Cars can get filthy on the inside as quickly as they catch mud and dust on the outside. To tackle the problem you need the best car vacuum cleaner you can afford, something that’s just as capable of cleaning up crumbs as it is sand and general grime.

You don’t, however, necessarily need a dedicated car vacuum. Although most vacuums are primarily designed to be used on interior flooring, many also come with a selection of accessories you can apply to other surfaces. These are the tools you’ll need to get the most from a vacuum cleaner in your car.

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Best car vacuum cleaner: At a glance

How to choose the best vacuum cleaner for you and your car

What type of vacuum should you choose?

There are all sorts of vacuum cleaner available, from corded uprights to cordless sticks. If you’re planning to bring your vacuum out to your car regularly, it makes a lot of sense to buy a cordless, battery-powered model.

Mains-powered corded vacuums tend to be more powerful, but having to trail a cable out to your car and then manoeuvre an unwieldy hose around your car’s interior is generally more hassle than it’s worth.

What accessories do I need?

When cleaning out your car, you won’t be using the standard floor head. Instead, the vacuum needs to have the right selection of accessories, which can be clipped onto the nozzle of a handheld or stick-style vacuum cleaner, or connected to the hose of an upright.

Most vacuums come with a crevice tool. This is a narrow tube that fits to your vacuum at one end and is flattened off at the other end so it’s easily inserted into difficult-to-reach places. These are often the places that collect the most dust, dirt and crumbs.

The tool that’s worth looking out for – and that many aren’t supplied with – is a mini motorised head. This is a smaller version of the motorised floor head you find on many cordless vacuums, with a rotating brush bar that can lift dirt out of fabric and carpets. It’s often billed as a pet tool, but is great on car upholstery whether you have a pet or not and has the bonus of being easier to move around in the tight confines of your car’s interior.

Do you need an additional car kit?

Some vacuum cleaners come with optional “car-specific” extras, which might include a flexible hose, a narrower crevice tool and a soft dusting brush for cleaning the dashboard. Check which tools the basic version of your chosen vacuum cleaner comes with before splashing out, however, as you might be doubling up on slightly different versions of tools that are already present in the box.

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The best car vacuums to buy in 2022

1. Roidmi Nano P1 Pro: The best handheld vacuum cleaner to keep in the car

Price: £112 | Buy now from Amazon

This Roidmi Nano P1 Pro handheld vacuum is compact, easy to hold and small enough to be stored in the glove compartment of your car. It charges via a USB-C port, so you can charge it in the car using a standard USB-C phone cable.

When you want to use it, flip the lid and the top transforms into a small crevice tool, so you can poke it into places that might otherwise be hard to clean. It also contains a retractable brush, which is engaged by pushing a button on the nozzle, to dislodge loose dust and dirt.

Because of its size and its small 100ml collection bin, the Nano P1 Pro is at its best when targeting light mess, such as crumbs after a light snack; it’s a little too small for clearing up larger messes, such as muddy footwells or a holiday’s worth of beach sand. For those jobs you’re better off with a more powerful vacuum such as those below.

Read our full Roidmi Nano P1 Pro review for more details

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 60 x 60 x 275mm; Weight: 0.5kg; Bin capacity: 100ml; Vacuum type: Handheld; Bagless: Yes; Stated suction power: N/A

2. Vax Blade 4 Pet & Car: The best-value cordless vacuum cleaner for your car

Price: £299 | Buy now from Amazon

With the Vax Blade 4 Pet & Car you don’t have to worry about buying additional tools to get the best options for cleaning inside your car, as they come supplied in the box. The unit itself is the same model that you’ll find in any Blade 4 package, but the additional tools included in the price of this version are perfect for deep-cleaning car upholstery and reaching into problematic corners and crevices.

There are two elements to the car version that really help with this. The first is the powered flexible hose. Most flexible hoses can be used to get attachments such as a crevice tool into hard-to-reach places. However, a powered flexible hose takes things a stage further because it can also supply power to an attachment, such as the included mini motorised “pet tool”.

The motorised pet tool is the second part of the car kit’s magic. While it will certainly do a great job of lifting pet hair from your car seats, don’t let the name put you off if you don’t own a pet. It’s just as effective at lifting other types of dust and dirt from your car’s interior upholstery and carpets.

Read our full Vax Blade 4 Pet & Car review for more details

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 185 x 240 x 1,140mm; Weight: 3.1kg; Bin capacity: 600ml; Vacuum type: Cordless stick; Bagless: Yes; Stated suction power: N/A

3. Shark Classic Handheld Pet Vacuum: the best-value handheld cleaner for your car

Price: £60 | Buy now from Argos

You don’t have to spend a fortune to keep your car clean. The Shark Classic Handheld Pet Vacuum (CH950UKT) is distinctly affordable at £60 and it doesn’t skimp on the tools you’ll need to keep your car’s interior tidy.

Crucially, this Pet Vacuum comes with a motorised attachment with a rotating brush. While this is aimed at animal owners with pet hair problems, it’s also very effective in lifting dirt out of your car’s carpets and upholstery, whether it was made by an animal or not. It also comes with a crevice tool for hard-to-reach gaps and a dusting brush to smarten up your dashboard.

Although it doesn’t have all the features of more expensive models, such as a charging dock or super-powerful suction, Shark’s Handheld has a clever design that makes it easy to use and performs a great standard of cleaning for the price.

Read our full Shark Classic Handheld Pet Vacuum review for more details

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 520 x 95 x 109mm; Weight: 1.39kg; Bin capacity: 450ml; Vacuum type: Handheld; Bagless: Yes; Stated suction power: N/A

Buy now from Argos

4. Shark Anti Hair Wrap with PowerFins, Powered Lift-Away & TruePet ICZ300UKT with Car Detail Kit: The best cordless upright vacuum for cleaning cars

Price: £429 | Buy now from Amazon

Shark’s ICZ300UKT is a decent enough vacuum for your car as it is. The collection bin and hose can be lifted clean away from the floor head and carried to the car, where the pet tool and the crevice tool can be used to scour the upholstery and get into all the nooks and crannies.

However, for a truly professional job, consider investing in Shark’s optional car kit (£22 from Amazon), which fits a variety of Shark’s vacuums, including this one.

This comes with a long narrow extension hose, two thinner dusting tools and two narrow crevice tools, one of which can be used at an angle. Between them they can get into all the difficult-to-reach areas, even those that regular vacuum tools can’t access.

Read our full Shark ICZ300UKT review for more details

Key specs – Dimensions (WDH): 260 x 250 x 1080mm (WDH); Weight: 6.2kg; Bin capacity: 600ml; Vacuum type: Cordless upright; Bagless: Yes; Stated suction power: N/A