No matter how hard you try to avoid or prevent it, it's impossible to keep your car completely clean. Kids accidentally drop snacks on the floor while pets shed or leave mud prints on your upholstery. Luckily, a vacuum designed for cleaning your car's interior can help make your automobile feel like it's dealership-new once again. These vacuums tend to be very portable and lightweight. They also favor better performance on low-pile carpet over other surface types, and they come with several tools to help you reach more difficult areas like crevices. While we haven't tested any wet/dry vacuums just yet, we plan to add these to this list in the future.
We've tested over 105 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best car vacuums to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their performance on different types of surfaces but also their feature set, battery life, and price. For more recommendations, look at our lists of the best vacuums, the best cordless vacuums, and the best vacuums for pet hair.
The best cordless car vacuum with a handheld design that we've tested is the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. This handheld vacuum's cordless design allows you to clean every part of your car's interior without having to worry about staying close to an electrical outlet. Its plastic construction is lightweight and feels quite sturdy.
This vacuum delivers fantastic performance on low-pile carpet, with minimal loss of suction power as its dirt compartment fills up, which is good if you have a couple of messes to deal with inside your car. It comes with a turbo brush to help clean upholstered surfaces, as well as a crevice tool to clear debris in tight corners, not to mention a hard-bristle brush that you can use to dislodge particularly stubborn debris from different surfaces.
Unfortunately, this vacuum doesn't have an allergen-trapping HEPA filter, which could be a disappointment if you have a heavily shedding pet. This vacuum's battery life of a little over 10 minutes also forces you to work quickly, though it's worth noting that battery life can vary in the real world. Still, its mix of portability and performance make it one of the best vacuum cleaners with good suction we've tested.
If you're looking for a handheld vacuum with better battery performance, consider the Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet. This vacuum isn't quite as well-built as the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ and lacks a dedicated upholstery tool. However, it does have a longer maximum battery life of nearly half an hour when using it in its least powerful suction mode. Its dirt compartment is also larger, so it shouldn't need emptying quite as often. It comes with a turbo brush to tackle messes on fabric surfaces, and its default nozzle effectively works as a crevice tool. Performance on low-pile carpet is satisfactory since it clears pet hair and large debris without too much difficulty, but you may need to make another pass to fully clean fine material. Unfortunately, this vacuum feels rather cheaply built, and its filter assembly needs regular replacing, meaning recurring costs can add up over time. Still, it's one of the best handheld vacuums for cars that we've tested.
Get the Shark if you want a better-built handheld vacuum that performs better on low-pile carpet, but consider the Black+Decker if longer battery life and a larger dirt compartment are more important to you.
The best handheld HEPA vacuum for cars that we've tested is the Dyson Humdinger. This compact vacuum has an allergen-trapping HEPA filter, and as long as you regularly clean it, you shouldn't need to worry about any recurring costs. It's also easy to take apart and reassemble during routine maintenance. It easily cleans pet hair on low-pile carpet and does a good job dealing with very fine debris, but you still might need to make another pass to clear it all.
This vacuum can provide up to roughly 30 minutes of runtime on a single charge, giving you plenty of time to spot-clean parts of your car's interior, though its battery life can drop by a noticeable amount if you run it continuously in its 'MAX' suction mode. It comes with a turbo brush to easily clear debris on seats and other upholstered surfaces, as well as a combination crevice tool/soft-bristle dusting brush and a dedicated 'Worktop' tool for dealing with debris on flat, even surfaces.
Unfortunately, this vacuum doesn't feel especially sturdy, especially its clear plastic dustbin. It's worth mentioning that this dirt compartment is also very small, so you need to empty it after almost every cleaning session. Still, if you're looking for a compact vacuum with a HEPA filter for vacuuming inside your car, this is an excellent choice.
The best vacuum for cars we've tested with a stick/handheld design is the Dyson V8 Animal. This vacuum easily cleats pet hair as well as large and fine debris on carpeted surfaces. Its lack of a dirtbag and washable, reusable pre-filter and post-motor HEPA filter help keep recurring costs to a minimum. Depending on your choice of suction power mode and attachments, you can expect roughly 10 to 40 minutes of runtime on a single charge, which should be sufficient for cleaning most cars' interiors.
This lightweight stick/handheld vacuum's cordless design enables you to easily vacuum all parts of your car without having to stay close to an electrical outlet. You can also detach its wand to use it as a handheld vacuum and deal with messes in tight corners. It comes with some attachments, including a turbo brush, a dedicated upholstery, and a 180-degree pivot extender to reach messes in tight corners.
Unfortunately, this vacuum's mainly plastic construction feels rather fragile in places, especially its clear plastic dustbin. There are also quite a few parts that need regular cleaning. Otherwise, its portable design and strong performance make it one of the best cordless vacuums for pet hair that we've tested.
The best vacuum for cars in the budget category that we've tested is the Eureka Mighty Mite. This bagged canister vacuum is lightweight and fairly compact, making it easier to pick and move closer to your car. You can use it in a semi-handheld configuration by detaching a section of its wand and fitting the included crevice tool or combination hard-bristle brush/upholstery tool in place instead.
This vacuum clears pet hair and larger debris like sand from low-pile carpet without difficulty. While you might need to do an extra pass to fully clear fine debris like baking soda from this surface type, its overall performance in this regard is still impressive. The suction performance also remains very consistent as its dirtbag fills up, which is good if you have several large messes to clean. It's remarkably easy to maintain, with very few parts that you need to clean regularly.
Unfortunately, its pre-motor filter and dirtbag need replacing periodically, so recurring costs are somewhat high. Its power cord is fairly short, which can make it difficult to clean the inside of your car if you're parked far away from an electrical outlet. Still, if you're looking for a compact canister vacuum that can easily deal with messes inside your car, this is a great option.
Dec 21, 2021: Substantial article restructuring to better align with user expectations. Recategorized Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet from 'Cordless Alternative' pick to 'Alternative With Better Battery Life' pick. Recategorized Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ from 'Best Cordless Car Vacuum to 'Best Handheld Car Vacuum' pick. Recategorized Dyson Humdinger from 'Alternative With Better Battery Life' pick to 'Best HEPA Vacuum For Cars' pick. Removed Shark Vertex UltraLight Corded as 'Best Corded Car Vacuum' pick, added Dyson V8 Animal as 'Best Stick/Handheld Car Vacuum' pick.
Nov 24, 2021: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for their given category.
Oct 25, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category. Added Wyze Cordless Vacuum to Notable Mentions.
Oct 01, 2021: Replaced HoLife HM036E with Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet as 'Cordless Alternative' pick due to current availability. Replaced Black+Decker dustbuster AdvancedClean+ Pet with Dyson Humdinger as 'Alternative With Better Battery Life' pick. Removed Dyson Humdinger from Notable Mentions.
Sep 02, 2021: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock. Added the Dyson Humdinger to Notable Mentions because of its portability and decent performance on low-pile carpets.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best car vacuums. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our vacuum reviews, ranked by their suitability for car cleaning. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no vacuum is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.