Best Vacuum Cleaner of 2021
$469.98 at Amazon
$329.99 at Amazon
|$200 List||$350 List||$500 List|
$516.04 at Amazon
|Pros||Great at pet hair, excellent cleaning abilities, easy to use||Fantastic cleaning performance, excellent at picking up pet hair||Good price, cleans carpet very well, picks up pet hair with ease||Great for cleaning carpet, easy to use, exceptional at picking up pet hair||Good with carpets and hard floors, nimble, fantastic at picking up pet hair|
|Cons||Pricey||Not the best with stairs, reach is a little short||Not particularly impressive at cleaning hard floors||Heavy, hard to handle||Expensive|
|Bottom Line||If you are looking for something that sweeps the rest of the competition under the rug, this is our current favorite vacuum||Easily finishing near the top, this is one of our favorite vacuums we have tested over the years||If you are searching for a new vacuum on a budget, then this is a great bet||For those with tons of carpet to clean, this is a top-notch choice||While this vacuum has a lot going for it, its performance doesn't match the high price point|
|Rating Categories||Shark Vertex||Shark APEX DuoClean...||Shark Navigator Lif...||Kenmore Elite Pet F...||Dyson Ball Animal 2|
|Carpet Cleaning (35%)|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Hard Surface Cleaning (10%)|
|Pet Hair (10%)|
|Specs||Shark Vertex||Shark APEX DuoClean...||Shark Navigator Lif...||Kenmore Elite Pet F...||Dyson Ball Animal 2|
|Model Number||AZ2000W||AZ10002 40||NV356E||31150||227635-01|
|Cleaning Path Width||12"||11.75"||11.25"||13.75"||13.5"|
|Measured Brush Width||10"||9"||9"||12.75"||12.25"|
|Measured Weight||16.3 lbs||16.9 lbs||14.4 lbs||21.1 lbs||17.1 lbs|
|Variable Suction Control||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Brush On/Off Switch||Slow||Slow||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Measured Maximum Reach||32' - 40'+||32'||31'||37'||32'|
|Measured Power Cord Length||30'||30'||30'||34'||30'|
|Automatic Cord Rewind||No||No||No||No||No|
|Measured Noise||75 dBa||72 dBa||73 dBa||72.5 dBa||76 dBa|
Best Overall Vacuum Cleaner
If you want the best upright vacuum there is, we'd suggest checking out the Shark Vertex. This premium vacuum floored us with its performance, sweeping the rest of the competition under the rug. The Vertex made easy work of cleaning up all types of messes, whether on flat carpet, fluffy carpet, or hard floors. It's exceptionally easy to use and is one of the more versatile vacuums thanks to the included attachments and the Lift-Away feature, which allows you to remove the canister.
We have no complaints about this vacuum's performance. Our only real gripe relates to the price tag, which is undoubtedly higher than some people will want to pay. However, if you're willing to fork over the money, we don't think you'll be disappointed, as we think the Vertex's excellent and reliable performance is well worth the cost.
Read Full Review: Shark Vertex
Best Bang for the Buck
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional
If you are shopping for a decently-performing vacuum cleaner on a budget, then we highly recommend the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. In our testing, it was able to remove all types of debris from carpet, including pet hair. It isn't too cumbersome, it's simple to use, and the swivel head makes maneuvering around obstacles a breeze.
However, we were disappointed with this model's performance when cleaning hard floors. It could clean up medium-sized debris reasonably well but struggled when faced with very fine messes like flour or larger debris like Cheerios, requiring several passes to suck everything up. Despite that, this is still our top recommendation for those on a tighter budget. It stands up well against other models that cost substantially more and delivers an above-average performance overall.
Read Full Review: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional
Best on a Tight Budget
If you are looking to spend as little as possible on a new upright vacuum and aren't asking too much when it comes to cleaning performance, then we think the Eureka PowerSpeed is a good option. It cleans most types of messes from carpet fairly well and is lightweight and decently easy to handle. That said, while this bagless vacuum won't break the bank, it isn't without some significant concessions.
We found the hard floor cleaning performance of this vacuum to leave a lot to be desired, particularly if you move the vacuum too fast. It also has an inconvenient floor selector dial located at the base of the vacuum rather than the handle and lacks swivel steering. It's not our favorite vacuum by any means, but it will do an acceptable job of cleaning without blowing your budget.
Read Full Review: Eureka PowerSpeed
Best Canister Vacuum
Miele Compact C1 Turbo
The Miele Compact C1 Turbo is a canister-style vacuum that is easy to get going out of the box, handles extremely well, and is one of our top choices for spot cleaning messes — especially in cluttered areas. The Miele has remained our choice over the years for those that prefer the canister style to an upright vacuum.
Unfortunately, this bagged vacuum is very pricey. Miele vacuums have a solid reputation for longevity and durability, but we feel the price is high for a vacuum that didn't earn the top marks in our tests.
Read Full Review: Miele Compact C1 Turbo
Why You Should Trust Us
Our in-house vacuum testers, Austin Palmer and David Wise , have tested dozens of upright, canister, stick, handheld, and robot vacuums over the past four years, logging long hours on the vacuum reviewing circuit.
We also consulted with Lindsey Schultz, co-owner of Mighty Tidy Tahoe, a professional cleaning service that cleans close to 1000 rental homes, residences, and offices each year. Lindsey lent her expertise to our evaluation and testing results, helping us refine and revise our testing plan and process.
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 of sucking up pet hair, oatmeal, cereal, flour, and rice from many styles of carpeting and hard flooring.
Related: How We Tested Vacuum Cleaners
Analysis and Test Results
We split our various assessments into five weighted rating metrics — Carpet Cleaning, Ease of Use, Handling, Hard Surface Cleaning, and Pet Hair — with each metric weighted relative to its significance on overall performance.
Related: Buying Advice for Vacuum Cleaners
If the premium options are too far out of your price range, consider the high-value Shark Navigator Lift-AwayProfessional. This vac makes only minor concessions, struggling slightly at cleaning hard floors compared to the top models, but scores very well in every other aspect, all while putting significantly less stress on your wallet than the top award winners.
Carpet cleaning accounts for 35% of each product's score — the largest of any metric. We used oatmeal, cereal, rice, and flour as our sample debris, spreading out a measured amount on low and medium-pile carpet, 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.
The Shark Vertex claimed the top spot overall in our carpet cleaning tests. This vacuum did a phenomenal job in our rice test, completely cleaning up all of the grains from both the flat and fluffy carpet in just two passes. It was a similar story with the oats and the Cheerios, with virtually all of the mess removed with just a forward and back pass. The Vertex even impressed us with the flour cleaning challenge — one of the more difficult tests of the process. It did take a few more passes to completely clean up all of the flour than it did with the rice or cereal but still took significantly fewer passes than almost every other vacuum that we have tested.
The Shark APEX DuoClean Zero-M and the Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly followed with more excellent performances. The APEX did a fantastic job cleaning up the rice, doing exceptionally well at getting all of the rice off of the low-pile carpet. Only one pass was needed to vacuum up the majority of the rice, and after a second pass, the mess was completely gone. It also did great on the medium-pile carpet, although there were a few grains stuck deeper in the fibers. It continued to do well with the flour, easily pulling almost all of it from the flat carpet and leaving only a small bit behind on the softer carpet. It finished out with excellent sets of results for our cereal and oat collection tests. The APEX sucked up all of the Cheerios with ease on both types of carpets and only left trace amounts of oats behind.
The Elite Pet Friendly did a fantastic job collecting rice, requiring only two passes to clean up everything on both low and medium-pile carpet. It even outperformed the APEX in this test. This vacuum continued its excellent run when it came to oatmeal and cereal. However, it took a few more passes (6-8 in total) to get the oatmeal satisfactorily out of fluffy, medium-pile carpet. Unfortunately, the performance dropped when it came to flour. Though it still maintained its top spot when cleaning the flour out of the medium-pile carpet, the Pet Friendly dropped to the middle of the pack on the low-pile carpet.
Following those was a trio of vacuums with notable carpet cleaning performance: the Dyson Ball Animal 2, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, and the Miele Compact C1.
The Navigator Lift-Away did very well at collecting rice. However, it required a few extra passes to catch the residual grains, ultimately not performing as well on fluffier carpet. It also struggled a little with the flour on the flat carpet but did an excellent job on the fluffier carpet. For oats and cereal, a few extra passes were required to get all of the debris on the fluffier carpet, but this model finished with a strong overall performance on low-pile carpet.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 did very well at collecting rice. However, it did poorly with the flour, dropping to the middle and the lower half of the pack for this test. It performed on par with 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. However, its performance dropped slightly in the remaining three tests, delivering an above-average but not exceptional performance. It performed somewhat worse than the Dyson Ball Animal 2 at collecting oatmeal on low-pile carpet but did slightly better on the fluffy carpet, on par with the Kenmore Elite.
Next came the Shark Navigator Deluxe and the Eureka PowerSpeed. Both of these vacuums performed just above average when it came to cleaning carpet. The PowerSpeed did a very good job of cleaning up the rice, oats, and cereal from both types of carpet provided that we went slowly. This vacuum tended to fling debris every which way if you move the vacuum too quickly — potentially making a larger mess than you started with.
Ease of Use
This metric accounts for 25% of each model's final score. We compared each vacuum cleaner's noise, maximum reach, the ease of cleaning close to edges and under furniture, and how each vacuum handled transitioning between different surfaces.
A large number of vacuums performed well in this metric, tying for top marks. The Shark APEX and Shark Vertex both 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 Vertex 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- and medium-pile carpet. Both of these vacuums also did well along the edges of a room but left some mess behind in the corners, particularly in the space right in front of the vacuum when you push it into a corner.
The Navigator Lift-Away Professional gives you the option to turn the rotating brush on or off but lacks options for different carpet piles or for adjusting the height of the extractor. However, a convenient button right near the top of the vacuum makes it straightforward to turn the brush on or off. This vacuum also did a great job at cleaning along the edges of a room, leaving only a small amount of mess behind.
The Kenmore Elite Pet is harder to adjust, requiring you to turn a knob on the front of the vacuum. However, it was the best of the entire group at cleaning close to an edge or wall, leaving the least amount of residual debris.
When it came to cleaning under furniture, both the APEX and the Vertex earned top marks here too. Both reached approximately 11 inches under our test "sofa" without the Lift-Away function, and just over three feet with Lift-Away engaged. The Navigator Lift-Away and Elite Pet Friendly only made it about nine inches and seven inches under our test "sofa," respectively.
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 an outlet. The Kenmore Elite Pet had one of the longest reaches overall, with the rest of the products falling in behind it.
We also assessed how loud each vacuum was. Both the Shark APEX and the Shark Navigator Life-Away impressed us as incredibly quiet machines, only registering 72 dBa and 73 dBa on our SPL meter. The Elite Pet Friendly was also quiet, registering just 72.5 dBa.
Following the top-tier models, the majority of the pack all were about the same to use. The Dyson Ball Animal 2 was the best at switching between flooring types, automatically transitioning with the option to turn off the brush. It was also among the best of the group at edging. The Shark Navigator Deluxe doesn't adjust for different floors but allows you to turn the brush on or off.
The Miele did exceptionally well at reaching under furniture, thoroughly cleaning the area under our test "sofa." The Oreck Commercial XL also did very well, especially for an upright model, reaching between 10 to 11 inches under furniture. The Oreck also has one of the longest reaches at 37 feet, only being bested by the Shark Vertex due to its Lift-Away capabilities.
Comprising 20% of the total score, this metric encompasses maneuvering each vacuum around common obstacles, cleaning stairs, and the pushing/pulling effort required from each model to clean.
The Black+Decker AirSwivel Lite merited the top spot with its exceptional performance. Its hose only has enough reach to clean about six stairs, but it is one of the lightest upright vacuums, so it's exceptionally easy to carry up or down flights of stairs. Its swivel head is also highly maneuverable, taking minimal 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 Shark APEX, Shark Vertex, Dyson Ball Animal 2, and Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional all tied for the runner-up position in this metric. The Animal 2 is one of the best in this group at cleaning stairs. It was able to clean our entire flight of stairs with its accessory hose, negating the need to carry the vacuum up to complete the cleaning.
The Vertex also had an impressive reach in our stair cleaning test, able to easily clean 8 stairs — even reaching 9 if you really stretch with the long wand. On top of that, you can always use the Lift-Away function (also present on the Shark APEX) and just carry the main base, making it easy to clean the entire flight of stairs.
The Shark APEX and the Navigator Lift-Away could reach about six steps but are a bit heavy to carry up and down. However, these vacuums all earned stellar marks overall in our test course, maneuvering through it flawlessly, and are very easy to push or pull across different types of floors.
The Miele, Shark Navigator Deluxe, Eureka PowerSpeed, and Oreck XL all performed slightly above average in terms of handling and maneuverability. The Navigator Deluxe impressed us with its exceptional reach, having a hose long enough to be able to clean an entire flight of stairs from the bottom. However, it doesn't glide as easily as some of the other products and seems less nimble, pushing it out of the top tier when it comes to handling. The Miele maneuvered very well through our test course.
The PowerSpeed is one of the lightest vacuums of the group, making it easy to push or pull across even shaggy carpet, but the lack of swivel steering makes it considerably less agile when cleaning around furniture.
Hard Surface Cleaning
Making up 10% of the total score, our hard surface testing was practically 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 each model's performance.
The Shark Vertex and the Shark APEX tied for the top spot in this metric with almost identical performances. Using the hard floor setting on both vacuums, they collected practically all of our rice in a single pass — even sucking in rice beyond the width o the brush head. This pair also did a fantastic job cleaning flour from the hard floor, even sucking it out of the cracks and crevices.
This pair of vacuums carried their excellent performance over to our cereal and oatmeal tests, delivering the best results after only a single pass.
Next in line is the Miele Compact and the Dyson Ball Animal 2. The Animal 2 picked up all the rice on the first pass, similar to the APEX, while the Miele required two passes to match its performance. However, the Miele did match the performance of the Animal 2 in our flour test.
The Dyson Ball Animal 2 outperformed 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. It finished this metric with a reasonably good score in our oatmeal test, leaving only a few pieces behind that fell into the cracks between boards. The Miele did alright, too, though it tended to push stuff around more often than collecting it.
Our pet hair metric was responsible for the remaining 10% of each final score. We spread five grams of pet hair on a medium-pile carpet, then pressed it in with a roller. We ran each vacuum over it, calculating the percentage of hair collected to determine final scores.
Most all of our tested models received top marks when it came to cleaning up after Fido or Fluffy, collecting 90% or more of the pet hair.
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away, Vertex, and Eureka PowerSpeed all did the best job overall, containing over 99% of the hair that we spread out on the test carpet. These were followed closely by the APEX, which picked up 97% of the hair. The Oreck XL and the AirSwivel Lite followed up at the back of the pack, leaving 10+% of the hair we spread out behind after vacuuming.
We hope that this review helped you narrow down your options to find the best vacuum cleaner. Whether you are looking for a top-tier model that can handle heavy-duty use or a budget option for standard cleaning needs, there is a vacuum cleaner out there for you.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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