Best Vacuum Cleaners

Updated November 2020
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Bottom Line

Buying guide for best vacuum cleaners

Vacuuming is a task that few look forward to tackling. However, with the right vacuum cleaner, one that is powerful but not too heavy and adaptable to cleaning a wide range of surfaces, vacuuming can cease being such an unpleasant chore. But there are a few more aspects you'll need to consider before making your purchase.

Whether it's an upright vacuum, a canister vacuum, or a stick vacuum, the best models have a variety of attachments to facilitate cleaning in those tight or difficult to reach locations. A dual motor offers more power while a bagless model can save you money. A high-quality filter or even a HEPA filter will make you a happier homeowner.

If you'd like some tips on the finer points of cleaning or to learn about other features to look for in a vacuum, keep reading. If you are all set to make a purchase, consider one of our favorites.

Types of vacuum cleaners

When it comes to full-size, manual vacuum cleaners for the home, there are three main types: upright, canister, and stick.

Upright vacuums

An upright vacuum cleaner is usually what people picture when they think about vacuums. The vacuum head, motor, and dirt receptacle are housed in a single component that you push in front of you.

Uprights tend to offer the most powerful suction, and work equally well on carpeting and hard flooring.

They’re available in both bagged and bagless models, but don’t usually have as many attachments as other vacuum styles.

Canister vacuums

A canister vacuum cleaner consists of a vacuum head that’s connected to a tank by a long hose. You move the vacuum head in front of yourself, picking up dirt and debris that is sucked into the tank that trails along behind you.

The main benefit of a canister vacuum is that it usually offers a wide range of accessories, allowing you to clean curtains, furniture, walls, and ceilings, in addition to flooring.

Dragging the canister tank behind you can be annoying, though, especially when you have to lug the vacuum up stairs, or around a large room. Because of its bulk, it can also be difficult to find a spot to store a canister vacuum.

Stick vacuums

A stick vacuum cleaner is a lightweight, slim style that utilizes light suction and a rotating brush to pull dirt into a bag or container.

You can choose from corded and cordless models.

Because of their weaker suction, stick vacuums don’t work well as a main vacuum, and typically work best for light cleaning or touch-ups.

Key considerations


A vacuum cleaner’s weight plays a big role in how easy it is to use and how much maneuverability it has. Upright and canister vacuums are usually heavier than stick vacuums, but they often have increased suction power to make up for it.

If you live in a multistory home, it’s particularly important to consider a vacuum’s weight before purchasing – you’ll have to lug it up and down stairs. In most cases, it’s best to look for a vacuum that weighs no more than 17 pounds.

Bagged vs. bagless

Vacuum cleaners typically come in two styles: bagged and bagless.

Bagged vacuums cleaners have a disposable bag that collects the dirt and must be emptied when it’s full. Most vacuums have an indicator light, alerting you when the bag needs to be emptied.

With a bagged vacuum, there is the added expense of purchasing bags. However, it usually holds more dirt and doesn’t release as much dust and debris in the air when emptied.

A bagless vacuum cleaner has a bin or container that collects the dirt the vacuum picks up. You don’t have to pay for any replacement bags, but it’s easy to release dirt and dander in the air when you empty the dirt container, which can be a problem if you have allergies.


A vacuum cleaner is usually equipped with some type of filter to help remove small particles from the air, such as dust, dander, and other allergens. Some filters must be replaced periodically, while others are reusable and must be cleaned every so often. A vacuum with reusable filters will save you money.

It’s also important to pay attention to the type of filter that a vacuum uses. Standard filters provide the lowest level of filtration, while micron filters can remove smaller particles for higher filtration.

However, if you have allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, or there are pets in your home, you may want to invest in a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. It can remove microscopic particles of dirt, dust, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and even tobacco smoke from your home, providing the highest level of filtration.

Expert Tip
If you have the right filters and tools, using a vacuum for dusting is a good use of technology, as this method puts less dust in the air than a feather duster. It can reduce resettling dust over time.

Cord length

Nearly all upright and canister vacuums are corded, as are some stick vacuums. A corded vacuum usually provides more effective suction than a cordless model, but it’s important to pay attention to the length of the cord.

If you have large areas or staircases to vacuum, you need a model with a long enough cord that you won’t have to unplug and replug the machine as you’re working.

In general, look for a vacuum cleaner with a cord that’s at least 25 feet long.


All vacuum cleaners make some amount of noise when they’re in use, but some are noisier than others. If you’re sensitive to noise, or live in an apartment where loud noise may disrupt your neighbors, it’s important to choose a quieter model.

A vacuum’s noise level is reflected in its decibel (dB) level, which is usually included in the product specifications. For a quiet vacuum, look for one with a decibel level between 60 and 65.

A vacuum cleaner with a decibel level of 70 dB or greater will be fairly noisy.

Other features

Depending on your home’s layout and other details, there are certain special features that may make a vacuum cleaner better suited to meet your needs.

  • Many vacuum cleaners come with accessories, which allow you to clean more effectively. For example, you may get a narrow tool for tight crevices, a round brush for dusting surfaces, a smaller brush for upholstery, and other tools.

  • A vacuum cleaner with pile adjustment allows you to change the height of the brush roll, accommodating your carpet’s pile thickness for easier and more effective cleaning.

  • If you plan to use a vacuum cleaner on hard flooring, a model with a bare floor option is a good choice. The setting usually allows you to turn off the brush, so hard flooring isn’t scratched or otherwise damaged during cleaning.

  • Some vacuum cleaners feature a retractable cord, so it’s easier to put away.

For your safety
Plug equipment directly into an approved power source. Plugging one adaptor into another may not have overcurrent protection and could cause electrical injury and fire.

Vacuum cleaner prices

Vacuum cleaners are available at a variety of price points, but depending on the model, you can typically expect to spend between $50 and $400.

For a basic upright vacuum with adequate suction, expect to pay $80 to $120.

For a higher-end, upright model with a lightweight design and powerful suction, you will likely pay between $180 and $390.

Tips and tricks

  • When you vacuum, work in both directions. If you only move the machine in one direction, you may miss some of the dirt, dust, and debris, so be sure to work up and down, as well as side to side.

  • Dust the surfaces in a room before you vacuum. That way, you won’t have to vacuum a second time just to remove any dust and dirt that you shake loose with your rag.

  • It’s important to change or clean your vacuum cleaner’s filter regularly. It won’t effectively remove the allergens from home if it’s clogged or dirty. If your vacuum employs a HEPA filter, change it every six months.

  • Don’t wait until your carpet or floor looks dirty to use your vacuum cleaner. Dust, debris, and allergens can actually build up under carpeting and other items before you actually see any visible dirt, which may trigger allergies.

  • Vacuums with reusable filters can save you money in upkeep costs.

Expert Tip
Vacuum cleaners are often sold on bells and whistles, but particles in vs. particles out is the key metric.


Q. What’s the difference between a single-motor and a dual-motor vacuum cleaner?

A. A single-motor vacuum cleaner uses one motor to power both the brush and vacuum. A dual-motor vacuum cleaner has a separate motor for the brush and another for the vacuum, which provides increased power and more effective suction.

Q. What type of vacuum cleaner works best for pet hair?

A. Some vacuum cleaners are designed specifically for pet hair, and feature tangle-free brushes and counter-rotating heads that are extremely effective in removing pet hair from carpeting and furniture. In general, bagged models tend to work better because pet hair can easily escape when you clean out a bagless dirt container.

Q. How often do you have to change the bag in a bagged vacuum cleaner?

A. It depends on your vacuum cleaner model and how much dirt and debris it picks up. Many vacuums have an indicator light that tells you when the bag is full and requires changing. If your model doesn’t have a light, check the bag to see how full it is, or pay attention to the suction, which will weaken if the bag’s too full. It’s best to change the bag before it’s completely full – try to catch it when it’s between halfway and three-quarters full.

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