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The 6 best car vacuums: Clean your ride

What is the best car vacuum? The Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner is ZDNet's top choice. We researched several handheld vacuums for cars and compared their pricing, power rating, weight, battery, and features to determine our No. 1 choice.
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allison-murray
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

We spend a lot of time in our cars, so it is only natural that they will get dirty and require a good cleaning from time to time. Whether it is a deep clean or touch-up on the go, the best portable car vacuums have the power to complete the job with the right tools and accessories to ensure no dirt or grime is left behind.

We did the research for you to find the best portable vacuums for your car in 2022.  

Person's hand vacuuming the back interior of a car
Amazon

Features: 120V | 7 pounds | 95W

When you want serious power, the Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner certainly delivers. Dressed in the trademark orange and black of a wet/dry vacuum, it is a corded electric vacuum, but it comes with a convenient 10ft cord to allow for extended reach. For better suction, there is a 2 horsepower motor, and there is also an auto shut-off feature, which can come in handy for home use. This Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner also has the dual purpose of a blower, with easy transition between functions. Despite this, it is surprisingly quiet with a built-in air and noise diffuser to minimize volume.

There is a 2.5-gallon polypropylene tank so there is plenty of cleaning that you can do without having to stop to empty your vacuum. However, all that power does come with serious heft, with this particular vacuum weighing seven pounds. 

Pros:

  • Auto shut-off feature
  • Dual user as blower
  • 2.5-gallon tank

Cons:

  • Very heavy
  • Bulky, restrictive compared to cordless models
  • Pricey retail price
Small vacuum vacuuming a car cup holder
Bissell

Features: 7.4V | 1.37 pounds | 12 minutes of battery

BISSELL is a popular provider of home products, and their vacuums are a reliable choice for a variety of purposes. When you need a solid but compact car vacuum, BISSELL offers the AeroSlim Lithium-Ion Cordless Handheld Vacuum. Designed for a life on the go, it features a sleek, compact design that is also easy to store in your car, office, or dorm.

The AeroSlim handheld car vacuum has a 7.2V lithium-ion battery. There are up to 12 minutes of cordless cleaning power before you need to charge via the included USB charging cable or traditional wall charger. Either way, your vacuum will let you know when it's time for a battery boost with the built-in battery indicator lights. Charging time lasts between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. Also incorporated are special features designed for effective cleanings, like dual-level filtration with a washable filter and BISSELL's signature Easy Empty Dirt Bin. Your vacuum comes with a 2-in-1 Crevice Tool & Dusting Brush that conveniently stores right on the handheld device. Plus, this is a purchase that you can feel good about, with a portion of sales going to support the Bissell Pet Foundation for homeless pets.

Pros:

  • Lightest model on our list
  • High wattage
  • Affordable pricing

Cons:

  • The lowest power rating on our list
  • Small storage compartment
  • Corded vacuum
Person's hand vacuuming a chair and pillow
BLACK+DECKER

Features: 20V | 3 pounds | 35AW

An Amazon's Choice product, the Black and Decker Dustbuster Pivot Vacuum features a three-stage filtration system. Its key feature is the exclusive nozzle that pivots a full 200 degrees to really get into nooks and crannies. With a wide mouth design, it combines power and detail so that it can handle even your bigger jobs. This handheld vacuum is ideal for dry surfaces and upholstery with a bagless dirt bowl and 35AW suction power. It comes with extra tools to help you get the job done, like an onboard brush and onboard crevice tool.

It takes four hours to charge, and users generally report 10-12 minutes of use before requiring a charge again.

Pros:

  • 200-degree pivoting nozzle
  • Cordless use
  • Up to 4 hours of battery

Cons:

  • Most expensive on our list
  • Heavy, bulky design
  • Average power rating
Small vacuum with a light vacuuming the floor of a car
Amazon

Features: 12V | 2.44 pounds | 106W

With the Hotor Portable Car Vacuum, you don't have to worry about battery or charging because it's corded. That cuts down on portability, but that also means lasting power that never runs out and always goes at full strength. The Hotor Portable Car Vacuum is powered by 8.8A with 12V and 106W. At about 1.3lbs, this mini vacuum is also super lightweight and designed for easy use. An LED light shines an extra light during nighttime cleaning sessions with a detachable dust cup head for easy use.

With a stainless steel exterior, its design integrates a HEPA filter with washable and durable materials that are backed by a free lifetime replacement guarantee. You will also receive three different nozzles to help you get the job done.

Pros:

  • Wet and dry use
  • Affordable pricing
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons:

  • Corded vacuum
  • Low power rating
  • Mediocre suction
Close up of vacuum cleaner sucking up dust and food on a black surface
Amazon

Features: 12V | 2.4 pounds | 110W

Despite its small and lightweight build, the Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner by ThisWorx has 110Wof suction power at over 9 amps. Its thoughtful design incorporates a clear, flat bottom for an easy-to-see dirt collection, and there is a built-in LED light for better visibility. Maintenance is simple with a washable double filter that uses industry-leading double HEPA filter technology. Plus, the ergonomic design is lightweight, weighing 2.4lbs. 

This vacuum is corded but includes an extra-long 16-foot power cord that plugs into a 12V outlet. Overall, it is a miniature vacuum that is both lightweight and compact. Your purchase includes a complete vacuum kit with multiple attachments, a filter cleaning brush, an extra filter, and a travel bag. The ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner is available in your choice of black or white with its signature orange accents.

Pros:

  • Very affordable
  • Dual wet/dry function
  • Extra-long cord

Cons:

  • Corded option
  • Average suction power
  • Not recommended for pet hair
Close up of a vacuum
Amazon

Features: 16V | 2.55 pounds | 15.2W

The VacLife Handheld Vacuum with High Power (VL188) also has a stainless steel HEPA filter, similar to other models on our list. Still, as a cordless vacuum, it is lightweight and portable at about 2.5lbs. Its handheld, the cordless design gives you greater freedom to move around; there is a built-in LED light so you can still see in dark corners. Designed for carpet, it has three different attachments with included brush and crevice nozzle tools, in addition to an extension soft pipe, adapter, and carry case.

Most impressive, however, is the 20-minutes runtime, the longest on our list by nearly double. There is a battery indicator light that goes from red to green when fully charged, and it takes about 2 to 3.5 hours to charge from empty. The VacLife Handheld Vacuum with High Power (VL188) is available in orange, silver, and white.

Pros:

  • Longest runtime on our list
  • Wet & dry use
  • Built-in LED light

Cons:

  • Complicated to clean
  • The filter requires regular maintenance
  • Requires a few hours to charge

What is the best car vacuum?

The best car vacuum is the Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner. It was the most capable car vacuum we tested, with plenty of power for vacuuming wet and dry and it even has the ability to blow.

Car vacuum

Price

Cordless

Power rating

Weight

Watts/Air Watts

Battery

Charge time

Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

$53.86 sales  price

$71.99  retail price

120V

7.0 lbs

95W

N/A

N/A

BISSELL AeroSlim Lithium-Ion Cordless Handheld Vacuum

$39.99

7.4V

1.37 lbs

Not available

12 minutes

2.5 - 3.5 hrs

Black and Decker Max Lithium Pivot BDH2000PL Vacuum Cleaner

$79.99

20V

3.0 lbs

35AW

10-12 minutes

4 hours

Hotor Portable Car Vacuum 

$33.99

12V

2.44 lbs

106W

N/A

N/A

ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner 

$32.99

12V

2.4 lbs

110W

N/A

N/A

Vaclife Cordless Handheld Vacuum with High Power

$39.99

16V

2.55 lbs

15.2W

20 minutes

2.5 - 3 hours

Which car vacuum is right for you?

While any of these car vacuums are great options, it ultimately comes down to what size you want, how much you'd like it to weigh, how much power it has, and what price you're willing to spend.

Choose this car vacuum...

When you want...

Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum Cleaner

Serious power for big jobs

BISSELL AeroSlim Lithium-Ion Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Detailed jobs, like pet hair or debris

Black and Decker Max Lithium Pivot BDH2000PL Vacuum Cleaner

Powerful suction

Hotor Portable Car Vacuum 

When you prefer a wire over constant charging

ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum Cleaner 

A great buy that is corded

Vaclife Cordless Handheld Vacuum with High Power

More time in between charging sessions

How did we choose these car vacuums?

When searching for the best portable car vacuums, there are a few different factors to consider that can help you make the best decision for your car. 

  • Cords: There are both corded and cordless options for car vacuums, and there are pros and cons to both. While a cordless vacuum gives you greater freedom of movement, it can be more restrictive than corded options when it comes to the length of use and battery life.
  • Power: When you buy a car vacuum, one of the most basic things you need is the power to get the job done. A good car vacuum should have at least 15 air watts or a battery of 16V or higher.
  • Design: The best car vacuums have a comfortable, lightweight design that does not place too much strain on your arms and wrists. Ergonomics are important to consider for longer jobs to ensure your comfort.  
  • Battery life: While your car vacuum must have a lot of power, it will not matter if the battery is constantly running out of charge. A corded option ensures that you will never lose power as long as you have access to an outlet, but that is not the case with cordless options. The best cordless vacuums for cars can run anywhere from 10 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the model you choose.

What is a portable car vacuum?

It may be corded or cordless but still gives the option to move around your vehicle to clean all of the nooks and crannies. 

Which car vacuum has the strongest suction?

The Black and Decker Max Lithium Pivot BDH2000PL Vacuum Cleaner has one of the most powerful suction capabilities on our list at 35AW. 

How powerful should a portable car vacuum be?

Experts suggest using a portable vacuum with a minimum of 15AW or a battery of 16V or more.

What type of vacuum is best for cars?

When searching for the best portable vacuum for your car, it is important to consider size and weight to ensure that you can manoeuvre around your vehicle comfortably. It is also important to consider other factors like cost, battery length, and controls. 

Are there alternative car vacuums worth considering?

Here are a few other options to look into:

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