Dyson Stick Vacuums Lose CR Recommendation Over Reliability Issues

Consumer survey reveals that nearly half of Dyson stick vacs develop problems within the first five years

Dyson stick vacs CR

Consumer Reports is removing all Dyson models from its list of recommended stick vacuums because consumers can’t count on them to last. Survey data we posted recently reveals that Dyson stick vacuums develop problems or break at a higher rate than those of any other brand in our tests.

The Dyson V8 Absolute, which CR deemed “the best stick vacuum we’ve ever tested” in September 2016 after it aced our key lab tests, relinquishes the top slot in our ratings that it has held since then. The Poor reliability ratings mean that the V8 and four other V-series models ranging in price from $300 to $700 lose their “recommended” designation and drop to the middle of the pack, followed by two more models that weren’t recommended. All seven Dyson stick vacuums we test now rate Very Good overall.

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To calculate predicted reliability, we survey our members about the products they own, then use that data to make projections about how new models from a given brand will hold up over time. Specifically, we ask: "In total, how many times did this vacuum break or stop working as well as it should?"

Based on the latest survey results, Consumer Reports estimates that close to half of Dyson stick vacuums will develop problems or break within five years, compared with around a quarter of the stick vacuums from Shark, the most reliable brand for this type.

For Dyson, the statistics translate to a rating of 2 out of 10 for predicted reliability, in the Poor zone.

Dyson’s canister and upright vacuums fare better than its stick vacs for predicted reliability, and two Dyson models make the cut for our list of recommended uprights.

Prior to publishing this article, we told Dyson that its stick vacuums are no longer eligible to be recommended. In a written statement provided by a spokesperson, the company took exception to our findings:

“Dyson goes to the limit to create machines that perform exceptionally, are delightful to use, and last a long time. Our rigorous testing, owner surveys, and years of performance differ from the reliability predictions made by Consumer Reports. We will never stop learning and working to do right by our owners.”

Dyson accounts for 25 percent of the stick vacuum market, according to TraQline, a market-research firm, and 43 percent of the stick vacs in our survey, making it the most popular brand among our members. In fact, despite its reliability issues, Dyson earns CR’s top rating for owner satisfaction—Excellent. The only other stick vacuum brand to rate Excellent for owner satisfaction is Shark, which also earns an Excellent for predicted reliability.

Our owner satisfaction ratings are based on the percentage of owners who are “extremely likely” to recommend their vacuum.

The survey leverages data on 51,275 upright, canister, and stick vacuums that members bought between 2008 and 2018.

How Reliability Affects Overall Score

This is the first time that brand reliability and owner satisfaction are being factored into CR’s Overall Scores for vacuums, alongside the data collected during our extensive lab testing, which covers everything from a model’s ability to remove Maine Coon cat hair from carpet to ease of use. The change in scoring elevates some vacuums in our ratings while pushing others down. And models from brands that rate Fair or Poor for predicted reliability are not eligible for our recommended lists of products, regardless of performance. That’s what happened with Dyson’s stick vacuums.

“This doesn’t mean that if you own a Dyson stick vacuum you’re guaranteed to have a problem with it, or even that it’s a bad product,” says Maria Rerecich, CR’s senior director of product testing. “The message is that we think consumers are more likely to have a ‘hassle-free’ experience with a product we recommend.”

Though Dyson stick vacs did not have strong reliability ratings before this change in scoring, the brand’s ratings decline also relates to when problems start to kick in. We’ve expanded our survey to collect data on vacuums over five years of ownership to get a better view of long-term reliability.

“The reliability of Dyson stick vacs is on a par with most other vacuums during the first two years of ownership,” says Simon Slater, CR’s manager of survey research. “But by the third year they start to fall below the average, and by the fifth year they’re the least reliable stick vacuum we currently test.”

Dyson’s Problem Areas

In addition to asking members if their vacuum broke or stopped working as it should, we asked them whether it experienced any among a list of specific problems.

A dead battery is the most common problem with Dyson stick vacuums: Our members reported this issue with 19 percent of models that were at least 3 years old, which is typical for battery-powered stick vacs. So Dyson’s batteries are no worse than most other brands.

The second biggest problem is that the brush stopped working properly. Some 12 percent of Dyson stick vacs that were at least 3 years old had an issue with their brushes not working properly or not working at all. This rate is significantly higher than the rate of most other stick vacs owned by our members.

Some of the other reported issues include lack of suction, problems with the power switch, and the vacuum having stopped working altogether.

When we survey our members, we ask their permission to get in touch to learn more about the products they own. We reached out to Ted Smithson of Council Bluffs, Iowa, and he agreed to tell us more about the issues he’s had with his Dyson stick vacuum.

Smithson bought a Dyson DC44 Animal stick vacuum about six years ago as a second vacuum to use for “small pickup jobs.” And though it’s still working, he says that he’s been frustrated by its performance. “The agitator brush stops spinning and won’t resume until you let up on the trigger . . . and then restart it again,” he says.

He also has a design complaint about the lack of an on/off switch—you need to hold down the trigger to operate the vacuum. “It’s hard to push and uncomfortable,” he says. “After awhile your hand starts to hurt.”

Smithson’s Dyson problems began after the warranty expired on his unit. “I just live with it,” he says. “But I wouldn’t buy another Dyson.”

Our Members Weigh In

We also invite our members to share their stories in the survey, and here's a sampling of comments, divided into two groups: those likely to recommend their Dyson stick vac and those unlikely to recommend it.

Likely to Recommend
“Very expensive but does the best job of picking up hair from our big dogs of any vacuum we've had. I liked it so much I bought a second one for use upstairs.” —Laurence from Texas (2015 model year)

“This is a great little vacuum. If I didn't already have several others, I would buy one for each floor of the house as it is far easier to use than the other corded vacuums I own.” —Richard from Virginia (2015 model year)

“Simply outstanding for ease of use and it picks up anything in its path. Does a great job on rugs, too. Plenty of power, and I almost never use the high power mode. The canister has to be emptied constantly.” —Walter from California (2016 model year)

Unlikely to Recommend
“This was a great vacuum initially but the performance degraded quickly. The battery never lasted long enough. Now after a couple years it has stopped working completely.” —Sean from Texas (2015 model year)

“I enjoy the light weight and ease of use. But current problems with operation after only 18 months’ ownership, and light use, are extremely frustrating.” —Susan from Manitoba (2016 model year)

“For the money it feels ‘cheap’ . . . lots of creaky plastic. Battery failed after only four months use . . . is now back ordered, so they sent me a new machine.” —John from Ontario (2018 model year)

We conduct member surveys every year, and we will continue to purchase and test Dyson stick vacuums as new models are introduced.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to specify the survey question used to create our reliability ratings, and to reflect a change in how Consumer Reports refers to its estimates for predicted reliability. We now use the term "problem rates" rather than "breakage rates" to illustrate that our predictions are based on reports of a product breaking as well as any loss of functionality. The article was originally published February 6, 2019.

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.