​Vacuuming the cars can be a problem – hard to reach surfaces like under the seats, various types of surfaces and dirt, cleaning emergencies, etc. represent different challenges for a vacuum cleaner. In certain situations, a small cordless handheld vacuum cleaner will do the job fast and thoroughly, but in certain situations, even large and powerful industrial drum vacuum cleaner will struggle to do the job properly.

​Of course, you can go to a car wash and save yourself the hassle of vacuuming your own car. But, whatever you save on time and effort, you gain in your expenses. Simply put, you need to weigh your choices carefully. Do you have extra cash to spend on a regular car wash or would you rather get yourself a car wash best car vacuum of your own?

How to Choose the Best Vacuum for Car

Before picking out a car wash vacuum, there are a few things you need to learn about these machines. Vacuums, in general, are initially meant to rid any surface of dust and debris. However, different models can also come with different features and attachments like a dusting brush or a crevice tool which can help you reach all the nooks and crannies.

In other words, different models of vacuums can vary in their attachments, features, and overall performance. Knowing these things will help you choose the best vacuum to use in cleaning your car.

Vacuum Cleaner Type

Vacuums come in various types and sizes. Classic upright vacuums are great for flat surfaces, but for cleaning cars, not so good – it is rather hard for them to reach corners and gaps between surfaces. On the other hand, canister vacuums with their hoses represent an excellent choice for main car vacuum cleaner for several reasons: they are powerful and have great suction, the hose can reach different areas easily using crevice tools, and if required, cleaning can be done using only hose itself, providing strongest suction possible.

So, if you prefer upright vacuum cleaners, but also need to vacuum your car, consider buying second smaller and cheaper vacuum cleaner that can be used for cleaning a car and house and/or buy an upright vacuum cleaner that has cleaning hose as an option.

Handheld vacuums are popular car vacuums for several reasons – they are lightweight and generally small in size and come with cleaning hose or crevice, or similar tools that can reach tight places including under your car seats. Such vacuums can be used at home, in the car, on the boat, etc for regular cleaning of smaller areas and when required, in emergencies. The suction strength of handhelds and other vacuums varies greatly, and in most cases, it depends on the power source.

Vacuum Cleaner Strength and Power Source

Car vacuums can be powered by batteries, using a cigarette lighter adapter or using mains power. Rarely, cars can be vacuumed using industrial vacuums powered by compressed air.

Battery operated car vacuums are handheld vacuums that are excellent in emergencies, have decent suction and decent air filtration – performances and battery life depend on price. Cheaper cordless vacuums cost below 30 dollars/euros and are powered by NiCd batteries and have simple mechanical filters, while more expensive cordless vacuums can cost more than 100 dollars/euros (even much more!), but are powered by lithium ion or lithium polymer batteries and are equipped with several filters, washable HEPA filters included.

Battery operated vacuums can be used without power source present in the form of mains outlet or cigarette lighter socket and adapter, giving them the freedom to operate wherever and whenever. Battery strength and capacity limit their operating time and suction strength. Cheap NiCd vacuums can clean smaller spills and smaller areas, but they can have issues with cleaning an entire car, especially when batteries are older.

Vacuums that are operated using lithium batteries usually can vacuum several cars and be fully recharged in a few hours. But they cost more. If you want a significantly longer battery life, choose a vacuum that’s powered by a lithium-ion battery.

Car vacuums that use cigaret lighter socket adapter also use the car battery as power source. Since such cigarette lighter sockets have 10 Amps fuses, these vacuums are usually limited to a 120W max – this is decent power for smaller handheld vacuums. Such vacuums often come with various tools for cleaning tight and hard to reach places like onboard hoses, crevice tools, cleaning brushes and similar.

One of their limitations is the length of the power cord, and most of these vacuums can clean entire car, but some can have issues in reaching car trunks – please, read the labels and manuals of the vacuums if you have larger SUV, caravan or sedan cars.

Note: under heaviest load, these vacuums can draw max 10 Amps, and if they operate for 30 minutes, they will discharge about 5Ah from the car battery. These days, most car batteries are above 60Ah, so this 5Ah represents less than 10% of battery capacity. Even Yugo 45 has a battery that can withstand such discharging. I think… 

I never vacuumed my car for longer than 10 minutes…

Mains powered car vacuums can have several kW motors and can operate for an extended period. They have the strongest suction of all car vacuums, largest capacities of dirt bins, largest possible selection of cleaning heads and tools, but they require – mains outlets and power cords of sufficient length to reach the car. If you live in the house and have a garage, this should not be a problem.

Also, such vacuums have excellent air filters and can do the job easier and faster than other vacuums.

Note that they are somewhat hard to be used in emergencies – crucial for people with kids and pets.

Steam vacuum cleaners and steam mops can be used to clean and sanitize surfaces that tolerate steam cleaning – such cleaners operate using mains power, so be sure that you have mains socket and long enough power cords near your car.

Vacuum Cleaner Air Filtration

Air filtration is essential for car vacuums since various allergens can easily get inside of the car – just open the window while driving around. Car vacuum cleaner with good air filtration will remove such particles from the car and trap them inside the dirt bin, dirtbag (reusable or not) or filter (washable or not)!

People having health issues related to allergens, mites and similar should thoroughly clean their cars on a regular basis, AND should regularly clean/replace their car cabin filter(s) – driving around during spring with windows down can be quite relaxing for most of the people, but also a nightmare to others…

What is the best car vacuum?

Considering the differences in our needs and preferences, you may find that what works for others may not necessarily work for you. That said, instead of naming just one product, we have made a list of five different models that top the rest of the units that you can find in the market.

We have also included a short review for each unit so that you can get an idea of how well they perform and what are their limitations. Hopefully, this will help you choose which specific model suits you best. Check them out in the next section of this review.

Top 5 Car Vacuums Reviews And Recommendations

Here is a list of top 5 car vacuum cleaners according to our opinions. You may agree with us or not, however, these five vacuums will clean your car thoroughly. They do have their strengths and weaknesses and before purchasing any of them (or any other vacuum cleaner or home appliance), be sure to check if that device really suits your needs.

On this list, you will notice that there are no large vacuum cleaners (upright vacuums, cylinder vacuums, drum vacuums, etc) that can be found in any home as the main vacuum cleaner. If you do have such type of vacuum cleaner, it can be used as a good car vacuum cleaner, but its main purpose is not car vacuuming.

And, here is the list:

1. Eureka Hand-Held Vacuum 71B

EUREKA EasyClean Lightweight Handheld Vacuum Cleaner, Hand Vac Corded,...
  • Portable, lightweight handheld vacuum for home, car or garage; weighs less than 5 pounds
  • Motorized brush with on/off switch for thorough cleaning of carpets, Integrated filter with...

Eureka Hand-Held Vacuum 71B is small, but powerful corded vacuum cleaner. With two motors, one for vacuum suction, second for brush roll and with other product features, this handheld vacuum cleaner is an excellent choice for anybody needing small and compact handheld vacuum cleaner.

This vacuum cleaner is a little bit bigger (and heavier) than most common cordless operated hand-held vacuum cleaners, but it is much stronger – great suction power is combined with revolving brush that helps clean even the hardest dirt and messes on your car seats and carpet.

2. Black & Decker PAV1200W 12-Volt Cyclonic-Action Automotive Pivoting-Nose Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

BLACK+DECKER Handheld Vacuum for Cars, Cordless, Pivoting, Black...
  • Cleans vehicle dust, dirt and debris
  • Pivoting nose has 10 settings for maximum flexibility

Black & Decker PAV1200W 12-Volt Cyclonic-Action Automotive Pivoting-Nose Handheld Vacuum Cleaner is small, lightweight, but powerful vacuum cleaner, powered using car lighter adapter. It comes at an affordable price.

It doesn’t have its own batteries but is powered by the car battery. It can operate for an extended period, without power loss. Also, it is a bagless design with cyclonic filtration. This cyclonic action ensures that there is no suction loss when the dirt cup is filled with all the debris and other messes you just cleaned out. Dirt capacity is around 11.8 oz.

This vacuum cleaner is rated at around 11 air watts.

3. BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Handheld Vacuum, Corded, 33A1

BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum, Purple
  • Buy BISSELL, save pets. BISSELL will donate $5 for each Pet Hair Eraser Li Ion Purchase, upon...
  • Remove more embedded dirt and pet hair with a motorized brush tool and lithium ion battery

BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Handheld Corded Vacuum 33A1 model is small, yet very powerful corded handheld vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t feature ‘fancy’ things like rotating brush, but it gets the job done easily.

This is very powerful and lightweight handheld vacuum cleaner – when switched on, one feels torque from motor starting. This vacuum cleaner sucks plenty of air and creates strong suction for cleaning dirt and debris – the problem can be exhaust air that sometimes can interfere with the cleaning surface and blow away the dirt. However, this can be easily avoided with careful handling of the vacuum cleaner.

The power cord is 16 feet (5.5m) long, and for cleaning the car, it could be a little bit longer.

4. Black & Decker CHV1510 Dustbuster 15.6-Volt Cordless Cyclonic Hand Vacuum

BLACK+DECKER CHV1510 Dustbuster 15.6-Volt Cordless Cyclonic Hand...
  • Uses replacement filter VF110. Rotating, slim nozzle targets dirt in tight spaces
  • 50% more reach than the previous Dustbuster design for less bending and better accessibility

Black & Decker CHV1510 Dustbuster 15.6-Volt Cordless Cyclonic Hand Vacuum is reliable and affordable cordless vacuum cleaner with generally good suction and good air filtering packed in rather small and lightweight product.

Unlike many new cordless vacuum cleaners which are powered with NiMH or Lithium batteries, B&D CHV1510 Dustbuster is powered with NiCd batteries offering great suction power, low price, and somewhat lower capacity.

CHV1510 uses removable and washable filters and 3 stage air filtration. Cyclonic separation spins dust and dirt away from the filter, so suction power stays strong even when dirt bin is almost full with dust and other debris.

5. Black & Decker FHV1200 Flex Vac Cordless Ultra-Compact Vacuum Cleaner

Stanley Black & Decker FHV1200W Cordless Mini Canister Vac
  • Replacement filter for this model: FVF100, Ultra-compact, cordless vacuum cleaner with...
  • 4-foot flexible hose, long crevice tool, nozzle/brush tool, and pet-hair cleaning tool

Black & Decker FHV1200 Flex Vac Cordless Ultra-Compact Vacuum Cleaner is cheap and versatile compact, handheld, cordless vacuum cleaner. It is larger and stronger than the average cordless vacuum cleaner, but a little bit weaker than a standard compact corded vacuum cleaner – but those vacuums don’t have freedom and autonomy of corded vacuum cleaners.

It comes with 4-foot flexible hose, long crevice tool, nozzle/brush tool, and pet-hair cleaning tool – various accessories for improved and reliable cleaning of many surfaces, not only in the car but including those tight spaces and hard to reach areas like under your car seats. Also, it has a 3-stage filtration system for cleaning air exhaust, providing outstanding filtration which is great for everyone having problems with allergies and asthma.

Best Car Vacuum: Runner-Ups

​The fact that there are so many car vacuums in the market, it won’t be realistic to say that there are no other models out there that are also worth considering. Of course, there are other great vacuums that aren’t on our list but may still meet your personal standards. For example:


These vacuums are more 2-in-1 or all-in-1 types of vacuums that can be used as second home vacuums (even as the main vacuum cleaner in smaller homes), as an emergency vacuum cleaner and, of course, as a car vacuum cleaner. That said, they make a great choice if you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend on individual vacuums that can only do certain tasks.

Final Review of the Best Car Vacuum Cleaner

There you have it. Those are the top five car vacuum models that we believe are worthy of your investment. Whether you prefer a battery operated unit or those that can be attached to a cigarette lighter adapter in your car, it’s all up to you. If you prefer a model with several attachments, feel free to purchase one.

Also, when choosing a vacuum, always pay attention to their features and decide whether those things are what you really need. A practical choice would be the one that does a decent job without breaking the bank. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your personal standards and budget.

Whatever you will use depends on your preferences and needs – in most cases, I clean my car with my main vacuum cleaner, but when going on longer trips with kids, I have a cheap cordless around. Better safe than sorry.

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