A car vacuum cleaner is one of the must-have tools when it comes to car interior detailing. But before you invest in a new one, it’s a good idea to do some research. The same advice applies if you decide to buy a second-hand vac. Ideally, go for a reputable brand that performs to a high standard. And remember there are key factors to consider when choosing the model that best suits your needs.
Also, if you’re interested in a convenient mobile car detailing that comes to you, download our Eco Wash Benefit Guide to discover what makes our service the first choice with customers:
Car Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide
There are a wide range of vacuum cleaners available on the market. You have a choice of different sizes, designs, and features. Here are factors to consider when choosing the best vacuum for car detailing.
Price and Budget
How much do you want to pay? Set your budget before you start shopping. While quality often correlates with price, many excellent options are available at various price points. It is a question of finding the right balance between your budget and the features you need.
First and foremost, you want a reliable car vacuum that does the job. The first rule of learning how to detail a car interior is vacuuming all the dirt, dust, and crumbs. Therefore, your vacuum must perform well. Remember, when setting your budget, you will also have to price the cost of car interior detailing products and possibly a steam cleaner for cars if you want to achieve high-quality results.
Size and Weight
The weight of the vacuum is a key feature. A smaller, lightweight model is easier to work with. However, the smaller it is, the smaller and less powerful the motor will be. So, you must decide which of these two factors is more important to you.
Additionally, a smaller car vacuum can be easier to carry in your car interior detailing kit as it will be compact with an ergonomic design. Additionally, check out the motor power and effectiveness of the machine. If they suit your requirements, opt for a smaller model.
If you plan to store the vacuum cleaner in your car, consider the size and weight of the different models. A compact, lightweight model is easier to carry and store without taking up too much space. If it doesn’t come with a lot of attachments, you may wish to investigate the different car wash brush types you can buy for detailing your vehicle.
Cordless Car Vacuum
A cordless car vacuum is more convenient to work with. You don’t have to be close to a power source. And there is no getting tangled up in the cord when vacuuming those awkward places to clean inside of your car.
However, the disadvantage of battery-powered cordless vacuums is you need to charge them before use. Also, they may have a short runtime. However, nowadays, machines with highly effective lithium-ion batteries can run for at least 30-40 minutes. This should give you ample time to vacuum your car. Additionally, check the charging time, as some models may take longer to recharge than others.
When picking a cordless car vacuum, check if it has a fade-free power feature. This ensures that the vacuum’s power remains steady from the beginning of your cleaning session to the end. Without this, the vacuum’s effectiveness gradually diminishes as the power source uses energy. This feature will enhance your vacuum’s overall performance when it comes to the best way to detail car interior.
Corded Vacuum Cleaners
Corded vacuum cleaners tend to be more powerful than cordless handheld vacuums and usually come with longer cords for extended reach. They are suitable for regular cleaning and provide consistent suction power.
Also, you can buy vacuum cleaner models that work with batteries and a cord. If you select this type or a standard corded type, pick a model with a built-in extension power line.
The efficiency of the car vacuum and the cleaning power largely depend on the power of the motor. The maximum power consumption varies between 1200W and 2400W.
For some car vacuum cleaners, you cannot adjust the power. They always operate at a maximum level. However, we advise you to look for a vacuum cleaner with a potentiometer. This little tool will allow you to regulate the power of your car vacuum. For example, you can decrease it while vacuuming the upholstery and increase it when cleaning more robust materials like carpets.
Tip: if your car seats look a little unloved even after vacuuming, see how to remove stains from car seats.
Car Vacuum Suction Power
Car vacuum suction power is a critical factor in any vacuum cleaner. Look for one with sufficient suction to effectively pick up dirt, debris, and pet hair. The power is typically measured in watts or amps. Higher wattage or amperage usually indicates stronger suction.
The higher the power is, the greater the cleaning efficiency of the vacuum cleaner. It can vary between 250W and 600W. We recommend no less than 350W.
Usually, the car vacuum suction power depends solely on the motor power, but this is not always the case. Some models on the market have a smaller motor power (i.e., consume less electricity) but still offer great suction. If you find this combination at an attractive price, go for it. If not, your safer bet would be on a higher motor power that would imply a higher suction power.
The noise level depends on the design, power, and quality of the construction. Engine noise level increases as the engine wears off. The higher the noise level, the lower the engine quality. This is why quieter models have a longer service life. In modern vacuum cleaners, noise level ranges from 54-85 dB.
The Dust Container
The capacity of the container determines the frequency of its replacement or cleaning. The smaller it is, the more frequently you’ll have to take time to empty it. In turn, the container’s size depends on the vacuum’s size. The type of the container is important, too. See below.
These bags do a pretty good cleaning job retaining particles of 100-200 microns in size. Yet, they do require periodic cleaning and washing. In addition, the textile’s pore structure reduces the efficiency of the car vacuum suction power. This is why they are rarely used but can come in handy in the absence of a paper bag.
Paper bags capture dust with particle sizes as small as 1-3 microns. They are thicker than textile bags and, therefore, do not affect the suction power. The bag’s opening usually closes on removal, providing comfort and hygiene when changing. Depending on the size of the bag and the frequency of use, paper bags require a replacement more often.
Cyclone Car Vacuum Cleaners – No Bag
The cyclone air filtration system works without a dust bag. Instead, a plastic container is incorporated into the machine. You can easily clean and wash it. One of the biggest advantages being there is no need to change the bag. With this type, the air rotates around the filter in a spiral. The coarser particles move along the outer radius, and the small particles remain in the filter.
The main advantage of centrifugal cleaning is the constant suction pressure, irrespective of the accumulated dust in the container. Best results come in combination with fine filters, but this greatly complicates the design. A disadvantage of this model is that you need to clean it more carefully.
Filters along the inlet air flow path determine the quality of cleaning. Design engineers try to improve them further by adding antibacterial components.
The purification system consists of several stages. Different car vacuums have a different number of filters. For instance, the first filter captures the dust from the air entering the pipes into the vacuum cleaner. It collects relatively large particles of dust. The air is then passed into the dust bag.
Then, the second filter is installed in the engine compartment to collect the finer dust. These particles are not visible but can slow the engine speed or even damage it. This filter protects the motor and does not affect the efficiency of air purification. It can be permanent or on-off.
You must clean the permanent filter at intervals, specified in the operating instructions. In contrast, the on-off system cannot be cleaned – it requires replacement. Either way, make sure to follow the instructions as this filter significantly extends the life of your car vacuum.
Finally, a filter is installed to capture the smallest particles on the outlet air stream. These filters retain not only the solid microparticles, but also the bacteria.
If you notice a bad odor in your car after vacuuming, see our tips on how to get bad smell out of car.
Basically, there are two types of filters – electrostatic and HEPA ones. Electrostatic filters capture 80% to 99.99% of dust particles as small as 0.3 microns. They are less expensive than HEPA filters, but less efficient as well.
Car vacuums with HEPA filters are more efficient and effectively eliminate radioactive dust. In fact, a HEPA filter holds up to 99.97% of all particles carried in the air. However, this is not
that crucial for a car vacuum because you usually clean the car with the doors open, so you can’t really expect to filter all the air around you.
When you change the bag, it is advisable to replace each set of filters as well, especially the finest one, which is for the finer dust particles. If the filters are clogged, the engine will heat the air flowing through the car vacuum. As a result, the bag can burst from the pressure of the hot air. Even worse, the engine can burn out. As a safety feature, some vacuum cleaner models shut off automatically when the temperature rises.
Car Vacuum Extras
Different models can have various add-ons. These can enhance the car interior detailing tools you already have. A useful one is an extendable brush to reach hard places. Some models have additional lights to help you see and clean less accessible areas such as under the seats. Other models come with service tools, which helps focus suction in tight spaces.
Some models might have more than one additional tool. When you choose a car vacuum, make sure it has at least one crevice tool.
A car vacuum that absorbs liquids comes at an extra cost. So, you must decide if paying more is worthwhile before purchasing it. Yes, it can help you wash your seats with a car interior cleaner. And it can also help you wash the car carpets. But how often will you do that? Weigh the pros and cons before proceeding with an expensive purchase.
Alternatively, if you steam clean car interior, you don’t have to shampoo and wash car seats, carpets and upholstery because steam breaks down the dirt. Then you simply wipe away any residue with microfiber car cloths. But you will need to buy or hire a steam cleaner or, better still, find a technician specializing in this auto detailing method.
User Reviews and Recommendations
Before making your final decision, read user reviews and seek recommendations from friends or online communities. Real-world experiences can provide valuable insights into the performance and durability of a specific design and model.
The same advice applies if you are thinking about scheduling an appointment with a car interior detailing service. DetailXPerts specializes in eco-friendly steam cleaning technology and our mobile technicians are available to clean your vehicle at a time and place that suits you.
Brand and Warranty
Every car vacuum cleaner buying guide will tell you to choose a reputable brand known for producing reliable and durable car vacuums. Check if the product has a warranty to protect your investment in case of defects or issues.
In between DIY cleaning your car, you may want to schedule an appointment with the pros. To stay within budget, research how much does interior car detailing cost. Take a look at the top recommendations, below.
6 Best Car Vacuum Cleaners
A wide range of car vacuums are on the market to suit different customer preferences and needs. For example, a wet/dry model is a consideration if you carry lots of passengers and pets and the interior regularly needs a deeper interior clean. Here is our guide to the best car vacuums cleaners on the market today:
Best Lightweight Cordless Car Vacuum
If you want a high-quality cordless car vacuum, the Black+Decker 20V Max Pivot Vacuum, $89.99, is a compact, lightweight design. It has strong suction power and a pivoting nozzle for better access to awkward spaces inside the car. This model weighs just 2.1lbs, which makes it the best car vacuum to handle and use within the confines of your car. Highlights include:
- 20 volts
- Includes brush and crevice tool for cleaning awkward to reach spaces and gaps between seats
- Pivoting nozzle
- Run time up to 17 minutes
- Weight 2.1lbs
Another useful feature of this model is that it is easy to clean because it empties directly into the waste bin. You can also remove the dirt bowl from the vacuum and wash it to keep it fresh. To get the best results, see our guide on how to vacuum a car.
Pet Hair Car Vacuum
If you travel with pets in your car, having the best car vacuum to remove pet hair from seats and carpets is key to keeping your car looking good. The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser Hand Vacuum, from $79.99, is a powerful little cordless vacuum and the best car vacuum for removing pet hair embedded in car upholstery. Notable features are:
- 14-volt lithium-ion battery
- Motorized brush tool, upholstery tool and crevice tool
- Easy to empty dirt bin
- Run time up to 17 minutes
- Weight 3lbs
The motorized brush tool is perfect for car seats, working hard to get rid of dirt and hair. See our other tips on how to remove pet hair from your car’s interior.
High Power Cordless Car Vacuum With Long Run Time
Nothing is more frustrating than vacuuming your car to find the battery fades after 2 minutes. You can solve this problem with the Gtech Multi, around $350. It is one of the more expensive handheld car vacuums. But it is the best car vacuum if you want a powerful machine that gives you 30 minutes run time in between charges. It is perfect for DIY car interior detailing and quick household clean-ups:
- 22 volts
- Handy for cleaning small spaces in the car
- Easy, bagless waste disposal
- LED display
- Run time 30 minutes
- Weight 3.3lbs
The bagless design is convenient, enabling you to empty the dirt and dust directly into the trash. The LED headlight is another handy feature. It helps to highlight dust and dirt in those awkward spaces between car seats etc.
Best Car Vacuum on a Budget
If you’re not using your car every day or don’t have small children or pets as regular passengers, the chances are you will not need a heavy duty car vacuum.
If you need a car vacuum for occasional clean-ups, a low-cost model is what you need. Our best car vacuum listing includes Thisworx Mini Handheld Vacuum, $35. This model is the best car vacuum for price and convenience. Furthermore, its compact design makes it easier to store in your car. Highlights include:
- 12 volts
- 16ft cord
- Plugs into your 12V outlet
- 3 different nozzles included
- Weight 2.4lbs
Professional Grade Vacuum Cleaner for the Car
Do you want to know how to deep clean car interior like the professionals? Then you’ll have to pay more for your machine. The Vapamore MR-500, $379, is one of the more expensive vacuums on the market.
However, it is a high-tech, high-quality piece of kit with 1400 watts of cleaning power and 10 different tool attachments to make car interior detailing a whole lot easier. It is also a corded electric vacuum, so you don’t need to be mindful of run-time:
- 120 volts
- Onboard tool storage
- HEPA filtration
- LED headlight
- Hose length 5ft
- 26’ retractable power cord
- Weight 12lbs
The HEPA filters trap the dirt, dust particles and allergens picked up by the vacuum cleaner. This prevents them from recirculating in the air inside your car. This ensures you create a cleaner and healthier environment for yourself and your passengers.
For your peace of mind, it also has a lifetime warranty, making it the best car vacuum on the market today if you want a reliable model that will last for years.
Wet/Dry Car Vacuum With Powerful Suction
The portable Vacmaster Beast 5.5 Peak Wet/Dry Vacuum with a 5-gallon water tank is another model that makes our best car vacuum listing. It will tackle the dirtiest car interior, leaving it deep cleaned and fresh looking.
From around $109.99, the wet/dry function is great on grubby seats and muddy carpets or for cleaning up spills from drinks. Its car vacuum suction power is also good at efficiently removing pet hair from upholstery:
- Powerful 5.5 Peak HP† high performance motor
- 120 volts
- Hose length 7ft
- A useful 18ft power cord, giving you a massive 25ft cleaning reach with hose and power cord combined
- Weight 13.5lbs
This model also has a great selection of auto detailing tools included, such as an extension wand, car nozzle, crevice tool and air/noise diffuser. Furthermore, these tools pack neatly into the onboard storage facility.
Another handy feature is that Vacmaster also turns into an air blower. Note, it is one of the heavier models and it doesn’t have wheels, so you can’t pull it around behind you.
To sum up, the best car vacuum for you can be cordless or corded. It depends on your needs. And they are available in various sizes and at different prices to suit your preferences. Go for a less expensive model if it is for occasional use. Expect to pay more if you want a dry/wet vacuum, especially for the bigger models with more tools and attachments included.