Best Canister Vacuums of the Year

10 that are easy to handle and tough on dirt

Conducting the best canister vacuum tests in Consumer Reports' labs.
Alex Nasrallah gets ready to test some new canister vacuums at Consumer Reports.
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If you're shopping for vacuums, a canister model is worth considering. All of the canister vacuums in Consumer Reports’ tests do a terrific job cleaning bare floors, and some are very good at cleaning carpet. What makes canisters stand out is their design. Because the weight is distributed between the canister itself and the powerhead, they’re easier to move around than uprights. That's ideal if you live in a house with multiple levels. 

“Canisters have an advantage for cleaning stairs because you’re not lifting the whole vacuum, plus the wand and hose give you a longer reach,” says Frank Rizzi, a senior CR lab technician who tests vacuums. “They’re also easier to maneuver than an upright.”

Not everybody appreciates the advantages. Canisters make up a small slice of the vacuum market, about 2 percent. However, 12 percent of Consumer Reports’ members report owning one. Of those, a third own a Miele and another third own a Kenmore. And those are the two brands that perform best in our tests. We also test Dyson canister vacuums, but none rise to the level of being CR recommended, mostly due to their iffy performance on our carpet-cleaning test.

How We Test Vacuums
Consumer Reports continually tests vacuums in its labs, and both canisters and uprights go through the same battery of tests. For the carpet-cleaning test, we embed talc, sand, and pet hair into carpet before vacuuming. For bare floors, we use the same type of debris and observe whether the vacuum picks it up or scatters it around. To judge how easy a canister is to operate, we maneuver it around and under furniture just like you would.

The Overall Score for each model incorporates results for each of these performance tests, as well as ratings for that brand’s reliability and owner satisfaction. The brand ratings are based on data from CR’s member survey regarding respondents’ experiences with more than 80,000 upright, canister, and stick vacuums purchased over the past 10 years. A brand’s reliability rating gauges the likelihood that newly purchased models will have problems within five years, and owner satisfaction shows how likely our members are to recommend their vacuum to others.

Here are 10 terrific canister vacuums from our tests, arranged alphabetically, not in order of Overall Score. For more on vacuums—canisters, uprights, sticks, handhelds and robotic—see our vacuum buying guide and complete vacuum ratings. And if you want to compare uprights to these canisters, see "The Best Uprights From CR's Tests."

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Kenmore 81614
Kenmore 81614

    Kenmore 81614

    CR's take: If you have bare floors and a dog, the Kenmore 81614 is the vacuum for you; it aces our tests for both bare floors and pet hair. Like most canisters, it doesn't do quite as well on carpet as an upright. Emissions are free of debris, but like all the Kenmore canisters on this list, it’s noisier than the Miele models here. Still, this Kenmore’s reasonable price and top performance make it a CR Best Buy. In our reliability survey, our members give Kenmore canister vacuums average marks for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

    Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly CrossOver 21814
    Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly...

      Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly...

      CR’s take: The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly CrossOver 21814 is top-notch at cleaning bare floors and, like many of the canisters featured here, earns a Very Good rating for cleaning carpet. Suction through the hose is superb and emissions are clean. At 26 pounds, however, it's among the heaviest canisters in CR's tests, which contributes to its so-so score for handling and undermines a key advantage of canisters. Of all the Kenmore canisters in our tests, this one rates the lowest for removing pet hair, but it still earns a Very Good rating in that test. Let's just say we're splitting hairs on that one.

      Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly UltraPlush 81714
      Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly...

        Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly...

        CR's take: The Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly UltraPlush 81714 is indeed friendly to pet owners, earning an Excellent in our test for removing pet hair. It’s also a champ at cleaning bare floors and a solid performer at cleaning carpet, making it a smart choice if you have a combination of flooring. It makes the grade in our emissions test, but in terms of noise, there are quieter choices. This model typically costs more than the Kenmore 81614. For that added cost, you get stronger airflow through the hose, making it the better choice if you use attachments often.

        Kenmore Pop-N-Go BC4026
        Kenmore Pop-N-Go BC4026

          Kenmore Pop-N-Go BC4026

          CR’s take: The versatile Kenmore Pop-N-Go BC4026 makes an impressive showing on both our bare floor and pet hair tests, leaving little to nothing behind. It also earns a Very Good rating for carpet cleaning. The Pop-N-Go name refers to how easy it is to attach the floor brush, and our testers like the way this vacuum maneuvers around and under furniture. Emissions are clean and this vacuum has robust airflow, making it a good choice if you often use your attachments to clean fabrics.

          Kenmore Pop-N-Go UltraPlush BC4027
          Kenmore Pop-N-Go UltraPlush BC4027

            Kenmore Pop-N-Go UltraPlush BC4027

            CR’s take: Another of the trio of new Kenmore canisters we recently tested, the Pop-N-Go UltraPlush BC4027 keeps pace with its brandmates on this list. It tackles pet hair without a problem, earning an Excellent rating on that test, and it's impressive at cleaning bare floors and almost as good at cleaning carpet. Emissions are clean, and the strong airflow allows you to easily use your attachments to clean upholstery and curtains. Our testers found it comfortable to maneuver around a room and said the settings and attachments are fairly easy to use.

            Kenmore 200 Series BC4002
            Kenmore 200 Series BC4002

              Kenmore 200 Series BC4002

              CR’s take: The Kenmore 200 Series BC4002 is one of three canisters from this brand recently added to our ratings. It offers both performance and value, and earns our CR Best Buy designation. At this affordable price you get an impressive vacuum that vanquishes pet hair and leaves floors spotless. It’s also quite capable at cleaning carpet, earning a Very Good on that test. Emissions are clean and tool airflow is strong, so you’ll have no problem using your attachments. Our testers found it pretty easy to handle and move under and around furniture.

              Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog
              Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog

                Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog

                CR’s take: The Miele Blizzard CX1 Cat & Dog is the only bagless canister among our picks. It’s on the pricey side for vacuums, but it's one of the best canisters you can buy. It earns an Excellent rating on our bare floor and pet hair tests, but it's not as great when it comes to cleaning carpet. This vacuum also performs well in our emissions tests; it doesn’t release debris back into the air of the room you just cleaned. Miele vacuums have a devoted following, and in our member survey earn top scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

                Miele Compact C2 Electro+
                Miele Compact C2 Electro+

                  Miele Compact C2 Electro+

                  CR’s take: The Miele Compact C2 Electro+ is one of the newer models on this list and performs impressively on all our key tests, especially on the bare floor and pet hair tests, earning an Excellent rating on both. It matches the best canisters for carpet cleaning, although no canister can measure up to the top uprights on that test. The only knock against this vacuum is that the airflow through the hose isn’t as strong as that of the other canisters featured here. If you use your attachments a lot to clean upholstery or curtains, there are better options.

                  Miele Complete C3 Alize
                  Miele Complete C3 Alize

                    Miele Complete C3 Alize

                    CR’s take: If a quiet vacuum is what you need, then the Miele Complete C3 Alize is your best bet—it’s the quietest canister among all the models in our tests. Like all the canisters here, it earns an Excellent rating for cleaning bare floors, but it’s only average at cleaning carpet. All the Kenmores and two Mieles score better on that test. It does a decent job removing pet hair, but it you have a pet that sheds a lot, the other three Mieles featured here are better choices.

                    Miele Complete C3 Marin
                    Miele Complete C3 Marin

                      Miele Complete C3 Marin

                      CR’s take: Our top canister vacuum, the Miele Complete C3 Marin, earns impressive marks in almost every test we threw its way. It’s a champ at bare floors and embedded pet hair, and its emissions are free of debris, earning an Excellent rating. Its carpet-cleaning capabilities are on a par with the best performers here. It’s the most expensive canister in this group, but its consistent high performance has made it one of our top canisters for several years in a row.

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                      Mary H.J. Farrell

                      Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.