Uprights, for example, tend to be best at cleaning carpets rather than upholstery. On the other hand, canisters can take up more space but will get under furniture more easily. Then there are robot vacuums, which have to run every day to keep the dust bunnies at bay. If you need something to handle quick jobs around the house or in your car, you need something cordless. Whatever your cleaning needs are, we've got something on this list for everyone.
These are the best vacuums we tested:
Shark Navigator NV352
Eufy Robovac 11S
Dyson V15 Detect
Miele Complete C3 Kona
Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away
Eufy RoboVac 11s
Dyson V15 Detect
Miele Complete C3 Kona
Miele Dynamic U1 Cat & Dog
What You Need to Know About Vacuum Cleaners
What You Should Know about Robot Vacuums
What You Need to Know About Cordless and Handheld Vacuums
The popular Shark Navigator Lift-Away had a strong showing in our cleaning tests, picking up 38% of the testing dirt we laid out on average. Any vacuum that performs over the 33% mark, gets a thumbs up in our book.
It is also the only vacuum in the running that has a swivel joint in the brush head, which allows the Shark to pivot around furniture and other obstacles. The Shark's small brush head also helps you reach tight spaces.
Its Lift-Away feature means that users can detach the motor from the handle, which turns the unit into a pseudo-canister, making it easier to clean furniture and stairs. Unfortunately, you cannot use attachments unless the motor is detached, and you have to lug the "canister" around because it doesn't have wheels.
Thankfully, that’s the only downfall we can see with this Shark. Its other features don't come with as many trade offs. For instance, automatic height adjustment means you can go from cleaning a thick area rug to short-pile carpet without skipping a beat.
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. For under $400, though, the RoboVac 11s is an affordable and effective way to add a robot to your cleaning routine.
The Dyson V15 Detect is the latest in a storied lineup of cordless vacuums. This time around, we found two huge upgrades: a dust-illuminating laser and a more powerful battery. Many companies often add gadgets and attachments to their vacuums to compensate for a lack of performance. However, after testing the V15 in our labs, we think that these new bits of technology enhance the cleaning experience.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should talk about cleaning performance. During our dirt pickup test, the V15 suctioned up about an average of 92% of the detritus we left out on our testing carpet. Those cleaning performance numbers place the V15 in second place, behind the previous generation’s Dyson V11. However, the V15 has a significantly longer battery life—15 minutes on its max setting compared to the V11’s nine minutes. So while our testing shows that the V11 is slightly more powerful per minute, the V15 cleans better per charge.
Based on battery life and cleaning prowess, we are comfortable crowning the V15 as a top contender. What gives it an edge are its unique laser and sensor. During testing, we found that the laser, which can be turned on and off, illuminates dirt under furniture and on floors way better than standard LED headlights. The V15 also has a sensor in it that gives you a readout of the particle sizes that the vacuum is picking up.
People who have used a Dyson cordless before will find the same smooth glide, sensitive trigger, and lightweight design. If you’re considering getting a Dyson, know that the V15 is the best of what the company has to offer, but getting the best comes at a steep price.
However, the Dyson V15’s test results mean we can’t deny it the top spot.
Because they can be unwieldy, bagged canister vacuums aren't as popular as they once were. Still, they're the go-to choice for serious cleaning. That's because their separate wands and many attachments make them easy to use under furniture, on a variety of floor types, and on upholstery and curtains. If you have mostly wood floors, a canister vacuum is your best bet.
At over a grand, the Miele Complete C3 Kona bagged canister vacuum might be expensive—but our tests show it gets the job done. On bare floors and thick carpet, the Kona simply captures more dirt than its competitors. It does this with its powered brush head, which is powerful enough to propel itself forward.
When cleaning is done, all attachments store onboard—even the powered Electro Plus wand slots right into the body. And since it's a Miele, nothing but the best build quality will do—no cheap or wobbly panels here. Everything is fine-tuned for balance so the unit won't fall over.
If you're an allergy sufferer or just demand a clean house, look no further than Miele's Kona.
Wet/Dry vacuums are designed to pick up dirt, debris, and water. The Craftsman 12004 was our overall pick for the best wet/dry vacuum because it offered the most balanced combination of power, usability, and versatility. While it's neither the largest nor the most powerful wet/dry vacuum we tested, it picked up 1.43 gallons of water in just 10 seconds—better than any vacuum its size.
The six-gallon Craftsman also backed up its power with smooth operation. The hose was easy to attach and remove, but still felt secure even when we used it to drag a heavy, waterlogged vacuum. This Craftsman also boasted the easiest filter to remove. That's important since you have to to take the filter off before wet pickup.
The only weak spot is the Craftsman's lack of attachments. It comes with two extension wands, a floor squeegee for wet pickup, and a utility nozzle. That covers wet and dry pretty well—but some of the competition came with more.
If you like the idea of an upright vacuum but want something that's going to last, we recommend spending a little more on a Miele. 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 contains weights so it resists tipping over, even when you're tugging on the hose.
But what's more impressive is that the Dynamic U1 models clean as well as they handle. When it comes right down to it, the U1 series picked up more dirt than any other vacuum we've ever tested. Yes, it is expensive—even the entry-level. But when you need a superior clean, Miele delivers.
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.
Types of Floors
Carpet can be 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. 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 Get Me?
After testing vacuums for the past five years, 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. Do you have a multi-level home with mostly hardwood floors? A canister is going to serve you the best.
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 that run 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.
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, since it's often sacrificing spatial awareness for suction power. The stronger suction also means they tend to be noisier.
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.
What You Need to Know About Cordless and Handheld Vacuums
Can Cordless Vacuums Replace Traditional Ones?
For the most part, cordless vacuums should be viewed as supplementary cleaning tools to be used in between uses of heavier cleaning equipment or in situations where a full-sized vacuum is too cumbersome. That said, if you’re willing to pay a higher price for the privilege, a cordless vacuum can stand toe-to-toe with a full-sized vacuum. While you can pay top dollar to buy a cordless vacuum with suction comparable to that of a full-size vacuum, there's usually a trade-off between suction and battery life. For instance, a cordless vacuum could do a stellar cleaning job at its highest suction setting, but its battery might only run for ten minutes before it runs out of power and needs to be recharged.
What’s the Difference Between Cordless Vacuums and Handheld Vacuums?
In many cases, the only difference between a cordless vacuum and hand vacuum is the cordless vacuum's long extension, which allows the brush head to reach the floor. Although rare, some two-in-one–models come with a handheld vacuum that can be removed and used to clean, without the floor extension—a real bonus when you're cleaning furniture or a flight of stairs.
What You Should Know About Wet/Dry Vacuums
Most people should only require a 3.5 to 5 peak horsepower motor for their wet/dry vac. If it can suction up water and sawdust, you're probably good to go. Besides, the horsepower number on most wet/dry vacuums is peak horsepower, which is a more generous estimation than a defined power rating. Peak horsepower, also known as developed horsepower, is a number based on ideal laboratory conditions, not real-world work.
Manufacturers also like to tout the amperage, or amps for short, of their models. Amps represent the total amount of electricity drawn by a device. The idea is that the more amps a motor uses, the more energy it can put out.
Again, the amount of energy used does not represent the total amount of suction. A dirty filter or a clogged hose can turn all those amps useless. Because of the limitation of how much a circuit breaker can take—typically between 15 and 20 amps—most vacuums do not exceed 12 amps.
How Does a Wet/Dry Vac Differ From a Regular Vacuum?
While a wet/dry vacuum cleaner is a versatile tool, we don’t recommend having it replace your regular floor cleaner. First, most wet/dry vacuums do not come with a HEPA cartridge filter. Typically, if a HEPA is offered at all, it has to be purchased separately. Second, because a wet/dry vacuum has to be able to deal with water, there’s no such thing as a motorized brush head for this type of vacuum. This lack of spinning brushes means a wet/dry vacuum can’t clean carpet or upholstery as effectively as a moderately priced regular vacuum. Finally, a wet/dry vacuum is designed to live in the garage, not inside your home. They are bulky and awkward to store indoors, and many can’t even fit inside a normal closet.
How We Tested Vacuum Cleaners
Hi, I’m Jon Chan, the senior lab technician at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it’s likely I oversee its testing, whether you’re asking about a vacuum or laundry detergent. 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 well each model can clean up a mess.
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.
Wet/Dry Vacuums: Shop vacuums differ from the rest on this list because they are more at home in the garage than your living room. To the wet part in wet/dry vacuum, we measured how much water each model could suction up in ten seconds and used that as a benchmark for their overall power. See, the horsepower rating on the box signifies only its peak horsepower, which quickly fades after startup. We also tested to see how well each model dealt with wet sand and metal bolts.
Moving away from cleaning, we made a note about how easy it was to use each vacuum. We checked to see if it was easy to assemble, empty, move, and swap out attachments.
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.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.