Garage Wall-mounted Car Wash Vacuum by Bissell

Finding the Best Car Vacuum in 2018

A guide to help you shop for a great car vacuum and a list of our top picks

Updated November 21, 2018

One of the fastest growing segments in the automotive cleaning supply industry is the car vacuum segment.  Traditionally, almost all Americans have gone to their local or commercial car wash to get a good interior carpet cleaning.  However, the typical American can spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars throughout their life when they could be saving some serious cash over the next decade by owning their own car vacuum. We have put together a guide that will help you find the best car vacuum for your needs.

Is it worth it to buy your own car vacuum?

As I mentioned, most vehicle owners in the United States have frequented the car wash.  Even if you’re not one to clean your car much, some minor disasters have surely brought you to pay a visit to these businesses, often taking all of that spare change you had been acquiring in your console.  Still to this day, there are car washing businesses that charge up to $3 for 5 minutes or less of car wash vacuum service.  A few dollars may not sound like all that much, but rest assured, you’re paying some serious money over the duration.  You’re also rolling the dice when using a car wash vacuum cleaner because a good portion of them are not well kept and often have blockages or motor problems which kill their suction performance.

A friend of mine’s family owns multiple car washes in the United States.  Recently, I spoke to him and told him that I was considering an article about best car vacuums.  He said that there is serious thought that goes into pricing car wash and vacuum services.  Not only do they factor in demand, the number of competitors, the prices those competitors charge and quality of the car wash vacuums, they also do a sampling of how often customers visit the car wash, which helps them set up their long-term budgets for the car vacuum service.  To sum it all up, you’ll fork over a lot of cash in the long haul and, since it’s so spread out over time, you probably won’t ever even realize how much you’re actually paying.  My friend also mentioned that they filter out the vacuumed contents because finding diamond rings and other valuables is extremely common.

In more recent years, there has been an influx of car washes that offer free vacuum services.  However, don’t think for a second that they’re just being kind.  This is another pricing strategy that was well thought out and extremely profitable.  In the long run, you’ll pay a pretty penny for this service as well. After learning about the economics of car wash vacuums, I found this topic to be very worthy writing material.

What are the benefits of frequent car vacuum use?

After hearing about how much car washes charge for vacuuming services, and after giving it some thought, you’re probably thinking “I’m never going to the car wash again!” However, it’s not a one-way street when using a car vacuum at the local wash.  Vacuuming your car frequently comes with a great list of benefits that are well worth the charges rendered.

One of the most obvious of these benefits is the increased value of your vehicle.  Our lives are full of depreciating objects and of those objects, automobiles are among the fastest of depreciative goods that we own.  Just think about it – you buy a $30,000 vehicle and 5 years later, you’re very lucky to get half of what you paid for it ($15,000).

Another friend of mine’s entire family is in the wholesale auto sales business.  I knew that as long as I’ve known her, she’s gotten her car detailed at least once every 2 – 4 weeks by a portable detailer that came by our office that offered a $100 detail.  I remember thinking that she’s easily spending $1,500 a year on detailing services, which sounded crazy to me.  My curiosity continued to grow over time and I finally felt compelled to ask her about spending this much on car cleaning.

She told me that there are basically three things that degrade the value of a vehicle (in the eyes of the purchaser).  The first thing is a damaged exterior or deteriorated paint job.  The second turn-off is mechanical problems.  The final thing that she mentioned was a dirty or damaged interior of the vehicle.  Since frequent details helped maintain both the interior and exterior, she could get full resale value versus up to 35% less.

Since the resale of her car would be around $20,000, the cost of the detailing would basically cancel out the reduction in the resale price.  Then, she totally shut down my initial thoughts by telling me that she also got to drive a car that looked as good as it did when she bought it (inside and out) and that it was always spotless, which was extremely impressive since she had 4 kids that she constantly taxied around in it.

So, it is extremely beneficial to vacuum and wash your vehicle frequently.  Not only does it increase the value of your ride and allow you to live in a cleaner environment, but it is also very beneficial to those that suffer from allergies or asthma.  Vehicle interior carpet, similar to the carpet inside your house, is a great stomping ground for tiny mites and other critters that are basically naked to the human eye.

Most people that have issues with allergies are actually allergic to the droppings of the mites.  You’d be surprised just how quickly mites can turn your car’s interior into a mite litter box when you do not vacuum your car frequently.  This is especially true for those that let their dogs or other animals ride around in the car.  These mites generally latch onto pet hair and hitch a ride inside your vehicle.

A vehicle’s interior also collects dirt, dust, pollen, and other small particles that often cause allergy and asthma issues with both children and adults.  These particles are able to easily enter the vehicle when driving around with the windows down or tracking them in from the outdoors on your shoes or clothes.

Finally, mold can be a serious threat to your health or your children’s health as most types of mold are at least mildly neurotoxic and may contribute to breathing problems and fatigue as well.  There are more species of mold than there are plants on Earth.  Spores are basically tiny little fungus seeds.  Most spores are extremely difficult to see with the human eye, but it’s safe to assume that there are spores located all over the interior and exterior of the vehicle.

Anytime your carpet is exposed to moisture and not dried within a reasonable amount of time, the spores are basically germinated/activated.  From there on out, the mold grows at an incredible rate and usually diffuses new spores in the process.  If a liquid such as a soft drink, milk, coffee, or a glass of water is spilled, you should dry it up as soon as possible with an absorbing towel or a wet/dry vacuum to prevent mold growth.

Once mold starts to grow and spread, it can be extremely difficult to remove and stop the growth.  Some cases of mold infestations can only be removed by replacing the entire carpet interior which can cost a fortune.

What features should I look for in a car vacuum?

Luckily, in this day and age of mass production and serious market competition, there is a massive variety of different types of car vacuums to choose from.   This is extremely relevant because people have specific needs for a car vacuum.  Most of you that are out there reading this are probably shopping for a vacuum for personal use, while others are shopping for a car vacuum for their car cleaning or auto detailing business.  The first step that you should take before shopping for a car vacuum is listing out all of the different features and qualities that you’ll need the vacuum to have.

For instance, if you’re a real estate agent that frequently walks customers around properties, it’s likely that you frequently track in dirt and leaves from your shoes.  However, you do not have children and rarely have instances that trash your vehicle.  Most likely, you’ll want to go with a portable handheld vacuum so that you are able to store it in your truck or in front of your passenger seat.  Then, as you see you’ve tracked in a mess, you can quickly vacuum the dirt and leaves up in seconds.  If you live in a rainy or snowy area, you may possibly want to get a portable vacuum cleaner that is rated “wet/dry” so that sucking up liquids will not damage the vacuum in any way.

If you work in the construction industry, however, your vehicle’s interior is probably much more susceptible to becoming a disaster. Most construction workers are known to work in muddy conditions, often tracking mud into the vehicle on their boots.  Many are exposed to sawdust (which easily locks into fibers on your clothes, as well as the fibers of your interior) which can be a not-so-easy task to remove.  Your truck may be overexposed to liquids (if working out in the rain, around pools/lakes, etc.).  If this more closely resembles your scenario, you may want to start by shopping for a powerful and heavy-duty shop vac or possibly even a wall-mounted vacuum for your garage.

What are the most common types of car vacuums?

Common Household Vacuum

Example of a Household Vacuum Cleaner

That’s right – there are plenty of people out there that are able to use their regular household vacuum to vacuum their car’s interior.  However, this typically isn’t the most convenient option.  Not only can they be a pain to haul around and down to the garage, but you also may need an extension cord.  You also need to ensure that the vacuum is equipped with a long suction hose (and hopefully different attachments for the different types of surfaces your vehicle’s interior has).  This may sound like the most economical option, but we suggest you give it a try before you determine to quit shopping for a car vacuum. Most vacuums have poor suction when using a hose attachment and may prove to be more of a task than you would think; often tipping the entire vacuum over, using the hose attachment can also make it difficult to reach some areas of the car’s interior without the proper attachments.


Example of a Shop Vac style car vacuum

This style of vacuum is the way to go for many consumers.  Shop-Vacs typically come equipped with a very long suction hose and a large reservoir for the dirt and other particles to be captured.  Most do not require vacuum bags – they can simply be dumped into the trash can when full or when you’re finished vacuuming.  They usually come with plenty of power since they’re intended for a variety of uses (like vacuuming rocks and pebbles).  For this same reason, most are built to be able to handle wet and dry conditions.  Many shop vacs are used in conditions where a shop, garage, room in your house, etc has become flooded.  The shop vac can not only suck out dirt, mud, and small rocks, but can also suck up all of the water as well.  Lastly, you can use these to clean just about anything – not just your vehicle.

The only downsides to purchasing this style of vacuum are that some can be tough to haul around and maneuver because they’re typically equipped with heavy motors for high suction power.  However, most come seated on casters so that they can easily be pulled in the direction that you need them.  Most of the shop-vacs are also short and bulky which can take up a bit of space when it comes time to store them.  Lastly, these car vacuums can be pretty pricey, especially for the ones equipped with high horsepower.

Wall-Mount Car Wash Vacuum

Example of a Wall Mount car wash vacuum

These vacuums are pretty amazing, I’ve got to say.  Not only are they high-powered with long suction hoses that provide plenty of power, but they also come with very large reservoirs and only need to be emptied once in a blue moon.  Because they can be mounted high up on the wall, storage space usually isn’t an issue, either.

The obvious list of downsides to the wall-mount car vacuum includes the inability to transport the device outside of your garage or shop.  Pricing can also be a big deterrent for most looking for a car vacuum.  These often run up to around $300 for a basic model.  However, if you’re a mechanic, own a car wash or detailing business, or if your family has several cars that you’ll be cleaning often, this may prove to be a very viable option that will quickly pay itself off!

Handheld Portable Car Vacuum

Example of a Handheld Car Vacuum

I’ve got to say that this is the way to go for most vehicle owners.  Not only are these vacuums small and easy to clean all types of surfaces with, they are usually very affordable.  These are perfect to store in your vehicle as well. Most are equipped with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and can be stored in the trunk or under the passenger-side dashboard area.  You can quickly clean multiple cars with these and without having to move any vehicles.  Many handheld vacuum owners even use these in place of a dustpan (when sweeping) and use them to clean other vehicles like RVs, boats, etc.  If it doesn’t bother you to have a power cord, there are also great handheld vacuums that typically come with a little more power than the lithium-ion battery vacuums and are generally a little less in price too!

Downsides to the handheld car vacuum cleaner models can be suction power (this is where it’s really important to buy a quality model with good ratings), however, this is not an issue with most quality models/brands of car vacuums.  Some can also suffer an early death that is usually caused by the battery crapping out.  However, this is another quality issue that can be avoided by purchasing a reputable model of hand vacuum.  Because these types of vacuums are smaller in size, they usually require that the reservoir be emptied more often than most other types of vacuums.  However, most manufacturers make the reservoirs large enough to get at least one full vacuuming of a vehicle before needing to be emptied (if not multiple vacuum sessions).

Our Top Car Vacuum Cleaner Picks

We did some serious research to find out which vacuums offer the best quality and features, while providing the most value possible for your money.  Below are models of all car vacuum types that we previously mentioned as well as a short description of which each is capable of.

To get this list together, we considered several variables such as the most reputable brands, motor power and suction power, features, tools, attachments, wet/dry capabilities, price, value, and most importantly, customer experiences and reviews.  For your convenience, we have also included links to the product pages so that you can check out all of the features and product reviews for yourself in order to be sure you’re buying the right vacuum for your needs.

7. Black & Decker BD 12V Compact Handheld Vacuum

BD Compact Vacuum by Black & Decker

The Black & Decker 12-volt Compact Auto Vacuum Cleaner is an all-around great vacuum made by a great American company and provides tons of value for an extremely low price.  This vacuum does have a cord, but it’s a 12V DC adapter that plugs into your vehicle’s power socket and the cord is 16-feet long.  The handheld vacuum has a double-action filtration system and it is very easy to dump vacuumed contents after cleaning.  This vacuum kit also comes with cleaning attachments such as a crevice tool (to reach difficult slim spaces in between seat and console areas) and a brush attachment as well.

6. Black & Decker MAX Lithium Pivot Vacuum

MAX lithium flex handheld vacuum by Black Decker

Another great product offered by Stanley Black & Decker is the MAX Lithium Pivoting Vacuum which is powered by an amazing 20-volt lithium-ion battery that delivers plenty of power for great suction.  The vacuum is completely cordless and the battery is rechargeable.  The head of the vacuum pivots for easy cleaning in hard to reach areas, and adds to its compact design so that storage is easy and space-efficient.  This cordless hand vacuum has a well-designed spin cycle that spins debris away from the filter so that the suction power remains strong throughout the entire vacuum session.  The vacuum design also features a 3-stage filtration system.  This vacuum has some of the best consumer ratings out there with many boasting high suction power and a great battery even after 5 years of usage. Thanks to its portable size, it’s one of the best car vacuum cleaner models out there.

5. Dyson V6 Cord-Free Stick Vacuum

V6 Cordless stick vacuum by Dyson

I’ve got to admit, when I saw this thing I thought to myself, “What a joke!” but after reading more about it and after reading customer reviews, I was sold.  Dyson has always pretty much been considered one of the absolute best brands for vacuum technology.  All of their parts are excellent quality, they staff some of the most innovative and creative engineers in the world, and they provide excellent customer service.  Most of their vacuums look entirely different than traditional vacuums, and there’s no exception with this model.

The V6 cordless stick vacuum was designed for versatile cleaning of all objects, not just vehicles.  However, its amazing design provides solutions for hard-to-reach areas, making it ideal for vehicle cleaning as well as general household cleaning.  The V6 stick car vacuum cleaner features a digital V6 motor, providing plenty of suction for any surface.  The motor is shut off immediately after releasing the trigger, conserving battery power.  The battery itself provides up to 20 minutes of strong suction that never fades.  The kit comes with a docking station to store the vacuum while charging the batteries at the same time. The wand detaches for easy handheld cleaning and the vacuum also comes with a powerhead attachment and a crevice tool attachment.  The debris is delivered to a hygienic bin with a quick-release button for fast and easy dumping.

4. Dyson V7 Car & Boat Compact Vacuum

V7 Handheld Car vacuum by Dyson

Dyson really went balls to the wall with this awesome hand vacuum model.  The Car and Boat Compact Vacuum is powered by the Dyson digital motor V7 which is incredibly small, light, and spins at up to 110,000 rpm to create what could only be described as SUPER-suction.  This model also has 15 cyclones that create extremely strong centrifugal power to capture debris, dirt, and other objects.  The V7 is completely cordless and comes equipped with a high-tech rechargeable battery that does not fade one bit throughout the vacuuming session and can last up to 30 minutes without needing to be recharged.  The battery can quickly be recharged by using the 12-volt accessory slot charger.

The Car and Boat Vacuum also comes with a variety of useful attachments like an extension hose for longer reach, a dirt brush to knock dirt clumps loose, and a mini motorized tool that has a spin-powered brush bar to capture hair and dirt in tight/narrow spaces.  The motor has a variable speed switch to control standard vacuuming (to conserve battery power) as well as a “MAX” mode that delivers even more suction power.  This vacuum doesn’t use any bags – there is simply a chamber where debris is stored.  Once the reservoir is ready to be emptied, you simply drive the contents out without having to touch anything.

This hand vacuum does cost quite a bit more than most cleaning vacuums; however, you’re still getting an excellent value for what you pay for this.  If you have a valuable car or boat and want to keep it spotless for years, the V7 is definitely the way to go!

3. Armor All Utility Wet/Dry 2HP Vac

Utility vacuum by Armor All

This is an excellent shop vac with a compact design.  The Armor All Utility Vac has a 2-horsepower motor that provides all of the suction you’ll ever need.  It has a 2.5-gallon filtered reservoir and rarely needs to be dumped.  The vacuum has wet/dry capabilities so that wet surfaces can be vacuumed, as well as dry surfaces.  The shop vac has a 10ft power cord that easily wraps around the handle for compact and organized storage.  The utility vacuum also has a 6ft hose to reach surfaces all around your vehicle’s interior.  The vac features built-in hose storage as well!  As if that wasn’t enough, Armor All’s Utility Vac also features a built-in air and noise diffuser with blower function capabilities.  Considering all of the power, functions, and compact storage capabilities, this vacuum is very reasonably priced!

2. Metro Vac ‘N Blo Canister Vacuum Cleaner & Air Blower

Vac n' Blo Canister Vacuum by MetroVac

The Vac ‘N Blo Canister Vacuum, made by MetroVac, is one serious automotive cleaning kit for only those that are serious about keeping their vehicles spotless and shining.  In fact, many car detailers and automotive shops use this exact model.  It’s not wall mounted or a hand vacuum cleaner, but it certainly does the job. The canister vacuum is powered by a twin-fan, 4-horsepower motor which provides incredible suction power capable of 95 inches of water lift.  The Vac N’ Blow Canister kit comes with a 6-ft long flex hose, as well as two 40” hose extensions.  To provide the utmost utility ever, this kit comes with several attachments for cleaning all types of automotive surfaces.  The kit includes an upholstery tool, dust brush, crevice tool, blower nozzle, and more.   This canister vacuum kit offers everything you’ll need for a professional-level detail and for a great price!

1. Prolux Lite Professional Wall-Mounted Garage Shop Vacuum

Lite Professional wall-mount car wash vacuum by Prolux

This is by far one of the best auto vacuum packages available and a perfect investment for anybody that wants a detail-quality cleaning or anybody with multiple vehicles.  This rig easily mounts to any wall in your garage and barely takes up any space at all.  It’s powered by a high-power 12 amp motor, producing over 155 cubic feet per minute of airflow.  It’s rated for both wet and dry use and comes with a whopping 30 feet of flexible air hosing.  The Prolux Lite Professional system easily converts to a blower and can even be used as an inflator.  To add to the functional capabilities of this system, the Prolux Lite kit comes with a huge bag of connectors, tools, and accessories to get any clean job done right.  Some of these accessories include a crevice tool, upholstery tool, duster brush extension wands, detailing tools, inflating tools and a squeegee.


To sum it up, there is a huge variety of car vacuums available these days.  However, the markets have been flooded with ineffective private label and no-name brands that are made of subpar quality and poor designs.  So, be sure to make a clear list of functions that you need your car vacuum to be able to perform, as well as other capabilities that sound desirable.  Then, be sure to do plenty of research and start by checking out some of these top car vacuums that we’ve listed in this article so that you can get the most out of your money and have an excellent vacuum that will last many years.

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Paul Sawyer
About Paul Sawyer


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