life: 12 minutes
  • Charging time: 4 hours
  • Dustbin Capacity: 17 ounces
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • 4-foot flexible hose
  • Pet hair brush
  • 3-stage filtration

Cons

The Black+Decker 20V Max Flex Hand Vacuum is our choice as the best car vacuum, and it’s also the best for pet hair. The most difficult part of cleaning the interior of a vehicle is trying to reach deep under and between the seats, especially those tight spaces. Removing pet hair isn’t fun, either. However, this car vacuum cleaner makes it quite easy to do both. That’s because it has a 4-foot flexible hose that provides enough flexibility to clean every inch of your car. The hose and handle can be unwrapped from the vacuum for extended cleaning and then wrapped back underneath when the hose is not needed.

The pet hair attachment has a wide head that scoops up pet hair effortlessly from the floor or seat. There’s also a 2-in-1 nozzle accessory with a brush tool that’s useful for cleaning and dusting, and the crevice tool is slim enough to fit into tight spaces. Regardless of the attachment used, the car vacuum cleaner provides 24 AW of suction and is easy to maneuver. And the top handle also makes it easy to transport. However, the cordless vacuum only has a 12-minute battery life.

The 20V Max has a washable dust container, a washable pre-filter, and a pleated filter. And the freestanding charging dock has accessory storage mounts to neatly keep everything tidy and in one place. 

Best cordless: iRobot H1  

Why it made the cut: Lose the cord with this sturdy, well-built vacuum, which has an adjustable trigger control, two cleaning modes, and three attachments to tackle any debris in your car.

Specs

  • Type: Cordless handheld
  • Weight: 3.79 pounds
  • Battery Life: 15 minutes on high/24 minutes on low
  • Charging Time: 4 hours
  • Dustbin Capacity: 0.4L
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Adjustable trigger control
  • Two suction modes
  • Dual filtration system

Cons

  • No storage for attachments

The iRobot H1 Handheld Vacuum is well-made and designed to last for a long time. It’s a wireless vacuum that’s easy to grasp and hold onto, which makes it easy to operate. You can turn it on and change modes with just one hand. In continuous cleaning mode, the trigger locks into place to avoid the hand strains that occur from keeping your finger on the trigger.

The iRobot H1 has two modes: a low power, when using the vacuum normally, and a high-power mode when you need more suction power. And since it’s battery-operated, there are no cords to trip over or local outlets to search for. In addition, the dual filtration system—which also has a washable exhaust filter and dustbin filter—keeps dust, pollen, and pet dander inside. And the dustbin can be emptied without touching the debris. Just press the lid release to open and empty the bin.

Attachments include an upholstery tool for vacuuming pet hair, a crevice tool for reaching in between seats and other tight spaces, and a 2-in-1 combination tool/hard bristle brush for vacuuming carpets and other surfaces. The vacuum cleaner can also be wall-mounted to store it out of the way (and includes a wall-mount bracket, drywall anchors, and screws). However, there is no place to store the attachments.

Best in-car charge: Eufy HomeVac H20   

The Eufy HomeVac H20 on a blue and white background

Why it made the cut: You can charge this vacuum as you drive with the car charger.

Specs

  • Type: Cordless handheld
  • Weight: 1.44 pounds
  • Battery life: 30 minutes in eco mode/9 minutes max mode
  • Charging time: 1 hour
  • Dustbin capacity: 17 ounces
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Charge via car’s cigarette lighter
  • Charges in one hour
  • Built-in LED light

Cons

  • Wall charger is a separate cost

Convenience usually comes at a price, and most cordless vacuum cleaners have a short battery life, requiring you to stop and recharge. However, the Eufy HomeVac H20 is unique for two reasons. First, it has a 30-minute runtime longer than most handheld car vacuums. However, it’s also unique because you can charge it in your car using the vehicle’s cigarette lighter in just one hour (it can also be charged via a wall charger, although that’s a separate purchase).  

The lightweight vacuum has 40 AW suction power and two power modes: eco, recommended for daily use, and a max power mode for extensive cleaning. There’s also a built-in LED light to illuminate dust. The built-in retractable crevice tool can clean corners and other tight spaces in the console, while the brush head cleans hard surfaces (like air conditioning vents) and the extension hose. The filters and dust cups are washable, and the storage bag makes it easy to house and transport the vacuum cleaner so that you can toss it in the glove compartment or trunk.  

Best wet-dry: Bissell Garage Pro  

A Bissell Garage Pro vacuum on a blue and white background

Why it made the cut: This wall-mountable wet-dry vac has everything you need for DIY car detailing at home.

Specs

  • Type: Corded canister
  • Weight: 33.2 pounds
  • Battery life: N/A – corded
  • Charging time: N/A
  • Dustbin capacity: 4 gallons
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Wet and dry modes
  • Blower hose
  • Mounts on the wall

Cons

  • Need wall space for vacuum and hose

You can save time and money spent at a car detailing shop with the Bissell Garage Pro Wall-Mounted Wet Dry Car Vacuum. It can be used to vacuum dry messes and also pick up wet messes—in fact, Bissell knows a thing or two about wet/dry vacs and has two entries on our list of the best vacuum-mop combos. The icons on the face plate provide status notifications: the full dirt tank icon turns yellow when the 4-gallon dirt tank needs to be emptied, and the full water tank icon turns red when the water level is too high. Since the vacuum cleaner can be mounted on the wall, it doesn’t take up valuable floor or shelf space. Also, the wall mounting kit includes a 32-foot hose to reach deep into vehicles. In addition, the blower hose can dislodge dirt in the corners and crevices of the car.

Accessories (and they are plentiful) include a large area cleaning tool, multisurface floor tool, extension wands, crevice tool, dusting brush with soft bristles, 5-inch small upholstery tool, 3-inch precision suction tool, precision blower tool, and also small, medium, and large detailing tools. When not in use, there’s an accessory bag for storage. The primary filter should be cleaned with a damp cloth, and the secondary filter is washable. And if you are looking beyond the best car vacuum for detailing and need to clean your home’s carpets, check out the best Bissell carpet cleaners.

Best convertible: Dreametech T30  

The Dreametech T30 on a blue and white background

Why it made the cut: The Dreamtech T30 is versatile enough to be used as either a car vacuum or a cordless stick vacuum to clean your home’s floors, depending on your needs.

Specs

  • Type: Cordless stick/handheld
  • Weight: 3.88 pounds
  • Battery life: 90 minutes/eco, 35 minutes/standard, 7.5 turbo
  • Charging time: 4 hours
  • Dustbin capacity: 0.16 Gal
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Converts to stick vacuum
  • Automatically adjusts suction
  • 90-minute battery life

Cons

If you’re looking for a car vacuum and a cordless stick vacuum, we recommend the Dreametech T30 Cordless Stick Vacuum. It’s pricey but contains everything you need to clean your car and home. Since it’s also a cordless stick vacuum, it’s more powerful than typical car vacuum cleaners and has strong suction pressure (190AW) to remove debris quickly. There are three suction modes. In eco mode, the vacuum has a 90-minute battery life. In standard mode, it’s 35 minutes; in turbo mode, you’ll get 7.5 minutes. The vacuum cleaner also has an auto-adapt cleaning mode. When using the auto mode, it can sense whether you’re vacuuming a light, thick, or medium level of dust and then adjust accordingly.

The onscreen display shows the remaining battery life, selected cleaning mode, dust detection level, and even the cleaning record. Used in handheld mode, accessories include the 2-in-1 brush nozzle, soft dusting brush, mini electric brush, crevice nozzle (with LED light), and extension hose. However, by attaching the carbon fiber rod, the vacuum cleaner can also reach deep into your cargo area to remove hidden dirt. The T30 can be mounted on the wall for storage and charging, and the mount also has places to house attachments. The filter is washable and reusable.

Best handheld: Shark Wandvac WV201

A Shark Wandvac on a blue and white background

Why it made the cut: This lightweight vacuum has an ergonomic design, powerful suction, and superfast charging capabilities.

Specs

  • Type: Cordless handheld
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Battery life: 10 minutes
  • Charging time: 2.5 hours
  • Dustbin capacity: 0.08 gallons
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Compact charging dock
  • LED indicators
  • Quick, hands-free emptying

Cons

The Shark Wandvac Handheld vacuum has such a sleek, streamlined design that it’s hard to believe the power of this device, which has a 120W motor with HyperVelocity suction power. The ergonomic handle makes the car vacuum easy to hold, while the long slim body makes it easy to use the handheld to reach under seats and in cargo areas. Attachments include a multisurface pet tool to vacuum pet hair and a duster crevice tool for consoles and other areas.

The compact charging base doesn’t take up much space and has room to store the accessories as well. Speaking of charging, the Shark Wandvac only takes 2.5 hours to recharge, compared to many car vacuums that take 4 hours. And an LED light shows the battery status (low, charging, or charged). When it’s time to empty the dust bin, the eject button is several inches away (and on the other side), so your hands won’t even come close to the dirt. In addition, the filter is washable.

Best compact design: Baseus A3

The Baseus A3 on a blue and white background

Why it made the cut: It can fit in your cup holder and is smaller than some flashlights but cleans well.

Specs

  • Type: Cordless handheld
  • Weight: 1.66 pounds
  • Battery life: 17-45 minutes
  • Charging time: 3.5 hours
  • Dustbin capacity: 500 milliliters
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Type C charging
  • Long battery life
  • Light functions as flashlight

Cons

  •  Type C charging may be inconvenient for some

With a 135W motor and suction power ranging from 10000 to 15000PA, the compact Baseus A3 Handheld Vacuum is a stylish yet functional device. At 11.6 inches tall and 2.2 inches wide, it’s slimmer than some flashlights and can sit in the cupholder in your console—or you can store it in the glove compartment. It also has the longest battery life on our list—up to 45 minutes, depending on the setting (there are two suction modes: low and high).

The vacuum uses Type-C fast charging, so you can even use a portable charger with it, and it has an LED light on the top to see under your seats. In fact, the LED light can also serve as a flashlight when you’re not using the vacuum cleaner (the light can be turned on or off). Attachments include a 2-in-1 crevice tool. The high-density honeycomb fine steel filter is washable.

Best budget: Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded

A Bissell Cleanview Deluxe Corded car vacuum on a blue and white background

Why it made the cut: If you want a simple, economically priced corded handheld vacuum, this one even has specialty tools.

Specs

  • Type: Corded handheld
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Battery life: N/A – corded
  • Charging time: N/A
  • Dustbin capacity: 0.78 L
  • Attachments: Yes

Pros

  • Great price
  • Includes attachments
  • 18-foot cord

Cons

  • Pleated filter is not washable

What’s not to like about the Bissell CleanView Deluxe Corded Car Vacuum? It’s a budget-priced option that punches above its weight. The handheld vacuum is lightweight and easy to use. It’s got a cord, but the 18-foot cord provides plenty of freedom. The flexible rubber contour nozzle vacuums pet hair, car upholstery, and other areas. There’s also a wide-mouth tool to quickly clean larger areas in the vehicle and a crevice tool that can fit into tight spaces, like in between seats and around consoles.   

The vacuum also has a hose to help extend its reach, which lets you reach far underneath car seats and also clean deep in the trunk. And the handle on top of the unit makes it easy to operate and transport. Although the dirt container and screen can be rinsed with cold water, the pleated HEPA filter is not washable.

What to consider when buying the best car vacuum

The best car vacuum for your needs may differ from the best car vacuum for someone else. For example, I have a 2-seater sports car, and cleaning it is always quick and easy. However, if you drive a large SUV, are cleaning up behind kids, or want to clean multiple vehicles simultaneously, your preferences may differ. Also, note that we didn’t include any big and bulky car vacuums on our list. In the old days, those were the only choices but advances in vacuum technology have pretty much eliminated the need to use those dinosaurs. These are some of the factors and features to consider when searching for a new car vacuum cleaner.

Battery life

For a small or relatively clean car, 10 or 12 minutes is more than enough battery life. But with a larger or dirtier car—or even one with cracks and crevices that are difficult to get into, you may need more time—may need longer battery life. Also, keep in mind that car vacuum cleaners and handheld models, in general, tend to have shorter battery life spans—and tend to take several hours to recharge.

Corded vs. cordless

While cordless vacuum cleaners are more convenient, as we noted above, car vacs have a short battery life. A corded vacuum cleaner eliminates the need to stop and recharge. However, you’ll have to deal with the hassle of the cord getting in your way, and you’ll need to ensure that the wall outlet is close enough for the vacuum to reach your car. I have corded and cordless models, and the issue with anything corded is making sure it can reach the wall outlet in my garage—although, sometimes, I cheat by plugging the corded vacuum into my solar generator. If you don’t have a garage, a cordless option definitely seems like the better choice.

Portability and storage

One thing you might not have considered: Why will you store the car vacuum when it’s not in use? If you have a garage, a wall-mounted model keeps it conveniently located and also saves valuable floor and shelf space.

If you don’t have a garage, you can store it in the house or keep it in your vehicle. Some models may take up valuable space in either location. However, some car vacs are small enough to store in your cup holder (although that might not seem like an ideal location for everyone).

Other features

If you have pet family members, car vacuum cleaners with pet tools can make removing hair much less tedious. Even if you don’t, attachments can make it easier to clean underneath and between seats and all other nooks and crannies in your vehicle. Flexible hoses, pet hair brushes, crevice tools, and dusting brushes are just some of the various attachments available. We’ve included the attachments that come with the car vacuums, but some companies also sell other attachments separately.

FAQs

Q: How do I maintain a car vacuum?

Car vacuum cleaners tend to have a small dust cup, so it’s important to empty and clean it after each use. Otherwise, you’ll stop when the troubleshooting lights start blinking or when the suction power stops being effective. After emptying the contents into the trash, wipe the dust bin with a dry cloth. With most models, the next step is to hand wash it with soap and water and let it air dry. However, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Clean the filters once or twice a week if they’re dirty, and always let them dry completely before reinstalling. Every six months is a good guide for replacing the car vacuum’s filters.

Q: Will using a car vacuum wear down my car’s battery?

That may have been the case when car vacuums were plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter. However, all models on our list are either battery-operated or plug into wall outlets. Only one can even be charged via the car’s cigarette lighter (although that’s an alternative option, not the primary charging method)—and this should be fine for occasional use, assuming you don’t have a weak battery, parasitic drains, a defective alternator, or other vehicular problems.

Q: Are car vacuums worth it?

Yes, car vacuums are definitely worth it—if you get the right one for your needs. Just as you (hopefully) clean your home routinely, your vehicle must also be cleaned regularly. Car detailing services can be expensive, and self-serve car washes tend to use large, bulky one-size fits-all vacuums that may not adequately clean your vehicle. And in both instances, there are other factors to consider, such as convenience and availability.

Final thoughts on the best vacuums for cars

With your own car vacuum, you can clean your vehicle anytime—and as much as you’d like. And you don’t have to sit in line waiting for your turn or hope the equipment is working properly. Considering how much time we spend in our vehicles, dropped and spilled food, dirt, dust, and other debris should be regularly removed, and the best car vacuums make this a quick and easy chore.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.



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