With so many brands and models swirling about, choosing a new robot vacuum cleaner isn't always the easiest decision. We've tested plenty of them, so our expert guide is here to help you cut through the noise and find the best robot vacuum for your home.
We'll walk you through eight key factors to consider when choosing a robot vac. From thinking about your home’s layout and comparing battery life to knowing which navigational features are worth paying more for, we can help you decide on the right robot for your needs and budget. Our expert tips will keep you focused and help you avoid the marketing hype.
1. Consider your home layout
We’ve tested a lot of robot vacuums over the last few years, and frankly, some are terrible at getting around obstacles. While technology has improved significantly over the last year or so with digital mapping, intelligent sensors, LED lights, and 360-degree cameras, your new robot vacuum cleaner will still struggle to clean effectively if you have lots of clutter and furniture in your home.
Ideally, a robot vacuum cleaner is well-suited to a small, reasonably minimalist home on one level (unless you have deep enough pockets for one on each floor, that is!). And be prepared to do a quick tidy-up before it sets off. It’s easy for a robot to suck up a phone charging wire, quickly putting it out of business for a while. You may even need to move some furniture off the floor, such as dining chairs, to get a complete clean.
Look at your furniture and measure how much space there is between its lowest point and the floor. If you want your robot to clean under furniture, then ensure you choose one with a low profile so that it can move underneath. If you have thick rugs or raised thresholds between rooms, select a model that can tackle a small climb, such as the Dyson Viz Nav, which can clamber over items 0.8 inches high.
2. Pay attention to battery life
Most robot vacuum cleaners have a battery life of around 40 minutes in standard mode, but if they adjust their suction power to tackle areas with more dust and debris, you’ll find their battery life is much shorter.
Appliance expert at MyJobQuote.co.uk, Brian Johnson, advises looking for a robot vacuum cleaner that can return to the charging station to recharge and then continue its cleaning session. "Robots with high-tech docking stations are able to recharge, and some can even empty themselves, so they can carry out more vacuuming while you’re not there."
It’s also a good idea to look at how long the battery takes to recharge so you can get an idea of how long it can take to complete a full clean.
Brian Johnson has worked as an appliance expert for MyJobQuote for four years and has worked in the industry for over 25 years. Brian continues to work for clients, providing appliance diagnostics and repairs, while also providing expert advice to industry professionals and homeowners. His expert tips have been featured in a range of reputable publications over the years.
3. Think about dust cup capacity
The dust cup capacity on a robot vacuum is much smaller than the best vacuum cleaners of old, so you’ll need to be prepared to change it frequently and possibly in the middle of a session. You could look for a self-emptying robot instead, but these can cost significantly more.
4. Take a look at the brushes
Many robot vacuums feature circular brushes at the sides that sweep dirt and debris into a small suction panel. Recent innovations from Samsung and Dyson now include full-width turbo brush bars, which perform more like a standard vacuum cleaner and are much more effective at sucking up every particle. They also improve runtime as the robot can cover more floors in less time. The most recent Dyson vacuum also features an automatically extending side duct, redirecting suction to capture dust and debris right to the wall.
Johnson advises looking at how the robot is built, too. "How a robot is shaped is just as important as the number of features it has. Robots that have one straight edge are designed to get into corners. Those with longer and better quality brushes are likely to pick up more dust and tackle pet hairs."
5. Look for navigational features
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to lift a robot vacuum stuck under a rug or discovering one that’s been circling under an armchair for ten minutes because it can’t find its way out.
Thankfully, navigation has become much better in the last few years, as more brands use sophisticated sensors and cameras to map surfaces, building a digital layout of your home and any obstacles to avoid. Look for models that use a combination of these to navigate around your home. "Clever mapping and smart programming tools will prevent your robot from getting stuck under furniture and help you direct its efforts to high-traffic areas," says Johnson.
The best models will also feature an app where you can check your robot’s ‘map’ and set no-go zones and schedules, check battery life, and receive alerts if something has gone wrong.
6. Don’t expect it to do everything
Even the best robot vacuum cleaners can’t tackle stairs or tight spots and crevices, and they certainly can’t do upholstery or drapes. So be prepared to leave enough in your household budget to afford a standard vacuum cleaner for these extra jobs. You may also find that although your robot vacuum is brilliant at picking up the day-to-day dirt and debris, you’ll need to carry out a deep clean every week or so with a standard vacuum.
7. Do your research
Purchasing a robot vacuum cleaner that meets your household's needs is an important decision, as the best robot vacuums sell for well over a thousand dollars. Take the time to consider which features are essential and which are simply nice to have. Mapping out your home's floor plan and identifying trouble spots ahead of time will help you select a robot vac with the right navigation capabilities and features to handle your space.
You should also consider what kind of floors your home has and whether your chosen robot vacuum is going to offer good value. "You need to be sure the robot’s going to work on the surfaces in your home," says Johnson. "Some models work well on both carpets and hard floors and come with mopping and vacuuming capabilities, but many don't."
Read reviews from trusted sources, such as Top Ten Reviews, to get the scoop on the latest models and how they compare on suction power, battery life, scheduling options, and effectiveness on carpets versus hard floors. Johnson agrees. "Before you part with hundreds of pounds, do your research. Some robot vacuum cleaners may have high-spec navigation systems, but that’s no good if the suction’s poor and battery life is short."
Reviews from customers who have purchased the vacuum cleaner will also give you insight into how the vacuum performs in a home environment, from suction power to ease of use. It will also help you determine if the brand has good customer service, a reliable warranty, or whether you can track down spare parts easily. With a bit of research, you'll be able to find a high-quality robot vacuum at a great price that will keep your floors free of dust and debris without breaking the bank.
8. Check if a deal is as good as it seems
Around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll likely see tons of discounts and deals on robot vacuums. Retailers often drop their most significant price cuts during this time, allowing customers to score fantastic bargains.
To make sure you're finding the best robot vacuum deal, it's essential to research price history and trends. Some retailers will inflate prices right before big sales events to make the discounts appear steeper.
Use price tracking sites like CamelCamelCamel and Honey to analyze a product's price over time and compare it across retailers. This can reveal whether a deal is truly as good as advertised… or not. Getting the scoop on price trends across the year will help you spot the best genuine Black Friday appliance deals and maximize your savings during the holiday shopping season.