Easy to store and offering powerful cleaning, a number of onboard accessories, uprights vacuums carry plenty of advantages over cordless and canister models. Being the vacuum experts that we are, we have taken it upon ourselves to find and test the best upright vacuums on the market right now. We have sought out models at every price point, from vacuums that cost a week’s paycheck to a bargain hunter’s dream.
After months of testing, the Miele U1 Cat & Dog(available at AJ Madison) came out on top. One of the best-engineered vacuums we’ve ever tested, it feels good to use, provides powerful cleaning and comes with a variety of cleaning attachments. However, the Miele U1 is pretty expensive and if you don’t want to stress your wallet, we have plenty of value-minded options to choose from.
These are the best upright vacuums we tested ranked, in order:
Miele U1 Cat & Dog
Sebo X7 Automatic
Dyson Animal 2 Total Clean
Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352
Dyson Multifloor 2
Shark Rotator Lift-Away NV752
Hoover Whole House Rewind
Bissell 22543 CleanView Swivel Rewind Pet
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No matter which model you pick, the Miele Dynamic U1 line of high-end upright vacuums look and feel like nothing else out there. Each vacuum is weighted to resist tipping over, even when you're tugging on its hose. The Dynamic U1 model cleans as well as it handles. During testing, the U1 series picked up over 70% of the dirt we laid out for it, in a single pass—firmly placing it amongst the top three vacuums we’ve ever tested.
Finally, like a good dance partner cutting a rug, the U1 moves well with you. Its weight, the way it takes corners, and balance all help to provide a great user experience that makes it less of a drag to vacuum. This makes it more likely that you’ll actually want to take it out of the closet to clean your floors.
In the vacuum world, Sebo is known for its filtration. Their X7 model has three layers: the first is the premotor S-class filter, which is rated on par with HEPA, although you can buy HEPA filters for the X7, too. After the air passes through the motor it goes into the three-layered bag, which captures particulates. Finally, there is an electrostatic filter in the exhaust, similar to what you’d find in many air purifiers. This helps to eliminate odors. The total package is a filtration system similar to what you’d find at a hospital.
On the performance front, the X7 is a tank. Its lack of a swivel joint on the end prevents it from turning on a dime. However, it is very powerful. During carpet testing, it picked up 39% of the testing dirt per pass. Anything above 33% is a win for us as it is common practice to go over an area of carpet at least three times before moving on to the next patch.
I’m Jon Chan, the Senior Lab Technician at Reviewed. It’s my job to test and write about products ranging from coolers to laundry detergents. Along with my colleague Kyle Hamilton, we tested all the vacuums in this guide.
Even though vacuum cleaners aren’t the big metal boxes that we usually test in our appliance lab—such as refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, or ranges—we test them in a similar manner so that we can have both reproducible performance data and information that will be useful to our readers. We assess the performance, features, and usability of each vacuum cleaner.
A good vacuum cleaner should be able to remove both fine dirt/dust and larger debris from your floor surfaces. We push each vacuum cleaner to its limit by making it clean up four types of messes: our homemade “dirt” made from sieved sand and baby powder; piles of pet hair; rice grains; and raw macaroni.
To get a feel for how each vacuum performs on different floor surfaces, we test these vacuums out on two swaths of carpet (high pile carpet and low pile carpet) and on a linoleum floor surface.
We think it’s important to see how a vacuum cleaner performs in circumstances that are more difficult than a bare floor. For edge cleaning, we place a 2” x 4” piece of wood along the edge of our test carpet area, sprinkle baby powder on the carpet, and run the vacuum cleaner with one side of the vacuum head pressed against the wood. Ideally, the vacuum should pick up all of the baby powder without leaving a strip of white dust next to the wood.
Additionally, we test how easy it is for the vacuum cleaner to clean dirt or dust bunnies that have collected under furniture. Using a wooden dowel suspended at different heights, we push the vacuum forward until the top of the vacuum hits the dowel to determine how far a given vacuum can extend under a piece of furniture.
With these performance tests, we can determine how well a vacuum cleaner will perform when it comes to cleaning all of the surfaces, nooks, and crannies in your home.
Features and Usability
If you’ve ever used a vacuum cleaner, you know that the overall experience of vacuuming is more than just how much dirt it removes. When we rate vacuum cleaners, we consider the vacuum’s noise level, attachments, cord length, weight, dirt capacity, warranty, mobility, battery life (if it’s a cordless model), and overall user experience. If a vacuum can both clean up a lot of dirt/debris and make the cleaning process easy and hassle-free, it will make its way towards the top of our ranking system.
What To Know About Buying Upright Vacuum Cleaners
Should I Get A Bagged or Bagless Vacuum Cleaner?
Bagged vacuums often offer better filtration and dust management. When you empty a dirt cup from a bagless vacuum, a percentage of the dirt gets back into the air. However, bagged vacuums get emptied less and can develop a bad odor.
What Type Of Floor Does An Upright Vacuum Clean Best?
Carpeting is divided into low-pile, high-pile, and ultra-plush categories. Most vacuums can deal with high and low-pile carpets, but only a select few are designed to deal with ultra-plush (shag). This special type of carpet feels super-soft, because it’s so dense, causing some vacuums to get stuck on it.
For bare floors, cordless vacuums with soft rollers are your best bet. Pine and other softwoods can get scratched and dinged by heavy vacuum use. When in doubt, use a broom and dustpan.
What Does Paying More For A Vacuum Get Me?
Given our years of experience in testing vacuums, we have an understanding of what you get for your money.
In the sub-$100 category, every extra dollar you spend usually goes towards more power. Of the models we tested at this price range, all of them carry the same bare-minimum array of attachments. When you spend a bit more, around $100 to $300, you start to see stratification in usability and features. We’re talking about more attachments, better joints so the vacuum moves with you, and better warranties.
Anything above the $300 range is showing for a premium market. When we test these vacuums, we’re looking for brush heads that won’t scratch delicate flooring, designs that won’t tip over, and motors with enough power to tackle the thickest of carpets.
Your cleaning style should also match your lifestyle. For example, if you live in a small apartment and spend lots of time in your car, you should shift your budget toward a cordless vacuum. Do you have a multi-level home with mostly hardwood floors? A canister vacuum is going to serve you the best.
Other Upright Vacuums We Tested
Dyson Ball Animal 2
Of all the vacuums on this list, the Dyson Animal 2 is the most powerful. During carpet testing, it removed, on average 76.3% of the detritus we laid out for it in a single pass. The Animal 2 is also our highest rated bagless unit. It also has a washable filter, adding to its low-maintenance style.
We tested the Total Package version of the Animal 2, which comes with five attachments and a tote bag to carry them all in. After spending a week with the Dyson Animal 2, we got the sense that it has tons of features, but it’s cumbersome to use. The unit itself tips the scales at 17.6 pounds and with no solid handle on the back, it’s tough to lug up the stairs. Also, the massive ball joint on the Animal 2 makes it difficult to clean under furniture.
The Oreck XL2100RHS is a basic, but solid floor cleaner. Its hyper-focused design includes no attachments or hoses to clean countertops or curtains. Weighing in at just over 10 pounds, we found it easy to lift this vacuum onto and up the stairs. Its five-inch profile is low enough to fit under most beds and some couches.
During the cleaning tests, the Oreck picked up 30.25% of the testing dirt per pass. Normally, this would be lower than what we like to see, but the XL2100RHS is so light that we think it’s powerful for its size.
Shark vacuums often get great reviews, online. The Shark Navigator NV352 has received some of the highest praise—over 3,400 five-star reviews on Amazon. Tipping the scales at around 13 pounds, the Navigator is 25% lighter than other Shark models, like the Apex. This makes it much easier to lug upstairs and to maneuver around furniture.
During testing, the Navigator picked up around 38% of the dirt we laid out for it, so be prepared to go over an area at least three times before it’s clean. These results are fairly weak compared to other vacuums in this price range. However, the Navigator makes up for it in its features and warranty.
The Navigator comes with four cleaning attachments, including a two-foot-long crevice tool for those hard-to-reach spots. It’s also backed by a five-year warranty, one of the best in the industry.
The Dyson Ball Multifloor 2 upright vacuum marks a crossroads between the company’s cordless and full-sized efforts. It weighs about 10% less than the Dyson Ball Animal 2 upright and is subsequently about 10% less powerful.
The Multifloor 2 picked up around 64% of the testing dirt we laid out for it, which is well above average, but it lagged behind more powerful Dyson models like the Dyson Animal 2.
This being said, the Multifloor 2 offers a great value: Dyson engineering and attention to detail at a relatively affordable price.
Of all the vacuums we’ve tested, the Shark NV752 TruePet is the best, for pet parents.
During testing, we found that the NV752 picked up around 52%, per pass, of the dirt we laid out for it. Results like these place this Shark in the upper third of all the vacuums we’ve ever tested, the top tier picking up around 70% per pass.
While testing pet hair specifically, the NV752 passed with flying colors. Both its main brush head and the motorized attachment excelled at picking up cat and dog hair. The hose uses a latch system that has a satisfying click, so it’s easy to switch between cleaning the floor and furniture.
Finally, the NV752 is the only vacuum on our list that has the Lift-Away feature, turning the upright into a canister without wheels. This option allows you to more easily clean stairs and under furniture.
That said, it tips the scales at around 17 pounds, so it is on the heavier side. This gripe aside, the NV752 truly is a great vacuum for dealing with pet hair.
Hoover is a brand synonymous with vacuuming. The Hoover WindTunnel 2 Whole House Rewind is a prime example of this. It weighs in at a whopping 18 pounds—one of the heaviest vacuums we’ve ever tested. In exchange for all the weight, you get a competent vacuum. Our test results show that the Rewind is powerful, picking up 50% of our dirt mixture in a single pass.
We found its namesake rewind function to be super useful. At a tap of a foot lever, the 25-foot cord automatically gets sucked back into the unit, making storage a cinch.
The Bissell 22543 CleanView Swivel Rewind Pet is for animal lovers. For every purchase of this unit, Bissell donates a portion of the proceeds to animal shelters. As a vacuum, it’s a pretty good entry-level upright that will last a long time. It has a 27-foot long cord that automatically rewinds so it can tackle just about any room.
When we tested its cleaning ability, the Rewind Pet picked up 41.25% of the dirt per pass. It also impressed us with its edge-to-edge cleaning, providing suction all along its brush head.
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.