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Best vacuums: Our top picks for pet hair, carpets, allergies and more

Best vacuums: Our top picks for every budget and need
(Image credit: Dyson)

We’ve spent hundreds of hours testing all kinds of vacuums, measuring how well they pick up everything from pebbles to fine dust. While a quality vacuum cleaner can represent a significant investment costing $300 or more, we recommend The Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352. This machine has excellent suction, strong filtration and a full complement of tools, and for around $150 it is a great value.

Before you buy you should be aware there are pluses and minuses to every vacuum type. For example, a good budget vacuum cleaner can be a useful tool but it probably won't last as long as a pricier pick. The right stick vacuum is great for quick clean-ups but generally won't have the strength to maintain the whole house. A robot vacuum can do a lot to save you from daily maintenance, but you’ll still need an upright vacuum (or a canister model) for deeper cleaning. And that is only naming a few vacuum cleaner types.

Below are our best picks for these types and more, including vacuums for hardwood floors, handheld and car vacuums, carpet cleaners and steam cleaners, as well as shop vacs.

Best canister vacuum

(Image credit: Dyson)

Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal

Great on every surface we tested

The Dyson Cinetic works well on every surface 
Glides along with little effort
At 81 dB, this is a relatively loud vacuum

The Dyson Cinetic Big Ball was remarkably easy to move around the lab, and the strong suction cleaned up every type of mess it encountered. It was good on hardwood flooring and even better on carpets. The filtration system on this and all Dysons is one of the things that make it worth the relatively high price. It is built to remove microscopic dust particles, leaving you with a cleaner home.

Best budget vacuum

Hoover Tempo WidePath

Comes with a wide range of attachments for multi-tasking

Comes with a complete range of attachments for versatile cleaning
Its powerful 12-amp motor runs at 93 decibels, the loudest among vacuums we tested

The Hoover Tempo WidePath was excellent in our suction tests and comes with a wide range of attachments for multi-tasking. This bagged unit is better for allergy sufferers because it contains the dust better than bag-less vacuums. A swiveling head would add to the convenience of this unit, but the low price and versatility make it an amazing value for the price. You can clean your whole house for about 80 bucks with the WidePath.

Best handheld vacuum

(Image credit: Black & Decker)

Black & Decker Dustbuster

This compact device outshone the competition in our tests with its impressive suction and convenient set of features

This is the quietest handheld vacuum cleaner we tested
It has a shorter run time on a single charge than some competitors

The Black & Decker Cordless Lithium Hand Vacuum is a great example of what a handheld vacuum cleaner should be. This compact device outshone the competition in our tests with its impressive suction and convenient set of features. It runs for about 15 minutes on a charge; that's enough to clean out a car (if it is not too heavily soiled) or to get rid of a few cereal spills left over from the family breakfast. Those are just the type of messes you buy a handheld vacuum cleaner to handle, and the Black & Decker Cordless Lithium Hand Vacuum excels at getting rid of them.

Best car vacuum

(Image credit: Metropolitan)

Metropolitan VM6BS500

More suction power than the other car vacuum cleaners we tested

Comes complete with a crevice tool, a brush and a wide-nozzle attachment
No battery so needs to remain plugged in

The Metropolitan VM6BS500 had more suction power than the other car vacuum cleaners we tested. One drawback is the vacuum needs to be plugged in, but the cleaning power is worth it. The included hose and other tools gets into even the tiniest spots in between car seats. This unit can also be used for small household cleaning jobs like keyboards, blinds and stairways.

Best hardwood floor vacuum

(Image credit: Shark)

Shark DuoClean NV800

You can turn down the roller brush to protect bare floors

Soft rolling brush is perfect for cleaning hardwood flooring without scratching it
Can't adjust head manually

If you have enough hardwood flooring, a vacuum cleaner designed specifically for wood floors is a smart choice. The Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away Speed is the best of this type of vacuum cleaner. You can turn down the roller brush to protect bare floors. In our testing, it performed well on all types of hardwood flooring and carpeting, and on all types of messes, whether large particles or fine dust, all for under $300. That is a decent price for a hardwood-specific vacuum, but for one that does both carpets and bare floors well, it is a steal.

Best carpet cleaner

(Image credit: Hoover)

Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe

Offers the right mix of features and capabilities at the right price

Strong water extraction means less waiting for carpets to dry
There are no specific brushes on the cleaning head for edges

The Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe offers the best combination of features for the best price to give you a sensible option for shampooing your own carpets. This machine removed stains with ease in our testing and extracted lots of water so we weren’t left with soggy carpets for days afterward. This machine comes with a hose and attachments for cleaning furniture and stairs so you can freshen up the whole house. It also was one of the easiest ones to use – for set-up, maintenance and maneuverability.

Read the full Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe review

Best shop vacuum

(Image credit: Vacmaster)

Vacmaster VBV1210

Doubles as a powerful blower and is great at picking up both wet and dry messes.

You can completely remove it and use it as a 210 mph blower
With a 12-gallon tank, it's bulky and hard to store in a hall closet

The Vacmaster VBV1210 is a powerful shop vacuum that can take care of all your construction messes with little effort. It doubles as a powerful blower and is great at picking up both wet and dry messes. The blower is even detachable, which is rare on these machines. You also get a lot of attachments for ultimate versatility including a floor nozzle, concentrator nozzle, crevice tool, car nozzle and blower nozzle. That is more attachments than any other vacuum we tried. This is a full-sized machine and it has the overall weight to prove it. It was the second heaviest one we tested at a little over 17 pounds, but it was still easy to move around. This vacuum has a hose that ties for the biggest in diameter, and it was great at picking up screws and mulch in our testing.

Best deep-cleaning vacuum

(Image credit: Shark)

Shark APEX DuoClean Powered Lift-Away

It has strong suction on every surface – medium-pile carpet, low-pile carpet and hardwood

It outperformed all models in our cleaning tests
This vacuum created a fairly large dust cloud when we emptied the bin

A deep cleaning vacuum applies more suction than normal vacuum cleaners to get more of the deep-down dirt. One unit worth your consideration is the Shark APEX DuoClean Powered Lift-Away. It has strong suction on every surface – medium-pile carpet, low-pile carpet and hardwood. It also did a good job of cleaning different types of debris in our testing – flour, kitty litter and breakfast cereal – so you know it can handle fine dust, heavy debris and light debris.

Best upright vacuum

Eureka Brushroll Clean AS3401A

Offers strong suction and impressive versatility at a low price that makes sense for most households

This vacuum does a good job picking up pet hair
The motor gets hot quickly

The Eureka Brushroll Clean with SuctionSeal offers strong suction and impressive versatility at a low price that makes sense for most households. There were a handful of vacuums that had stronger suction than this one in our tests, but they were almost double the price. The Brushroll Clean was good at removing cereal, kitty litter and pet hair from our test floors, and it comes with a full complement of cleaning tools that can be stored onboard. This vacuum was not the most impressive for maneuverability because it lacks a swiveling head. It makes up for it in some ways, though. It has a nice wide cleaning path that helps you cover a lot of real estate in a hurry, and it is lighter than average, which adds to its maneuverability. We were able to get it where it needed to go during testing.