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Do you need a canister, an upright or a stick vacuum?

Everyone has different needs when it comes to cleaning their home. Some people simply sweep or mop their hardwood floors, while others have to vacuum copious amounts of carpet. If you’re in the latter group, you know how important a good vacuum can be. And when it’s time to buy a new vacuum cleaner, you’ll have to decide between three main categories: upright, canister or stick vacuum.

Even when you’re ready to make a choice, you’ll likely still have plenty of other questions. You may wonder what the best cordless stick vacuum is. Or you might contemplate if you should get a Dyson upright vacuum or a Shark upright vacuum. Perhaps you’re curious if the Kenmore canister vacuum is as good as people say it is.

Whether it’s your first vacuum or your fourth, there are a lot of things to consider when getting a new vacuum. From suction options to accessories to cord length, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. But fear not: here’s everything you need to know about the various vacuums out there and how to decipher the right one for your needs.

Upright vacuums

Upright vacuums are ideal if you need to clean large areas of carpet or hard floor quickly and easily. They generally have a one-piece design with large cleaning heads and a few attachments for tight corners. The best upright vacuums work well for cleaning large areas, like living rooms or bedrooms. They usually have cords and offer reasonably powerful suction. 

These upright vacuum cleaners have been the most popular choice for several years, and for good reasons. They are effective, cover plenty of ground, usually have an easy-to-empty dirt container and come with attachment options. Unless you’re reaching around tight corners or deep underneath furniture, an upright vacuum will be a good choice. And even then, the attachments allow for some options in cleaning small spaces.

You can find affordable, upright vacuums starting at around $50-$100. These will have less power and fewer attachments. High-end models with several attachments and plenty of suction power can cost up to (and more than) $500.

What you’ll love about upright vacuums

  • Upright vacuums have motorized brush rolls that work deep into the pile to thoroughly clean rugs and fitted carpets.
  • The broad cleaning head makes light work of large rooms, allowing you to clean up bigger rooms with straight lines.
  • Most upright vacuums are bagless and have relatively large dust containers, so you don’t need empty them quite as frequently.

What you should consider about upright vacuums

  • The cords may not be long enough for you to clean the entire room without switching outlets. This can be especially annoying if you’re cleaning a space that doesn’t have an outlet.
  • Upright vacuums aren’t quite as nimble or maneuverable as canister or stick vacuums. Some attachments help, but they’re rarely as effective as other models.
  • You’ll need to use the hose attachment to tackle stairs, upholstery and edges. This can be tricky if you have difficulty reaching those areas without an extension.

Top upright vacuums

Best Dyson Ball Animal 2

Dyson Ball Animal 2

Dyson is a heavy-hitter brand in the vacuum market. This mighty upright vacuum can tackle hair, dirt, dust and more. It’s ideal if you regularly clean up after kids, pets and other common household messes. And its unique design makes it easy to push around the house.

Available at Amazon

Best Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum

Shark is a well-known brand in the cleaning industry, specifically for their amazing vacuum cleaners. This upright vacuum is surprisingly maneuverable, and it incorporates a lift-away canister to tackle stairs and above-floor cleaning efficiently. And if you have allergies, this comes with an Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology and a HEPA filter to keep pollen and dust at bay.

Available at Amazon

Best Bissell CleanView Upright Vacuum

Bissell CleanView Upright Vacuum 

If you’re looking for an affordable upright vacuum with a quality brush roll for cleaning carpets and impressive multi-cyclonic suction, this is a great option. It also has a crevice tool and a dirt tank that empties at the push of a button.

Available at Amazon

Canister vacuums

Canister vacuums are great for cleaning hard-to-reach areas. They offer some of the best suction power, too. The motor and dirtbag stay in a separate container, which attaches to the suction head with a flexible hose. 

A canister vacuum is ideal for those who may not be able to lift a heavy upright vacuum. And since they can clean small areas and hard-to-reach spaces, they’re a good solution for those with lofty ceilings or deep furniture.

Canister vacuum cleaners can cost anywhere from $50-$600, depending on the brand, suction power and attachment options. Basic options will likely have less suction power than more expensive models.

What you’ll love about canister vacuums

  • They’re significantly quieter than upright vacuums because the motor has better insulation. This is an important feature if you have children napping at home.
  • Since there’s more space to house the motor, canister vacuums usually have better suction power than upright or stick vacuums. This is the perfect way to clean both fresh and ground-in dirt.
  • The cleaning head is easy to maneuver, especially around and under furniture. You won’t see any cobwebs with this vacuum handy.

What you should consider about canister vacuums

  • While it has a maneuverable cleaning head, the body of the vacuum can be annoying to drag behind you. It may also be hard to pick up and move around the house.
  • They usually have a bagged design rather than bagless, which many buyers find less convenient. 

Top canister vacuums

Best Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner 

Dyson offers some of the best canister vacuums on the market. This model comes with the impressive suction power that you expect from the brand. An extra bonus is you don’t have to wash or replace the filter, and it doesn’t require any bags. This cuts down on additional costs and makes it even easier to use than other models.

Available at Amazon

Best Miele Complete C3

Miele Complete C3 

Another high-end canister vacuum that might be pricey but is well worth it, thanks to its durability and top-notch suction. The HEPA filter catches pollen and dust, making it ideal for those who suffer from allergies, too. If you have pets, this may be a good option.

Available at Amazon

Best Bissell Zing Canister Vacuum

Bissell Zing Canister Vacuum

Although it can’t beat high-end offerings’ suction power, this is an excellent choice for anyone on a tight budget. And if you need to clean your couch, this one does a fantastic job cleaning upholstered furniture.

Available at Amazon

Stick vacuums

Stick vacuums are lightweight and easy to use, and there are plenty of convenient cordless models available. The motors and dust containers are right at the top of the unit near the handle. The cleaning head stays at the end of a solid, stick-like suction tube. Some of the best cordless stick vacuums are more expensive than upright or canister vacuums of comparable quality. 

A stick vacuum is a natural choice for those who need to clean in areas without a power outlet. Whether it’s outside or indoors, a stick vacuum can clean places that don’t have easy access to power. You also won’t have to deal with cords trailing behind you.

Depending on the brand, power and additional accessories, stick vacuums cost anywhere from $100-$800. More expensive brands will likely offer longer run times and more suction power.

What you’ll love about stick vacuums

  • They’re often cordless, which is convenient since you don’t need to switch between power outlets or gather up cords when you’re done. You can also clean cars, sheds, garages and other places where you might not have power outlets.
  • You can usually detach the top of a stick vacuum to use it as a handheld model for spot cleaning, upholstery or stairs.
  • The best stick vacuums are lightweight and easy to maneuver and often have sticks that flex halfway up to reach under furniture.

What you should consider about stick vacuums

  • Stick vacuums often have small dust containers that you need to empty on a regular basis. This can be cumbersome and tedious, and it may lead to unintentional messes when you empty the canister.
  • Cordless options can have limited runtimes, so you may run out of juice before you’re done cleaning. However, high-end models can last up to an hour between charges.

Top stick vacuums

Best Samsung Jet 75 Complete Cordless Stick Vacuum

Samsung Jet 75 Complete Cordless Stick Vacuum

This impressive cordless stick vacuum rivals the suction power of corded models. It has a 60-minute runtime and features a 180-degree swivel head to help you clean hard-to-reach spots. If you’re interested in replacing an upright vacuum with a new model, this may be a good option.

Available at Amazon

Best Miele Triflex HX1

Miele Triflex HX1 

Since this vacuum is one of Miele’s most powerful corded models, you’ll get maximum suction power with the convenience of a cordless stick vacuum. It comes with a crevice nozzle for tight spots and a wall mount, so it stays out of the way when you’re done cleaning.

Available at Amazon

Best Shark Pet Plus Cordless Stick Vacuum

Shark Pet Plus Cordless Stick Vacuum

Get a deeper clean with this lightweight stick vacuum, which is easy to use and has a flexible reach to help you clean under furniture — it even converts to a hand vac. Its powerful suction works well on pet hair, and it offers 40 minutes of runtime per charge.

Available at Amazon

Should you get an upright, a canister, or a stick vacuum?

If you’re looking for a definitive answer to whether you should get a stick, upright or canister vacuum, it ultimately depends on the area you plan on cleaning. All designs have helpful features, as well as some areas where they fall short. 

Take time to consider your floor type, how much carpet needs cleaning, how light or heavy you need the vacuum to be and any necessary attachments. This will help you narrow down what type of vacuum cleaner you should buy depending on your needs and preferences. 

If you love the convenience of a cordless vacuum, you should opt for a cordless stick vacuum. Canister vacuums are arguably the best option for getting into nooks and crannies. Upright vacuum cleaners are easy to use and are often the quickest option when vacuuming large rooms without too many obstacles to maneuver around. Either way, check reviews of products and check the company website for information about performance.

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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