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 the 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.
We've tested over 130 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuums for cleaning cars to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their performance on different types of surfaces but also on 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 vacuum for cars we've tested is the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. Its compact size allows you to store it on a garage shelf or even in the trunk of your car. It's also very lightweight, letting you carry it around with little effort, yet the plastic used in its construction feels pretty robust. It does a fantastic job of clearing away debris on flat, hard surfaces, and it's impressively effective in dealing with messes on carpeted surfaces like floormats. Its dirt compartment is pretty large for a handheld model, so you won't need to empty it too frequently. Unfortunately, its battery life of a little over 10 minutes isn't especially noteworthy, even by the standards of other handheld vacuums, so you'll need to work pretty quickly when cleaning out your car.
This CH951 variant of this vacuum has a crevice tool for dealing with debris in tight corners and a miniature turbo brush, though the latter has a really hard time picking up pet hair on fabric surfaces. It also lacks a HEPA filter and does a terrible job of capturing fine debris. If you want a similarly designed model with HEPA-level filtration and much longer battery life, the iRobot H1 is the best handheld vacuum for car use at a premium price point that we've tested. However, it's also a lot more expensive and has a much smaller dirt compartment.
If you're looking to spend a little less, the Black+decker dustbuster Hand Vacuum is the best handheld vacuum for car use at a mid-range price that we've tested. Unlike the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+, it doesn't come with a turbo brush attachment, so it isn't suitable for cleaning larger carpeted and upholstered areas. It also takes considerably longer to recharge while offering a similarly short battery life of about 10 minutes. That said, it's cheaper and has a large dustbin that won't need emptying very often. It's on the larger end of the scale for a handheld vacuum, but it's still very lightweight.
This vacuum's integrated extension wand/crevice tool makes it easier to clean tight spots, like between car seats and your center console or the depths of cup holders. It also has a flip-out hard-bristle brush for dislodging stuck-on dirt from seats or any plastic surfaces. Unfortunately, its battery isn't designed to be removable, so you can't swap in a new pack if its charge performance degrades over time.
If you're shopping for a cheaper handheld, the BISSELL AeroSlim/TurboSlim is a great choice. Its extremely compact dimensions mean it can't hold nearly as much debris as a larger handheld model like the Black+Decker dustbuster Hand Vacuum, but this also makes it even easier to use in cramped environments. Like the Black+Decker, it doesn't come with a miniature turbo brush tool to clean larger upholstered areas like the trunk or floor mats, but there is a crevice tool to extend your reach in tight recesses as well as a slide-on soft-bristle brush for cleaning delicate plastic surfaces.
This vacuum feels well-built, especially for a handheld at this price point. Its simple design makes emptying its tiny dustbin or accessing its filters effortless. Unfortunately, while it's highly effective at clearing away pet hair and lightweight debris, bulky material can easily clog its narrow suction inlet. It can also only run for about 15 minutes on a charge, though that isn't unusual for a vacuum of this type.
If you want a shop vacuum that can handle dry and wet messes inside your car, you need a shop vac, and the RYOBI 18V One+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry is among the best cordless car vacuums we've tested. Its bulky form makes it harder to clean tight spots than a conventional handheld like the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+. However, the trade-off of this larger design is a much greater debris capacity and a far more powerful suction motor, which lets it easily clear away heavy debris and liquids—just make sure to remove the filter before using it to clean up wet messes. While the 4.0 Ah battery that this vacuum is bundled with only supplies roughly 15 minutes of runtime, you can easily swap out the depleted battery for a higher-capacity unit or just grab another pack if you have any other RYOBI One+ products in your home, like a cordless drill or reciprocating saw.
While it's much bigger than most handhelds, it's still a lot smaller than most conventional shop vacuums, so it won't take up too much space if you store it in a garage or workshop. However, it can become somewhat hard to carry around as it fills up with debris, as the motor unit/canister body is meant for you to carry in one hand. While there is a crevice tool to slightly extend your reach, its hose is very short, which makes it difficult to clean the furthest recesses of your car's interior.
If you don't want to worry about running out of charge partway through cleaning your car, the Eureka Mighty Mite is still among the best portable car vacuums we've tested. It has a pretty short power cord, forcing you to use an extension cord to clean hard-to-reach spots in your car. In addition, unlike the RYOBI 18V One+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry, you can't use it to clear away liquid spills. Still, its lightweight design makes it easy to pick up and carry around. Despite its very affordable price point, it also delivers fantastic performance on hard surfaces and is very effective in clearing material on low-pile floormats. It does a great job of clearing away pet hair on upholstered surfaces like car seats when used with its mini brush tool. The vacuum's simple design lets you quickly dispose of its high-capacity dirtbag once it fills up.
Unfortunately, build quality isn't especially impressive, with most of its parts being made of cheap-feeling plastic. While its long wand, made of two hollow plastic tubes, gives you a bit of added reach for cleaning tight spots, it's worth noting those plastic tubes can fall apart if they aren't put together with sufficient force.
Mar 03, 2023: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for user needs.
Feb 02, 2023: Ensured all main picks still represent the best choice for user needs.
Jan 04, 2023: Replaced Wyze Handheld Vacuum with BISSELL AeroSlim as 'Best Budget Vacuum For Cars' pick due to current availability. Added Wyze Handheld Vacuum to Notable Mentions.
Dec 05, 2022: Extensive article restructuring to better align with user needs. Removed less relevant Notable Mentions picks.
Nov 02, 2022: Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for user needs.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuums to clean the inside of your car. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also on 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.