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How to buy the best stick and cordless vacuum cleaners

Our expert guide to price, power, key features and whether a Dyson is worth the cost. 

different stick vacuums

Stick vacuum cleaners are useful around the kitchen and other areas of the home when you have an annoying spill and don't want to get out the dust pan and brush. Easily hidden away in a cupboard, they take up less room than a traditional barrel or upright vacuum cleaner – and most can be split into two devices, with a handheld vacuum being a part of the stick vacuum.

Stick vacuums: what you need to know

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. That said, stick vacs aren't usually expected to perform as well at cleaning carpet as a standard vacuum cleaner. 

For handheld models (as for most cordless appliances), the more juice in the battery, the better the performance is likely to be. Handheld vacs generally lose power as their battery charge runs down. However, new designs and technology, such as lithium-ion batteries, have led to improved running times and dirt pick-up. 

How much does a stick vacuum cost?

In our latest review testing, models ranged in price from $99 to $1199.

Should I get a Dyson stick vacuum?

Dyson dominates the stick vac market even more than the barrel and upright market, and it's a product area where Dyson can deliver. Their V8 stick vac (priced from $799) scores well, as does the V6 (priced from $549). The Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute+ ($999) is an impressive performer and we've recently tested the latest arrival to the Dyson range, the Dyson V11 Absolute ($1199) with new technology and top level performance.

Dyson V8 Absolute stick vac

The Dyson V8 Absolute

Dyson's small motor technology is part of their success in this area; they've spent a great deal of time and money developing these compact electric motors and implementing them in their stick and handheld vacs as well as other products.

However, other brands also produce good models that have made it into our recommended list.

To find out which stick vac brands our members have found most reliable, see our vacuum cleaner reliability survey results.

    Key features to consider

    Regardless of the brand and model, here's some vital features to keep in mind when making a purchase: 

    Charging and running time

    Look for models that run for a useful length of time and don't take too long to charge. Some may need to charge overnight, or longer.

    Light, quiet and easy to manoeuvre

    Try out the vacuum in the shop to see if it's all these things; for stick models, check that it moves easily over both carpet and hard surfaces.

    Filter

    This should be easy to remove and clean or replace. If you have asthma or allergies, consider a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

    Tools

    The standard items to check for are a dusting brush and crevice tools. Other items may include squeegee tools, an extension tube or a pet hair brush. Tools are especially useful if built-in or stored on the vac itself, rather than separately or on the charging cradle.

    2-in-1 models

    These can be used as either a stick or a handheld vacuum. They usually have a trigger to release the handheld vacuum located on the torso of the stick.

    Variable power/suction

    This allows you to lower the suction, which is handy when cleaning fabric items like curtains or upholstery.

    Battery

    We've found that models with higher voltage batteries – 18V and up – tend to perform better.

    Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the most common battery types in stick vacs. They're generally better-performing and longer-lasting than nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and lead-acid batteries, which are still used in some models. 

    Check the warranty details for the battery. Some warranties only cover the battery for a few months, even if they cover the cleaner itself for a year or more. 

    Batteries should last for a few years of typical use, but eventually they will lose their ability to hold a charge. Once that happens, it's usually cheaper to just buy another vacuum cleaner. So if the battery can be easily swapped out for a replacement, that's a definite plus.

    Switch

    An on/off switch is easier for continuous operation than a trigger that needs to be held down.

    Fallout flap

    This prevents dirt falling back out of the vacuum when you carry it with the nozzle facing downwards, such as when moving between cleaning tasks.

    Wall mountable charging base

    A handy mounted base will help to keep the vac readily accessible and fully charged.

    Wet and dry

    Some models can suck up wet material or liquids. However, they can usually only take a fairly small amount (about 150mL) and you shouldn't fill the bin with liquid past the indicated maximum level. The bin and filter need to be cleaned and dried separately afterwards.

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