A Quest to Find the Best Vacuum
We set out on a six-month-long journey to identify the vacuum cleaner that provided the best carpet cleaning at the best possible value. For our review, we selected top-selling as well as top-priced vacuums and rated them according to ease of use, efficacy, durability, and total cost of ownership.
The results of our test drives surprised us. In fact, the outcome of one model test drive was literally shocking! If you can't take the suspense, scroll down to the bottom of the article to see the winner of the best-value vacuum challenge.
Our Product Review Methodology
How vacuums perform right out of the box can be very different from how well they work one year or even just 2 months down the road. We began our search for the best value by test-driving 15 models at big box stores. This allowed us to see how they performed after having had some substantial wear and tear. (In some instances we had access to 1+ or 1-year-old models and reviewed their durability in greater detail).
Then we took a new model of each of the seven vacuums reviewed here to our test site. The test site consisted of a variety of hardwood, tile, and carpeted floors inhabited by several people, two cats, and three double-coated dogs. We then ranked each one by the following criteria:
- Ease of Use: This category tested how easily the machine was maneuvered across surfaces, how easy it was to remove debris from it and how easy it was to remove clogs throughout the system.
- Efficiency: We measured the total output of debris accumulated from a full pass of the main living area by weight, after a 3-day interval between cleanings of the area.
- Durability: How well did the vacuums hold up to prolonged use. Did any parts begin to weaken? Did any special features fail to function over time?
- Total Cost of Ownership: We looked at the cost of replacement filters, bags, belts, and beater bars in addition to the initial purchase cost.
Bissel CleanView at a Glance
25' stored on column
Multi-level - No Hepa
2 years Limited
Bissell vs. Shark
#1 Selling Vacuum Review: The Bissel CleanView One Pass 9595
At a purchase price range of $79-99, the Bissel CleanView One Pass is the best selling upright vacuum in America. After taking this for a spin through our test site, the low price is the only explanation we can find for its impressive sales.
The power button and power cord are located near the floor, causing us to repeatedly run over the power cord, also the cord does not have a rewind function.
The attachment hose is far too short at a stiff six feet, and the machine is unstable once the hose is in use. It tipped over repeatedly whenever we used the attachments.
The unit had good suction and collected adequate amounts of hair and dust particles. However, the washable foam filter is very flimsy and clogs with dirt quickly. Once clogged, it loses suction. Thanks to the pet dander, in order to maintain suction, we found that we needed to wash the filter after every use. The poor quality of the foam indicates it will need regular replacement. If you decide to purchase this model based on its affordability, go ahead and get an extra foam filter.
The debris canister was relatively easy to empty, however, one of the filters is lodged inside and requires users to reach into the dirty canister to remove it.
- Lightweight and easy to maneuver.
- Good attachment suction.
- Excellent upright suction at the test site (used store model may have had a clogged filter).
- Easy to Assemble.
- No HEPA Filter, but does have a washable foam filter which requires frequent attention.
- This product suffers from the same belt issues we have seen in the past from this manufacturer. Approximately 2 months into service, the belt begins to fall off with regularity.
- Suction loss after two months of use is another common complaint. We were unimpressed with the store floor model that we test drove. Apparently, it was suffering from the same malaise.
- While we did not experience an overheating issue, some owners have complained that their Bissel Cleanview was overheating and smoking as early as 4 months old.
- Requires high maintenance to replace belts and wash and replace filters.
- Short attachment hose, unit becomes unstable and tips over easily when the hose is in use.
Ease of Use: B+ (the score was lowered by the need for regular filter washing and belt replacements)
Estimated Total Cost of Ownership over a 4 year period:
- Purchase Price $99.00
- Replacement filters twice annually: $70.00
- Replacement belts twice annually $ 28.00
- 4 Extended Warranty: $24.99
- Total Estimated Cost: $221.99
Dyson DC40 Origin at a Glance
The Dyson DC40 Origin
It should be noted that Dyson does not allow their vacuums to be test-driven in the big box stores. We were told that Dyson did not want their models to be viewed in an unclean state. As a matter of fact, all bagless floor cleaners will look nasty after one use, there is nothing to be done about it, dust particles fill every nook and cranny.
We were very excited to try out the Dyson; their marketing is ingenious and we were ready to be wowed! The first genius to overcome in setting up your new Dyson is removing the packaging. It took one person 30 minutes to extricate the various pieces from the box, so tightly were they wedged in there.
Once out of the box, it snapped together effortlessly if somewhat cheaply. We began testing on a carpeted area that is a favorite resting place for one of the dogs. After 4 passes, the Dyson was picking up nothing.
- Flipping the unit over revealed a wad of hair clogging the opening and hair was already tangled around the beater. An inauspicious start to say the least. We cleared the clog and removed the hair from the beater. The carpet cleaning power remained unimpressive.
- On hardwood floors, the Dyson DC40 performed better than any other upright. However, the canister vacuums performed at the same or better level.
- Emptying the debris canister was a disgusting chore as well. The debris did not want to come out; we had to reach in and pick out the hair clogs to encourage the rest of the debris to fall out.
This model was such a disappointment, we returned it after one test day to upgrade to their top-of-the-line vacuum (see the DC41 Animal review below.) Perhaps that was where the Dyson magic was hiding.
- 15.3' Long hose attachment with quick release technology, cleans hard surfaces well.
- Lifetime washable HEPA Filter.
- Combination crevice/dusting tool and stairs tools come standard.
Not engineered for pet hair pickup. If you own a pet, do not buy this vacuum.
- Easy of Use: A without pets / C with Pets
- Durability: B+ the five-year warranty is impressive, however, long-term owners have found a loss of suction over time that cannot be corrected under the warranty.
- Efficiency: B
- Total Cost of Ownership: $324.99 on sale at Amazon.
Hoover WindTunnel at a Glance
Hoover does not share this
2 Years Limited
The Hoover WindTunnel T Series Bagless Upright
At $99.00 the Hoover WindTunnel T Series vacuum was very impressive. Suction was terrific with both the accessory hose and in the upright position. In fact its suction on carpets well outperformed the Dyson DC40 Origin and DC41 Animal Complete.
Like many of its more expensive competitors, the vacuum includes a HEPA filter, a washable primary filter, hose extension, crevice tool, upholstery tool and a powered hand tool.
The Hoover WindTunnel did a great job on pet hair, however pet hair clogged the debris canister, forcing us to reach in and pick out the clogged hair and debris. There was no instance where the debris simply fell out into the refuse can, so there is a basic flaw in the canister's design.
We loved the 27-foot cord with a rewind function.
One Year of Service Update
Sadly, the WindTunnel was not built to last. We had access to a one-year-old WindTunnel, and it was positively decrepit. All of the issues we found with it were echoed in reviews from dissatisfied Hoover owners. The unit makes a high pitched whine although all filters are clean and clear. This model vacuum is very difficult to check for blockages, as there is no place to easily detach the hose near the base.
The rewind system developed a mind of its own, and stubbornly wanted to rewind the power cord while the vacuum as in use. The vacuum could only be used by taking a firm grip on the cord to keep the rewind system from pulling the plug out of the wall socket.
On hard surfaces, the one year old vacuum spewed debris. This indicated a blockage somewhere in the system, but it was impossible to discover.
Additionally the HEPA filter no longer wanted to stay in place; the plastic latch it snaps into had weakened and could no longer hold it in place when the vacuum was turned on. The owners had remedied this problem with packing tape, as the system will not function with the air seal broken.
- 27' Cord with auto rewind.
- HEPA Filter.
- Great suction out of the box.
- Low purchase price.
- Easy to assemble.
- Short attachment hose.
- Difficult to access blockages.
- Major system failures across the board, including rewind failures and various cheap plastic parts that cannot withstand the stress of normal use. We consider this a disposable vacuum.
Ease of Use: A
Efficiency: A- for the first six months to one year of service
Estimated Total Cost of Ownership
- Purchase Price: $99.00
- 4 Extended Warranty: $24.99 (You are sure to need it)
- Replacement HEPA Filters $41.97
- Estimated Total Cost $165.96 (plus the cost of gas and downtime to take it to the shop for repair)
Recommendation: Purchase this product from a vendor that offers an extended warranty upgrade and product replacement if the vacuum cannot be repaired.
Also, if you choose to consider this a disposable vacuum, you could replace it once a year for less than you would spend on the Dyson DC50. Brand new, this vacuum's performance is very impressive.
Miele S8380 at a Glance
21.3' with Auto Rewind
7 years Motor and Casing
The Miele S8 Canister Series: The Best Vacuum at Any Price
If you love to vacuum and money is no object, then the Miele S8 series is just the ticket for you. It's not just the purchase price of $949.00 that makes it pricey, those clever little self-sealing vacuum bags cost $5 per bag and fill up quickly in homes with pets in them. You can also expect to regularly replace the beater bar (at $20.00), as pet hair quickly and tightly winds around them, and the HEPA filter will add another $43.00 per filter to maintenance costs.
Given the foregoing, the Miele S8 is simply the most powerful, convenient, and quiet vacuum we reviewed. Made in Germany, this vacuum was built to last. Expect to get 10+ years out of it with standard maintenance. The manufacturer puts their money where their mouth is by offering a 7-year warranty on the motor and canister housing!
Buyer beware, Miele's economy versions do not match up to S8 series. If you are going for a Miele, you will have to spend close to $1000.00 to get the quality on which the brand name was built.
- The best maneuverability of any vacuum we tested. The telescoping arm and rotating head allow it to extend to the center of a California king-size bed to get those dust bunnies that have been hiding under there from your old vacuum all these years.
- Canister rolls easily on all surfaces.
- Total vacuum reach is 33' - Cord 21 feet, Hose 7 feet, telescoping wand 5 feet.
- The quietest vacuum we tested, great for pets that have noise anxiety.
- Excellent cleaning capacity on hardwood, tile, and carpeted floors.
- Accessories are stored inside the canister, so they won't fall off when carrying the unit up and down the stairs.
- Self-sealing bag means no mess when disposing of debris.
- HEPA filter included.
- One Touch rewinding cord. You don't need to keep standing on the button to rewind the cord, and it includes a no-snag feature that gently rewinds it.
- Built to last - expect to get 10 or more years out of this vacuum.
- The price of the unit and vacuum bags is prohibitively expensive for most households.
- Weight: This unit weighs 23 pounds. While holding the wand in one hand and the canister in another on the stairs balances the load, this unit may not be a good choice for elderly owners or people with inner ear balance issues on stairs.
- Something about the design of this beater bar causes hair to wind very tightly around it. In fact, you will need to use scissors to remove the hair. If the hair is left on the bar, its bearings will quickly melt off and you will need to replace the beater bar.
Easy of Use: A- (lowered slightly by the beater bar issue)
Estimate Total Cost of Ownership Over a 4 Year Period
- Purchase Price $949.00
- Bags: $120
- HEPA Filters: $150.00
- Beater Bar Replacement $40.00
- Total Estimated Cost: $1259.00
Dyson DC41 Animal
Dyson DC41 Animal Complete at a Gance
Dyson DC41 Animal Upright Bagless Vacuum
When deciding which Dyson to test drive next, the DC50 Animal or the DC41 Animal, the choice was clear. The DC41 is twice the vacuum as the DC50 in almost all respects.
The DC41 boasts a larger debris canister, long cord, and longer attachment hose. We wondered why they even make the DC50 Animal.
The Dyson DC41 Animal maneuvers easily, but does a poor job on pet hairs on the carpet. This was very disappointing for such an expensive vacuum with so many brilliant bells and whistles. Repeated passes over the same hairy carpeted areas regularly left hair behind.
The suction is very strong, so we can only blame the beater, which tended to collect hair that was then tightly wrapped around the bar.
- Maneuvers easily around corners and under furniture.
- 15.5' Long wand hose.
- 35' Long power cord.
- Excellent attachments including Tangle-free Turbine tool, Combination tool, Stair tool, Soft Dusting Brush, Stiff Bristle, Brush, Multi-Angle Brush, Zorb Carpet Powder.
- Includes lifetime washable HEPA FIlter.
- Multiple access points to check for blockages.
- Powerful suction.
- 5 year warranty.
- Tips over easily when you attempt to put it in the upright position. The vacuum just does not want to click into place.
- Unstable when using the wand extension.
- Wand hose is very stiff and tends to want to recoil itself.
- Hoses are not covered under the 5 year warranty.
- Contrary to their advertising campaign, they can and do lose suction over time.
- Expensive relative to the competition.
- Owners over one year complain of rollers breaking and damaging hardwood floors, and hoses breaking neither malfunction is covered under warranty.
- Difficult to remove hair from the debris canister.
- Difficult to remove hair from the beater.
- Easy of Use: A
- Durability: B+
- Efficiency: A without pets, B- with pets
- Total Cost of Ownership: $599.00
Shark Rotator (NV502) at a Glance
5 Year limited
Best Value Vacuum: The Shark Rotator Lift Away Professional Bagless Vacuum
We were not sure what to expect with the Shark Rotator; a relative newcomer to the American market, previous reviews varied widely. What a pleasant surprise; the Shark Rotator's suction, versatility, and ease of use blew away the competition at the low cost of $249.00.
The Shark is 3 vacuums in one. It works beautifully on carpets as an upright, great on hard surfaces as a canister, while the lift way feature turns it into a handy handheld for stairs and climbing ladders to reach ceiling fans and tops of shelving units.
You will need a new storage closet to store all of the goodies that come with this unit. The crevice tool and standard upholstery tool ride on the machine. However the Shark Rotator comes with an additional dusting wand, a bare floor attachment and turbo-powered upholstery tool. These additional tools ride on the base attachment that converts the upright to a canister vacuum. Together, the upright and its canister conversion base take up the real estate of 2 uprights.
Its ease of use was only surpassed by the Miele S8. The refuse bin is easy to clean with a snap of the button. Hair-filled refuse dropped right out time and again. The washable foam pre-filter is sturdy and easy to clean. Hair is easily removed from the beater, and the unit includes a HEPA filter. In the upright mode, the shark is power-driven, making it glide across carpets while picking up all pet hair in one pass. What more could you ask for!
We loved using it on a balmy fall day. However, once temperatures dropped and static electricity began to rise, the Shark began to send mild shocks through the handle. Each pass across the carpet caused the intensity of the shocks to increase until shocks were leaping from the handle to the user's thigh. And it hurt!
Amazingly, this feature-rich model does not have a 3 prong plug and therefore is missing a ground wire for the outlet. We remedied the situation by adding an extension cord with a 3 prong plug. The machine still wants to build a static charge, but it stopped sending the static shocks into the user's hand and thigh.
- Power-assisted gliding when in brush roller mode.
- All power and release buttons are within easy reach.
- Excellent suction.
- Easy to clean.
- Versatile as a canister, upright and handheld vacuum.
- Dusting tool to rival the Dyson $30.00 dusting tool.
- Long power cord.
- Washable HEPA Filter.
- Washable Prefilter.
- No 3 prong plug.
- Power Cord does not rewind.
- Takes up a lot of storage room.
- Hose attachment is short, and the unit becomes unstable when used as an upright with the hose attachment.
While we experienced no issues that required warranty work, other owners have had a poor experience with the Shark warranty team. We recommend purchasing this product from a vendor that sells an extended warranty option.
- Ease of Use: A+
- Durability: B
- Efficiency: A+
- Estimated Total Cost of Ownership Over a 4 Year Period
- Purchase Price: $249.00
- Replacement Filters: $41.00
- Extended Warranty 4 years: $39.00
- Total Estimated Cost: $329.00
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Edward Morrison from Califonia on November 29, 2018:
I have the Dyson Animal DC39 (the purple canister) for over a year now and really like it for getting the pet hair.
However, no one here has long hair so I can't speak to that. I have tile and wood floors with lots of area rugs where our Cattle Dog, Lucy, deposits lots of hair. The spinning brush gets the Lucy-fur off of the rugs, hard floors, and dog beds. I do use the smaller spinning brush on the dog beds, more manageable. The canister is much easier on my back than my old upright and I like how the Dyson can reach under my furniture. I bought the dusting attachment and love to get all the cleaning done at once.
We live near Taos now but I sure wish I had had this vac when we lived in our ABQ exposed-adobe interior walls! Ugh, washing those grooves out after the spring winds was never fun.
Best Handheld Vacuum for Pet Hair 2018 Reviews By Getcleaningdone: https://getcleaningdone.com/best-handheld-vacuum-f...
Marilou on October 19, 2017:
I have a stain purple ball but find it does not pick up sock roaches or things that stick to my carpet like threads etc. I am loooking for a vacuum that will do this
topuprightvacuums on December 29, 2014:
Here are reviews for some of these vacuums :)
Jane Wilson (author) from Geogia on June 12, 2014:
Hi Kathleen Odenthal: Thanks for visiting and reading the hub. I have allergies too, and tons of pets and pet dander so this was not only a labor of love - it sometimes felt like a life or death conundrum lol.
Kathleen Odenthal from Bridgewater on June 12, 2014:
Wow, this was far more comprehensive than I expected it to be, and very useful since I suffer from indoor and outdoor allergies. My newest vacuum just broke for the second time, I am definitely bookmarking this piece for reference when I can afford a new vacuum. Voted up and pinned!
Marina from Clarksville TN on June 06, 2014:
I like your review of these vacuum cleaners a lot. I don't like how so much cost is involved in having a vacuum cleaner. Your review shows several vacuum cleaners and has an excellent outline. Thank you.