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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: 28 October 2021

Need to know

  • CHOICE experts test more than 40 stick vacuums to find the suckiest sticks
  • 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 more than 40 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 stick vac reviews) but also spotted some mediocre sticks that deserve the flick. Here are the ones to avoid, and why.

186223-06-Kmart Cordless Stick Cleaner_-1

Kmart Anko Cordless Stick Vacuum 

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

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

As an added bonus, our testers noted it has an irritating and high-pitched noise (just what you need to make cleaning more enjoyable!).

The positives are that it can be used in handheld mode to access hard-to-reach areas, and it was very good at cleaning up sand and pebbles from the car floor. Plus it rated an acceptable 80% for ease of use. 

A downside to buying a cheap stick vacuum cleaner such as this one is that you may not be able to buy a replacement battery when it gives up the ghost in three to four years (or sooner). 

Our experts advise taking this into consideration when weighing up against more expensive brands. Read the full review for this Kmart 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 eExpert Rating of our current test group and was outperformed by many cheaper models from other brands.

It rated well in our ease of use tests (how easy it is to manoeuvre, use the controls and empty), but it 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 of the Hoover Ultra Power 2 in 1 5222.

kmart-anko-2-in-1-cordless-stick-vacuum-v8260-12a_1

Kmart Anko 2 in 1 Cordless Stick Vacuum V8260-12A 

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 67%
  • Price: $69
  • Quick clean score: 45%
  • Thorough carpet clean score: 50%

No, you're not seeing double: there are two Kmart stick vacuums in our list of duds. This stick vac may be $80 cheaper than its colleague that ranked bottom of our tests, but with only a marginally better performance, it's still not a great buy.

The model also cleans poorly around corners and edges and is borderline at cleaning carpet. It was very good at cleaning up sand and pebbles from the car's floor and rated relatively well for pet hair removal (70%) and ease of use, as the cleaning head is easy to manoeuvre over carpet and it has excellent controls.

The big positive of course is that it's the cheapest stick vacuum we've tested, but the cheap price is reflected in its performance, so consider how well you need it to perform and what you'll be using it for as to whether it's really worth the savings.

Consider becoming a CHOICE member to access all our stick vacuum cleaner reviews.

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