What’s the Difference Between Truck-Mounted and Portable Carpet Cleaning?

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated July 6, 2022
 beige and grey bedroom with carpet
Photo: bmak/Adobe Stock


  • Portable carpet cleaning typically costs about $25–$75 per room.

  • Truck-mounted carpet cleaning equipment is powerful.

  • Portable carpet cleaning equipment is lower-priced and uses your electricity.

  • Carpet cleaned with truck-mounted equipment gets cleaner and dries faster.

  • Portable carpet cleaners are ideal for people in apartments.

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Maybe you never knew to ask if the carpet cleaning company you hired uses a truck-mounted system or portable equipment, but some differences can impact the cost and effectiveness of your carpet cleaning service. A carpet cleaning system where the equipment is permanently installed in a van with hoses and attachments brought into the home is known as a truck-mounted carpet cleaning system. In contrast, portable carpet cleaning systems are units brought into the house in their entirety.

"Although portable carpet cleaning may cost less, the outcome is also not as clean, dry, and scent free as truck-mounted carpet cleaning,” said Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dustbusters, a family-owned and operated janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “If your home has light foot traffic, portable carpet cleaning may be the way to go. Otherwise, truck-mounted carpet cleaning is more effective and may be more cost efficient, depending on the company." 

Local carpet cleaners use a truck-mounted system more frequently. But each carpet cleaning method has its pros and cons, so read on to avoid common carpet cleaning mistakes.

Truck-Mounted Carpet Cleaning System Pros and Cons ​

Customers often prefer truck-mounted carpet cleaning equipment because it provides more thorough cleanings and has a quicker drying time than portable equipment.

Truck-Mounted Carpet Cleaning Pros

These systems can heat water hotter than portable types, which gets you a more thorough cleaning because hot water helps activate the cleaning solution and breaks down the dirt, allergens, and odors embedded in the carpet. Truck-mounted equipment is also more powerful than portable carpet cleaners. This additional power can pull more gunk out of your carpet and helps speed moisture removal after a cleaning.

Another bonus of truck-mounted carpet cleaning is that the heavy equipment is already set up, so the crew just needs to pull hoses into the home. This speeds up the time it takes to get your carpets freshly cleaned.

Truck-Mounted Carpet Cleaning Cons

Truck-mounted carpet cleaning usually costs more than portable equipment because the equipment is bigger and more expensive to run. Carpet cleaning costs on average $25 to $75 per room, with truck-mounted jobs coming in at the higher end of the range. 

In addition, pros will run hoses through your home via an open door. If you’re concerned about conditioned air (or your pet) escaping or stink bugs working their way in, make sure your company has door guards. Here are more questions to ask when hiring a carpet cleaner.

Portable Carpet Cleaning Pros and Cons​

professional carpet cleaner using portable cleaner
Photo: Africa Studio /Adobe Stock

In some homes, portable carpet cleaning systems will be your only option in addition to regular carpet maintenance. Portable systems are a good option for various reasons.

Portable Carpet Cleaning Pros

Suppose you live in an upper-floor apartment or your house is otherwise challenging to reach from the street. In that case, a portable carpet cleaner is your best bet for removing stains and cleaning dingy carpets, because hoses are only so long and can lose water pressure and suction the further they’re stretched. If you live in a swanky penthouse suite or fourth-floor walk-up, ask for the portable option.

“Most truck-mounted professionals have enough hose to reach as far as the sixth floor of a hotel, apartment, or commercial building,” Biddle said.

Portable carpet cleaners near you come inside, and the technician can close any doors behind them. This makes it a more secure option if you’re afraid of the cat getting out or you live in a second-floor unit and the condo association won’t allow you to leave the door unlocked. You can also get great results from a portable carpet cleaner since newer mobile models can heat water efficiently and have powerful suction features to pull dirt and water out of the carpet.

Carpet cleaning with a portable machine is generally less expensive than using a truck-mounted cleaning system. You can expect to pay on the lower end of the price range for carpet cleaning, at about $25 to $75 per room. Many portable carpet cleaners will plug into your wall outlets, so you’re directly paying for electricity to operate them rather than indirectly paying for the company’s fuel to use truck-mounted equipment.

Portable Carpet Cleaning Cons

While professional carpet cleaning machines are powerful, the portable ones aren’t going to be as strong as the massive equipment mounted on a truck. This means you won’t get quite as thorough of a cleaning. Your technician might have to go over the same area a couple of times to get stubborn stains out, which can wear out carpet over time.

The carpet cleaning process also takes longer with portable machines because the technician has to unload all the equipment and set it up inside. Because the machine isn’t as powerful, drying will take more time as well. Your technician will likely set up fans and dehumidifiers to help speed up the process.

Truck-Mounted Carpet Cleaning vs. Portable Carpet Cleaning 

Carpet cleaning comparison of truck-mounted versus portable, with portable being more upstairs-friendly

See how truck-mounted carpet cleaning services compare to portable carpet cleaning equipment when they go head-to-head.


Portable carpet cleaning equipment comes with a lower price tag than carpet cleaning powered by truck-mounted equipment. You can expect to pay about $0.20 per square foot for carpet cleaning with portable equipment. Truck-mounted services can reach $0.40 per square foot.

Least expensive: Portable carpet cleaning

Carpet Life Span

The edge for longevity goes to carpet cleaned with truck-mounted equipment. That’s because truck-mounted equipment is more powerful, so the technician doesn’t have to go over the same spot multiple times, increasing wear on the carpet. Less heavy equipment is also dragged over the carpet since the technician pulls hoses through the home, reducing carpet wear. Truck-mounted equipment can also remove more dirt and moisture from the carpet, which can prolong its life span.

Longer-lasting: Truck-mounted carpet cleaning

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