Best Vacuum for You: A Buying Guide

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There is only one time you really want your new appliance to suck, and that’s when you’re in the market for a new vacuum.

Different vacuums are good for different scenarios, and many people own more than one type. For example, you may have a robotic vacuum to run daily to keep up with the dog’s shedding, a stick vacuum that you pull out for quick jobs like tracked-in dirt, and a heavy-duty canister vacuum for more thorough vacuuming every few weeks.

Types of vacuum cleaners

Before you can start shopping for the best vacuum cleaner, think about your home and what type makes the most sense for your space.

  • Upright vacuum : In general, upright vacuum cleaners provide the most suction available in a vacuum. They’re great for deep cleaning or regular maintenance in a home that sees a lot of foot traffic or has shedding pets. Many people think of these as heavy and cumbersome, but recent models are more lightweight and easier to use than those in the past. Upright vacuums can be expensive compared to other options, though more affordable models are available.
  • Cordless stick vacuum : These convenient vacuum cleaners are lightweight and easy to use on stairs, and they obviously prevent you from getting tangled up in a too-short cord. Cordless stick vacuums used to be unreliable because they didn’t have great suction power or battery life, but the technology is improving all the time. Today’s models have a good deal of suction power and longer-lasting batteries. These are easy to pull out of the closet for a quick cleanup, and many light models are easy to carry up and down stairs. These are often more affordable than other options.
  • Canister vacuum : Canister vacuums have a large base on wheels that contains a motor and dust bag. The hose connects to the motor on one end and to various cleaning heads on the other. They tend to be cheaper than upright vacuums,but most models have less suction power.
  • Handheld vacuum : Do you have pets, kids, or an otherwise often-messy space? A handheld vacuum cleaner is easy to whip out for the occasional dry spill like cracker crumbs, sand, or cereal. They’re also great for cleaning out a car or under couch cushions. These small devices typically charge on an electric base.
  • Robot vacuum : Robot vacuums are convenient. You can program themby using your smartphone to run at regular times of the day, but you still need to regularly clean out the dust bin and remove hairs and debris from the brushes. These vacuumsalso need to be charged in an accessible location, which often means keeping them in a main living area.

Features to look for in a vacuum cleaner

Regardless of the type of vacuum you choose, the quality of a vacuum cleaner depends on several factors:

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  • How much suction power does the machine have? Suction is measurable in air flow by cubic foot per minute (CFM). The higher the CFM, the more suction power. Most vacuums rate about 50-100 CFM, but many manufacturers don’t list this information on the packaging. If you can’t find the information, customer reviews often let you know about a particular model’s suction power.
  • How much dirt or debris does it hold? The amount it holds affects how often it needs to be emptied. Also, consider the process of emptying the debris. Some machines have a bag that you must change, and others have a bin. They can be messy to change.
  • How easy is the machine to use? How heavy is it? How hard is it to push? Does it turn and maneuver easily?
  • Does it use a cord or battery? Generally speaking, corded models have more
    suction power but are also harder to use — you have to move the cord from room to room and make sure no one trips on it, which can be especially dangerous on stairs.
  • How much does it cost? Nearly all varieties of vacuum cleaner come in a huge range of prices, with options as cheap as $100 or as expensive as $1,000 or even more. To some extent, you get what you pay for; more-expensive models are generally longer-lasting and higher-quality. But there are a few high-quality options at every price point if you do your homework.

How to choose the best upright vacuum

An upright vacuum is the best choice if you have a lot of carpeting or rugs and are looking for reliable suction power.

  • Easy to empty : Upright vacuum cleaners come with bags or bins that fill with debris and must be emptied regularly. The bin style is easier to empty, but the bag style tends to be stronger in suction.
  • Hose option: Many upright vacuums have the option to switch between floor cleaning to a handheld hose. These hoses often come with a variety of detachable heads for cleaning crevices or upholstery.
  • Weight: One of the downsides to upright vacuums is that they tend to be heavy, with some models weighing as much as 20 pounds. Look for a lightweight model that still ranks high for suction.

How to choose the best cordless vacuum

Cordless stick vacuum cleaners used to be fairly poor quality, but some of the newer models can now compete with the upright vacuum in terms of suction and reliability. These are generally a good choice if you don’t have a lot of thick carpet in your home, you don’t have a pet that sheds, or you plan to use it only for occasional messes.

  • Long-lasting battery : If you’re planning to use it to clean your whole home, youneed a battery that lasts. On the other hand, if you’re purchasing this model in addition to a heavier-duty upright or canister vacuum and plan to only use it for the occasional mess, you may not need as strong of a battery.
  • Lightweight : This is the biggest benefit of a cordless vacuum; many models are as light as 6 or 7 pounds. Keep in mind that, when it comes to cordless stick vacuums, low weight is always a tradeoff with suction power.
  • Bin size : Most cordless vacuums have a fairly small bin and don’t hold a ton of debris. You have to empty often, especially if you’re cleaning up a lot of debris at a time.

How to choose the best canister vacuum

A canister might be the best choice if you have stairs or a lot of hard floors, or if you plan to use it for cleaning crevices and under furniture.

  • Lightweight base : Since canister vacuum cleaners are often popular for those with carpeted stairs, make sure you can carry the base safely and easily.
  • Long hose : The hose should be long and flexible so that you can easily reach into corners. Most hoses detach from the floor head so that you can use them to clean ceiling fans and other hard-to-reach spots. You want a long hose for tasks like this, but not so long that the whole appliance becomes cumbersome to move around and store.
  • Easy to empty : If you choose a bagged model, make sure the replacement bags are cheap and sold somewhere convenient to you (whether in a store or online). Read reviews to see how easy the bag is to remove and replace and how messy the process is. If you choose a dustbin model, be sure the bin removes and secures easily.

How to choose the best handheld vacuum

A handheld vacuum cleaner is a great way to quickly clean up a dry spill on a hard surface or short-pile carpet. Some models are also great for pet hair and for cleaning upholstery, such as under carpet cushions or in the floorboards of your car.

  • Lightweight : Handheld vacuums typically weigh between 4 and 11 pounds. As you must hold it in your hand while you vacuum, the lighter it is, the longer you can use it before getting tired. On the other hand, like with most vacuum models, the lighter it is, the weaker the motor.
  • Easy to empty : Most handheld vacuum cleaners have a small bin that snaps off to empty easily. Check reviews to see if these are difficult to use.
  • Long-lasting battery or long cord : You can get both corded and cordless handheld options.

How to choose the best robot vacuum

Robot vacuums are the newest players in the vacuum cleaner game, and they’re quickly gaining popularity for their convenience and ease of use. They’re great for people who keep the floors picked up at home; otherwise, an errant sock can jam the machine,which then won’t work until someone removes the sock. With robot vacuums, you really do get what you pay for, at least to some extent. The more expensive varieties tend to have more convenience features, suction power, and battery life. As with any major purchase, weigh your budget against which features are most important to you in order to get the most bang for your buck.

  • Smart technology : If you’re tech-savvy, choose a robot vacuum cleaner that syncs with a free app for your smartphone. The app allows you to set times for the vacuum to automatically make its rounds. Just be sure the floor is clutter-free so it doesn’t become jammed.
  • Convenient to empty : Most standard robot vacuums need manual emptying every time you use them. If you have pets or a lot of long hair in your family, you may also have to clean out the brushes every few days. Some high-end robot vacuums empty themselves into a collection bin that sits on the charging station. This bin can hold several days’ worth of debris before you have to empty it. Even the fanciest models can’t clean out their own bristles, though.
  • Strong motor : Though today’s robot vacuums can’t compete with a strong upright or canister vacuum in terms of suction power, many models are strong enough that they can reduce how often you have to vacuum. Keep in mind that they don’t work well on high-pile or shag carpeting and often get hung up on the edges of area rugs.


The best way to ensure that you don’t regret your vacuum purchase is to choose the right type for your needs and read reviews ahead of time. Invest in a high-quality vacuum cleaner,and you’ll benefit from your purchase for years to come.


Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide

There are a lot of styles, functions and high-tech features available in today’s wide variety of vacuum cleaners. So which one is right for you?