Car vacuum group test: corded vs cordless

To find a definitive answer to whether corded or cordless vacuums are best for car cleaning, we undertake a group test.

Five vacuum cleaners in behind a Renault Arkana

by Chris Williams |

Conducting a road test of the new Maserati MC20 was an immensely satisfying day out, but so too was our timely car vacuum group test. While Maserati's 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 was hoovering up plenty of air via its many gaping air vents, our test vacuums were equally busy.

The intent behind this vacuum group test is rather gladiatorial. We wanted to firmly establish whether quality handheld vacuums are a viable alternative to entry level (i.e., home use) wet/dry vacs when it comes to car cleaning.

It's an important question that needs answering because handheld cordless vacuums are now very popular and one of their main advertised uses is for car cleaning. Meanwhile, wet/dry vacs aren't so popular for domestic use because they seem a bit industrial. However, there are domestic versions of coffee machines and they work well, so maybe home-use wet/dry vacs will too. It's time for a group test.

Jump to:

How we conducted our group test

Rather than unleashing a wheezing mass of vacuums, we conducted this test in an organised manner.

Our line-up consisted of five vacuum cleaners: three high-end handheld cordless vacuums and two affordable wet/dry vacuums designed for domestic use.

Each model had a chance to undertake car vacuuming tasks, such as attending to gritted footwells, mucky floor mats, and intricate spaces. We also tested the wet/dry vacuums’ ability to handle sucking up water. The goal was to see how each vacuum performed and also how each type of vacuum stood up against the other. Other important aspects we evaluated were how easy each machine was to use, their ergonomics, and overall build quality.

In this report, we present our findings by first addressing the cordless vacuums and finding a winner amongst them, before deciding on a wet/dry winner and finishing with a showdown between the two finalists.

Heat 1: handheld cordless

Eufy, Shark, and Gtech vacuums displayed in a car boot
©Photo: CAR

Our three models of cordless vacuums were the Eufy HomeVac H30 Venture, Shark Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner, and Gtech Multi MK2 K9 (as pictured above from left to right).

Specs
Weight 0.8kg
Dimensions 425 x 90 x 73mm
Bin capacity 0.25L
Max quoted run time 20 mins Eco/10 mins Max
Battery 2500mAh
Warranty 24 months
Attachments 2-in-1 crevice tool, multi-surface tool
Specs
Weight 0.6kg
Dimensions 385 x 64 x 61mm
Bin capacity 0.25L
Max quoted run time 8 mins
Battery Not stated
Warranty 24 months
Attachments Crevice tool, pet tool
Specs
Weight 1.5kg
Dimensions 250 x 136 x 386mm
Bin capacity 0.4L
Max quoted run time 20 mins
Battery 2200mAh
Warranty 24 months
Attachments Power head, crevice tool, extension tube, dust brush

Look at these things. They all exude style. Placed next to the wet/dry vacuums they look like Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater masterpiece beside a council house. The Gtech appears the most serious of the three given its extra heft and bulkier build. Indeed, this K9 version is £20 more than the standard Multi MK2 because some of its parts are aluminium rather than plastic. The Eufy represents a sub-brand of Anker - the new but hugely popular tech company that produces speakers, power banks, phone charging cables and the like. It stacks up well on a spec sheet, so it will be interesting to see how well it goes in the real world. By contrast, Shark is an established name and we're curious if this model with its puny run time can perform well.

Each model was first tasked with tackling a mildly grubby footwell, with the expectation they would be able to remove the loose grit without issue. The ergonomics of each were great but we were a little disappointed with their efforts. Clearly, the Eufy and Shark vacuums were more at home with light spot cleaning, sucking up dropped raisins for example. With or without attachments, their ends are small. Therefore trying to tackle a footwell with either is a slow process. Imagine tackling an A0 size canvas with a size six brush and you're about there.

Nor do either of these models have much punch. They're alright with sand or crushed dry leaves, but they definitely struggle with any grit larger than a peppercorn, or anything slightly embedded in upholstery.

Shark vacuum cleaning a car footwell
©Photo: CAR

Mercifully, the Gtech does have its much larger Power Head attachment that works quite well (it even smells nice thanks to the scented cartridge in the bin). But it's a short attachment so while it's fine in a wide boot space, the shape of the vacuum means you can’t run it right up to edges in a footwell because it comes into contact with a seat or door sill, for example. You can use the longer, smaller attachments but then, like the others, it can't cover much ground. Suction power does drop off somewhat when the Gtech has longer attachments fitted too.

Suction power aside, we do approve of the build quality of each and that all are backed by 24-month manufacturer warranties. And where these models do come good is cleaning dashboards and door panels. They all come with soft brush attachments that don't scratch delicate surfaces. The Gtech’s long tube brush and Eufy’s 2-in-1 tools are particularly excellent for cleaning the far reaches of large dashboards. Likewise, the shapes of all the crevice tools were very good. None of them had any issue reaching beside or underneath seats, or between creases in upholstery.

Gtech Multi MK2 K9 with attachments
©Photo: CAR

We tried the extra Car Cleaning Accessory Kit with the Gtech and given all the good attachments that come as standard, it's not necessary. You get a longer, flexible crevice tool, a soft brush, and an upholstery tool. As a £10 accessory kit you'd consider it but still decide against it. In actual fact this is a £50 accessory, which is crazy. You can get it for £25 when bought with one of several Gtech models including the Multi MK2 K9 but even then, it’s still overpriced.

Heat 1 results

Gtech Multi MK2 K9: First place

Given its superior power, ability to cover greater area at once, and runtime, the Gtech proved the most useful for full (but still light) car cleaning. Being the most powerful counts for an awful lot, and we like the number of attachments that come as standard. Of the handheld vacuums, this also has the longest run time, the largest capacity bin and it smells nice while you vacuum, which is pleasant touch.

Eufy HomeVac H30 Venture: Second place

While the Eufy has a similar run time to the Gtech, it's performance is on par with the Shark vacuum, which renders it useful for and capable of very light cleaning duties.

Shark Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner: Third place

Shark's small and stylish unit is really just an expensive dust buster. We like its quick-release clip for the bin, but with such a short run time the Shark vacuum isn't able to be used for any decent car vacuuming.

Heat 2: wet/dry

Karcher and Draper vacuums in front of a brick wall
©Photo: CAR

Our two models of corded wet/dry vacuums were the Karcher WD 2 Plus and Draper 1250W Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaner (as pictured above from left to right).

Specs
Weight 4.4kg
Dimensions 349 x 328 x 378mm
Bin capacity 12L
Power 1000W
Hose length 1.8m
Cord length 4m
Warranty 24 months
Attachments Floor tool, crevice tool
Specs
Weight 4.8kg
Dimensions 384 x 316 x 315mm
Bin capacity 15L
Power 1250W
Hose length 1.5m
Cord length 5m
Warranty 12 months
Attachments Floor brush, crevice tool, dual action floor brush

Stylish they are not but the price difference between these and the handheld cordless models is impossible to ignore. However, the first thing we noticed about both of these vacuums is that the power cords are too short. The Draper's is only five metres, while the Karcher's is four. Our test car was about six metres away from the plug.

On a building site, cord length isn't so important because there's always a 30 or 50 metre extension cable around. But that's not always the case at home. Longer cords please Karcher and Draper.

With the car in range, we switched on the wet/dry vacuums and were greeted with intense suction from both. The difference between these and the handheld models is enormous and using the standard hose end, footwells and the boot were pulled free of all grit, muck, and embedded hair momentarily. With these machines, you enjoy care-free vacuuming. You're not concerned about the contents they ingest because they are meant to deal with any debris you can reasonably expect to find strewn throughout a car interior.

Karcher WD 2 Plus vacuuming a car interior
©Photo: CAR

There's a lot of tit for tat between these two models. The Draper is more powerful but the Karcher feels better made. The Draper is smaller and has a larger capacity but the Karcher comes with a longer warranty. The Karcher is simpler to use but the Draper is cheaper. The Karcher has a longer suction hose but the Draper has a longer power cord.

That being said, one of the Karcher's downsides is that it doesn't come with a brush attachment as standard and therefore isn't great for cleaning dashboards and door panels. You can buy brushes but that will cost you more than £20.

Meanwhile, the Draper may have the addition of a soft brush attachment, but it's filter system is not as simple as the Karcher's. The Draper comes with foam and cloth filters. The former to be used for wet vacuuming, the latter for dry, so you have to switch between the two. The Karcher comes with a paper cartridge filter that you can use for both.

Draper vacuum cleaning a wet car floor mat
©Photo: CAR

Regarding wet vacuuming, nothing separates the two. They achieve similarly effective results. They also both feature a blower function, which is very handy for outdoor use, such as whisking away leaves in areas that aren’t conducive to vacuuming.

Heat 2 results

Karcher WD 2 Plus: First place

It's a very close contest but the Karcher just edges ahead. The lack of brush attachment is annoying and so too is the short power cord. But its ease of use, build quality, and longer suction hose (for greater car interior reach) render this the winner.

Draper 1250W Wet & Dry Vacuum Cleaner: Second place

The Draper comes in second but we still rate it highly. It's compact, powerful, and a great price. But needing to change filters is a little inconvenient, and the overall quality, though sound, doesn't quite match that of the Karcher.

Finals: Gtech Multi MK2 K9 vs Karcher WD 2 Plus

This is not like New Zealand pulling off an upset win over Germany in a football world cup. There will be no surprise result. The Gtech is a neat and stylish machine with a good range of standard attachments and enough suction and run time to relieve your whole car of minor debris. However, while it can deal with more stubborn mess, it doesn't have the stamina to deal with a lot of it.

Then along comes the Karcher. It's less than half the price, much more powerful, more robust, more effective, and not restricted by a battery life (though, you may want to get an extension cable if you don't have on already). It's also more versatile because you can use the Karcher in your garage and on your patio too.

Given that car cleaning is one of the main advertised uses for both of these models, it’s not unreasonable to compare the two and the conclusion is unequivocal.

We wanted to find out whether handheld cordless or wet/dry vacuums are better for car cleaning and we certainly have an answer: wet/dry every day of the week.

Test winner: Karcher WD 2 Plus

Pros Cons
• Great value and quality • No brush attachment as standard
• Powerful and energy efficient • Short power cord
• Long suction hose
• One filter system
• Two-year warranty
Specs
Weight 4.4kg
Dimensions 349 x 328 x 378mm
Bin capacity 12L
Power 1000W
Hose length 1.8m
Cord length 4m
Warranty 24 months
Attachments Floor tool, crevice tool

Read next:

The best biodegradable and waterless car cleaning products

The best iron fallout removers

The best snow foam for pre-washing your car

For verdicts, scoops, news and analysis from the team, delivered direct to your inbox, subscribe to the CAR newsletter.

You can enjoy CAR in its traditional print format, or one of the swelling number of digital editions, optimised for Apple iPhones, Android devices, iPads, tablets and desktop computers.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us