The Better Vacuum: Upright or Canister?

Helping you choose the right vacuum for your home

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Trying to decide between an upright or canister vacuum? While it’s mostly a matter of personal preference, there are certain advantages to each style that might make you choose one model over the other.

First things first, an upright vacuum is one unit that consists of the motor and suction head. When you think of a typical vacuum, you probably picture an upright model in your mind’s eye. Many upright models even have self-propelled features that make it easy to glide across the floor without too...MORE much effort. Another pro of this style is that it typically comes with a hose and attachments which are helpful in cleaning the hard-to-reach places or upholstery and curtains. If you have trouble bending over, an upright is a better choice over a canister, especially when it comes to emptying the dirt cup or bag. Some might find that the sheer bulk of an upright is too much to handle, but there are lightweight models that make using them easier. They require more storage space thanks to the tall handle on most models, and because of their design, they can be hard to use when vacuuming the stairs.

A canister vacuum, on the other hand, is great for maneuvering around the house and getting up the stairs, considering that most models are compact and lightweight. They also don’t take up too much storage space and are great for reaching under low furniture such as coffee tables or sofas. Since you pull the wheeled body behind you, it does take a little more energy and can also lead to some furniture dings, if you’re not careful. Another con is that when you need to switch from carpet to bare floors, some canisters require a manual head change which can disrupt the cleaning flow as opposed to the upright vacuum that can generally change with the press of a button.

Below, we’ve broken down some of the best upright and canister vacuums on the market today to help you find out which one is right for you.

  • 01 of 06

    If you have bad allergies, a bagged vacuum like this Oreck is a good option. They’re generally more expensive than bagless, especially when you consider the money you’ll spend on replacement bags, but they’ll most likely last longer so you’ll get your money’s worth in the long run.

    This eight-pound machine has a large, 12-inch wide cleaning head and leaves no dirt in its center path. It also has an automatic floor adjustment so you won’t have to manually change it when you move from hardwood to...MORE carpet.

    A bestseller in its category, this vacuum has received many great reviews from consumers who rave about its lightweight size, suction power, and ease of use. Some of the critical reviews have complained about its loud noise and difficulty on high-pile carpet. But the majority of customers would recommend the product. The vacuum comes with a commercial one-year warranty.

    Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best upright vacuums available online. 

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    When it comes to both power and quality, Miele’s Compact C1 Pure Suction vacuum cleaner has all the essentials to tackle carpeting and smooth flooring alike. Switch seamlessly between these surfaces with the push of a switch to experience the power of the robust Vortex Motor System in action. Combined with a powerful, six settings motor, and you’re guaranteed an unmatched clean compared to other models.

    Intimidated by the strong suctioning and cleaning qualities? There's no need to be! The...MORE 13.8 pound wand moves effortlessly around an impressive cleaning radius of up to 29.5'. While doing so, it captures up to 99.9% of all air particles, so you can ensure your cleaning spree is a safe one.

    Buyers of the product were primarily impressed with the strong suctioning qualities and lightweight make-up. They also praised the quiet operation and claim it makes a great choice for families with small children or for those who live in a small apartment. After reading the review, it will become evident why this little “work horse” is an overall favorite among many.

  • 03 of 06

    Looking for an inexpensive but quality upright vacuum? This one is a great choice. It’s a powerful model, and customers say they are impressed with the performance, especially for the price. It has an Easy Empty Dirt Tank, meaning it doesn’t require expensive replacement bags and can be cleaned easily—the foam filter can even be washed in the sink, a definite perk when it comes to maintaining the machine.

    The TurboBrush Tool allows you to get powerful suction on your stairs, curtains, and...MORE furniture. Consumers have praised its suction and ease of use, although some have warned that they’ve had trouble with it lasting for a long time. Although if you’re purchasing a budget vacuum cleaner, you probably aren’t expecting it to last for more than a few years.

  • 04 of 06

    A bestseller in its category, this BISSELL canister vacuum features multi-surface cleaning—go from carpet to hard floors with the flip of a switch. It also has a three-stage filtration system, plus the filters are washable and reusable, and no replacement bags are required thanks to its bagless container. Weighing 11 pounds, it’s light enough to maneuver around the house easily.

    Customers say it rolls on the floor really well and has great suction, picking up a lot of dirt, dust, and hair in its...MORE path. Some are not as happy with the design of the floor attachment, saying it doesn’t have a wide enough suction. But overall, for the price, it’s a quality vacuum and comes with a one-year limited warranty.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

     Dyson received the highest score among canister vacuums in the J.D. Power 2017 Vacuum Satisfaction Studies, so it’s no surprise their newer model, the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Bagless Canister Vacuum, gets our vote in the Best High End Canister category. With the ability to clean any floor without frequent canister emptying, this sleek choice is an effective option for your home. This vacuum promises to never lose its suction, and, unlike many other models, there's no need to wash or replace...MORE a filter. While it operates, the custom head sucks up dirt in tricky to navigate spots. When the .04 gallon dust cup does meet capacity, you can eject its continents with the simple tap of a button.

    Customers love the five year protection plan Dyson includes, so while the initial price upfront is steep, no additional warranty is needed. Several people also chimed in that the price tag was worth the investment for both the quality and performance it delivers.

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    For upright vacuums, the Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away gets our top nomination. Since it never loses suction and features three vacuum components in one, it’s worth the money when it comes to a dependable household cleaning tool. This product is great for portable cleaning. But don’t think it skimps on performance. With an extra large dust cup (3.1 quarts to be exact) and Anti-Allergen Complete Seal traps, you can be sure it’ll sweep away unwanted debris with ease. When it comes to...MORE maneuvering, it twists and turns around all obstacles (think furniture or pets) while operating noise-free.

    The aerodynamic vac comes with several accessories including: A pet power brush, a tool for targeting crevices, and an extra nozzle. Combined with a lengthy 30-foot power cord, and this model is equipped to tackle big spaces effectively. Buyers love the extra attachments included in their purchase, which helps make the price worth it. On performance alone, this lightweight option is a clear upright winner among consumers.

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