Choosing a vacuum used to be easy.
One simply went down to the local appliance store, spent a few minutes inspecting the dozen or so similar looking and performing models, picked an appealing color and style, then brought one home.
How times change. Vacuums - easily the most effective tool in the home-cleaning arsenal - are the latest appliance to get sucked into the more-is-better, high-tech craze.
Features such as bagless units, allergen grabbing filters, high amperage motors and onboard tools are all the rage with today's new crop of sleek, stylish vacuums in eye-popping colors - increasing the performance, price and time needed to make a wise choice.
Now factor in the new generation of robotic vacuum - often called a robovac - with intelligent programming, spinning brushes to reach tight corners and even mopping and UV sterilization options.
And no one will blame you if you feel like your head is spinning right along with the pricey automaton cleaning your carpet and floors.
(Heck, they might be worth the average $1,000 price tag for the entertainment value alone.)
Is more choice in bells and whistles necessarily better? The answer depends on you, your home and your lifestyle.
But do you really need all those bells and whistles to get your floors and carpet clean? The answer depends on your home and your lifestyle. A few questions to consider when shopping for a vacuum:
Consider these needs when deciding which features you need and which you can live without when it comes time to buy a vacuum.
There are essentially five categories to choose from: upright vacuums, canister vacuums, stick vacuums, handheld vacuums, and robotic vacuums.
(Shop the Top Rated Vacuums here.)
Here are the top 5 vacuum cleaner models based on overall ratings - a combination of scores given for effectiveness in cleaning and ease of use - selected by Consumer Reports in a vacuum cleaner test published December 26, 2016.
Here's what they had to say about each of the top-rated models:
This mid priced model earned top marks on bare floors and was exceptionally powerful when used with its attachments, which include a crevice tool, bristle brush, and power roller.
On bare floors it captured almost every particle it picked up, keeping them contained in its disposable bag. It was no slouch at removing embedded dirt from carpet or tackling pet hair either, although it was a little louder and tougher to handle than some other models of this type.
It's not the cheapest model you'll find, but this straightforward, solid performer was among the best vacuums tested in 2016. Get more information on the Kenmore Elite below:Kenmore 31150 Elite Bagged Upright Vacuum Cleaner - Silver by Kenmore Elite
It's impressive enough when a vacuum aces the bare-floor, tool-airflow, emissions, and pet-hair tests in our labs. When it does it with a price tag of $130, it's definitely worth calling out.
The Hoover WindTunnel was also a solid performer on carpet and and handled easily. It was noisier than some uprights but still impressive, with performance that beat out models costing hundreds more. Get more information on the Hoover WindTunnel below:Hoover Vacuum Cleaner WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Plus Bagless Lightweight Corded Upright UH70120
Our top-performing canister vacuum, the Miele earned perfect marks in almost every test we threw its way. It's a champ at bare floors and embedded pet hair but also excels at capturing dust particles.
Powerful airflow makes its attachments work especially well. It's also noticeably quieter than many models and easy to handle. But at more than $1,000, it may suck a big chunk out of your bank account, too - certainly something to consider before making the splurge. Get more information below:Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum Cleaner - Corded
If you can live without bags, this Panasonic will save you almost $800 over the top-rated Miele without much sacrifice in performance. It, too, is a champ at cleaning bare floors.
It's also a strong performer on carpet, pet hair, and capturing dust particles. Its powerful suction pairs well with ancillary attachments such as the crevice tool and bristle brush, as well as the powered brush roll.
It's a little clunky to maneuver, but at 23 pounds it's no heavier than most of the canister models we test. Get more information on the Panasonic below:Panasonic MC-CL943 JETFORCE Mult-Surface Bagless Canister Vacuum Cleaner - Corded
On the surface, it might seem difficult to justify the purchase of a stick vac that costs two or three times what you could spend on a top-rated full-sized vacuum.
Though no stick vacuum can fully replace the performance of an upright canister, it's what the Dyson V8 can do that makes it a standout.
It offers exceptionally powerful suction, which helped it earn perfect scores on bare floors, carpets, pet hair, and edges in our test.
It's also among the quietest of comparable models and runs an impressive 21 minutes on a single charge - long enough that you might be surprised at how infrequently you'll need to lug around a heavier, full-sized model. Get more information on the Dyson V8 below:Dyson V8 Absolute Cord-Free Vacuum
The top-performing robotic vacuum, the Samsung POWERbot, ranked at #7 on Consumer Report's Top 10 list. Since it's inception in 1996, the robovac has come a long way in terms of technology, effectiveness, and price.
What, exactly, is a robovac? In short, it's a self-moving vacuum that has intelligent programming and a limited vacuum cleaning system. Some design use spinning brushes to reach tight corners. Others combine cleaning features such as mopping and UV sterilization simultaneous to vacuuming - going above and beyond the simple "robotic vacuum" moniker.
Without further ado, here's the top performing machine according to Consumer Reports:
After a decade or so of domination by Roomba, Samsung's Powerboat eked out a win in the battle of the best robotics, a category that has seen an onslaught of noteworthy new entrants, including models from Dyson and Miele.
The Powerboat powered through dirt on carpets and bare floors, and even found its way into tight corners, thanks in part to its rectangular design. It works quietly enough that it'll go unnoticed, although it's hard to resist watching it return home to dock and charge after each intensive, 99-minute cleaning session.
Even at $1,000, no robotic vacuum can replace a full-sized upright or canister, but the Powerboat comes closer than any other and looks good doing it. Get more information on the Samsung POWERbot below:Samsung SR2AK9350U POWERbot Turbo Robot Vacuum
So now you've got the scoop on what's available out there to make your floor- and carpet cleaning job easier. Next up: compare prices, and choose your dirt-busting weapon!