Which handheld vacuum is best for cars?

Although car washes are generally affordable, interior cleanings can be expensive. Instead of spending big bucks on a deep cleaning by a pro, you can handle the job yourself with a handheld vacuum.

Handheld vacuums are portable, lightweight and easy to use, which makes them suitable for maneuvering around a car’s nooks and crannies. And when you’re done making your car interior spotless, you can use the handheld vacuum to clean small areas around your home, from keyboards to stairs. 

What to know before you buy handheld vacuums

What handheld vacuums do 

Handheld vacuums make it simple to clean up loose particles that settle inside your car, including dirt, leaves, sand or crumbs. Certain models lift pet hair and dander, while others are powerful enough to trap pollen and other allergens. What handheld vacuums don’t do, however, is pick up large debris or wet messes. For these messes, you’ll need to use a shop vacuum — or take your car to a professional.

Tips for using handheld vacuums in cars

While you can vacuum over the car interior indiscriminately, there are a few ways to optimize your cleaning. 

  • Remove floor mats. Shake floor mats vigorously to remove loose debris. By the time you vacuum the mats, more than half the dirt will be gone. 
  • Remember the cup holders. Use tapered nozzle attachments to lift crumbs and other particles from cup holders. 
  • Adjust the seats. Push the driver and passenger seats forward and backward so it’s easier to reach around the seats.
  • Charge up before you clean. Cordless handheld vacuums have limited run times, and if you intend to do deep cleaning, make sure they’re fully charged before you begin. 
  • Work in crisscross patterns. When you vacuum in crisscross patterns, you’ll pick up twice as much dirt and debris.

What to look for in handheld vacuums for cars

Power source

Most handheld vacuums are cordless and have built-in rechargeable batteries. Run time varies across models, but generally, the vacuums last between five to 25 minutes. When you use the highest settings, run time decreases dramatically.

There are a couple corded handheld vacuums powered by car chargers. Although the cord is seen as a nuisance by some people, others prefer corded models because they offer unlimited run time — and that means no more interrupted car cleanings due to low battery. 

Nozzle design

Nozzle design varies the most among handheld vacuums. Certain models have slender, tapered nozzles well-suited for reaching beneath car seats or between cushions. Other handheld vacuums have blunt or flat heads that are flush with surfaces to intensify suction power. Pet handheld vacuums, on the other hand, have brush-style nozzles. They’re popular for cleaning cloth seats.

Attachments

Several handheld vacuums come with specialized attachments, including brushes, crevice tools and extension wands. Brushes are effective at cleaning cloth seats, carpeted floors and floor mats. Crevice tools lift debris from hard -to-reach areas, such as between cushions, and extension wands reach around trunks.

Dust bowl

Handheld vacuums have dust bowls with capacities up to 24 ounces. Most models have removable receptacles you can empty into trash cans. There are also some handheld vacuums, particularly more expensive models, with push-button releases that open the dust bowl for easy, mess-free disposal.

How much handheld vacuums cost

Basic handheld vacuums that can handle small cleanups cost $30-$50. Advanced models with better suction and more attachments run between $60-$90, while the most powerful handheld vacuums peak at $100-$150.

Top handheld vacuums for cars

Shark Wandvac Handheld Vacuum

Shark Wandvac Handheld Vacuum

The reliable Shark Wandvac, a premium option, is known for its impressive suction that lifts even the finest dust particles and hairs. The slender nozzle makes it simple to clean hard-to-reach areas, and it comes with a pet hair tool that lifts fur from upholstery and curtains.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus

Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro Plus 

With two cyclonic air streams and an extra-large dust bin, this pet handheld vacuum is a top choice for deep cleanings. It also has a self-cleaning brush head that won’t jam, including when it picks up long human hair.

Sold by Amazon 

Black and Decker Cordless Dustbuster AdvancedClean

Black and Decker Cordless Dustbuster AdvancedClean+ 

This tried-and-true Black and Decker model is a notable upgrade from earlier generations with up to four times the cleaning power. It has an extra-large dust bin, which means less-frequent emptying during heavy-duty cleanups. The handheld vacuum also offers one-touch emptying.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Bissell AeroSlim Hand Vacuum

Bissell AeroSlim Hand Vacuum

Affordable yet capable, the Bissell AeroSlim has a unique tapered nozzle that navigates tight spaces in cars. It has a two-in-one crevice tool and dust brush, making it a solid choice for cleaning around buttons and knobs. It offers 12 minutes of cordless power per charge and includes a USB charging cable, so you can use it in your car anytime. 

Sold by Amazon

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Vacuum

Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Cordless Vacuum

If you have a cloth interior, the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is an essential purchase for wrangling pet hair. The motorized brush roll lifts hair and dander without jamming or tangling. Best of all, it’s only 3 pounds for easy maneuvering.

Sold by Amazon 

Thisworx Car Vacuum Cleaner

Thisworx Car Vacuum Cleaner

Made just for cars, this powerful handheld vacuum comes with a spare washable filter and a handful of specialized tools, all of which pack neatly into a convenient carry case. The corded model plugs into a 12-volt car outlet for unlimited power, so it’s a great option for long, thorough cleanings.

Sold by Amazon

Tzumi Wireless Handheld Vacuum

Tzumi Wireless Handheld Vacuum

This sleek handheld vacuum offers a long run time of nearly 20 minutes. The extension wand reaches between seats and gaps, including seat back pockets. The vacuum stores upright in a charging dock, making it a space-savvy option.

Sold by Macy’s and Home Depot

 

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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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