Practical Caravan’s expert, James Stanbury, tests nine lightweight portable vacuum cleaners to find the best for keeping your caravan clean on holiday. If you have dogs or children, or you like to use wilder campsites, you’ll be particularly keen to find a portable vac that really does the job. 

In the past these products have been pretty disappointing, fizzling out after just a short cleaning session and frequently needing recharging. Other issues were the units’ low suction power, clogged up paper filters and the tiny capacity to hold dust, fluff and other debris. Using such a machine on anything wet used to be completely out of the question. Not any more.

Thankfully, technology has really stepped up since those bad old days and now it’s well worth taking another look at these miniature wonders.

Much credit must go to James Dyson, the inventor of the cyclone vacuum cleaner. His innovation and commitment has challenged other manufacturers to raise their game too. This has filtered down from domestic machines to have a positive effect on a range of small portable vacuum cleaners, too. Many of them now cope with both wet and dry conditions. They’re far more powerful than previous generations of portable vacs. Some even have washable filters, so you won’t have to buy a stock of replacement paper-like filters and then hunt around for them before your caravan holidays. Now, some mini vacuum cleaners are made by well known power tool manufacturers, who make excellent battery packs that you can use to power a range of tools. 

The nine rival portable vacuum cleaners up against each other in our group test are: Hitachi Koki R18DSL, Sealey CPV144, Hoover Jovis Turbo Power SJ120CB, Argos 406/4815, Dyson DC44, Ryobi CHV182M, Halfords 12v Car Vacuum Cleaner, Makita BCL180Z, Draper 75033. Each one gets its own separate accessory review here. 

In this test, our main two criteria are suction and battery life. But we also factor in the cleaning attachments supplied, whether wet usage is possible, how frequently the unit needs emptying during use, and whether the filter can be washed or needs replacing once choked. As usual, value for money remains high on our judging agenda.

In this review we take a close look at the own-brand offering from the popular high street car accessory store Halfords.

Halfords 12v Car Vacuum Cleaner

A 12v vac may seem old hat compared to the cordless models, but they still make a lot of sense. Not having to include a battery pack, and charger, brings down the price and means gutsier motors can be used. It costs less than £30, but still manages to be 60-70% as powerful as the Sealey test winner. We like the 4m-long power lead, washable filter, wet and dry usage and the squeegee tool.