What’s the difference between the types of vacuums? (Upright vs. canister vs. stick)

Vacuums

Although upright vacuum cleaners have been the most popular option in the U.S. for some years, canister and stick vacuums are becoming a more appealing choice for many buyers.

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Do you need a canister, an upright or a stick vacuum?

When it’s time to buy a new vacuum cleaner, you’ll need to pick between the three main varieties: upright, canister or stick vacuums. 

With spring cleaning on the mind, many are deciding if they need a new vacuum. With the different types out there, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you.

Canister vacuums are great for cleaning hard-to-reach areas and offer some of the best suction power. Upright vacuums are ideal for quickly and easily cleaning large areas of carpet or hard floor. Stick vacuums are lightweight and easy to use with plenty of convenient cordless models available. 

Upright vacuums

Upright vacuums are one-piece units that generally have large cleaning heads and work well for cleaning large areas of flooring at a quick pace. They’re usually corded and have reasonably powerful suction. 

You can find cheap upright vacuums starting at around $50-$100, while high-end models can cost up to, and more than, $500.  

What you’ll love about upright vacuums

  • Upright vacuums have motorized brush rolls that work deep into the pile to thoroughly clean rugs and fitted carpets.
  • The broad cleaning head makes light work of large rooms, allowing you to clean quickly and easily in straight lines.
  • The majority of upright vacuums are bagless and have relatively large dust containers that don’t need emptying too frequently.

What you should consider about upright vacuums

  • Upright vacuums aren’t quite as nimble or maneuverable as canister or stick vacuums.
  • You’ll need to use the hose attachment to tackle stairs, upholstery and edges.

Top upright vacuums

 Dyson Ball Animal 2

Dyson Ball Animal 2

This mighty upright vacuum can tackle hair and excess mess left by household pets. Available at Home Depot, Amazon, Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Upright Vacuum

A surprisingly maneuverable upright vacuum that incorporates a lift-away canister to more efficiently tackle stairs and above-floor cleaning. Available at Amazon, Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond

BISSELL CleanView Upright Vacuum

BISSELL CleanView Upright Vacuum 

An affordable upright vacuum with a quality brush roll for cleaning carpets and impressive multi-cyclonic suction. Available at Best Buy and Amazon

Canister vacuums

Canister vacuums have their motor and bag of dirt container in a body that’s separate from the cleaning head, attached through a flexible hose. 

Canister vacuum cleaners can cost anywhere from $50-$600.

What you’ll love about canister vacuums

  • They’re significantly quieter than upright vacuums because the motor is better insulated.
  • Because there’s more space to house the motor, canister vacuums usually have better suction power than upright or stick vacuums of a similar price.
  • The cleaning head is easy to maneuver, especially around and under furniture.

What you should consider about canister vacuums

  • While the cleaning head is maneuverable, the vacuum’s body can be annoying to drag behind you.
  • They’re usually bagged rather than bagless, which many buyers find less convenient.

Top canister vacuums

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum Cleaner 

One of the best canister vacuums around with the impressive suction power that you expect from Dyson. Available at Home Depot and Amazon

Miele Complete C3

Miele Complete C3 

Another high-end canister vacuum that might be pricey but is well worth it, thanks to its durability and top-notch suction. Available at Amazon

BISSELL Zing Canister Vacuum

BISSELL Zing Canister Vacuum

Although it can’t beat high-end offerings’ suction power, this is an excellent choice for anyone on a tight budget. Available at Amazon

Stick vacuums

Stick vacuums have their motors and dust containers housed at the top of the unit near the handle. The cleaning head lives at the end of a solid, stick-like suction tube. Stick vacuums are often more expensive than upright or canister vacuums of comparable quality. They cost anywhere from $100-$800. 

What you’ll love about stick vacuums

  • They’re often cordless, which is convenient as there’s no need to switch between power outlets or gather up cords when done. You can also clean cars, sheds, garages and other places where you might not have power outlets.
  • You can usually detach the top of a stick vacuum from the stick to use it as a handheld model for spot cleaning, upholstery or stairs.
  • Stick vacuums are lightweight and easy to maneuver and often have sticks that flex halfway up to reach under furniture.

What you should consider about stick vacuums

  • Stick vacuums often have small dust containers that need regular emptying.
  • Cordless options can have limited runtimes, though high-end models can last up to an hour between charges.

Top stick vacuums

Samsung Jet 75 Complete Cordless Stick Vacuum

Samsung Jet 75 Complete Cordless Stick Vacuum

An impressive cordless stick vacuum that rivals the suction power of corded models and has a 60-minute runtime. Available at Samsung, Home Depot, Best Buy, and Amazon

Miele Triflex HX1

Miele Triflex HX1 

As one of Miele’s most powerful corded models, this vacuum brings you maximum suction power with the convenience of a cordless stick vacuum. Available at Best Buy and Amazon

Shark DuoClean IONFlex Cordless Stick Vacuum

Shark DuoClean IONFlex Cordless Stick Vacuum

This ultra-light stick vacuum is a pleasure to use with a flexible reach to help you clean under furniture. Available at Amazon and Home Depot

Should you get an upright, a canister, or a stick vacuum?

If you’re looking for a definitive answer to whether stick, upright or canister vacuums are best, there isn’t one. All have a range of excellent features, as well as some areas where they fall short. The type of vacuum cleaner you should buy depends on your needs and preferences. 

If you love the convenience of a cordless vacuum, you should opt for a cordless stick vacuum. Canister vacuums are arguably the best option for getting into nooks and crannies. Upright vacuum cleaners are easy to use and are often the quickest option when vacuuming large rooms without too many obstacles to maneuver around.

 

Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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