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Stick vacuum cleaners to avoid buying

If you want clean floors and carpets, steer clear of these suckers, even if you find them for a steal in the sales. 

stick vacs to avoid red cross
Last updated: 20 May 2024

Need to know

  • Our expert stick vacuum review covers 60 stick vacuums models to help you decide which is best for you and your budget
  • In CHOICE labs, we test each vacuum's performance on hard floors, on carpet and in a car
  • Consider becoming a CHOICE member to access independent reviews for products and services across 200+ categories

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 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. 

Stick vacs are usually less effective than a regular vacuum, and are likely to be more tiresome if you have a large area to clean

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) – stick vacs are usually less effective than a regular vacuum, and are likely to be more tiresome if you have a large area to clean. 

The stick vacs that rated lowest

Our lab experts have reviewed 60 current 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. 

They've found some impressive performers in their lab tests, but they also spotted some mediocre sticks that deserve the flick. 

We don't want you to end up with a dud buy, so here are the products that scored lowest in our lab tests. Consider becoming a CHOICE member to see the best performers.

dirt devil cordless vacuum dsv22g2 ec223602245

The devil is in the detail that gets left behind on your floors after using the Dirt Devil stick vac.

Dirt Devil Cordless Vacuum DSV22G2 EC223602245

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 50%
  • Hard floor score: 50%
  • Price: $99

The Dirt Devil might be dirt cheap, but unfortunately won't do much for the dirt on your floors. It struggled on both hard floors and carpets, and did very little to pick up pet hair from carpet or sand and pebbles from a car's floor.

It does, however, have a fairly lengthy run time of 19 minutes. But, considering its poor performance, you'll need every second of that time to go over your floor multiple times if you're to have any chance of getting it clean.

It also has a very small dirt bin capacity of just 0.2L, so you'll need to empty it frequently.  

If you only have $99 to spend, don't spend it on this. You may even be better off buying a corded barrel vacuum that will do a far better job for the same price, even though it won't fulfil your dreams of owning a stick vac. 

Read the full Dirt Devil Cordless Vacuum review

CHOICE tip: If your stick vacuum budget is less than $250, we've compiled a list of the best budget stick vacuums to help you spend your money wisely.

dyson omni glide for hard floors only

Dyson's Omni-Glide is designed for hard floors only, but doesn't actually perform well on hard floors or carpet.

Dyson Omni-Glide

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 55%
  • Hard floor score: 63%
  • Price: $749

To be fair, this stick vac is designed to be used solely on hard floors, so it was never going to perform well on carpets – hence its low overall score. But (and it's a big but) it actually didn't perform especially well on hard floors either, scoring just 63% for this test. 

Our expert testers noted that its soft roller head does do a good job of picking up potting mix from a hard floor, but its narrow neck and tubing becomes blocked, causing the vacuum to overheat and switch off. It had to be opened and unclogged multiple times during our test. 

And that wasn't the only bad point our testers noted. It only has a running time of 10 minutes on its maximum setting, which won't get you very far, and its bin volume is just 0.1L, which fills up very quickly and could lead to the vacuum jamming while in use. 

It's more of a shiny toy than a practical household item, especially for the price

Adrian Lini, CHOICE vacuum expert

Our experts did rate the Omni-Glide highly for its ease of use, though, noting that it has excellent reach under low furniture, excellent controls, and excellent head movement over carpet and hard floors – it really feels like it's "gliding", they say. 

"The Dyson is impractical as the sole vacuum for your home, but if you like the idea of it and it's within your budget, it could be useful as an 'extra vacuum' for things like a quick clean of the kitchen floor after cooking," says CHOICE vacuum expert Adrian Lini

"But it only performs well in such specific settings that only a small percentage of people would be likely to spend $600 on it. It seems like it's more of a shiny toy to show off than a practical household item, especially for the price."

Read the full Dyson Omni-Glide review.

makita 18v mobile vacuum cleaner kit dcl180

Makita should perhaps stick to home tools, if their stick vac is anything to go by.

Makita 18V Mobile Vacuum Cleaner Kit DCL180

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 57%
  • Hard floor score: 60%
  • Price: $197

Makita is a brand that's found more often in the garage than the home, and the performance of this stick vac suggests it should stay there. 

If you're looking for something to clean up pet hair, this isn't the product for you: our experts gave it a score of just 40% for this test (which they rate as a 'Poor' score). And it was only 'OK' for cleaning carpets and hard floors indoors. 

The only cleaning job it excelled at was picking up sand and pebbles from a car floor. 

On the plus side, its battery can be used with other tools within the Makita brand range, so while it isn't a great vacuum for your house it could be an option for your garage. 

Otherwise, if you're looking for a cheap stick vac that actually does the job, check out the best stick vacs on a budget guide mentioned above. 

Read the full Makita 18V Mobile Vacuum Cleaner Kit review

kmart anko cordless stick vacuum cleaner

Kmart delivers some of the lowest scoring stick vacs in our tests, including this $149 model.

Kmart Anko Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 59%
  • Hard floor score: 70%
  • Price: $149

Kmart sometimes delivers cracking products for low prices – some fans, kitchen appliances and cookware from the bargain retailer score well in our testing. (Here's the full list of Kmart Anko best buys and what to avoid.)

Unfortunately its vacuums don't fall into that category. They tend to perform poorly in our tests, often ranking among the lowest scoring products. Three of the seven worst performing stick vacuums in our tests come from Kmart. 

And even spending a bit more on a Kmart vacuum doesn't guarantee better performance – the most expensive Kmart stick vac received the lowest score of all its products that we tested. 

Remember, if your budget is tight, you can still find a vac that performs better than this one – read our round up of the best stick vacs on a budget

Read the full Kmart Anko Cordless Stick Vacuum Cleaner 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.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.