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Barrel and upright vacuums to avoid

If you want suck for your buck, skip these models from Kmart, Vax, Bissell, Electrolux and Dyson.

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Last updated: 04 March 2021

Few of us look forward to doing the vacuuming, but it's all the more frustrating with a cumbersome machine that does a mediocre job and takes twice as long. 

Our vacuum cleaner reviews have found that barrel and upright vacuum cleaners are the best option for thorough carpet and floor cleaning, but not all vacuums are created equal. 

We lab tested more than 40 popular models and found a huge difference in their performance for carpeted and hard floors, pet hair pick-up, ease of use, noise and more. Learn more about how we test.

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CHOICE expert Matt Tung knows vacuums inside and out.

Our testing revealed some high-quality cleaners (both expensive and cheap) but also exposed a number of duds bound to make vacuuming even more of a drag – including a Dyson that costs $849!

To help you avoid a slack vac, here are the models that rated lowest in our lab tests. 

Anko 2400W Bagless Vacuum SL163E

Kmart Anko 2400W Bagless Vacuum SL163E

  • Price: $95
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Cleaning performance score: 50%
  • Ease of use score: 72%

The lowest scorer in our test, this model delivers only mediocre suck for your buck, is noisy and the bin is messy to remove. 

It does a good job of removing pet hair (we embed cat hair in the test carpet and rate how much the vac picks up) and has a washable HEPA filter. But these pluses do little to make up for its low cleaning performance score. Read our full review of the Kmart Anko 2400W Bagless Vacuum.

Anko 2200W Bagless Vacuum SL 157C

Kmart Anko 2200W Bagless Vacuum SL157C 

  • Price: $69
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 62%
  • Cleaning performance score: 59%
  • Ease of use score: 73%

The second-cheapest model we looked at has only one notable good point: its controls. (Although Star Wars fans may also appreciate its Stormtrooper vibe.)

It's difficult to push and pull across carpet and is just OK at navigating corners and edges. And if you have pets, be warned – its pet hair removal score was just 50%. 

If you're after a budget barrel vacuum, your money is better spent elsewhere. For less than $100, you could pick up one that has a CHOICE expert rating of 70%. Read our full review of the Kmart Anko 2200W Bagless Vacuum.

Bissell PowerForce Helix 2111F

Bissell PowerForce Helix 2111F

  • Price: $179
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Cleaning performance score: 67%
  • Ease of use score: 61%

Another noisy model, this upright vacuum cleaner has good controls and is proficient at negotiating corners and edges. But it's a hard slog to push it over carpet and it has only a borderline rating for removing pet hair. 

It is the cheapest upright we tested, so if you're after a machine that takes up less storage space and still does a decent job, you may have to spend a bit more. Otherwise, look for compact barrels that perform better in this price range. Read our full review of the Bissell PowerForce Helix 2111F.

Electrolux Ease C4

Electrolux Ease C4 Animal EC41-ANIM

  • Price: $249
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Cleaning performance score: 53%
  • Ease of use score: 79%

This vacuum proves that it pays to do your research – otherwise, you could end up with a costly machine that whines at you while you work. 

We found this model comes complete with an irritating high-pitch noise, so if your aim is to make housework less annoying, stay away. 

It also has no onboard storage for accessories, is messy to clean, and does a merely satisfactory job on a quick carpet clean. 

It does OK on pet hair, corners and has variable power, but for an another $59 you could get a model that scores 81% and is recommended. Read our full review of the Electrolux Ease C4 Animal EC41-ANIM.

Vax Performance VX75

Vax Performance VX75

  • Price: $199
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Cleaning performance score: 56%
  • Ease of use score: 76%

This model is fairly easy to use, has variable power and a long power cord – so depending on the size of the room you're in, you may be able to finish the job without switching power points. 

On the downside, it's noisier than city traffic, doesn't cut it on corners and edges, and makes a poor effort on quick carpet cleaning. 

We suggest looking at other options – our review found seven other models that performed better than this Vax, yet cost either the same or less. Read our full review of the Vax Performance VX75.

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Absolute

Absolute shocker

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Absolute

  • Price: $849
  • CHOICE Expert rating: 65%
  • Cleaning performance score: 47%
  • Ease of use score: 79%

Disappointment knows no price tag. The second-most expensive model we reviewed scored just 65% – a similar score to other vacuums that cost less than half the price. 

This Dyson did OK on corners and edges, but it fell short of expectations for cleaning carpet (both quickly and completely) and had the lowest cleaning performance score (47%) of all the models we tested.

It did, however, perform exceptionally well at pet hair removal, scoring a perfect 100%.

Overall, this vacuum is a prime example of why price doesn't always equal a better product, as many other vacuums (including other Dyson models) delivered more for less. Read our full review of the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Absolute

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