The Better Vacuum: Upright or Canister?

Helping you choose the right vacuum for your home

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.

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    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.

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    This sleek canister vacuum is small but mighty. Its FiberTeQ floor tool is ideal for cleaning low-pile carpeting, rugs, and smooth flooring. You can also adjust it from carpet to hard floors with the flip of a switch. It has an automatic cord rewind and comes with three accessories: a dusting brush, upholstery tool, and crevice nozzle.

    Customers love how easy it is to maneuver around the house, with one pointing out that it can reach under furnuture that uprights can’t get to. They’ve also...MORE praised its work on hard floors, but some have said it’s not the best on carpets. If you’re looking for an appliance to get the job done on hardwood or tiles, this is a great bet. It comes with a seven-year motor warranty, seven-year casing warranty, and one-year warranty on all other components.

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    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.

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    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.
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    If you have a larger space with medium to deep-pile carpeting, this is a good high-end canister vacuum for you. It features a five-level height adjustment and a telescopic, stainless steel wand. The long cord, which allows for a total cleaning radius of 36 feet is also easily retracted thanks to the automatic rewind.

    It’s a bit on the heavier side at 19 pounds which has been a concern for some customers. However, many have said it’s easy to maneuver around the home and furniture. They’ve also...MORE praised the work it does on carpet. One even said that they haven’t had an allergy or asthma attack since getting the vacuum because it doesn’t scatter dust everywhere. It's so powerful, that one customer warned about it blowing a fuse if it’s set on high and plugged into a loaded outlet. If you’re looking for a high-powered canister vacuum, though, this one is for you.

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    Willing to spend big on a vacuum? This Miele model won’t disappoint, reviewers say. Experts praise its top-notch suction on carpet, ability to grab pet hair and low emissions, but they also say it’s great on hardwood, too. Got allergies? It also has an AirClean sealed system that features a filter bag and filter that captures and retains more than 99.9 percent of dirt, dust, and allergens.

    What else do you get by spending top dollar? SwivelNeck technology for better maneuverability; automatic...MORE height adjustment for different carpet thicknesses and other surfaces; a bright LED headlight; and a lie-flat design that means this vacuum can get under furniture with no problem. It also comes with a dusting brush, upholstery tool and crevice nozzle. Owners agree that this Miele is worth the money, with most raving about suction. A word to the wise, though: At about 22 pounds, this isn’t a lightweight model. Some owners also report durability issues, but it’s backed by a one-year warranty that extends to seven for the unit’s body and motor. 

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