Many people daydream about buying a robot vacuum so they can ditch their traditional vacuum. However, early models proved that they weren't quite up to the task, yet were still somehow priced beyond what the average person could afford.
Fortunately, it's a technology that is advancing rapidly. There are now far more affordable robot vacuums and the options are getting more effective and feature-rich with each passing cycle.
The ever-expanding landscape leaves you with a plethora of options to choose from, and at this point you might not asking "should I get a robot vacuum" but rather "which robot vacuum should I get?" Here are some considerations to take into account as you decide.
The perks of high-end robot vacuums
If you want a top-of-the-line robot vacuum with all the latest features that’s also backed by brand recognition, a Roomba might be right for you. Brand-name products typically cost more than similar products from lesser-known companies, and Roomba vacuums are no exception.
For instance, if you want the latest iRobot Roomba i7+, it will cost you over $1,000. While this price is steeper than other robot vacuum options, the i7+ charging base will empty the Roomba for you, which means you can skip what's undeniably the worst part of vacuuming: emptying the chamber of filth. Additionally, this Roomba model is compatible with smart tech and creates virtual cleaning maps, and it did an unbeatable job sucking up dirt in our testing.
This pricey robotic vacuum and others like it typically boast more features than budget-friendly models. For instance, some of the options include:
- Virtual floor mapping for more accurate cleanings
- Remote control via smartphone
- Live camera streaming
- Longer battery life
- Magnetic boundary strips (although you'll find this on some less costly models)
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Shorter cleaning cycles
- Mopping (mostly limited to the Ecovacs brand right now)
If these would be useful for you, it may be worthwhile to spend a little more on your robot vacuum.
More affordable robot vacuum options
Those looking to simply supplement their cleaning routine with a few hands-free vacuuming sessions each week may prefer more affordable robot vacuum models—these lower-end (but still effective) products typically cost between $200 and $400.
While these robot vacuums might not come with the fancy smart-tech features you’ll find on more expensive models, they still do a fine job removing dirt and hair from your home. The lineup of affordable robot vacuums includes the iLife A4s, Eufy Robovac 11S and Neato Botvac D3 Connected. All of these robot vacuums allow you to schedule daily cleaning times, so you can come home to spotless floors day after day. They just don't have as many bells and whistles as their more expensive cousins.
Managing your expectations
In our experience, robot vacuums aren't yet an acceptable substitute for a traditional vacuum. Between battery limitations, small dust bins, a propensity for getting lost, and not having a lot of suction power, there are certainly limitations. Robot vacuums are best used between sessions with a standard vacuum, especially if you have carpets and rugs. On the other hand, they're perfect if you have pets or debris that accumulates quickly. Set your expectations accordingly.
How we test robot vacuums
Most of the tests involve our robot obstacle course. The area contains analogs for furniture legs, shelves, and thresholds. Each robot vacuum has three chances to prove itself. The first two runs, we placed cork pellets under the shelves and between the furniture legs. When we let the robot vacuum loose, we look for how long a cleaning cycle takes, what obstacles it was able to clean thoroughly, and overall debris pickup. For the final test run, we replaced the cork with pet hair and perform another test run. Together, the tests give us a complete picture of cleaning power and the ability to deal with complex terrain.
Which robot vacuum is best?
At the end of the day, how much you should spend on a robot vacuum comes down to what you want to use it for. If you’re looking to supplement your regular vacuuming routine, it might not be necessary to buy a top-of-the-line model. You can choose a more affordable robot vacuum and still enjoy the benefits of dirt-free floors with the click of a button. However, you'll have to empty the bin by hand and cope with longer cleaning cycles.
On the other hand, if you're looking for convenience and ample functionality, you may want to bring home the latest and greatest smart robot vacuum. These Wi-Fi connected models can often be controlled remotely through Google Home or Amazon Alexa, and some let you select which room you want cleaned. Certain smart robot vacuums are even equipped with an onboard camera that streams video to your smartphone, so you can keep an eye on its progress from the office or when you’re out of town. All these features (and more) can be yours if you're willing to spend extra.
Either way, we think you'll be pleased should you choose to join the robot vacuum movement. Even though you'll still need to bring out your full-size vacuum, those deep-cleaning sessions just got that much shorter—and who doesn't want that?