The best vacuum cleaner for you will depend on a few different factors. What kind of floors you’re looking to clean, how much furniture you’ll need to maneuver around, and the available space you have for storing your vacuum are all important considerations when shopping for a new vacuum.
Over the past five years, we've tested hundreds of vacuums to determine which ones are the best, and we can tell you that all types of vacuum cleaners have their own advantages and drawbacks.
Upright vacuums, for example, tend to be best at cleaning carpets rather than upholstery. On the other hand, canister vacuums 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:
Best Affordable Upright Vacuum Cleaner: Shark Navigator NV352
Best Affordable Robot Vacuum Cleaner: Eufy Robovac 11S
Best Cordless Vacuum: Dyson V15 Detect
Best Canister Vacuum Cleaner: Dyson Multifloor Big Ball
Best Shop Vacuum: VacMaster 12 gallon, 5 peak horsepower
Best Affordable Upright Vacuum Cleaner
Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away
When it comes to value, it’s hard to beat a Shark vacuum cleaner. The Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 is a prime example. During our cleaning tests, the Navigator picked up 38% of the testing dirt off our lab’s carpets. Vacuums that clean more than 33% get a thumbs up from us.
This Shark also boasts a swivel joint in the brush head, which allows it to pivot around corners, furniture, and other obstacles. When you combine this nimble upright with its small brush head, it can more easily reach tight spaces.
And for stairs and cleaning atop furniture, we need to mention this Lift-Away feature: Users can detach the motor from the handle to create a wheel-less canister. You can’t use attachments in this mode, which is a major downside, but we think it’s a good trade-off for certain scenarios.
The Eufy Robovac 11S is one of the most popular robot vacuums ever with our readers. This budget robot vacuum offers powerful suction and good navigation at this price point. One of the reasons why the 11S is so good at cleaning is because of its slender size. Standing at only three inches tall, this robot vacuum is shorter than average, allowing it to slip under more furniture to get at dust and debris.
The Eufy 11S proved its cleaning prowess on our robot vacuum obstacle course where it picked up an average of 11.6 grams of debris per cleaning session. That put it in the same caliber as most Roombas. We also noted that this robot runs pretty quietly compared to other robot vacuums in its price range.
The Dyson V15 Detect is a cutting-edge cordless vacuum. It has two major features that we think set it apart from its competitors: a dust-illuminating laser and a more powerful battery. Manufacturers sometimes add features as a gimmick, but our lab tests show that these new features enhance the cleaning experience.
First off, the V15 Detect is an excellent carpet cleaner. This vacuum picked up 92% of the dirt we left for it on our testing floors. On max power, the battery lasts 15 minutes, six minutes longer than the previous generation of Dyson cordless.
Based on the extra-long battery life and its cleaning prowess, we decided to crown the V15 the top cordless vacuum. Its laser and dirt sensor help you seek out and find dirt even under furniture. Lots of cordless vacuums have LED headlights, but this Dyson’s laser is placed at an angle so it better illuminates low-lying dust.
While the Dyson V15 Detect has seen several major upgrades, it still has the smooth glide and easy pivoting joint that previous models had. It also still has that high sticker price that Dyson is known for. However, with the V15, you’re getting what you pay for.
If you’re looking for a canister vacuum, the Dyson Big Ball Multifloor is worth checking out. It has powerful suction and an easy-to-use design. In our cleaning tests, the Multifloor picked up an average 47% of the dirt on our lab carpets in a single pass. The average is around 30%.
Power is great, but the Multifloor is also easy to use. The self-adjusting head means this vacuum can seamlessly go from bare floors to carpet without the need to push buttons or levers. The chassis is also designed to always self-right. This means if the canister gets tipped over, it well get back on its wheels without any assistance.
We also liked the lightweight wand, which allowed us to clean high-up areas like vents with the combination tool and not put a lot of strain on our wrists.
Finally, we appreciated the Dyson engineering on this canister. Every aspect on the Multifloor feels well made. Parts come together with a satisfying click, the brush head pivots on a dime, and cord retracts quickly. Whether you’re looking for a general carpet cleaner or need something to clean hardwood floors, the Dyson Big Ball Multifloor is worth checking out.
The VacMaster is a versatile wet/dry vacuum that we think will suit most people. You can easily place the hose on the exhaust and tote just the motor around. That means this wet/dry vacuum can transform into a leaf blower in seconds.
During our suction tests, the VacMaster moved 1.36 gallons of water in 10 seconds. It’s not the most powerful shop vac, but did handle dirt and debris well. For its relatively low cost, we think it provides great value.
Upright vacuums tend to be easier to use. All the controls focus on a single brush head, which cuts down on confusion. We also find them easier to store. That’s partly because they tend to have fewer attachments. If you just want to clean your floors, an upright vacuum is a good style to purchase.
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 them or may get stuck.
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, you can find a cordless vacuum that can stand toe-to-toe with a full-sized vacuum.
However, 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.
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 filter is offered at all, it has to be purchased separately.
Second, because a shop 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 even 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.
Canister vacuums have the potential to be more powerful since they can have bigger motors while still being easy to carry. They tend to come with more attachments. People who are interested in regularly cleaning upholstery or curtains would be best served by a canister vacuum.
How to Choose the Best Vacuum for You
Bagged vs. Bagless
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 low and high-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 brush rolls are your best bet. Be aware that pine and other softwoods can get scratched and dinged by heavy vacuum use. When in doubt, use a broom and dustpan.
After testing vacuums for the past five years, we have an understanding of what you get for your money. In the sub-$100 price tag category, every extra dollar you spend usually goes towards more power. The models we tested at this price range all carried the same, bare-minimum array of attachments, like just a crevice tool.
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 focus toward cordless models. Do you have a multi-level home with mostly hardwood floors? A canister is going to serve you the best.
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 how 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 pet hair and embedded dirt. On bare floors, we’re more focused on seeing if a vacuum can pick up large debris like uncooked rice and macaroni.
Aside from raw cleaning power, we also test how easy to use each vacuum is. We check to see how easy it is to lug up the stairs, and the length of the power cord. We 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, including factors like 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 in your living room. To test the “wet” part of “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.
We tested this way because 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, easy to empty, easy to move, and easy to 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.