The versatility of the Shark Navigator Lift-Away can help you get into the nooks and crannies of your home without straining your back. This lightweight vacuum cleaner comes apart and works with a range of accessories to help you clean stairs, under beds and in any number of awkward spots, and it doesn't cost as much as deluxe vacuum cleaners. It also doesn't have as much suction as more expensive units, but it had enough to perform well on our tests – almost the best, in fact, of all the budget units. We put this and all the inexpensive vacuum cleaners to work cleaning up flour, pet hair, sawdust, cereal and a few other messes to see how they would do at removing different types of materials, whether dense or light. The Shark Navigator did well on both low and medium-pile carpet on a variety of messes.
We spilled flour first, to simulate dust, and then counted the number of passes it took each unit to clear that mess completely. On the medium-pile carpet, most common in households, the Shark Navigator sucked up all evidence of the flour in very few passes – just three. It struggled a bit on removing the flour from the low-pile, more industrial-style carpeting, but so did all of the cheap vacuum cleaners we tested. The Navigator was able to clear all the flour eventually. It did a wonderful job of cleaning up kitty litter, sawdust and breakfast cereal – all of them with very few passes – though it did struggle a bit with the pet hair that we ground into our test carpeting. For a stronger pet hair vacuum cleaner, consider the Eureka Airspeed.
This was a great inexpensive vacuum cleaner in terms of maneuverability. It was able to reach any mess, whether up high, buried deep under furniture or on the stairs. The swiveling head is a decided advantage. This vacuum is designed to separate from its base for cleaning stairs and upholstery. Fully snapped together it is already a very light unit, but when you separate the inner tank piece, it is even lighter and more convenient for taking it up and down stairs. There is an extension wand that really gives you a lot of reach, too, if you are trying to clean a ceiling fan or high shelf.
This unit is pretty easy to clean and to store. There are no bags so you just unhook and empty the dust cup. This generally leads to a large dust cloud, so allergy sufferers may want to look for a bagged model instead or at the very least learn to empty this one very carefully. You will need to clean certain internal filters periodically, too.
This was one of the heavier units in our comparison, but it still didn't feel too heavy, especially when compared with more expensive uprights. The Navigator tied for the longest cord in our comparison, which is nice for reaching all over your home without having to search out a new outlet in every room.
This vacuum has an array of accessories that can be used to clean furniture, shelving and other areas of your home besides flooring. There are two crevice tools, including an extra-long 24-inch one that can reach into tight corners or under furniture. There are also two brush attachments that help loosen stubborn messes before suctioning them away on things like blinds, books and lampshades. One of the brush attachments is designed specifically to remove pet hair.
The warranty on this unit is noticeably better than on most of the other cheap vacuum cleaners we looked at. Shark offers a full five years of coverage, and that is impressive.
The Shark Navigator was able to eliminate a number of different kinds of messes on different surfaces in very few passes. It is so versatile because of its accessories and the ability to operate as an upright or pull apart to give you the portability of a canister vacuum cleaner for stairs and other hard-to-reach areas. An extra-long cord means you don’t have to constantly switch to new outlets in every room. This vacuum cleaner offers a lot of value but is expensive when you compare it to other budget options. It costs over $100, but that is still a lot less than more mainstream uprights.