Left unattended, the interior of your car can easily accumulate dirt, sand, trash, and other detritus. Along with looking unsightly, smaller contaminants can become embedded in your seats, doing significant damage as you get in and out of your vehicle. Keeping your interior pristine is relatively easy, and shouldn’t require an enormous amount of time. While shop vacs offer up fantastic functionality and power, they can prove to be unruly when space is at a premium. Instead, turn to one of these five vacuums that are sure to streamline your interior automotive cleaning.
Take a look below at quick info on the best car vacuums, then scroll down for buying advice and in-depth reviews of these models.
What to Consider
Buying a vacuum for the interior of your automobile can be a surprisingly complicated endeavor. With so many form factors and metrics to look at, we decided to focus on compact cordless units with limited compromise and maximum functionality.
As most of these vacuums are cordless, battery size and run times will be important to take into account. Luckily, a lot of these units run on the same batteries used with other cordless tools including drills, saws, flashlights, etc.–provided that they’re the same brand and the correct voltage. If you’re starting from a clean slate, we’d recommend splurging on batteries–one charger and two batteries will be more than enough to get you up and running. Unfortunately, some of these units come without a battery or charger in the box, which won't do you any good, so be sure to comb through the "what's included" section.
When looking at batteries, the other important numbers to consider are voltage (V) and amp hours (Ah). Voltage refers to the raw amount of power that a battery can put out at any given time. In the case of vacuums, anything below 18V isn’t really worth your time. Meanwhile, amp hours is a measure of how many amps a battery can put out over an hour–higher numbers here will lead to longer running times. It’s important to note that anything above 25 minutes is more than enough to tackle just about any car or SUV.
How We Evaluated
As an outdoor enthusiast and detailing fanatic, I know the ins and outs of keeping my interior in relatively good nick. So I developed a series of tests to find the best cordless vacuums. First, I analyzed the attachments on offer, focusing on their ability to slip into hard-to-reach areas without scratching delicate components. This involved squeezing the crevice attachments into the minuscule gap between the front seats and the door cards of my Volkswagen Golf GTI. Then I gauged how easily the vacuums could rid the carpets of common contaminants including dirt, sand, and hair by evaluating how much debris each picked up in a single pass. The last metric to consider was battery life, which I tested by running each battery pack from full charge to zero with no load. Though, as almost all of these models use different size rechargeable batteries, take these numbers with a grain of salt. Most of these vacuums that occupy an existing battery ecosystem–Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch, etc.– have bigger batteries that you can buy for longer run times. While we did have the opportunity to test the first two vacuums on this list, the other three models I selected through comprehensive research, my experience with car vacs, and taking into account customer feedback and reviews on sites like Amazon.
—BEST OVERALL— Makita LXT 18-Volt Compact Vacuum
Power: 18V | Weight: 4 lb | Runtime: 40 min | Kit Includes: Vacuum, 1.5-Ah battery, charger, five attachments, soft carrying case
This compact vacuum kit from Makita comes with a plethora of attachments and accessories to get you up and running straight out of the box. With five attachments to choose from–including a crevice tool, brush nozzle, two floor nozzles, and a blower hose–the rubber crevice tool proved to be the most effective. Along with next to no chance of scratching any plastic or marring your seats, the flexible tool can squeeze into the smallest of nooks and crannies. Suction is adequate for small debris, but the unit struggled when it came into contact with larger detritus including stones, chunks of dirt, and bits of mulch. If you have your eye on the Makita set, I’d strongly recommend buying a bigger battery if you have the money. The standard unit comes with a 1.5-Ah pack, which won't last as long as some of the bigger units that Makita offer. Our test unit came with a 5.0-Ah pack, which provided more than enough juice to vacuum a five-door Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback.
—BEST PORTABILITY— Bosch 18-Volt Handheld Vacuum
Power: 18V | Weight: 2.9 lb | Runtime: 42 min | Kit Includes: Vacuum, five attachments
Having produced high-quality power tools for decades, Bosch knows what it takes to impress its customers. Despite its simplicity, the GAS18V-02N vacuum is an excellent product coming in at a competitive price point. Throughout my testing, a 6.0-Ah battery pack was more than adequate to rid every crevice of my Volkswagen GTI of dirt, sand, leaves, and hair. Bosch built the included attachments–crevice tool, floor nozzle, extension tubes, and hose–using soft plastics, which won’t scratch any delicate materials on the inside of your car. While I was impressed with the performance of such a small package, the added cost to purchase a battery and charger–roughly $120–makes this unit a tough sell for those on a budget. However, if you’ve already bought into the Bosch cordless ecosystem, buying this vacuum would be a solid choice.
Other Great Options —BEST BUDGET OPTION— Worx 20-Volt Compact Vacuum
Power: 20V | Weight: 3 lb | Runtime: 15 min | Kit Includes: Vacuum, 2-Ah battery, charger, two attachments, soft carrying case
Sitting in the same weight class as the Bosch, the Worx WX030L is small but mighty. It might not have the most spectacular suction or battery life, but this thing is packed with useful features, including a 4-foot-long retractable hose, an integrated brush, and crevice attachments. Unlike many of the units on the list, this compact vac also includes a washable HEPA filter, which is great for ridding your vehicle of dust mites, mold spores, pollen, and any other contaminants that are bound to make your pride and joy a sneeze machine. As I mentioned earlier, battery life is the WX030L’s biggest downfall, with only 15 minutes of runtime per pack.
—EASY TO EMPTY— Milwaukee M18 18-Volt Compact Vacuum
Power: 18V | Weight: 7.4 lb | Runtime: 43 min | Kit Includes: Vacuum, five attachments, soft carrying case
The Milwaukee M18 cordless vacuum isn’t the best on this list, but it’s by far the easiest to empty. It collects debris in a centrally mounted tank, which empties via a transparent trapdoor at the bottom. Along with easy emptying, this clever design allows for access to the HEPA filter, which should be swapped roughly every six months for optimal performance. Much like the Bosch vacuum, the Milwaukee is a great buy if you already own several of Milwaukee’s batteries and tools. Otherwise, you’ll have to dish out another $199 for two 5-Ah batteries and a charger–which will each last roughly 25 minutes. For those looking for extra battery life, another $125 will buy you an 8-Ah battery and nearly double the run time.
—MOST VERSATILE— Black & Decker Beyond 20-Volt Stick Vacuum
Power: 20V | Weight: 10.23 lb | Runtime: 50 min | Kit Icludes: Vacuum, 2-Ah battery, charger, washable filter and pre-filter, crevice tool
Being considerably bigger than the other units on the list, this stick vacuum from Beyond (a subsidiary of Black & Decker) brings a lot to the table. While it looks to be an in-home specialist, the extra oomph required for household use is perfect for the interior of your automobile. Like many of the vacuums on this list, it also lives in the same battery ecosystem as other power tools in the Black & Decker lineup. Setting the brushbar aside for indoor applications, the crevice attachment is a great do-it-all setup for automotive use. The jack-of-all-trades nature of this vacuum is great for cleaning up a small mess here and there, but its larger form factor may prove to be a hassle when maneuvering around the inside of your car.