Pros / The Shark Navigator has more tools than most of the comparable vacuum cleaners, including two different crevice tools.
Cons / This vacuum struggled a little with removing dog hair.
Verdict / A long warranty and impressive suction help the Shark Navigator stand out as the best option among the budget vacuum cleaners we reviewed.
The versatility of the Shark Navigator Lift-Away, our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner, 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 – the best, in fact, of all of the budget units. We put this and all of 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. Shark Navigator did well on both low and medium-pile carpet on a variety of messes.
- Medium Carpet Performance
- Power Cord Length
We spilled flour first, in order 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 the best inexpensive vacuum cleaner we used for maneuverability. It was able to reach any mess, whether up high, buried deep under furniture or on the stairs. The swiveling head was a little tough to get used to at first. If you've never had a vacuum that does that, it seems sort of unruly. But once you realize it can help you get in and around tight spots, you learn how to use it to your 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.
Convenience & Design
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, and the owner's manual has more information about how to do that and how often.
This was one of the heavier units in our lineup 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 was also the quietest vacuum in our review so you can worry less about annoying your family members or roommates when you are cleaning.
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 will 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.
Help & Support
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. Shark's customer service is solid in other ways too. The website is informative and easy to navigate, and we received fast responses from their service representatives.
The Shark Navigator is the best budget vacuum cleaner we tested. It 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 will not have to constantly switch to new outlets in every room. This vacuum cleaner offers a lot of value. It is very reasonably priced, especially considering its powerful suction and maneuverability.