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Stick vacuum cleaners to avoid buying

If you want clean floors and carpets, steer clear of these suckers. 

stick vacs to avoid red cross
Last updated: 10 June 2021

Need to know

  • CHOICE's expert testers put 30 stick vacuums to the test to find the suckiest sticks and the ones you should give the flick
  • We test each vacuum's ability on hard floors, carpet and in a car, and assess ease of use and how they perform on corners and edges
  • Consider becoming a CHOICE member to access full reviews

Wrestling with a cumbersome vacuum cleaner is one of life's great irritations. Finding space to store it and navigating its bulk around corners is a sure way to kill joy, even if you're the type of person who loves a good vacuuming. 

But if you're considering ditching your barrel or upright vac for a stick version, there are a few things to note. 

Firstly, 'stick' doesn't necessarily mean cordless. There are a few stick-style vacuums that are corded, so make sure you check before you buy if what you're after is a handheld, battery-operated model. 

Power is no guarantee of cleaning performance – it's the overall design of the cleaner that makes the difference

Kim Gilmour, CHOICE product expert

Secondly, even though they have a lot of good points – they're easier to store, can more readily reach those tricky spots (like in the car) and are great for little patches of mess (such as the debris under a child's high chair) – they're usually less effective and are likely to be more tiresome if you have a large area to clean. See our stick vac buying guide for more info.

"When it comes to vacuum cleaners, power is no guarantee of cleaning performance – it's the overall design of the cleaner that makes the difference," says CHOICE product expert Kim Gilmour. 

The stick vacs that rated lowest

Our lab experts have reviewed over 30 popular models, evaluating key factors like cleaning performance (for hard floors, carpets, corners, pet hair and more), ease of use, quick cleaning ability and pet hair removal. 

In their lab tests, they've found some impressive performers (members can access our full reviews) but also spotted some mediocre sticks that deserve the flick. Here are the ones to avoid.

186223-07-Kmart Cordless Stick Vacuum_-1

Kmart Cordless Stick Cleaner

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Price: $119
  • Quick clean score: 38%

This Kmart stick vac failed to impress our experts on a number of cleaning tasks, such as cleaning corners and edges, picking up dirt from hard floor, cleaning carpet – you know, just all the things you buy a vacuum to do. 

It's not all bad, though. It did well picking up pet hair and cleaning a car, and it has excellent reach under low furniture. And our experts found that it was hard to use on carpet, so it'll give you a good workout. (That's a positive, right?)

Fortunately it's at the cheaper end of the price spectrum for stick vacuums – imagine how you'd feel paying top dollar for such terrible performance. 

186223-06-Kmart Cordless Stick Cleaner_-1

Kmart Cordless Stick Vacuum 

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 64%
  • Price: $149
  • Quick clean score: 35%

No, you're not seeing double: there are two Kmart stick vacuums in our list of duds. This stick vac is $149, which is $30 more than our bottom performer. So what does that extra $30 buy you? Not a great deal, it would seem. 

The $149 model also cleans poorly around corners and edges and is terrible at cleaning carpet. The main differences between the two models is that the more expensive one is better at cleaning on hard floors and scores slightly better for ease of use, but it's not much good at removing pet hair. And when we say "better", we mean only marginally better – this is still an especially ordinary stick vacuum. 

hoover ultra power 2 in 1 stick vac

Hoover Ultra Power 2 in 1 5222

  • Price: $299
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 66%
  • Quick clean score: 41%
  • Ease of use score: 78%

It may promise 'ultra power' but our experts certainly weren't blown away in our lab tests. In fact, this Hoover (which also works as a handheld vac) scored the lowest Expert Rating of our current test group and was out-performed by many cheaper models from other brands.

It rated well in our ease of use tests (which assess manoeuvrability, controls and receptacle-emptying), but really struggled to pick up dirt on carpets, scoring under 50% for both quick and long cleans. 

Thankfully, it was happier on hard floors and picking up pet hair, and even rated excellent for car cleaning. Still, for the same price, you could pick a stick that scores 80% or higher that's recommended by our experts. Read the full review.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE