Shopping for a vacuum isn't always a clear-cut experience. The myriad of options available can be downright confusing. You can spend nearly $1,000 for a popular Dyson model -- or $50. In the end, does a high-ticket vacuum clean that much better than a low or mid-priced vacuum? It all depends.
ZDNet's roundup of best vacuum cleaners brings you a range of models and prices to keep your home's flooring and upholstery clean and dust-free.
Bissell 2033M Featherweight Stick Lightweight Bagless Vacuum
Lowest-priced, Amazon's bestseller
Type: Lightweight stick vacuum | Power: 520W | Weight: 3.79lbs | Features: Bagless, corded, standard filtration, comes with a crevice tool, one-year warranty
For a lightweight, everyday vacuum, Bissell's 2033M is a good option. It's easy to clean around the home, thanks to its weight, which is less than four pounds. Storage is easy, even in the smallest of spaces. You can use the stick vacuum on bare floors, carpets, area rugs, upholstery and anywhere else you can think of. It can break down into three types of vacuuming tools: stick, hand and stair vacuum. Add the crevice tool, and you can reach every nook and cranny with minimal effort.
Extremely lightweight at less than 4lbs
Bagless, not requiring the purchase of any filters or bags
Affordable at under $40
Corded for unlimited power without having to recharge
No roller brush
Suction can be lacking when vacuuming a thicker carpet
Miele Classic C1 Pure Suction Canister Vacuum Cleaner
Professional-grade, most durable
Type: Canister vacuum with power cable | Power: 1200W | Weight: 11.4lbs | Features: Cleans bare floors and carpets, requires bags, six settings, seven-year warranty on motor/casing and one year on parts and labor
Miele is made in Germany, and the company has been producing powerful, reliable vacuums for years. The C1 is on the traditional side -- it requires vacuum bags and doesn't come with flashy features such as LED displays or clear parts. However, the vacuum's suction power is one of the best. It can be too much when you're vacuuming a deep pile carpet, but you can adjust the strength by turning the six-setting rotary dial. You'll find that the Miele will work well on carpet, bare and wood floors. The head is fitted with rubber wheels and a metal sole plate to prevent floor scratches.
Strong suction from 1200W of power
Cleaning radius of 29.5ft
It comes with a dust brush, upholstery and crevice tool
Requires replacement bags
The powerful suction can make it a struggle to move the head across the carpet
Eureka NEU182A PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Type: Bagless upright vacuum | Power: 960W | Weight: 10lbs | Features: Five height adjustments, 4.1L capacity, 25-foot cord, seven-foot overhead cleaning, one-year limited manufacturer warranty
Eureka's upright bagless vacuum makes cleaning your floors and carpets effortless. Best of all, you won't have to stop too often to empty out the canister -- the extra-large canister can hold over four liters of dirt. Cleaning up the canister is easy. There's no need for vacuum bags. All you need is to give it a rinse with warm water and let it air dry. Eureka includes three attachments for specialized cleaning. They fit right on the vacuum, so you don't have to worry about misplacing one when you need it most.
Crevice tool, dusting brush, and upholstery tool are included and stored on the vacuum
An extra-large canister holds over 4L of debris
Handle can adjust to five heights
Nozzle telescopes up to seven feet high for overhead cleaning
Better for hard floors than carpet
Some customers complain of how loud the model can be
Dyson V11 Animal Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Best cordless option
Type: Lightweight stick/handheld vacuum | Power: 125,000rpm creating 185 Air Watts | Weight: 6.68lbs | Features: Cordless, bagless, up to 60 minutes of run time, filtration traps 99.99% of particles
Dyson's V11 is the smartest, most powerful cordless vacuum to date. It's a great option for households with pets that need the extra suction power to clear pet hair. According to Dyson, it has twice the suction power than other cordless vacuums and an upgrade of 20% more suction power than the previous Cyclone V10 vacuum model. It includes a Dynamic Load Sensor (DLS) system that can automatically sense surfaces to change motor speeds, depending on whether you're cleaning bare floors or carpets. Although it handles most cleaning tasks automatically, you can control the suction power by choosing from auto, boost and Eco mode.
The most powerful suction of all cordless vacuums
A high-torque cleaning head can deep clean the thickest carpets
Filtration traps 99.99% of particles
Easy, push-button disposal of canister debris
It retails for $749.99
Shark NV356E S2 Navigator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum
Heavy-duty but lightweight
Type: Upright corded vacuum | Power: 1150W | Weight: 13.7lbs | Features: Canister capacity of 2.2 quarts, HEPA filtration traps up to 99.99% of particles
To start off, the Shark NV356E S2 Navigator is the best vacuum for households where allergies and asthma can be an issue. The entire vacuum is sealed and integrated with HEPA filtration so that 99.99% of particles are captured -- and remain in the vacuum until disposal. This alone is critical to keep allergies and respiratory issues to a minimum. Shark's powerful suction is excellent for deep cleaning all floor surfaces. However, vacuums with heavy suction often drag on carpets and rugs, making them difficult to maneuver. The S2 Navigator glides easier, even when deep cleaning. Plus, it's built with Advanced Swivel Steering which allows the vacuum to pivot effortlessly for better control.
Powerful suction for deep cleaning pet hair and dirt from bare floors or carpet
A fully-sealed HEPA filtration system keeps 99.99% captured
The canister holds up to 2.2 quarts of dirt
Swivel design for easier control
Other cleaning heads and accessories are available but at an extra cost
Bissell Zing Canister, 2156A Vacuum
Best canister option
Type: Bagless corded dual-action vacuum | Power: 1140W | Weight: 10.23lbs | Features: Two-liter canister, washable and reusable filters, 15-foot power cord
Bissell Zing's canister vacuum is a great option for smaller homes or apartments. The retractable, 15-foot power cable lets you move around most average-sized rooms without having to drag the canister around the entire time. When it is time to change rooms, the large wheels and integrated carrying handle make it easy to move the vacuum. The Zing may be small, but it has good suction and cyclonic action to collect most dirt and debris. Best of all, the filters are washable, so you don't have to spend money over time replacing them.
Portable size is easy to store
Washable, reusable filters
Cyclonic cleaning action
It comes with a multi-surface head for bare floors and carpet, as well as a dust brush and crevice tool
Some complaints that the multi-surface head scratches hardwood floors
Dirt Devil Endura Max Vacuum Cleaner
Never loses suction
Type: Dual action, bagless upright corded vacuum | Power: 960W | Weight: 11lbs | Features: 10-foot overhead reach, includes turbo tool, 2-in-1 dusting brush and crevice tool, three-level adjustment for floor height
Most vacuums will start losing power when the filters need cleaning or replacing. Dirt Devil has figured out how to bypass this common issue, promising a maximum loss of 5%, which is barely noticeable. It's possible due to the vacuum model's patented three-stage filtration system that captures varying levels of fine dirt and debris. Keeping the Endura Max running well is easy -- simply dump out the canister's contents by pressing on the release button while you're over a trash bin. Occasionally remove the foam sleeve and the inner pleated filter that catch fine dirt and give them a good shake to get rid of most of the debris or a rinse if they're extra soiled.
Minimal loss of suction
10-foot overhead reach is the longest of the models reviewed
Turbo tool deep cleans and lifts dust, pet hair and debris from all surfaces
The vacuum roller continues to spin in place, even when using the nozzle, which could cause damage if left on a carpeted surface
A three-stage replacement filter can be pricey
How did we choose these products?
In the end, choosing a vacuum is all about the suction power. We looked for vacuums that had the most customer reviews for their ability to powerfully clean surfaces. Versatility was essential -- only vacuums that could serve double duty by cleaning bare surfaces such as wood and tile, as well as carpet or rugs, made the cut.
Another important factor behind why we chose the vacuums that made the list was maintenance ease. With the exception of the Miele, all the vacuums selected are bagless. They're more cost-effective because you don't need to buy vacuum bags regularly. Instead, you simply drop the contents into the wastebin when you're done. Plus, the canisters (and in many cases, the filters) could be rinsed out if they appear to be extra dirty.
Other factors considered were how easy the vacuum is to handle and store. We chose lighter-weight vacuums for better control and present you with a variety of cordless, corded, handheld, upright and canister-style models.
Which is the right one for you?
When choosing a vacuum model, think about what the most common use will be. Will you be moving up and down some stairs? Is the vacuum primarily for carpeted flooring or hardwood floors? Will you be vacuuming crevices, ceilings and upholstery as well?
If you're in search of a light-use vacuum for quick clean-ups and bare-floor touch-ups, the Bissell Featherweight Stick or Dyson V11 Animal are the easiest to operate. For pet hair or homes where allergies are an issue, Dyson's V11 or Shark S2 Navigator both offer a high level of filtration, trapping 99.99% of particles.
If the vacuum is mainly for carpets, the upright models are the best. The Dirt Devil, Shark and Eureka uprights can all provide a deep clean for the shaggiest of carpets. For a flexible vacuum that can handle bare floors or carpeting and can move around and store easily, the Miele C1, Bissell Zing or Dyson Animal are all excellent options.
Does a vacuum with a big motor mean it has more suction?
You may notice we don't mention amps or motor specs in our best vacuum cleaners guide. That's because more motor power doesn't mean a vacuum can deep clean better. The amperage of a vacuum cleaner motor only measures electrical current, not how well it performs. Suction power and overall cleaning performance is based on the vacuum's airflow, which relies on good filtration and the vacuum cleaner's design.
Cordless vs. corded vacuums: Which one is best?
Tech improvements are making cordless vacuums just as powerful as a corded upright. However, they still have power limitations. The Dyson V11 Animal is the top-of-the-line cordless vacuum with double the suction power of all its competitors. However, the battery is only capable of running for 60 minutes maximum, with shorter time results reported from customers. Plus, recharging it can take up to five hours.
If you need a vacuum that can deep clean the entire house over an hour of time or longer, a corded vacuum is still the best option. For faster cleanups, a cordless vacuum is easy to handle and may be all you need.
Do I need a HEPA filter for my vacuum?
If you're prone to allergies or have other respiratory issues, running the vacuum can trigger them as it blows particles around. A sealed vacuum with HEPA filtration may be the best option to ensure you're trapping allergens such as dust mites, pet hair, dander, pollen and more without releasing them into the air.
Should I buy a canister or upright vacuum?
Both types of vacuums can deliver a deep clean on both carpets and bare floors, but a canister vacuum is usually easier to control. Upright vacuums are one unit on wheels and typically can only move in one straight direction. A canister vacuum consists of a long handle with a cleaning head attached to a canister on wheels. It gives you more freedom to move around and roam without having to carry around the entire unit as you clean.
Are there alternatives worth considering?
There aren't many viable alternatives to a vacuum when you need a good cleaning of your floors. Robotic vacuums are helpful, but they have their limitations. They only work on one level, which could pose a problem if you live in a multi-story home. While they can be useful, they're best for maintenance and as an accompaniment to a quality vacuum -- unless all you need is a quick sweep.
Some robots worth checking out include: