choosing a vacuum: don't get sucked
in by the hype

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.

Choosing a Vacuum: Popular Vacuum Choices Come in Sleek, Stylish Designs in Eye-Popping Colors

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.

Technology's newest contribution to domestic life: robotic vacuum cleaners.

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.

Choosing a Vacuum for Your Home

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:

  • Does your home have more carpeted areas or hard floor surfaces?
Choose a vacuum that is effective on all the flooring surfaces in your home.
  • Are there stairs and landings to clean?
  • Does the vacuumer have physical limitations?
  • Does someone in your home suffer from allergies?
  • Do you have pets?

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. 

Choosing a Vacuum: The Top 4 Vacuum Cleaners

Here are the top 4 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 in December 2016.

Here's what they had to say about each of the top-rated models:

  1.  Kenmore Elite Bagged Upright

The $275 Kenmore 31150 Elite bagged upright vacuum cleaner earned top marks on bare floors, and was exceptionally powerful when used with its attachments, which include a crevice tool, bristle brush, and a 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. 

  2.  Hoover Windtunnel Pet Rewind Bagless Corded Upright

The $129 Hoover Vacuum Cleaner T-Series Windtunnel Rewind Plus Bagless Lightweight Upright Vacuum is an impressive performer when it comes to bare floors, tool-airflow, emissions, and pet-hair tests and handles easily.

It was noisier than some uprights but still impressive, with performance that beat out models costing hundreds more.

  3.  Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum

The $1,049 Miele Complete C3 Marin Canister Vacuum Cleaner was the top-performing canister vacuum, and earned perfect marks in almost every test. 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.

  4.  Panasonic 'Jet Force' Canister Vacuum

If you can live without bags, the Panasonic JETFORCE Mult-Surface Bagless Canister Vacuum Cleaner , this vacuum 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. 

The Top-Performing Robotic Vacuum

The top performing robotic vacuum, Samsung POWERbot R9000 Robot Vacuum ranked #7 on Consumer Report's Top 10 Vacuums list.

The Powerbot 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.

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!

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