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Stick vacuum cleaners to avoid buying

When it comes to stick vacs, you want one that really sucks. So give these three a wide berth, because they don’t!

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Last updated: 11 December 2019

Need to know

  • Stick vacuum cleaners are handy as they're easily portable, easy to store and can more readily reach those tricky spots, but they're also usually less effective
  • We generally find that when it comes to stick vacs, you get what you pay for
  • We reviewed 31 stick vacuums, looking at things like ease of use, quick cleaning ability and pet hair removal, and found three to avoid

Wrestling with a cumbersome vacuum cleaner is one of life's great irritations. Finding space to store it and navigating its hulk 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, while stick vacuums are 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. Check out our vacuum buying guide for more information.

"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. 

Through our rigorous testing, we've generally found that when it comes to stick vacuums, you get what you pay for, with cheaper models being poor imitations of the higher end vacuums. 

We reviewed 31 stick vacuums, looking at ease of use, quick cleaning ability and pet hair removal, and found these to be the three to definitely avoid.

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Bissell Featherweight 2024F (corded model)

  • Price: $99
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 68%
  • Quick clean score: 57%
  • Ease of use score: 66%

This model's competitive pricing probably should set off a little alarm bell. While it's good at cleaning up sand and pebbles in the car and has good controls, it does have a cord, which means it might not meet most people's expectations of a stick vac being cordless, so you'll always need to be close to a power point.

It also receives an 'only OK' score for a quick and decent clean, has a filter that's messy to clean, doesn't have a good reach under low furniture and can be tiring to push.

Read the Bissell Featherweight vacuum review.

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Nilfisk Handy 2-in-1 128350262

  • Price: $199
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 65%
  • Quick clean score: 52%
  • Ease of use score: 78%

Like many stick vacs, this model has a removable handheld cleaner that's great for those spots underneath, behind and above. It has excellent controls and a cleaning head that's easily removed and moved over carpet, but its list of faults is far longer. Scoring only OK for cleaning hard floors, removing pet hair and thorough carpet cleaning, it's not great at giving the car a good go-over, and the filter is messy to clean.

Read our Nilfisk Handy 2-in-1 review.

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Hoover Cordless Stick Vac SD101

  • Price: $199
  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Quick clean score: 48%
  • Ease of use score: 73%

The point of shelling out for a vacuum cleaner is to make your life easier. So, if you're having to work harder for a satisfying clean, consider that a fail. Enter this Hoover model that is only OK at cleaning hard floors and doing a thorough job of the carpets, and poor at cleaning corners and edges. It has no handheld mode, no multiple speed settings, no tools, and frankly, no game. Avoid. 

Read our Hoover Cordless Stick Vac review.

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