Best Vacuums of 2021

These upright, canister, stick, robotic, and handheld vacuums excel in CR's tests

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person holding upright vacuum on carpet sample designed for testing
Project leader Sue Booth at work in the vacuum lab.
Photo: John Walsh/Consumer Reports

With vacuums ranging from under $50 to well over $1,500—and in configurations from a slim stick to a beefy canister—it can be difficult to figure out what’s right for your home.

The performance of cordless stick vacuums continues to get even better, though based on our exclusive member survey, reliability remains a concern. Robotic vacuums have also become more capable cleaners, and their prices keep dropping, making them worth a look, too. But while these convenient contenders may deserve a spot in your cleaning arsenal, they still can’t replace your trusty upright or canister, according to Consumer Reports’ vacuum tests.

“For some people, it might make sense to have multiple vacuums for different situations,” says Frank Rizzi, a senior lab technician who tests vacuums at CR. “A robotic vacuum can help with maintaining your pristine floors, and a stick can help with quick messes alongside your bigger upright or canister.”

In our lab, CR’s engineers put vacuum cleaners through a set of tough tests to evaluate how well a vacuum picks up dirt, how much debris it retains, how easy it is to maneuver, and how noisy it is. We embed talc, sand, and pet hair into carpet before vacuuming. We use the same type of litter on bare floors and observe whether the vacuum picks it up or scatters it about. And we maneuver the vacuum around the floor, just like you would, to judge how easy it is to operate.

The Overall Score for each model incorporates results for each of these tests as well as ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, which are based on our survey data about 104,175 upright, canister, and stick vacuums that CR members purchased between 2011 and 2021.

Below, you’ll find reviews of the best vacuums you can buy right now, from each of the types we test. For even more information, see our vacuum buying guide and our complete vacuum ratings.

CR’s take: The midpriced Kenmore Elite Pet Friendly 31150 earns top marks on bare floors and scores well for tool airflow. That means it’s exceptionally powerful when used with its attachments, which include a crevice tool, bristle brush, and power roller. On bare floors it captures almost every particle, keeping debris contained in its disposable bag. It’s no slouch at removing embedded dirt from carpet or tackling pet hair, either, although it’s a little louder and tougher to handle than some bagged uprights. It’s not the cheapest model you’ll find, but this impressive performer is certainly among the best vacuums we’ve tested. Kenmore uprights received middling scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. See our full upright vacuum ratings for other models.

CR’s take: A Target exclusive, this Shark Navigator has a 26-foot cord and weighs roughly 16 pounds. It receives an Excellent rating in both our pet hair and bare floors tests but doesn’t fare as well on carpet (though it’s still pretty good). Our testers found that this vacuum handles well and is pretty easy to push, pull, and carry, but it’s noisy compared with other upright vacuums. Shark uprights earned a Very Good score for predicted reliability and got one of the highest scores for owner satisfaction among upright vacuums, meaning CR members who own them are highly likely to recommend them. Check out our full upright vacuum ratings for other great options.

CR’s take: Our top-performing canister vacuum, the Miele Complete C3 Marin, earns perfect marks in almost every test we throw its way. It’s a champ at bare floors and embedded pet hair but also excels at capturing dust particles. Powerful airflow makes its attachments especially effective. It’s also noticeably quieter than many models. It gets dinged a bit in our handling test, but that’s true of most canister vacuums, which trail behind you at the end of the suction hose. At more than $1,000, it may suck up a big chunk out of your bank account, too. Miele canisters earned top scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. See our full canister vacuum ratings for other high-performing options.

CR’s take: This bagless canister is on the pricey side for vacuums, but it’s one of the best bagless canisters you can buy. It earns an Excellent rating on our bare floors test, proving that it can suck up 5 grams of Maine coon cat fur in no time flat. It’s not so great when it comes to cleaning carpet; canisters are better for bare floors. Allergy sufferers may appreciate that this vacuum also performs well in our emissions testing, releasing little debris back into the environment after sucking it up. Miele canisters earned top scores for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. See our full canister vacuum ratings for other high-performing options.

CR’s take: The corded Shark Apex UpLight Lift-Away DuoClean LZ601 is a winner. It aces all our key cleaning tests—carpet, bare floors, and pet hair—and operates quietly and cleanly. It also cleans along the edges of walls without leaving any debris behind. This vacuum is self-standing, making it easy to store, and has a self-cleaning brush roll, so you can avoid messy hair entanglements. It comes with several attachments that you can store onboard. Shark corded stick vacuums earned an Excellent score for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction. For other impressive choices, see our full stick vacuum ratings.

CR’s take: An all-around excellent performer, the feature-packed
Tineco Pure One S11 boasts impressive cleaning ability, earning top marks in all our cleaning tests, including an Excellent rating for pet hair. An LED panel on the top of the handle displays the power level and battery time remaining, and alerts you if the vacuum experiences a clog. You can adjust the power settings by swiping up or down on the screen, and a dust sensor detects the amount of debris and adapts the suction power accordingly. It runs very quietly, and emissions are clean. For more options, see our full stick vacuum ratings.

CR’s take: One of the latest iRobot models to hit the market, the iRobot Roomba S9+ is pricey, but it delivers. This vacuum earns top scores down the line in our performance tests, and it’s the best of the best where edges and bare floors are concerned. This is also a self-emptying model that empties its dustbin into a dirt bag, no hands required. Like the iRobot Roomba e5 and the iRobot Roomba 960, the iRobot Roomba S9+ earns a Good rating for data privacy and a Very Good rating for data security. See out full robotic vacuum ratings for more choices.

CR’s take: Not all handheld vacuums can tackle pet hair with aplomb, but the Shark Ion W1 WV201 aces that task, earning an Excellent rating. It’s also a champ at cleaning bare floors and getting into hard-to-reach places, and it’s not too shabby at cleaning carpet. The vacuum and all its attachments can be stored on the charging base, making it a real space saver. And at just 1.4 pounds, it’s the lightest handheld vac in our tests. The only downside to its small size is the small dustbin, which may have to be emptied more than once if you have a sizable spill. For more choices, see our full handheld vacuum ratings.

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.