We Found the 5 Best Upright Vacuums After Testing 15 Different Models
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It’s time to upgrade your cleaning device with one of these editor-approved vacuums.
As much as we wish we could, we can’t prevent people from tracking outside debris inside our homes, pets from shedding on furniture, and guests from leaving crumbs behind on brand-new rugs. Those are just a few examples of how our floors get so dirty in addition to typical dust collecting in corners. To diminish everyday messes and deep cleans, we reach for upright vacuums. They have superior suction power, hold a lot of debris for fewer trips to the trash bin, and don’t require charging breaks, allowing you to get the job done faster. Find one with the right design and attachments, and you’ll see how easy it is to move from one surface to another.
We tested 15 different upright vacuums from popular brands, looking closely at effectiveness and also checking key factors like maneuverability, noise level, and ease of emptying. After several rounds of spilling various kinds of debris on all floor types and then vacuuming it all up, we’ve narrowed it down to the top performers. Keep on reading to see which upright vacuums we recommend and why.
Best Overall: Shark NV360 Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe Upright Vacuum
Pros: This vacuum’s suction and performance are top-tier, and its maneuverability and versatility really seal the deal.
Cons: You might need to use another tool to remove hair tangled in the beater bar.
Well-deserving of our top spot, this upright vacuum couldn’t have scored any better in our tests for its effectiveness. Whether the debris was on tile, hardwood, or carpet, it cleaned up all the mess in under a minute with its powerful suction, tackling edges and corners particularly well. We loved how easy it was to maneuver around and under furniture and its performance on both floors and upholstery.
Another praise-worthy quality to call out is that you get double functionality since you can separate the pod and use it like you would a canister vacuum for harder-to-reach spots like door frames and stairs. During testing, we found that hair got tangled in the beater bar, especially when vacuuming the carpet, but we were able to remove it with a tool, so it wasn’t a dealbreaker.
Price at time of publish: $220
Weight: 15.96 pounds
Cord Length: 25 feet
Bin Volume: 3.4 liters
Attachments: Upholstery tool and crevice tool
Best Value: Hart Pro Bagless Upright Vacuum with HEPA Media Filter
Pros: The price is good and the performance is great with this vacuum.
Cons: Its heft means a little more effort during use.
This vacuum proves that you don’t always have to spend more to get a vacuum that delivers. With a 13-foot reach, it transitions well between surfaces and has a head that swivels for hassle-free maneuvering around furniture. Another reason why this vacuum’s performance is so noteworthy is the useful attachments that are conveniently placed right on the appliance. During testing, we picked up every last crumb on the upholstered chair using the crevice tool and the handle end without the crevice tool.
We noticed that because the vacuum feels a bit heavy, it may require more force on your part when pushing it back and forth — but by no means does it feel difficult. Even with that consideration, we still found it navigable around corners and under coffee tables.
Price at time of publish: $129
Weight: 16 pounds
Cord Length: Not listed
Bin Volume: Not listed
Attachments: Crevice tool and pet upholstery tool
Best Splurge: Shark AZ2002 Vertex Powered Lift-Away Upright Vacuum
Pros: It’s powerful, versatile, and there’s no issue with hair getting caught in the brush roll.
Cons: This vacuum is on the louder and heavier side.
This vacuum may be the most expensive on our list, but its performance helps assuage any sticker shock you may feel. During our tests, the appliance picked up 95% of the debris in one minute or less. With the help of the pet power brush, we removed even the heaviest of debris on tricky surfaces like stairs. We were impressed by its strong suction, well-functioning attachments, and ease of emptying, as there weren’t any issues with hair getting stuck in the roller brush.
One of the drawbacks of this vacuum is how loud it is during use. You could still have a conversation with someone when it’s running yet stationary, but once you start moving it on carpet, it becomes too noisy to hear voices or music. Additionally, it’s on the heavier side, so we recommend using the vacuum’s pivot head so it feels more maneuverable. This model does have a lift-away pod, so you can easily separate it from the base to clean steps rather than lugging the whole thing up and down with you.
Price at time of publish: $345
Weight: 16.38 pounds
Cord Length: 30 feet
Bin Volume: 0.95 liters
Attachments: Pet crevice tool, dusting brush, and self-cleaning pet power brush
Best for Pet Hair: Bissell CleanView Swivel Rewind Pet Reach Vacuum Cleaner
Pros: You get great suctioning power, easy cord storage, and quick emptying.
Cons: It’s not very effective on hardwood, so it’s a better option for carpeted and grouted floors.
During our tests, this vacuum’s suction power shined on most surfaces. It earned perfect scores on the high pile carpet and the grouted floor, removing all the debris before the allotted time. Plus, it worked wonders on the upholstered chair thanks to the effective nozzle attachment. We would’ve liked to see better results on hardwood, as the vacuum tended to push debris around rather than suctioning it up, but it didn’t make any scratches on the surface. Most important for those with pets, we found that this model did exceptionally well picking up hair on all floor types.
Many other user-friendly features make this vacuum pleasant to use. One is the unique cord storage design: Simply step on or push a button and watch the 27-foot cord spin up inside the vacuum. Another is the easy release button that neatly and cleanly empties all the debris in the dust bin into the trash can. Pet parents will also love that every purchase supports the Bissell Pet Foundation in saving homeless pets.
Price at time of publish: $175
Weight: 18.91 pounds
Cord Length: 27 feet
Bin Volume: 0.6 liters
Attachments: Combination crevice tool dusting brush and pet turbo eraser tool
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Best Lightweight: Shark NV501 Rotator Professional Lift-Away Upright Vacuum
Pros: There’s a great amount of adjustability with this lighter vacuum.
Cons: You may desire a different attachment for cleaning hardwood stairs.
If your priority is an upright vacuum that’s easy to lift, we recommend this one from Shark, which is the lightest of our top picks. In addition to its portability, we learned during testing that the device allows you to customize the settings to your preferences better than others. One of the things you can adjust is the ability to turn the brush roller on and off, which helps minimize the kickback of material on hard surfaces. Another is that you can change the amount of suction so you can clean around more sensitive zones, like near your plants, without risking damage.
In terms of cons, the biggest we found was that despite having four attachments, none of them were effective for vacuuming hardwood stairs except for the crevice tool, which isn’t ideal. If you have stairs like that at home, you might need something different to clean them more efficiently.
Price at time of publish: $280
Weight: 15.5 pounds
Cord Length: 30 feet
Bin Volume: 1.2 liters
Attachments: Dusting brush, crevice tool, premium pet power brush, and wide pet upholstery tool
We crowned the Shark NV360 Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe Upright Vacuum as our favorite because of its effectiveness and easy maneuvering. For a more budget-friendly pick, we like the Hart Pro Bagless Upright Vacuum with HEPA Media Filter for its great suction power, especially at such an attractive price.
To determine which upright vacuums are the best on the market, we tested 15 different vacuums from various brands. First, we timed how long it took to set up the vacuum out of the box and noted how complex or simple assembly was. Then, we used a luggage scale to measure the vacuum’s weight and a decibel reader to measure the noise output on low and high settings. To test the vacuum’s effectiveness, we spread specified amounts of cereal, orzo, coffee grounds, and wig hair on grouted tile, hardwood floors, medium-pile carpets, and high-pile carpets. We assessed how easy or not it was for the vacuum to suck up the messes completely. We also tested for maneuverability by vacuuming debris on a marked path with turns, corners, and tight spaces in a living room environment. Next, we checked how well each vacuum performs on upholstery by cleaning up debris on an upholstered chair with any crevice and upholstery attachments. Afterward, we noted how simple or complicated it was to empty the vacuum cleaner.
Factors to Consider
Bagged vs. Bagless
Some upright vacuums come with bags that require disposal once full of debris, while others are bagless and feature a compartment that you can empty directly. The former is a smart option for those with allergies because the bags help trap particles that might otherwise get released back into your air. Another advantage is that because of this separation of debris, bagged vacuums generally don’t require as frequent cleaning or replacing of the filter. Then, there are people who prefer bagless models because it means you don’t need to continue buying replacement bags, adding to your usage costs over time. With a bagless vacuum, you can also minimize your environmental impact by creating less waste.
These days, it’s common to find upright vacuums suitable on any type of flooring you have thanks to the roller brush design and attachments. Still, some out there might be better suited to carpet, scattering debris or even leaving scratches when used on hardwood floors. Even if a manufacturer claims the device can handle both hardwood and carpet without doing any damage, it may perform significantly better on one surface versus another. In all, consider what type of flooring you have in your home so you can choose the vacuum whose design and performance match it best for stress-free cleaning.
The right attachments can make a huge difference when vacuuming across your house. A crevice tool is great for cleaning those tight, narrow areas like corners, baseboards, vents, and blinds. An upholstery tool works well on fabric like your couch or mattress. A pet tool is specifically made to remove fur and hair left behind on furniture. In addition to these tools, an extension wand, dusting brush, and power/turbo brush are other accessories commonly included with a vacuum. If your upright vacuum doesn’t already come with the attachments you need for your house, you may be able to purchase them separately from the manufacturer.
Related:The 7 Best Robot Vacuums of 2023, Tested and Reviewed
Frequently Asked Questions
Is an upright vacuum better than a cordless vacuum?
Deciding between an upright vacuum you have to plug into an outlet versus a cordless vacuum is mostly a matter of personal preference, as both have their pros and cons. One benefit of going with an upright vacuum is that you don’t have to worry about the battery running out mid-cleaning session and having to take a break until the appliance is fully charged. Some people may be worried about how well they can maneuver an upright vacuum throughout their home if they have to plug it in, but upright vacuums are built with such long cords that you can still move between rooms without necessarily having to replug each time. Also, upright models typically have greater suction power and larger dustbins than cordless vacuums.
What is the average life of an upright vacuum?
An upright vacuum should last you around 5 to 10 years. To increase your upright vacuum’s longevity, you should empty the bin regularly so that it doesn’t overfill (this can damage the motor) and clean the brush and filter as necessary. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for usage and maintenance.
Can you use an upright vacuum on hardwood floors?
Yes, you can use an upright vacuum on hardwood floors, but there are some considerations to keep in mind. While upright vacuums are known for working particularly well on carpet because of their rotating beater brushes and powerful suction, it is possible to use them on hardwood floors if the appliance has a brush roll specifically designed for multiple flooring types, or if it comes with separate attachments for different flooring. Using the wrong type of brush roll can end up damaging certain wood floors.
Other Upright Vacuums We Tested
Shark AZ1002 Apex Powered Lift-Away Upright Vacuum ($368 at Amazon)
Overall, this Shark vacuum performed very well across our different tests, and we appreciate its well-designed attachments. That being said, we wished it was easier to maneuver on hardwood floors and had a power button that was less work to turn on and off.
Kenmore Floor Care Elite Upright Bagged Vacuum ($320 at Amazon)
There was a lot to like about the Kenmore, but ultimately it lost points when it came to maneuverability and value. It feels heavy when moving it around from room to room and up and down stairs, and we found the price too high given this caveat.
Shark Navigator Swivel Pro Complete Upright Vacuum #NV151 ($200 at Home Depot)
This quiet vacuum did a great job of cleaning up debris on carpet. However, we found that it requires more practice to control its swivel feature and that a lot of hair gets stuck in the vacuum, making it more involved to empty.
Kenmore AllergenSeal Lift-Up Upright Vacuum Corded Bagless Upright Vacuum with HEPA Filter DU5092 ($220 at Lowe's)
We really liked how well this vacuum’s attachments worked, but the appliance fell short on noise level and maneuverability. It would be hard to converse while the vacuum is running, and it’s not easy to use the vacuum close to or under furniture.
Bissell CleanView Rewind Upright Vacuum ($130 at Amazon)
We found this Bissell portable and easy to empty but were concerned about its overall value and longevity. Whenever we turned off the vacuum, we noticed a long-lasting, high-pitched noise that only worsened with subsequent tries.
What Didn't Make the List
Despite coming from some big-name brands like Hoover, Black+Decker, and Bissell, various upright vacuum models didn’t make our list because they didn’t offer a high enough value for their price, regardless of whether that price was higher or lower than the average. Overall, a major issue was poor performance with the vacuum spraying debris around instead of picking it up or simply being minimally effective at removing debris. We found the Eureka Airspeed Ultra-Lightweight Compact Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner NEU100 and the Eureka NEU182B PowerSpeed Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner both very frustrating to use. This was because of how much extra labor and time is necessary to manage messes left behind after several passes and sometimes even created by the machine itself. Other general issues with the lowest-scoring vacuums included the appliance being too clunky or loud.
Cindy Brzostowski is a freelance writer and avid home cook who has previous experience in cookbook publishing (and has to clean up more than her fair share of messes on the kitchen floor while cooking). Her writing has been featured in Allrecipes, Blue Apron, The Kitchn, and EatingWell among other publications. For this article, she used our in-depth, in-house testing insight to review the best upright vacuums on the market.
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