Reviews

Best Cordless Car Vacuums: Keep Your Floorboards and Upholstery Clean

Keep your car clean with one of these cordless car vacuums

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BY Eric Trytko / LAST UPDATED ON August 8, 2021

If you use your car every day, then there is a good chance that keeping your car clean is an ongoing struggle. Crumbs, dust, and dirt build up over time, leading to a dirty interior that can actually make you sick. And if you bring your dog along for the ride? Fuhgeddaboutit. Here are a few cordless car vacuums that will help keep your car seats, floorboards, and mats clean.

Best Overall
Black+Decker 16v Cordless Dustbuster
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Summary
Summary

A lightweight, portable car vacuum with a long-lasting lithium-ion battery and cyclonic action that gives it strong suction power.

Pros
Pros
  • Smart-charge technology uses 50 percent less energy
  • Multiple attachments 
  • Dishwasher-safe filter
Cons
Cons
  • Battery and/or charger can fail prematurely
Best Overall
Black+Decker 16v Cordless Dustbuster
Best Value
Shuley Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
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Summary
Summary

An extremely light vacuum that has suitable suction and is powered by a lithium-ion battery that can be charged through a USB port.

Pros
Pros
  • Multiple attachments including one specifically for wet spills
  • 25-minute battery life is impressive
  • Washable filter
Cons
Cons
  • Negligible suction power for heavy debris
Best Value
Shuley Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Honorable Mention
Vaclife Handheld Vacuum
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Summary
Summary

A perfectly portable, compact, and lightweight vacuum that offers powerful suction with multiple attachments.

Pros
Pros
  • Fully charged in 2 to 3.5 hours 
  • Washable filter
  • LED light
Cons
Cons
  • Not a name brand, but a popular and affordable one
Honorable Mention
Vaclife Handheld Vacuum

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Why Buy a Cordless Car Vacuum?

  • Prevent wear and tear. It might not seem like it, but all the crumbs, dirt, and dust that build up over time will eventually start to wear out the upholstery and carpet of your car’s interior if left unchecked. Keeping your car clean means it will last longer and retain more of its value.
  • Stay healthy. Dust and dirt build-up have very few places to go inside the closed environment of your car besides the air you breathe. Also, food particles can grow mold that will release spores into the air. Inhaling any of these can lead to serious health issues.
  • Stay safe on the road. Dust and grime not only stick to horizontal surfaces, but also to vertical ones like the windows. This can lead to reduced visibility, increasing the likelihood of an accident. 
  • Save money in the long run. The cost of having your car professionally cleaned can add up quickly over the course of a year. Even if you go to one of those self-wash car washes with the coin-op vacuum cleaners, the cost will be much more than you would spend buying a battery-powered vacuum cleaner.
  • Vacuum cleaners aren’t just for cars. Another great reason to own a cordless vacuum cleaner is that you can use it to clean more than just your car. Use it to clean all those nooks and crannies in the house or the garage that a larger vacuum cleaner can’t reach.

Types of Cordless Car Vacuums

Handheld Vacuums

These are similar in design to the upright models but in a compact and easy-to-handle package. Their portability makes them the best car vacuum cleaning choice for their ability to get into tight corners and spaces. Handheld vacuums also have different attachments that can enhance their ability to get into crevices that are otherwise unreachable.

Canister Vacuums 

Another popular choice among vacuum owners, this model consists of a drum that houses the motor and dust collection bin and a long hose that can use a number of different attachments. The power of the canister vacuum is nice, but they tend to be a bit clunky and on the heavy side, making portability an issue. If you've ever tried to lug a Shop-Vac around your car in a driveway, you know what we mean.

Top Brands

Black+Decker

The history of Black+Decker can be traced back to 1910 when Duncan Black and Alonzo Decker opened up a small machine shop in Baltimore. In 1917, they invented the pistol-grip electric drill that launched the company into a major corporation. Black+Decker has a bunch of popular tools and appliances such as the Black+Decker Lithium-Ion Pivot Vacuum.

Dyson

Dyson was founded in 1991 by Sir James Dyson in the United Kingdom with the sole purpose of producing household appliances. It offers a large line of refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, air purifiers, bladeless fans, hand dryers, heaters, as well as many others. One of the popular items that Dyson makes is the Dyson DC34 Hand-Held Vacuum.

Bissell

Bissell is a vacuum cleaner and floor care manufacturing company located in Walker, Michigan. Melville Bissell developed his first carpet cleaner to help tidy up the crockery shop he and his wife owned, and by 1886, the first Bissell manufacturing plant was in operation. It produces products like the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Lithium-Ion Hand Handheld Cordless Vacuum.

Pricing

  • $25-$50: On the bargain end of the spectrum, you can expect to find some quality vehicle vacuum cleaners that will get the job done. They will lack some of the features of more expensive models such as a multiple filtration system, large debris holding capacity, additional attachments, or a warranty.
  • $50-$100: Mid-range vacuums include many of the features missing from inexpensive models. In fact, there’s a good chance that you will find the best cordless car vacuum for the money at this price point. In addition to the features listed above, mid-range car vacuums can also clean up fluids, use quick-charge technology, and have a more powerful motor.
  • $100 and up: At this price point, you can expect to find some of the most powerful car vacuum cleaners on the market with all sorts of attachments and features. Cordless handheld vacuums at this level are geared to clean up everything, from hair and dirt that are ground into upholstery to microscopic particles that can cause allergens.

Key Features

Suction Power

How much suction power a cordless vacuum has will depend on the strength of the motor and battery. The best handheld vacuum for car use might not necessarily be the most powerful on the market, but rather is one that balances suction power with battery life. What you’ll want is a vacuum that will get the job done and not need recharging half-way through.

Tank Capacity

Most handheld vacuums have a small tank capacity, and for good reason. Trying to haul a huge tank around to clean the crevices underneath your car seat is simply untenable. That said, you’ll want to make sure that the vacuum has enough room to at least hold all the debris that will be picked up in a single cleaning. Where this could be an issue is with people who like to go off-roading, camping, or participate in other outdoor activities that make the car’s interior a mess.

Accessories

It is important to have the right tool for the job. If a vacuum cleaner doesn’t have the proper attachments to get underneath the seats, into crevices, or to scrub the upholstery, then the car cleaning job will only get partially done.

Other Considerations

  • Power Rating: The power rating is the measure of how powerful the motor is. When deciding on the best handheld car vacuum for your specific situation, keep in mind that the smaller the power rating (e.g. 12 volts versus 18 volts), the less suction it will have.
  • Car Size: The size of your car will ultimately determine the size of the vacuum cleaner you will need to clean it. If you have a large van that tends to get filthy from work or extracurricular activities, then a more powerful car vacuum will be needed. A smaller car that is for commuting around town will need something less powerful.

Best Cordless Car Vacuum Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Black+Decker 16v Cordless Lithium Dustbuster

We actually own this one and can attest to its versatility and usefulness. Black+Decker’s 16v Dustbuster is a lightweight and powerful vacuum that has no problem picking up dirt and other debris thanks to its cyclonic action, which is designed to keep the HEPA filter clear of excess clutter while maintaining suction strength. The motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery that can hold its charge for up to 18 months while still delivering high-level performance. Smart-charge technology recharges the battery completely in a few hours, and it uses 50 percent less energy than traditional chargers.


One feature that makes this an optimal hand vacuum for car use is the rotating slim nozzle attachment. Its small size can get into tight spaces, such as in between the seat and console where dirt and other particles can build up. There is also a flip-up brush tool for when you really need to scrub the upholstery or carpet.


In addition to being excellent at cleaning, this Black+Decker vacuum is also easy to clean. It is bagless, and plastic parts pop off easily and are dishwasher safe. With these features, it is easy to see why this is one of the top car vacuum cleaners on the market.


On the negative side, there can be some issues with the battery and/or charger failing after a short period of time. This can be especially annoying with the battery as it is not removable. Luckily, Black+Decker provides a two-year warranty and will provide a replacement.

Best Value
Shuley Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

The Shuley Car Vacuum is a great deal for the price. It weighs just over one pound and is very compact, so you will have no problem getting into tight spaces to clean them. It uses a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged via the USB port located in your car, laptop, or any handheld device.


It comes with a crevice tool to reach tight spots, a liquid nozzle that is very handy for spills, and a brush nozzle to scrub out pesky hair and dirt from the upholstery. The plastic body and debris bin are dishwasher safe for easy clean up as is the washable filter.


One major downside of this vacuum is battery life. A full charge will only provide about 25 minutes of run time, making it difficult for performing any sort of deep cleaning given the amount of suction available. Also, suction power can be an issue if you are trying to clean up heavy debris.

Honorable Mention
Vaclife Handheld Vacuum

The Vaclife Handheld Vacuum is perfectly portable and compact for vacuuming and cleaning your car. It’s cordless, so you can move freely into small spaces, and it’s lightweight enough to make vacuuming a breeze. It offers powerful suction and three attachments — a crevice nozzle tool, brush tool, and extension soft hose — so you can clean every corner, crevice, and tight space inside your car. A stainless steel HEPA filter allows you to reuse and wash the filter for efficient cleaning. And you’ll love the bright LED light on this vacuum, which helps you see into dark corners, so you can make certain you’re getting every piece of dirt and debris. When you’re ready to recharge, this cordless car vacuum offers fast charging in just 2 to 3.5 hours.


Vaclife is indeed an off-brand, and some might be put off by that. Still, for the price, we think it’s a fine product and a great value. We’ve seen Vaclife products marked down often so if you’re interested, keep an eye out for deals and discounts. They happen all the time.

Best for Pet Owners
Bissell AutoMate Cordless Handheld Car Vacuum

The Bissell AutoMate has a long-lasting 14v lithium-ion battery and is designed for car detailing. It features a motorized brush tool, LED crevice tool, and flexible crevice tool for small, hard-to-reach spaces. The dirt cup has a capacity of 0.7 liters and is easy to empty. The vacuum also has triple-level filtration.


This vacuum has excellent suction power and battery life. The battery also lasts a long time between charges. It's quiet and lightweight, and it does a good job picking up leaves from car mats, pet hair, crumbs, and other small messes. Overall, it's great for the car, RV, and small clean-up projects.


One of the biggest complaints about this product is it doesn't have a plug that you can put into the cigarette lighter for charging. Also, it is a little long, which makes it challenging to reach some areas in certain vehicles. In addition, it takes a while for the battery to charge, and it doesn't have a storage case or wall mount.

Honorable Mention
Black+Decker 20V Max Handheld Vacuum

Black+Decker’s 20V MAX Lithium Pivot vacuum uses a lithium-ion battery for strong suction. It features a standing charging base that can be mounted in the wall in your garage, and it is lightweight and compact. It has a three-stage filtration system, a high-performance motor, and a 15-ounce dirt bowl. The vacuum has a wide mouth to suck up large debris, while the brush is ideal for upholstery. It also has a crevice tool and pivoting nose to tackle hard-to-reach areas. The battery provides "fade-free power" compared to other types of batteries and lasts around 20 minutes. The dirt bowl is removable for easy cleaning. The vacuum also comes with a two-year warranty and is really good at cleaning up pet hair.


One problem is that large debris can accumulate on top of the filter, requiring you to empty the filter chamber. You may need a slim object like a screwdriver to dislodge the dust in that area. There have also been some complaints that the motor fails after a short period of use.

Honorable Mention
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Hand Vacuum

If you have pets, you know how difficult it can be to clean up their hair. This vacuum removes both hair and stains. It features a motorized brush tool and 14V lithium-ion battery for more suction. The vacuum is designed to remove pet stains from carpet, upholstery, auto interiors, and more. Also, Bissell donates a portion from each purchase to save homeless pets. 


This vacuum is easy to use, easy to open, and easy to dump out the debris. It features a transparent dirt cup, so you know when you need to empty it. It runs for at least 30 minutes on a charge, and it's lightweight and easy to handle. The long wand helps you reach cracks and crevices, and it has other attachments that help in removing pet hair.


One downside is it takes six to eight hours to fully charge the battery. Also, if you need to buy new filters, you have to buy the whole filter apparatus, which isn't cheap. This product is also very pricey compared to other cordless car vacuums. 

Tips

  • Make sure that you vacuum in both directions to remove the most dirt and debris from the carpet or upholstery. 
  • Take your time while vacuuming to let the machine do the task it was designed for. Zooming over carpets and mats quickly only means you’ll have to do it again sooner.
  • Use the right attachment. The crevice tool becomes a hindrance when trying to use it in open spaces, as does the brush tool when trying to use it in a crevice.
  • Empty the debris bin regularly to avoid a loss in suction. If the debris bin is more than halfway full, then you’ll start to see a loss in suction power from the vacuum.
  • Don’t wait for the interior of your car to look dirty before deciding to vacuum. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule will ensure that dirt and dust won’t build up within the fibers of the upholstery and carpet.

FAQs

Q: How much should I spend on a vacuum?

There is no straightforward answer to this, as it all depends on what you need out of a vacuum cleaner. As a general rule, if you need to perform a deep clean regularly, then go with the more powerful (and more expensive) vacuum.

Q: How long should a vacuum cleaner last?

This is another “it all depends” kind of question. Generally, a high-quality vacuum cleaner that is used regularly can last up to five years. Most major companies like Black+Decker and Dyson provide two-year warranties, so it is safe to say between two and five years.

Q: Can I use a ShopVac in my car?

Sure you can, and it will do a great job. However, it’s not portable, cordless, or handheld. And if you’ve ever tried to drag a canister-type vacuum around the perimeter of a car, you know how unwieldy they can be. 

Final Thoughts

Our pick for the best portable car vacuum overall is the Black+Decker 16 Volt Cordless Lithium Dustbuster. It is the perfect mix of power, precision, and price. The best vacuum for the price is the Shuley Handheld Vacuum Cleaner. It is a great choice to take care of your car’s interior.

If you’re looking for a quality cordless car vacuum that’s not cheap but not expensive, either, we suggest the Bissell AutoMate. Usually costing around $75, it’s right in the sweet spot of quality and affordability.