Shark makes some of the most popular workhorse vacuums on the market. We’ve tested dozens of these vacuums, including Shark robot vacuums and cordless units, so we understand why people like them so much. No matter which type of vacuum, they all are full of features and cost a little less than their top-tier competition. If you’re tired of constantly wasting money on low-end vacuums that don’t last a month, you should step it up with Shark vacuum. However, choosing which to buy can be confusing because Shark makes so many models that they advertise as the one must-have unit.
Not to worry, we put every vacuum that enters our labs through the strictest of paces. Our tests include everything from pet hair pickup to how loud a vacuum is. Out of all our tests, we think the Shark Apex AZ1002(available at Amazon for $249.99) is the best Shark vacuum for most people. It offers powerful suction, LED lights so you can see under furniture and a lift-away feature that converts the Apex into a pseudo-canister that makes vacuuming on the stairs a cinch.
While the Apex, at its core, is a very good vacuum, it might not be what you’re looking for. In that case, we’ve also picked out and tested Shark’s best lightweight, cordless, and robot vacuums.
These are the best Shark vacuums we tested ranked, in order:
Shark Apex AZ1002
Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away
Shark Ionflex Duoclean IF251
Shark Rocket Complete
Shark IQ R101AE
Shark NV752 Rotator Powered Lift-Away TruePet
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The Shark Apex AZ1002 represents the top-of-the-line in terms of what the company has to offer. It has the distinct DuoClean feature, allowing it to easily clean on both hardwood and carpet. In our tests, the Apex scored almost flawlessly on our debris tests. Whether it was linoleum, regular or shag carpet, this vacuum picked up uncooked rice, macaroni, and pet hair better than vacuums that cost hundreds more.
For attachments, the Apex comes with a crevice tool, an upholstery tool, and a motorized brush head. Normally, we’d consider that a paltry spread for a Shark vacuum. However, its motorized brush impressed us with its versatility. It's thin enough to slip between cushions, but powerful to get the job done.
Finally, the Apex scored well enough in our carpet cleaning tests to be placed in the upper third of all the vacuums we’ve ever tested. On average, the Apex picked up 54% of the dirt we laid out for it, the best score of any Shark uprights on the market.
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. When it came to testing vacuums for pet hair, I really wanted to find a model that provided excellent value as a floor cleaner and can deal with pet hair.
The pet hair tests: The reviewed staff “donated” pet hair gathered from a cat and two dogs.
Full-sized vacuums: We hold uprights and canisters to the same standards. Each vacuum is subjected to a battery of tests on surfaces ranging from deep-pile carpet to bare kitchen floors. The carpet tests revolve around the ability of each vacuum to pick up embedded dirt and pet hair. On bare floors, we’re more focused on seeing if a vacuum can pick up large debris like uncooked rice and macaroni.
Aside from cleaning, we also test how easy to use each vacuum is. We check to see how easy it is to lug up the stairs, the length of the power cord, and even count the number of attachments.
Robot vacuums: Every robot vacuum that comes into our labs gets placed in our obstacle course. The course contains simulations of tight furniture legs, low shelves, high thresholds, and three different types of carpet. At each obstacle, we sprinkle in a custom-ground cork mixture. The mixture allows us to measure not only how much the robot picked up but also how far it can clean into each obstacle without getting stuck.
Aside from just suctioning up dirt, other, “softer” metrics interest us. We check out any available smart features, including Alexa and Google Home skills. Inside the box and online, we look for replacement parts and how easy they are to order. Finally, we make note of how easy the robot vacuum is to use, such as how often you need to empty the bin or when it requires human intervention.
Cordless vacuums: When we test cordless vacuums, we’re looking for long battery life, ease of use, and powerful suction. To test battery life, we charge each model for 24 hours. Once charged, each vacuum is run at its highest settings and timed until it stops working. If the vacuum doesn't meet its manufacturer's advertised claim about its total runtime, we take note and adjust our expectations to see if, under laboratory conditions, the vacuum can still adequately do its job.
Cleaning shouldn't be complicated, so we take note of how intuitive the design of the vacuum is: Can we figure out how to use it without opening its manual? We also consider the little things: how easy it is to use; and how quickly we can change a vacuum's attachments, plug in the charger, store it, or empty its dirt bin.
What You Should Know About Shark Vacuums
What is the Lift-Away Feature?
The Lift-Away feature is not unique to Shark, but the company does it better than anyone else. You click a button atop the main body and the vacuum transforms from an upright to a canister with no wheels. This form distributes the weight more evenly, allowing you to clean stairs more easily. You can also vacuum cars if you swap the main brush head for a miniature motorized brush.
What is DuoClean?
DuoClean vacuums carry two brushes in the head of the vacuum. The one on the front is made from a soft fleece-like material. Because it’s designed like more of a dusting cloth, the roller can pick up very fine particles or large debris. The front roller kicks up dirt and debris into the maw of the more traditional bristles.
What is Zero M?
Zero M is a brush system that self cleans. In theory, Zero M Shark vacuums won’t get hair wrapped around the brush roller. Pet owners get the most utility out of this feature.
What Kind of Warranties do Shark Vacuums Have?
Shark vacuums typically either have a five-year or seven-year limited warranty. These warranties are much longer than most of the competition. Most vacuum brands have one-year warranties. It isn't until you get to the luxury brands like Miele, that you get a seven-year warranty.
What Kind of Filters do Shark Vacuums Use?
Most Shark vacuums use HEPA filters. HEPA filter stands for High-efficiency Particulate Air. United States law requires that a HEPA filter be able to remove 99.97% of all particulate matter bigger than 0.3 micrometers. That’s smaller than pollen, dust, and pet dandruff. Remember, boxes that advertise HEPA-like, HEPA-type, or 99% filters are not HEPA.
You should also note that most Shark vacuum filters are washable as well.
Other Shark Vacuums We Tested
Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away
Shark vacuums often get great reviews online. The Shark Navigator NV352 has received some the highest praise—over 3,400 five-star reviews on Amazon. Tipping the scales at around 13 pounds, the Navigator is 25% lighter than more expensive Sharks, 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. We found these results to be 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 pricey cordless Shark IonFlex 2X DuoClean converts from a stick vacuum. It can clean for up to 26 minutes with all the bells and whistles engaged and comes with two removable, rechargeable batteries.
Unfortunately, as a hand vacuum, the IonFlex isn't very good. With a motorized brush head attached, it tips the scales at 7.7 pounds—so your hand will get tired long before the batteries run out. It also costs more than most stick vacuums we've tested, and its Pet Multi-Tool doesn't have spinning brushes, powered or otherwise.
The IonFlex also comes with a large brush head that's normally found on full-sized vacuums—good for big messes.
The Rocket combines the slenderness of a stick vac and the unlimited runtime of a corded full-size unit. When you open the box, six cleaning attachments and an accessories bag will greet you. With this many attachments, the Rocket can deal with just about anything. We especially liked the under-appliance wand. If you’re sick of moving your furniture around to vacuum, this wand, with its 90-degree bend, slips right in.
Weighing in at just under 11 pounds, the Rocket is one of the lightest vacuums Shark makes. If you want a unit with a ton of attachments that are easy to lug around, this is the one to get.
If you want to take a more hands-off approach to vacuuming, we’d suggest getting the Shark IQ R101AE. It has all the latest features you’d want in a robot vacuum. It’s a smart device, meaning it can be activated and tracked via your phone. It can even map your home and be directed to clean certain rooms when the need arises.
As a floor cleaner, the IQ passed our tests with flying colors. On average, it picked up over 10 grams of debris per run. Over the course of a week, that adds up to over 70 grams—about the amount you’d see from a quick once over from a full-sized vacuum.
You can get similar performance from other vacuums, but most of them can’t empty themselves like how the IQ can. Whenever this robot vacuum returns to the dock, a secondary vacuum suctions out everything in the bin and places it inside a bagless holder. The IQ’s dock can hold about 30-days worth of debris. So if you want the floor care at the touch of a button, Shark IQ R101AE fits the ticket.
Of all the vacuums we’ve tested, the Shark NV752 TruePet hits the mark for pet parents. During testing, we found that the NV752 picked up around 52% of the dirt we laid out for it per pass. 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 the 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.
All in all, the Shark NV752 is a crowd-pleaser. It tips the scales at around 17 pounds, so it is on the heavier side. The price also gave us a little pause at over $250, it’s on the pricier side of things. We think it’s worth it, but we know some people will balk at the idea of spending so much. Our gripes aside, the NV752 truly is a great vacuum for dealing with pet hair.
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.