Complete guide for getting rid of cockroaches and bugs out of car

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Updated on:

November 9, 2023

Bug-Free Zone: How to Get Rid of Cockroaches and Bugs in Your Car Like a Pro

Finding a bug or two inside your car is annoying, but when you find an entire infestation, it becomes downright scary, especially if those bugs are cockroaches. Whether it’s spiders, ants, beetles, cockroaches or other creepy crawlers, you need to know how to get rids of those pests and keep them away. No, you won't have to set your car on fire or drive it off a cliff to get rid of the problem, but you will need to take certain precautions to kill the bugs and keep your car clean.

Once you find an infestation, you need to take appropriate steps to get rid of it and make sure that these pests never return. In most cases, you’ll be able to do the job on your own without the help of an exterminator. The final step in ridding your car of a bug or roach infestation is to thoroughly detail the interior via steam cleaning with a commercial-grade steam cleaner. But before we detail the steps to get rid of cockroaches and other bugs, let’s take a look at how and where they get inside your car.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cockroaches and other bugs can infest your car, and it's important to take appropriate steps to get rid of them and prevent their return.
  • Common ways for insects and cockroaches to enter your car include open windows, carrying infested items, and small openings in the car's structure.
  • Bugs and cockroaches hide in various areas of the car, such as under seats, in door interiors, glove compartments, and carpeting.

Note: For a complete guide on eliminating cockroaches and bugs from your car, refer to the detailed tactics mentioned in the article.

Best products:

Harris Roach Killer, Meguiar's Air Refresher, Raid Fogger

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Table of Contents (Show)

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eating inside the car is one of the reasons to get roaches
Eating inside the car is one of the reasons to get roaches

1. Why You Have a Bug or Roach Problem Inside Your Car

Although most people pest infestations with homes, your car is just as vulnerable because bugs and cockroaches like to be where people are.

1.1 What causes roaches and bugs?

They seek shelter, food, and water, so if they find a way in and have what they need to live, your car becomes home sweet home.

1.2 The most common pests that cause infestations in your car are:

  • Ants, fire ants
  • Roaches, white roaches, german roaches, japanese roaches
  • Spiders
  • Bed bugs
  • Carpet beetles
  • Tiny bugs
  • Carpet beetle

Some pests, like spiders, generally invade one at a time. If you have spiders, chances are you have other insects, too, as spiders need them for their food source. Ants, bed bugs and roaches can invade by the hundreds. The type of bug infestation can depend on your climate and the time of year, as many insects will try to come inside when the weather begins to cool in the fall. On the other hand, some will come inside during the summer to escape the heat. Cockroaches will invade no matter what the conditions are as long as they find  food source and suitable shelter. They can live in freezing cold as well as extreme heat. In fact, cockroaches thrive in cars once they find a way in, but how do they get there?

2. How Insects and Cockroaches Get In Your Car

Insect and cockroaches are opportunists, meaning they will get inside your car in whatever way possible. However, there are some common ways that these pests will get inside your car. Open windows are the most common way, especially for flying insects. However, they can also enter easily if your car has been parked for a long time. Roll up those windows.

Another common route of entry is through items you carry. Remember staying in that bed bug-infested hotel? Those bugs caught a ride in your suitcases. You put them in your trunk or in the back of your SUV, and, voila, they crawled out and made your vehicle their home. Bugs can hide in almost anything we buy, borrow or wear, and their eggs come along, too. Groceries are a huge infestation source too, and of course, they reside in your car before coming into your home.
Small openings in your car allow cockroaches and bugs to access the cabin. These can include:

  • Door gaps
  • Cracks  and holes in the sunroof and windshield
  • Damage in the undercarriage

Leaving your windows open in some situations may also lead to infestation. Let’s say you park your car regularly in a garage and leave the windows open just a bit to allow air to circulate. It can’t do any harm if it’s in your garage, right? Guess again. If your garage is clean, you’ll most likely encounter no problems, but if you have a messy garage with lots of dirt, leaves, and other organic matter where bugs like to hide, those conditions could end up as a breeding ground for cockroaches and other bugs. Leave your windows open, and those pests can easily move into your car.

3. Where Bugs and Cockroaches Hide in Your Car

Determining where pests hide in your car is key to getting rid of them. Find them by thinking like a cockroach or another type of bug.  First off, where is the food, and then where is it safe? Cars have many places where food collects. Those same places are also great for hiding, which is why cockroaches and bugs thrive in this environment.

3.1. What attract roaches in the car

For many bugs, especially cockroaches, the prime area where these pests gather is inside and under seats where food falls and gathers. Crumbs can work their way into the space between the seatback and the seat itself or drop on the floor, along with other trash like wrappers, straws, plastic, pieces of paper, dirt, pet food and anything else tracked in from the outside. Even blankets and pillows that you leave inside can become havens for bugs.

3.2. Common places in car of roaches hiding

Any place that is dark and warm is an ideal hiding place for roaches and other insects. In addition to seats, they also love to hide in door interiors, under floor mats, in carpeting and your car ventilation system. Other typical hiding places include:

  • Glove compartmets
  • The center console and other storage units
  • Stereo system speakers
leaving food in glove box is a reason to get roaches
Leaving food in glove box is a reason to get roaches

Car door panels are a favorite home for bugs for several reasons. They protect pests from the elements and have lots of room to lay eggs. Car panels are also a great food source as people tend to leave food bags and other trash in the pockets.

The carpeting in your car provides a welcoming home for a unique pest called carpet beetles. The larvae of these beetles chomp on natural fibers such as wool and leather. They can destroy wool and leather and irritate your skin if they crawl on you. If you find them in your car, chances are their larvae or eggs are nearby.

4. The Importance of Getting Rid of Roaches in Your Car

While many bug infestations are generally a nuisance, some like carpet beetles and bed bugs present more problems. Cockroaches are in a class by themselves because of the health consequences their presence generates. When they invade your vehicle, they leave behind regurgitated bodily fluids, feces and skin casts, baby roaches, all of which have more than 30 types of bacteria, which can make you and your passengers ill. Whether you have cockroaches or another type of pest, follow these steps to kill and eliminate them from your vehicle.

5. How to Kill Roaches and Bugs in the Car

6. Six Steps to Get Rid of Roaches and Bugs in Your Car    

Of course, you want to get rid of cockroaches in your car as quickly as possible. However, it’s more important to do a thorough rather than a fast job to eliminate pests from your vehicle interior.  Make sure you thoroughly follow each of these steps to ensure that you kill your unwanted guests.

6.1 Thoroughly Inspect the Vehicle Interior

First step, Before you do anything else, thoroughly check the interior of your vehicle for cockroaches and other pests, along with their eggs and larvae. Concentrate on their favorite places, and don’t forget to inspect the small crevices between the seat cushioning and fabric along with the glove compartment, the doors and other compartments where they are likely to hide. Look for dead cockroaches and tiny bugs, bad odors and fecal matter that can look like coffee grounds or specks.

6.2 Clean Your Car

dirty car gives enough food for insects
Dirty car gives enough food for insects

When we say clean your car, we mean to get a garbage bag and take out all of the trash you see by hand. Remove every scrap of paper, food bag, dried crumbs large enough to hold easily unidentifiable decaying matter, hair and anything you think that is remotely organic. These are all food sources for bugs. Remove blankets and any other items in which roaches and bugs can potentially hide and thrive, removing anything you can pick up. Cleaning your vehicle by hand and picking up as much debris as possible will make the next step easier.

6.3 Vacuum Your Car

This second step in cleaning your car will help remove all crumbs, hair, miscellaneous organic material and even microscopic food sources that you won’t be able to see but will still attract cockroaches or other bugs. If you can remove your seats from your vehicle, do so to reach the carpeting more easily. Thoroughly vacuum every nook and cranny, paying particular attention to seams and areas where food can accumulate. Use a long-nosed tool to get inside seats that you can’t easily reach.

Check recommended vacuum for car wash and auto detailing

6.4 Exterminate the Pests

Using controls to kill the bugs or roaches is perhaps the most critical step. You have a choice of using commercially prepared controls or organic solutions to kill pests, their larvae and their eggs. Sprays and bug bombs are the choices for many people, but you may want to consider healthier organic solutions. When combined with steam cleaning, this method is completely effective at killing pests in your vehicle.

Why a Bug Bomb May Not Be the Best Solution
In-car bug bombs and sprays are tempting to use, yet they are flammable, quite toxic and have limited effectiveness because they are aerosols. They disperse into the air and cover everything inside your car. While steam cleaning will remove some of the poison, these chemicals are stubborn, leaving behind residue. In addition, little if any of the aerosol ends up in the nooks and crannies where roaches and bugs hide. Bug bombs and sprays can end up doing the opposite. Instead of getting rid of the pests, they may send them deeper into your vehicle. In addition, some bug bombs contain colored chemicals, which can discolor your upholstery.
If you absolutely must use a bug bomb or spray for your car, only do so if you don’t need to drive your car for a few days and won’t mind the cosmetic damage that it can cause. Blast your car’s air conditioning system to move out any residue in the vents and then have it thoroughly cleaned. These steps are vitally important as breathing in the aerosol is harmful to people and pets.

Best roach killer

Biological Controls are Effective and Healthier

Consider using gel bait to get rid of roaches. Place the bait in or near the trouble spots, under the seats, in glove compartments, trunks, etc., anywhere these pests hide. The beauty of gel bait is that it’s safe for children and pets. Gel baits work by killing the cockroaches that ingest the substance, and then once again when the bugs head back to the colony and infect others when they die and in turn are eaten by other cockroaches.

Another one of the fastest ways to get rid of a bug or roach infestation is to use boric acid, another substance that is safe for pets and children. You must mix boric acid with food crumbs so the bugs will eat both simultaneously. Placing diatomaceous earth around vents, inside the air conditioning unit, glove compartments, and other nooks and crannies is another safe way to eliminate roaches and bugs.

If your car has a really bad infestation, apply insect growth regulator (IGR) in conjunction with bait, as this biologic control attacks cockroach nymphs that may have survived initial baiting but also stimulates your unwanted guests to eat more bait. This method helps eliminate cockroaches in a single generation.

Check our guide for best foggers for roaches and spiders that can be used for car fumigation

6.5 Detail Your Car Interior with Steam Cleaner

car interior cleaning with steamer
Car interior cleaning with steamer after insects annigilation

You’ll need to let the bait or whichever natural control you select sit for a few days so it can do its work. When you clean the interior of your infested vehicle, the most thorough way to rid the bacteria and dirt and the dead bugs left behind is through steam cleaning. This step is especially important if you decide to use chemical poisons to kill the pests, as you’ll want to remove as much residue as possible. You can look at the steps needed to thoroughly clean and detail your car interior here. Make sure to use a tool to steam clean into the air conditioning vents to remove any pests that may be in there.

If you have carpet beetles, you’ll need to pay special attention when steaming the interior. Add a small amount of vinegar to the boiler, which will help kill the beetles as you remove them with the steam extractor tool. Another way to get rid of carpet beetles is to apply a spray with cedar extract to the affected area. You may want to go over carpeting more than once with a steam shampooer/extractor if you have a severe infestation.

Consider detailing or at least thoroughly washing the exterior of your car to make sure that you completely rid your car of roaches. Detailing the exterior will help ensure that the bugs are gone and make it look like new.

6.6 Ensure Odor Removal With Ozone generator

Let’s face it, bugs smell, especially roaches. While steam will remove most of the smell, some may remain because of the depth of where bugs live in vehicles. Finish the job by placing an ozone generator inside the cabin, as the gas will neutralize any remaining odors and ensure that bacteria and viruses are killed.

Check Guide How remove odor smell out of car
Check our smoke smell removal guide out of car

7. Tips to Prevent Cockroaches and Bugs From Returning to Your Vehicle

The best thing you can do is to keep your car clean. Try to avoid eating in the cabin, and if you do, regularly wipe out and vacuum seats and the floor to remove food crumbs. Wipe up spills immediately and even lightly wash the area. Keeping food out of your car will starve them.

Every few weeks, remove the floor mats and thoroughly vacuum the mats and the carpeting below. When you do this task, get a bag and take in all of those items that you have meant to take into the house and take them in. This preventive step will help remove the clutter that cockroaches and other pests love.

7.1 Give Your Car Some TLC

keeping car clean after getting rid of bugs

When you vacuum your car, think about whether it needs exterior washing. Keeping the exterior clean will also discourage bugs from entering, as they won’t become attracted to exterior dirt. Also, put your car on a regularly detailing schedule or car wash service, whether you do it yourself or have it professionally done to keep it spic and span.

7.2 Pay Attention to Where You Park and Inspect Everything

Parking under trees may be nice in the summer as it keeps your vehicle cooler, but leaving your car under trees can invite the bugs back. Parking on dirt has its own problems. We know that you sometimes can’t avoid either situation, so when you have to park in these areas, inspect your vehicles after the fact to ensure that n unwanted visitors have hitched a ride. The same goes for when you bring plants, packages or anything else foreign into your car or trunk. Inspect, inspect and inspect again. Grab any bugs you do see and use preventive measures to make sure they don’t return.

7.3 Close Your Windows

Do you remember how those unwanted friends go there in the first place? Open windows are a big culprit, so keep your windows closed when parked, especially in areas with lots of trees and dirt.

7.4 Use Natural Controls to Discourages Roaches and Bugs

Keep a spray bottle in your car filled with dish soap and water. If you see a pest, especially a roach, spray it. The dish soap will cover the exoskeleton and ultimately suffocate them.

Place natural deterrents like garlic, bay leaves and catnip inside your car, underneath the seat, in the glove compartment and the trunk. Change them every few weeks so they can continue being effective. Also, consider keeping traps, gel baits and boric acid in appropriate places to kill any pests that may linger.


If all else fails and those little buggers keep returning, consider professional fumigation. If you need to go this route, follow it with a thorough steam cleaning to remove residue.

About the Authors

Sabrina Tretyakova
In the world of cleanliness and hygiene, Sabrina Tretyakova stands as a beacon of expertise and dedication. As an ISSA-certified cleaning technician, Sabrina brings a wealth of knowledge and three years of unwavering commitment to her profession. Having served a staggering 1,200 clients
Sergey "Serg" Paskevich
Panama-based detailing pro, proud owner of Car Care Performance Detailing studio in Panama-City. Specializing in Paint Correction, Ceramic Coating, and comprehensive Car Detailing services

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