Following the introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) for infants, surveillance studies on Streptococcus pneumoniae carriage have proven valuable for monitoring vaccine effects. Here, we compared molecular versus conventional diagnostic methods in prospective cross-sectional surveillances in vaccinated infants in the Netherlands. Nasopharyngeal samples (n = 1169) from 11- and 24-month-old children, collected during autumn/winter 2010/2011 and 2012/2013, were tested by conventional culture for S. pneumoniae. DNA extracted from all culture-plate growth was tested by qPCR for pneumococcal-specific genes (lytA/piaB) and selected serotypes (including PCV13-serotypes). qPCR significantly increased the number of carriers detected compared to culture (69% vs. 57%, p < 0.0001). qPCR assays targeting vaccine-serotypes 4 and 5 proved non-specific (results excluded). For serotypes reliably targeted by qPCR, the number of serotype-carriage events detected by qPCR (n = 709) was 1.68× higher compared to culture (n = 422). There was a strong correlation (rho = 0.980; p < 0.0001) between the number of serotypes detected using qPCR and by culture. This study demonstrates the high potential of molecular methods in pneumococcal surveillances, particularly for enhanced serotype detection. We found no evidence of a hidden circulation of vaccine-targeted serotypes, despite vaccine-serotypes still significantly contributing to invasive pneumococcal disease in unvaccinated individuals, supporting the presence of a substantial S. pneumoniae reservoir outside vaccinated children.