Best handheld vacuum 2020: the best small vacuums for your home and car

Find the best handheld vacuum to quickly clean hard-to-reach areas, cars, and crumbs, at the best prices

best handheld vacuum: Black & Decker PD1820LGB Flexi Cordless Handheld Vacuum
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(Image credit: Amazon)

Finding the best handheld vacuum is worth your while, especially if you count yourself as a parent (or pet parent). Handheld vacs are compact and lightweight, making them practical for those little jobs that a standard vacuum is just too big for doing. Because most handheld vacuums will fit neatly in a kitchen cabinet or hall closet, they're easy to keep at an arm's reach for a quick cleanup.

There are dozens of options to choose from, ranging from a classic Dirt Devil to a high-tech Dyson and everything in between; we researched and reviewed our way through those options to find the best handheld vacuums on the market right now. Whether your biggest priorities are cleaning the car, vacuuming the stairs or getting into hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of the house, there's a vacuum for you on our shortlist of top models. 

Read on to see our top picks. If you're also interested in a new standard-size vacuum for cleaning your home, check out our list of the best vacuum cleaners.

What is the best handheld vacuum?

If price is no object, the best vacuum cleaner you can buy is the Dyson V7 Car+Boat. It's powerful, versatile and easy to use. 

However, there are some great handheld vacuums are lower prices too, particularly the user-friendly (and thoroughly updated) Black & Decker Dustbuster CHV1410L and the Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus BD30025B.

But don't stop there: We've also found the best handheld vacuum for cleaning windows (no, seriously); a handheld cylinder vac that's tops for reaching into awkward spaces; a great handheld for removing pet hair; and another that's so sleekly designed that you might want to leave it on the counter to look at. 

Keep scrolling for more detail about each of these top picks, plus some general information to help you make sure you're getting the best handheld vacuum to suit your cleaning needs.

Best handheld vacuum 2020: ranked

dyson car and boat

(Image credit: Dyson)

1. Dyson V7 Car+Boat

Best handheld vacuum: a powerful device for quick, daily clean ups

Specifications
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 3.7lbs.
Battery life: 30 mins
Charge time: 210 mins.
Capacity: .15gal.
Reasons to buy
+ Quiet  + Long battery life for a handheld model 
Reasons to avoid
-Price

If you’re someone who likes their home dust-free at all times, then you can expect the Dyson V7 Car+Boat to be your dust-fighting partner in crime. 

What we like about it

This is one the best handheld vacuums out there for quick and lightweight cleaning; it's designed to catch particles down to 0.5 microns in size, making it a good option for those with allergies. It’s also super-quiet — so if you’re a bit of a Monica Geller and find the sudden urge to clean at 6AM, you won’t wake the entire household in the process. 

For a cordless handheld, the Dyson V7 Car+Boat has excellent suction and a surprisingly good battery life of up to 30 minutes. It offers all or nothing results: The suction doesn't diminish as it nears the end of its battery life, but once it's done, it's really done. 

This handheld vacuum also comes with an array of accessories to help it ferret dirt out from the toughest of hiding places, including an extension hose, a mini dusting brush, a crevice tool, a combination tool for switching between surfaces, and a "stubborn dirt brush" (really, that's it's name). 

There is also a dual-mode option which allows you sacrifice battery life for more intense suction while working in hard-to-clean areas. When you're done, emptying the dust cup is as easy as holding the vacuum over the trash can and pulling a tab.

Also good to know: If you purchase through Dyson.com and auto-register your vacuum, it comes with free tools. 

Things to note

There's no getting around it — this is quite pricey for a handheld vacuum. If it's not in your budget, don't worry; we have some great value picks coming up too.

black and decker dustbuster chv1410l

(Image credit: Black + Decker)

2. Black & Decker Dustbuster CHV1410L Hand Vacuum

Best user-friendly hand vacuum: A great value that's straightforward and reliable

Specifications
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 2.6 lbs.
Battery life: 10 minutes
Charge time: 4 hours
Capacity: .61 liters
Reasons to buy
+User-friendly features+Two power settings+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Short run time-Can be noisy

The Black & Decker Dustbuster is one of the most recognizable names in handheld vacuums. But the Black & Decker Dustbuster CHV1410L Hand Vacuum isn't your granny's Dustbuster, and it's in our list because it pairs good performance and solid value with user-friendly features. 

What we like about it

The user-friendly features that really draw our attention for this vacuum are subtle, but important. First off, the dust cup/debris reservoir is actually easy to remove and empty — as opposed to some otherwise excellent vacuums that may require you to reach into the dust cup and scoop some lingering debris out by hand.

Second, it gives an audible click when you mount it in the charging cradle, so you know it's properly and securely placed. It doesn't have a power brush attachment, but it does come with an on-board extension to minimize how much you have to bend over, and the crevice-cleaning tool works well.

And of course, this updated Dustbuster cleans well on both hard floors and carpet, and has a power-boost setting for handling tough messes. 

All of that at what's become the low end of the price range for handheld vacuums? This combination of value and features is hard to beat. 

Things to note

You only get about 10 minutes of run-time per charge on this handheld vacuum — about enough time to spot-clean a three-row SUV or small van, if you don't dawdle. Although we find that inconveniently short, it's not out of the norm for handheld vacuums at all — especially in this price range.

We also see a few concerns that this vacuum runs on the loud side. But hey, it's a vacuum; whisper-quiet operation usually isn't on the table for that sort of appliance.

Black & Decker Flexi Handheld Vacuum, dark silver

3. Black & Decker Flex Vac Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Best handheld cylinder vacuum: for those places that are usually out of reach, this vacuum will provide the height you need

Specifications
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 3.2lbs
Battery life: 20 Mins
Charge time: 9 hours
Capacity: 20.6 oz.
Reasons to buy
+2-in-1 nozzle +Easy-to-remove bowl +Pet-hair brush+Inexpensive
Reasons to avoid
-Shorter battery life than out number one pick

The Black & Decker Max Lithium Flex Hand Vacuum is an update to the original Flex handheld vacuum that we liked so much in the previous version of this list. Except for a dramatically shortened charging time, it's more or less the same vacuum.

What we like about it

Like its predecessor, the Max Flex is durable, powerful, and handy, and its three-stage filtration system does a good job of trapping dust instead of just recirculating it in the air. 

It also comes with handy accessories including a 2-in-1 nozzle, a pet-hair brush, and a crevice tool. But it's the built-in hose — an unusual feature on any handheld vacuum — that really makes it shine for reaching into high or otherwise awkward, hard-to-reach places.

The Max Flex is cordless and has a washable dust cup and filter system to really make vacuuming a hassle-free experience — but we see a few concerns that sometimes you have to reach into the dust cup to really empty it of debris.

Things to note

You really can't beat this vacuum's ability to reach into awkward places, which is why it's here on our list. But we're still waiting for final word about its durability, after noting some user concerns in that department.

Karcher WV1, black and yellow, shown with attachments

4. Karcher WV1 Cordless Handheld Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for windows: keep your windows clean with this specialty vacuum

Specifications
Best for: Windows
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 1.1lb
Battery life: 20 mins
Charge time: 3 hours
Capacity: 3.38oz.
Reasons to buy
+ Smudge free finish + Long battery life 
Reasons to avoid
-For windows only

Yep, it's a vacuum for your windows. The Karcher WV1 Cordless Handheld Vaccum is part squeegee and part vacuum, making it an entirely unique tool for cleaning windows and other smooth surfaces quickly and efficiently. 

What we like about it

This handheld vacuum feels like a cross between a squeegee and a carpet shampooer for your windows, first dispensing a mix of cleaning solution and water, then suctioning it back up. Despite its very specific nature it works very well, and it's a great choice for use on other hard surfaces, like tile. Just don't try to use it on carpet. 

Users are impressed with this handheld, specialty vacuum's battery life and its lightweight feel. Once you're done cleaning all the windows in your house, the walls in your shower stall, and so on, consider giving your car windows a shot as well.

Things to note

Although the Karcher WV1 delivers a great, smudge-free finish for windows and other hard surfaces, it can't clean carpets and other soft surfaces.

best handheld vacuum

(Image credit: Dirt Devil)

5. Dirt Devil Quick Flip 12 V Cordless Handheld Vacuum Cleaner

Best budget handheld vacuum for quick cleanups: a budget vacuum for a quick clean

Specifications
Best for: Budget
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 2lbs
Battery life: 10 Mins
Charge time: 6 hours
Capacity: NA
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Quick-flip attachment+Affordable 
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life

If you don’t want to spend as much on a handheld vacuum as you would on a full-sized one, then you can expect the affordable Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus 12 V Cordless Handheld Vacuum to get the little jobs done well. 

This remains one of the best handheld vacuums you can buy if you're on a budget, and the updated version we've linked to here has a slightly quicker charge time and (very) slightly longer run time than the previous model.

What we like about it

The Dirt Devil Quick Flip Plus is small, light, and easy to handle — the perfect thing for sucking up crumbs from the car seat, vacuuming underneath the radiators, or other small clean-ups that only take a few minutes. It's small, light, and easy to handle. 

This little vacuum gets its name from the handy quick-flip crevice attachment is stored right on the unit; it's great for helping you quickly get into corners and hard-to-reach spots. It also has a powered stair and upholstery-cleaning tool.

If you just want a cheap and efficient vacuum on hand for daily spills, this little vacuum gets the job done.

Things to note

Note that when we say this vacuum is best for quick clean-ups, we mean it. Its maximum run time is about 13 minutes, and after that it'll take several hours to charge. 

That's a couple of precious minutes longer than our top pick for user-friendliness, the Black & Decker Dustbuster CHV1410L Hand Vacuum. But both vacuums are in the same general price range, so if you're looking for a good deal we recommend scoping out the prices for both.

best handheld pet hair vacuum

(Image credit: Bissell)

6. BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Hand Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for pet hair: tame pet hair with the handy pet tool

Specifications
Best for: Pets
Cordless: Yes
Weight: 3lb.
Battery life: 17 mins
Charge time: 6 hours
Capacity: .73L.
Reasons to buy
+Super easy to use+Pet-hair tool included
Reasons to avoid
-On the expensive side

If you have pets, then you'll definitely want to check out the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Lithium Ion Hand Vacuum. It's lightweight and powerful, so it'll easily remove crumbs, dust, and pet hair from around the home. It's also reasonably priced, which cements its status as the best handheld vacuum for pet hair.

What we like about it

The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser's sleek design and quick-charge base make it super-easy to handle — just grab it when you need to do some quick cleaning in focused areas. This Bissell handheld vac is suitable for use on stairs, hair floors and deep-pile carpets. It also works well on kitchen work surfaces and car seats, so there's really no surface it can't cover. 

The best part, though, is the detachable motorized brush that helps remove embedded pet hair from surfaces like upholstery and area rugs.

Things to note

This isn't the least-expensive handheld vacuum in our list. However, it's in the lower half of the price range — and given its great capability for handling pet hair, we feel it represents an excellent value.

best handheld vacuum

(Image credit: Shark)

7. Shark WANDVAC Cord-Free Handheld Vacuum

Best handheld vacuum for aesthetes: sleek design, easy to store and power to boot

Specifications
Best for: Design lovers
Cordless: Y
Weight: 1.4 lbs
Battery life: 10 mins
Charge time: 2.5 hours
Capacity: .8 quart
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Lightweight+Pet and crevice tools
Reasons to avoid
-Higher price point

The sleek design of the Shark WANDVAC means it's very easy to stash in a cabinet, closet or even a drawer — but at the same time, we'd totally understand if you want to leave it out on the counter for all to see. Definitely the best-looking of all the handheld vacuums we evaluated, the award-winning WANDVAC design blends style and ergonomics for a futuristic look we love.

What we like about it

Enough about this vacuum's looks. It's only here because we really like its performance, too. It boasts a high-speed, brushless motor for superior suction, comes with a crevice-cleaning tool and multi-surface tool for cleaning upholstery and pet hair, and empties with the push of a button. 

Things to note

The one real drawbacks are that, at just 10 minutes, this unit's battery life is on the shorter side of average for a handheld vac — and because of its ultra-sleek design, debris-catching dust cup is very small. But for quick jobs it does very well, and looks great while in action and at repose. 

How to buy the best handheld vacuum 

When you're looking to buy the best handheld vacuum for your household, there are a few factors to consider to ensure you make the right choice. They are:

Weight

Cleaning power aside, we consider small size and manageable weight to be the most important feature for these small vacuums. If your handheld is too heavy and bulky, you might as well just get an upright vacuum for its greater cleaning power, and use its hose or attachments for spot-cleaning jobs. Most handheld vacuums weight in at a sprightly 2 or 3 pounds.

Corded vs cordless

Once upon a time, handheld vacuums came with cords that had to be plugged into an electrical outlet. No, seriously. But that appears to be a thing of the past: We actively tried to find a standout corded model that would merit a place on this list, and we came up dry. 

How long do you need to clean?

The omnipresence of cordless handheld vacuums means that they all come with a built-in limiting factor: How long the battery charge lasts. 

A run-time of 10 to 20 minutes is typical, so if you find yourself routinely needing to clean for longer, we recommend looking for a lightweight, easy-to-maneuver upright or stick vacuum cleaner with appropriate accessories for getting into those hard-to-read places you'd usually use a handheld vacuum to reach. 

If portability is high on your list of must-haves, we recommend goings straight to our list of the best cordless vacuums.

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