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The Best Car Vacuums

Updated

After seven weeks of research and testing car vacuums on sand, crumbs, dust, and debris in multiple cars, we can recommend the Black and Decker – BDH2000PL Pivot as the best car vacuum. This vacuum offers the power, convenience, and attachment tools to keep your car’s interior spotless. A great cordless option is the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A. Its motorized brush head, robust motor, and strong suction last a full 45 minutes off of a single charge.

Our Top Choices

The Best Overall


BLACK+DECKER

BDH2000PL Pivot

The Best Corded


Bissell

Cleanview Deluxe

Also Great Cordless


Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

2390A

After seven weeks of research and testing car vacuums on sand, crumbs, dust, and debris in multiple cars, we can recommend the Black and Decker – BDH2000PL Pivot as the best car vacuum. This vacuum offers the power, convenience, and attachment tools to keep your car’s interior spotless. A great cordless option is the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A. Its motorized brush head, robust motor, and strong suction last a full 45 minutes off of a single charge.

Table of contents

The 12 car vacuums we tested

ProductPriceCordFeaturesOverall
1. BLACK+DECKER - BDH2000PL Pivot$$$CordlessPivoting nozzle, wide mouth design, 3-stage filtration★★★★★
2. Bissell - Cleanview Deluxe Handheld$$CordedIncluded crevice tool, rubber contour nozzle, multi-level filtration★★★★★
3. Bissell Pet Hair Eraser - 2390A$$$CordlessMotorized brush head, triple filtration, large collection bin★★★★★
4. BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster$$CordlessMotorized brush head, long-lasting charge★★★
5. Banaton$CordedWet and dry vacuuming, extra long cord★★★
6. Carrand - AutoSpa$$CordedSpecialty head attachments, tool storage★★★★
7. Armor All - 2.5 Gallon Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum$$CordedWorks dry and wet, 2.5 gallon storage tank★★★
8. Dirt Devil - Scorpion $CordedQuick flip crevice tool, bagless design★★★
9. BLACK+DECKER - CHV1410L$$CordlessRotating slim nozzle, holds a charge for up to 18 months★★
10. Holife - Cordless Handheld (Discontinued)$$$CordlessQuick-charging battery, stainless steel filter★★★★★
11. Rytek (Discontinued)$$CordedMultiple attachments for car cleaning★★★★
12. Holife - Hand Vacuum Cleaner (Discontinued)$$$CordlessMulti-layer filter, works dry and wet★★★★

Best overall: BLACK+DECKER – Pivot

By the time we finished our testing, the leader of the pack was quite clear. The BLACK+DECKER – BDH2000PL Pivot had the strongest suction at 35 air watts and did the best job on tough dirt and sand.

Its wide mouth was effective on car seats and mats, while the attached crevice tool and brush allowed us to conveniently get into the smallest crevices in the car. The pivot design made it so that the vacuum could clean at odd angles, which minimized the craning and stretching we had to do. We found it much more comfortable to clean with than the fixed nose of the BLACK+DECKER – CHV1410L model.

We love that the crevice tool and brush, which can get to hard-to-reach spaces, are attached to the machine. You can also purchase an additional Car Accessory Kit, which includes a flexible hose that stretches up for 4 feet, large brush attachment, and storage bag. While the vacuum itself has an attached brush attachment that we found more than adequate, these extra attachments might come in handy for the most fastidious car owner.

This model is a battery-powered product, which in the end, we felt was most convenient for cleaning a car. The vacuum’s power stayed strong for about 20 minutes before it needed a recharge. This was plenty of time to clean the car effectively without feeling the need to hurry.

Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER - Pivot

The BLACK+DECKER had the strongest power of any vacuum we tested, and it cleaned up every type of mess. Its pivot design meant we could reach every crevice of the car.

While this vacuum boasts strong power and convenience, it also has a three-stage filtration system to help trap allergens. The BLACK+DECKER- BDH2000PL Pivot also boasts a translucent bagless dust collector so that you can see the dirt you have captured, and how much space you have left before needing to empty it. We found that the dust collector had plenty of space left over after we finished our vacuuming sessions.

When we cleaned out the vacuum’s collection bin, the process was straightforward. You can simply empty the contents into the trash, or depending on the mess you just cleaned up, you can also wash the plastic in the sink to get it fully clean. Once you are done, the vacuum can also be folded in half for convenient storage.

Key takeaways:

  • The pivot design on the BLACK+DECKER – BDH2000PL Pivot helped us get into corners and odd angles of a car. The vacuum was also ergonomic and comfortable to use.
  • It cleaned sand and other dirt with the least amount of passes, thanks to its powerful suction.
  • The battery lasted as long as we needed it and did not lose power along the way.
  • The machine has plenty of capacity for dirt, was easy to clean out, and has a triple filtration system to ensure that you aren’t breathing the dirt and dust you are trying to clean.

Best corded option: Bissell – Cleanview Deluxe

Our favorite car vacuum with a cord was the Bissell. It provided strong suction with a 4-amp motor and effectively cleaned up the sand we spilled in just three passes. It was the only vacuum we tested with a rubber attachment, which makes capturing pet hair easier.

We loved that the Bissell is effective in cleaning all parts of a car. Its wide suction area is great for car mats and seats, while its hose and attachments allow you to get into the nooks and crannies. This is unlike some of the other vacuums we tested, like the Black and Decker – CHV1410L, which has a narrow opening, making it take much longer to thoroughly clean the mats and seats in a vehicle.

The cord on this model is 18 feet, which makes a significant difference in accessing all areas of the car. It is significantly longer than the other options we tested, including the shortest cord of the pack, on the Armor All, measuring in at only 10 feet. If you have a garage with an AC power outlet that is accessible to your car and you don’t want to have to worry about charging your car vacuum before using it, this model is an excellent option. It also has a cord wrap system for convenient storage.

Not only is it powerful with a conveniently long cord, but the Bissell also has a large collection bin so that you can clean your car multiple times without having to empty it. The section of the vacuum that collects the dirt is clear, so you can see when it is getting full. It pops off easily for emptying. This vacuum also boasts a HEPA filter, which is important for cutting down on allergens that you may breathe in while vacuuming your car.

Best Corded: Bissell - Cleanview Deluxe

This sturdy little vacuum packs a punch against dirt and dust in your car. Its long cord and multiple attachments ensure that you can tackle those hard-to-reach spots in your vehicle.

At 4.7 pounds, this model is a little heavier than some of the other options, including our top pick, the Black and Decker -BDH2000PL Pivot, which is only 3 pounds, but it still felt comfortable to hold while we cleaned. Because this model has a hose that attaches to the vacuum body, you can use the hose with attachments throughout your car, without having to constantly move the base of the vacuum.

Key takeaways:

  • The Bissell – Cleanview Deluxe provides strong — and consistent power — to take care of even the biggest messes or the most stubborn dirt.
  • The wide suction area is great for seats and mats in your car, while the attachments do a good job in the hard-to-reach areas.
  • You don’t need to worry about charging the battery before use.
  • The collection bin was roomy enough to handle several cleaning sessions without having to be emptied.
  • A HEPA filter helps minimize allergens.

Also great: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A

Bissell - 2390a portable vacuum

Robust motor power combined with useful attachments make the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A is another great choice for a cordless car vacuum. By simply turning the machine on, you can actually feel its suction power as it revs up in your hand. This was also one of the quietest car vacuums that we tested, even within the closed confines of our car.

It’s powered by a 14-volt lithium-ion battery that, when fully charged, lasted 45 minutes of running time, which is certainly enough to clean a car’s interior with power to spare. In fact, after we finished vacuuming the car, we vacuumed kitchen corners, window casements, a home office, and most of a 20-step staircase.

This Bissell model has three attachments: a motorized head, a crevice tool, and a duster that protects the dashboard from getting scratched. The head is 5 inches in length with a 3-inch opening that, at first, seemed too small. However, the head is equipped with a spiral of thick bristles that efficiently whisks up dirt and debris.

Also Great Cordless: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser - 2390A

This Bissell cordless model has a powerful motor, strong suction, and effective attachment tools that will keep your car's interior in tip-top shape.

The crevice tool is 7-inches long and enables you to get under car seats, mat grooves, and storage pockets. We were skeptical of the dusting tool, but its raised oval head with thin strips of lint-brush fabric glided gently over leather and did indeed pick up dust.

The vacuum’s large collection bin holds .7 liter (or about 3 cups) of debris. The washable filter is encased in two filtration devices that prevent spillage when the bin is emptied out.

At 4.4 pounds, the Bissell is heavier than other handheld car vacuums, but we found the weight worked in its favor when used indoors on furniture and floors. Its weight in conjunction with the motorized brush head seemed to self-propel the vacuum forward, especially over hardwood floors.

We have two gripes about this Bissell model. A storage unit is not included, and the vacuum can’t be stored vertically, so you’ll need to find a place where it can be stored horizontally. Second, though the lithium-ion battery held its charge for 45 minutes, it can take six to eight hours to fully recharge.

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A is about three dollars more than our top pick for cordless car vacuums, but it’s a worthy contender as a close runner-up.

Key takeaways:

  • The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A has a powerful motor that creates strong suction that picks up dirt and debris in one pass.
  • Its motorized brush head with thick bristles efficiently whisks up everything in its path.
  • The lithium-ion battery gives 45 minutes of vacuuming time, but it can take up to eight hours to recharge.

Other products we tested

BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster – HLVB315JCZ01

Black & Decker - Dustbuster

The BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster – HLVB315JCZ01 has similar features as other models, but it lacks the suction power to pick up larger debris – like grass, leaves, or pet hair — from car cushions and fabric. We’re not sure if its high-pitched squeal means that this model’s motor is strong, but it was at times unbearable when vacuuming in close quarters.

This particular model comes with a motorized brush head that’s supposed to draw up debris. It was effective on smooth surfaces, but the skimpy brush bristles did very little on carpeted areas and upholstery. Please note that if you want a crevice tool, it’s only included with a different model, so when purchasing, read the description carefully.

The Dustbuster was decent in sucking up ground-in dirt and dried mud from car mats, but overall, we needed to pass over the upholstery and other car fabric two or three times. It appeared as if the vacuum had picked up everything, but then we ran the Bissell Pet Eraser over the same spot and heard debris sucked into its collection bin.

We also had issues with its washable filter. It’s made of flimsy material and has no or filtration device to prevent spillage. Consequently, when we emptied the bin, dust, and dirt exploded everywhere.

On the plus side, its lithium-ion battery stayed charged for 45 minutes, but it took several hours to recharge. The vacuum weighs less than three pounds, so we didn’t tire using it for an extended period. The BLACK+DECKER Dustbuster – HLVB315JCZ01 is reasonably priced, but spend the extra money on our top pick, the BLACK+DECKER Pivot, or the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser, and you’ll get a much better car vacuum.

Banaton – Corded Vacuum

Banaton corded car vacuum

The Banaton – Corded Vacuum is a sleek, budget-priced car vacuum, and although it’s similar to the discontinued Rytek, our previous budget pick, it wasn’t as powerful or as effective in cleaning up dirt and debris. The Banaton has the usual attachments — brush, crevice, flexible hose — that are considerably smaller than other handheld vacuums and made with a lower-grade plastic.

The Banaton is actually quite attractive with its copper-colored decorative siding, and it has a handy LED lamp that sufficiently illuminates dark niches and under car seats. At less than two pounds, the Banaton was the lightest vacuum we tested, which makes it easy to lift and maneuver in and around tight spaces.

Unfortunately, it has less power and struggled to pick up the sand in our tests, and we had to work harder by going over the same area several times. The brush attachment was better in lifting the cereal from floor mats and carpet than the crevice attachment, but it could barely pick up pet hair.

The Banaton is only powered by your vehicle’s 12V outlet, and although it has 16-foot power cord, it was inconvenient having to wrangle the cord so it wouldn’t get tangled. The Banaton has a stainless steel filter, but it’s encased in a small cup that also needs to be removed and emptied. When we did, debris spilled out.

We tested the Banaton after the new Holife car vacuum, and in the end, we wished we had started with the Banaton because we had to re-do the areas with the Holife that the Banaton failed to clean.

Carrand – Auto Spa

We loved the Carrand for its attachments, which were very clearly designed for the car — more so than any of the other car vacuums we tested. It even has an attachment to buff the console. It also has several attachments to clean cup holders, air vents and the console without leaving scratches.

This vacuum had very strong suction, taking care of our sand test in just two passes. The Carrand is bulkier than some of the other options. The vacuum itself sits on the ground, with a hose to reach into your car for cleaning. Since this is a corded model, you are tethered to your garage’s AC outlet. The length of the cord is on the shorter side at 12 feet, so an extension cord might come in handy depending on how close you can get your car to your power outlet.

The machine blows warm air, which the company describes as a minimal resistance design that allows air to flow more freely for more cleaning power. We didn’t have any problem with the air flow — it did not seem to cause allergies, but those who are very sensitive to dust might want to take this feature into consideration.

The main drawback we found with this particular model is the storage for the attachments, which is at the side of the base of the vacuum. As we reached into the car to vacuum a seat, the movement of the hose knocked the attachments loose onto the garage floor. Even despite the attachment storage issue, anyone who is concerned about getting every possible nook and cranny of their car will still want to consider the Carrand.

Armor All – 2.5 Gallon Utility Wet/Dry Vacuum

The largest of the models we tested — the Armor All — will hold plenty of dirt and grime in its 2.5-gallon container. During our testing, it proved powerful enough to aptly pick up dirt, cereal and dust in the car. The attachments also allowed us to dirt in between our car seats effectively. It also handled wet spills like water and mud.

This vacuum is significantly larger than most of the vacuums we tested, with the exception of the Carrand. The garage where we tested this machine is tight on space and we found it difficult to move the vacuum around the car in the limited space. It was easier to pull the car out into the driveway and use an extension cord (the cord that comes with his machine is quite short at only 10 feet long).

While we found this hard to use in tight spaces, if you have a large garage or need a small shop vac that will double for cleaning your car, this is a great option. If you are only looking for a convenient car vacuum, there are other smaller options, such as the corded Bissell or the cordless Black and Decker – BDH2000PL Pivot, which we felt were easier to maneuver and had just as strong suction. If you need a small wet/dry vacuum, the Rytek or Holife are also solid contenders.

While we found that this works well to clean wet and dry spills, you have to switch out the filter for wet versus dry material, which can be a bit of an inconvenience. It is something to be aware of because if you forget to swap the filter before cleaning up a wet spill, you risk shorting the motor.

Dirt Devil – Scorpion

The Dirt Devil – Scorpion is one of the more budget-friendly options in the group of car vacuums. It has a streamlined design which is comfortable to hold, though the machine felt heavier than some of the others. It is also very loud.

The power of this vacuum was acceptable. Because it is corded, you don’t need to worry about ebbs and flows of power. The cord measures 16 feet, which is long enough, though we had to do some maneuvering at times during our testing. In terms of suction, it took about four passes to collect the sand we spread out and did a good job on crumbs as well. The crevice tool worked in between the seats, and we liked that it was connected, so we didn’t have to go looking for the right attachment.

After some use in our car, however, we turned the vacuum back on and it sprayed out a burst of dust that hit us in the face. While we liked other aspects of this car vacuum, this turned us off to this model entirely. We checked to see if other reviewers experienced the same and we found several who wrote about this problem, blaming a poorly constructed filter.

BLACK+DECKER – CHB1410L

We expected the BLACK+DECKER – CHV1410L to be one of the easiest vacuums to use and liked that it was light and compact. However, we were disappointed with its power and overall effectiveness in cleaning a car. The long “nose” of the machine made it more difficult to get at different angles in our car. Also, because the nose doesn’t have a wide opening, it takes longer to clean the larger sections in our car, such as seats and mats.

While some of the other machines took care of the sand we spilled in the car in just two to three passes, we found that this model was not as effective. Despite repeated passes of the vacuum, we could never quite get all the sand out of the floor mat with this model.

While the power was lacking on this model, we did like that the BLACK+DECKER – CHV1410L has an attached brush to easily clean the console and dusty areas of the car without scratches. Still, it was just not as effective as the other machines actually capturing all the dust.

Another feature on this model that we liked is that the lithium battery charger automatically shuts off when the battery is charged. This is a great safety feature and it also allows you to conveniently store the machine on the charger without worrying about draining the battery. But in the end, the lack of suction and design flaws for cleaning a car made this our least favorite of the car vacuums we tested.

Holife – Cordless Handheld (Discontinued)

Holife cordless car vacuum

(Editor’s note: We recently learned that the model we tested — and recommended — for our previous update has been discontinued.)

The Holife – Cordless Handheld Vacuum had made several improvements from its previous model. The first is the lithium-ion battery, which recharges in an amazing two hours, and the charge lasts a little over 20 minutes (22 minutes in our tests). We were expecting the Holife to lose power as the charge diminished, but its suction remained as powerful from when we first turned the vacuum on. The Holife’s motor is strong and surprisingly quiet.

We easily vacuumed our entire SUV in less than 20 minutes, and the Holife kept going right up to the moment when the battery had lost its charge. We also liked the removable battery pack that can be charged separately in a small space.

Another improvement is the addition of a stainless-steel filter. The older model had two washable HEPA filters that eventually needed to be replaced. This new model comes with a reusable stainless-steel filter that is just as effective in capturing dust and dirt particles and will outlast the lifespan of normal HEPA filters.

During our tests, we made sure we had ground the sand and crushed cereal into our vehicle’s floor, mats, and carpets. Using the crevice attachment, the Holife made short work of suctioning up every last bit in seconds in one or two strokes. The Holife’s flexible hose attachment is handy for reaching underneath car seats and in between the console.

The brush attachment worked fine in cleaning up the sand and cereal, but it wasn’t as good in vacuuming up pet hair from the vehicle’s carpeted areas. If that’s important to you because your beloved Fluffy is a shedding machine, check out our review of pet hair vacuums.

Rytek (Discontinued)

The Rytek was one of the more compact vacuums of the group we tested, but it packed plenty of power to clean sand, crumbs, and more. If you experience wet and dry messes in your car, this is a great option for you, as it will seamlessly handle either type of spill.

We found the power on the Rytek adequate to get the job done and because it plugs into a 12V outlet in your car, you don’t have to worry about periodically needing to charge it. In addition to trying this vacuum on sand, we cleaned wet mud from the car and found that it did well on wet messes, which makes it a good option if you often find yourself at the beach, on hiking trips, or have children who are spilling milk or juice.

The Rytek has several attachments that are very effective in reaching between car seats and capturing dust in car consoles. All the attachments fit with the vacuum in a nylon zipper bag, making storage of this model in your car or trunk simple and convenient.

Cleaning the machine — even with wet messes — was straightforward. The collection bin pops off and can be rinsed with water and soap when needed. The collection bin is not clear, so you do have to check from time to time to ensure that you haven’t filled the vacuum with dust.

A drawback of this machine is it can only be powered by a 12V outlet. If you want to use your car vacuum for other spills from time to time in your garage or elsewhere, you may want to consider a traditional corded vacuum model or one with a dedicated battery charger.

Holife – Hand Vacuum Cleaner (Discontinued)

The Holife – Hand Vacuum Cleaner was a strong contender in the car vacuum arena. It is easy to use and picks up all kinds of dirt with ease. We were able to tackle the sand we spread out as part of our testing, as well as cereal crumbs and even a few stray chips in the car, thanks to the large suction opening. The large opening also made it possible to vacuum our car mats and seats efficiently.

The attachments for this model are not connected to the vacuum itself but they are easy to connect and they allow you to reach the smaller spaces of the car. The machine is relatively light, so it made maneuvering through the car easy.

The dirt and debris that you pick up shows through the clear collection bin so that you can see when you need to empty it. Emptying the bin took a little bit of figuring out with several pieces to disconnect, but once we figured it out, the process wasn’t too cumbersome. The Holife can handle wet and dry messes and the collection bin can be washed out with soap and water to clean up after cleaning wet messes. The vacuum comes with two washable filters, which is great because you can reuse them over and over.

While the vacuum picked up all kinds of dirt effectively, we did notice that that the Holife seemed to lose some of its suction as the collection bin filled up and the battery wore down.

How we selected

There are many car vacuums available, so we spent hours narrowing down the best on the market.

We checked out subreddits, considered the findings from reviewers like Wirecutter and automotive websites, as well as vacuum specialty sites. Once we had input from the car and vacuum professionals, we were able to determine which features consumers value the most in a car vacuum. We found that consumers and car detailers alike consider power to be the most important factor in choosing a car vacuum. Other considerations are battery life and run time (for cordless models), and ease in reaching narrow spaces in a vehicle.

Based on our research, we looked for car vacuums that met our key metrics, such as a powerful suction, thanks to a strong motor and adequate air watts, strong battery and useful attachments to get to hard-to-reach dirt. For cordless vacuums, we looked at models with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries (as opposed to NiCd batteries) because Li-ion batteries have higher power density, resulting in longer-lasting power. We also considered customer feedback on the vacuums and filtered out any models that seemed to have recurring issues.

With these details in mind, we selected eight finalists to review. Over the course of six weeks, we put them through a series of tests to judge their performance and ease of use.

How we tested

Suction

The suction of a car vacuum is key. To test each one, we spread an eighth of a cup of sand on the same car mat and counted how many passes it took to clean up the mess. We also tested cereal crumbs with each machine and then generally worked around the car to suck up residual dirt and dust on and in between the seats, on the floorboard, behind the gas and brake pedals, and in the console and air conditioning vents.

We found that all the vacuums were able to tackle the messes pretty well, but some just did so more efficiently. We found that sand was the most challenging debris for the vacuums to fully clean, so this became our key comparison test. The Black and Decker – BDH2000PL Pivot cleaned sand in just two to three passes, whereas some others took five to seven passes to fully get the sand up from the car mat.

Attachments

We also tested the attachments on each vacuum to see how well worked in a car. All the vacuums we tested had brush and extension attachments, which are essential to fully clean your car.

Several of the machines including the BLACK+DECKER – BDH2000PL Pivot, the Black and Decker – CHV1410L and the Dirt Devil have the crevice tools and brushes attached. This means that you don’t need to go searching for attachments, which adds to the machines’ convenience. You can just flip the tools up or down depending on what area of the car you need to clean.

Several other vacuums we tested have hose attachments that connect with the body of the vacuums and then stretch into the car for cleaning. These vacuums are effective as well, though it sometimes takes a little more maneuvering to get the body of the vacuum situated in a place that allows you to get the hose and connected attachments where you need to clean in the car.

Ease of use

Ease of use can mean a lot of things — for example, how comfortable is the vacuum to use and how convenient are the attachments to use? How easy is it to get to the spaces you needed to clean — sometimes at awkward angles?

Based on our testing, we found that cordless vacuums are the easiest to navigate in and around our cars. The cords on the corded vacuums can get caught on the car tires and in the doors as you reach into our car.

With that said, we found that vacuums with the longest cords provide a better cleaning experience than those with short cords. At 18 feet, the Bissell has the longest cord, which makes a huge difference in allowing you to access all the places you need to vacuum in a car. The Armor All has the shortest cord of the group (only 10 feet), which means that in most cases, an extension cord is needed.

We also looked at how the collection bins and filters worked on each of the vacuums and determined which were the most difficult to disassemble and clean. Most were fairly straightforward once we figured out how the vacuums opened. We had a bit of concern about the Armor All. While it worked well to clean spills — including wet and dry messes — you have to switch out the filter for wet versus dry material. It’s not difficult, but if you forget to switch the filter out, you can short out the motor.

Handheld vs. car vacuums

Car vacuums are similar to handheld vacuums in terms of portability, but they are specifically designed to clean the interior of a car effectively. You can use any handheld vacuum to clean your car, but car vacuums are specifically designed to allow you to get into tight spaces, with specialized attachments for spaces between and underneath your seats, behind your pedals, and in door pockets. Plus, most car vacuums will come with brushes to clean dust in the air vents and console spaces without leaving scratches.

Car vacuums also need to be powerful enough to get all kinds of dirt. Think stubborn sand from the beach, mud, and rocks from hikes, ground-up crumbs compliments of your toddler, or hair left behind by your beloved pet. We chose to test dedicated car vacuums or handheld vacuums that have attachments specifically designed for your vehicle.

So who can use a car vacuum? If you have kids or pets, a car vacuum is a must-have. If you clean your own car or want a handy instrument to keep your car spotless in between professional cleanings, a car vacuum is for you.

Cordless vs. corded car vacuums

Considering whether you need a cordless or corded vacuum? It really all depends on your circumstances. If you are cleaning your car in a garage with an AC outlet nearby, a corded vacuum may be for you. You don’t need to think about charging the vacuum, nor do you have to worry about the vacuum losing power as the battery loses its charge (this is a complaint many consumers have voiced about battery-charged vacuums). Corded options often (but not always) boast more powerful suction. Corded versions come in sizes small and large (like the Armor All), whereas cordless models tend to be more compact.

If being tethered to an electrical outlet sounds like an inconvenience to you or you plan to use your vacuum on the go, a cordless model may be more suited to your needs. You can use the cordless vacuums essentially anywhere, but unlike the corded option, you do need to remember to keep it charged. In our testing, we found that cordless vacuums made it easier to get into the deepest places in our cars without a cord getting caught in the car door or on a tire. The cordless options we tested gave us plenty of time to clean one car. With close to 20 minutes of running time, the BLACK+DECKER – BDH2000PL Pivot allowed us to get most of the way through cleaning a second car before we needed to recharge it.

As a third option, some car vacuums, such as the Banaton and Rytek, plug into the 12-volt outlet in your car. This makes the vacuum super convenient for cleaning your car and offers a consistent power source. However, 12V outlet functionality limits you to using the vacuum only in your car.

Important features to consider

Suction power

Power is key to ensuring that you have enough suction to get the job done in a timely manner. Who wants to vacuum the same mess over and over again to get it cleaned up? Different manufacturers measure power in different ways (amps, air watts and/or air flow). We looked at cordless vacuums that ranged from 15 to 35 air watts, which refers to the amount of watts it takes to carry a unit of air through the vacuum, as well as corded vacuums with motors that boasted at least 4 amps.

Attachments

Consider all the nooks and crannies in your car, from between the seats and the door side pocket to the heating/air vents that collect dust. You need a vacuum that can get to all of them. The attachments on a car vacuum are very important since you need to clean many different areas and materials — from plastic and burl wood to leather, fabric, and carpeting. Did each vacuum have a tool to get in between seats and a brush clean the console without leaving scratches?

Wet/Dry vs. dry

Wet cleaners have a trap for water so that you won’t damage the electrical components of the vacuum while sucking up wet messes. Standard (dry) vacuums don’t have that protection, so they can short-circuit if you try to suck up moisture. Whether to select a wet/dry vacuum or dry-only vacuum depends on your needs and what kind of messes you deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Tank capacity

Tanks will vary in size, meaning that you may need to empty the tank more or less often. We found that all the car vacuums we tested had sufficient tanks to clean your entire car, even with significant dirt, sand, and food crumbs. If you have a space for a larger machine like the Armor All, it boasts the largest tank of all the vacuums we tested (at 2.5 gallons).

Weight/Size

It’s important that car vacuums are lightweight and convenient, so we considered whether any of the vacuums were too large, heavy, or unwieldy. The vacuums we tested ranged from the light Rytek, weighing in at 2.5 pounds, to the heaviest of the group, the 7-pound Armor All.

Battery runtime

For cordless vacuums, how long can you run the vacuum before you need to recharge? Most batteries will power the vacuum consistently for about 10-15 minutes total, so will that be enough to get through cleaning your entire car before it turns off? With turning it on and off as we worked through our cars, we found that this is typically enough time to get the job done. Our top choice, the BLACK+DECKER – BDH2000PL Pivot, lasted closer to 20 minutes and it didn’t lose much power. That’s because it is powered by a 20-volt lithium battery.

The bottom line

There are many variables when it comes to choosing a car vacuum. Do you want a cordless or corded model? Do you need a vacuum that can also work on wet spills? These decisions will depend on your garage set-up and what messes you’ll typically be cleaning up.

After testing eight of the top car vacuums, we feel that the cordless models are the most convenient to use in a car. While the batteries don’t last forever, we found that most of the models we tested last long enough to get the entire car clean before needing a recharge.

The BLACK+DECKER- BDH2000PL Pivot is our favorite model when it comes to power, ergonomic design and effectiveness in picking up even the most ground-in dirt. During testing, the pivot design allowed us to comfortably get to dirt in hard-to-reach spaces. It has a crevice and brush tool attached, which is convenient as you are working through your car, and both tools did a good job getting at dirt and dust. In addition, if you want additional attachments, you can purchase them as add-ons, giving you the best of both worlds.

We also feel confident recommending the Bissell if a corded car vacuum fits your needs. This model is sturdy and powerful. Its wide mouth is effective on seats and mats, while its attachments do a great job with dirt in the deepest crevices of a car.

Coming in at a close second to the BLACK+DECKER – Pivot is the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser – 2390A. With a robust motor and helpful attachments, this cordless car vacuum picks up dirt, dust, and larger debris in a single pass. It’s also one of the quietest car vacuums we tested.

Top Pick: BLACK+DECKER - BDH2000PL Pivot

Strong suction power combined with an innovative pivot design and long-lasting battery makes this the most effective car vacuum at keeping your car interior clean and dust-free.

Bryan Vu, Editor

Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.

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