We’ve done hundreds of hours of research and testing on vacuum cleaners over the past five years, searching for the best ones to fit all kinds of living situations and lifestyles. This guide will help you figure out the right kind of vacuum to suit your home, whether it’s a small apartment or a big Victorian, covered with shag carpets or left with bare wood floors, or filled with kids and pets.
Affordable, effective, comfortable, reliable: Best bagless upright vacuum
If you want a good vacuum cleaner—nothing fancy—and you don’t mind replacing it in five years, we recommend a bagless, plug-in upright vacuum. (We have a couple of recommendations in our guide to the best upright and canister vacuums.) A bagless upright vacuum that costs between $150 and $200 is a great fit for most American (and Canadian) homes, with any number of floors, any number of pets, and almost any kind of wood, tile, or carpeting.
The best bagless uprights are about 80 percent as effective as the very strongest plug-in vacuums, for about 40 percent of the price. They’ll last much longer than the total cheapo models. Compared with cordless vacuums, they cost half as much, clean better, and can last at least twice as long (about five to seven years). They tend to be better designed than similarly priced canister vacuums, and are much more convenient than bagged vacuums, which also have recurring costs and don’t offer much upside at this price
Buy a bagless upright vacuum if:
You want quality on a budget: The good ones are reasonably priced, have no recurring costs, and should last for at least five years.
Buy another type of vacuum if:
You have a small home with a cozy floor plan: A cordless vacuum will almost definitely be easier to use in a layout like this—no cords to get caught on corners.
You’ll skip cleaning because you need to unravel the cord: Cordless vacuums and robot vacuums are a whole lot more convenient to use. No shame!
Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352
Best bagless upright vacuum
This bagless upright has the flexibility and cleaning chops to make most people in most homes totally happy. It should last about five years, which is solid for the price.
Deepest cleaning, longest lasting: Best canister vacuum
If you like your floors to stay very clean, and you’re willing to pay big bucks for a vacuum that will last a decade or more, get a high-end canister vacuum. You won’t regret making the investment.
They’re some of the best vacuum cleaners thanks to their powerful motors, tightly sealed ductwork, and cleverly engineered cleaning heads that can rise or fall depending on the length of the carpet. You can expect them to last for at least a decade, usually longer, with minimal maintenance apart from replacing the bags and filters and occasionally clearing tangles and clogs. And because they’re bagged vacuums with great filtration, they’re particularly appropriate for people in households where clean air is necessary to mitigate allergies and asthma.
Buy a high-end canister vacuum if:
You want something that will last for a long time: They don’t make most stuff like they used to, but great vacuums are an exception to that rule.
You want the very best performance: The very best vacuum cleaners are the ones that suck the most dust out of all kinds of carpets, and that’s what these are designed to do.
You have allergies or asthma: Their bags and tightly sealed airways are excellent at removing allergens and irritants from your home. For bonus points, add a HEPA filter.
Buy another type of vacuum cleaner if:
You don’t like the design: Some people just can’t get comfortable dragging a little pod behind them while they clean—especially with a cord attached to it.
You don’t want the responsibility: You need to put in some work—remembering to buy bags and filters, cleaning tangles and clearing clogs, taking it to the shop every few years for maintenance—to get your money’s worth.
You have lots of hairy pets: Fur fills up the bags quickly. Get a bagless vacuum if you’re worried about the cost of bags getting out of control.
Miele Compact C2 Electro+
Expensive, but the absolute best vacuum cleaner
One option out of many excellent models in the lineup, this nimble, near-invincible canister vac is just about the best you can get in cleaning, filtration, and quiet operation.
Cordless convenience, strong-enough cleaning: Best cordless vacuum
A cordless vacuum cleaner can be a life-changer if you live in an apartment or smaller house with a cramped floor plan. That’s because there’s no cord to get caught on any corners, and they tend to be lighter and easier to steer than most plug-in vacuums.
But even if you live in a bigger home, a cordless vacuum can be a fine choice. It’s easier to keep your floors clean when you don’t have to unravel a cord and find an outlet every time you see some crumbs or cat hair. Our favorite models have enough battery life to clean most homes in a single pass if you need to, but most people who own a cordless vacuum cleaner don’t clean in big, whole-house sessions—they just tidy up as needed because it’s relatively effortless to grab the vacuum and go.
Most cordless vacuums also double as handheld vacuums now, so you can buy one vacuum to clean both your floors and your car.
Buy a cordless vacuum if:
You live in a small apartment or house: It’s much easier to clean a cramped floor plan when there’s no cord getting caught.
You don’t want to deal with a cord: It takes just a few seconds to grab your cordless vacuum and start cleaning—no obstacles, no excuses!
Buy another type of vacuum if:
You need great cleaning power: Even the strongest cordless vacuum cleaners can’t pick up fine, dusty debris (including most allergens) anywhere near as well as an affordable plug-in vacuum.
You want the most value for your money: Good cordless vacuums cost twice as much and last half as long as a good bagless, plug-in upright vacuum.