Are robot vacuums worth the money?
Figure out if a robot vacuum is right for you
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A few years ago, I wrote an article outlining all the reasons I didn’t love my Roomba 650. In case you missed it, my main complaint was all the prep work required before running the robot vacuum—you have to clean up the floor, empty the teeny dust bin, clean off the rollers, and so on. I found the whole process to be more effort than it was worth, and the Roomba did a mediocre job cleaning, to boot. It was easier for me to just pull out the full-size vacuum, and so my Roomba ended up sitting in the corner, collecting dust.
However, several things have changed since then. First of all, I got a dog—a golden retriever, to be exact—and while Addy is the light of my life, she sheds a LOT. If we don’t vacuum or sweep every other day, balls of hair start gathering all along the edges of the hallway. Second, robot vacuums have gotten significantly more technologically advanced. Today, pretty much all robotic vacuums have smart capabilities, and newer models can even map out your home and/or empty their own dustbins.
A few months ago, I caved and purchased the newfangled iRobot Roomba i7+, and it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with it. Our Roomba, Ruby, gets regular use, and as such, my thoughts about the value of robot vacuums have definitely changed.
The benefits of robot vacuums—especially for pet owners
Naturally, the main appeal of robot vacuums, whether a Roomba or another top brand like a Eufy or Neato, is that they take care of routine cleaning for you. However, there are a number of specific reasons these vacuums are worth the investment.
Most of today’s robot vacs have scheduling capabilities, meaning you can set them to automatically clean on specific days and times. This way, you can have them tidy up when you’re at work, so you don’t have to listen to them buzz around for an hour.
Additionally, the vacuuming technology itself has advanced over the years, and they’re now able to pick up fine dust, dirt, and pet hair from both hard floors and carpeting. Many also have slim profiles, allowing them to fit underneath furniture.
As I mentioned, we definitely have a dog hair problem in our apartment, and I’m continually impressed at how much hair and other dirt Ruby manages to pick up on each run. She leaves our hardwood floors and carpet looking pristine, and I never have to raise a finger!
Floor plan mapping
Another one of Ruby’s features that I love is her smart maps. Essentially, the Roomba i7+ makes its own map of your home, and you can segment the map up, labeling different rooms and areas.
Once you do this, you can tell the vacuum exactly where to clean—so if the hall is looking particularly hairy, I can tell Ruby to vacuum there without worrying about her wandering off into the bedroom or another area. You can choose one room or multiple, and you always have the option to clean the whole house.
However, this feature isn’t standard on all robot vacuums—newer Roombas and Neato Botvacs have it, but less expensive models typically don’t.
Automatic dustbin emptying
One of my biggest pet peeves about my old robot vacuum was that I constantly needed to empty the dustbin. It needed to be emptied out after every run, and sometimes it even filled up before it finished cleaning!
For that reason, I was instantly attracted to the Roomba i7+, which features automatic dirt disposal. Essentially, Ruby senses when her dust bin is full, and she makes a detour over to her base, which sucks the dirt into its inner bag. Ruby can then resume cleaning and picking up more and more dog hair.
I love this feature, and honestly, I wouldn’t have purchased a robot vacuum that didn’t have it, simply because there’s so much dog hair in our big apartment. However, this is another feature that’s only available on more expensive robot vacuums.
Robot vacuums aren’t perfect, though
Despite these awesome technological advances, there are still a few flaws that come along with robot vacuums, including the dreaded pre-cleaning and, of course, their high price.
You still have to pre-clean
Before you can set your robotic vacuum free in your home, you have to go around and make sure there’s nothing that will get in its way. In our house, this typically means dog toys, shoes, or stray articles of clothing that never made it to the hamper. You’ll also want to tuck away power cords, dragging curtains, and flimsy area rugs, all of which can trip up your vacuum.
This “pre-cleaning” process is a bit annoying, especially if you’re rushing to get out of the house in the morning. However, if you skip it, your vacuum may end up tangled up in a rug or cord, potentially harming both the vacuum and the object in question—trust me, I speak from experience.
The "good" ones are expensive
As you may have noticed in the section above, several of the features that I love about Ruby are only available on higher-end robotic vacuums. Sure, you can find an off-brand model for less than $200, but chances are it won’t have floor mapping, auto emptying, or even smartphone capabilities.
If you’re looking for a robotic vacuum that will make your life a breeze, you’ve got to be prepared to shell out at least a few hundred dollars—the cheapest self-emptying model is the Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty Vacuum, which retails for around $600—and for that price, you could buy a full-size Dyson or Miele vacuum, which provide infinitely more suction than any robot vacuum ever could.
My cat won’t ride it
Maybe this is a problem with my cat, but he refuses to put on a shark costume and ride Ruby around the house. It’s frustrating, to say the least.
Is a robot vacuum worth it for you?
Keeping all these factors in mind, there’s really no cut-and-dry answer to whether a robotic vacuum is worth the money. You’ll have to consider the particular model, as well as your lifestyle, to figure out whether it’s a worthwhile investment for your home.
A robot vacuum might be worth it for you if:
- You want your home vacuumed on a regular schedule.
- You don’t mind doing a bit of “pre-cleaning” before the robot runs.
- Alternatively, you keep your home clean and organized to begin with. (Can’t relate.)
- You feel like you’re fighting a losing battle against pet hair.
- You’re willing to spend more money to get useful high-tech features.
You might think twice about a robot vacuum if:
- You don’t want to do maintenance every time you run the machine.
- You have a small budget but want high-end features.
- You’re counting on your cat to ride it around the house.
There are pros and cons to robot vacuums, but as the technology has advanced, these cool cleaning gadgets have become a more useful investment for those people who truly hate vacuuming.
Get the iRobot Roomba i7+ Wi-Fi Connected Robot Vacuum with Automatic Dirt Disposal from Home Depot for $799
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.