Best Car Vacuum Cleaners by Type – June ’17 update

by | car vacuums, guides

Combined number of car vacuum cleaners we tested and reviewed over the years (our core team and our featured testers) is now officially over 50.

We looked into every niche of the market, from high-end powerful Dyson models to the lower price ranges of 12 V rechargeable or cordless handheld vacs, even car detailing models.

The situation is pretty clear in terms of ratings and top models in the category since we saw the same models dominate the TOP 5 spots in the category in the last 6 updates.

Black Decker 12V pivoting nozzle car vacuum cleaner

Best car vacuum cleaners – Top 5

Current ratings

Black Decker PAV1200W

Black & Decker
Pivoting Nozzle 12V

corded (car outlet)

dyson v6 car cordless
Dyson V6
car & boat


VacuMaid GV50PRO car detailing vac

GV50 Pro

Wall plug-in,

Shop Vac 5986000

4.5 Peak, 5 Gallon

Wall plug-in,
personal use

hikeren 12v handheld

Hikeren Wet & Dry
Handheld 12 V

corded (car outlet)


The 5 models you’re seeing above are the top picks of this guide in the last 12 months. To be frank, it’s not even close; the gap in ratings between the currently 5th best and 6th best car vacuum is a sizeable 0.7.

If you are in the market for a quality unit, this lack of change is a good thing, because it simply means that the choice comes down to your budget and taste.

So let us dig in into the nitty-gritty and look at the individual reviews of the best car vacuums.

Best car vacuum cleaner of the update

Black & Decker PAV1200W 12-V car pivot vac

When this baby hit the market back in 2008, the numbers we’ve seen in the specs made our heads spin. This website didn’t even exist yet and we were all still on our previous jobs, but all of us were in the industry and remember it well.

A decade later and there’s still nothing like on the market.

Suction pressure of 340 ml of water and airflow of 800 liters per minute are yet to be “beaten” by any competing models.

vacuuming car console with Black Decker 12V pivot

If you are not sure what the two numbers mean, let us just say that this is the only model on the list that can handle stains and gravel.

That should give you an idea about how powerful it really is. It’s not cheap but it’s worth every buck.
Currently rated at 9.4 with 9.4 and 9.7 rating in Performance and Suction Power categories.

Black Decker 12 Volt portable automobile vac
label specifications closeup of Black Decker Pivot 12v vacuum
Fact sheet:
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • Powered by the 12 V car outlet
  • Dimensions: 7.3 x 6. 6 x 14.3 “
  • Accessories: flexible hose, pre-filter, PVF100 filter (dishwasher safe), brush tool, storage bag
  • Cord length: 16 ft
  • Capacity of the bin: 11.8 oz
  • Pivoting nozzle
  • Add-ons included: hose, crevice tool, upholstery brush
  • Storage bag included

Overall rating of the B & D Pivot

What makes it the best 12V car vacuum?

  • Unparalleled suction pressure – (340 ml and 800 ml airflow per minute)
  • Low dirt build-up – this one is a common issue with handheld models, because of the small tank. What makes the Pivot better is the power of the cyclonic system that swirls the air in the tank and prevents the dust and debris build-up on the filter – this doesn’t impact the filter but the motor itself, a clean filter means less “stress” for the motor and that’s what makes all the difference in terms of long your unit will last.
  • Filter refresh knob – in addition to the dust and debris not building up against the filter, the Pivot features what Black & Decker calls a filter refresh. It simply means that the debris and dust can be “shaken of” the filter at a press of a button.
  • Low power consumption – only 12.5 Watts of power consumption allows for a “smooth” continuous suction.
  • Cyclonic action swirls the air in the bin and keeps it away from the filter, which allows for continuous fade-free suction
  • Trusted and recognized brand – as you probably know, Black & Decker is a brand known for top-quality automotive vacs and this one is no different. The market of vacuums for vehicles is flooded with obscure brands. In fact, this Black & Decker is the only plug-in vacuum from a trusted brand.
  • Runs on the 12-volt car plug-in – connects well, features along cord and we haven’t seen any interruption or changes in the power suction
  • Powerful and yet light and easy to use – powerful 11 air watts motor packed into a neat little package that weighs only 4 pound and is only 14 “ long. Powerful enough for anything from fine dust to gravel, crumbs and dirt.
  • Easy to clean and empty – the bin opens and empties at a press of a button
Is it right for you?

If I were in the market for a handheld car vacuum, I can think of only one reason that would make me choose anything else than the Black & Decker Pivot and that’s the price.

But, as I mentioned, and I stand behind my words, I believe it’s worth every cent.

It’s the kind of product you buy if you are not in the mood for experiments and going back and forth buying car vacs every year. This one’s built to last.

It’s not just about the power

It’s not only about the suction power and pressure; it’s about the overall quality, from the pivot nozzle to the cord. All about it screams quality.

It is the kind of product that is likely to cause a stir among your friends, before they get over their egos, follow in your footsteps and get one themselves.

I know I sound like an infomercial saying stuff like this, but this vac is just that superior, no two ways about it.

2nd best car vacuum & top cordless pick

Dyson V6 Car & Boat Cordless Handheld

If money is not a crucial factor for and you are looking for a cordless, battery-powered car vacuum, there’s isn’t much to think about.

The Dyson V6 Car & Boat has been among the 3 top-rated car vacuum cleaners for 6 updates now. That’s one full year, not something you can shrug off.

It’s not cheap but it’s worth every dime.

dyson v6 car boat cordless vacuum side view

1 minute video presentation of the Dyson V6

Overall rating of the Dyson V6 Car & Boat

What’s so good about the Dyson V6

  • US-made by Lindsay manufacturing, a company that’s been in the bussines of central vacuums for over 60 years now
  • Tank – steel (galvanlead) and powder coated tank, completely corrosion resistant, made for lifetime use
  • Capacity – 7 gallons
  • Motor – 5.7 Lamb Ametek (known for the power and lifespan, 75% longer than the competition motors)
  • 5 Year full warranty on all defects
  • Hose – 50 feet, crush-proof, can also operate as a blower
  • Add-ons included: Curved and telescopic wands (both metal), Floor Brush (12 “) made from natural bristels only
  • Premium add-ons (no additional cost)  – brush for fine dusting, crevice tool, upholstery nozzle, storage bag and hose hanger.
  • HEPA sealed filter – replaceable, this means no cleaning or emtying of can and filters
  • 15 AMPS Max
  • Wattage: 740 Air Watts
  • Can be wall mounted, which is a huge plus (we were told) because it wall-mounted vacs can’t tip over
  • Weight and size: 30 lbs / 13 x 13 x 24
  • Power: 120 V, electric, corded
Dyson DC58 V6 Vacuum Red Car Boat box
Is Dyson V6 right for you?

If you are looking for a vacuum that will not only do the job, but do it with flair, this eye-candy is made for you.

Most Dyson models look like they belong in a sci-fi movie and have a distinctive design that’s nothing like other brands. They are crafted with attention to details using materials built to last.

If you are getting a Dyson, expect it to be with you at least in the next decade or so.

Have in mind that the Dyson V6 car vacuum is battery operated and requires charging (about 3 hours for a full charge that gives you 20 minutes of run time). It’s by far the best car vacuum cleaner among battery-powered models.

detailing ca console with dyson v6
It’s not right for you if…

On the other hand, if you are looking for a vacuum that will stay in your car and used on long journeys without access to power, you might be better of with the B & D Pivot (above).

Best vacuum for car detailing
*professional use*

Top pick for professional detailing

VacuMaid GV50PRO

We didn’t test this detailing vacuum ourselves, we sought the help of professionals.

We’re using this opportunity to thank the good people from the AutoGeekOnline and Autopia forums. We couldn’t have done it without you guys.

We consulted 12 professional car detailers and asked them about their picks for the best car detailing vacuum. The results of the poll speak for themselves.

10 out of 12 professional detailers went with the Vacuumaid GV50PRO, the two remaining votes went to the high-end models that cost way more, so we’re not going to list them here.

VacuMaid GV50PRO vacuum for car detailing
detailing auto trunk with GV50PRO

Overall rating of the VacuumAid GV50PRO

What makes it the best car vacuum for detailing?

  • US-made by Lindsay manufacturing, a company that’s been in the bussines of central vacuums for over 60 years now
  • Tank – steel (galvanlead) and powder coated tank, completely corrosion resistant, made for lifetime use
  • Capacity – 7 gallons
  • Motor – 5.7 Lamb Ametek (known for the power and lifespan, 75% longer than the competition motors)
  • 5 Year full warranty on all defects
  • Hose – 50 feet, crush-proof, can also operate as a blower
  • Add-ons included: Curved and telescopic wands (both metal), Floor Brush (12 “) made from natural bristels only
  • Premium add-ons (no additional cost)  – brush for fine dusting, crevice tool, upholstery nozzle, storage bag and hose hanger.
  • HEPA sealed filter – replaceable, this means no cleaning or emtying of can and filters
  • 15 AMPS Max
  • Wattage: 740 Air Watts
  • Can be wall mounted, which is a huge plus (we were told) because it wall-mounted vacs can’t tip over
  • Weight and size: 30 lbs / 13 x 13 x 24
  • Power: 120 V, electric, corded

Best vacuum for car detailing
*personal use*

Shop-Vac 5986000 5-Gallon

The Shop-Vac 5986000 Stainless Steel Wet Dry Vacuum is by far the best value for money among shop vacs and car detailing vacuums for personal use.

What makes it special?

Simple – the price vs. features ratio.

Similar vacuums from the competition cost 3-5 times more. It’s the only model with a stainless steel body in its price range.

Shop Vac 5986000 vacuum for car detailing
accessories of auto detailing Vac 5986000
Fact sheet:
  • Air flow of 175 CFM (Cubic feet per meter)
  • Material of the body – stainless steel
  • Motor current – 9.9 Amps
  • Horse Power – 4.5
  • Capacity – 5 Gallon
  • Length of the cord: 6 ft
  • Length of the hose: 7 ft
  • Width of the hose head: 1.25 “
  • Weight & size: 17 lbs / 19.5 x 13.5 x 13.5 “

Overall rating of the ShopVac 5-Gallon

Features that stand out:
  • Works well in both modes – wet & dry
  • Can be used as a blower (rear port), great touch and works well for drying surfaces
  • Design – the stainless steel and the color combo looks, for the lack of a better word, awesome. If you saw it live for the first time without knowing anything about it, there’s no way you’d guess the price. Looks much more expensive than it is.
  • Quieter than most wet and dry models
What could be better?
  • Length of the cord – the 6 feet long cord could use a few more feet of length, if you are using it in a large space, you’ll probably need an extension cord
  • Placement of the accessory holder – it’s a peg too close to the rear blower for or taste.

Top-rated among wet & dry handheld vacs – Hikeren 12V

Hikeren 12 V Wet & Dry Handheld

This Hikeren model has been among the top 3 best car vacuum cleaners for 4 consecutive updates now.

In terms of performance, it bested models that cost two or three times as much and performed close to the best car vac overall.

Bottom line – having in mind that the cut-throat competition, it’s truly impressive what this budget-friendly model offers, especially the fact that it’s wet & dry handheld.

hikeren 12 v wet dry handheld portable car vacuum

Overall rating of the Hikeren Wet & Dry

Main PROs:
  • Third part independent quality certification (ROHS Intertek certified) – if you are buying a car vacuum and it’s not a widely known brand like Dyson or Black & Decker, third part certification is a must. Without it, any user reviews you on websites that carry the product are to be taken with a grain of salt, because they can be manipulated, especially if they reviews are not verified.
  • Suction – if we were to introduce a rating of, say, dollar per suction power, this would be the top value car vac. The powerful 75 Watt motor and the 10 A current fuse provide suction that can only be compared to the high-end models from Dyson and Black & Decker
  • Versatile – the only model in the price range that performs as well with pet hair as it does with dust and larger debris (like crumbs)
  • Easy to use on hard-to-reach areas – the add-ons that come included, the slim extension nozzle and the pivoting-head brush work great on those corners where the dust and debris usually accumulate (like corners of the trunk or under the seats)
  • Small for the power – weighs only 11 oz and is only 9.8 “ inches long but packs serious power.
  • Long cord makes it easy to use – unlike some other models we looked at, Hikeren is generous with the power cord which is over 15 feet long. We don’t really understand the reasoning behind the models that come with a cord only 4-6 feet long (and the market is flooded with those). We know the manufacturing process and you can’t really save by skimping on the cord.
infographic potential uses of hikeren 12 v wet dry handheld-portable car

Honorary mentions

In the rest of the guide we’ll take a some honorary mentions (by vac type) – models that didn’t make it to the top 5 but were very close.

Best cordless car vacuum – the runner up

Black & Decker MAX Lithium Pivot

Black & Decker MAX Pivot cordless

This Black& decker is the second best cordless car vacuum. The gap in ratings between this model and the top-rated cordless portable vac (the V6 from Dyson) is significant, but so is the price tag.

The Max Pivot is the more affordable option.

Info sheet and main PROs of this Black & Decker:
  • Suction – powered by lithium technology and a 35 Watts motor, the suction is powerful and probably more importantly, steady with no fading or fluctuations that we’ve seen with sub par battery-powered car vacs
  • Battery – advantages of the Lithium Ion over the Nickel cadmium batteries. Its “older brother”, the classic Pivot model, was powered by a NiCad battery (Nickel Cadmium) as are most battery-operated cordless vacs, while the Pivot Max is battery is Lithium Ion. The later performs much better in two ways: hold of one charge and steady suction (also known as fade-free). A nice plus is the fact that the battery is replaceable.
  • Charging – takes about 2 hours to fully charge. One charge holds for about 15-20 minutes of continuous run time.
  • Pivoting nozzle is a huge plus, not only in terms of reaching tight and “angled” spots of the trunk, under the seats or the glove compartment. It’s also what allows the vacuum to pack tight and small into a compact unit, preventing any damage to the nozzle while not in use.
  • Strong and powerful motor – the only affordable cordless car vacuum we looked into that competes and even performs better in most aspects than the corded models that plug into your car outlet
  • Filter – 3-layered design of the filter combined with the cyclonic action that keeps the dust away from the filter
  • Wide mouth – makes it faster and more effective compared to regular models narrow-mouth models
  • Add-on and tools: crevice tool and on-board brush
  • Easy to clean – not only is the new generation of the Pivot Vac easier to clean (quick side-door open) but the new bin can handle more continuous action without cleaning (the bowl is 42% bigger in volume than the classic Pivot). The dirt bin is also removable and washable.
  • Size and weight: 18 x 6.9 x 6.8 “ / 3.8 lbs
  • Warranty – 2 years manufacturers warranty

All of the above makes this B & D one of the best cordless car vacuums. It’s also one of the top picks of Consumer Reports, which speaks volumes about its place among top-quality portable models.

Main downside:

This portable B & D doesn’t perform as well with pet hair (no pet hair tool add-on included). It is budget-fridnly and one of the best vacuums under $100, but pet hair is not its friend.

Cleeaning the filter of B & D Pivot Max

Best handheld vacuums for cars (runner up)

RETECK DC 12v Portable Handheld

RETECK DC 12v portable handheld vacuum for cars
About the top handheld corded vacs

The Black & Decker PAV1200W Portable has no real competition and its’ by far the best handheld car vacuum in terms of performance, but in terms of price, it faces some serious competition.

Both the Hikeren 12 V we mentioned above and this Reteck are the more budget-friendly options.

Fact sheet of the Reteck 12 V Portable
  • Nano Hepa filter– washable and reusable filter of this Retek is just as good as any. There’s no need to think about changing the Hepa filter, you just take it out, clean it and you’re good to go.
  • Easy cleaning and emptying – the bin is easy to empty (one-touch empty)
  • Wet / Dry – one of the few handheld models in the price range that includes the wet and dry feature
  • Safety – International safety certificates (RoHS, CE and FC)
  • Accessories – brush, extension hose and a crevice tool
  • Weight – 2.5 lbs
  • Dimensions: 16 x 5 x 5
  • 14 ft long cord

The gap in ratings between the Hikeren and this Reteck is very small. They are very similar in performance and the difference that gave the slight edge to the Hikeren is the price and the design.

Bottom line – this Reteck is one of the best handheld vacuums for cars and vehicles out there, and rightfully so.

Best portable vacuum for cars (3rd top-rated)

Black & Decker 12V Flexi Portable Vacuum

image of the 3rd best portable vacuums for carsBDH1200FVAV Flexi Automotive
About the top picks among portable car vacs

It would be a sin to leave this B & D out of the guide, because it stands in a category of its own.

You can call it handheld, and it is, but with a unique design that stands out.

The design itself of this high-end portable vehicle vacuum is both a plus and a minus, depending on how you look at it.

It’s more attractive looking than the classic designs of the Hikeren and the Reteck, but that takes away some of its portability. As you can see in the image, it’s somewhat bulkier and not as slim and slick like the best portable car vacuums that feature the elongated design.

Info sheet:
  • Power – the adapter (12V) fits perfectly into the cigarette socket plug-in
  • Compact – the patented design of the filter in this B & D (they call it “motor in filter”) allows it to be smaller
  • Cyclonic action keeps the filters clean and prolongs their lifespan
  • Weight and dimensions: 4.2 lbs / 12 x 11 x 6.5 “

The Black & Decker Flexi Auto is among the  best portable car vacuum cleaners, both in our ratings and on the Consumer Reports website. Our urrent rating – 87 / 100.

Summary of the best car vacuum cleaner guide

When we first started compiling data for this guide, the mission was simple – to make a one-stop-shop resource for anybody with a dilemma about choosing a vacuum for their vehicle.

As we mentioned, it’s this update that reaches the milestones of 50 models reviews and rated.

The system we use relies both on our testing any help we car get from car enthusiasts and pooling data from existing online reviews.

We sincerely believe that the rating system we have in place right now covers all the quality aspects that matter and all the main types of car vacuums and top picks.

We update once every 2 months

This guide is updates on bi-monthly basis, just to make sure that the information present is relevant.

Finally, if you have any questions at all, feel free to use the comment section below or drop us an email.

We’re here to help.

VacuumsTest Team
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