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The choice of vacuum cleaners on the market today is vast and its hard to know what is the best vacuum cleaner type to buy!
In your search for the best vacuum cleaner it helps to understand the different types of vacuum that are available and what the pros and cons are of each. You can then zero in on a particular type that is right for you and your circumstances.
You will want to consider the size of your home and the common types of flooring that you have. Whether there are pets in the home and any of the people living in the home have allergies are also important factors that will determine what type of vacuum would be best suited for your needs. Then you have to think about your budget, although most types of vacuum have brands that will suit a range of budgets.
Starting off with the decision of vacuum type will make your purchasing decision easier as it will filter the many options down to a smaller selection of brands and models within the specific type range that you have decided is right for you.
So to assist you in the process, we have written this article about the different types of vacuum cleaners that are available. We have identified the advantages and disadvantages of each and clarified the common terminology. Once you’ve decided the best vacuum cleaner type for your needs, we’d recommend reading our Ultimate Vacuum Buying Guide.
Upright Vacuum Cleaners
Price Range: $50 to $700
Weight range: 14-21 pounds
Upright vacuums are the traditional vacuum cleaner type we all know and love (well, maybe its a love/ hate thing for many of us). Because of their upright position they are a great option if you don’t want to bend over a lot.
This model of vacuum is one of the most common types in the home in the US, UK and Commonwealth Countries. However the upright is less common in Continental Europe, where Canister (Cylinder) Vacuum Cleaners are more popular. This is confirmed in a Mintel August 2006 Vacuum Cleaners Market Intelligence Report. The Report found the following regional differences in preferences for vacuum cleaner types in Europe:
- The UK generally preferred upright vacuum cleaners until the early 2000s. However by 2003 suction cleaners (commonly known as canisters/ cylinders) had overtaken upright cleaners in volume sales.
- Continental Europe historically prefers cylinder cleaners.
- Lightweight suction cleaners mounted on a handle with integrated cleaning head (see Stick Cleaners section below) are also found more in Continental Europe than the UK.
A good Upright Vacuum Cleaner will provide the greatest cleaning power for carpets compared to other types but many models can transition for use on hard floors as well. Upright designs usually involve a rotating brushroll or beater bar, which removes dirt through a combination of sweeping and vibration. They normally have a single motor that powers both the suction as well as a drive-belt that rotates the brush-roll, although some models, such as Riccar’s Tandem Air Vacuums, have two motors for these separate functions. As with all types, there are various features that can come with the upright depending on the brand and model and uprights can be found in either bagged (the dirt is collected in a bag) or bagless (dirt collected in a bin) variety.
We’ve compiled 5 great uprights at different price points to choose from in our Best Bagless Vacuum Reviews.
- Upright design requires a suitable storage space that is tall enough.
- Main advantage is their strong performance on carpets so best suited to majority carpeted homes with large open spaces to work with.
- Heaviest type of vacuum, consider alternative types if portability up stairs is important.
- Bagless uprights can be expensive, up to $700, bagged models are cheaper, under $300.
Canister Vacuum Cleaners
Price Range: $50 to $700
Weight range: 8-14 pounds
Canister Vacuum Cleaners (also known as Cylinder Vacuum Cleaners in the UK) are the most common type of vacuum in Europe. They have the motor and dust collector (which as with uprights can be either bagged or bagless) in a separate unit, usually mounted on wheels, which is connected to the vacuum head by a flexible hose. They are versatile cleaners offering good flexibility and mobility. Users can attach different heads for different tasks, and get to those hard to reach areas more easily than with uprights. The vacuum head can easily reach under furniture and vacuuming stairs and vertical surfaces is much easier due to their lighter weight, smaller size and greater reach. Many cylinder models have power heads as standard or add-on equipment containing the same sort of mechanical beaters as in upright units, making them as efficient on carpets as upright models.
We take a close look at 5 of the best canister models to choose from in 2016 in our Canister Vacuum Reviews.
- Greater portability, manoeuvrability and lighter than uprights for similar cleaning performance
- Users will need to do more bending over than with uprights
- Hose, wand and other attachments do not snap fix to the vacuum so storage can be more cluttered
- Different cleaning style than uprights, which depends on your preference. Hoses and wand can tend to get tangled up more easily than uprights
- Expect to pay the same as a similar performing and featured upright for these models
Stick Vacuum Cleaners
Price Range: $50 to $500
Weight range: 5-10 pounds
The Stick vacuum is similar to the upright but without any added attachments or accessories and are typically cordless with rechargeable batteries. The obvious advantages that come with this are easier storage, lighter weight and no hassles with moving and plugging in cables. The disadvantage is that they are generally less powerful than a traditional upright, however top of the range models, for example the Dyson V6 Absolute provide superb suction performance.
We cover 5 of the latest models of stick vacuum cleaners in our Best Lightweight Vacuum Reviews.
- Lightweight and typically cordless battery powered for ultra portability
- Reduced performance compared to uprights or canisters so better suited for hard floors although can be used on carpets
- Can be a good option for those with limited strength or as a second cleaner for quick clean ups
Handheld Vacuum Cleaners
Price Range: $20 to $200
Weight range: 4-5 pounds
These mini-vacuums offer a handy solution for smaller jobs. They can be corded or cordless battery powered and their size and weight means they can be used quickly for spot cleaning in the house whether it be food scraps on the couch or ridding the mattress of dust mites. They are also an excellent choice for a car vacuum cleaner that could even be taken away on road trips to clean on the go. Some battery-powered handheld vacuums are wet/dry rated providing greater versatility to their use; however it is usually necessary to partially disassemble the unit and clean it after picking up wet materials, to avoid developing unpleasant odors. Having one of these around the home as a supplemental vacuum cleaner can save you the time involved in pulling your main unit out of the cupboard. Some of these units offer superb value for money as we have shown in our Best Hand Vacuum Reviews.
- Good supplemental cleaning tool
- Corded or cordless models available depending on your requirements and budget
- Excellent for use as a car vacuum cleaner
- More expensive models offer high suction power with extended battery life
Convertible Vacuum Cleaners
Price Range: $50 to $500
Weight range: 9-14 pounds
This type of vacuum cleaner are often referred to as a 2-in-1 or even 3-in-1 as they can change from one type of vacuum into another. Some models convert from a stick to a handheld vacuum like the Hoover Air Cordless 2-in-1 pictured above and other models such as the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional Vacuum that we included in our Best Upright Vacuum Reviews convert from an upright vacuum into a canister vacuum. These models offer great flexibility for handling a large variety of cleaning needs.
Robot Vacuum Cleaners
Price Range: $50 to $1000
Weight range: less than 10 pounds
The rise of the machines is upon us, robot vacuum cleaners have been steadily growing since their entry into the market in the early 2000s and their market share is forecast by many consumer reports to grow significantly in the coming years as their sophistication continues to develop. These machines move autonomously while collecting surface dust and debris into a dustbin. These units navigate around furniture and come back to a docking station to charge their batteries, and a few are able to empty their dust containers into the dock as well. Most models are equipped with motorized brushes and a vacuum motor to collect dust and debris.
Robot vacuum cleaners have popular manufacturers such as iRobot with their Roomba range and Neato with their Botvacs that are unique to this type of vacuum. However more well known appliance manufacturers such as Samsung have also entered the market and make good quality units, whilst Dyson are due to release their first robotic vacuum cleaner, the Dyson 360 Eye™ in the very near future. These units are a great time saver as they can supplement regular vacuuming, reducing the frequency of pulling out your more powerful unit.
We look at 3 of the best robot vacuum cleaners on the market in our Robot Vacuum Reviews.
- Supplemental vacuum cleaner, battery-powered with docking station, cordless.
- Sensor-controlled, automated via scheduling feature, various cleaning modes and other features depending on your budget
- Can clean both carpets and bare floors
- May require supervising and preparation of rooms prior to cleaning to be effective, e.g. removing loose items from the floor that could be sucked up by the bots
The most popular types of vacuum cleaner have been detailed in this article, although there are more types that exist, which tend to be more specialist, for example wet/ dry vacuums, water filter vacuums, hybrid vacuums, cyclone vacuums, central vacuum systems and backpack vacuums to name a few. We have covered some of these in separate articles and intend to cover them all eventually here at Home Vacuum Zone (follow the links above for more information). However the types of vacuum that we have detailed in this article should serve the vast majority of the vacuuming public.
There are of course factors other than type that you must consider when buying a vacuum. This is where our Ultimate Vacuum Buying Guide comes in, which will take you through all of the other considerations including bagged v bagless and filtration. The guide considers many other things such as whether you have pets at home – be sure to also check out our best vacuum cleaner for pet hair reviews for some good options if this is you!
By aligning your specific circumstances to the main advantages of the particular type of vacuum cleaner it should take a lot of the hard work out of the selection process. It is then a case of choosing a brand and model that fits your budget and our other reviews can help with this. Happy hunting!