High-end robot vacuums like the iRobot i7+ can run you over a $1,000. And while it’s true that these expensive models tend to clean well and provide some of the most useful features, not everyone has that kind of money.
That's why we’ve tested robot vacuums at every price point in our labs, finding that some affordable models can hold their own against the more expensive ones. Just because it's a cheap robot vacuum doesn't mean it won't do a fine job of cleaning your floors. To simulate a robot vacuum's daily workload, we run them through our robot vacuum obstacle course, noting how well each model navigates around furniture and picks up debris on various surfaces.
After evaluating dozens of models, we think the Eufy Robovac 11S(available at Amazon) tops the charts in terms of performance and value.
These are the best affordable robot vacuums we tested ranked, in order.
Eufy Robovac 11S
Neato Botvac D3 Connected
iRobot Roomba 690
EcoVacs Deebot Ozmo 601
Bobsweep Bobi Pet
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The Eufy Robovac 11S is the heir to the much-loved Robovac 11. This robot vacuum does its predecessor proud, offering excellent suction and improved navigation. The slimmer design allows the S to get its brushes into more places.
When we tested, the 11S picked up around 11.6 grams of dirt per run, more than what most iRobot models manage. We also noted that during operation, the 11S was quiet, rarely making enough noise to interrupt a conversation. The combination of good dirt pickup and quiet operation make the 11S one of our favorite robot vacuums.
Hey, I'm Jon Chan, the senior lab technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it—whether it’s laundry detergents or dishwashers—I oversee its testing. This expertise extends to vacuums: upright, canister, handheld, and robotic.
Over the years, I’ve gotten my hands on hundreds of vacuums and this article is about the best of every type I’ve tested. When it comes to the absolute pinnacle, it’s all about how well each model can clean up a mess.
Most of the tests involve our robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself. The first two runs, we place cork pellets under the shelves and between the furniture legs. When we let the robot vacuum loose, we look for how long a cleaning cycle takes, what obstacles it was able to clean thoroughly, whether its HEPA filters, if it has one, grab on to dust and other allergens and the overall debris pickup performance. For the final test run, we replace the cork with pet hair and run another test run. We also consider each robot's battery life and build quality.
What You Should Know about Robot Vacuums
After testing dozens of robot vacuums, we think the name is a bit of a misnomer. A robot vacuum’s ability to pick up dirt pales in comparison to that of a full-sized vacuum and can only really compete over the course of a week. We found that consumers experience the most satisfaction with their robot vacuums when they view them as floor maintainers in between manual cleanings.
We should also point out that most robot vacuums are designed for bare floors and medium carpet. If you have throw rugs taller than a half inch, your robot vacuum might not be able to climb atop it or may get stuck. This fact is vital for pet owners because it means pet beds are a point of contention.
Avoiding Robot Vacuum Pet Mishaps
Over the years, three technologies have developed to help keep robot vacuums from running amok: magnetic strips, virtual barriers, and app-based barriers. All three of these methods have their pros and cons.
Magnetic strips are the simplest. Lay them on the floor and they create a barrier that designated robot vacuums will not cross. While they don’t require batteries, magnetic strips are cumbersome. Most robot vacuums that included them only ship with one, so you have to cut them if you want to cover multiple entryways.
The next step up is virtual barriers. These battery-powered devices emit an infrared line that tells robot vacuums to turn back. Some specialized barriers, like iRobot’s lighthouse, can create a “halo,” or a circle barrier to encompass a piece of furniture or a pet bowl.
The final method, aside from shutting doors, involves specialized apps. New mapping technologies allow robot vacuums to have a better understanding of their surroundings. They can then send that information to your phone. Companies like iRobot, Neato, and Ecovacs all produce robot vacuums were you can draw lines on virtual maps to denote where the robots can and cannot go.
Robot vs. Vacuum
Whenever you have a device that’s battery-powered, you’re going to have to deal with a series of tradeoffs. With robot vacuums, it’s a balancing act between being a good robot and a good vacuum.
A good robot navigates well by not bumping into furniture and getting over thresholds. But a robot vacuum’s worst downfall is when it gets stuck and requires a helping hand, defeating the purpose of an automated floor cleaner. However, being a good robot means drawing power away from the brushes and to the wheels, sensors, and circuit board.
A robot vacuum that cleans well tends to ram itself into furniture. A robot vacuum can’t clean where its brushes haven’t been. They also tend to be noisier as more power is drawn to the suction motor.
The basic rule of thumb is that the more a robot vacuum costs, the better robot it is and the less dirt it will pick up. We’re talking about a 20-percent difference between the best navigators that never get close to a chair leg and a robot vacuum that scuffs everything in your house. The most exceptional robot vacuums tend to win our Editor’s Choice and Best of Year awards.
Different Types of Navigation
Robot vacuums tend to have two different types of navigation, infrared and optical, or a combination of both. Infrared sensors shoot out beams that give information about distance. Optical navigation involves cameras, usually mounted on the top of the unit. Typically, these cameras utilize contrast and landmarks to decipher where they are. Robot vacuums that rely on optical navigation cannot work in a pitch black room.
How long do robot vacuums last?
This is a very tricky question. However, we find that the battery is the shortest-lived part of a robot vacuum. Both nickel and lithium batteries have hard limits on the number of times they can recharge. Nickel batteries suffer from a limitation known as memory loss—basically, over time, they lose the ability to recharge fully. The cathodes of lithium batteries tend to wear after a few years. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to buy a new battery pack for your robot vacuum after two to four years of use, depending on how often you run your device.
Are robot vacuums worth the money?
If you’re a pet owner, a robot vacuum helps get at balls of fur that are everywhere. As a floor maintainer between manual cleanings, they can save a lot of time and energy. The way to get your money’s worth is to set a robot vacuum to automatically run every day. Getting one with an app is also a bonus for those times you need to give your floors a once-over before coming home to any last-minute surprise guests.
Other Robot Vacuums We Tested
Neato Botvac D3 Connected
We're big fans of the Neato D3 Connected. It's an affordable robot vacuum that excels at dirt pickup, cleaning as well as robot vacuums that cost twice the price. It did especially well on pet hair.
While it's the most expensive vacuum on our list, it also comes with WiFi connectivity. That means you can tell Alexa or Google Home to start vacuuming—or you can start your D3 from your smartphone, anywhere in the world.
The Roomba 690 replaces the 650 as the entry-level offering from iRobot, one of the best-known names in the world of home robotics. On sale for as low as $299, it adds WiFi connectivity and remote control with a smartphone app. That means it's the most affordable connected robot vac from a major manufacturer.
So why isn't this superb cleaner our favorite? Well, it still has a few flaws. For instance, it's based on the iRobot 650, which is rough on furniture, hitting the table and chair legs with 3.3 pounds of force in our tests. That's hard enough to knock an item off the edge of a table.
The Roomba 614 can be had for even less money (around $225 last time we checked), but it loses value in our eyes because it lacks both connectivity and the ability to schedule cleaning ahead of time.
Jacks of all trades may be a master of none, but do they tend to be cost effective. The Ecovacs Deebot 601 stands as a shining example. It’s a combination robot vacuum and mop that handles both in stride.
On average, the 601 picked up a respectable 10.6 grams of dirt per run. While that isn’t the highest we’ve seen, even in this price range, it’s the only model that can also act as an automated Swiffer.
The oddly named Bobsweep Bobi Pet (stylized as bObi Pet) comes with a ton of extras, including a virtual wall, a dry mop attachment, and a UV light on its underside that Bobsweep says can kill germs.
All these goodies will cost you: The Bobi Pet was the most expensive robot vacuum in our roundup, retailing for around $330. For that price, it gave a mixed performance in our tests. While it cleaned 75 percent of the pet hair we laid out for it, it also got stuck on the edges of a doormat multiple times and required human intervention to get it moving again. We think that defeats the purpose of an automated cleaner, which is why we're on the fence about recommending it.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.