How to Get Roaches Out of Your Car – Permanently!

Roaches are probably the last pests you would expect to find in your car.

The truth is, those little pesky pests can thrive anywhere with the right temperature and adequate food supply. Especially here in Florida where we get bugs the size of Volkswagens.

There are lots of good hiding places in your car. Especially if you like to eat in your car, you’re likely to attract roaches at some point.

If you don’t get rid of them quickly, it’s easy for one roach to turn into an infestation.

Take a look below for ways to get roaches out of your car permanently.  

Where Roaches Hide in Cars

Roaches hide in dark and warm parts of the car as long as there’s a food supply. They will hide under the door’s interior, seat cushions, floor mats, and under the seats. And if you’re a camper who carries a bed in the car, you create an excellent hide-out for roaches.

Other hiding places for roaches are:

  • Glove compartments
  • The stereo speaker system
  • The center console
  • In the air conditioning unit
  • Under the blankets and clothes in the car trunk

Car doors are also great hide-outs because of the vast open spaces for laying large colonies of eggs. The area is warm, dark, and sometimes moist due to the elements used to make car doors.

They also provide ample protection from extreme weather conditions, especially in winter. This is because the panel is made of soft material that provides warmth and allows roaches to hide and hibernate when it’s cold.

Car doors are also an excellent food source because many people leave food bags and other kinds of edible trash in their pockets.

How Did a Roach Get in Your Car? 

Before looking at how roaches get into your car, it’s essential to understand why a car is a great hide-out. Apart from having many hiding places, cars are an excellent food supply.

Every time you leave empty, greasy cans of food in the car, you attract roaches. Food droppings on the floor and the car seats also attract roaches.

They can eat meats, sweets, starches, decaying matter, paper, and even hair; roaches are hardly selective when eating. Another reason cockroaches thrive in cars is because they have lots of dark, warm areas to hide.

A car’s interior, for example, provides the perfect living conditions for roaches to thrive. So how do they get into your vehicle? 

How to get rid of roaches in your car

Through Carried Items

Backpacks and grocery bags are great carriage items for roaches. Cockroaches hide in the folds, and once you pack the items in the trunk, they come out to find hide-out areas in the vehicle.

The best way to avoid carrying roaches in these bags is to look for plain ones with no folds or look for bright-colored ones to make it easy to spot hidden pests.

Boxes from Garage Sales

If you just bought some items from a yard or garage sale which was infested with roaches, you’re likely to bring them to your car too. Before loading them into the car, be sure to inspect them to avoid bringing in bugs.


Young roaches also hide in clothes right at the folds. They remain calm until you’re settled before they start moving. Adult cockroaches are more sensitive as they will flee as soon as they sense movement.

However, they also hide in folded clothes in drawers or suitcases. If taking the piles of clothes from the drawers and packing them in travel bags, you’ll likely bring them to the car.

Through the Car Trunk

Most car trunks don’t have the perfect seal. They leave gaps where roaches use to access the car. And if your vehicle has a door leading to a cabin, bugs can travel from the interior to the trunk. 

Leaving Car Windows Open

Some cockroach species can fly, so they may fly in if they find your car’s windows or doors open. If your garage is infested with such roaches, it’s best to leave all the windows and doors closed.

Can Roaches Live in a Car?

Amazingly, roaches can comfortably live in a car for years (well, based on their lifespan). Typically, roaches can thrive in any environment as long as they have a 15-120-degree temperature range. This means they can live in a car when it’s hot and cold. Here’s how they thrive in these environments.

Hot Car

Roaches are not heat-resistant, but they can survive in cars with temperatures as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s because cockroaches have exoskeletons that protect their muscles and organs from harm.

Roaches also use this shell for breathing and absorbing moisture from the air. 

When it’s hot, cockroaches hold their breath to prevent heat from drying out their organs hence surviving the scorching sun. However, they can only hold out extreme heat for some time before succumbing to the heat spike.

Since they are cold-blooded insects, they can’t regulate body temperatures like warm-blooded insects. They lack the brown fat that converts into heat when it’s hot. It explains why roaches move to cooler places when it’s scorching. 

You often find them under the seat or in the door panel where temperatures are within a range of 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit, they die in two to seven hours.

If it’s sick or injured, they succumb to heat faster because the exoskeleton doesn’t insulate the organs anymore; instead, it allows heat to penetrate and dry them out.

Cold Car

Roaches can also survive in a cold car up to a specific temperature, 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Some species succumb to freezing environments earlier. 

The American cockroach, for example, can survive in a cold climate with temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Below this range, they die.

A Journal of Insect Physiology shows a roach’s nervous system reacts directly to temperature. If the surroundings are cold, their bodies activate a hibernation state that allows them to survive the weather changes for a few days. It’s referred to as the diapause state.

While in this state, the roach doesn’t grow or reproduce. They also make a nest near a food source so that they don’t starve to death. 

How to Get Rid of Roaches in Your Car

Harboring roaches in a car isn’t just disgusting; it’s unhealthy. Cockroaches carry more than 30 types of bacteria like the disease-causing bacteria salmonella. The bacteria is known to cause diarrhea, typhoid among other infections.

What’s more, roaches leave bodily fluids and skin after shedding. And since cars have such tiny spaces, it’s easy for roaches to turn them into breeding havens. 

A telltale sign of roaches in your car is an unpleasant smell of roach droppings. You may also see a few live roaches crawling in between the crevices of the seat and the door panels. Identifying ways of eliminating them from your car is critical to avoid an infestation. 

Best Ways to Get Rid of Roaches in Your Car

The best way to get rid of roaches in a car is to prevent an infestation. The problem won’t disappear if you’re still feeding them. Roaches are more attracted to sugar, starch, meats, grease, and cheese, so you can:

  • Avoid leaving food wrappers, bags, and other waste in the car
  • Vacuum the trunk occasionally
  • Declutter the vehicle frequently
  • Avoid eating in the car
  • Vacuum the seat covers and floor mats before putting them back

However, if your car already has a cockroach infestation, it’s best to use chemicals. Insecticides are most effective. Here’s how to use them:

Spray Pyrid Aerosol

The chemical is a flushing agent used to remove pests, including roaches. Spray the solution into the corners and crevices of the vehicle. Leave the doors and windows of the car open for 30 minutes to an hour after spraying the chemical.

Apply Novacide

Novacide is an insecticide used to kill adult cockroaches. It contains an insect growth regulator that prevents roaches from laying eggs by sterilizing them. 

Be sure to spray the chemical in the seat gaps, crevices, and floors in a sweeping motion and allow the car to ventilate by leaving the car doors and windows open.

Natural Methods

Natural methods pose a lower risk to your health. However, it’s best to use multiple strategies simultaneously to achieve the best results. Here are some:


You only need a vacuum cleaner, but it’s essential to wear protective gear (face mask, goggles, and gloves). A vacuum cleaner deep cleans your vehicle’s interior thoroughly and is more effective than bug foggers. 

It removes new and old egg cases, both living and dead roaches, as well as loose fecal matter. Look for a handheld vacuum with a HEPA filter to make maneuvering all the gaps and crevices easy. It will also help if it has additional accessories to clean hard-to-reach areas.  

Be sure to park the vehicle in an open space and open all the doors and windows to allow air circulation and roaches to escape when vacuuming.

Since vacuuming doesn’t kill live bugs, don’t leave the vacuum unattended. You can place the vacuum bag in a freezer or a cockroach-proof container.

Sprinkle Boric Acid

The chemical is nearly harmless to humans because they use it to reduce acne, fight fungal infections, or soothe tired eyes. Conversely, it dehydrates roaches causing them to die.

You only need to sprinkle the white powder throughout the vehicle to achieve the desired effects. Although the chemical is safe for human use, you must avoid inhaling it when applying it to car surfaces.

This is because it doesn’t have an inactive chemical ingredient hence remains active indefinitely. Also, when inhaled, it dries out the nose, mouth, and throat and can cause difficulty breathing or nosebleed.

Apply Diatomaceous Earth

This is another roach-killing powder that kills any insect with an exoskeleton by dehydrating it. The powder is mined from fossilized silica shell remains of microscopic sea animals. Its abrasive nature degrades the exoskeleton causing the cockroach to dry and die.

Although Diatomaceous Earth is considered one of the safest chemicals for eliminating roaches, prolonged exposure can cause lung irritation. This is because it contains small amounts of crystalline silica that cause silicosis. 

It’s best to leave it on the surfaces overnight and vacuum the car the next day.

Apply Silica Aerogel

Silica Aerogel has the same effects as Diatomaceous Earth. It contains a non-abrasive, inert substance that absorbs moisture and oils, dehydrating cockroaches. 

In addition, silica aerogel particles have a static charge that sticks to the cockroach’s body. Once stuck, the chemical absorbs the waxy, protective coating, desiccating and killing the cockroach.

Wash the Car

Vacuuming might not be enough, especially if some food or other items are sticking to surfaces. Soda, coffee, and other beverages stick to car seats attracting bugs even after vacuuming. As such, you want to wipe all the surfaces clean using a bucket of soapy water and a sponge.

Clean the interior wiping the pedals, dirty car seats, wheel, handbrake, dashboard, among other surfaces. Be sure to clean the trunk too.

Do Bug Bombs Work?

Yes, they remove roaches, but many experts advise against using them. They’re toxic, flammable, and not as effective as other methods. Bug bombs contain an aerosol insecticide which means the chemical is dispersed into the air and settles on car surfaces. 

Although it seems effective, they only add toxic fumes to surfaces. What’s more, only a little chemical enters the gaps and crevices where roaches hide.

You will probably drive them deeper into the car as they hide from the fog. If you must use this method, be sure to leave the car doors and windows open. Afterward, blast the surfaces with an air conditioner to remove all the chemicals settled in the vents.

Once the roaches are removed and your car is clean, it’s unlikely there will be an infestation. However, if you park the car in a garage, near a garbage can or other space infested with roaches, you might invite them back. 

You can use deterrents that make your vehicle less appealing to roaches like:

  • Garlic
  • Peppermint
  • Clovite
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus 
  • Tea tree oil
  • Onion powder
  • Lemon peels

These ingredients are only deterrents; they’re not 100% effective.

Photo of author

Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.