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From robot vacuums to hand vacs and canister models, your options are seemingly endless when it comes to vacuum cleaners. If you’re in the market for an upright vacuum, though, you’ll need to answer this question: Should you buy a corded or cordless vacuum?
Americans love powered electronics that don’t have cords—from cordless leaf blowers to beard trimmers. If there’s no cord, there’s nothing to get tangled in and nothing to hold you back. But do cordless vacuums have the same suction power as their corded counterparts?
If you don’t know much about the types of vacuums or the differences between cordless vacuums and corded vacuum cleaners, we’re here to break it down and help you find out which type is best for you.
How are cordless vacuum cleaners different?
Cordless vacuums, as the name suggests, rely on a battery for power instead of plugging into the wall. Typically, they charge via a dock or plug-in system. Many include the same attachments as their corded cousins, such as a crevice tool and dust brush, and some include even more.
The first generation of cordless vacuums were really supplementary cleaning tools, not meant to replace a corded upright, but they’ve come a long way since then. While some still act as spot cleaners, the best cordless vacuums have superb cleaning power that can stand against corded models any day.
Like with all things, though, cordless vacuums exist on a spectrum. On the lower end, you have hand vacuums that specialize in spot cleaning or cleaning in tight spaces for a few minutes.
As you travel up the price ladder, typically you’re going to get more features. For example, higher-end cordless vacuums are more likely to utilize digital motors, which provide more suction cleaning and have better battery life. You’ll also find more specialized cleaning tools, such as a laser that illuminates all the dirt on your floor, found on some of our favorite Dyson vacuums.
Why you should buy a cordless vacuum
There are a couple of scenarios where a cordless vacuum is better than a corded one.
If you’re a person who cleans your car and your house in equal measure, then you should consider buying a cordless vacuum. The majority of cordless vacuums can transform into a hand vacuum and even come with specialized attachments for cleaning upholstery. Because cordless vacuums are battery-powered, they are very portable and don’t need to be near a power source, making them ideal ways to spot clean car seats laden with pet hair or vacuum up crumbs on floor mats.
Additionally, if you have a lot of bare floors in your home, you may want to consider a cordless vacuum. With this type of flooring, cordless vacuums with soft rollers are your best bet. Softwoods such as pine can get scratched by heavy vacuum use.
Another scenario where a cordless vacuum cleaner makes sense is if you have limited storage space. Cordless vacuums take up less room than corded vacuums. Higher-end cordless vacuums, like the LG CordZero, feature all-in-one storage for attachments and batteries.
Cordless vacs are also great if you don't want to (or are unable to) lug a heavy vacuum around. Perhaps you’re a senior who is aging in place and can’t handle the heft of corded vacuums (some of the heaviest models weigh over 20 pounds). Cordless vacuums, even with their beefiest attachments on, still weigh half that.
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Why you should buy a corded vacuum
While today’s cordless vacuums are much better than earlier models, even the best ones have limitations that corded models may not.
A cordless vacuum’s run time is determined by battery life, which is impacted by how you use the vacuum. On max power, even our favorite cordless models run from 15 minutes to less than 10. On a vacuum’s low setting, you might get closer to an hour of cleaning. If you have a large home that takes a long to clean, you might want to consider a corded model.
While the dust capacity for cordless vacuums can vary, generally they don’t hold as much dirt as corded units. Going with a cordless vacuum could mean more trips to the kitchen trash can to empty the dust cup while you’re cleaning.
Your flooring type is another factor that could tip the scales to a corded vacuum. Top-of-the-line cordless models can offer plenty of power these days. Even so, the powerful rolling brush head of a good corded upright vacuum tends to do a better job of cleaning carpets.
If you have a larger home, or you need to deep-clean ultra-plush or high-pile carpet, a corded vacuum may serve you better in the long term. You may even consider a cordless model for quick pass-throughs, backed up by a corded model for more series cleanings.
Which cordless vacuum cleaner is best?
We’ve got an in-depth buying guide about cordless vacuums that we’ve tried and tested in our labs. Here are four standout cordless vacuums we love.
1. Samsung Bespoke Jet
This cordless vacuum is as powerful as the best Dysons, self-empties into a disposable bag, and has an excellent battery life. Even more impressive is that the Bespoke Jet comes with two batteries, so you can double your cleaning time.
2. Dyson V15 Detect
The V15 is as powerful as most full-sized vacuums, and it has a laser on the front that illuminates dirt on the floor. For people who want pristine floors, car seats, and window sills, this is the cordless to get.
3. Tineco A11 Hero
This is a quality cordless vacuum that doesn’t break the bank. It is a no-frills floor cleaner that’s easy to carry upstairs and has a bright light on the front to vacuum under furniture.
4. LG CordZero A939KBGS
If you’re into getting maximum satisfaction for minimum effort, the LG CordZero A939KBGS is a great floor cleaner and it has the ability to self-empty. No more dust plumes over the trash. The CordZero dumps all its dirt into a bag that only needs dealing with once a month. An added bonus: It’s our favorite cordless vacuum for pet hair.
Which corded vacuum cleaner is best?
We tested a lot of corded vacuums in our labs, too. Selecting the right one for you will depend on a number of factors, but here are four suggestions based on specific needs.
1. Sebo Automatic X7
While the X7 is expensive, it's our favorite upright vacuum. The X7 offers good suction and a filtration system is similar to what you might find at a hospital. If you have the budget, it's worth considering, especially if you have bad allergies or asthma.
2. Shark NV352 Navigator Lift-Away
If the X7 is quite in your price range, this Shark model is our favorite affordable bagless vacuum cleaner. Because of its swivel joint, this vacuum can easily maneuver around furniture. Also, its Lift-Away feature turns the vacuum into a canister vacuum without wheels.
3. Shark NV752 Rotator Powered Lift-Away TruePet
Pets can present challenges for vacuum cleaners. If you have a dog or cat, you might want to consider the NV752, our favorite vacuum for pet hair. The NV752 scored well on vacuuming tests and it excelled at picking up dog and cat hair. Like the Shark NV352, this vacuum has the Lift-Away feature, turning into a pseudo canister.
4. Shark Apex AZ1002
Yet another Shark among our recommendations, the Apex excels at cleaning hardwood while still working great as a carpet cleaner. It also does a better job picking up pet hair than vacuums that cost hundreds more.
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