Tired of lugging a shop vac around your car when it’s time to vacuum it out? You’re in luck because we’ve put together this guide to help you choose a portable vacuum for your car. We’ll walk you through how they work, what the difference is between corded and cordless vacuums, and the best way to choose one. We’ve also reviewed the TOP 5 car vacuum cleaners on the market to make your shopping easier.

If you’re like me, you’ve tried vacuuming your car with a shop vac or standard home vacuum with a hose attachment. Awkward, isn’t it? I’ve since discovered that car vacuum cleaners make the chore of vacuuming car floors and upholstery less painful. Many of these vacuums are cordless, so you don’t need to worry about untangling yourself from cords while you work. Their smaller size and lighter weight can also be helpful when you’re maneuvering into tight spaces. Car vacuums also come with specialized attachments designed for those hard to reach crevices found in cars.

How Car Vacuum Cleaners Work

Car vacuum cleaners are portable vacuums designed specifically for cleaning vehicle interiors. They’re equipped to handle the type of dust, hair, and debris the builds up on car floors, and they’re designed to deal with the small spaces and awkward positions that cleaning out a car can entail. Some of these vacuum cleaners are battery powered and some have power cords that plug into a 12V cigarette lighter socket. Both styles are more convenient to use than standard vacuums with extension cords.

Corded vs. Cordless Car Vacuum Cleaners: Which Is Right for You?

The two main categories of car vacuum cleaners are corded and cordless. Corded vacuums have power cords that need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to run. Cordless vacuums have rechargeable batteries that allow them to run for a limited time before a recharge is required.

Cordless vacuums eliminate the difficulties that cords can pose as you navigate around the inside of a car. You won’t be frustrated by the cord getting hung up or being too short to reach the furthest corner of your vehicle. The drawback is that the batteries can run down in as little as 15 minutes and need several hours to recharge. If you have more than one vehicle to clean, they may be less than ideal.

Corded vacuums come in a couple varieties. Some are multi-purpose portable vacuums intended to clean cars as well as garages or homes. They have standard power plugs that require an AC electrical outlet. Other corded vacuums are designed to plug into a car’s 12V lighter outlet, making them quicker to get started and less difficult to maneuver.

What to Look for in a Car Vacuum

There are several factors to consider when shopping for a car vacuum besides its price or whether its cordless. Below is a quick summary of the main features that will likely affect whether a vacuum cleaner is right for you or not.

  • Versatility

You’ll want to consider how versatile you need a car vacuum cleaner to be. Do you want to use it for other chores like cleaning up the garage or small messes in your home? In that case, you may want a multi-purpose vacuum rather than one that’s just for cleaning cars.

  • Power Rating

When you shop for vacuum cleaners, you’ll often see a power rating listed for the motor. It’s usually measured in amps, which is the amount of electricity the motor consumes. This power rating tells you how much suction the vacuum theoretically can produce. The higher the motor’s power rating, the better it will pick up debris from a carpet.

  • Vacuum Attachments

Attachments can make your day when you clean out a car because of the small spaces and awkward angles that you need to reach. Vacuums with special attachments designed just for these difficult spots will make cleaning your car less frustrating.

  • Tank Capacity

This is how much dirt the vacuum can hold before it needs to be emptied out. A vacuum will lose suction power when the tank and filter fill up and clog. As a result, handheld vacuums are only designed to clean up small messes. For a car, you’ll want something larger to pick up all the dirt in a single cleaning session without the need to empty it multiple times.

What to Expect When Spending More?

As you move up the price range, you’ll notice an increase in accessories, durability, longer lasting batteries, and features that make life easier when cleaning cars. You’ll also notice that cheaper models will have low power motors that make it harder to pick up ground in dirt. If you want a higher quality vacuum, don’t be afraid to spend more. You’ll also want to be deliberate about which features are important enough to justify paying more.

How to Vacuum Your Car Interior in a Professional Manner

Cars are one of the more challenging spaces to vacuum and clean well. Not only is a car cabin hard to maneuver around in, but the dirt and hair can be ground into the carpeting and hard to pick up. Still, you can make short work of vacuuming a car and make it look professionally cleaned with practice and a couple rules of thumb.

Pick up All Your Items

Cleaning out your car before you start cleaning will make your life less complicated. Spending a few minutes carefully picking up papers, coins, pens, and other items that can be sucked into a vacuum will prevent jammed rollers or clogged hoses, not to mention the fact that you may not want to lose them.

Be Methodical

There’s so many crevices, spaces, and tight places where dust and dirt collect inside a car that you’ll need to take your time to get them all. It can be more efficient if you divide the cabin into sections and concentrate on each one until it’s thoroughly cleaned before moving on to the next section.

TOP-5 Best Car Vacuums

There many types of car vacs on the market. Knowing a little bit about each one can make it easier to choose the right one for you. We have provided short descriptions of a few of the best types for cleaning up your car below.

BLACK & DECKER BDH1200PVAV Corded Automotive Vacuum with 12V adapter

Black & Decker’s vacuum cleaner: photo

Black & Decker’s BDH1200PVAV is a vacuum cleaner designed specifically for car interiors.

The two most convenient features of this vacuum are its 12V power cord that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter and its pivoting nose design. For a vacuum that you’ll use only in cars, being able to plug into a car’s electric outlet a major plus.

The pivoting nose helps with different tasks by adjusting the nose angle with ten different settings.

It’s a compact vacuum that you may need to empty frequently, but you won’t need to worry about recharging batteries.

BLACK+DECKER BDH1200PVAV: Check the current price

Bissell 47R51 Cleanview Deluxe Corded Handheld Vacuum - Best Budget

Bissell Handheld Vacuum: photo

Bissell’s 47R51 Cleanview Deluxe is a corded vacuum well-suited to cleaning car interiors, and it’s also one of the most affordable models on the market today.

It’s compact design and 2-ft hose attachment makes it possible to get into the toughest spots.

The Cleanview also has a powerful motor for its size, ensuring that it can pick up tough dirt found on car floors.

The power cord isn’t designed for cars, but it is 18 feet long.

Bissell 47R51: Check the current price

Holife 6KPA Hand Vacuum Cleaner Rechargeable Hand Vac - Best Quality

Holife Hand Vacuum Cleaner: photo

High quality doesn’t always come at the highest price point, and Holife’s 6KPA is an example of that.

This cordless hand vacuum comes with a lithium-ion battery that can sustain full power for 30 minutes on average before it needs recharging.

The compact size makes it easy to reach difficult areas in a car, and it comes with a set of three attachments: a crevice tool, a dusting brush, and a liquid nozzle. That’s right: This vacuum can clean up liquid as well as dry dirt.

Holife: Check the current price

BLACK+DECKER CHV1410L Cordless Hand Vacuum - Bestseller

BLACK+DECKER Cordless Hand Vacuum: photo

Black & Decker’s CHV1419L Cordless Hand Vacuum is a best seller for good reason: At an affordable price, you get a cordless vacuum, a compact design, and powerful motor.

The lithium-ion battery that powers the CHV1410L can hold a single charge for up to 18 months. That means it’ll need fewer recharges when you aren’t using it often.

The small, cordless housing makes it able to handle the difficulty of car vacuuming, and the motor can generate up to 15 AW of suction power.

BLACK+DECKER CHV1410L: Check the current price

BISSELL 1985 Lightweight Cordless Car Vacuum - High-end

BISSELL Lightweight Cordless Car Vacuum: photo

Bissell’s 1985 Cordless Car Vacuum is one of the highest quality vacuum cleaners you’ll find, and the price matches its features.

It’s equipped with a brush roller capable of picking up the most ground in dirt. The amount of power required to run that brush roller along with the suction motor limits the time the battery can last to about 15 minutes.

Still, this vacuum comes with a full set of features and attachments including a built-in extension hose, extension wand, crevice tool, and a dusting brush.

BISSELL 1985: Check the current price


Can a car vacuum cleaner be converted for use at home?
Yes, most car vacuum cleaners can be converted to plug into a standard wall socket. What you will need is a power adapter that accepts a car jack and plugs into a standard AC power outlet. Be sure to research the voltage and amperage your vacuum cleaner requires when buying a third-party adapter.

How long does a cordless vacuum battery last?
Most cordless vacuums use lithium-ion batteries last anywhere between two and ten years depending on the quality of the battery and how often you need to recharge it. Lithium-ion batteries begin to degrade gradually after a few hundred recharges. Be sure to check the specs for individual vacuum cleaner batteries before making a purchase.

How loud is the car vacuum noise?
This varies quite a bit depending on the size of the motor and the design of the vacuum cleaner. Car vacuums are as loud as other types of portable vacuum cleaner, starting around 60 dB and going up from there.

Can you vacuum a car’s air filter?
Yes, using a vacuum cleaner is a quick way to clean an air filter.

Which car vacuum has the strongest suction?
The Black & Decker CHV1410L has one of the better suction ratings for a car vacuum cleaner.

Is there a car vacuum with cigarette lighter plug?
Yes, some corded vacuums like the Black & Decker BDH1200PVAV have this kind of power cord plug for use in cars. You can also find adapters to use with standard vacuum power cords.

Pros and Cons of Car Vacuums


  • Lightweight appliances
  • Cordless vacuums can go anywhere
  • Corded vacuums don’t need recharging


  • Less power compared to full-size vacuums
  • Less capacity that other vacuums like shop-vacs

Pro Tips

Tip #1: Having the right attachments will make your life easier when you vacuum a car. If you notice certain spots take a long time to clean, see if you can find an attachment that’ll make it faster.

Tip #2: Portable vacuums lose suction as their tanks fill up, which prevents air from flowing through the machine. Be sure to empty the holding tank to keep your vacuum running at full power.

Comparative Chart of Car Vacuum Cleaners

Name Features


16-ft Cord with 12V adapter, pivoting nose with ten settings

Bissell 47R51

18-ft power cord, 4-amp motor, 2-ft hose


Lithium-ion battery (30-min runtime), 100W motor, attachment set


Long-lasting battery, 15 AW suction, compact design


Lithium-ion battery (15-min runtime), brush roller, attachment set


That concludes our Top 5 Car Vacuum Cleaners for 2018. We chose a cross-section of vacuums that would meet the needs of different consumers with both large and small vehicles that they need to clean. We made sure to cover the price range in the market this year, from the most affordable units like Bissell’s 47R51 to units at the top of the price range like Bissell’s 1985 model. We also tried to give you a good choice between corded and cordless vacuum cleaners. Be sure to stop by again next year for the latest innovations in this niche vacuum cleaner market.