The Best Car Vacuum

Black+Decker BDH2000PL MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum

Our Top Pick for 2016: Black+Decker BDH2000PL MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $79.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Dirt, mud, sticks, leaves and rocks are all brought into your car daily. Keeping your car clean is a constant challenge that can be better overcome using a vacuum with specific features that make it easier to use in the car. Cars have many small cracks and crevices that cannot easily be reached with a traditional vacuum cleaner. They can also face the extra challenge of water and moisture entering regularly presenting a new set of cleaning challenges.Before purchasing consider what you want and expect out of a car vacuum. If you have specialized needs, such as someone who lives in a wet climate, you may need wet/dry capabilities. If you plan to use your car vacuum to pick up heavy debris, such as that found in construction or you want to use your vacuum for cleaning your garage, a wall mounted model may work best. You will be able to find something that meets your needs as there are many car vacuums available, each with their own special features and capabilities. Weighing the pros and cons of each model carefully can assure you that you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.

Table of contents

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7 Cleaning Attachments
Fade Free Power
4′ Flexible Hose
Self-Cleaning Filter
Pivoting Nozzle
Perfect For Detailing
Quiet But Powerful
Superior Suction Capability
Reaches Tight Spaces
Easy Wall Mount Assembly
3-Stage Filtration System
High Performance Cyclonic Action
High-Capacity Bagless Vacuum
High Performance Motor 
Includes Flip Nozzle

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Black+Decker BDH2000PL MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum

Black+Decker BDH2000PL MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $79.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThe Black & Decker BDH2000PL MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum (B&D) is a well-designed, solid hand vacuum that can meet the demands of tough car cleaning. It starts with a 20 volt lithium ion battery that allows for cordless use. You won’t have to worry about a cord that is too short or keeps getting caught while trying to reach difficult spaces. A common problem with battery operated vacuums is low suction from a lack of sufficient power, but that is not an issue with this vacuum. The lithium ion battery allows for strong suction along with fade free power.

Cyclonic action, works to keep dust and debris away from the filter. This not only extends the life of the filter and decreases the amount of time spent cleaning it, but also keeps the suction strong while using the vacuum. Debris is further contained with a rubber flap over the nozzle that prevents anything from falling out of the vacuum.

Lightweight design adds to the overall appeal and strength of this vacuum. Cleaning a car properly requires getting into difficult to reach spaces. Holding, tugging, and pulling a heavy vacuum can make cleaning exhausting. It can also prove challenging to hold the vacuum in the position necessary to get the car clean. Your arm is not going to tire easily with the B&D because it is small and highly portable. There are no cords or hoses to get caught. The high portability of this model gives it versatility beyond the car. It can be used in the home for quick mess cleanup or taken to alternate locations because of its small size.

A car vacuum needs attachments that allow you to reach the many narrow spaces as well as under seats. Additionally, extra extension may be needed to reach all the way underneath seats. The B&D faces these challenges head on with a distinct pivoting nozzle that reaches under and in-between seats with ease. The wide mouth on the nozzle gives easier cleaning power for large messes like gravel or dog food. 180 degree nozzle movement gives you the ability to reach all the small nooks in the car. The nozzle can also be locked into several positions for easy reach.

A built-in crevice tool, which can be pushed back into the nozzle when not in use, extends to give even further reach. The B&D also includes a built-in nozzle brush to tackle difficult messes. When you are done using the brush it, too, can be folded out of the way when not in use. These attached accessories make storing this model convenient. A handheld vacuum loses some of its portability if there are separate accessories that need to be brought along to do the job. This vacuum has all tools with it every time you need it.

Storage space required for this vacuum is small. The charging unit, which can be mounted on the wall if desired, fits neatly into the garage or kitchen without taking up precious floor space. The vacuum folds downs compactly while charging and a blue indicator light turns off to let you know when it is fully charged.

Keeping a vacuum clean can be a particularly difficult challenge, but not with the B&D. Many users report that the ease of cleaning the vacuum is one of their favorite features and helps to prolong the overall life of the vacuum. It can be taken apart to reveal several essential parts to allow for stress-free cleaning. A translucent, bag less dirt bowl allows you to see when the vacuum is full. This same bowl can be removed entirely and washed in the sink if necessary. You can empty the vacuum quickly by using the side door to dump dirt and debris directly in the garbage. You do not need to remove the bowl to access and periodically clean the dust filter, making cleaning the unit that much easier.

Black & Decker provides a two year warranty against any defects in materials or workmanship.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Hoover GUV ProGrade Garage Utility Vacuum

Hoover GUV ProGrade Garage Utility Vacuum

View it on Amazon for $162.79*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThe Hoover GUV ProGrade Garage Utility Vacuum (ProGrade) is a central-vac system with a 5-gallon volume capacity. It attaches to the wall to save floor space in the garage and runs on a powerful, yet quiet, 10 amp 120 volt motor. What it lacks in portability it makes up for in power, tools, and capacity.

Upon purchase it includes 7 attachment tools – 2 extension wands, 2 crevice tools, floor nozzle, upholstery nozzle, and a dusting brush. The extension wands give you access to those hard to reach spaces and can save back strain by allowing an upright cleaning position. The upholstery nozzle provides specialization that allows for greater detail of cleaning and prolongs the life of your vehicle’s upholstery. Dust can sometimes be too light for vacuum suction to work on it. The included dusting brush works to move the dust into the suction of the vacuum. The 14in. wheeled floor nozzle works best on a garage or shop floor, making this a good candidate for those who need the vacuum for more than just a car. All of these accessories give you specialized cleaning and versatility. All the included accessories can be stored in a canvas bag that hangs a hook on the wall mounted unit.

A 30ft. crush-proof hose with suction regulator allows you to reach around both sides of your car easily. The hose is large enough and the suction powerful enough to vacuum up nails and screws. A vehicle that is used at construction sites or frequently has large debris may need the power provided by the ProGrade. Once you are finished cleaning, the hose can be hung on the included hose hook.

The ProGrade is constructed of heavy-duty steel that is meant to withstand professional use. There is no need to ever replace filters, which can save you money in the long run. However, users did report that cleaning the filter can be messy and a bit difficult. It is recommended that when you take the canister off to clean the filter that you put a garbage can underneath it to catch the dust.

Installation is necessary but not difficult. A wall bracket must be mounted for the canister and the hose hook must be mounted nearby. Once this is done, the canister can be fitted in the wall bracket and plugged in with the 5ft cord. Keep in mind that the cord length may limit the number of places the unit can be installed. There is no extra wiring or hose installation necessary.

On one hand, the ProGrade does not take up extra floor space, which can be nice in a crowded garage. On the other hand, this vacuum is not portable. All cleaning of your vehicle must be done in the garage, limiting the uses of the vacuum. If you use your vehicle for construction or other work that has heavy cleaning needs, this unit is ideal for high volumes of large debris.

Detailed car cleaning with powerful suction are the strengths of this vacuum, while portability and ease of filter cleaning are a couple of the problems. If you are going to be vacuuming fine dust which will clog the filter quickly, this might not be right vacuum for you. For strictly car cleaning purposes, it does a good job and has the accessories you need to clean every crack and crevice of your vehicle.

Hoover provides a 3 year limited warranty on defective parts or manufacturing.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Black & Decker PAD1200 Flex Auto Vacuum

Black & Decker PAD1200 Flex Auto Vacuum

View it on Amazon for $60.41*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe Black & Decker PAD1200 Flex Auto Vacuum gives you a compact, portable car vacuum option. The unique circular design, together with the gray and orange color scheme, gives this vacuum a sleek appearance that goes well with its utilitarian function. A handled carrying case makes this vacuum easy to carry along to different locations and for compact storage.

This vacuum’s strength is the ease with which you can do detail work. A 4ft. flexible hose can reach the dashboard and be used to reach underneath seats. The nozzle on the hose is angled, which helps to reach certain areas of the car. When not in use, the hose folds down accordion-style, and can be wrapped around the canister for compact storage.

At the end of the hose is a flip nozzle with a brush to help with the dust on air vents and the dashboard. The nozzle head is an adequate size for fitting into small spaces, while the crevice tool allows you to reach between seats, around seatbelt buckles, and between the seat and door. The small size of the vacuum makes getting into hard to reach spaces simpler, while the attached tools allow you to focus on the areas of the car that need cleaning the most.

A 12V DC power adapter fits into the car lighter providing portable power. This, along with the extended power cord, allows you to reach all areas of the car. This also means you can take the vacuum with you wherever you need to go. For example, the vacuum can be taken camping or on a trip to the beach for quick, cleaning of your car before leaving. With the small size and compact case, it does not take up much space. Many users choose to keep this vacuum in the trunk of their car so they can use it when it is necessary.

Cleaning out the vacuum can be done by emptying the canister through the side door. Simply hold the vacuum over a garbage can and open the door. A clear window bowl allows you to easily see when the vacuum has become full. Triple action filtration along with cyclonic action, extends the life of the filter and vacuum. It also gives the vacuum greater suction. The filter may need to be cleaned or replaced over time. The bowl can be wiped clean but cannot be detached for further washing.

An important thing to keep in mind with this vacuum is that it is intended for light use. It can handle detail work and keeping spills and messes at bay, but is not intended for heavy use with nails, screws, or pet hair. Black & Decker offers a two year warranty for defective manufacturing and parts but you must have proof of purchase to receive any service through the warranty.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): ArmorAll Wet/Dry 12V Vacuum Cleaner

ArmorAll Wet/Dry 12V Vacuum Cleaner

View it on Amazon for $25.94*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe ArmorAll Wet/Dry 12V Vacuum Cleaner (ArmorAll) is the only car vacuum on our list that has wet/dry capabilities. Wet messes and spills can be some of the most difficult to clean in a car. Parents with small children might especially need the wet/dry capabilities in a small hand-held vacuum.

The ArmorAll has a 12V power adapter and 15ft cord that plugs into the car lighter, making this model highly portable. It can be kept in the trunk of the car to be used whenever you may have a spill or mess such as on long distance trips, outings to the beach, or a picnic in the park. With an ergonomically designed handle, this wet/dry vac is lightweight to make it convenient for use in the car. There are no canisters or hoses to move around while cleaning.

A built-in extension tool allows you to reach into small or narrow cracks and crevices around seatbelt buckles or in-between seats. Once you are finished the tool can slide back into the nozzle for easy storage. An LED light gives you greater visibility while reaching these hard to clean spaces. The ArmorAll also includes a separate brush tool for cleaning dust off the dashboard and air vents. Cleaning wet spills can be done with the attachable squeegee tool or with the open hose. It comes with a simple, non-slip storage bag to keep all tool accessories together.

Cleaning this vacuum can be done by opening the top to reveal the filter, which will need periodic cleaning and replacement, and internal catch basin. Remove the catch basin and dump debris the garbage can and the vacuum is emptied.

The ArmorAll is a good choice for a wet/dry vac that you want to store in the car. If you have frequent spills in your vehicle that you would like to clean up right away the portable wet/dry capabilities can’t be beat. It does not have many of the more elaborate features of many car vacuum models, which is reflected in the price, but if you want something simple that will do a good job, this vacuum may be right for you.


Pre-purchase considerations

Portability

Cars present a unique problem when it comes to cleaning. You need a vacuum with enough power to suck up large debris, but also something that can easily be moved around a vehicle. The inside of a car is also a confined space that doesn’t allow for a large canister inside the vehicle, which means you either need a small canister or a vacuum with a long hose.

Portable vacuums take up less space than a traditional vacuum. In fact, some are small enough that they can be kept in the trunk of a car. Some charging stations can be wall mounted so the vacuum does not take up precious floor space. Smaller vacuums are also easier to get inside the vehicle and maneuver in tight quarters. Look for models that do not give up strong suction for the portable size.

Wet/Dry

There are some climates that will require wet/dry capabilities because wet leaves and water enter the car on a regular basis. Parents with young children that may frequently spill would also require a vacuum that can handle water. However, if your vehicle primarily has dirt, rocks, and dry debris, a wet/dry vacuum may not be something that you need.

Power

The way in which the vacuum is powered will greatly determine its suction and dependability. Models that have an electrical plug will have steady power, but be difficult to maneuver through a car. They also must have an electrical outlet within reach of the cord, which can cause a problem when you have to reach all the way around a vehicle.

Battery operated models that use Lithium ion batteries will have a longer life than models using NiCad batteries. If you purchase a battery operated vacuum be sure to check the warranty and if there are replacement batteries available if the battery dies. Also be aware of how and where the charging station will be located. Some charging stations can be mounted on the wall to save space, while the others are less compact.

Vacuums that plug directly into the lighter of the vehicle offer greater portability as they will not run out of power and can be used wherever the vehicle is located. You would have to deal with a power cord running through the car but that may be worth it to have a vacuum with you at all times.

Tools

Cleaning a car requires specific tools to reach in all the crevices and cracks. Most car vacuums include some kind of crevice cleaning tool for hard to reach spaces. They also usually include some kind of brush attachment. If you are purchasing a wet/dry vac look for a squeegee tool for liquid messes.

The most compact and portable models will have tools that are built-in or can be stored on the body of the vacuum. If not, look for a model that has a carrying case to store the tools in so that tools are not lost. Also keep in mind that model that has an easy to carry case will fit nicely in the car to be taken wherever it may be needed.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

A quality car vacuum can be found in any price range as long as you know what features are most important to you. First decide if you want a portable or stationary vacuum and from there the options are varied as to your needs. Make sure that the vacuum has the ride power needs for you. If you need something to pick up pet hair or large debris look for higher voltage that can power greater suction.

Keeping your car clean and detailed can be done at home without having to make a trip to the car wash to use a commercial vacuum. When you know the features you are looking for, you will better be able to choose a model that will meet your needs and expectations.


Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. 5 Best Handheld Vacuums, bestreviews.com
  2. Best Handheld Vacuums, comparaboo.com, April 2016
  3. Best Handheld Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide 2016, homefloorexperts.com
  4. Best Portable Vacuum for Car 2015/2016 – Handheld Vac Reviews, basenjimom.com
  5. Best Portable Vacuum Cleaner 2016, vacuumtop.com
  6. Car Vacuum Cleaner Review, toptenreviews.com

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