We've just updated this article to include the Eureka Groove.
The idea of a robot maid going around your home and consistently cleaning your floors and carpeting sounds like a high-end luxury—a neatnik’s dream beyond reach. These days, though, it’s not. Over the years, automated floor cleaners, aka robot vacuums, have become affordable for the average person. Yes, brand name models like the iRobot i7+ can be pretty pricey, but there are great values to be found out there as well.
We’ve tested robot vacuums at every price point in our labs, and through our testing, we’ve found some exceptional low-cost models. They may not have cutting-edge technology, but not everyone needs the latest and greatest—especially if you’re just looking for a robot vacuum to give you a helping hand between your regular manual cleanings.
Our testers put every robot vacuum on this list through our custom-built obstacle course that simulates everything from table legs to throw rugs. We also ensure that every robot vacuum that gets our approval can handle dirt, crumbs, and pet hair.
After evaluating dozens of entry-level models, we think the Eufy Robovac 11S(available at Amazon for $219.99) tops the charts, both in terms of performance and value.
These are the best affordable robot vacuums we tested ranked, in order.
Eufy Robovac 11S
Eureka Groove NER300
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. A slimmer design allows the S to get its brushes into more places.
During our testing, 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 in-house robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself. For 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 at how long a cleaning cycle takes, what obstacles it was able to clean thoroughly, whether its HEPA filters (if it has one) grab onto 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. We also consider each robot's battery life and build quality.
What You Should Know about Robot Vacuums
With dozens of robot vacuum tests under our belts, we’ve determined that the term “robot vacuum” is inaccurate to describe this machine and what it does. A robot vacuum’s ability to pick up dirt pales in comparison to that of a full-sized vacuum, and a robot vacuum can only really compete over the course of a week. We found that consumers experience the most satisfaction with their robot vacuums if they depend on them to maintain their floors 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 that are 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. They have enough give that robot vacuums can get caught on their corners and partially climb atop.
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 magnetic strips with purchase price only include one. If you want to cover multiple entryways or create multiple barriers, you’ll have to cut it.
Virtual barriers are battery-powered devices that 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.
Specialized apps work alongside a robot vacuum with mapping technologies to virtually map an area, draw lines to denote where the robot can and cannot go, and share the information between the vacuum and your smart device. Companies like iRobot, Neato, and Ecovacs all have machines that use this smart mapping technology.
Robot Vacuum vs. Traditional Vacuum
Whenever you have a device that’s battery-powered over one that runs on a cord, 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 from a human, defeating its purpose as an automated floor cleaner. Being a good robot means drawing power away from the brushes and to the wheels, sensors, and circuit board.
Conversely, a robot vacuum that cleans well also tends to ram itself into furniture. While this isn’t great for your furniture, it’s pretty good for your floors. A robot vacuum can’t clean where its brushes haven’t been and bumping into table legs helps clean nooks and crannies. They also tend to be noisier as more power is drawn to the suction motor.
Our comprehensive testing has shown that there tends to be an inverse relationship between the cost of a robot vacuum and its ability to pick up dirt. 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; some have a combination of both. Infrared sensors shoot 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 tricky question. We have found that the battery is the shortest-lived part of a robot vacuum. Both nickel and lithium-based 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. And, for lithium batteries, their cathodes tend to wear out after a few years. You can generally 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 can help you snatch up the furballs that seem to be blowing like tumbleweeds everywhere in your home. It’ll save you time and energy, as well as frustration. Get your money’s worth by setting it to automatically run every day. Getting one that features its own app is 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
The Eureka Groove NER300 impressed us with its powerful suction and ability to climb high thresholds. During testing, the Groove suctioned up enough dirt and debris to stand toe-to-toe with robot vacuums that cost twice as much. It also did a bang-up job transitioning from hardwood floor to thick carpet and back again. The unit also works with an app, allowing you to start, stop, and schedule cleanings from anywhere.
We did find that the Groove was a bit rough on furniture. Not dangerously so, but since there’s no way to keep this robot vacuum from entering sensitive areas, aside from shutting the door, it was a cause for concern.
We're big fans of the Neato D3 Connected. It's an affordable robot vacuum that excels at dirt pickup, cleaning floors just 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.
Good at dealing with pet hair
Able to direct towards or away from specific rooms
Bulky shape prevents it from cleaning tight spaces
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 comes WiFi connectivity and remote control with a smartphone app. This means it's the most affordable connected robot vacuum 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 one of the most expensive robot vacuum in our roundup, retailing for around $300. For that price, it gave a mixed performance. 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.
If you’re curious about robot vacuums, but don’t want to commit hundreds of dollars to such a purchase, the Yeedi K600 robot vacuum is a good introduction to the concept. This no-frills robot vacuum is controlled by a remote control, and does a great job picking up debris from hard floors and low-pile carpet.
If you have high-pile carpet in your home, though, it may not be a good fit for you. Furthermore, there’s no way for you to tell the Yeedi where not to go, so if any of your floor surfaces have steps or objects that you don’t want the robot vacuum to hit (pet bowls, puzzles, etc.), we’d recommend looking for a robot vacuum that comes with virtual or physical barriers. For a basic, effective, and affordable robot vacuum, though, the Yeedi is a great pick.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager 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.