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Best canister vacuums: Portable, lightweight vacuum cleaners ranked

After four years and more than 300 hours of testing, we have strong opinions about what makes a great canister vacuum cleaner: strong suction, maneuverability and ease of use. The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal had all those qualities and easily beat out all competing units during our testing. It cleaned up each type of test mess more quickly and easily than the others. We even used it to clean up the laboratory after we finished our testing. 

Best Overall

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal

This one was unbeatable for maneuverability.
Suction was strong on heavy debris like kitty litter and lighter stuff like sawdust.
The performance was excellent on different types of carpeting as well as hardwood.
This is one of the louder canister vacuum cleaners we tested.
The Animal is heavier than most we tested, which makes it slightly less portable.
It tends to create a dust cloud when emptied.

The Dyson Big Ball Animal stood out for both cleaning power and maneuverability in our testing, scoring the highest for both.

It conquered all different types of messes, including sawdust, kitty litter and flour, and was equally strong on both carpet or hardwood flooring. That cannot be said of the others. The sawdust was especially hard for competitors to clear. Their cleaning heads usually pushed it out of the way or blew it out of the way in some cases. The Animal cleared it all away quickly. It was also noticeably easy to maneuver around the laboratory. The canister followed us around obstacles with little effort.

Dyson takes care of allergy sufferers with a sophisticated filtration system. However, there is more of a potential for a dust cloud upon emptying it compared to bagged systems.

One of the few drawbacks to this machine is that it is comparatively heavy. That makes it a little less portable than others. It is also one of the loudest we compared. While it is impossible to find a vacuum cleaner that is totally silent, we prefer that they be a little quieter than this one.

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Best Value

Eureka ReadyForce Total

Eureka ReadyForce Total

The low price makes it affordable for most budgets.
The suction was strong on lighter messes like flour.
This one was relatively easy to maneuver around table legs and other obstacles.
This one struggled to pick up heavy debris like kitty litter.
The handle is in an inconvenient place.
A relatively short cord means switching outlets fairly often.

If you would like a budget-friendly option, consider the Eureka ReadyForce Total. It did not have the suction of the top canister vacuums, and did not clean as quickly or thoroughly as the best of the best, but it cleaned well overall.

It was excellent at cleaning flour off our test floors so it should do an awesome job at getting fine dust off your floors. It had a much harder time cleaning up the kitty litter – a portion of which it moved around the floor instead of removing – concluding will not be as helpful on heavier debris in your home.

This one scored well in maneuverability for getting around table legs and other obstacles fairly easily. It was less impressive for portability, though. The cord is short so you have to switch outlets pretty often, and the hose was comparatively short making cleaning stairs and other tasks a hassle. Also, the handle is in the middle of the body instead of at one of the ends, so it’s a little awkward to carry.

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Quietest Canister Vacuum

Bissell C4 Cyclonic

Bissell C4 Cyclonic

The quiet operation is nice if you need to clean at odd times.
The large dustbin reduces how often it needs to be emptied.
A wide cleaning path covers a lot of ground.
There are some filtration features, but they are not designed to get the smallest particles.
Bagless models like this tend to create a cloud of dust when you empty it.
Competing units were easier to maneuver than this one.

While no one expects a vacuum cleaner to be quiet, it is nice if you can do some chores without waking up the whole apartment complex. The Bissell C4 Cyclonic tied for being the quietest among the canister vacuum cleaners.

It shared that honor with three others in our canister vacuum comparison. But the other quiet vacuum cleaners were not as impressive in the suction tests. The C4 Cyclonic tied for the best in suction in addition to quiet performance. It was not as easy to maneuver as some of the competition, and it lacks true HEPA filtration, which makes it hard to recommend for any allergy sufferers. There are some filtration features, but it isn't specifically designed to eliminate the tiniest particles from the air for true HEPA filtration – often the case with bagless vacuum cleaners. Bagless vacuums are far more likely to create a dust cloud when you empty them, creating more problems for allergy sufferers. That being said, the dust bin is relatively large, so at least you won't have to empty it very often.

The C4 Cyclonic had the widest cleaning path of any canister vacuum cleaner we tested covering more ground quicker than others. The cord also is longer than most units we compared so you will not have to plug and unplug constantly.

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Most Lightweight

Fuller Brush Home Maid

Fuller Brush Home Maid

If you often need to take your vacuum cleaner up and down stairs this lightweight unit will be great.
This one struggled to clean hardwood flooring.

Canister vacuum cleaners can feel heavy after a while, especially on longer cleaning jobs, as you drag them along behind you. The Fuller Brush Home Maid will be less likely to do that since it was the lightest unit we tested, weighing only about 8 pounds.

The average was about 13 pounds, so the Fuller stands out. That will be noticeable if you need to carry your vacuum between different floors often. This model was also convenient because its wand stands on its own. That is not common. They usually have to lean on something. This was not the perfect vacuum cleaner, especially on hardwood flooring, where it struggled to remove some of our test debris. It did a decent job of everything else, and if you worry about lugging around a heavy vacuum cleaner, this is a great option.

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Best for Large Rooms

Simplicity Wonder

Simplicity Wonder

The long cord means you can clean for a long time without constantly hunting down new outlets.
This is a fairly expensive vacuum cleaner.

The Simplicity Wonder was competitive for cleaning power and it stood out for having the longest cord of any vacuum we compared. The 28-foot cord means you can clean large areas without having to stop and find a new outlet all the time.

You may even be able to clean all carpeted areas of your home without stopping. It can be nice to get cleaning over with in one trip. This also is one of the lightest ones; it only weighs about 11 pounds.
This is a pricey vacuum when you compare it to some other canister models. There were only three that scored better for suction and the warranty is competitive, so if you prefer canister designs and have a couple of large carpeted areas to clean, this could be a good fit.

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Why Trust Us?

We spent many hours researching canister vacuum cleaners that offer the most value for their price – reading professional and user reviews as well as product manuals. We also reached out to experts in the field of vacuum cleaner design to get an idea of what matters for canister style units and why people like to use them. Director of Product Development at Miele Dirk Sappok said canisters are the preferred platform outside of the U.S. and continue to grow in popularity since they can be very versatile. Many canister designs allow you to adjust both the suction level and cleaning head settings so you can get a deep clean on many flooring types including tile, carpet and hardwood. They can also be great for getting into tight spots like under the bed, and up and down stairs. We looked for models that were good at all those tasks. 

How We Tested

We have invested more than 300 hours since 2013 comparing canister vacuum cleaners, including many hours in our laboratory. We used various testing materials to simulate the things you may find on your flooring from time to time. We used kitty litter to get an idea of how quickly and easily each unit could clean coarse messes. We also used sawdust to simulate lighter materials and flour to replicate fine dust. We tested on low-pile and medium-pile carpeting, as well as hardwood flooring, to see how each unit would do on different surfaces.

We spent some more time in the lab examining how each vacuum cleaner moved around table legs and other obstacles to establish a maneuverability score. We scored each unit for portability based on how easy it was to carry. The weight and other design aspects matter for making a vacuum cleaner more portable. Finally, we performed basic maintenance on each unit – emptying the bag and cleaning the filters to see how intuitive that whole process is. We used a sound meter to gauge the sound levels on , as well.

How Much Does a Canister Vacuum Cleaner Cost?

There are lots of options for those that prefer the canister design for their vacuum cleaning, including some for as little as $50. We researched and tested the models that are most sought after which range in price from $150 to $550. Higher price is usually associated with more suction, but not in every case, especially once you get above $100. We only had two vacuum cleaners score perfectly on our cleaning tests and one cost just $150.

What are Key Features When Looking for a Canister Vacuum Cleaner?

Bagged vs Bagless

The first thing to consider is your preference between bagged and bagless models. Bagless units are generally more convenient and cheaper for maintenance because you don't have to continually buy bags. On the other hand, bagged models are generally better for allergy sufferers because they contain debris better and are less likely to create a dust cloud when it is time to empty.


One of the best things about canister vacuum cleaners is that they are good at cleaning stairwells. It’s worth knowing the weight of the machine you are considering if you are planning to take it to different spots around your home. It is also worth looking for an extra-long cord if you have a lot of area to cover. That way you don't have to look for an outlet so often. Finally, looking for a wide cleaning path because it can save you some time.

Design Extras

Larger bags or dustbins are convenient because you will not have to empty or change the bag as often. It is also worth noting whether or not the unit you are considering has the tools you need – crevice, dusting brush, upholstery, etc.

Vacuuming Tips for Those With Allergies

Vacuum cleaning has a tendency to kick up some dust, even while containing other dust. Lower-quality vacuum cleaners are even more likely to create a cloud, thanks to their lesser filters and unsealed hoses. Here are some tips for mitigating this problem for those who suffer from allergies:

  • Bagged Is Better – There are arguments to be made for and against getting a vacuum cleaner with a bag, but if someone in your household has allergies, the answer is simple: buy bagged. The good ones do a better job of containing dust both while you vacuum and when you empty them.
  • HEPA Can Help – Vacuums with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters meet Department of Energy standards for containing small particles and trapping 99.99 percent of dust. Look for true HEPA filters because some vacuums just have HEPA-like filters.
  • Empty Now – If dust particles have nowhere to go, they can find their way back into your air. Cleaning out bins, filters and bags often can help.
  • Go Outside – There is almost always a dust cloud when you empty any vacuum, so it makes sense to do it outside rather than in your living room.
  • Slow Down – Cleaning heads that linger over dust have more time to get it all. Take time to clean corners and baseboards too, where dust can get trapped.
  • Repeat the Process – Even though it is tedious, it can be helpful to pass over each area more than once.
  • Put on a Mask – Anyone with severe allergies should consider putting on a mask when cleaning and kicking up dust, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

ProductPriceOverall RatingPerformanceConvenienceDesign ExtrasHelp & SupportTrue HEPA FiltrationCleaning PathCleaning & SuctionManeuverabilityPortability & StorageNoise Level (decibels)Ease of CleaningWeight (pounds)Cord Length (feet)BaglessCanister/Bag Capacity (liters)Crevice ToolExtension WandRetractable CordUpholstery ToolDusting BrushLive ChatOnline FAQEmail & PhoneWarranty
Dyson Cinetic Big Ball AnimalView Deal5/5109.5108.810.5100%100%95%8190%17.642225 Years
Bissell C4 Cyclonic 1233View Deal4.5/58.89106.814.17100%80%75%71100%14.77232.25 Years
Eureka ReadyForce Total 3500AEView Deal4.5/58.87.5108.81380%90%75%7180%18.616.525 Years
Electrolux Silent PerformerView Deal4.5/588.89.38.81280%60%75%7585%102155 Years
Simplicity WonderView Deal4.5/ Years
Dyson Ball Compact AnimalView Deal4/588. Years
Oreck VentureView Deal4/58.587.31010.595%50%60%7185%16.1223.55 Years
Hoover Quiet Performance SH30050View Deal4/ Years
Fuller Brush Home MaidView Deal4/57108.84.51270%90%90%7185%8.352331 Year
Miele Compact C1 Turbo TeamView Deal4/ Year

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