Where to start
You can’t go past a vacuum cleaner that:
- is light
- is quiet
- is easy to manoeuvre over both carpet and hard surfaces
- has a long cord, so you’re not forever changing power points
- has a neat compact design for easy storage.
Another factor to consider carefully is the type of dust collector. Bin and cloth receptacles are messier and harder to empty, while paper bags are more user-friendly, but have ongoing costs and may be something you’re always forgetting to buy. You also need to consider the costs of bags on the environment - CHOICE now includes the price of each bag where applicable and also make note of the company's policy of bag disposal. If the bag is completely bio degradable, you can simply put them in your compost your garden worms will thank you for the tasty snack.
Ease of Use
Telescopic wand: This lets you adjust the wand to suit your height, so you shouldn’t have to bend your back too much.
Dust collector: Disposable paper dust collectors are easier to use than reusable cloth bags, which have to be shaken to remove the dirt. Check whether the vacuum uses a disposable or a reusable dust collector.
Adjustable head height: This feature’s useful if you have carpets with different pile heights and for wooden or tiled floors.
Variable suction/power: A control on the wand that allows you to vary the suction for more delicate jobs such as cleaning curtains. A variable-power feature does much the same thing.
Dustbag-full indicator: Lets you know when the dust collector is full without having to open the vacuum.
Blower: A godsend when it’s time to blow up the airbed. For tasks such as these, look for a model that can blow out air.
Onboard storage for accessories: Handy when you are cleaning edges, upholstery and dusting furniture whilst vacuuming.
Wand storage: Allows the wand to be attached neatly to the cleaner when storing. This is useful for keeping all the bits together.
Retractable cord: This is much easier than winding up the cord manually. Uprights don't have this feature, but you can wind the cord around two hooks to keep it tidy.
Little extras that can make a difference
Tools: Tools such as a crevice nozzle (for narrow corners and around chair cushions), an upholstery brush (for curtains and soft furnishings) and a dusting brush can be very handy. Check whether these tools are supplied with the vacuum cleaner or are optional extras.
HEPA filter: This stands for high-efficiency particulate air filtration. It’s an international standard for filters that trap minute particles. This type of filter can help if you have asthma or a dust allergy or sensitivity, but you have to clean or replace it regularly (about once a year) to ensure it works efficiently – which may mean more ongoing costs. Given that vacuums with a HEPA filter are usually more expensive, do you really need one? If you have asthma, a dust allergy or are simply sensitive to dust, it can help, though for asthma sufferers it’s not likely to be the complete answer to house dirt.
Power vs turbo head: A power head replaces the standard cleaning head and has an inbuilt motor that operates the brush. Using one generally improves dirt removal from carpets, whereas a turbo head (which uses airflow to operate the extra brush) is usually less effective. These attachments are designed to boost cleaning performance but tend to make vacuums bulkier and/or heavier and they may not be as easy to use or manoeuvre.
For more information, including the results of our tests, check out these reports:
Low priced Vacs: Under $300
Mid priced Vacs: $250 to $600
Expensive Vacs: Over $600
For all reports on Vacuum cleaners, see Laundry and cleaning.
How are CHOICE tests different? We buy all the products we test — no industry freebies, no government funding. We're non-profit, we don't take ads and our work is funded solely by people like you.