Best Car Vacuum Cleaners of 2019

Best Car Vacuums 2019 - Handheld Automotive Vacuum Cleaners

Since 2013, we’ve spent over 350 hours researching and testing car vacuums.  The best car vacuum we found was the Metropolitan VM6BS500. Keep in mind the Metropolitan is around $25 more expensive than the next closest in price and over $60 more than our best value, but in our tests, it significantly outperformed the rest.  It has unbeatable suction and a great set of attachments that make it easy to reach awkward, tight spots. It’s compact, powerful and worth the extra money for the performance and convenience.

ProductPriceOverall RatingVacuuming PerformancePricePortabilityEase of UseCleaning Performance ManeuverabilitySuction (oz.)PickupBaglessWater SuctionPrice (Amazon)Power SourceSizeCord Length (inches)Weight (pounds)Storage CaseShoulder StrapUsabilityNoise Level (dB)Brush ToolCrevice ToolHoseWide Nozzle
Metropolitan VM6BS500View Deal4.5/5106.89.88.5100%90%5.54--$104.99WallSmall11.53-75%86
Black & Decker Pivot PHV1810View Deal4.5/57.89.391067%100%0.511-$39.9912VMedium162.8-100%81
Carrand Auto-Vac 94005ASView Deal4.5/598.87.3980%100%4.57-$50.26WallLarge12.54.7--85%85
Fuller Brush Mini MaidView Deal4.5/57.89.38.88.872%80%1.410-$37.93WallSmall14.63--75%85
Dirt Devil Extreme Power M0914View Deal4/598.88675%85%6.57$57.71BatteryMediumN/A3.7--75%84--
Metro Vac N Go Hi Performance AM-6BView Deal4/58.57.88.5791%70%1.76--$78.80WallSmall11.53--65%85-
Hoover Air BH52160PCView Deal4/58.37.896.568%85%7.59-$79.99BatteryMediumN/A2.1--75%82--
Black & Decker Compact Car VacuumView Deal4/56.59.88.56.353%75%311-$23.9312VMedium161.9-85%84
Armor All Car Vac ARM AA12V1View Deal3.5/55.3109.35.829%75%3.5115$18.8112VMedium31.8-65%84--
Vapamore MR-50View Deal2/5256.5650%50%0.512$149WallLarge104.7--65%83--

Best Overall

Metropolitan VM6BS500

Metropolitan VM6BS500

This vacuum has serious power and required only a few passes to clean up debris.
It was especially effective at cleaning up dog hair.
It has plenty of helpful attachments to clean out all of the nooks and crannies in your car.
This is a corded vacuum, so you’ll have to be near an outlet when vacuuming your car.
This vacuum has a bag that needs to be emptied, and eventually replaced.
Missing a bag to keep attachments and vacuum organized.

The Metropolitan VM6BS500 was the only car vacuum cleaner we tested that got a perfect score on our suction tests. We contrived tests that were meant to represent a variety of cleaning situations in your vehicle – actual pet hair, garlic skins to represent light debris, and sticky cereal that we ground into our test car's carpets.

The car's carpet and car seat looked like new after going over them only a handful of times with the Metropolitan VM6BS500. It was especially effective at cleaning stubborn dog hair, which was a problem for many of the vacuums we tested. This vacuum can save you time by easing the amount of work required to get your car clean.

The power cord does make it inconvenient compared to battery powered options. Also, this vacuum has a bag you have to change out when it gets full, which means you have to pay extra for bags. It’s also one of many vacuums in our lineup that won’t clean up wet messes. This is a lightweight vacuum, but is missing a storage bag keeping the vacuum and its attachments organized in your trunk if you want to take it on the road. That being said, only two in our lineup provide a storage bag – both did not perform nearly as well in our tests. It is very versatile – effective at cleaning stairs, blinds and computer keys – and it will reach all the areas around the house you can’t reach with your household vacuum. The crevice tool and hose combination made it great for getting into tiny spots in between and underneath car seats. Its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses.

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Best Value

Black & Decker Pivot Handheld Vacuum

Black & Decker Pivot Handheld Vacuum

This vacuum has an adjustable nozzle that makes it easy to clean tight spaces.
The crevice tool is integrated into the vacuum itself, making it easy to access and use.
This vacuum folds up and stows away nicely.
It took more than an average number of passes to clean up all the debris in our tests.
It does not handle wet spills.
There is no shoulder strap included with this vacuum.

Car vacuum cleaners that plug into the wall are more powerful than ones that plug into a cigarette lighter. Our testing supported this notion, but the Black & Decker Car Pivot Handheld Vacuum, which plugs into your car, had respectable suction in our testing – on Cap'n Crunch, feathery garlic skins, dog hair and dirt.

The Car Pivot Handheld picked up the debris and left a clean pathway, albeit in several more passes than average, but it did a respectable job by the end. This tied for the highest score on maneuverability. Whether we were vacuuming under a seat or in the farthest corner of a trunk, nothing was out of reach. Even that extra-narrow space between the dash and the windshield was easy to reach with the Car Pivot Handheld – not the case with many of the competing products.

This device has a simple bagless design. You don’t have to worry about replacing the bag when it gets full. It’s also extremely portable, and since it plugs into your lighter you don’t have to worry about keeping a battery charged. The nozzle and crevice tool are built in and collapsible, making it small and easy to stow away. While most of the tools are integrated onto the vacuum itself, you can attach a lightweight hose for jobs that require even more maneuverability. For especially tight spots you can attach a narrower crevice tool for extended reach.

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Best Cordless

Hoover Air BH52160PC

Hoover Air BH52160PC

Its strong suction will help you remove ground-in dirt.
It’s lightweight.
Being cord-free means more freedom of movement.
Some larger debris got stuck in the nozzle during testing.
It struggled to pick up pet hair.
It lacks hoses for extended reach.

The cord-free design makes it ultra portable when you compare it to those that plug into the wall or the car.

There was only one vacuum in our comparison that weighed less than this one. Its light weight added to its portability and maneuverability, and it’s pretty easy to use in general. It has a see-through chamber so you know when it needs to be cleaned out, and the filter is washable, so you can use it over and over again. It was not perfect in our testing, because the narrow nozzle that gets it into tight spots occasionally trapped some of our test cereal temporarily. We were able to dislodge it pretty easily, but it gave us some doubts in terms of its real-world capability. It also struggled more than most with dog hair removal, so this is probably not the best option for pet owners. The suction strength is there, though. It scored better than any other car vacuum on our laboratory suction test. In one of our tests, we put the nozzle of each vacuum cleaner on a flat-topped container in order to create a seal. We then added weight to that container until the seal was broken. The Hoover Air BH52160PC was able to suspend 7.5 ounces of metal screws for five seconds.

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Easiest to Maneuver

Carrand

Carrand

The long hose on this machine makes it easy to reach far under car seats.
There were car vacuum cleaners with more suction.

The Carrand auto vacuum cleaner is unique in a few ways, one being that it is one of the few car vacuums that has a hose. The hose makes it possible to get in between car seats and reach really far under stuff that has really low clearance.

Even though the body of the machine tied for the heaviest one we tested, this car vacuum is still easy to maneuver because of the hose. Even some of the smallest of the other car vacuum cleaners couldn’t reach as far under car seats as the Carrand because you can't fit their whole body under and they don't have hoses.

Another way this vehicle vacuum differentiates itself is the onboard storage for tools. There were others we tested that give you a bag to store the attachments, and that was better than nothing, but having them with you where you are cleaning is even more convenient. The Carrand has a nice selection of tools too so you can attack all the different types of messes. The weight and bulk of this machine is a bit of a drawback, but most of the time you are using it you just have the hose in hand, not the heavy body. This did not score the very best on suction tests, either, but it was still better than most of the others.

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Why Trust Us

We research extensively to find some of the best car vacuums on the market and regularly update and test new models. We regularly contact manufactures with questions and consult professionals to get expert opinions and increase our knowledge and authority when it comes to car vacuums. Finding a good one can help you maintain your car and preserve your investment.

Ricardo Alatorre has owned his own auto detailing company in Utah for five years, and has many years of experience in the car business. He has seen some failed attempts at maintaining car interiors.

"I've seen people bleach their carpets and their leather seats," Alatorre said.

Proper maintenance is well worth the effort, though. Whether you sell to a dealer or sell privately, people pay more for a vehicle that has been cared for, said Alatorre.

A good car vacuum cleaner can also increase your enjoyment of your vehicle, especially if you spend a lot of time in it, said David Stern, part-owner of Metrovac, one maker of car vacuum cleaners.


"America is a car culture and people like their cars. They take pride in ownership of their cars, and in many cases, it is an extension of their personality," Stern said.

He recommends car vacuum cleaners that plug into a traditional outlet for maximum cleaning power, even though his company also makes units that plug into a cigarette lighter. The ones that plug into a car can help those who don't have a garage maintain their vehicles but Metrovac sells way more of the ones that plug into the wall. Their suction is unbeatable. He also recommends paying attention to attachments. There are specific tools for helping pet owners remove hair, for instance, and very long crevice tools that can get in between seats easily.

How Much Does a Car Vacuum Cleaner Cost?

Car vacuum cleaners generally cost under $100 and average about $60, though there are a few from Dyson that cost right around $200. Our top scoring unit costs a little over $100 but the second best was only $35, so there are some reasonably good ones in the lower price range. We did not find a huge difference in performance when we compared the most expensive and least expensive.

How We Tested

We tested each vacuum in our lineup using an array of messes. We soiled car seats and mats with dirt, pet hair, garlic skins, crumbs and breakfast cereal, grinding each of them into test surfaces to see how the vacuums picked up different types of messes, whether course or fine. We recorded how well they extracted each substance from the various car surfaces. For some tests, we simply counted the number of passes it took each unit to get the carpet truly clean.

We also dropped dirt in a narrow crevice between a car's front seat and the door frame to see how maneuverable each vacuum is in tight spots. We used the attachments included with each unit to access the narrow spot, giving it every chance to clean the mess.

We also looked at cord length, which matters if you need to clean in the back of a big SUV, as well as the weight of each vacuum. The lighter and smaller the unit, the easier it is to use for long periods of time.

How to Find the Best Car Vacuum Cleaner

The best auto vacuums are powerful and portable. Sometimes those two characteristics counteract each other, though. You should consider your own situation as you determine which is the best buy when it comes to portability versus power.

Wall Plug-in
Generally speaking, vacuums that plug into the wall have the most powerful suction, but they tether you to places where electricity is available. This is inconvenient, but a vac that uses this kind of power likely has the suction necessary to handle stubborn messes.

Battery Powered
These car vacs are ultra-portable, but you never know when the battery will lose power. Their suction is impressive, but it may fade over time as the battery ages, or they may have diminished suction in between charging sessions, even early on.

Automobile Powered
These are units that plug into your vehicle’s 12V outlet, originally used to power the car's cigarette lighter. These generally have less suction than those that plug into regular outlets. Still, if you need something that can go anywhere, it may be worth it, and the best ones clean up most messes just fine. They just may not have the suction to clean up debris that is ground into the upholstery.

There are a handful of vacuums that can handle wet messes, and it’s nice to have that option, although an absorbent cloth and hot water can do almost as much for many spills. When it is fully dry, you can vacuum as normal.

Car Cleaning Tips

Those who spend a lot of time in the driver's seat may notice their car getting messy quickly in between cleanings. If you want to avoid the time and expense involved in getting a professional detailing, consider these tips for fast, easy clean-ups:

  • Dash – Olive oil and Vaseline work well for conditioning the dash or your leather seats.
  • Seats – Pet owners know that vacuuming the car seats can leave hair behind. Try spraying seats with water (do not soak them!) and then swipe a squeegee over them.
  • Bumper – Cooking oil spray and dryer sheets were some of the best suggestions for getting bugs off a bumper, if good water pressure isn't enough to get them loose.
  • Vents – Some of the best ideas for cleaning vents include compressed air, make-up brushes and those angled foam craft brushes.
  • General – A pack of baby wipes is helpful for cleaning almost any surface in your car. They are gentle and they smell good. 

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