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Best cheap vacuums: Bargain vacuum cleaners for every budget

We have spent more than 120 hours since 2014 researching and testing some of the less expensive vacuum cleaners on the market, and we think the Hoover Tempo WidePath is your best bet. It has great suction, especially for a machine that costs about $80. It has multiple accessories, which make it great for cleaning stairs, furniture and draperies. The wide cleaning path and long cord means you can cover a room with fewer passes, and without stopping to find another outlet.

Best Overall

Hoover Tempo WidePath

Hoover Tempo WidePath

This had the best scores in our suction tests.
You get a lot of attachments with this vacuum.
The wide head means you can cover a lot of ground quickly.
This is the loudest budget vacuum cleaner we tested.
The lack of a swiveling head makes it less maneuverable.
This is one of the heavier ones so it is harder to lug around.

Suction is arguably the most important feature in any vacuum cleaner, regardless of price range. The Hoover Tempo demonstrated impressive suction on all our tests.

It was more difficult to maneuver because it is heavy and the head does not swivel, but the wide cleaning path and strong suction make up for that, especially considering its low price. The vacuum cleaners we considered for this category averaged about $75, so this one out-scored quite a few more expensive models on the suction tests.

You can cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time with the 15-inch cleaning head, but, again, that large cleaning head was sometimes difficult to maneuver. The suction was there, though, and this one lets you adjust the head height for carpeting or hard floors, so it does a decent job on various surfaces. This is the loudest vacuum cleaner we tested, so that could be a problem if noise is an issue. This is one of the few bagged models we considered, which is better for those with allergies. Bags trap dust and pollen better than bagless models. Buying bags and emptying them regularly is a bit of a chore, though, especially when compared with the canister designs that you can empty quickly.

Best Value

Dirt Devil Dynamite Plus

Dirt Devil Dynamite Plus

This is inexpensive even when compared with other budget vacuum cleaners.
Dynamite did a good job of cleaning up pet hair in our testing.
The retracting handle makes it extra-compact for storage.
It’s relatively loud.
The bagless design is not great for trapping allergens.
Other vacuum cleaners were easier to maneuver in our tests.

The Dirt Devil Dynamite is incredibly compact and has a retractable handle that makes it easy to store. This one did a good job on our test messes, including kitty litter and flour.

It is one of the lightest vacuums we tested, too, so it stores and travels easily – perfect for taking up and down stairs if you need to use it in more than one place.

This also was one of the best ones for picking up pet hair. It outscored all but two of our budget picks for that. It ties for the longest cord of the units we compared, reducing the need to plug and unplug over and over. The Dynamite has a bagless design, which is more convenient than the alternative because it is easy to empty and you don't have to buy bags. Some folks with allergies prefer a bagged vacuum, though, because those are generally better at removing and trapping irritants. This vacuum was one of the loudest in our comparison. No one expects a vacuum cleaner to be silent, so this might not be such a bad thing. But if you need to clean while the baby is down for a nap, this is not the right choice.

Easiest to Maneuver

Black & Decker AirSwivel

Black & Decker AirSwivel

The swiveling head makes it easier to reach corners.
The light weight allows it to go up and down stairs with little effort.
It picked up flour with ease in our tests.
It was harder to empty than some because of its latch.
There is no way to adjust for different types of flooring.
The AirSwivel took more passes to remove sawdust and kitty litter than some.

The Black & Decker AirSwivel seemed tiny next to the other cheap vacuum cleaners we tested, but it unleashed quite a bit of power on our suction tests and was noticeably easy to carry and maneuver.

Our top-ranking vacuum cleaners in this category did not have a swiveling head, which was frustrating in some cases. You end up using a lot more brute force to get to the messes. The AirSwivel just glides to every corner of a room. It was almost the lightest we tested, too, weighing only 8.8 pounds, so it is so easy to take to other areas of the house.

It was not easy in every way, though. The little latch that you use to open and empty it is not as easy as some of the others. Also, most competitors allow you to adjust for different flooring types, but the AirSwivel just has the one setting. And it was not perfect on our suction tests. It cleaned everything up but sometimes in more passes than some of the others, depending on the debris. It had the best performance of all the vacuum cleaners we tested on flour, though, which is meant to simulate the fine dust that accumulates in your home. It removed flour in very few passes on lower industrial-style carpeting and medium pile. It was not as good at removing kitty litter and sawdust, though, taking more passes than some other vacuums on that debris.

Worth the Money

Shark Navigator

Shark Navigator

This vacuum offers versatility, strong suction and a long warranty.
It is priced a little higher than most in the budget category.

The Shark Navigator did a good job picking up all types of messes on the most common type of flooring: medium-pile.

It tied for the second highest score on all suction tests and had the added convenience of maneuverability. The swiveling head made it possible to get in and out of tight spots on our test floors. The Navigator is both a canister and an upright. The body lifts off the frame and becomes a handheld canister for portability on stairways and furniture. At five years, the warranty is quite a bit longer than most of the others.

One drawback with this unit is the relatively high price. Most vacuums that we consider budget cost less than $100, but this one costs $140. That is still much less expensive than mid-range uprights, but compared to the cheaper competitors it is a lot.

Most Lightweight

Bissell Zing

Bissell Zing

This vacuum is lightweight and perfect for stairs.
If the bag is even slightly out of place, the Zing makes a large dust cloud.

The Bissell Zing was not perfect on our suction tests, but it cleaned eventually, and it is noticeably lightweight.

It’s great for a secondary vacuum cleaner that needs to go up and down stairs. It’s also great for cleaning each stair in the process. It’s similar to a handheld vacuum cleaner based on its light weight and easy-to-use handle. It ties for the lightest at just 8 pounds and has better features than the other 8-pounder we tested. Unfortunately, Zing had a terrible tendency to create dust clouds when its bag slipped even slightly out of place, and it took longer to clean our test debris than many others, but it cleaned everything eventually. If you keep a fresh bag handy this is a great second vacuum.

ProductPriceOverall RatingVacuuming PerformancePriceConvenience & DesignDesign ExtrasMedium Carpet PerformanceLow Carpet Performance Pet Hair TestManeuverabilityHeight AdjustmentSuction ControlPortability & StorageEase of CleaningWeight (pounds)Power Cord Length (feet)Canister/Bag Capacity (liters)Noise Level (decibels)Swiveling HeadRetractable CordWarrantyOnboard AttachmentExtension WandCrevice ToolDusting BrushUpholstery Tool
Hoover Tempo WidePath U5140900View Deal4.5/554.24.8575100100887610014.8253.1931 Year
Hoover Sprint QuickVac UH20040View Deal4.5/ Year
Bissell CleanView 9595A View Deal4.5/ Years
Dirt Devil Dynamite Plus M0846504.5/554.73.94909085781008810.8252921 Year
Dirt Devil Breeze Cyclonic UD70105BView Deal4.5/54.753.8475858080887710.425287.51 Year
Bissell PowerForce HelixView Deal0/ Years
Kenmore 78423View Deal4.5/ Year
Black & Decker AirSwivelView Deal4.5/ Year
Bissell Zing 4122View Deal4/ Year
Navigator Lift-Away Bagless Upright Vacuum CleanerView Deal4/54.71.7549585851009510014252.8835 Years
Kenmore 10701View Deal3.5/ Year

Why Trust Us?

Since 2014, we have spent more than 120 hours scouring manufacturer and review sites to find the best budget vacuum cleaners on the market. We narrowed down the features that mattered most and created charts to document the features of each vacuum — and this was all before we even started to test. We then bought vacuum cleaners that cost around $100 or less and offer a strong feature set. We were looking for well-regarded models that can fit into any budget. The average price of the most popular vacuum cleaners on Amazon, Home Depot and Lowe's is about $70. The models we tested averaged $78.

Most industry pros we interviewed about vacuum cleaners during our research are very opposed to cheaper models. Keith Quimby is a Utah-based vacuum dealer and repairman with more than 30 years of experience. He strongly recommends investing more money to get better quality.

"Unfortunately, our customer base thinks cheaper is better," Quimby said.

He said with vacuum cleaners you get what you pay for, generally speaking. That has also proven to be true in our testing. Even within our budget category – anything under $150 – we found that investing just $50 more resulted in a machine with better suction. And, not surprisingly, once you get out of the budget range – over $150 – you get more suction and better features in general. If you really want to stay in the budget range, though, we found some decent options as we researched and tested.

No matter what price range you choose, certain tips apply for getting the cleanest floors possible. The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends vacuuming daily in high traffic areas and pet areas, twice weekly in medium traffic areas and weekly everywhere else. Other tips include going over carpets slowly and using a top-down method – dust everything up high first, including blinds, then vacuum furniture and then the floors in order to capture the dust from all previous cleaning tasks.

How We Tested

Once we had a strong set of contenders, we tested them on low- and medium-pile carpet on a range of messes. We used flour to simulate fine dust and kitty litter to simulate large debris. We also used dog hair, grinding it into the test carpets. The vacuum cleaners that could clear away the dirt in the fewest passes scored better. We focused on different types of carpeting, but we did not include hard flooring in our tests. Some of the budget vacuum cleaners are adjustable to work on those surfaces, but others are not, and we wanted to keep an even playing field.

We also took each vacuum cleaner through an obstacle course to gauge how easy each is to maneuver around table legs, under furniture and around corners. We performed basic maintenance with each vacuum cleaner, too, emptying bags and replacing them to score for user-friendliness. We made note of the hoses and attachments that come with each unit, and we measured the sound each one produced.

What to Look for When Buying a Cheap Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuuming Performance
Suction is important, and while you can’t test vacuums in the store, you can look at our test results to see how some of the best inexpensive vacuums perform. We tested the best budget vacuum cleaners on different types of debris and scored them according to how fast they picked up the mess – the fewer passes it took to clean, the better the score.

Convenience & Design
Vacuum cleaners at every price range should be easy to transport and maintain. The process of emptying and cleaning should be quick and the overall weight low. Also, check our test results to see how much noise each vacuum generates.

Design Extras
Look for vacuum cleaners that allow you to clean more than just flooring. The ones that come with a long hose and lots of brushes and other tools allow you to clean furniture and draperies, in addition to flooring.

Are Bagged Vacuums Better Than Bagless?

If you have allergies, the answer is yes. Even the best bagless vacuums tend to create a terrible dust cloud when you empty them. There are ways to minimize the impact of that dust cloud – for example, by emptying the vacuum cleaner outside. However, bagged vacuums are still best for people who suffer from allergies and asthma. 

Still, bagless vacuums definitely have their pros. First and foremost, they cost less to maintain because you don't have to buy replacement bags. In addition, they are also fun in some ways. Leo Steinys, director of product management with Kenmore, pointed out that you get to see everything you collect from your floors with a bagless model, which can be pretty satisfying.

Bagless vacuums have gotten better and better at containing dust. If you are really not keen on buying bags, consider one of the bagless models approved by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.