Updated January 2019
In this update, we finally found a new vacuum cleaner that had what it took to claim an award. The Shark APEX DuoClean with Zero-M did exceptionally well across all of our tests, earning the highest score that we have seen to date and toppling our previous Editors' Choice award winner, the Shark Rotator with DuoClean. The APEX is just a bit more proficient at picking up pet hair and cleaning carpets, all while being about the same price and performing similarly to the Rotator in our ease of use, maneuverability, and hard floor cleaning tests. Keep reading to see exactly how the APEX vacuum cleaner did, but if you want to take cleaning your floors to the next level, then the APEX by Shark is the clear choice.
Best Overall Vacuum Cleaner
Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M
Phenomenal at cleaning carpet
One of the best for pet hair
Fantastic for hard floors
Earning the absolute highest score we have seen from a vacuum cleaner so far, the APEX DuoClean with Zero-M by Shark easily claimed an Editor's Choice award and the title of Best Vacuum Overall. This vacuum handles all types of messes on both hard and soft floors with ease, cleaning up everything from rice to flour with ease. On top of a fantastic cleaning performance, the APEX is extraordinarily easy to use, having a swivel head that makes it extremely maneuverable and a Lift-Away function that lets you get into all the hard to reach places around your home. Additionally, the new Zero-M cleaner head does a fantastic job at collecting pet hair without becoming tangled.
When it comes to drawbacks, they are few and far between. We found that the cord is a little on the short side and the base of the vacuum is prone to falling over when using the wand attachment, but that it about it. If you are looking for a top-notch vacuum cleaner, then we would highly recommend the Shark APEX.
Read Full Review: Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M
Best Bagged Vacuum for Carpet Cleaning
Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly
Unparalleled carpet cleaning ability
Fantastic at pet hair
Cleans close to edges
Standing out from the rest of the pack with its unmatched carpet cleaning capabilities, the Elite Pet Friendly from Kenmore also earned an Editors' Choice award. This bulky bagged vacuum cleaner is a little bare-bones when it comes to extra features and functions, but it can't be beaten when it comes to carpet cleaning performance.
However, this exceptional cleaning performance does come at a price. It is definitely a hefty product and a little less maneuverable, but it is the clear choice for carpeted homes that have need heavy-duty cleaning. It also does a solid job of keeping hard floors cleans and is definitely something to consider if you want a vacuum that can keep up with even the messiest pets or kids.
Read Full Review: Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly
Best Bang for the Buck
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional
Easy to use
Cleans up pet hair with ease
Great performance at cleaning
Didn't do amazing at cleaning hard floors
If you are looking for a great vacuum, but are unwilling to spend more than $200, then the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional is a perfect choice. This vacuum does an exceptionally good job at removing all types of debris from carpet, even delivering an essentially perfect performance when it came to picking up pet hair. This vacuum isn't overly heavy or particularly cumbersome, is overall very easy to use, and highly maneuverable, mainly due to its swivel head.
However, we weren't the most impressed with its performance on hard floors. It cleans up medium-sized debris fairly well, but struggles with very fine or larger items, struggling to collect flour and Cheerios in our tests. While it didn't do the best job, this could usually be remedied by simply doing a few extra passes and the floor was far more than adequately cleaned. All in all, this is our favorite vacuum when shopping on a budget. It holds its own with other models that cost significantly more and delivers an above average performance across the board. If you don't want to break the bank for a solid vacuum that gets the job done, then the Shark Navigator is the perfect vacuum for you.
Read Full Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional
Best on a Tight Budget
Subpar at picking up pet hair
This inexpensive canister vacuum isn't the top model by any means, but it did decently well in our tests. It scored above average in almost every set of tests we did and costs a fraction of the price of the top models. This no-frills model is very nimble and maneuverable for cleaning in tight places, can keep both carpet and hard floors suitably clean, and doesn't weigh too much.
Unfortunately, it doesn't do terribly well at collecting pet hair and its overall cleaning performance pales in comparison to the top models that we tested. However, for those that want a bare-bones option for a tight budget, then the Zing is an excellent choice
Read Full Review: BISSELL Zing
Best Canister Vacuum
Miele Compact C1 Turbo
Great at cleaning carpet
Fantastic at pet hair
While the performance of the Miele Compact C1 Turbo didn't merit an award, we felt that this vacuum cleaner still deserved some recognition. This canister vacuum is easy to use and setup, highly maneuverable, and one of our favorite models for quick cleanup — especially in cluttered areas. The Miele earned the highest score of all the canister vacuums in our test, making it a solid choice for those that have a strong preference for this style of vacuum over an upright model.
Unfortunately, this bagged vacuum is quite expensive — one of the pricier models of the entire group. While Miele vacuums do have a solid reputation for longevity and durability, it still is a formidable chunk of change to spend on a vacuum that didn't take home the top score.
Read Full Review: Miele Compact C1 Turbo
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The top vacuums on the market, ready for some head-to-head testing.
Analysis and Test Results
To rate these products, we put them through a series of challenging tests designed to push them to their limits. We conducted over 20 different tests for each vacuum, equating to hours and hours vacuuming up pet hair, oatmeal, flour, cereal, and rice from different types of carpet and hard floors. These tests were divided among 5 weighted rating metrics: Carpet Cleaning, Ease of Use, Handling, Hard Surface Cleaning, and Pet Hair. Each product received a score from 0-100, with the following sections giving more details about how each product performed and why it scored what it did.
If you are looking for a top-of-the-line vacuum, then you should expect to spend at least $250. Both of our Editors' Choice award winners, the Shark APEX and the Kenmore Elite, cost more than this, but offer unmatched performance, the former giving the best all-around performance that you can get and the latter being the best bagged vacuum for carpets, by far. If spending that much on a vacuum is too much for you, then you should consider either of our Best Buy Award winners, either the Shark Navigator Professional or the Bissell Zing. The Navigator only makes some minor concessions in overall performance, doing a less than desirable job at cleaning hard floors but excellent in every other aspect. This vacuum costs less than $200. If this is still too much, then the Zing is the clear choice, retailing for around $50, but its overall performance dropped significantly from the top products.
The Kenmore Elite was the top performer when it came to cleaning carpets.
By far the most common use for these products and the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about vacuums is cleaning carpets. Consequently, this metric accounted for the largest portion of the score, weighing in at 35% of the total score. We used oatmeal, cereal, rice, and flour as our sample types of debris, spreading each out on the low and medium-pile carpet and pressing it in with a floor roller, then running each vacuum over it. We compared the results, counting the number of passes to get the floor visually clean, as well as comparing the amount of debris picked up in a single pass to determine scores, shown by the following chart.
As shown, the Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly and the Shark APEX DuoClean took home the top score, earning an 8 out of 10 for its exceptional performance.
The Shark APEX did a fantastic job cleaning up the rice, doing particularly well at getting all of the rice off of the low-pile carpet. It got most of it with a single pass and didn't leave a single grain of rice behind after a second. It also did very well with the medium-pile carpet, although there were a few grains deep in the fibers that eluded it. It did equally well with the flour, easily getting practically all of it from the flat carpet and only leaving a bit behind on the fluffier carpet.
The APEX made quick work of our simulated dust test.
It finished out with two more excellent sets of results, doing a great job in our cereal and oat collection tests. The APEX sucked up all the Cheerios with ease on both types of carpets and only left trace amounts of oats behind.
The Kenmore did an amazing job collecting rice, only requiring two passes to clean the everything up, on both low and medium-pile carpet — even outperforming the APEX in this test. This vacuum continued its excellent performance when it came to cereal and oatmeal. However, it did take a few more passes (6-8) to get the oatmeal out of the fluffy, medium-pile carpet satisfactorily. Unfortunately, the performance dropped when it came to flour — while it still maintained its top spot when cleaning the flour out of the medium-pile carpet, the Kenmore dropped to the middle of the pack on the low-pile carpet, outperformed by all three of the Shark vacuums and the Hoover WindTunnel.
The Kenmore struggled slightly with the flour on low-pile carpet, dropping to the middle of the pack.
Following the Kenmore and the APEX, a quartet of vacuums all tied for the runner-up position, with the Shark Rotator with DuoClean, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, and the Miele Compact C1 all earning a 7 out of 10 for their superb carpet cleaning skills.
The Shark Rotator did an excellent job at collecting the rice — almost on par with the Kenmore — even getting the vast majority of the rice in a single pass on the medium-pile carpet.
The Rotator collected the vast majority of rice with a single pass.
The Shark Rotator performed on par with the Kenmore for cereal, requiring 2 or fewer passes to sufficiently clean the carpet, and even did well at collecting flour from low-pile carpet, tying with the Shark APEX and the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball. However, the performance of the Rotator dropped to third overall when collection flour from fluffy carpet and didn't really impress at collecting oatmeal, requiring 10 passes to sufficiently clean the carpet.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional also did very well at collecting rice, matching the Rotator when it came to cleaning low-pile carpet. However, it didn't do quite as well on the fluffier carpet, requiring a few extra passes to catch a few of the residual grains. The Navigator Lift-Away Professional struggled a little with the flour on the flat carpet, but did an excellent job on the fluffier carpet, significantly outperforming the Rotator.
There was even more residual flour left behind on the flat carpet, though it visually appeared clean.
It finished out with a strong performance in our cereal and oat collection assessments on low-pile carpet, but it did take a few extra passes to get all of the debris on the fluffier carpets. The Navigator Lift-Away Professional tended to push the debris around for a while before collecting it, more so with the Cheerios.
The Navigator does a great job at collecting oats, it just took a few extra passes to get all of the mess cleaned up.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 matched the performance of the Shark Rotator at collecting rice, though it did take a few more passes to match the amount of material collected. However, it did relatively poorly at collecting flour — dropping to the middle and the lower half of the pack for this test — tying with the Hoover on the flat carpet and performing second-worst in the fluffy carpet test, only beating the Oreck.
This model did somewhat poorly, taking plenty of passes and leaving plenty of residual flour behind.
It performed on par with the Rotator and the APEX for collecting cereal and oatmeal on low-pile carpet, but slightly worse on the fluffier, medium-pile tests.
The Miele did quite well at collecting flour, tying for the overall runner-up position in both of the tests.
The Miele did quite well at collecting flour from flat carpet, earning the runner-up position for its performance.
However, its performance dropped slightly in the remaining three tests — delivering an above-average, rather than exceptional performance. It did slightly worse than the Dyson Ball Animal 2 at collecting oatmeal on low-pile carpet but slightly better on fluffy carpet, doing as well as the Kenmore. It did reasonably well in the cereal and rice test, performing well on the flat carpet and average on the fluffy carpet.
Next, the Shark Navigator Deluxe and the Bissell Zing earned a 6 out of 10 for their overall above average performance at cleaning carpets.
The Shark Navigator Deluxe didn't quite match the Rotator when it came to collecting rice, performing similarly on flat carpet but lagging behind on the fluffy carpet. The Navigator Deluxe left more rice behind than the Rotator after completing more passes. The same pattern emerged in the flour test, with the Navigator Deluxe coming in a very close second to the Rotator and the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball on the low-pile carpet, but finishing in the middle of the pack in the fluffy carpet test.
The Navigator did very well, but it was still bested by the Rotator.
Once again, the Navigator Deluxe did better at collecting cereal from the low-pile carpet, only requiring an extra pass to match the Rotator or Kenmore, but requiring multiple passes to clean sufficiently, as it tended to "snowplow" the Cheerios around, rather than sucking them up. However, the Navigator Deluxe did do very well in the oatmeal test, matching the performance of the Rotator.
The Bissell Zing delivered a solid performance across the board, doing particularly well in the flour and cereal test. While it did alright at the low-pile carpet, it tended to do much better on the fluffy carpet — breaking a trend for these products. In fact, it almost tied the Kenmore's performance at collecting flour from the medium-pile carpet. It delivered an average performance in the rice and oatmeal tests.
The Zing did quite well at collecting rice, though it took a few passes and would occasionally pile it up.
Next, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, Eureka Mighty Mite, and Hoover WindTunnel 2 all earned a 5 out of 10 for their acceptable carpet cleaning performance. The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball led this trio in the rice test, outperforming both the Eureka and the Hoover. However, it still couldn't come close to the performance of either Shark model or the Dyson Ball Animal 2. However, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball did do exceptionally well in the flour test, receiving the top score overall on low-pile and the third-highest on medium pile carpet.
The Dyson Cinetic did the best of the entire group at the flour on flat carpet test.
The Eureka and the Hoover did a slightly sub-par job at collecting rice, leaving behind a significant amount of rice. Their performance didn't improve in the flour test, only collecting the flour on the surface of the carpet.
Moving on to the cereal test, the Eureka actually did quite well, doing an above average job on par with the Bissell Zing. The Hoover did about average, while the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball did an abysmal job, clogging up from the crushed Cheerios.
The Cheerios proved too much for the Cinetic Big Ball, clogging it almost immediately.
The Dyson Cinetic did redeem itself slightly in the oatmeal test, doing an average to an above-average job, only leaving a few flakes behind. The Hoover followed closely, leaving a little bit more behind, with the Eureka leaving the most oatmeal remaining of this trio.
Finishing towards the bottom of the group for our carpet cleaning tests, the Oreck XL, Bissell Zing Rewind, and the Bissell 9595A all earned a 4 out of 10 for their subpar performance. The 9595A and the Zing Rewind did very poorly at collecting rice, with the Oreck performing even worse, leaving plenty of residual rice after multiple passes.
The Oreck and Bissell 9595A both finished at the back of the pack in the flour test, tying for the second-worst score respectively. Performance improved slightly with cereal and oatmeal, with both models scoring average, or just below. The Rewind actually did quite well at collecting flour, matching the performance of the Shark Navigator Deluxe or the Kenmore. However, its performance plummeted when it came to collecting Cheerios, tying for the worst score of the group due to it repeatedly clogging.
In our Cheerios test the Zing got over eager and ended up getting clogged. It would be easier to pick up the Cheerios without the brush attachment on.
It did a little better at collecting oats, but not by much.
The Hoover Sprint QuickVac and the BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel Lite both received a 3 out of 10, tying for the lowest score out of the entire group. The QuickVac did very poorly in all four of our cleaning tests, leaving plenty of residual mess behind in each one.
The Sprint failed to impress us with its lackluster cleaning performance.
The AirSwivel did a little better than the Sprint QuickVac at collecting rice or oats, but did considerably worse at collecting Cheerios, failing to pick up almost any due to its low clearance.
The Eureka Mighty Mite was exceptionally convenient and easy to use.
Ease of Use
Ranking behind carpet cleaning performance, our Ease of Use metric ranked next in terms of importance, accounting for 25% of the final score. We compared the noise of each vacuum cleaner, its maximum reach, the ease of cleaning close to edges and under furniture, as well as how each vacuum handled transitioning between different surfaces. You can see how each product performed on the following chart.
There wasn't as much of a stark contrast in performance in this metric, with a handful of models — the Shark APEX DuoClean with Zero-M, the Shark Rotator DuoClean, Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the Eureka Mighty Mite — all earning the top score of 7 out of 10. The Eureka, the Shark APEX, and the Shark Rotator all handle surface transitions exceptionally well — though not quite on par with the Dyson Ball Animal 2, which automatically adjusts to different types of floors and lets you turn the rotating brush head on or off. The Eureka has a button on the head, while the Rotator and the APEX both have a button on the handle, with a hard floor option that will slow down the rotating brush, as well as options to select between low-pile and medium-pile carpet.
The Rotator has a button on the handle to switch between hard and soft floors.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional only gives you the option to turn the rotating brush on or off, but lacks options for different piles of carpet or for adjusting the height of the extractor. However, it is very easy to turn the brush on or off with a convenient button right near the top of the vacuum.
The selector switch allows you to turn the rotating brush on and off.
It is a little hard to adjust the Kenmore, requiring you to turn a knob on the front of the vacuum. However, the Kenmore was the beat of the entire group at cleaning in close to the edge, leaving the least residual debris.
The Kenmore did exceptionally well in this test, leaving practically no debris behind.
The Eureka and the Navigator Lift-Away Professional also do a very good job at cleaning in close to the edges and into the corners of a room. Both of these products outperformed the Shark Rotator, leaving only a minuscule amount of residual mess behind.
The Navigator cleans in very close to edges.
The APEX does well right along the edge of a room, but will leave some mess behind in the corners of a room, particularly in the space right in front of the vacuum when you push it into a corner.
The Apex does great at clearing debris from the edges, but only so-so at picking up debris head-on along a wall.
When it comes to cleaning under furniture, both the APEX and the Rotator earned top marks. Both of these vacuums reach a little over 10" under our test "sofa" without the Lift-Away function and completely cleaned underneath when using it. The Eureka matched the performance of the Rotator and the APEX, while the Navigator Lift-Away Professional and Kenmore only made it about 9" and 7" under our test "sofa", respectively.
The Kenmore didn't reach particularly far under our test "sofa".
Next, we looked at the maximum reach of each vacuum. We measured both the cord and the reach, to determine how far you could effectively clean from the outlet. The Kenmore has both the longest reach of this group, as well as one of the longest reaches overall, with the rest of the products falling in behind it.
Finally, we compared the noise levels of each product. The Eureka, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the APEX are definitely among the quietest of this top group, measuring in at 74.5 dBa, 73 dBa, and 72 dBa, respectively. The remainder of the vacuums are quite a bit louder and some had higher-pitched tones that are significantly more irritating, even if they only read slightly louder on our SPL meter, like the Miele.
Following the top performing models, the majority of the pack all were about the same to use, with the Bissell Zing, Bissell Zing Rewind, Dyson Ball Animal 2, Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, Miele Compact C1 Turbo, Oreck XL, and Shark Navigator Deluxe all earning a 6 out of 10 for their above average performance.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 is the best at switching between flooring types, automatically transitioning, with the option to turn off the brush. The Bissell Zing and the Zing Rewind are identical to the Eureka when transitioning, with a button on the head that you step on.
The Bissell has a convenient stomp switch to transition between floor types.
The Dyson Cinetic will automatically transition between surfaces, but the brush can't be stopped. However, you can hold a trigger down to release suction to avoid sucking in long fibers from rugs or high-pile carpets. The Navigator Deluxe doesn't adjust for different floors, but allows you to turn the brush on or off. The Miele requires you to swap heads for hard floors, while the Oreck lacks all adjustability.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 did the best of this group at edging, just barely being outperformed by the Kenmore. Next, the Navigator Deluxe and the Oreck got the next-closest to the edge, both leaving a small amount of debris in the tight corners.
The Oreck also did exceptionally well in our edging test.
The Bissell Zing, Zing Rewind, Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, and Miele were all about average, leaving more debris in the corner and missing a few spots here and there.
The Miele, Dyson Cinetic, Bissell Zing Rewind, and the Zing did exceptionally well at reaching under furniture, with this quartet of canister vacuums completely cleaning the area under our test "sofa". The Oreck also did very well, especially for an upright model, reaching between 10"-11" under the furniture. The Navigator Deluxe and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 did alright, reaching about 6" under.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 doesn't clean particularly far under furniture.
The Oreck XL had the longest reach of the group at 37', with the Bissell Zing and the Navigator Deluxe having the shortest at 27'. The Miele and Dyson models were in the middle, ranging from 30' and 32'. The Zing Rewind had an unusually short reach, topping out at about 24'.
The Navigator Deluxe, Bissell Zing, Zing Rewind and Miele were on the quiet side — on par or just slightly louder than the Kenmore. The Dyson models were about average, similar to the Eureka, and the Oreck XL was a bit loud.
Next, the Sprint QuickVac and the AirSwivel Lite tied again, each earning a 5 out of 10 in our group of ease of use assessments. The Sprint QuickVac does give you the option to adjust the floor setting, but it is actually quite difficult to physically turn.
The floor selector switch on the Sprint QuickVac.
This vacuum is about average in terms of noise levels and at cleaning under furniture — reaching almost 7" — and has one of the shorter power cords of the entire set of vacuums that we have tested to date.
The AirSwivel Lite has a slightly better reach, able to clean about an inch further under furniture than the Sprint, but has an even shorter power cord, offering you about 3' less reach.
This vacuum cleaner doesn't have the most impressive reach under furniture.
This vacuum does do a solid job cleaning along the walls of the room, but you can't adjust the clearance for different floor types, severely hampering its overall cleaning ability.
Finishing out the bottom of this metric, the Bissell 9595A and the Hoover WindTunnel once again earned the lowest score, meriting a 4 out of 10 for their subpar performance.
Both of these models have a knob in the front to adjust the height for different floors, but neither of these models allows you to stop the brush. These vacuums didn't excel in the edging test, leaving a small strip of rice behind.
The Hoover left a trail of debris behind in our edging test.
The Hoover did alright at reaching under furniture, making it about 7" — on par with the Kenmore. The Bissell 9595A only made it about 5", making it the worst of the entire group. Both the Bissell 9595A and the Hoover have a comparatively short reach of 27' and were on the louder side.
The Zing was one of the best when it came to handling.
Comprising 20% of the total score, our Handling metric encompassed maneuvering each vacuum around common obstacles, cleaning stairs, and the pushing/pulling effort required from each model to clean. You can see how each vacuum scored in the chart below.
The Eureka Mighty Mite and the BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel Lite actually tied for the top spot, both earning an 8 out of 10 for their exceptional performance in this metric. The Mighty Mite — a highly maneuverable little vacuum easily cleans stairs, reaching up to 9 standard steps before requiring you to move the canister.
The Eureka only reached 9 steps, but made up for it by being very easy to move.
It's also very light, so it's not too much effort when you actually move the main body of the vacuum. This canister vacuum from Eureka also scored well in our maneuverability test, though the Shark Rotator, APEX, and both Dyson models did navigate the test course with just a little bit more finesse. The Eureka was less effort to push and pull, requiring the least exertion of the entire group.
The AirSwivel's hose only has enough reach to clean about 6 stairs, but it is one of the lightest upright vacuums, making it exceptionally easy to carry up or down stairs. It also is highly maneuverable with its swivel head and takes very little effort to push across carpeted floors, though the wheels on some of the best Shark or Dyson vacuums rolled a bit better over soft floors.
The swivel head on the AirSwivel does make it fairly easy to maneuver.
Following the Eureka, the Shark APEX, the Shark Rotator, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Dyson Cinetic, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, the Hoover Sprint QuickVac, and the Bissell Zing all earned a 7 out of 10 for their excellent performance when it comes to our Handling metric.
The Bissell Zing, Navigator Deluxe, and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 all are the best of this group at cleaning stairs. The Navigator Deluxe and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 both can clean our entire flight of stairs with its accessory hose, negating the need to carry the vacuum up to complete cleaning. The Navigator Deluxe is also lighter than the Dyson Ball Animal 2, making it slightly easier to use to clean longer flights of stairs.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 has an exceptional reach, able to clean the entire flight of stairs without needing to be moved.
The Zing doesn't have anywhere close to the reach of the Ball Animal 2, only reaching about 7 steps. However, it is significantly lighter, making it very easy to carry up the stairs with you while cleaning. The Sprint QuickVac has a similar reach to the Zing, but is just a bit heavier to carry.
The Shark Rotator, the Shark APEX, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the Dyson Cinetic reached almost as far as the Zing — about 6 steps, but are considerably heavier. However, the Shark Rotator, the APEX, Navigator Lift-Away Professional, Dyson Cinetic, and Dyson Ball Animal 2 earned the highest marks overall in our test course, maneuvering through it flawlessly.
We found the Bissell Zing to be the hardest to maneuver of all the canister vacuums, but it did require minimal effort to push or pull. The QuickVac is about average to maneuver and takes negligible effort to push or pull. The Dyson Cinetic was a little more work than the Zing, but not as much as the Shark Rotator, APEX, or the Dyson Ball Animal 2.
The Cinetic Big Ball took the most work to push or pull out of the canister vacuums.
Next, the Miele, Oreck XL, Bissell Zing Rewind and Navigator Deluxe all earned a 6 out for their overall handling. The Navigator Deluxe has exceptional reach, but got bumped out of the top groups by its relatively mediocre handling and the moderate effort it took to push or pull the vacuum.
The Miele could reach about one step further than the Bissell Zing and the Dyson Cinetic, but is heavier than the Zing and lighter than the Dyson. This put the Miele slightly above average at cleaning stairs, while the Oreck was the worst, lacking a cleaning hose. The Zing Rewind is exceptionally light, but it can only reach about 7 steps before you have to move it, making it about average difficulty to clean a flight of stairs.
The Miele did maneuver very well through our test course, on par with the Eureka Mighty Mite. The Oreck XL and the Navigator Deluxe handled alright, but are substantially clunkier than the Shark Rotator or Dyson Ball Animal 2. The Oreck did take a little less effort to push or pull than the Navigator Deluxe or Miele — on par with the Dyson Cinetic. The Zing Rewind matched the Zing in terms of maneuverability, but it took a little more work to push or pull, as the bristles in the Rewind's brush head were a little stiffer and dragged on the ground.
A comparison of the brush heads on the Zing and the zing Rewind.
Moving up in the ranks slightly, the Bissell 9595A and the Hoover WindTunnel tied for the second to last position in our Handling metric, both earning a 5 out of 10 for their average showing. Both of these vacuums had decently long reaches, making it up 8 stairs and weren't terribly heavy.
The reach on the Hoover was alright.
However, this pair weren't the most maneuverable, clunkier and more cumbersome to steer than the Oreck XL and the Navigator Deluxe. The 9595A and the Hoover weren't too difficult to push or pull around, on par with the Dyson Ball Animal 2.
Finishing out the bottom of our Handling metric, the Kenmore Elite earned the lowest score of 4 out of 10. This model only reached up 6.5 stairs before you needed to move it — a pain, as it is exceptionally heavy. This model is big and clunky, making it hard to maneuver through our obstacle course, and requires significant effort to push or pull.
The front brush on the Rotator helped collect debris on hard floors, rather than spraying it around.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Making up 10% of the total score, our Hard Surface Cleaning test is essentially identical to our carpet cleaning tests, with hardwood floor swapped for carpet. Once again, we spread oatmeal, flour, cereal, and rice on the floor and vacuumed it up, evaluating the performance of each model. Our results are shown in the table below.
The Shark Rotator DuoClean and the Shark APEX tied for the top spot in this metric, both receiving a 9 out of 10 for their almost identical performance. Using the hard floor setting on both vacuums, the APEX and the Rotator collected practically all of the rice in a single pass — even sucking in rice that was wider than the brush head. This pair also did a fantastic job at cleaning flour from the hard floor, even cleaning it out of the cracks and crevices — though it took the Rotator about 10 passes, it only took the APEX two.
The Shark Rotator did an excellent job in our flour test.
This pair of vacuums carried their excellent performance over to our cereal and oatmeal tests, doing the best job at cleaning of the entire group with only a single pass.
After the Shark APEX and Rotator, the Miele and the Dyson Ball Animal 2 earned the next highest score of 7 out of 10. The Ball Animal 2 picked up all the rice on the first pass, similar to the Shark Rotator, while the Miele required two passes to match its performance. However, the Miele did match the performance of the Ball Animal 2 and the Shark Rotator in our flour test, with all three of these vacuums receiving a perfect score.
The Miele matched the performance of the Rotator in our flour test.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 did outperform the Miele at collecting Cheerios, once again only needing a single pass to the Miele's two. However, the Dyson would occasionally push the Cheerios around and pile them up, rather than sucking them up. The Dyson finished this metric with a reasonably good score in our oatmeal test, only leaving a few pieces behind that fell into the cracks between boards. The Miele did alright, tending to push stuff around more often than collecting it.
The bulk of the vacuums came next, with the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Bissell Zing, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, the Eureka Mighty Mite, the Kenmore Elite, and the Navigator Deluxe all earning a 6 out of 10 for their hard floor cleaning abilities.
The Navigator Deluxe and the Navigator Lift-Away Professional did a great job in the rice cleanup test, only needing a single pass to collect everything, compared to the two passes it took most of the other vacuums. However, the Navigator Deluxe's and the Navigator Lift-Away Professional's performance both dropped in the flour test. These products couldn't clean up any flour that had fallen in the cracks between boards and plenty of flour became stuck on the wheels throughout the course of the test. The Kenmore also suffered from a similar problem, tracking the flour around as you are cleaning.
As shown, the Kenmore substantially struggled with this test.
The Dyson Cinetic did an excellent job in the flour test, receiving a perfect score. The Bissell Zing would collect the flour out of the cracks if you really pushed the bristles of the brush head in with a scrubbing motion, but nothing could be done to clean the flour out of the cracks with the Eureka.
The Eureka got most of the surface flour, but would only get the flour out from the cracks with significant pressure and scrubbing.
The Kenmore led this group in the Cheerio collection test, doing a fine job. This vacuum was closely followed by the Navigator Deluxe, Bissell Zing, and Eureka Mighty Mite. The Navigator Deluxe would have some Cheerios trapped in its brush, while the Eureka, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and Zing would push the cereal around, rather than collecting it when moving the brush forward. These vacuums would all collect the cereal when you pulled the head towards you, leaving enough of a gap for the Cheerios to be sucked up.
The Dyson Cinetic did an absolutely terrible job at collecting Cheerios, crushing them up and immediately clogging.
Moving on to our oatmeal pickup test, the Navigator Lift-Away Professional did the best of the group, collecting the bulk of the oats in a single pass, with only a quick cleanup pass necessary to render the floor totally clean.
The Kenmore and the Shark did fairly well, performing similarly to the Dyson Ball Animal 2. The remaining three canister vacuums (Eureka Mighty Might, Dyson Cinetic, and Bissell Zing) all struggled with collecting oatmeal, instead preferring to push it around into piles.
The Zing would push the oats around, rather than collecting them.
Tying for the third to last position in this metric, the Oreck XL and the Zing Rewind both earned a 4 out of 10 for their mediocre hard floor cleaning efforts. The Oreck did about average at collecting rice, though it did fling some around. It also did quite well at collecting flour, even getting some out of the cracks, performing on par with the Eureka. However, it did terrible at collecting cereal and oatmeal. The Cheerios were just pushed around, while the oatmeal test ended in mild catastrophe. The Oreck flung oats everywhere, rather than collecting them.
The Zing Rewind did a good job at collecting flour, matching the performance of the Zing and exceeding that of the Oreck, but it severely struggled on the larger debris types. It only pushed the Cheerios around, failing to collect any until we removed the brush head and used the bare hose. Rice and oats were also problematic, accumulating in the brush head only to fall out at a later time and create a new mess.
Next, the Hoover Sprint and the BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel Lite again tied for the second to last place position, both earned a 3 out of 10 for their undesirable performance. The Hoover Sprint QuickVac did very poorly at collecting rice or Cheerios, flinging them around and causing substantially more mess than we started with. This happened regardless of what floor cleaning setting you used — we tried them all! It did about average at collecting flour, but absolutely terrible at collecting oats. Overall, we were quite sure that we would have been better off with a broom and a dustpan.
We had a similar sentiment with the BLACK+DECKER AirSwivel, which did extremely poorly in 3 out of 4 tests in this metric. It flung rice and oats everywhere, significantly increasing the overall size of the mess from what we started with and the clearance on this vacuum is far too low to effectively pick up larger particles — like Cheerios — pushing them around indefinitely.
The AirSwivel delivered a bit of a disappointing performance in our hard floor cleaning tests as well.
It did do a slightly above average job at collecting flour, but there was a noticeable film stubbornly clinging to the floor after it passed over an area repeatedly.
Last, in this set of tests, the Hoover WindTunnel earned a 2 out of 10 for its abysmal performance. This model did the worst of the bunch at collecting flour, leaving much more behind than other models. However, it was in the rice, cereal, and oatmeal tests where the Hoover demonstrated how terrible it is. This model flung rice everywhere, much to our dismay.
The Hoover caused an oat-pocalypse. We were not amused.
A similar thing occurred with Cheerios, while the oats were spread even more than the rice, creating a sizeable oat-pocalypse.
One of our pet hair donors overcame his paralyzing fear of vacuums long enough to pose for a photo, mainly motivated by plenty of treats.
Finishing out our set of tests, the Pet Hair metric is responsible for the residual 10% of the final score. We spread 5 grams of pet hair on the medium-pile carpet, then pressed it in. We ran each vacuum over it, calculating the percentage collected to determine the final scores, as shown below.
Six vacuums received the top score of 9 out of 10 in our test: the Shark APEX, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball, the Kenmore Elite, Miele, and the Navigator Deluxe. These top-tier vacuums all collected 90% or more of the pet hair, with the Navigator Lift-Away Professional doing the best job overall, collecting over 99% of the hair that we spread out on the test carpet, followed closely by the APEX, which picked up 97% of the hair.
Finishing just behind these top models, the Bissell 9595A, Hoover WindTunnel, Oreck XL, AirSwivel Lite, and Shark Rotator all earned an 8 out of 10 for their good performance. This trio collected most of the pet hair, but left just a little more, getting 86%, 89%, 89%, 89%, and 88% of the hair respectively.
The QuickVac did reasonably well, earning a 7 out of 10 for the 83% of the hair that it collected.
Doing a somewhat awful job, the Bissell Zing, Zing Rewind, and Eureka Mighty Mite failed to collect the majority of the pet hair, earning them a 3, 3, and a 2 out of 10 respectively. The Bissell Zing picked up 33% of the hair, while the Eureka only got an abysmal 19%. The Rewind performed identically to the Zing.
The best vacuum cleaners you can get today.
At this point, you should — hopefully — have a good idea of which vacuum cleaner is going to be the best bet for your home, whether you want a top-of-the-line cleaning machine or a budget option that isn't going to suck up all your spare cash. If you want some more details about exactly how we evaluated and scored these products, head on over to our comprehensive How We Test article for a complete analysis and explanation of what we did or check out our Buying Advice guide for a thorough breakdown of the different types of vacuum cleaners around and what you should look for when shopping for a new one.