Shark Vacuums Take a Bite Out of the Competition

In Consumer Reports' tests and surveys, the top-selling U.S. brand stands out for performance and reliability

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shark vacumes consumer reports

If you haven’t been on the hunt for a new vacuum of late, you may be surprised to find that Shark surpasses Dyson as the top brand in the U.S., according to market research firm Mintel. But what are you to make of a cleaning machine named after a waterborne predator? Quite a lot, actually. Just ask Consumer Reports' experts and subscribers.

For starters, Shark counts more than two dozen recommended models in our ratings. That means they’ve excelled in our test labs at such challenges as pulling cat hair from carpets and sucking sand from bare floors. In its categories of bagless, corded stick, and handheld vacuums, Shark swims with—if not always ahead of—the likes of Bissell, Dyson, Hoover, and Kenmore.

Then there’s our reliability survey, the latest of which tallies feedback from more than 33,000 subscribers who purchased a vacuum between 2011 and 2016. The results suggest that a mere 11 percent of folks who have a Shark upright will experience a breakage by the third year of ownership—less than half the breakage rate of popular brands Hoover and Eureka. It’s the same story for Shark’s stick vacs: The third-year breakage rate is 11 percent. Compare that with 21 percent for Hoover and 22 percent for Dyson.

We also asked CR subscribers about their satisfaction with their vacuums’ performance. Shark stood out here as well: In uprights, 53 percent of Shark owners were completely satisfied, second only to Miele (65 percent). In stick vacs, Shark edged out both Dyson and Hoover in satisfaction.

That's an impressive combo of kudos—performance, reliability, and owner satisfaction—especially given that Shark vacuums are competitively priced. Here we highlight five of the brand’s best models. Three compete for the top slot in their category, and the other two are very good specialty models.

Upright vacuums are by far the most popular type. More than seven in 10 adults report owning one, and more than eight in 10 owners say they would purchase one again, according to Mintel. Bagless versions spare the hassle and cost of replacement bags, but the mess of emptying their bins can be a concern if you have asthma or allergies.

Sold at Target, the Shark Navigator Powered Lift-Away NV586 leads the category in our current ratings, edging out the Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless UH70120 and the Dyson Ball Animal. It excelled at bare-floor cleaning in our tests, so it’s ideal in homes with hardwood floors. It also does the job on carpet, and it conveniently converts from an upright to a handheld canister with the touch of a button.

This Shark performs similarly to its top-scoring brandmate. Paying more gets you larger capacity—a claimed 0.89 gallons, compared with 0.65 gallons for the Shark Navigator Powered Lift-Away NV586. The "3-in-1" NV755 also converts from an upright to a handheld canister or a full wheel canister vacuum with the touch of a button. And it has an extra 4 feet in cord length. The machine's on/off switch is easily found on the vacuum handle—one of those details that matter a lot to some consumers. Its HEPA filtration might benefit someone with asthma, and it helps explain this model’s superb ability to hang onto the dust and particles that it sucks up.

We were less impressed by other Shark uprights, including the Shark Navigator NV22L, which struggled a bit on carpets, and the Shark Rocket Professional NV480, which was just so-so in our bare-floor tests.

Uprights are the most popular, but stick vacuums are coming on strong thanks to the stellar performance from models like the Shark Rocket Complete HV380. In our current ratings of heavyweight stick vacuums, it’s second only to the Bissell Air Ram 1984, which scored extra points for its exceptional quietness. The Bissell is battery-powered but the Shark is corded, meaning you’ll have unlimited run time, though you’ll have to contend with a cord. We were impressed by its touted "dual-brush roll," which helped it excel on CR's carpet, bare-floor, and pet-hair tests. It converts to a hand vacuum, good for cleaning furniture, and the large dirt chamber can be emptied with just one step. As with its upright vacuums, Shark stick vacuums also stand out for their reliability.

Spending too little on a Shark stick vacuum could compromise cleaning. For example, the $100 Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 stumbled in our bare-floors and edge-cleaning tests, plus it doesn't convert to a hand vacuum like most Sharks.

Another top pick among corded stick vacuums, the Shark Rocket DeluxePro TruePet HV322 costs a bit less than the Shark HV380, is lighter by a few ounces, and scored better in our emissions tests. That last factor could be a concern if there are asthma or allergy sufferers at home. It wasn’t quite as effective on bare floors or along edges, where the floor meets the wall or other vertical surfaces. Like many other Shark vacuums, it converts easily to a hand vacuum and can be stored compactly.

Given the fact that many top-rated full-sized Shark vacuums convert so easily to a hand vacuum, you might be better off with one of those. But if all you want is a hand vacuum—maybe for daily dealing with pet hair—this Shark Pet Perfect II SV780 is tops in our current ratings. The battery-powered sucker delivered impressive cleaning on carpets and was even better on bare floors. It was also tough on pet hair.