I have an embarrassing confession to make: I used to treat my car like a trash can.

Whatever I could crumple and throw into the front passenger footwell of my battered, clanking Subaru Crosstrek, I would. Crinkled receipts, balled up fast-food wrappers, empty plastic coffee cups, even used tissues—my car was extremely gross, but I just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort I assumed it would take to keep my car clean. (Especially since that car, with over 150,000 miles and a check-engine light that seemed to always be on, made me a regular at the mechanic’s.)

But then I traded in my garbage can of a car for a shiny, clean Subaru Crosstrek that still had that new-car smell. I couldn’t bring myself to foul it with garbage. Something had to give—I had to take better care of my car this time around, especially since, as a lease, it’s not even technically mine.

Enter: the car garbage can. (The carbage can?)

You can hang this $10 lidded 2-gallon trash can on the back of a seat, in the footwell of the front passenger seat, or behind the center console. It’s also leakproof—critical for those almost-but-not-quite empty coffee cups. But most importantly, a trash can provides a convenient place to effortlessly stash trash while on the go—and it’s no exaggeration to say I’m a cleaner and better person now that I have a carbage can.

The carbage can of my dreams

I researched nearly a dozen options before I finally landed on the Hotor car trash can. Not only did it have thousands of positive reviews and a rubber lid to conceal the contained mess, but it was only about $10, making it a very low-stakes and affordable choice. After ordering, I was so excited about my future as a tidy person that I checked the front door nearly every hour of my scheduled delivery window— though I still wasn’t sure what to expect, quality-wise, from such an inexpensive can.

So when the Hotor finally arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by a well-constructed, thoughtfully designed receptacle. With its waterproof vinyl interior and zippered lid, this trash can reminds me a lot of an insulated lunch bag—if lunch bags had an opening at the top of the lid covered by rubber flaps (and you crammed garbage into them). These easy-to-clean flaps keep trash tamped down and out of sight while still giving you enough access to toss your garbage without needing to futz with the zipper.

The trash can’s adjustable strap makes it easy to install in any kind of car. I chose to thread the strap around the lid of my center console so that the trash can hangs directly behind the console in the back seat, but this method includes closing the lid on the strap, and that might make the console harder (but not impossible) to close.

You can try to encircle the whole console if you want to avoid closing the lid on the strap, but supervising editor Joshua Lyon, who also tested the Hotor in his subcompact car, found that the straps slid loose when he tried that method. He also had luck with closing the center console over the straps and tightening them in place.

Hanging the trash can from the center console is a good way to keep it within arm’s reach, but you may have to futz with the buckle to snap the lid closed. Photo: Elissa Sanci

The company offers additional placement suggestions, as do some folks who’ve reviewed the Hotor on Amazon. Some people prefer to hang the can off the back of the headrest of the passenger seat, while others secure the strap to the gear shift so the can sits in the footwell of the front passenger seat.

Where you place the trash can ultimately depends on what works for you and your car. But what’s most important is that you find a place that’s safe and easy to access while driving—keeping your eyes on the road and a hand on the wheel is key. Both Joshua and I have found that hanging the can from the back of the center console makes this easy. When I, say, pull away from a drive-through with a crumpled Taco Bell receipt in hand, all I need to do is reach back to stuff it into the can.

This rectangular, collapsible trash can has plenty of added touches that make using it an enjoyable experience, like an adjustable strap for easy installation, magnetic clips placed near the lid of the bin to keep trash bags in place, and three netted exterior pockets for added storage. The Hotor comes in seven colors, including a perky millennial pink and more than one camo; I got the black to match my car’s interior, but folks looking for something bolder have multiple options.

This trash can is so convenient that I don’t realize I’m tidying up even as I do it. The Hotor is so well-designed that I barely notice it, and that makes maintaining order in my car infinitely easier.

The 2-gallon receptacle can hold a lot of trash and, because I’m typically the only person in my car, I can go nearly two months before changing out the bag. This is especially ideal for anyone like me who just knows they’re not going to keep up with weekly bag changes. (Don’t worry: I never throw away anything that can mold or produce a funky smell.)

The Hotor is also a versatile little thing—not only is it a trash can, but this leakproof container can alternatively be used as a car cooler during long rides or as a handy place to keep a first aid kit, snacks, or toys to keep the kids busy. I can’t see myself using it for anything else besides garbage, but it’s nice to know I could if I needed to.

Get the most out of your carbage can

The HOTOR car trash can hanging directly behind the center console in the back seat.
Photo: Elissa Sanci
  • Unless you’re going to empty the trash can often, don’t use it for perishable food waste. I’m honest with myself: I may want to be the person who empties out the trash at the end of each week, but I am the person who would leave the bag until the food inevitably rots and stinks up the car. Besides, part of why this trash can works so well is because you don’t necessarily have to clean it out that often.
  • Don’t toss anything that takes up too much space. If the bag fills up too quickly, you run the risk of falling behind on upkeep. It can quickly start a chain reaction—personally, my Subaru Crosstrek would morph from car to garbage dump.
  • Stock up on trash bags to save—and avoid running out. Massively over-ordering bags (like I did when I bought a 100-pack of 2-gallon trash bags) to keep in your car is a good way to ensure you’ll never run out of replacements. And I mean that quite literally—this 100-pack is bound to outlast the length of my lease. I’m sure you could substitute a plastic grocery bag in a pinch, but a bag that actually fits the dimensions of the can are easier (and less frustrating) to use.
  • Store extra trash bags, cleaning wipes, and more in the can’s outer mesh pockets. Personally, I stock the pockets with extra trash bags. If I didn’t, it would take me ages to get a replacement from all the way inside my house after I change the bag, so naturally I’d use the garbage can without a bag, which would only lead to another headache when it’s time to clean it out. But the mesh pockets can hold anything you want to keep within an arm’s reach.

The Hotor car trash can is the most valuable $10 I’ve spent in a really long time. Any car garbage bin could have helped me keep my slovenly tendencies in check, but this can in particular is so easy to use that it’s actually held me accountable. I really needed that, and so did my car.

This article was edited by Ben Frumin.