A car vacuum can be a key tool to have in your cleaning arsenal. Cars are notoriously difficult to keep clean. Whether you’re tackling snack-loving children in car seats, muddy dogs in the boot or just the day-to-day dust and debris that comes with getting in and out of your car, you’ll appreciate having one handy.
Car vacuums have historically had a bit of a bad reputation for not being particularly powerful. Still, with the rise in popularity of portable handheld vacuums – especially from brands making the best vacuum cleaners on the market – that perception is starting to change.
Of course, the main difference between the car vacs we’ve tested here, compared to the vacuum you might have in your home, is size. While the best upright vacuums are absolute powerhouses for the home, the faff of using an extension cable to get it outside onto your road or drive is enough to put us off – not to mention the form factor is far from ideal for moving around the car quickly and easily. With something more tailored to the job at hand, you have much more freedom for dealing with dirt quickly and easily.
That said, some of the best cordless vacuums for the home can now transform into vacs that will work in the car – albeit with more weight and size to the main body than you’d get from something more specialized. Opting for one of these does prevent you from having to buy different devices, so the added cost for the device may make sense.
And while cordless is of course the very most convenient, there is still a market for corded car vacuums too. These are usually powered through the 12V “cigarette lighter” port in your car and are generally found towards the lower end of the budget. Expect to pay around £30-50 for something like this, while something that can shapeshift between your main vacuum and car vacuum might start around $280 / £250 / $AU 435.
Go middle of the road for a specialized handheld portable device and you can expect to pay around $78 / £70 / $AU 122. However, recommended retail prices can be as much as double what they usually sell for, so do keep your eye out for sales in this part of the market in particular.
Without further ado let’s take a look at the best car vacuums you can buy in 2022, and help you get your car looking presentable again.
The best car vacuums: in order
Many will recognise the Dyson V8 as a household vacuum, but its form factor and included tools make it easy to turn into a car vacuum too. We’ve included it because it’s one of the lower-priced models in Dyson’s range ($449/£249/AU$499), should someone be buying more primarily as a car vacuum, though of course pretty much any of Dyson’s V-series vacuum cleaners would do the job here.
As a car vacuum, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the V8 outperforms most of its competition. The power and suction here are pretty much unrivaled when compared with smaller, more portable handheld vacs, but then you’d hope so when you consider the difference in price.
Battery life is good on standard suction mode, although the seven minutes in Max mode is a touch short. Thankfully we found it could pick up most debris on the lower setting with an occasional blast on the higher setting doing a good job of collecting anything left over.
The size of the handheld unit can be a bit of a downfall when trying to get in more awkward spots, even when using the crevice tool, and the added weight means it can get a bit tiring to hold too. But if you need the power and performance, you won’t find much better than this.
Read more: Dyson V8 review
The Black and Decker 12V Auto Flexi Vacuum is the only car vacuum in our list that runs via a 12V corded connection. It uses your car’s accessory power outlet, or the old “cigarette lighter” socket, for power.
It has a far more traditional vacuum style than most other car vacuums in our list, in that it has a larger main body for collecting debris, and a 1.5m-long hose for moving around. This is convenient for those who may find the weight of an all-in-one or stick vacuum a struggle, as the hose is very lightweight in use.
There’s a single level of suction and a large 19 fl oz/560ml dust canister. Despite feeling relatively soft on suction, it can provide an acceptable clean of both large and small debris, with perseverance. It will require several pass overs to get a good finish though and take longer than using something more powerful. It can’t tackle ground-in dirt and pet hair either, it simply doesn’t have the power to handle it.
Design could be better in some places. For example, the door for emptying the bin sits on the side of the vacuum’s main body so isn’t the easiest for ditching the dirt cleanly.
Overall, this is a handy car vac for those who need something that’s both budget and lightweight to use and who clean little and often. If you need something more heavy duty you should look elsewhere.
Read more: Black and Decker Dustbuster Flexi Auto review (opens in new tab)
The HomeVac H30 Venture is the entry-level model of Eufy’s H30 three-strong lineup and comes with a 2-in-1 crevice tool and the multi-surface tool for collecting pet hair. There’s a nice touch of a charging station in the box too, for storing it all neatly when not in use.
With a slim and lightweight design, the H30 is a great choice for a car vacuum. Both included attachments are useful, although we found ourselves using the 2-in-1 crevice tool most often, but the multi-use tool does a pretty good job with pet hair.
It offers two levels of suction – Eco and Max – with the former giving you up to 20 minutes of vacuuming. We found we regularly had to nudge it up to Max for the best results though, and even then, it didn’t quite manage the same cleaning performance as the very best.
With a fairly small 8.5 fl oz/250ml dust canister, the messiest cars may need the bin emptying once during a clean. But, for little-and-often cleans, the H30 Venture is a superb car cleaning companion.
Read more: Eufy H30 Venture review
The Shark CH950UKT / Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ is one of the better handheld vacuums we’ve tested, so it’s easy to understand why it’s a bestseller. Its size, shape and weight make it perfect for cleaning your car, with its range of useful tools also helping to ensure it’s always best suited for the task at hand.
We found the motorized pet hair tool and the crevice tool the most useful for car cleaning. The crevice tool was particularly helpful, as even though the CH950UKT is relatively compact, its all-in-one design still means getting into the harder-to-reach areas behind foot pedals or inside door bins would be tricky without it.
However, the motorized tool is a great size for more widespread clear-ups on carpets and upholstery. It also makes quick work of both smaller and larger debris in our standard tests.
Its one power setting means one pass may not be enough for really set-in dirt – and it can struggle with the most stubborn of pet hair too – but overall the single power setting copes well with most tasks. We found you’ll get around 15 minutes of battery life, 50% more than its quoted 10 minutes and more than enough to do a good clean of your whole car.
Considering its low price, this Shark handheld offers tremendous value and is perfect for busy families. That’s not to mention a great option if you’re dealing with pet hair on a daily basis.
Read more: Shark Ultracyclone Pet Plus Pro review
If you’re looking for something small and simple, this could be the car vac for you. The eufy Clean HomeVac H20 is a cordless, handheld vacuum cleaner that comes with a selection of specialist attachments that make it most suited for use in the car. Each component feels sturdy, and when switching between the attachments, a satisfying “click” delivers reassurance that all is in place and secure.
The HomeVac H20 offers two suction modes – Eco and Max – that you select by pushing a button on the main unit, beneath the power button. Between the two buttons sits a battery indicator light, which is useful for offering guidance on the level of power remaining. We were grateful that the HomeVac H20 could be charged from inside the car using the in-car charger; on a few occasions, we had to resort to using it to gather enough juice to finish the job.
The attachments and in-car charger make the eufy Clean HomeVac H20 a good option to have in the car at all times. It’s not as powerful as some rivals but it’s handy to have for quick cleanups.
Read more: Eufy Clean HomeVac H20 review
How we test car vacuums
To find the best car vacuum you can buy, we test how well each model can clean up a range of dirt and debris from different areas of a car, using crushed digestive biscuits for our finer dirt test, and oats for the larger one.
We then section off a testing area of 20cm x 20cm in the boot, to test carpet pick up, and on the driver’s seat for the upholstery test. This allows us to assess the performance of each in a controlled environment, while also carrying out “real-world” testing over a period of time too. This includes general car clean-ups, observing the handling of pet hair and how well they can get into tight spaces, like door bins.
As well as evaluating its cleaning performance, we also consider the other things that would be important when making a buying decision, including how long the battery lasts compared to the manufacturer’s claims (or how long the wire is for corded vacs), how loud it is in use and the usefulness of any included tools for different jobs.
We also consider the weight and ergonomics, to understand if people are going to be able to use it comfortably to clean the whole car and if the bin capacity it has will make that possible.
Lastly, we rate based on how easy it is to empty the vacuum cleanly, and how easy it is to keep clean, as well as general feedback on ease of use.
What to consider when choosing a car vacuum
If you’re in the market for a car vacuum, there are a few things you should think about. One of the first questions could be — do you actually need one? If you own something like the Dyson V8, it can shapeshift into a form factor that can work very well to clean cars with and comes with all the power, bin size and additional tools of a fully-fledged vacuum cleaner for great performance. Of course, this comes at a considerably higher cost than a dedicated car vacuum and can be heavier too.
If you decide you do need something more dedicated, there are several things to bear in mind. One of the first is whether you want corded or cordless. Most car vacs these days do run on a rechargeable battery, so do consider the battery life in these situations. Be sure to check whether it has more than one suction level to understand what the battery life figure refers to.
If you are going for corded, make sure the cord is long enough to allow you to do the full car.
Next up, think about form factor, including weight and how comfortable it looks to hold. Can you imagine cleaning a whole car with it, and does it come with the necessary tools for your situation? Crevice tools are particularly useful for cleaning cars, but pet owners will want to look out for specific tools to tackle pet hair if possible.
You might also want to consider the bin size, to be sure it has a decent capacity for a full car clean — if the bin is too small you might have to stop to empty it halfway through. Speaking of which, consider how the bin opens on the car vac and if it looks like it can be emptied cleanly. There’s nothing worse than losing half of your bin’s contents onto the floor — or worse, on you — as you try to transfer to the bin.