Best Car Vacuum Cleaners - Types and Cleaning Tools

Car vacuum cleaners differ in many ways, mostly in power source, suction strength, size, price, etc. Regardless of its features, a good car vacuum must be able to thoroughly clean car interior and remove various types of debris, ranging from small sand particles and dust to pet hair, dried food, and similar stubborn dirt.

As always, having a clean car can be a kind of art, especially if you have pets and kids.

Updated: September 30, 2020.

12v car vacuum 1

There are several ways to classify car vacuum cleaners, and the most common is according to their power source: cordless car vacuum cleaners, 12 V car vacuum cleaners, and corded car vacuum cleaners.

In order to clean the car properly, every car vacuum cleaner should have a set of cleaning tools and attachments, suitable for detail vacuuming of various surfaces commonly found in cars, pickups, trucks, RVs, and similar vehicles.

Cleaning Tools and Attachments

The most common car vacuums cleaning tools and attachments include:

- Crevice Tool is a long and narrow cleaning tool, suitable for vacuuming between car seats, under the seats, and other hard to reach surfaces. Some crevice tools have flexible middle part, allowing them to bend and clean behind or under obstacles and objects found in the cars.

- Dusting Brush features one or more rows of soft bristles. As the bristles glide over the cleaned area, they agitate dirt, which is then vacuumed by strong suction. Dusting brushes and crevice tools are often combined in 2-in-1 cleaning tools, but for the best results, specialized cleaning tools are better choices.

- Flexible Cleaning Hose extends the reach of other cleaning tools and help the user more thoroughly and easily to clean the car, saving both time and effort.

- Turbo Brushes motorized cleaning tool, featuring small brushroll, powered most commonly with the air turbine. As the brushroll spins, its bristles penetrate the surface, loosing the deeply embedded dust, hair and other similar dirt. Most of the Turbo Brushes are not maintenance-free cleaning tools and from time to time the user has to clean them from tangled hair, lint, fibers, and other similar dirt. Nonetheless, for cleaning upholstered/carpeted and similar car surfaces, Turbo Brushes are the best choice, IF the cleaned surfaces tolerate such vacuuming.

Of course, there are other cleaning tools and attachments suitable for cleaning the cars, but these are the most common and the most important ones.

car care kit

Cleaning tools and attachments come by default as a cleaning set with the vacuum, or can be ordered later, when and if required.

Note: when ordering cleaning tools and sets later, be sure that they fit the vacuum you have.

Dirt Type - Dry or Wet?

Most of the vacuums are designed for vacuuming dry dirt only. However, when having pets and kids in the car, it is not rare to have to quickly clean smaller liquid spills too.

Vacuuming moist/wet dirt by vacuums designed for dry dirt only can easily damage the vacuum and void its warranty.

wet dry car vacuum

Wet-dry vacuums are vacuums that are designed to vacuum wet/moist dirt and liquids, without getting damaged. However, when buying such unit, be sure to read the manual thoroughly, because most models must be operated at certain degree and the amount of vacuumed liquids must never reach above the Max. fill line.

Wet-dry vacuums can be cordless or corded and can come very handy in many situations.

Cordless Car Vacuum Cleaners

Cordless car vacuum cleaners use energy stored in onboard battery, which is commonly high-energy, power fade-free lithium ion battery.

Such lithium ion batteries enable cordless vacuums to have long operating time and strong suction, making them suitable for vacuuming entire car, if required.

Car cordless vacuums differ in size from small handhelds being able to vacuum just few smaller piles of dirt to large convertible 2-in-1 stick/handheld vacuums, suitable even as main vacuums in homes and apartments.

cordless car vacuum 1

For a cordless vacuum to be a good vacuum cleaner, it must have:

- good suction: smaller cordless vacuums feature suction of 15-30 Air Watts, while large cordless vacuums can provide easily 100-150 or even more Air Watts. Such powerful cordless units are expensive, but they are lightweight when compared with corded units, their cleaning reach is not limited by the presence of mains power, etc.

- versatile cleaning tools that includes at least crevice tool and dusting brush,

- good air filtration ensures the user that the vacuumed dirt is securely trapped in the vacuum. An air filtration of 99% is acceptable, 99.9% is good, while true HEPA air filtration ensuring the capture of 99.97% of 0.3 microns or larger particles is - excellent!

- large dirt cup ensures that whole car can be vacuumed without interruptions required by emptying the dirt cup. Also, dirt cup should be transparent, to allow the user to see amount and type of vacuumed dirt - earrings anyone? :)

- long operating time that allows the user to clean whole car with a single battery charge. Most modern lithium ion powered cordless vacuums are able to operate at least 15-20 minutes using Normal suction mode and if they feature so-called Boost mode (or Max. suction mode), their operating time is at least 5-10 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, but if you can't vacuum your car in under 10 minutes, take it to the professional car cleaners and let them do the job for you! Seriously...

With lithium ion batteries being cheaper and cheaper, cordless vacuums are more and more used as home vacuums - there is no reason why would car vacuums be different.

Note: some users leave their cordless vacuums in the cars, year long. This can be done only if the vacuum's manufacturer states that such storage is acceptable due to the potentially very cold storage temperatures during winter and very high temperatures during summer.

12 V Car Vacuum Cleaners

12 V car vacuums use cars' cigarette light adapters as the power source, draining the main cars' batteries.

Commonly cigarette light adapters have 10 Amps fuses, limiting the power of these unit to 100-120 watts. Since modern car batteries feature capacities of at least 55-70 Ah, 10 minutes of operation of car vacuum powered via cigarette light adapter draws around ~1.7 Ah, which is practically nothing for the fully charged car battery.

12v car vacuum 2

12 V car vacuums usually come with carrying/storage bag and cleaning tool set required for cleaning the car thoroughly.

Also, most of these units is designed to be stored in the car year long.

When choosing 12 V car vacuum, be sure that it has proper cleaning set available, but also long enough power cord - before getting one, check the distance between car's cigarette light socket and, for example, car's trunk.

Corded Car Vacuum Cleaners

Corded car vacuums are mains powered units that can be either specialized car vacuums or home vacuums used for cleaning cars.

Obviously, classic upright and stick vacuums are not good choice for vacuuming the cars. However, upright vacuums with cleaning hoses, canister vacuums, convertible 2-in-1 stick/handhelds and similar units are all potentially good car vacuums if:

- there is a mains power available near the car we want to vacuum,

- the cleaning hose is long enough to be able to reach and clean entire car's interior,

- cleaning tools set consists of at least crevice tool and dusting brush, but other tools can come handy as well (turbo brush, flexible crevice tool, upholstery pet tool, etc.).

corded car vacuum 1

In most situations, corded home vacuums being able to clean both floors and elevated surfaces are more than good enough car vacuums. If they lack certain cleaning tools, in most cases they can be ordered online, when and if required.

Most car vacuums are intended for vacuuming car interiors. However, some vacuums are specialized for cleaning large, glazed surfaces like windows, mirrors, tiles and similar and can be used for cleaning car windows.

Car Windows Vacuums

Window vacuums are very specialized cleaning devices consisting of squeegee/cleaning blade and a suction motor with vacuumed liquid tank.

windows car vacuum cleaner

As the blade glides over car windows, it collects the water, which is then vacuumed into the unit's tank and emptied later.

Such windows vacuums enables streak-free windows cleaning and although they can be used for cleaning all flat surfaces, personally, they should be used only on the car windows.

When choosing the car vacuum, be sure to choose according to your individual needs and preferences.

If you have a good home vacuum cleaner, but you lack proper cleaning tools and attachments to thoroughly clean your car, in most situations the best thing to do is to get yourself a nice car cleaning kit, which is also often cheaper than getting an additional car vacuum cleaner.