Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2020
If vacuum cleaning is at the bottom of the list for chores you like to do, you might not have the right tool. Use our shopping guide and product recommendations to make vacuum cleaning fun again.
Vacuum Cleaners That Actually Make You Want to Clean
Whether you live in a sprawling mansion or a tiny apartment, having a good vacuum cleaner on hand can make your life much easier—and your living quarters more pleasant.
With so many makes and models vying for your attention, however, it's hard to know which product to select.
At BestReviews, we strive to present consumers with honest product reviews that help them make wise buying decisions. To that end, we tested a group of well-reputed vacuum cleaners in our laboratory and amassed our findings. We never accept free samples from manufacturers, as we want to be the bias-free source for product information that you turn to again and again.
The result of our research and diligent testing is the product recommendation matrix you see at the top of this page and the vacuum cleaner shopping guide that follows.
Vacuum Cleaner Types: Upright Vaccums
The first thing you'll want to determine is which type of vacuum cleaner is right for you. Let's take a look at three of the most common varieties: upright, canister, and handheld vacuums.
Upright Vacuum Cleaners
An upright vacuum cleaner is your classic one-piece model. To use it, you grip the handle at the top and push/pull it along the floor.
- Due to its wide cleaning path, an upright vacuum picks up lots of dirt with each pass.
- You can clean large areas quickly with an upright vacuum cleaner. (Canister and handheld vacuums take much longer.)
- Most uprights have rotating brushes, or "roller heads," built in. These help lift dirt from deep within the pile of your carpet.
- Although taller, upright vacuum cleaners are more compact than canister types. They require little storage space.
- Upright vacuum cleaners tend to be heavy, and some are harder to maneuver than others.
- You need a hose and attachments to successfully tackle corners, stairs, and some other tight areas with an upright. Fortunately, most uprights include at least some attachments to help you with these tasks. These attachments may include:
- Hose/wand combination
- Crevice tool
- Upholstery tool
Vacuum Cleaner Types: Canister Vaccums
Canister Vacuum Cleaners
A canister vacuum cleaner consists of a cleaning head and hose attached to the main body, or "canister."
- Canister vacuum cleaners generally include a range of attachments that allow you to access tight corners.
- Some people find it easier to vacuum stair steps and under furniture with a canister vacuum cleaner.
- Canister vacuums are generally less powerful than uprights when it comes to accessing deeply embedded dirt.
- Vacuuming an entire room with a canister vacuum takes more time than it would with an upright.
Vacuum Cleaner Types: Handheld Vaccums
Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
A handheld vacuum is a corded or cordless appliance used to tackle small jobs around the home.
- If you don't feel like dragging out your upright to clean a small mess, a handheld vacuum offers a convenient option.
- You don't need a lot of arm strength to operate this kind of vacuum.
- This type of vacuum is made for spot cleaning only. It cannot replicate the effectiveness of a full-size model.
- Cordless handheld vacuums often have extremely short battery lives.
Although canister and handheld vacuum cleaners both have their place, neither would probably suffice as your one and only vacuum. As such, we'll be focusing on the most thorough of your three choices—upright vacuums—for the remainder of this shopping guide.
Vacuum Cleaner Features to Consider
Bagged Versus Bagless
There was a lot of hype over bagless vacuum cleaners when they first launched, but the truth is, no significant difference exists between the cleaning power of bagged and bagless varieties.
- Bagless vacuums may cause a bit of spillage when you empty them, but they require no replacement bag purchases, so you save money in the long run. And because you're producing less bag waste, these models are friendlier to the environment.
- Bagged vacuum cleaners are less messy to empty because the dirt remains contained within the bag. For the same reason, they're likely to cause fewer problems for people with allergies because dust doesn't scatter when you empty them.
Vacuum cleaners suck in air to remove dirt from floors, but that air releases back into the atmosphere. Without any kind of filter, a vacuum cleaner would be shooting out air filled with dust, dander, and more.
HEPA filters are the gold standard of vacuum filters, as they're designed to trap 99.97 percent of dust, dander, pollen, and mold spores inside a vacuum cleaner.
These filters are located inside the vacuum cleaner, adjacent to the blower that pushes air back out. Decent HEPA filters are mounted with a rigid frame that's held in place by rubber gaskets. If not mounted this way, the air may simply blow past or around the filter, allowing dust back into the room.
If you or any of your family members suffer from allergies, we highly recommend a model with a HEPA filter.
Other Vacuum Cleaner Features
Ease of Use
Ease of use may be more important to some people than others. However, nobody wants a machine that's awkward to maneuver and a pain to carry up and down stairs.
Some vacuum cleaners have special features that are designed to enhance their ease of use. These features may include:
- Ball Technology: This tech takes the place of regular wheels. It's seen in some Dyson models, and it's purported to make steering a breeze.
- Adjustable Handle: This makes the vacuum easier to manipulate for people of varying heights.
- Crevice and Dusting Tools: These attachments help you access hard-to-reach areas.
- Easy Bin Emptying: Some bagless models allow you to release the bin with the press of a button.
- Self-Adjusting Roller Heads: Depending on the type of flooring/depth of carpet you're dealing with, these heads automatically adjust for optimal cleaning.
The size of your vacuum cleaner can make a big difference when you're trying to store it. If you want a vacuum you can store in a cupboard that isn't very tall, you may find that some uprights are too large vertically.
Size varies between different makes and models, but most upright vacuum cleaners measure 13 to 16 inches wide and 40 to 50 inches tall. That said, you can find compact models that measure somewhere in the region of 30 inches tall. These smaller models are ideal for people with limited storage space.
Some vacuum cleaners are easier to lift and maneuver than others. While you shouldn't completely discount a heavier model, it's important to select a vacuum cleaner that doesn't weigh too much for you to reasonably manage.
During the course of our research, we found compact models that weigh as little as 10 pounds and some "lightweight" models (according to the manufacturer) that weigh over 20 pounds. Of course, it all depends on what "lightweight" means to you.
If your vacuum's cord isn't long enough to reach all areas of your home, you may find yourself unplugging it to find a closer power outlet. In light of this, we think it's much more convenient to have a vacuum with a long power cord. Of course, you could always add an extension cord to the mix, but it would probably be easier to simply switch outlets when necessary.
During the course of our testing and research, we encountered vacuum cleaners with cords as short as 15 feet and as long as 35 feet. Granted, the size of your home makes a difference in how long a cord may seem.
Vacuum Cleaner Prices
In the vacuum cleaner world, high price does not necessarily equal high quality. The reverse is true, too. You'll find some excellent all-rounders for $100 or less and some less-than-stellar models that would set you back $800 or more.
Here are some of the features you might expect from a "low-end" vacuum cleaner ($200 or less):
- A suction hose with a few attachments, such as a crevice tool and stair brush
- A manual cleaning brush adjustment for different carpet types
- May come from an unknown or little-known brand
High-end vacuums will generally cost between $200 and $500. Some cost even more. A high-end model may offer the following:
- Increased durability and longevity
- A recognizable brand name
- A suction hose with a larger range of attachments, including dusting and drapery tools
- Cleaning brushes that automatically adjust to different floor heights
- HEPA filter
- A range of extra features (dirt sensors, adjustable handles, and more)
Vacuum Cleaner FAQ
Q. What kind of vacuum cleaner should I buy if I have pets?
A. Some vacuum cleaners that perform well under most circumstances fail when it comes to tackling pet hair. If you have a dog or cat with problematic shedding, we advise you to opt for a cleaner that's specifically designed for use in a house with pets.
Q. What's the best kind of vacuum cleaner for bare floors?
A. If you have bare floors (hardwood, tile, etc.), we recommend a vacuum cleaner with different options for cleaning head height. That way, you can raise it up when cleaning your bare floors and avoid scratching them. You can also turn off the roller head, which could potentially scatter dirt and dust.
Q. Which type of vacuum cleaner is better for tackling large areas?
A. It's faster and easier to clean large carpeted areas with an upright vacuum. If you have a home with large rooms, we recommend this strategy.