No matter how hard you try to avoid or prevent it, keeping your car completely clean is impossible. 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 135 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuums for cleaning cars to buy. These picks were selected based on their performance on different types of surfaces and 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+. While it isn't the smallest handheld vacuum on the market, it's still compact enough to easily stow away on a garage shelf or even in the trunk of your vehicle when not in use. It's also very lightweight, so you can carry it around with little effort, but thankfully, it doesn't feel overly cheap or flimsy. It does a fantastic job of handling debris on flat, hard surfaces and is impressively effective in dealing with messes on carpeting and floor mats. Its dirt compartment is spacious for a handheld model, so you only need to empty it occasionally.
Unfortunately, its battery life of a little over 10 minutes is pretty poor, even by the standards of other handheld vacuums, so you'll need to work fast when cleaning out your car. Worse, the battery isn't designed to be removed or replaced, so you can't swap in a new pack if the first unit's performance degrades over time. 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 is pretty bulky and has a hard time picking up pet hair on fabric surfaces.
The vacuum also does a terrible job of capturing fine debris. For a similarly designed model with HEPA-level filtration and much longer battery life, the iRobot H1 is the best handheld vacuum for car use we've tested. The reason it's not our main pick is because of its very high price, especially for a handheld vacuum, and the much smaller dirt compartment.
The Black+Decker dustbuster Hand Vacuum is the best vacuum for cars at a mid-range price that we've tested. Unlike the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+, it doesn't come with a turbo brush attachment, which makes it a little trickier to clean larger carpeted and upholstered areas. It also takes much longer to recharge and has a similarly short battery life of about 10 minutes. It shares a common downside with the Shark in the form of its non-replaceable battery pack, too, so you can't swap out the pack without disassembling the vacuum. All of that said, it's cheaper than the Shark and has an even higher-capacity dustbin that won't need emptying as often. Despite its bulkier size, it's still very lightweight, so you can easily carry it around.
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 built-in hard-bristle brush for scrubbing away stuck-on dirt from seats or any plastic surfaces, so you don't have to worry about misplacing the attachment.
The BISSELL AeroSlim/TurboSlim is a great choice if you're shopping for a cheaper handheld. It can't hold nearly as much debris as a larger handheld model like the Black+Decker dustbuster Hand Vacuum. Still, its tiny dimensions make it even easier to use in small spaces, like the inside of a compact car—it's small enough that you can even stand it upright in an extra-large cupholder. Like the Black+Decker, it doesn't have a miniature turbo brush tool or even a wide-nozzle upholstery tool to clean larger fabric-lined or carpeted areas like the trunk or floor mats.
However, there is a crevice tool to extend your reach between seats and in cupholders, not to mention a slide-on soft-bristle brush for cleaning delicate plastic surfaces, like your car's center console. 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, similar in size to cereal pieces, can easily clog its narrow suction inlet, so you'll want to clear out any larger chunks of material before you start cleaning with it. The BISSELL can also only run for about 15 minutes on a charge, which gives you little time to clean bigger messes. That said, that short of a runtime isn't unusual for a vacuum of this type.
If you want a vacuum that can handle dry and wet messes inside your car, you need a shop vac! The RYOBI 18V One+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry is a great option for this use and is among the best cordless car vacuums we've tested. It's relatively compact for a shop-oriented vacuum, so you can stow it away on a shelf or under a work table when not in use. That said, it's still much bulkier than a conventional handheld like the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+, so you might have trouble working within the confines of your car.
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 included 4.0 Ah battery only supplies roughly 15 minutes of runtime, you can easily swap out the depleted battery for a higher-capacity unit or grab another pack if you have any other RYOBI One+ products in your home like a cordless drill or reciprocating saw.
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 extend your reach, its hose is very short, which makes it difficult to clean the furthest recesses of your car's interior.
If you want a corded vacuum to avoid running out of charge while cleaning your car, the Eureka Mighty Mite is still among the best portable car vacuums we've tested. It has a short power cord, so you'll probably need an extension cord to clean hard-to-reach spots in your car, but its lightweight design makes it easy to pick up and carry around compared to most conventional canister vacuums. Despite its affordable price point, it has a reasonably potent 12-amp motor, resulting in a strong performance on hard surfaces and low-pile floormats. It also does a great job of clearing away pet hair on upholstered surfaces like car seats when used with its mini brush tool. The vacuum has a simple design, so you can quickly dispose of its dirtbag once it fills up and replace its filter.
Unfortunately, build quality isn't especially impressive, with most parts 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 easily fall apart if you don't wedge them together with enough force. In addition, unlike an actual shop vacuum like the RYOBI 18V One+ 3 Gal. Project Wet/Dry, you can't use it to clear away liquid spills.
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.