The performance was good, but the battery life was weak. It only ran for 10 minutes, with a decline in suction at around 8 minutes, not long enough to clean a car or other more involved uses.
Its battery only lasted 14 minutes, and the motor started to fade at 11 minutes. With that power, the spinning brushes did fine with fur—but only picked up around 52 percent of the dirt we laid out.
Many of our recommendations, including our best overall, the Dyson V7 Car+Boat, have been discontinued since we wrote this guide. We plan to test new models, and will update this guide with our reviews once they're available.
"The right tool for the right job" is an adage that's especially applicable when cleaning your house. For example, if you're trying to use a full-sized vacuum in a confined space, it can feel like you're reenacting the clumsy "before" scene in a commercial that promises there's gotta be a better way. In this case, that better way is a handheld vacuum.
Battery-powered, lightweight, and maneuverable, these vacuum cleaners are the perfect solution to blast that hard-to-reach dirt with extraordinary suction power.
To find the best, we've rounded up the top-selling handheld and car vacuums and put them to the test in our labs. We paid close attention to how well they sucked up dirt without a power cord, measured the battery life, and evaluated if they were easy to use.
Our extensive testing initially found the Dyson V7 Car+Boat is the best handheld vacuum. Unfortunately, Dyson has discontinued the model and won't be releasing something new until summer 2022, so our best recommendation—which also happens to be a great value—is the Black and Decker BDH2000PL (available at Amazon).
Black & Decker BDH2000PL
We think the Black+Decker Pivot 20V is a great buy if you're looking for a dedicated cordless handheld vacuum.
One of the great design features is a pivot joint that lets you bend the unit 200º. This literal flexibility lets you turn the Pivot into a hook to get cobwebs off the tops of cabinets, or fold it up for easy storage. However, its big body and lack of a hose make its hard to maneuver under car seats. The crevice and dusting tool are permanently attached, too.
We clocked the Pivot's run time at 11-and-a-half minutes—third in endurance of all the vacuums we tested. It came in second place during our pickup test, capturing 70 percent of the dirt we laid out. Considering that it only costs around $70, that's an impressive showing.
At the end of the day, if you need help cleaning up small messes in tight spaces, but don't need a top-of-the-line tool, the Pivot is a safe choice.
Testing these little suckers and picking a winner was a three-step process. The first step consisted of weights and measurements. Out of the box, we put on the heaviest attachment and placed the vacuum on a scale. We then measured the "reach" of each vacuum: how far it extends from your hand for cleaning.
Next came the performance tests. We measured battery life and pickup of dirt, crumbs, and pet hair. To make everything fair, every vacuum was allowed to charge for 24 hours before and after the battery test. If a powered brush head was available, it was attached. All tests were performed on the highest power settings.
Finally, we took our top picks and brought them out of the lab and into a dirty car. We put uncooked rice on the floor to simulate debris like tracked-in road salt and discarded snacks. We stuffed pet hair between the seats, and scattered dirt all over the trunk.
We also judged our top picks based on how easy it was to change attachments, and how balanced each vacuum felt in hand during cleaning.
Other Handheld Vacuums We Tested
Black & Decker HNV215BW52
Do you ever have spills at your home that are too small for a mop, but too big for a paper towel? Well, that's where the Black+Decker HNV215BW52 comes in.
Retailing for around $40, this mini wet-dry vac mastered both. During our dirt pickup test, it captured 60 percent of the dirt, placing it in the top half of our roundup. And it picked up water, too, so you won't have to go through a roll of paper towels. This was the lightest handheld we tested, tipping the scales at only 1.5 pounds.
So, why didn't it win? Well, its battery life was weak. It only ran for a total of 10 minutes, and we noticed a decline in suction at around the 8 minute mark. That might be fine for a small spill, but that's not nearly long enough for cleaning a car or any of the other more involved uses for a compact vacuum.
The Black+Decker CHV1410L is great for quick cleanups in the kitchen. Like the Pivot, its crevice tool and dusting brush are attached at the tip.
It only weighs 2.8 pounds, and can stand up while charging on your countertop. During our testing, the CHV1410L picked up 62 percent of the debris we left out for it—8 percent less than the Pivot. We say this model is good for light dusting and crumb cleanup, but it can't handle any heavy-duty work.
The pricey cordless Shark IonFlex 2X DuoClean converts from a stick vacuum. It can clean for up to 26 minutes with all the bells and whistles engaged, and comes with two removable, rechargeable batteries.
Unfortunately, as a hand vacuum, the IonFlex isn't very good. With a motorized brush head attached, it tips the scales at 7.7 pounds—so your hand will get tired long before the batteries run out. It also costs more than most stick vacuums we've tested, and its Pet Multi Tool doesn't have spinning brushes, powered or otherwise.
The IonFlex also comes with a large brush head that's normally found on full-sized vacuums—good for big messes, but not for the sort of spills you'll pick up with a hand vac.
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser sits in the middle of all the performance rankings, and only costs $50. Its battery only lasted 14 minutes, and the motor started to fade at the 11-minute mark. With that power, the spinning brushes did fine with fur—but only picked up around 52 percent of all the dirt we laid out for it.
With a maximum weight of 3.3 pounds, you'll be able to tote the Pet Hair Easer around without fear of fatigue. Plus, every purchase means a donation to Bissell's pet rescue foundation.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.