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The best stick vacuums for carpet and hard floors

Tips to help you find the right stick vac. Plus, the top scorers for carpet and hard floors.

stick vacuum on wooden and carpet flooring
Last updated: 01 December 2022

If you're exhausted at the mere thought of lugging out your regular vacuum for quick tidy-ups, a stick vac could be the answer to your cleaning woes. But they don't come cheap: the median price of vacuums we've tested is more than $600, with prices as high as $1700 for a top-of-the-line model. 

With prices that high, you'll really want to make sure you're buying the right stick for the job – no-one wants to be stuck with grubby floors and lighter pockets. 

Every home is different, so before you start shopping it's a good idea to think about the kinds of surfaces you'll be vacuuming, and how you plan to use your stick vac. 

We asked CHOICE's resident vacuum expert Adrian Lini what you need to consider when you're buying a stick vacuum for carpet and hard floors. Plus, for CHOICE members only, we'll reveal the top-scoring stick vacuums for hard and carpeted floors. 

Which vacuum head should you use?

To get the most from your stick vacuum, make sure you're using the right vacuum head for the job. If you're using your stick vac on hard floors, Adrian recommends getting a model with a head specifically designed for hard floors. 

"Brush heads with high suction that really stick to the floor are great for carpet but not great for hard floors," he says. 

"Soft roller heads with big openings help suck up loose dirt on hard floors but can't pick up much on a carpet. Without them, you'll just be spreading the dirt around in front of the cleaning head."

Are stick vacuums good for carpet?

Stick vacs generally do quite well on hard floors, but carpet is where many of them fall down. 

"For a house that's entirely or mostly carpet I would 100% recommend a barrel vacuum," Adrian says. 

"Carpet requires high suction and a stick vacuum on the maximum setting may only last 10 or so minutes, but if you use a barrel vacuum you can take as long as you need to do the job right."

Can a stick vacuum replace a regular vacuum?

If you have mostly hard floors in your house, you might be wondering if you can do away with your barrel or upright vacuum altogether in favour of a good stick vacuum. So, can you? 

"It really depends on the size of your place," Adrian says. 

"Lots of stick vacs advertise battery life of up to 60 minutes, but that's only on the lowest or eco setting. Using the maximum setting, the longest most stick vacs last is 15 minutes – and sometimes it's as little as eight minutes."

If you're happy to just vacuum one room at a time, you might be able to get by with just a stick vacuum in a house with only hard floors. (Just remember that you'll be emptying the dust bin more frequently than with a traditional vacuum.) A stick vac with a spare battery could give you the extra cleaning time you need. 

How much should you spend on a stick vacuum?

While you can pick up a Kmart stick vacuum for as little as $79, you'll need to stretch your budget a bit further to buy a decent stick vac. 

"Good quality stick vacs are expensive. There are a couple of good ones in the $500–600 range but other than that you're not really getting a return on investment," Adrian says. 

"A good-quality stick vacuum will do a great job but you'll have limited time before you need to charge the battery, and the battery will degrade over the years. 

"Barrel vacuums are much better bang for your buck in terms of power and you'd be much better off investing in a great barrel vac at around $300–500. You just have to put in the effort to plug it in!"

Should you buy a Dyson stick vacuum on sale?

Dyson stick vacs tend to do well in our tests, but their high performance comes with a high price tag. You might be able to pick up an older Dyson in the Black Friday or Boxing Day sales, but should you? 

If you're on a budget, remember that Dyson isn't the only good performer on the market

"The cheaper Dysons still perform quite well in our tests on carpet but they often don't come with the new head attachment specifically designed for hard floors, which is why they don't perform as well overall," says Adrian. 

"But if carpet is your main concern, Dysons at the lower end of the price range are a good buy."

If you're on a budget, remember that Dyson isn't the only good performer on the market. We list some alternatives below. 

Which are the best stick vacuums for carpet and hard floors?

We recommend stick vacuums that earn a CHOICE Expert Rating of 80% or more, and that score at least 70% on hard floors. Only CHOICE members can access our detailed stick vacuums testing data. 

If you're not yet a member, join CHOICE to get instant access to all of our expert, independent reviews. Or log in to unlock this article and find out which stick vacuums bust the most dust on carpet and hard floors!

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Best stick vacuums for hard floor

These stick vacs received the highest scores in our testing for picking up dirt from a hard floor: