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 50 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, take a look at our list of the best vacuums, the best cordless vacuums, and the best vacuums for pet hair.
The Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ is the best vacuum for cars with a cordless design that we've tested. This handheld has a lightweight and portable design that makes it easy to get into crevices and other hard-to-reach areas in your car. It comes with a turbo brush that also doubles as an upholstery tool, which can help clean fabric-wrapped seats.
It's well-built and easy to assemble right out-of-the-box. It does an outstanding job on low-pile carpet as it can pick up pet hair without a problem. It also clears a lot of small and large debris from this surface type. If you need to clean stubborn messes, it comes with a hard bristle brush and there's a crevice tool included, which makes it easier to tackle even narrower spaces. Maintenance is easy since only two parts need to be regularly cleaned.
Unfortunately, it can only run for around 11 minutes continuously before it needs to be recharged again, which may not be enough time if you want to clean your whole car. Its filter also needs to be replaced regularly, which can add up over time. That said, it's one of the best vacuums for cars that we've tested and its cordless design makes it a lightweight, portable choice.
If you prefer a handheld vacuum with fewer recurring costs, try the Shark ION W1 WANDVAC. While it doesn't perform as well as the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ on low-pile carpet, it comes with a reusable HEPA filter, which means that you don't have to replace it as long as it's properly maintained. Thanks to its small size, it doesn't take up too much room when stored, and its design makes it more lightweight as well as portable. It also comes with an extension wand as well as a soft bristle brush to help you clean different spaces and surfaces. Unfortunately, it only has one mode and it lasts around eight minutes continuously before it needs to be recharged again.
Consider the UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ if you're looking for the best performance possible from a cordless vacuum and you don't mind regularly replacing the filter. However, check out the ION W1 WANDVAC if you're looking to keep recurring costs to a minimum and want a HEPA filter to trap allergens as you clean.
The Eureka Mighty Mite is the best vacuum cleaner for cars with a corded design that we've tested. This canister model is a solid option for cleaning the inside of your car if you don't feel like dealing with the hassle of running out of battery halfway through a cleaning task or waiting for your appliance to recharge. It has a two-piece wand, allowing you to remove one section and use it in a semi-handheld configuration.
It's lightweight, easy to carry around, and comes with a crevice cleaner to help you tackle messes in hard-to-reach spots, as well as an upholstery tool to deal with debris on seats. It does a great job of lifting debris from low-pile carpet, while the slip ring on its handle allows you to adjust its suction level to suit different surface types on-the-fly. Performance remains consistent as its generously-sized dirtbag fills up, which is great if you're using it to deal with several large messes. Maintenance is remarkably simple in no small part due to its basic design.
However, you need to stay within range of an outlet, since its power cord is quite short. Some users may also be upset with its short hose length, which can make cleaning hard-to-reach spots somewhat difficult. Still, if you're looking for a highly-versatile canister vacuum that's compact and easy to maintain, this is a good option.
The best budget vacuum for cars that we've tested is the HoLife HM036E. This budget-friendly handheld can easily clear most kinds of debris from the inside of your car with little trouble, including pet hair and coarse material like sand. It comes with a liquid nozzle attachment that allows you to clean wet messes, which is handy if you're bringing milk back from a grocery run, and it leaks in your trunk. However, we don't test that feature, and the manufacturer says that the vacuum must be cleaned thoroughly afterward.
Its plastic construction feels quite sturdy and is quite simple in design, so it isn't too hard to access the various components. The only disposable part is its HEPA filter, though it has a fairly long service life of three to four months, so recurring costs shouldn't add up too quickly. It offers relatively good battery life for a handheld, with over 20 minutes of continuous runtime on a single charge. This should give you enough time to clean, especially stubborn messes.
Unfortunately, it struggles slightly with clearing fine debris, such as baking soda spills, from seat upholstery or carpets. Its dirt compartment is also on the small side and needs to be emptied frequently, which is normal for a handheld. If you're looking for a budget-friendly option for your car that can deal with wet messes, this is one of the best vacuums for cars at an affordable price that we've tested.
11/17/2020: Replaced the Shark ION W1 WANDVAC with the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ for 'Best Cordless Car Vacuum'. Replaced the Black+Decker dustbuster CHV1410L with the Shark ION W1 WANDVAC and renamed category to 'Alternative With Fewer Recurring Costs'.
10/07/2020: Replaced Dyson V7 Animal with Shark ION W1 WANDVAC as 'Best Cordless Car Vacuum'. Replaced BISSELL Adapt Ion Pet with HoLife HM036E as 'Best Budget Car Vacuum'. Moved Dyson V7 Animal to 'Notable Mentions'.
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.