The Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide

When shopping for a new vacuum cleaner, determine your requirements, and review the available options. There are hundreds of models with prices ranging from under $100 to well over $1,000.

Vacuum Types

Vacuum Cleaner Buyer Guide
  • Upright
  • Canister
  • Small or hand held
  • Stick or electric broom
  • Robotic
  • Central

Benefits by type

Upright Advantages:

A great choice if your home has wall-to-wall carpeting or large carpeted areas.

Some models feature agitator controls to easily switch from carpet to bare floors.

Easy, one-handed maneuverability.

One-piece design stores easily.

Cleaning tools and accessories increase versatility.

Canister Advantages:

Great for homes with multiple surfaces.

Attachments on flexible hose allow for ease of use.

Excellent for cleaning stairs, ceiling fans, corners, and most hard-to-reach places.

Cleaning tools and accessories increase versatility.

Small or handheld advantages

Small-sized, battery-powered portables clean a wide range of jobs.

Mountable wall brackets with built-in battery chargers provide efficient storage.

Robotic advantages

Small hands-free units automatically clean most of a room's area.

Stick and electric broom advantages

Lightweight stick models surface clean quickly, especially in kitchens and dining rooms.

Most models are cordless and portable.

Central advantages

A centralized vacuum system connected to ports located throughout your home.

Convenient and easy to use.

Eliminates the need for lifting and carrying the vacuum.

Choose the right vacuum for the job

Key Considerations

  • What type of flooring do you have in your home?

An upright is best for homes with wall-to-wall carpet.

A canister is better for homes with multi-surface flooring.

  • Do you have to clean a large house or apartment? How important is saving time?

Uprights have time-saving attachments and a wide cleaning path that quickly covers large areas.

  • Do you have multiple cleaning needs?

Canister vacuums with flexible hoses can clean drapes, ceiling fans, molding, and upholstery. Small nozzle attachments reach under furniture and around furniture legs. -

Canister vacuums are light and easy to handle.

  • How many levels does your home have?

A canister vacuum is easy to carry up and down stairs.

  • Do you have pets or storage requirements?

A canister vacuum can clean pet hair from floors and remove it from upholstery. Special filters are available for pet owners.

If space is limited, factor in the size of the vacuum cleaner.

A stick or electric broom vacuum stores easily in a small space.

Bagged or Bagless?

Many vacuum models use HEPA filtration, trapping over 99 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns.

Bagless models require no extra purchases to maintain the vacuum.

Key vacuum cleaner features

Add-on cleaning tools. Different cleaning attachments add flexibility to vacuums, expanding their cleaning capabilities.

Attachment Reach. Extenders expand the vacuum's reach.

Bare-floor options. Wood floors, ceramic floors, and other hard surfaces need an adjustable height, high-suction brushless cleaning head, or one that uses a rotary brush with soft bristles.

Brush Agitator. A rotary brush mounted in the cleaning head of the vacuum that agitates the fibers of carpet to loosen dirt.

Cleaning width. Some vacuum models come with an extra-wide cleaning head or a wide channel that cover bigger areas of space at one time; useful for large spaces and wide hallways.

Carpet-height adjustment. Adjusts how far the cleaning head is from the surface being cleaned. Some models have an auto height adjustment feature, which automatically adjusts to the proper setting for about any carpet height.

Dirt Sensor. An infrared dirt sensor signals when embedded dirt is removed. The dirt sensor helps prolong carpet life and appearance.

Easy on/off. Some canister models have the power switch and suction controls located the handle making it easy to turn the machine on and off or adjust cleaning head height without bending over.

Filtration. Determines the size and number of particles in the air that are exhausted from the vacuum. Filters range from standard to S-class/HEPA-High Efficiency Particulate Air. Like HEPA, S-class filtration is specifically designed to reduce the number of microscopic allergens emitted through vacuuming.

Edge cleaner. The cleaning head of some models have technology using a rotary brush and air intake specifically designed for cleaning along walls and hard-to-reach corners.

Full-container indicator. Usually present on bagless vacuums, this indicator shows when the container in the machine needs to be cleaned or emptied.

Headlight. Some uprights have a built in light at floor level that gives the user a better view of the surface being cleaned.

Motor Protection System. Some models channel dust and dirt particles directly into the vacuum bag, which helps protect the fan and motor when picking up hard objects like paperclips, pebbles, and other matter that can cause damage.

Retractable cord. Usually a single touch button that activates a cord rewind mechanism, making storage easy and convenient.

Self-propelled. Self-propelled models only require steering. Useful for large, heavy vacuums or when the ability to handle weight is an issue.

Suction control. Allows you to vary the suction power to optimize it for the type of floor or surface you are cleaning.

Price Ranges

Through research, smart shoppers can find the best balance of features, price, and durability.

Inexpensive vacuums. Prices range up to $150. Basic features for canisters generally include a hose with surface cleaner, crevice tool, stair brush, and extended wand. Uprights in this category are bag or bagless models with a wide range of filter types.

Mid-priced vacuums. Prices range from $150 to $500. The benefits of vacuums in this price range are the enhanced features and plentiful attachments. Mid-priced and inexpensive vacuums have about the same size of motor.

High-end vacuums. Prices range from $500 to well over $1000. These models have the full range of features and attachments.

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