We all know someone with a petri dish of an interior. Seats stained with a takeaway, floor mats caked in mud, and a boot that looks like a crime scene, it's never a good look or smell. A quality car vacuum cleaner can totally transform the inside of your car, removing the grit and dirt that builds up over time.
For stubborn stains, proper upholstery cleaning solutions and carpet cleaning machines can be extremely useful.
If you're more than happy to splash out a couple of quid on a good car shampoo and even treat your car to a good polish every now and again then it's a good idea to look at a quality car vacuum cleaner so the insides of your car are as clean as the outside. Given that we tend to spend our time in our cars rather than on them, surely keeping the interior clean is of more importance than the exterior.
The best vacuum cleaners for cars:
G-Tech Multi MK2 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner
Best cordless vacuum for cars
Weu2019ll get the weak points out of the way first. The cordless G-Tech Multi has a 20-minute runtime and the Car Accessory Kit is too expensive.
The plus points are as follows. The Multi weighs in at 1.5 kilograms, making it deceptively light, like the Honda S2000. Also like the Honda, it’s quite striking in a world of mundane domestic appliances, though certainly not as pretty as the Mk2 Cortina.
While we concede that the price is a little daunting, it becomes apparent when using the G-Tech Multi that you get what you pay for. Unlike the G-Tech clones you can get on Amazon for a fifth of the price, the genuine product has healthy, reliable suction rather than a wheezy sniff that struggles to shift a human hair.
While the aforementioned Car Accessory Kit is available, what comes in the box as standard is plenty. You get a rectangular power brush that is superb at removing hair and dirt from the carpet, a dusting brush on an extended pole, and a narrow crevice tool for removing grit from beside the seats, which is simultaneously very small but catches 98% of lost car debris. It’s bagless too, simply unclip the chamber and empty it.
Powerful yet light option
Good storage capacity
Additional car cleaning accessories are too expensive
Proscenic P11 vacuum cleaner
The Proscenic P11 is the most powerful of the range currently, and comes in a set with both small and large motorised heads, a crevice tool and a soft brush tool, plus a mop attachment.
The vacuum itself embraces the lightweight, handheld science-fiction phaser style – enhanced by a backlit panel that shows charge status, vacuum power and when under excessive load, warnings that you should probably back off. Most of the time you’ll leave it in auto mode, swapping to max for cobwebs and the like, but it’s a nice feature on an appliance that usually gives you no feedback or control.
Tiny bin capacity
Beldray BEL01096 AIRLITE Cordless Hand Vacuum
Great lightweight vacuum
A very compact option from Beldray, the Airlite hand vacuum is a very cleverly packaged handheld vacuum that balances suction power and run-time effectively against weight and size. Weighing just 600 grams it features a powerful 1.1 V Lithium-Ion battery with dual speed settings.
It comes with a 25 minute run time (reduced to eight if turbo mode is engaged), and also comes with a HEPA filter and a 100ml storage capacity.
It also comes with a stylish docking station that also holds two accessories, an upholstery tool and a crevice attachment. Overall a very smart handheld vacuum cleaner.
Tested 2021: "This vacuum is ideal for those smaller jobs around the home and car where even the smallest multipurpose vacuum would struggle. It comes with two handy attachments, one for upholstery and a crevice tool, both of which come in very handy. It's decently powerful, especially in turbo mode, and the run-time means you'll be able to clean a car's interior with ease. The only real issue is the tiny storage space."
Very small and lightweight
Small dust storage capacity
Karcher WD 3 Car Vac
Best corded vac for cars
Corded vacuums are cheaper and usually more powerful than cordless options. This Karcher vacuum is a case in point. And we like it immensely. In return for a machine with a power cord, you get 200 air watts of suction power, 17-litre capacity, an attractive price tag, Karcher quality, and because this is designed for cars, you get an assortment of relevant accessories.
Said accessories are a pair of suction brushes – one with soft bristles, the other with harder ones, a wide suction nozzle for large flat surfaces, and a 350mm-long crevice nozzle. All of these have applicable use in the car. Granted, while there is a suction hose, it’s not really an issue in-car because it's two metres long. The only time where it wouldn’t be long enough is if you were cleaning a bus.
If you find yourself in a situation where you still can’t reach into an awkward area, the WD 3 Car has a blower function that you can use to move dirt. Oh yes, and did we mention that it's a wet and dry vacuum? It comes with a wet and dry floor tool.
Wet and dry
Some people might object to its corded nature (we don’t)
Proscenic S1 handheld cordless vacuum
Best value for money lightweight
Despite weighing just 630g, this wieldy unit has three 2200mAh batteries, which means a 30-minute run time and 12,000 Pa of suction power. It charges in two hours using the supplied dock and a three-pin plug or in four if you use the supplied USB-C cable.
Tested 2021: "I’ve found the Proscenic S1 vacuum cleaner more than up to the job of fire-fighting the regular build-up of dirt and crumbs in my car. Some jobs do still require the additional power of my household vacuum, but I’ve been really surprised by how flexible this cordless cleaner is.
"Altogether I’ve been really pleased with the Proscenic S1 – it offers a lot for its £79 price tag, which is cheaper than its major rivals. There are cheaper versions still, but none offer as much power or runtime as this one.
Good value for money
Charging dock looks cheaper
Hoover H-Handy 700 has a larger dust container
Hoover H-Handy 700
Best lightweight car vac
This endearing little thing looks like a lightsaber and we like that. It's designed entirely as a lightweight vacuum and we like that too. That inevitably means that it can't match the others here for oomph (40 air watts) or run time (about ten minutes). But we recommend it to those who maintain a clean car and want a vacuum for regular but quick dust-busting. Though in the H-Handy 700's defence, it is better than a dust buster.
The included attachments are exactly what you want for car vacuuming: one for upholstery, one for dusting hard surfaces, and one for crevices.
At 660 grams, it’s less than half the weight of the Gtech Multi and sits rather elegantly on its docking charge station when not in use. Charge time is about three hours. The chamber isn’t very big, only 150ml, but in line with its intended use, it’s absolutely fine.
Max run time of 12 minutes is borderline inadequate
Black+Decker PV1820L Cordless Vacuum
Best budget option
Budget options of any product present buyers with a minefield. Are there any value-focused vacuums that have a working life of more than a week? There are some and this is one of them. Black + Decker's 18V cordless vacuum is good for light work like the Hoover H-Handy 700. It has a similar run time and suction power.
It weighs 1.4 kilograms and while it doesn’t come with a raft of attachments, we like how the nozzle rotates up to 200 degrees. Combine this feature with the flat, elongated shape of the nozzle itself, and you’ll find it’s rather good at reaching underneath car seats, for example.
There are a couple of other good touches: when charging or storing this vacuum, it folds neatly in half, which makes it more compact. Also, once charged (which takes about four hours), the smart charger will stop and the batteries will not self-discharge.
Nice touches for a budget unit
Power to weight ratio on the Hoover H-Handy 700 is better
Why do you need a car vacuum cleaner?
You probably already own a regular vacuum cleaner, so surely it must be OK for car use? Well, yes, but also no. A traditional vacuum cleaner is designed for home use and will probably be a right pain to get outside to your car, especially if it requires plugging in at all times. It'll also more than likely be too cumbersome to properly navigate conventionally sized car doors, meaning your cleaning ability will be severely limited. So unless you own a Lincoln Continental with coach doors, Renault Avantime, or (hopefully not) a Peugeot 1007, you're going to struggle with a traditional household vacuum cleaner.
A more modern cordless vacuum will be a better option but may still be way too bulky to give your car's carpets a good clean in all areas. For a proper clean, you need something that is more portable and can get into those nooks and crannies a household cleaner just wouldn't be able to reach. In short, if you want to properly clean your car's interior, you'll need a vacuum cleaner designed for the job.
What do you need to consider when looking for a car vacuum cleaner?
What attachments does it come with?
Different attachments will allow you to reach more areas of your car's interior and allow you to get better results. Different nozzles and heads will be able to clean different surfaces while flexible attachments will allow you access to areas that are usually impenetrable to most vacuum cleaners.
How much do you want to spend?
Some car vacuum cleaners offer better value for money than others. Just remember to weigh up the costs with what you'll be using your vacuum for. A more expensive model may well offer better suction and be perfect for maintaining a fleet of dirty cars, but it would be a bit over-the-top for your nan's rarely-driven Seat Mii.
What is the runtime?
You will want your vacuum to be able to clean your entire car on a single charge. This isn't a concern for corded options such as Karcher WD 3 Car Vac above, but you need these to have a long suction hose.
For verdicts, scoops, news and analysis from the team, delivered direct to your inbox, subscribe to the CAR newsletter.