So, you have decided it’s time to invest in a car vacuum to keep your vehicle’s cabin clean and proper. If you’ve already done a search on car vacuums, you’re likely overwhelmed by the number of options that are available and finding it difficult to compare one product to another.
Even though there are a few things to consider when shopping for a car vacuum, your main priority is to decide if you want a corded or a cordless option. You will likely want your car vacuum to be handheld, but there are situations where a wet/dry shop vac is more ideal. We’ve included a variety of options on this list, from corded to cordless, small to 10-gallon capacity, and even 12-volt options that use your car’s cigarette lighter for power.
For more information on the best car vacuums, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Black+Decker Dustbuster Hand Vacuum (CHV1410L)
- Promoted Product: ANKO High Power Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner
- 2. Best Wet/Dry Vacuum: Armor All 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
- 3. Best if Price Doesn't Matter: Dyson V7 Cordless Trigger
- 4. BISSELL AeroSlim Cordless Vacuum
- 5. Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus Handheld Vacuum
- 6. Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Handheld Vacuum (SD20005RED)
- 7. Vacmaster 6 Gallon 3 Peak HP Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum (VQ607SFD)
- 8. ThisWorx Model 1.0 Car Vacuum Cleaner
- 9. DeWALT DXV10P 10 gallon Quiet Poly Wet Dry Vacuum
- 10. Milwaukee M18 Lithium Ion Cordless Compact 40 CFM Hand Held Vacuum (0882-20)
- ThisWorx Model 1.0 Car Vacuum Hands-On Review
- Testing the ThisWorx Model 1.0 Car Vacuum
- ThisWorx Car Vacuum Conclusions
- Everything You Need to Know About Car Vacuums
- Why Do You Need a Car Vacuum?
- Can I Use My Household Vacuum in My Car?
- Should I Use a Carpet Cleaner on my Car Upholstery?
- Choosing the Right Vacuum for Your Car
- Is a Wet-Dry Car Vacuum Right for Me?
- What’s a Shop Vac?
- What to Look for When Shopping for a Car Vacuum
- How to Care for Your Car Vacuum
- Should I Wash or Vacuum First?
- How to Vacuum Your Car
1. Editor's Pick: Black+Decker Dustbuster Hand Vacuum (CHV1410L)
One of the most popular handheld vacuums currently available is the Black+Decker Dustbuster Hand Vacuum. This hand vacuum isn’t just an ideal choice for cleaning cars, but it can also be used to tidy up your household. Weighing just 2.6 pounds, the cordless vacuum can only be used on dry materials, which isn’t true for all handheld cordless vacuums, so keep that in mind if you’re shopping for a wet/dry vacuum. It is rated at 15.2 watts with max voltage of 16 volts and has a suction power of 15.2 air watts (AW).
The washable dustbowl has a capacity of 20.6 ounces and it’s one of the easiest hand vacuums to empty out and clean. Powering the Dustbuster is a lithium-ion battery that takes about four hours to fully charge. Best of all, charging is easy since it uses a charging base. The company says the battery is capable of holding a charge for up to 18 months, allowing you to conveniently keep it in your car.
While there are cheaper options available, the Dustbuster also comes with a flip-up brush and a crevice tool, two attachments that will come in handy on floormats and hard to reach places inside your cabin.
Overall, the Black+Decker Dustbuster is a medium-duty hand vacuum that will help keep your car clean with minimal effort. It is also backed by a two-year limited warranty.
Promoted Product: ANKO High Power Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner
Here’s a wet and dry vac that packs some serious suction power. ANKO’s 12-volt portable car vacuum boasts 4,300-4,500PA (pascal pressure units) suction, making it strong enough to pick up two iPhone 6s with ease. In other words, with that kind of suction power, dust and dirt doesn’t stand a chance. ANKO’s portable car vac is also exceptionally quiet, generating only 75db of noise.
While the vacuum is corded, that cord is over 15 feet long, or more than enough to get into pretty much any nook or cranny in your vehicle. It also comes with plenty of attachments—a long mouth, brush, and soft long tube—so you’ll have the right tool for any job, be it pet hair, food crumbs, even liquids. It is a wet and dry vac, after all, so it’s got an answer to pretty much any mess.
Best of all, ANKO offers a 100% satisfaction warranty, meaning if you don’t love it, you’ll get your money back. If you’re looking for a versatile handheld car vacuum, you’ve found it.
*This is a sponsored placement.
2. Best Wet/Dry Vacuum: Armor All 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
Don’t care for a cordless, handheld vacuum? If you have easy access to a power outlet and need a wet/dry vacuum, the Armor All 2.5 gallon shop vac is a great choice. It’s not overly powerful with a two-horsepower motor, and its 2.5-gallon storage tank isn’t the largest available, but this vacuum is small enough to get inside your car for cleaning, where a full-size portable vacuum would be too big to maneuver.
It comes with a 10-foot power cord and since it’s just a 2.5-gallon tank, this vacuum is easy to move around while you vacuum your car. Also included is a six-foot hose, which should help minimize the need for an extension cord. Like other shop vacuums, Armor All’s has a built-in blower function that can quickly convert the vacuum to a blower.
The vacuum organizes its included accessories in slots as part of a Complete Vac Organization system, including a 2-in-1 utility nozzle, crevice tool, deluxe car nozzle, blower nozzle, detail brush, reusable cloth filter, and reusable foam anti-splash sleeve. A two-year warranty is standard on this small vacuum.
The Armor All 2.5 Gallon Wet/Dry vacuum is ideal for car owners who often wash their cars at home and have access to a convenient power outlet. The tank, while smaller than other shop vacuums, should be adequate for your cleaning session. It’s one of the most portable shop vacs you can purchase, so taking it over to the trash to empty and clean isn’t as cumbersome as larger units.
3. Best if Price Doesn't Matter: Dyson V7 Cordless Trigger
It’s rather difficult to do a list of vacuums without including a product from Dyson. The company specializes in making high-quality vacuums, and you probably can’t find a product that will more efficiently clean your car. The Dyson V7 Trigger is the most expensive option on our list, but it’s recommended for those who want the absolute best.
The V7 features a powerful Dyson digital motor and is capable of up to 30 minutes of runtime thanks to its lithium-ion batteries. Given its compact size, it’s no surprise its capacity is at 0.15 gallons, but it’s also one of the easiest vacuums to empty. There’s no need to touch any of the dirt, simply pull the lever and release all its contents into a waste bin.
Completely cord free, Dyson includes a two-year warranty with its product, along with a mini motorized tool, combination tool, and crevice tool. Dyson even tests using the IEC 62885-2 international standard for vacuum cleaners, if vacuum cleaner testing is one of your hobbies.
4. BISSELL AeroSlim Cordless Vacuum
BISSELL is a well-known brand when it comes to vacuum cleaners, and its stylish AeroSlim handheld vacuum is a great option for taking care of your car’s interior. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, this vacuum operates for up to 12 minutes on a single charge, which may or may not be enough depending on the size of your vehicle—and the mess. As with all rechargeable batteries, if you use it frequently and need to charge it often, battery life and performance will start to degrade, but for routine maintenance, its compact size and affordable price make it an attractive option.
Features on this handheld vacuum include a duel level filtration system that uses washable and reusable filters, an easy-to-empty dirt bin, and USB charging. That means you can charge this vacuum with your vehicle if it’s equipped with a USB port. It doesn’t come with very many accessories however, with the sole 2-in-1 crevice tool and dusting brush found inside the box.
With a sleek and compact design, this vacuum is best for small messes and quick cleanups.
5. Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus Handheld Vacuum
If your pet often travels with you in your car, it would be helpful to have a vacuum that specializes in cleaning up pet hair. The Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus does exactly that, powered by two cyclonic air streams to deliver incredible suction. Sporting a lightweight and portable design and an extra-large dust cap, this vacuum is also equipped with a washable filter for easy cleanup. Speaking of easy cleanup, when you’re all done, the CleanTouch dirt ejector makes for quick and hands-free disposal.
Included with the vacuum is a crevice tool and scrubbing brush, both of which come in handy when cleaning your interior. The crevice tool helps get to those hard-to-reach places, like between your front seats and center console, while the scrubbing brush makes quick work of stubborn dirt. Most importantly, the Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus has an innovative brushroll that removes hair wrap as it cleans, so you don’t have to deal with a mess on the brushroll.
6. Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded Handheld Vacuum (SD20005RED)
Dirt Devil is likely a brand you have heard of when it comes to vacuums, and its Scorpion Quick Flip bagless handheld vacuum is a great choice for cleaning a car. Finished in Dirt Devil’s signature red, it features an integrated Quick Flip crevice tool that makes cleaning tight spaces a breeze. Attached to the vacuum is a 16-foot power cord, which is shorter than the Eureka vacuum. Included with the vacuum is a 2.5-foot hose, a dusting brush, sliding brush, and upholstery tool.
Weighing 3.75 pounds, the Dirt Devil Scorpion is slightly heavier than the Dyson V7 trigger, but it is significantly cheaper. In fact, it’s one of the most affordable car vacuums on our list. It’s powered by a seven-amp motor and comes with a three-year limited warranty, which is the best of the bunch and impressive considering the price of the vacuum.
The Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip vacuum is recommended for car owners who are looking for a cordless handheld vacuum that just “does its job” without anything fancy. Its price makes it a compelling option for everybody looking for a simple, affordable solution.
7. Vacmaster 6 Gallon 3 Peak HP Stainless Steel Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum (VQ607SFD)
Midway between a small light-duty shop vac like the Armor All and a full-sized powerful vacuum like the DeWalt, the Vacmaster is a six-gallon, three HP model with an appealing stainless steel finish. If you have pets or children in your car regularly, or you take your truck or SUV on adventures, you might find that the smaller portable vacuums don’t have the run time, power or capacity to do the job. The Vacmaster is small enough at 20.5 inches high and under 16 pounds to be easy to maneuver on its wheels, and a 12-foot cord and seven-foot hose extend the total reach to 19 feet.
If you’ve never owned a shop vac, you might not know they suck up water just as easily as dirt, so they’re perfect for messy spills and wet carpets. When you need to clean out the tank, there’s a large drain port to make the task easier. Switching to blowing mode is handy for cleaning off floor mats, dusting your engine bay or drying off the exterior of your car after a wash, so there’s less water to dry off afterwards.
The Vacmaster comes with a seven-foot long hose, floor nozzle, 2-in-1 utility nozzle, crevice tool and round dust brush, which all store on board. You also get two extension wands, a cartridge filter, and washable foam wet filter to extend useful life.
Not surprisingly it’s a bit costly, but you’ll likely be able to use it for much more than just vacuuming your car, and the Vacmaster 6-gallon wet/dry shop vac comes with a two-year factory warranty.
8. ThisWorx Model 1.0 Car Vacuum Cleaner
Here’s a tool that was clearly designed to vacuum your car, since the power cord plugs directly into the cigarette lighter receptacle. It’s the most popular vacuum in the world, and weighs just one pound. The 16-foot power cord should be long enough for most sedans, but you’ll might have to use a rear receptacle if you drive a big crossover or SUV.
Featuring an ergonomic design, this vacuum is comfortable to use and its accessories will allow you to reach all sorts of areas inside your cabin. The large transparent trash container shows you when it’s time to empty it out. Along with the vacuum, you’ll get three attachments (flathead hose, extension tube, and brush head) for cleaning different surfaces and reaching the corners, a convenient carrying bag for easy storage, a special filter cleaning brush, and a spare HEPA filter.
See below for a full hands-on test, and watch for an upcoming four-vacuum shootout (suckout?) between it, the Black+Decker, Bissel, and a new tube-style car vacuum.
9. DeWALT DXV10P 10 gallon Quiet Poly Wet Dry Vacuum
Not every household needs a wet/dry vacuum such as this one, but when the AutoGuide Garage needed a shop vac, we went with DEWALT’s 10-gallon wet/dry vacuum. Powered by a 5.5-peak horsepower motor, it’s designed for large applications, so whether it’s your work truck that needs cleaning from bumper to bumper, or your minivan filled with spilled cereal, this vacuum will handle it all. We’ve been so impressed by how quiet and light it is for the power that we end up using it in place of a household vacuum, especially for big jobs, and a shop vac is part of every workshop.
It features five durable rubberized casters at the bottom for smooth swiveling and easy movement. An extra long 20-foot power cord and long seven-foot hose means you have plenty of reach without having to plug or unplug the vacuum as you clean. The exhaust port also functions as a built-in blower port, using the suction hose, if you want to reverse the function of the vacuum. Lastly, the large built-in tank drain makes it easy to clean up liquid messes. When vacuuming wet messes, a washable foam filter keeps water out of the motor.
For convenience, there’s large a built-in accessory bag that’s conveniently attached to the backside of the vacuum, allowing you to keep the included extension wands, floor nozzle, utility nozzle, and crevice nozzle organized; and an elastic hook secures the hose in place when not in use.
10. Milwaukee M18 Lithium Ion Cordless Compact 40 CFM Hand Held Vacuum (0882-20)
Milwaukee makes the most popular line of cordless power tools, so it makes sense they’d offer a cordless small vacuum (in fact they have three). In the middle of the lineup is the 0882-20, a large, powerful handheld that sucks up 40 cu.ft. per minute. An included HEPA filter removes allergens while you vacuum, which is particularly important inside a car.
Included accessories are a crevice tool, floor cleaner and two extensions. The extensions are the right length to use it as a stick vacuum around the house, or you can use the four-foot flexible hose and set it down flat while vacuuming your floors and seats. However, it does not include batteries. You must get or already have Milwaukee’s M18 18 volt lithium ion batteries. The good news is they are compatible in various capacities up to 6.0Ah, which will give you extended run time and potentially power. Plus, you can keep running your portable vacuum cleaner as long as you have fresh batteries to swap in.
Milwaukee offers an outstanding five-year warranty on their cordless handheld vacuum.
ThisWorx Model 1.0 Car Vacuum Hands-On Review
For years when we wanted to vacuum cars we’ve either been dragging out our big shop vac, or hoping that our household Black+Decker DustBuster was charged up and would last long enough to get the job done. Car vacuums, which usually have a 12-volt plug and accessories designed to fit into the small spaces inside a car, promise a solution.
Because of their limitations, car vacuums as a category are not well reviewed. Especially in those with more than a few hundred reviews, 70-80% positive is a normal range. It’s important to understand that 12-volt car vacuums are not actually very good vacuums, but if you know what they’re supposed to do, you’ll be a lot happier. They usually only have around 100 watts of power, and even the cheapest upright vacuum might have 1,000 watts. If you want the convenience of not having to worry about waiting for a battery to recharge or maneuvering a large vacuum around, there are going to be compromises.
With a 73% positive rating (and an astonishing 204,000 reviews), the ThisWorx 1.0 car vacuum wouldn’t normally make our cutoff to be included in recommendations, but we wanted to take a look at it anyway, because it’s the #1 overall selling car vacuum on Amazon (and version 2.0 is #3).
Testing the ThisWorx Model 1.0 Car Vacuum
It comes in a compact fabric storage bag with a crevice tool, brush, hose, and spare HEPA filter. Photos show a filter cleaning brush, which ours didn’t have. It may have been an older model, though. The attachments fit well. We had trouble opening and changing the filter the first time, which ThisWorx says is normal. It was much easier after that.
We deliberately let our car get dirty for a couple of weeks before our test, and our footwells were full of dirt, gravel, and grass. Immediately, we noticed that the mouth of the vacuum is very small, a 1.5 x .75-inch oval. It was definitely going to take some patience for the floor mats.
Then we tried the flexible nozzle, and the brush on our dusty dashboard. The vacuum didn’t make enough suction for either to be useful. The crevice tool, which narrows down the opening even more, did work, and sucked dirt and debris out of the seats and console.
Vacuuming the carpets gave us mixed results. As you can see from the pictures, we pulled a healthy pile of dirt up, including peanut-sized gravel. But it couldn’t get out anything that had worked into the fabric, like bits of grass or pine needles. The housing was a static magnet for dust, too. We think the rounded corners of the nozzle, which are there to prevent dirt from jamming in a corner of the interior, make it harder to get a good seal against a surface. This is probably why the crevice tool, with sharper edges, worked well.
ThisWorx Car Vacuum Conclusions
We liked the design and convenience of the ThisWorx, especially the crevice tool and 16-foot long cord. Our favorite feature, by far, was how quiet it was, far more so than the Black+Decker. That’s a real factor when you’re inside a closed car. The filter was very easy to clean—we knocked it against the side of the garage and basically all the dirt fell off of it. Because there’s no battery, it’s right around one pound, lighter than any cordless could be.
The small inlet and low power make it a poor choice for large jobs, although it’ll pick up a lot of dirt if you take your time. It’s best use is for maintaining a car between serious cleanings, and for getting dirt out of hard-to-reach places.
Car vacuums come in a small number of styles, which are often rebranded with small customizations and sold as different brands. You can find innumerable nearly identical variations on sites like Alibaba and AliExpress. We’re buying three more vacuums from our recommendations in different styles to compare and test against the ThisWorx, so check back in.
Editor’s Note: ThisWorx provided us with this vacuum to review, but did not have any input into our conclusion, and we were not compensated for our review.
All ThisWorx photos by David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide.com
Everything You Need to Know About Car Vacuums
It may not seem like a car vacuum is a necessity unless you’re an absolute clean freak, but they’re an important investment in keeping your car in tiptop shape. You likely spend at least an hour in your car each day, so you might be surprised at how much dust and dirt can gather up inside your cabin. There’s also the chance something may spill in your car and having to find a car wash with an accessible vacuum isn’t always possible, and those quarters add up fast.
Car vacuums are even more important if you’re often traveling with kids. In 2013, Honda started what has become a trend, outfitting its Odyssey minivan with a built-in car vacuum. Since then, other makes and models including the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica have been equipped with integrated car vacuums. In a way, a car vacuum is like what you thought was a luxury item that you find you can’t live without once you own one.
Having your own car vacuum has plenty of benefits and many car vacuums are portable enough to fit in your car’s trunk so it’s easily accessible when you need it. But shopping for the right car vacuum can be overwhelming, with a plethora of options available across various price ranges. There are a few things to consider before you click the add to cart button, don’t simply just pick the highest rated or most affordable option available within your budget.
Why Do You Need a Car Vacuum?
Your first instinct might be to just use your household vacuum to clean up your car, and it may do an adequate job depending on the vacuum. Some household vacuums are now cordless and come with a variety of attachments, but they will never be as convenient as a car vacuum. Upright or canister household vacuums will, at the very least, need a hose attachment to help clean your car, and you’re unlikely to be use a stick vacuum at all. All large household vacuums are cumbersome and can tip over, making the task of cleaning your car’s interior more difficult than it should be.
As you can imagine, household vacuums are designed to clean large surface areas efficiently and quickly. They may work well enough on your car’s floorboards and floor mats, but some home vacuums will have a difficult time getting into hard-to-reach places. Like most things automotive, you need the right tool for the job, which is why a car vacuum is recommended to keep your cabin nice and clean.
Can I Use My Household Vacuum in My Car?
We’ve certainly done that—hauled our household upright bagged vacuum outside, run an extension cord, hooked up accessory hoses and cleaned a car. But it’s cumbersome and inconvenient, and can potentially damage your vacuum as you stretch short and easy-to-tear hoses to reach inside. Stick vacuums are lighter than traditional uprights, but often don’t have the optional hoses to reach many spots, or the powerful suction to deal with dirt and gravel from your floors. Canister vacuums are a much better choice, have the best suction of all three types of household vacuums, and are always equipped with longer hoses. You’ll still have to deal with getting it, its cord and hoses and accessories out to your car, and potentially scraping it along the ground as you work.
Should I Use a Carpet Cleaner on my Car Upholstery?
No. Our short answer is no. Car upholstery is easy to stain, whether with coffee, kids or pets, but in our testing carpet cleaners do a poor job of removing those stains and often leave marks of their own. Even if you rent a Rug Doctor or the equivalent carpet cleaner with a special upholstery wand, in our experience it won’t clean evenly, leaving permanent dark and light spots or strips. If you have seats that need cleaning, it’s worth using a professional detailer, and to preserve your car’s appearance and resale value, we recommend a high-quality set of waterproof, washable seat covers.
If you’re able to, you can remove you car’s seat fabric and test an area you’ll never see, like the underside. If it doesn’t stain or discolor, then you can risk using a carpet cleaner on the seating surfaces.
Choosing the Right Vacuum for Your Car
One of the most important factors in picking the right vacuum for your car is determining how your car is used every day. Maybe your vehicle is often used for work and gets wet and muddy, or you have a pet that loves taking rides with you. If you have kids, there’s a good chance they’ll accidentally spill food inside the car. If your car sees heavy duty use, you’ll likely want to pay close attention to the car vacuum you’re planning to purchase. Some vacuums specialize in picking up pet hair, while others will operate wet or dry.
Now if none of the above applies to you, then a lightweight, handheld cordless vacuum might suffice. Determining how often you need to clean your car’s interior plays an important role in choosing the right car vacuum.
Aside from budget, you’ll want to decide whether you want a corded or cordless car vacuum. Cordless vacuums are generally more expensive and have the added convenience of not being tethered or having to look for a power outlet. The downside, of course, is that they are often less powerful need to be charged after use. If you are unable to vacuum your car within a garage, there are also corded car vacuums that use the 12-volt cigarette lighter in your car. While they may seem to be the best option, they’re not as convenient as cordless vacuums and are often not as powerful as vacuums that plug into a wall.
Recently, some automakers have been outfitting their vehicles with AC power outlets, which is something to consider when shopping for a car vacuum. If your vehicle has a power outlet built-in, you could use a corded option without having to fuss with the power outlet in your garage, although you should be careful of draining your battery.
Is a Wet-Dry Car Vacuum Right for Me?
As its name suggests, a wet-dry vacuum serves a dual purpose, allowing you to vacuum wet and dry parts of your interior. A wet-dry vacuum has a bucket or a collection chamber, so that wet materials never pass through any electrical or mechanical components. A wet-dry vac is ideal if you’re worried about having to deal with spills, wet, or muddy floor mats and carpeting.
In addition, almost all wet-dry vacuums have a blower function, allowing you to blow air out rapidly. This could be useful for blowing dust or other particles from your interior.
Basically, a wet-dry vacuum is designed to vacuum liquid, so it’s protected from possible short circuits. A typical dry vacuum is not made to hold liquid, so it’s possible whatever you vacuum can leak into the electrical components, potentially even causing a fire. Avoid using a car vacuum on wet surfaces if its description doesn’t specifically state that it’s safe to use on liquids.
What’s a Shop Vac?
You have likely heard of or seen shop vacs before, which are intended for heavy-duty use. They can also be used as a car vacuum, especially for vehicles that often get filled with mud or dirt. Most shop vacs feature a huge canister to hold debris and liquid, along with a long and tough hose. They’re also versatile since they typically have wheels, making them very mobile and easy to maneuver.
Shop vacs are typically equipped with a longer hose and more powerful motor than a household vacuum, and can handle much heavier objects. For cars, however, there are smaller shop vacs available that are lightweight and compact. They’re a great all-around option if you’re willing to spend a bit more and don’t need a handheld, ultracompact vacuum. Shop vacs are highly recommended if you’re often dealing with spills or food in the car, or you travel in harsh weather conditions. They’re also handy for cleaning up all kinds of hard-to-handle messes not just in a basement, garage or shop, but throughout the house as they can easily suck up things like broken glass, dirt from a spilled plant or water off the floor from a leak.
What to Look for When Shopping for a Car Vacuum
Regardless of whether you’re shopping for a corded or cordless car vacuum, you will want to pay attention to a vacuum’s power rating. But don’t be fooled into thinking the bigger the number, the better. Along with wattage, you will want to research its suction pressure, which is often measured in pascals, along with cubic feet per minute of airflow—basically, how hard it can suck and how much it is sucking.
You will also want to check whether the car vacuum you’re looking at comes with a variety of accessories. You may not need any of those accessories if you’re using the vacuum for general cleaning, but having additional nozzles and brushes could prove handy if your car sees heavy use.
If you’re shopping for a cordless vacuum, pay close attention to its advertised battery life and weight. You might find it uncomfortable to use a heavy handheld vacuum for an extended period of time in awkward positions. If you have a larger vehicle, smaller batteries may not allow you to completely clean your car on a single charge.
One aspect that’s often overlooked when shopping for a car vacuum is its tank capacity. For smaller, compact cars, you may not need a large canister. But if you own an SUV or a minivan, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have to constantly empty out the canister while vacuuming your car. Along the same lines, you may want to do some research to see how easy or difficult it is to clean a particular vacuum. You likely don’t want to purchase a vacuum that’s complicated to disassemble and maintain.
Prepare to be overwhelmed by the number of manufacturers who offer car vacuums. You’ll likely recognize familiar brands such as Black+Decker, Bissell, and Dyson, but they may not necessarily be the best for your needs. If you’re shopping for a shop vac, Armor All is a brand you likely recognize since the company specializes in car detailing products.
Once you’ve decided whether you want a corded, cordless, or shop vac, narrow down your product choices by budget and power. You will also want to pay close attention to the warranty that is offered when comparing vacuums. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a bit more for a product from an established company, knowing you have warranty support you if something breaks.
The last thing you should consider is how easy it is to find replacement parts for the vacuum you’re interested in. Can you purchase replacement filters easily? If you’re looking at a cordless vacuum, are replacement batteries expensive? Lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, so eventually you’ll have to purchase a replacement. You may also want to check if accessories can be purchased separately, in case you only need one specific item.
How to Care for Your Car Vacuum
Making an investment into a car vacuum may not be cheap, so you’ll want to take a few steps to maintain and keep your vacuum clean. If your car vacuum has a filter, change it on a regular basis and more often if you’re using the vacuum frequently. Some filters can also be washed, so you’ll want to check your specific product to see if that’s an option.
Make sure to empty out your vacuum canister every time you’re done cleaning, even if it’s just a little amount of debris or dirt. This is especially important if you’re using a wet-dry vacuum, since leaving anything wet for a long period of time can lead to mold and mildew.
If you’re using an attachment that has a brush or roll, make sure you clean it on a regular basis. Over time, certain objects can get caught in the brush or roll, preventing it from spinning and performing as effectively as it should and potentially burning out a motor. If you’re using a vacuum with a hose attachment, make sure nothing is stuck inside the hose after each cleaning, so you don’t cause a clog next time you use the vacuum.
Should I Wash or Vacuum First?
We’re fans of the “work your way out” philosophy. Our theory is that when you’re working on the interior, you’re more likely to get the exterior dirty by accident. And when you’re done inside and move to the exterior, you don’t have any reason to open the doors until your cleaning is finished and the whole car is ready.
On the other hand, we also know very good detailers who start with the exterior, because they feel that way they won’t track anything into the exterior when they start. We think that increases the chance of bringing something wet into the interior, but the professionals know what they’re doing.
Either way, no one recommends doing part of one and then the other. Do the entire interior or exterior, then move on to the rest. Which you choose first depends on your preference, your style, and your situation.
How to Vacuum Your Car
Once you’ve chosen a car vacuum that suits your needs, it’s time to get cleaning. Vacuuming a car may sound like a straightforward task, but here are some tips to make sure you properly do the job:
- Before you start, open all the vehicle’s doors so it’s convenient to access every part of your interior and allow any dust you kick up to circulate out. You’ll also be able pull the vacuum’s hose straight through the cabin instead of going around the car.
- Make sure to clear out trash and other large items prior to vacuuming. Not only will this make vacuuming easier, it ensures your vacuum won’t get stuck on large debris—plus you won’t suck up any dollar bills. Keep an eye out for sharp objects that can damage your vacuum, and loose items such as strings or hair. While strings or hair shouldn’t clog or damage your vacuum, it could over time make a mess out of an attached brush or roll.
- Remove all your floor mats and trunk liners if you’re planning to also vacuum your trunk. Most modern vehicles have hooks or eyelets that are used to secure the floor mat in place.
- If your car vacuum came with a brush attachment, use that to vacuum. While suction alone does an adequate job, a brush attachment will help lift up dirt and debris stuck in your car’s carpet.
- Thoroughly vacuum the floorboards of your car and make multiple passes to ensure the carpet is free of debris. When vacuuming the front of the car, slide the driver and passenger’s seats as far back as possible so you can cover more surface area. Do the opposite when vacuuming the back of the car.
- If you have cloth seats, make sure to run the vacuum over the upholstery. Recline the front seats so you can get in between the seat and seat back.
- Use your crevice tool to get into the seams of the seats, between them and the consoles, into door pockets, and any other hard-to-reach area.
- You can also run your vacuum along the dash to pick up any dust or debris, but be careful not to scratch it. If your dash is made of soft plastic, just use a microfiber towel instead.
- For the floor mats that you removed earlier, shake them out first (or use your shop vac to blow then off) before vacuuming each mat one by one. Properly re-install each floor mat on their hooks once they’ve been vacuumed. This keeps them from interfering with your accelerator or brake pedal.
- Lastly, don’t forget to vacuum the trunk. Since it is often the place where large objects are stored, you’ll want to maintain it from time to time.
- After you’re done cleaning your car, make sure to take a few minutes to clean your vacuum by emptying the canister and making sure nothing is stuck in the hose or brush attachments.
February 18, 2022: Added information to ThisWorx car vacuum review.
February 17, 2021: Removed additional review section of Armor-all wet-dry vacuum, and of discontinued Dyson V7 and Armor-All vacuums. Added ThisWorx car vacuum test and review.
September 8, 2021: Recommended DeWalt 10-gallon shop vac over nine-gallon model based on experience. Added Milwaukee cordless vacuum to recommendations. Added new FAQ sections.
June 15, 2021: Updated with a promoted product recommendation.
December 11, 2020: Updated with new product recommendations.
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Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide.com