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The Best Cheap Vacuums of 2017

We conducted over 120 hours of research as we tested 12 different models on medium- and low-pile carpeting to see which ones cleaned the most effectively.

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Cheap vacuum cleaners are a great way to clean on a budget.  We also have reviews of the top-ranked upright vacuum cleaners if you are looking for a vacuum that is more durable.

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Cheap Vacuums Review

Does Buying a Cheap Vacuum Mean You'll Have To Sacrifice Quality?

The top performers in our review are Shark Navigator, the Gold Award winner; Hoover Tempo WidePath, the Silver Award winner; and Hoover Sprint, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a budget vacuum to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these top 10 budget vacuums.

Why Use a Cheap Vacuum?

A vacuum is a necessity for keeping a clean home, but that doesn’t mean you need the most expensive model to keep it spotless. After spending time with each of the vacuums on our lineup, we concluded that three particular budget vacuums stood out. The Shark Navigator was nearly perfect in all of our review categories: Vacuuming Performance, Convenience and Design, Design Extras, and Help & Support. It has a swiveling head that aids maneuverability, an easy-to-use bagless design and a full range of attachments. The Hoover Tempo WidePath is easy to clean and has a strong, capable motor. The Bissell OptiClean is lightweight and easy to store. Even though it struggled on pet hair, it did well on everything else.  

You could spend hundreds of dollars for a top-of-the-line vacuum, but there are many times when cheap vacuum cleaners make more sense. Students with small living spaces, newlyweds on a budget or anyone looking to save money can benefit from an inexpensive vacuum. It could also be a secondary, small vacuum for the upstairs of a larger home.

Budget vacuums are also a better choice than a used or refurbished vacuum. In most cases, a used vacuum will no longer be under warranty, meaning you’ll be stuck if the motor fails.

Most major vacuum manufacturers offer affordable models, meaning you can find a good vacuum for under $120. Cheap bagless vacuum cleaners have a low initial price tag and also cost less in maintenance because you do not have to worry about buying bags. If you're ready to invest a little more in your next vacuum, consider our rankings of the best upright units. For information on other models or choosing the right type of vacuum for your situation, visit our vacuum learning center.

Budget Vacuums: What We Tested, What We Found

Although budget vacuums are more affordable than other uprights or canisters, they should still be able to clean common messes in your home. For this reason, cleaning performance was the most important factor when considering the vacuums we tested. Our in-house team tested each of the inexpensive vacuums on our lineup, focusing on low-pile and medium-pile carpets. We didn't test the vacuums' effectiveness on hardwood floors, as several models aren't recommended for this type of flooring.

To test the performance of each vacuum, we used a variety of materials on a test patch of low-pile and medium-pile carpet, including flour to simulate dust and kitty litter for larger debris. We also tested with pet hair, sawdust and breakfast cereal. The pet hair and cereal were ground into the carpeting first, as is often the case in a typical home. We counted the number of passes it took each vacuum to suck up the debris. The fewer passes it took, the better each vacuum scored. From there, we awarded the vacuum a percentage score based on its performance.

Our team also ran the vacuums through a series of movement tests to gauge how well they maneuvered on and around different surfaces. We evaluated the design of each vacuum, including whether it had ergonomic, versatile handles and was able fit into tight spaces. We also cleaned out the canisters (or bags) to determine which vacuum was the easiest to maintain. We also took into account things like weight, power cord length and noise levels, all of which can impact how convenient each unit is to operate.

What Else Is Important in Selecting a Budget Vacuum?

Features & Accessories: What Extras Does the Vacuum Offer?
Every home has areas that are more difficult to clean than others, whether it's high ceilings, those tight spaces between furniture or upholstery that is invariably covered in pet hair. Budget vacuums won't have as many accessories as higher-priced models, but the essentials should still be included. For high ceilings, you should consider a vacuum with an extension wand. Upholstery and dusting brushes are important for couches, other furniture and blinds. A crevice tool will help you reach into tight corners and vents.

Beyond this, the accessories should be convenient. The best cheap vacuum cleaners have onboard attachment housing, meaning the attachments fit on the vacuum handle or base. Some vacuums store the attachments in a separate bag, which isn't the best choice. In a busy household, they tend to get lost. In addition to convenient storage, vacuum accessories should also be easy to attach to and detach from the hose.

Help & Support: Peace of Mind From the Manufacturer
Budget vacuums typically require more assembly than higher-priced models. While assembly is usually straightforward, it still is additional work you should plan on doing before you can use your vacuum. Therefore, if you have questions or run into a problem, receiving support from the manufacturer is of utmost importance.

The best budget vacuum manufacturers have customer service that is accessible through multiple avenues, such as phone, email and live chat. They also offer extended hours. Whether it's the night or a weekend, customer service can help you with assembly, teach you more about different features or help you resolve any technical issues. Finally, and more importantly, a good manufacturer warranty will provide you peace of mind. Most manufacturers provide at least a one-year warranty, but the best budget vacuum manufacturers provide a warranty of two years or more.

Cheap vacuums are ideal for many situations, whether you're starting out in a small space or needing an extra vacuum on a separate floor so you don't have to haul one up and down stairs. Sure, more expensive vacuums have specialized features you won't find with the models in this lineup, but you don't have to spend a lot of money to get high-quality performance as long as you're willing to sacrifice a few extras.