best handheld vacuum for car

Cleaning your car is one of those chores that everyone has to do, but no one wants to do. If you dread picking up after your children, your pets or yourself, the right tools can make the job much easier. Handheld vacuums, whether they’re cordless or corded, are ideal for keeping your car neat and tidy. They’re portable, lightweight and easy to maneuver even when you have to vacuum under the seats and in those hard-to-reach crevices. They’re also small enough to stash inside your trunk for routine cleaning or emergencies. To help you select the best handheld vacuum for your needs, we’ve compared five best handheld vacuum for car models for you.

The Best Handheld Vacuum for 2020 | Reviews by Wirecutter

best handheld vacuum for car


The Black & Decker Pivot Vacuum blows away the competition thanks to its low-profile, wide-mouth nozzle and 35AW of power. Its most distinctive feature is the circular housing, which lets you select the best angle for cleaning the awkward nooks and crannies found in most cars. The nozzle even folds against the body to save space when storing or charging.

Like other Black & Decker products, this handheld vacuum features a built-in flip-up brush and pull-out crevice tool. We also appreciate the unit’s three-stage filtration system that uses a washable filter and prefilter to reduce exhaust dust. If you’re interested in purchasing a vacuum specifically for cleaning your vehicle, you can buy an optional car accessory kit, which includes an upholstery brush, 4-foot hose, angled crevice tool, attachment adapter and carrying bag.


  • This product features an extra-large 15-ounce collection container.
  • At 3 pounds, it weighs more than most light- and medium-duty handheld vacuums.
  • The heavy-duty lithium-ion battery provides 20 to 30 minutes of continuous power and charges in just four hours.
  • This model is pricier than its competitors before the added cost of optional accessories.


Black & Decker was the first company to offer a cordless vacuum back in 1979. It continues to be a pioneer in this category, as evidenced by this updated version of the ever-popular Dustbuster; which was a standout pick for our reviewers. Thanks to its innovative long-nose design and 180-degree rotating nozzle, this Dustbuster ventures into places where other vacuums never dared.

Our testers raved about the integrated attachments, including the slide-out crevice tool that goes deep between seat cushions, and the flip-up brush that easily removes caked on dirt and mud. Because the attachments are connected to the unit, you never have to worry about losing a critical piece or purchasing replacement parts. The CHV1410L Dustbuster also has a remarkably long battery life that lasts up to 18 months between charges, so you can keep this vacuum in the car rather than on the charging base. Additionally, it recharges fully in a lightning-fast four hours compared to 10 hours for similar products.


  • The 16V Max Dustbuster features a cyclonic suction system that generates 15.2AW of cleaning power.
  • The unit includes a generous two-year warranty that covers manufacturing defects.
  • Black & Decker’s Smart Charge Technology reduces energy use by 50 percent.
  • For ease of use, this product has an ergonomic handle and lightweight design that clocks in at just 2.6 pounds.


Welikera’s 12V handheld vacuum bears a striking resemblance to the ubiquitous Dustbuster popularized by Black & Decker. However, this particular model has several unique features. It’s designed for both wet and dry cleaning, so you can vacuum messy spills caused by soft drinks and liquids before they have a chance to stain the upholstery. It also has a washable stainless steel filter that prevents dust from escaping and circulating through your vehicle.

Our reviewers liked the variety of attachments. The unit includes a soft upholstery brush that’s ideal for grabbing pet hair, a rubber-tipped crevice tool that helps you clean under the seats and a flexible 10-inch hose that extends your reach. The lithium-ion battery charges in four hours or less and provides 25 minutes of continuous power, which is fine for routine tidying but might not be enough for deep cleaning.


  • At 2.8 pounds, this model weighs slightly more than similar products.
  • Welikera’s handy carrying case makes it easy to stow the vacuum and attachments in your car or trunk.
  • Cyclonic suction and thoughtfully designed attachments are ideal for cleaning hard and soft surfaces.
  • The vacuum’s LED headlight increases visibility under car seats and in dark foot wells.
  • Welikera’s stainless steel filter performs well but costs slightly more to replace.


It’s not your imagination. Pet hair sticks to everything due to static cling and the microscopic barbed structure of the cuticles. If your dogs enjoy traveling in the car to the store, the park or the groomer, this handheld vacuum from Bissell’s popular Pet Hair Eraser product line deserves a place in your car. We like the rubberized nozzle and powerful cyclonic suction system, which captures pet hair that’s stuck to upholstered seats or lodged in the floor mats.

We also appreciate the multi-stage filtration system that prevents pet hair from flying around the cabin. Although the Bissell 33A1 handheld vacuum doesn’t offer the same convenience and portability of a cordless model, you don’t have to worry about the battery dying when the backseat is only half clean. It’s also worth noting that Bissell is a pet-friendly brand that donates money to animal welfare organizations through the Bissell Pet Foundation.


  • At 5 pounds, this is the heftiest unit that we tried.
  • The bagless canister holds up to .78 liters of dirt by volume for uninterrupted cleaning.
  • This model includes two interchangeable nozzles for flat surfaces and crevices.
  • Although this unit has a corded design, it’s much more convenient and nimble than a full-sized upright vacuum.


The HNV215B10 hand vacuum is the latest member of Black & Decker’s Dustbuster product family. This unit grabbed our attention with its featherweight 1.4-pound body, which makes it one of the lightest products in its class. Despite the lack of heft, the lithium-ion power supply generates 12AW of suction and powers the vacuum for a full 30 minutes.

The 12.5-ounce dust collection container is large enough to hold all of the pebbles and leaves that have snuck into your car, and it pops off for easy cleaning and hand washing. We’re also partial to the model’s budget-friendly price tag. There’s only one drawback: This model doesn’t include any attachments or crevice tools, so it’s best for vacuuming seats, floors and flat surfaces.


  • The unit’s lightweight design prevents muscle fatigue and is ideal for anyone who suffers from arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Although this model has a competitive price, it doesn’t include any attachments.
  • This version of the Dustbuster requires an extended charge time of up to 10 hours.


All in all, this was a tough contest, but we can confidently declare the Black & Decker CHV1410L 16V Dustbuster the winner based on its overall performance.

  • Price: The CHV1410L Dustbuster isn’t the cheapest product on our list, but it isn’t the most expensive either. Its moderate price point strikes a comfortable balance between quality and value.
  • Battery Life: Like the competition, the Black & Decker 16V Dustbuster features a lithium-ion battery. It lasts up to 18 months between charges and doesn’t suffer from the capacity-decreasing memory effect. The vacuum runs for approximately 25 minutes per charge, which is more than enough for quick cleanups.
  • Suction: This Dustbuster generates 15.2AW of cyclonic suction, which is typical of a unit with this voltage. The CHV1410L is ideal for cleaning surface dirt that accumulates on the seats and floors.
  • Product Design: Our favorite feature is the vacuum’s extended nozzle, which rotates 90 degrees for cleaning areas with tight vertical or horizontal clearance. We also like the integrated attachments that make it easy to switch between the brush and crevice tool.

Whether you’re looking for a handheld vacuum to use at home or in the car, add the Dustbuster CHV1410L hand vac to the top of your list. It’s a fantastic all-around pick for cleaning auto upholstery and hard surfaces.

Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide

A comprehensive guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new vacuum.

Getting Started

Deciding on the perfect vacuum for your home can be tricky. There are a lot of styles, functions and high-tech features to choose from. So which one is right for you? This guide has been created to make your vacuum shopping experience as easy as possible. So let’s dive in!.Shop Vacuums


There are a few different types and styles of vacuums that we are going to address in this buying guide. We are sure you will find just the one to fit all of your cleaning needs.

Upright Vacuums


This style of vacuum is going to be the most popular type of vacuum that can be found in many households today. It’s the best go-to vacuum for removing dust and dirt from carpeting, and is able to clean large areas of carpet quickly. They also work well on area rugs and hard floors.However, it is good to note that not all upright vacuums can be used on hard floor surfaces, since doing so might cause damage to some floors and vacuums. If this is an important factor it’s smart to do research on the brand of vacuum you are looking into, to make sure it works well on hard floors too. A brush on/off switch is recommended, as it will help protect the finish on bare floors.Some other things to look for when deciding on your upright vacuum are onboard attachment, bag-less or not, and the weight of the unit. Upright cleaners come in a variety of styles and sizes, each varying in weight. Some uprights include edge cleaning, which picks up dirt under the entire area of the head. This is a helpful feature especially when cleaning wall-to-wall carpeting. Suction control is another useful feature to look at when cleaning draperies and upholstery.Shop Upright Vacuums

Canister Vacuums


Canister Vacuums are portable and easy to use. They are well suited for people who clean a variety of surfaces but are most popular for those who have little carpeting and like to vacuum their hard surfaced floors. They tend to be lighter than other vacuum designs, plus they have a highly maneuverable power head that can reach tight spots with ease.Canister vacuums have the motor and bag in a separate unit, which is usually mounted on wheels to help with maneuvering. The canister itself is connected to the vacuum head by a flexible hose. By using a revolving brush system or brush agitator, it can dislodge dirt particles from the carpet so they can be picked up easily; this comes in handy when picking up things like pet hair. Without a built-in revolving brush, canister vacuums use straight suction to clean. Most canister vacuums have a bag that needs to be replaced, however there are bag-less models available, which eliminates the additional cost of buying dust bags.Bottom line, this style is perfect for vacuuming hard-to-reach spots and furniture; it’s also great for cleaning cars and drapes as well.Shop Canister Vacuums

Handheld & Stick Vacuums


These types of vacuums are the smallest and lightest options available, they are often cordless and operate on batteries. They also offer lots of convenience when it comes to a variety of cleaning tasks around the house.Handheld vacuums are perfect for cleaning closets, vents, blinds, upholstery or car interiors, and made mostly for above-the-floor cleaning. They’re best used for tasks such as cleaning up small spills, getting cobwebs out of corners or vacuuming dirt out of windowsills.Stick vacuums are very similar to upright vacuums. The design is the same, but stick vacuums tend to be a lot lighter in weight and usually do not come with any attachments. If you have a multilevel home, a stick model vacuum is great to keep on the second floor and eliminate the need to carry your main one up and down the stairs. Not to mention, there are certain models out now which have been designed with handheld features, making it easy to clean stairs, ceiling fans and more.Shop Handheld & Stick Vacuums

Robot Vacuums


Robot cleaners are completely hands-free, battery-operated vacuums. They seek out and suck up dirt, debris and dust from carpets and hard surface floors. They are a great choice for light, daily cleanings and extremely popular with pet owners, allergy sufferers, busy households, or just anyone who wants their floors to stay constantly clean.A robot vacuum is self-propelled and programmable, so you don’t have to do any extra work when it comes to vacuuming. These nifty gadgets use sensors to avoid obstacles and stairs, while smart enough to still easily clean underneath furniture. If you’re someone who simply does not have enough time to vacuum regularly, a robot vacuum can help you solve this problem.Shop Robot Vacuums

Commercial & Garage (Wet & Dry) Vacuums

Wet & Dry

Commercial and garage vacuums are often referred to as shop vacs. They offer extra power when it comes to professional-sized messes. These vacuums are the perfect type when it comes to cleaning up things such as sawdust in basements, dirt and water in garages, or any other mess, wet or dry. Many labor workers use them on job sites as they can handle that kind of debris. To choose the right commercial or garage vacuum, one must think about how they will use it and where it will be stored.Smaller models will be easier to move around, but they will not be able to handle larger messes.Shop Commercial & Garage (Wet & Dry) Vacuums

Carpet/Steam Cleaners

Carpet/Steam Cleaners

Carpet cleaners come in a variety of different styles ranging from uprights to portable spot cleaners, even smaller handheld carpet cleaners, all of which are capable of cleaning and disinfecting furniture, drapes or rugs.Even if you vacuum your carpets pretty regularly things such as dirt, pet dander, bacteria and dust mites remain deep in your carpet’s fibers. To fix this issue, carpet cleaners use moisture and heat to loosen the dirt and stains that a regular vacuum can’t suction. Not to mention, they can also disinfect carpets by killing unwanted germs. If you’re looking for a deep clean, a carpet cleaner is your best bet.Steam cleaners have become very popular in recent years because they are considered the healthy and “green” alternative to cleaning. Many steam cleaners look like upright vacuums, they have a large tank that dispenses hot water with a cleaning solution, while another tank holds the dirty water. If you or anyone in your home suffers from allergies and chemical sensitivities, a steam cleaner is a healthy way to deep clean a variety of surfaces without aggravating allergy symptoms. You and your family can live healthier and breath better by using a steam cleaner on a regular basis.Shop Carpet/Steam Cleaners

Central Vacuum Systems

Central Vacuum Systems

Central vacuum systems are the most durable options available. Although they may be a bit more expensive up front, the lack of maintenance and longer lifespan often make up for the cost and then some. Unlike traditional vacuums, the motor and collector of a central vacuum system is installed into the home, typically in the basement or garage. From there, vacuum piping runs through walls, crawlspaces, or other out of the way areas of the home to floor or wall-mounted inlet valves in a handful of locations around the house. By attaching a hose to these inlets, like those used by canister vacuums, you’re able to vacuum all of the areas of your home without lugging around a heavy canister or upright vac. The hoses are typically 30 feet long, allowing you to vacuum multiple rooms from a single inlet. These systems also offer all the same kinds of attachments you’d find on traditional types of vacuum cleaners, from wands to crevice tools to pet brushes.Installing a central vacuum system offers a number of benefits over traditional models. In addition to their longer lifespan, central vacuum systems also provide far greater suction capabilities when compared to other types of vacuum cleaners. More powerful motors translate to greater cleaning potential, allowing you to pull more particles out of thick carpets or upholstery.

Central vacuum systems are also significantly quieter than their portable counterparts. Without the motor roaring next to you as you clean, the only sound is that of fast-moving air. Additionally, central vacs promote cleaner air quality by extracting and containing dust particles, allergens, and other contaminants, whereas other types of vacuum cleaners can end up releasing their smaller particles back into the air, often when being emptied.There are a handful of qualities to look for when deciding between central vacuum systems. First and foremost, you want to be sure to use a trusted brand. While you may save a few dollars opting for a cheap system, you’ll likely end up paying more in the long run with service calls and/or a shorter lifespan. For the best indicator of suction strength look at the Air Watts specification, with higher numbers signifying stronger suction. You also need to make sure the system offers enough suction to cover every corner of your home. Choosing a model that boasts a coverage area greater than the square footage of your home is a good idea as these numbers are calculated with perfect conditions in mind.Lastly, you’ll need to decide between bag systems, those that use filters, a hybrid of the two, or a cyclonic system.

Bagged systems use a bag inside their collector canister to contain debris. Although they don’t require outside venting, using a vent will reduce noise and odor. Filter systems similarly don’t require venting but benefit from it. These systems use one of a handful of filter types to protect dirt from contaminating clogging the motor, filing a canister or bag that needs to be emptied every three to six months. Cyclonic systems are the only ones that require outside venting. Most of the dirt is captured with the canister with a small percentage of tiny particles venting outdoors. Hybrid systems, those that use filters and bags are a great choice. They help keep the motor running clean and offer an easy to dispose of container for debris.Shop Central Vacuum Systems

Useful Features to Consider

Before settling down and picking a vacuum that will work best for you, take a look as some additional features that may be important or become important long-term:


Bag-less designs probably offer the utmost convenience by allowing you to simply detach the container unit from the vacuum. You can then quickly dispose of any dirt inside, without having to pull out and replace a bag. However, bag designs are still nice because they can usually keep dust contained a lot better, since the bag itself seals the dust away. This prevents any further messes from occurring when cleaning out your vacuum. Not to mention, if allergies are a concern the bag is definitely a smarter choice.

Multi-Surface Flooring

If you have a combination of hard surfaced floors and carpets, or lots of hard floors, a multi-surface vacuum is the best way to go. Multi-surface vacuums allow you to turn the brush roll on and off, so you can avoid scratching your hard floors when transitioning from carpets.


Filters are a must-have for anyone who is sensitive to dust or pet hair, as well as allergic to pollen. HEPA filters are considered to be the best because they remove particles such as dust, dander and allergens from the air. Some vacuum models feature a filter that needs to be replaced regularly, while some have started to include reusable filters that allow you to remove, clean and replace the same filter as necessary. Reusable filters would be the ideal kind to use, as they are a great money-saving option.Shop Vacuums

Vacuum Accessories & Attachments

If you’re looking to do more than just vacuum the floors around your home, you may need to consider certain vacuum accessories and attachments. In order to properly clean drapes, sofas and chairs, dust shelves, and get to all the nooks and cracks in your home, you’ll need the right attachments.A crevice tool is great for cleaning corners and tight spaces. A dusting brush can be used to gently dust shelves and tables, as not to scratch them. An upholstery tool is perfect for vacuuming your furniture without causing any damage. Turbo brushes can offer a deeper clean for longer carpets.

The Main Vacuum Types

There are five primary shapes of vacuum cleaners, each performing a slightly different function, although some combine those forms in order to provide more bang for your buck. Being aware of the expectations you have of your vacuum cleaner can help you more intelligently and decisively pick one of the following.

1. Handheld

Handheld vacuums are perfect for getting those painfully hard-to-reach areas that desperately need a cleaning. The most common example for use is in vacuuming cars, since, as the name suggests, this model can be held in only one hand. Its versatility makes it a dream for suctioning up dirt and debris in a variety of tight places, but it would not serve well for general flooring cleaning, which would take a long time to clean with a handheld. This type of vacuum cleaner comes in all sorts of different forms with equally different price tags.

2. Canister

Canister vacuum cleaners are a happy medium between the upright model and the stick model. They are powerful like the upright cleaners, but feature a slender frame, like the stick cleaners. In this case, a separate canister is attached to a long wand which can be used to maintain not only carpeted areas but also bare flooring as well. This style of vacuum cleaner tends to be one of the most expensive options, given its technologically-forward and multi-functional design.

3. Upright

These cleaners are perhaps the most popular and sought-after forms of vacuum cleaners. When you imagine a vacuum cleaner or see one advertised in media, the image you picture is probably that of an upright machine. These models provide the most powerful clean-up for your house, and offer the comforting benefit of usually easy-to-understand functions and accessories, since most people have used an upright vacuum cleaner at least once in their lifetime. Most models provide settings that allow these vacuum cleaners to be used not only on carpeted surfaces but also bare floors.

4. Stick

While perhaps the least powerful of the vacuum models, stick vacuums have a knack for getting into narrow places and doing a tremendous job on hardwood floors, area rugs and light carpeting. This type of vacuum features a long stick-like handle and a slender construction. The slimness of this model makes it a perfect addition to any closet space, as it tucks neatly into most corners after its purpose has been served.

5. Autonomous / Robot

Robot vacuum cleaners have gained a lot of popularity in recent years, mainly due to the fact that they require little effort on your end. These vacuums are able to roam freely around your home, sucking up any small mess in its way. They not only save you time, but they are also able to reach places that larger vacuums wouldn’t be able to, such as under the couch. One main drawback of robot vacuums is that they typically come at a steep price.

Vacuum Cleaners

Location, Location, Location

Do you have primarily hardwood floors throughout your house? Are these floors covered with area rugs, or are they bare? Is your home filled with wall-to-wall carpeting? These are considerations you must make before taking the leap and purchasing your very own vacuum cleaner.

Bare Floors:

If you have bare floors, you’re better off with models that provide a number of attachments and which don’t have quite as much heft as some of the others. Using a regular upright vacuum on flooring like hardwood poses a number of problems, which includes scratching your smooth and coveted floors and being counterproductive by scattering debris across their surfaces. Some upright vacuums do provide settings that function better on non-carpeted areas, but for the most part your best bet would be with a model like the canister vacuum, which can also take care of your area rugs if you have any. These vacuums usually come with a bare-floor brush, which makes keeping your floors squeaky clean and scratch-free a piece of cake.


On the other hand, if you have wall-to-wall carpeting, it’s definitely worth considering a model with different advantages than a vacuum cleaner suited for hardwood flooring and tiling. You won’t need to worry about scratching the surface of your carpet, and in fact, you’ll want something powerful that pulls up all the lingering debris from the carpet strands. In this instance, an upright cleaner is a great way to go. There are all sorts of extra conveniences that upright vacuums have recently come out with, including a dirt sensor which makes sure you get that last speck of grime.

Know the layout of your flooring and what sorts of surfaces you’ll be dealing with to ensure your needs will be met with your new vacuum cleaner.

To Bag or Not To Bag

The general consensus is that, whether you have a bagged vacuum or a bagless vacuum, your house will be clean either way (as long as you keep using it). However, there are a few small differences that may make or break your decision to buy one or the other.


If you or any of your family members are sensitive to allergens or have asthma, the bagged vacuum is probably more for you. Dust exposure is minimized when the bag is emptied and most bags are guaranteed to trap all but .03% of the dust and pollen in your carpeting. You do have to replace the bags on a regular basis, although these are typically available at most supermarkets.


If you are environmentally-minded and prefer to not have to deal with replacing bags, the bagless vacuum is more for you. These vacuums usually have a see-through canister which gives you perfect access to seeing how full the vacuum is, which can help you determine when you need to empty it out.

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