Need to know
- Our experts put 25 robot vacuums to the test in our lab, where we have the latest reference machines and measurement equipment.
- We've found that robot vacuums aren't quite up to the task of completely replacing your regular barrel or upright vacuum and some models may even damage carpet pile.
- Robot vacs can be expensive, so consider the cost of the better models versus regular barrel, upright or even stick vacuums, which do a more thorough job.
When robotic vacuum cleaners first appeared on the market, they heralded a future unburdened by tiresome household chores. But while we all fantasise about putting our feet up as a robot takes care of business, the truth is they're not quite ready to replace human-held vacuum cleaners.
That's not to say robot vacs don't have a place in the home. For light, touch-up cleaning, they can earn their keep. However, there are a few things to note before you commit to purchasing an AI cleaning machine.
Things to consider before you buy a robot vacuum
If your home is largely carpeted, you may want to spend your money on a regular vacuum cleaner instead, as robot vacs generally do a poor job here. They're much more suited to superficial cleaning of hard floors.
"In a home with carpeted floors, a robot vac is fine for a tidy-up, but the carpet will need a regular going-over with a standard vac," says CHOICE expert Chris Barnes.
Robot vacuums are also not hugely effective at picking up pet hair and their navigation of objects and corners is somewhat clumsy. But despite their flaws, they remain hugely popular, which means companies are constantly competing to advance the technology and make better, more intelligent versions.
If you're already sold on the futuristic dream of a robotic cleaner, just be sure to give the following low-performing models a wide berth.
Kogan Compact Robot Vacuum KACOMROBVCA
- Price: $99
- Choice Expert Rating: 30%
- Hard floor dirt pick-up performance: 43%
- Dirt removal from carpet score: 17%
This is both the cheapest and poorest-performing robot vacuum our experts tested. While its budget price is tempting, you'll be left with buyer's remorse. Terrible at picking up pet hair, only marginally better at cleaning carpet and below average on hard surfaces, its cost doesn't make up for its shortcomings. It also has a very small dirt receptacle, a short battery life and is accident-prone.
Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 900 DN5G
- Price: $999
- Choice Expert Rating: 39%
- Hard floor dirt pick-up performance: 30%
- Dirt removal from carpet score: 25%
This model on the upper end of the price scale does well to tick a few boxes. It has stair detection, a mopping function, returns to the charger before the battery runs flat, and does a pretty comprehensive job of cleaning corners and edges. But its lowly dirt-removal scores on both hard surfaces and carpet make it a less-than-ideal choice. There are better performing robo vacs for the same price.
Hoover Performer Plus 3240
- Price: $199
- Choice Expert Rating: 45%
- Hard floor dirt pick-up performance: 73%
- Dirt removal from carpet score: 13%
Despite being fairly good at cleaning hard floors, this clumsy robot vac trundles around bumping into objects and largely fails at getting into those hard-to-reach places, although stair detection means it will refrain from tumbling over ledges. Scoring a measly 13% for removing dirt from carpet, this budget-friendly option is really only convenient if you have a pet-free, hard-floored home.