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While you could use a house vacuum to remove the grit from your car’s interior, that isn’t very practical. The best car vacuum is easy to handle in tight spaces and able to remove the mud, crumbs, and dog hair that accumulate on your floor mats and upholstery.

In this article, we recommend several vacuums of different sizes and power levels – from heavy-duty plug-ins to handheld 12-volt vacuums. Each type of vacuum has useful features and a few drawbacks, but the best option for you depends on your needs and budget.

 

In this article:

 


 

5 Best Car Vacuums

 

Our Review Standards

To determine the best car vacuum cleaners, our review team first combed through the top products on Amazon. We chose products to test based on customer ratings, Amazon superlatives, and price. We also selected a variety of sizes and styles to find car vacuums for different uses and budgets.

The five vacuums we selected were tested for:

  • Suction Power: Suction strength is one of a vacuum’s most important traits. While just a little suction is needed to pick up dirt and crumbs, only a high-powered vacuum can remove deeply embedded animal fur. We tested each vacuum’s ability to remove chip crumbs, glitter, and dog hair from a cloth floor mat.
  • Maneuverability: A good car vacuum should be easy to maneuver through your vehicle so that you can reach every nook and cranny. We put each vacuum to a practical test by cleaning a sedan front to back.
  • Ease of Maintenance: Every vacuum must be cleaned and emptied eventually. We serviced each vacuum after use and rated it based on how easy it was to disassemble and clean. Maintenance also includes storage, so vacuums that store well (including their accessories) scored highest in this category.
  • Versatility: Each vacuum was used to pick up three types of common car debris. Vacuums were also used in different parts of a car, including rubber floor mats, fabric floor mats, seats, and the center console. A versatile vacuum can be used on a variety of surfaces to pick up all sorts of matter. Vacuums that include useful attachments and are able to vacuum both wet and dry materials scored highest in this category.

 


 

Best Overall Car Vacuum: Dewalt DXV08S

dewalt-car-vacuum

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The Dewalt DXV08S is not designed solely for car use, but to pick up any type of workshop spill. Because of its maneuverability (the Dewalt is big, but it has wheels), versatility, and suction power, this style of vacuum is popular for cleaning vehicles and is often used by professional detailers.

Key Features

  • Weight: 15.0 pounds
  • Power: 120V
  • Tank Capacity: 8.0 gallons
  • Accessories: Extension wand, crevice nozzle, utility nozzles (2), accessory bag
  • Power Source: A/C outlet
  • Wet or Dry: Both
  • Cost: $$

What’s In The Box

The Dewalt DXV08S isn’t designed exclusively for car use, so the extra accessories noted above make sense. The vacuum includes more attachments than you would expect from a smaller, handheld vacuum. It also comes with a vacuum bag.

What is notably not included is a foam filter – a circular foam fitting that needs to be placed around the vacuum’s paper filter before it can be used for wet vacuuming. You can buy such a filter for around $10, but it seems like an accessory that should be included with the product.

Our Experience

dewalt-car-vacuum-test

The DXV08S is easy to use and maneuver. It has a number of attachments to access every part of your vehicle and the suction power to remove tricky pet hair. There’s a large collection tank, meaning it can easily be used to detail your entire car several times before changing the bag.

This vacuum does need to be plugged in to function and is not something you could easily stow in your trunk. If you don’t have a garage or the storage space for another vacuum, you may want to look into smaller options.

Suction Power: 4.5 out of 5

Corded vacuums typically have the greatest suction strength, so this vacuum can easily pick up anything in your vehicle. You’ll even need to hold down the ends of your floor mats when vacuuming them.

Maneuverability: 3.5 out of 5

The Dewalt DXV08S has wheels so it can easily move around your car. The hose is long enough to reach across the seats, and there are extension nozzles and wands that can help you reach floor mats and under the seats.

Because the vacuum requires a power source, you will likely need an extension cord to use it in your car. The size of the vacuum prevents you from easily picking it up, though with the long hose and nozzle, this isn’t necessary.

Ease of Maintenance: 4 out of 5

When you need to clean the Dewalt DXV08S, the top pops off easily to reveal the filter inside. If you want to use the wet vacuum function, you’ll need to get a foam filter (sold separately) to cover the paper filter.

Debris collects in the can, but the Dewalt DXV08S includes a bag that can be attached, which is easily removed and thrown away when full. Overall, this vacuum is quite easy to maintain. It even comes with an accessories bag to help store the extra hoses and attachments.

Versatility: 5 out of 5

This vacuum earns top marks for versatility. The crevice nozzle can help you get between the seats and the wide nozzle makes vacuuming the other parts of your car quick and effective. The vacuum was able to pick up glitter, chip crumbs, and pet hair with ease. The high suction power makes it an effective vacuum for any car spill, including wet spills. It can also be used as a blower, though this may not be especially useful for detailing.

What Customers Are Saying

There aren’t a lot of Amazon reviews for the DXV08S, but most of them give the product 5.0 stars. Reviewers mention the high suction power, especially for the cost.

“This is hands down, the best shop vac I’ve ever used!”

- Reviewer Groot, via Amazon

The product’s only negative review is a complaint that the vacuum is only four horsepower rather than five. This seems relatively unimportant, as we found the suction power to be strong enough for car detailing.

What Is It Good For?

Buy this vacuum if you need a detailing machine that you won’t need to replace any time soon. For the price, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the Dewalt DXV08S in suction power, versatility, and quality. It’s capable of handling nearly any car mess you could encounter, including liquids.

This vacuum is not good for those who need something portable. It is too big to store in your vehicle and will need its own special place in a closet or workshop to lay its hose while off the job.

 


 

Best Cordless Vacuum: Milwaukee 0880-20

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The Milwaukee 0880-20 is a battery-powered vacuum with decent suction strength. The excellent design makes this vacuum easy to store and maintain. However, if you don’t already use Milwaukee tools, the cost to purchase the battery and charger nearly doubles the purchase price.

Key Features

  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Power: 18V
  • Tank Capacity: 2.0 gallons
  • Accessories: Crevice nozzle, wide nozzle
  • Power Source: Rechargeable 18-volt lithium-ion battery (sold separately)
  • Wet or Dry: Both
  • Cost: $$$

What’s In The Box

The Milwaukee 0880-20 includes a crevice nozzle, wide nozzle, and flexible vacuum tube. Noticeably absent from the box is the required 18V battery and battery charger, which together can set you back nearly $70, increasing the total cost of the vacuum. You can purchase a more powerful plug-in model for that price, but you would be hard-pressed to find a vacuum with similar power and portability.

If you already own Milwaukee tools, the Milwaukee 18V battery is compatible across Milwaukee products.

Our Experience

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The Milwaukee 0880-20 was our team’s favorite vacuum to test. Storage for the hose and attachments is elegantly designed into the vacuum body. The entire kit is easily converted into a small box that takes up very little space. Latches on the top provide access to the hose and attachments, while the bottom latches provide access to the collection area for emptying and cleaning.

Without significantly increasing your budget, you’re unlikely to find a cordless vacuum with better suction power. The Milwaukee is not as powerful as the Dewalt, Vacmaster, or other plug-in vacuums, but it is strong enough to remove embedded pet fur.

Suction Power: 4 out of 5

The 0880-20 packs enough suction for anything you’d need to clean from your car seats, including crumbs and pet fur. While it is not quite as powerful as plug-in models, it boasts top-tier suction for a cordless option.

Maneuverability: 4 out of 5

Because it is uncorded and portable, the Milwaukee 0880-20 is easy to maneuver anywhere in your car. It’s a bit larger than a 12-volt vacuum, but not especially heavy. One drawback is that the hose is a little short and could be longer. You’ll need to hold the box near whatever you're vacuuming, which can become cumbersome.

Ease of Maintenance: 5 out of 5

Of all the vacuums on this list, the Milwaukee 0880-20 is the easiest vacuum to store and maintain. It’s simple to open the bagless collection area to rinse or dump debris, and every attachment perfectly fits into the small package. Storing the Milwaukee 0880-20 is simple, and the convenient size means you could easily keep it in your trunk.

You will need to keep the battery charged to use the Milwaukee 0880-20. The battery lasts around 40 minutes, which is enough time to detail one car, but could be inconvenient for those who require several hours of suction on end.

Versatility: 5 out of 5

This vacuum can pick up most car debris and includes both a thin and wide nozzle. The portability is a big selling point for this vacuum, as it’s easy to use in the car for nearly any mess or spill. The Milwaukee 0880-20 features wet and dry functions and can even be used as a blower.

What Customers Are Saying

This vacuum has an overall Amazon customer review score of 4.7 out of 5.0 stars. More than 81 percent of reviewers rate the product a full 5.0 stars. The vacuum earns high marks for portability, weight, and suction power.

“Everything is 100% better than [they] advertised.”

- Mike Bann, via Amazon

“This is exactly what is needed. It's easy to manage, lightweight and does a great job.”

- Maurice Degler, via Amazon

There are a few complaints. One customer says the vacuum is too noisy, and another is upset that it was not manufactured in the United States. However, none dare cast doubt on the Milwaukee 0880-20’s raw suction strength.

What Is It Good For?

Buy this vacuum if you need a portable vacuum that is also strong enough to pick up pet fur. This is a good pick especially for those who already own Milwaukee tools since the battery is compatible across several different Milwaukee products.

Don’t buy this vacuum if you need something that can be used for an extended length of time. While the battery means increased maneuverability, it also limits the amount of time the vacuum can be used before recharging.

 


 

Best Suction Power: Vacmaster Beast

vacmaster-car-vacuum

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The Vacmaster Beast is a large shop vac with superb suction strength, many accessories, and a huge collection tank. This type of vacuum is built for heavy use and big messes. It features both dry and wet vacuuming functionality and includes the necessary foam filter for wet vacuuming.

Key Features

  • Weight: 28.0 pounds
  • Power: 120V
  • Tank Capacity: 14.0 gallons
  • Accessories: Extension wands (2), brush squeegee, crevice nozzle, utility nozzle, floor brush, foam wet filter, tool storage bag
  • Power Source: A/C outlet
  • Wet or Dry: Both
  • Cost: $$$

What’s In The Box

The Vacmaster Beast comes with the accessories and attachments noted above, which are more than enough for basic car vacuuming. Though this vacuum isn’t designed exclusively for car use, it’s a good choice for car detailing.

Our Experience

vacmaster-car-vacuum-test

The Vacmaster Beast was the most powerful vacuum we tested. The suction power is second to none, and the vacuum comes with all the bells and whistles. The extra long power cord made the vacuum easy to maneuver around the car, and it was the best for picking up embedded dog hair.

The size of the vacuum makes it a little unwieldy, and it may not be the best choice if you are looking for something that is easy to store. The included accessories bag doesn’t fit all the attachments. If you only need a basic car vacuum for small messes, it is best to look for something smaller and cheaper.

While the Vacmaster Beast outperformed the Dewalt DXV08S when it came to suction power, the attachments and construction weren’t quite as good as the DXV08S, which is why we named the Dewalt DXV08S the best overall.

Suction Power: 5 out of 5

The suction power of the Vacmaster Beast is beyond reproach. In addition to testing each vacuum by picking up pet fur, glitter, and crumbs, our tester applied the hose of each vacuum to his face to feel the incredible power with his own skin. The Vacmaster Beast was the only vacuum to make our tester question the wisdom of this choice.

Maneuverability: 3 out of 5

The size of the Vacmaster Beast makes it harder to maneuver than a handheld car vacuum. However, few handheld vacuums can match its tank size or suction power. The vacuum is mounted on wheels and has a long power cord. However, you will likely need an extension cord if you are using this to clean out your car.

Ease of Maintenance: 4 out of 5

The Vacmaster Beast requires some assembly out of the box. You’ll need to attach the hose, hose brackets, and wheels. The included assembly instructions are not very good, but the vacuum only took us a couple of minutes to assemble. This short assembly time is a greater hassle than other vacuums (which require no assembly), but overall this is a minor drawback.

Once constructed, the Vacmaster Beast is easy to clean by removing the top. The vacuum bags don’t fit as securely as they could, which can result in some debris in the canister. However, even this debris is cleaned out easily enough. One drawback is that the power cord is built into the top of the vacuum, which makes it more cumbersome to remove when cleaning.

Versatility: 5 out of 5

The Vacmaster Beast is one of the more versatile vacuums on this list. The only drawback to the Beast’s versatility is its size. It can’t be stored in your trunk for use on the go, but once you get your car to your garage, the Beast can clean up any mess. It has high suction power and both wet and dry vac capabilities.

What Customers Are Saying

With over 530 Amazon customer reviews, the Vacmaster Beast has an average rating of 4.7 stars. The product received ratings of 4.0 stars or higher from 92 percent of reviewers. One negative reviewer mentions receiving a broken vacuum, but this is uncommon. There are a few comments about hose length and quality, though for most vehicles, the hose length is more than enough.

“This vac is definitely the strongest shop vac I have owned. The only issue, as others have mentioned, is that there is not a very secure way to attach bags.”

- Dave, via Amazon

“The hose definitely seems shorter than many vacs. Also has a non-typical type of hose lock which might make it difficult to put an aftermarket or replacement hose on. It's extensions and fittings could be a bit upgraded too. Functional but cheap and not a huge selection.”

- crazytekkie, via Amazon

What Is It Good For?

Buy the Vacmaster Beast if you want a multi-purpose vacuum with the best suction power. This large vacuum comes with several attachments, which means it takes up a lot of storage space. However, the Beast can withstand heavy use and the large tank takes a long time to fill, meaning you won’t have to change the bag very often.

 


 

Best Small Car Vacuum: ThisWorx 12V

this-worx-car-vacuum

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The ThisWorx 12V car vacuum is a good low-cost option to keep in your vehicle for minor spills and crumbs. While the suction power does not match corded or more expensive models, this vacuum plugs directly into your car’s auxiliary power outlet (cigarette lighter). There is no need to recharge batteries and it can be easily stored in your trunk, back seat, or glove box.

Key Features

  • Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Power: 12V
  • Tank Capacity: ~8.0 ounces
  • Accessories: Flexible extension hose, crevice nozzle, replacement HEPA filter, floor brush attachment, filter dusting brush, carrying bag
  • Power Source: Car auxiliary power outlet
  • Wet or Dry: Dry
  • Cost: $

What’s In The Box

The ThisWorx 12V car vacuum includes the accessories mentioned above, and our vacuum even shipped with a complimentary air freshener. The filter cleaning brush was a nice inclusion that makes the vacuum easier to maintain.

Our Experience

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The ThisWorx 12V certainly lacks the suction power of the other vacuums that we tested, but it is strong enough for many jobs. We recommend this vacuum if you need something small to keep in your car for minor spills. It easily picks up small debris like glitter or sand.

Suction Power: 3 out of 5

Suction power is certainly where the ThisWorx 12V vacuum performs the weakest. Again, it is strong enough to pick up glitter and crumbs but is not suitable for embedded pet hair. One Amazon reviewer said that they used it to vacuum up pet fur, but it performed that task inadequately during our tests.

For this reason, we don’t recommend the ThisWorx 12V for deep cleans, though it is a handy tool to have in your car for a quick clean.

Maneuverability: 4 out of 5

The light weight makes this vacuum very easy to use around your car. The flexible hose attachment can extend your reach, but is not very useful because of the vacuum’s low suction power. While the vacuum is small, it does need to plug into your car’s auxiliary outlet. The power cord is long enough to reach the back seat with compact and sedan cars, but may be a bit short if you have a larger vehicle like a minivan.

Ease of Maintenance: 4.5 out of 5

This was one of the easiest vacuums to maintain. The top snaps off for emptying and the filter can be cleaned with the provided brush. The small size makes it easy to store in your trunk or back seat.

The included carrying case can hold the vacuum but does not easily fit all of the included accessories. The extendable hose attachment isn’t especially useful, so you could leave it behind and fit everything else in the carrying bag.

Versatility: 3 out of 5

What makes the ThisWorx 12V versatile is the ability to store it in your car and the fact that it doesn’t require a battery. You can leave this vacuum in your glove box and suck up minor messes as soon as they happen.

The weak suction power means this vacuum shouldn’t be your only solution for detailing your car. To get a deep clean or remove embedded pet hair you’ll need something stronger. This vacuum is not suitable for wet spills.

What Customers Are Saying

The ThisWorx 12V has more than 147,700 Amazon customer reviews with an overall rating of 4.1 out of 5.0 stars. The product was rated 4.0 stars or higher by 74 percent of reviewers. Satisfied customers mention the ease of use and low price point.

Complaints mention the short power cord and weak suction power.

“I don’t understand the reviews stating its lack of suction. Yes, it’s not super powerful but it works! I don’t know what people expect from a $30 car vacuum but it works great to pick up dirt and crumbs in a pinch.”

- Adam, via Amazon

“At the end of October my husband and I went to the ocean and as we tried to be neat – the sand was still in the car. Finally, I got rid of it!”

- Julia Bright, via Amazon

What Is It Good For?

Buy this vacuum to keep in your car for messes as they happen. This vacuum isn’t good for deep cleans, but we designated it as the best car vacuum for little messes.

 


 

Best Budget Vacuum: Black+Decker Flex

black-decker-car-vacuum

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The Black+Decker Flex is our second choice for a handheld vacuum cleaner. It shares many of the same strengths and drawbacks as the ThisWorx 12V. While it is a little less expensive and has slightly stronger suction capabilities, it isn’t quite as well-designed for ease of maintenance and storage.

Key Features

  • Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Power: 12V
  • Tank Capacity: 19.0 ounces
  • Accessories: Crevice nozzle
  • Power Source: Car auxiliary power outlet
  • Wet or Dry: Dry
  • Cost: $

What’s In The Box

The Black+Decker Flex includes a crevice nozzle attachment, but not much else. However, for what the vacuum is good for, it doesn’t need much else. It is compact and plugs into your vehicle’s auxiliary power outlet.

Our Experience

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Like the ThisWorx 12V, the Black+Decker Flex doesn’t have much suction power. But what it lacks in suction, this vacuum makes up for in portability and convenience. We found that it was able to pick up small crumbs and glitter, but not embedded pet hair. The small nozzle size and lack of larger attachments mean it isn’t the best choice for detailing your vehicle, but it is handy for small spills. There is no battery that requires charging, which is also a plus.

Suction Power: 3.5 out of 5

This vacuum doesn’t have much suction power, though it is slightly stronger than the ThisWorx 12V. For this tier of vacuum, the suction is enough to get by. Again, you won’t be able to use this vacuum for large debris or deeply embedded crumbs or fur. For small spills, it gets the job done.

Maneuverability: 4 out of 5

You can easily get this vacuum to any part of your vehicle. The power cord is long enough to reach the back seat.

Ease of Maintenance: 3.5 out of 5

Emptying this vacuum is simple, though messier than the ThisWorx 12V. If you aren’t careful, some of the crumbs may be left in the long nozzle and can fall out when you turn the vacuum off.

Versatility: 3 out of 5

This vacuum is only suitable for smaller messes and cannot be used for wet material. It is easy to store as it is small and compact, but it doesn’t fold up as neatly as the Milwaukee 0880-20 and isn’t quite as compact as the ThisWorx 12V.

What Customers Are Saying

The Black+Decker Flex has an average Amazon customer review score of 4.1 out of 5.0 stars. The product received 4.0 stars or higher from 76 percent of reviewers. Some customers complain about the low suction power, though this is to be expected from a 12V vacuum in this price range (under $50). Satisfied customers mention the vacuum’s convenience.

“I use this vacuum all the time now. It is so quick and handy that I grab it and clean up a quick mess with no problems. Even things like spilling a little sugar or powder on the counter. Instead of wiping and wiping, I just grab this and it's done.”

- GIVE Reviews, via Amazon

“Really good product! Suction power is really good for this size, easy to use, all brushes are very comfortable to use.”

- Alan Bresky, via Amazon

“Won't pick up lint dirt or dog hair stuck in the fibers of the carpet.”

- Jon D., via Amazon

What Is It Good For?

Buy the Black+Decker Flex if you need a vacuum to keep in your car for small messes. Compare the Flex with the ThisWorx 12V to decide which would be the best car vacuum for your needs. The Flex has slightly stronger suction capacity and a different design that some may find more ergonomic than the ThisWorx 12V.

 


 

Car Vacuum Testing Process

To help select the best car vacuum, we tested each product with consideration for how most people practically use car vacuums. We unboxed and assembled each vacuum to see how easy it was to put together and get working.

Pet hair is perhaps one of the most annoyingly difficult things to vacuum out of a car, as small fibers can easily get stuck in floor mats. We tested each vacuum’s ability to pick up pet fur as well as crushed chips and glitter.

Dewalt DXV08S

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Milwaukee 0880-20

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Vacmaster Beast

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ThisWorx 12V

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Black+Decker Flex

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We also used each vacuum inside a car to see how well it stood up to practical use. This helped determine our maneuverability and versatility scores. We made sure to test all included nozzles and accessories.

Finally, we emptied and cleaned each vacuum after use to learn how easy it was to maintain and store.

 


 

Car Vacuum Buyer’s Guide

The best car vacuum for you depends on your needs. Do you want to deep clean your car like a professional detailer? Do you need something to handle wet spills? Are you looking for a portable vacuum to store in your vehicle for quick cleanups as they’re needed? Do you have pets and regularly clean out pet fur, or do you only need to pick up a few crumbs here and there?

When shopping for a car vacuum, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Suction power: Suction power is one of the most significant qualities people care about when it comes to vacuums. You’ll need a vacuum with strong suction power if you’re dealing with dog hair, but most crumbs can be picked up by a weak vacuum. Also consider your car’s upholstery. Cloth seats and floor mats can more easily trap debris than leather or pleather upholstery. You’ll want a more powerful vacuum if your vehicle has a cloth interior.
  • Price: The cost of a var vacuum can range from $30 to $200 and higher. Low-cost vacuums may not provide the same suction power or tank capacity as pricer models. There is no reason to spring for a $100 car vacuum if you only need to pick up french fry crumbs every now and then.
  • Versatility: Do you need a vacuum with a blower function? Do you need something that can handle wet spills? Consider how you’ll use a car vacuum when making your decision. Also, pay attention to which attachments are included with your vacuum. Extra hoses and extendable nozzles can help you reach places under the seat without too much bending.
  • Power source: Would you rather have a vacuum that plugs into an outlet, uses a battery, or plugs into your car’s auxiliary power source? A vacuum that plugs into an outlet is likely to have greater suction than any other type. A battery-powered vacuum will likely have very poor suction unless you spring for a model like the Milwaukee 0880-20, which can cost upwards of $100. A vacuum that plugs into your car’s auxiliary power outlet will not have very powerful suction, but is likely to be inexpensive and easily stored.
  • Size: Do you need a little vacuum or a large vacuum? If you clean multiple cars and want to do a full detailing job quickly, you’ll need a larger vacuum. However, a large car vacuum may not fit in your vehicle for on-the-go cleaning.

 


 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most powerful car vacuum?

The most powerful car vacuum we reviewed is the Vacmaster Beast. It demonstrated high suction power strong enough for the deepest crumbs.

What is the best cordless vacuum to buy?

For a cheaper cordless car vacuum, we like the Milwaukee 0880-20. This vacuum is easy to store, has a decent battery life, and boasts enough suction power to pick up most car debris, including pet hair.

How do I choose a car vacuum?

Before choosing the best car vacuum for your needs, you’ll need to decide what you want your vacuum to do. If you need an automotive vacuum for regular detailing and pet fur, you’ll want to purchase a corded model with high suction power, such as the Dewalt DXV08S. If you’re looking for a vacuum to store in your car and use for minor spills and messes, get a cheaper model that plugs into your vehicle’s auxiliary power source, like the ThisWorx 12V.

Can I use a regular vacuum for my car?

You can use a regular vacuum for your car, but most household vacuums are not designed for easy use inside a car. These vacuums often stand upright and do not have hose or nozzle attachments. To clean your car, you need a vacuum with a thin nozzle to get into the cracks between your seats. A long hose also allows you to conveniently vacuum inside the smaller space of your car.

Can you vacuum a car with a shop vac?

Yes, a shop vac-style vacuum is an excellent choice for vacuuming a car and what many car detailers use. These vacuums are powerful and maneuverable, and the included attachments are often useful for getting into the nooks of seats and under the floor mats.