The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who this is for
  • Upright or canister? Bagged or bagless? S-class or HEPA?
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick for the best upright vacuum: SEBO Felix Premium
  • Budget pick: Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352
  • Our pick for the best canister vacuum: SEBO Airbelt K3
  • Runner-up: Miele Complete C3 Calima PowerLine
  • Other Miele canister vacuums worth considering
  • Other good vacuums
  • The competition
  • How to clean your vacuum
  • Sources

Why you should trust us

Staff writer Sabine Heinlein has been a journalist for over two decades. She obsesses over how to remove cat and rabbit fur from her couch and hairballs from her heirloom rugs.

For this guide, we did the following:

  • We tested 16 corded upright and canister vacuum cleaners in 2023, spending more than 80 hours scrutinizing them at our test facility in Long Island City, New York, and another 20 hours testing them in a multi-pet, multi-story, multi-surface home.
  • We spoke to vacuum cleaner collectors and service specialists, engineers, product managers, and CEOs from all major vacuum companies. We also spent more than 80 hours scouring the websites of manufacturers and independent vacuum professionals.
  • We pored over owner reviews, conducted an in-house survey, and talked to dozens of real-life corded vacuum owners.
  • We employed the AI tool FindOurView to identify important themes and issues in thousands of customer reviews.

Who this is for

If you live in a small petless apartment with just a couple of rugs, you may get away with a cordless stick or a robot as your sole vacuum cleaner. But if you have a bigger home, or if you have pets, lots of rugs, or wall-to-wall carpets, you’ll likely want a plug-in upright or canister model.

While a stick or robot vacuum can be easier to store and more convenient to use, plug-in vacuums are more powerful and more durable. They remove pet fur and dust more thoroughly than cordless or robot models and, with their unlimited run time and versatility, they work for homes of all sizes. The best ones come with one or two spinning brush heads that penetrate carpet fibers to remove deep-seated dirt and have several attachments for cleaning couches and bookshelves.

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Upright or canister? Bagged or bagless? S-class or HEPA?

Upright vs. canister vacuums: Plug-in vacuums come in both upright and canister models. Choosing one over the other often comes down to personal preference. “I think it’s a fool’s errand to try to get someone who is used to a canister to switch to an upright—or vice versa,” said John van Leuven, CEO of SEBO America, maker of our top upright vacuum and canister vacuum picks.

Upright vacuums are a single unit, conveniently stand on their own, and tend to be easier to stow away in a closet or corner than a canister model. Canister vacuums come in two connected parts: a wand with a hose and a pod or canister that contains the motor and dustbin or bag.

While it can feel weird to use a canister vacuum at first, we’ve known many longtime upright users who made the switch because canisters feel lighter to steer and are easier to maneuver up and down stairs. They tend to clog less often and are easier to unclog. Unlike upright machines, most canisters come with a convenient automatic cord rewind.

Bagged vs. bagless vacuums: Bagged vacuum cleaners collect dust and debris in a sealed, replaceable bag, while bagless models gather it directly in a dustbin, which you empty into the trash.

While bagless machines don’t require you to buy expensive bags, they need more maintenance than their bagged counterparts. In addition to emptying and cleaning the dustbin, the filters of bagless machines need to be washed and replaced regularly to maintain cleaning power.

James Brown, service specialist and museum curator at Mr. Vacuum Cleaner, told us that fine dust, such as talc and plaster dust, tends to build up inside bagless models over time. “Even HEPA filters can fail and get oversaturated,” Brown added. “Even if the dust hasn’t started penetrating the filter, it can cut down the airflow. Air pressure builds up and goes around the filter and seals.” As a result, the vacuum loses suction and you risk damaging the motor, he explained.

Bags can help a vacuum last longer but need to be replaced several times per year. (The non-generic ones can cost more than $6 each.) Bagged models are also better for people who have allergies or asthma because they keep dust and allergens sealed away. Bags are easier to discard without accidentally spilling a pile of dust or debris back into your face.

HEPA vs. S-class filters: Some vacuums come with either HEPA or S-class filters, which are ideal for indoor allergy sufferers. HEPA filters are standard in the US and are capable of capturing at least 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles (the size of dust, pollen, and mold, for example). SEBO’s S-class filters are capable of absorbing negligibly fewer particles (99.9% down to 0.3 microns), according to van Leuven.

How we picked and tested

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (1)

In our most recent round of testing, we tried 16 upright and canister vacuums. Here’s how we evaluated them:

Suction and airflow: We measured each vacuum’s airflow with an anemometer and evaluated its suction with a specialized suction gauge. You need high airflow because suction alone can’t move debris up the wand and into the bin, according to vacuum service specialist James Brown. “If I put a penny on my hand, put the nozzle over the penny, switched the machine on, switched it off and let it wind down, the penny would still be there because there’s no air moving down the tube to take it to where it needs to go. But you can still feel the pressure of it pulling your hand to the nozzle.”

Cleaning performance: We then tried each vacuum on different types of rugs and on bare floors strewn with Cheerios, fur, baking soda, bird seed, and glitter.

  • We sprinkled baking soda close to walls and corners to see how well each machine picked up dust in tight spaces. (Note: We don’t recommend that you vacuum large amounts of baking soda or superfine dust, as it may damage the motor, particularly in bagless machines.)
  • We spread 50 grams of sand on a 2-foot-by-3-foot section of low-to-medium-pile carpet and vacuumed it vigorously for 30 seconds. We then measured how much of the sand the vacuum collected. We evenly distributed rabbit and cat fur on the carpet to assess how much effort it took for each machine to remove it.
  • We ran the top performers in a multi-person, multi-pet, multi-rug home for several weeks to see how they handled stairs, as well as a variety of surfaces and messes (bunny hay and cat litter included).

Cleaner head design: We paid special attention to the design and function(s) of each cleaner head.

  • We preferred models with a motorized brush roll that propels itself, which makes it easier to push and maneuver the machine. A motorized brush is also important because suction and airflow alone don’t remove dirt as thoroughly. “You need agitation, which is what the brushes do,” explained Brown. “They vibrate and sweep the carpet and dislodge the dirt. The airflow takes it away.”
  • We vacuumed up hair extensions and checked whether brush rolls could be easily removed for detangling and cleaning.
  • We checked each cleaner head’s flexibility, whether it was height adjustable, and if it had headlights and/or indicators that signify clogs, full bags, and/or the need for part replacement.

Comfort, versatility, and ease of use: We tested the comfort and maneuverability of each vacuum with a range of testers of different heights and sizes, including individuals in wheelchairs and with shoulder, hand, and arm issues.

  • We noted how easy it was to remove each vacuum’s bag or empty the dustbin.
  • We noted whether you could adjust the height of the vacuum wand (canisters) or handle (upright machines). We assessed how the handle felt, and whether the wand and cleaner head could stand up on their own (on canisters). We also noted whether the model felt light, flexible, and easy to maneuver or heavy and clunky.
  • We looked at the placement of its cord storage and controls. We preferred vacuums with a smooth auto-rewind function, with their on/off buttons and suction controls on the handle as opposed to the body.
  • We looked at how much space each vacuum would take up in storage.
  • We measured each vacuum’s noise level with the SPLnFFT app.
  • We tried out its above-floor attachments on bookshelves, between seat cushions, and on different types of upholstery.

Warranty, customer service, and reliability: We looked for models with a proven track record and good customer care.

  • We favored models with at least a three-year warranty and examined each company’s warranty exclusions.
  • We checked whether a vacuum’s hose, which is often the first component to crack, appeared strong and flexible, and whether a machine’s housing was made from durable plastic. We ruled out vacuums whose parts broke during testing.
  • We scoured hundreds of customer reviews on Amazon and Best Buy, and analyzed thousands of reviews using the AI tool FindOurView to identify important themes and issues.
  • We called customer service for each of our top performers to experience the process and to determine how easy it was to order parts.

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Our pick for the best upright vacuum: SEBO Felix Premium

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (2)

Our pick

SEBO Felix Premium

The best upright vacuum

This stylish, bagged upright vacuum has formidable cleaning power and is adjustable, versatile, and agile. It should last for a decade or two.

Buying Options

$749 from SEBO

For upright fanatics who want it all, the SEBO Felix Premium offers excellent cleaning power and filtration, comfortable handling, and an extra-long warranty. It also has a variety of different designs and functions that you can choose from.

It’s an exceptional cleaner. Whether presented with glitter, fine dust, fur, or cereal, this model hungrily scarfed up more debris than almost any other vacuum we tested. It was the top performer in both the upright and canister categories at picking up sand (only the much heavier, more expensive Riccar Tandem Air Deluxe did better), and it excelled in our baking soda test. While its electric cleaner head struggled with baking soda close to baseboards, its parquet brush, designed for delicate bare wood floors, picked up baking soda in one pass (both parallel and head-on, which is rare).

It comes with two effective, well-designed cleaner heads. The SEBO Felix comes with a motorized cleaner head with a self-propelling brush that helps dig up and agitate dirt and ferret it up into the vacuum. You can adjust the cleaner head to four heights, which helps it work effectively on bare floors and low-pile, medium-pile, and thicker carpets. (Other upright vacuums we tested tended to jam on thicker carpets.)

The Felix also has a warning light that flashes if the height needs to be adjusted or the cleaner head becomes clogged, a convenient feature that most other vacuums we tested lacked. It is particularly easy to remove the brush roll if it does get tangled: It pops out with the click of a button, while other machines require tools and finagling.

The non-motorized parquet brush has soft horsehair bristles designed for delicate wood flooring. Although not quite as flexible and nimble as that of the Miele Complete C3 Calima PowerLine, in our tests, the Felix’s parquet brush worked great at removing baking soda from bare floors and along baseboards where the motorized cleaner head struggled.

It’s comfortable, lightweight, and quiet. The SEBO Felix feels light and comfortable to maneuver. Its self-propelling cleaner head glides smoothly across all types of carpets, rugs, and thresholds. Unlike other machines we tested, the Felix didn’t make wheel tracks or streaks, leaving the carpet in pristine condition.

The height-adjustable handle hugs your hand, making it more comfortable to hold than those of the other uprights we tested. Its cord wrap is located high enough so you don’t have to bend down to bundle up the cord. And its hose storage doubles as a convenient carrying handle, so you can tote the machine sideways, which makes it easier to haul up and down stairs.

It converts to a handheld vacuum, with useful attachments. By removing the hose and attaching one of its two tools, the Felix instantly transforms from an upright floor vacuum into a portable handheld. Its pod detaches and has a comfortable side handle. Our 5-foot-4 tester found the lengthy hose with the included extra-long crevice tool sufficient to reach her 8-foot ceilings.

In addition to the crevice tool, the Felix comes with a triangular dust brush that swivels 360 degrees and is great for both bookshelves and tight corners. While the triangular brush does a great job cleaning fur off of upholstery, you might want to consider getting a turbo brush attachment specifically designed for this purpose. Or you can buy the pet kit, which also includes a pet grooming tool. (SEBO attachments are less expensive than equivalent Miele attachments.)

It’s easy to empty and to change the filters. The Felix’s bag and filters are accessed from the top of the pod, so you don’t have to squat to exchange them (most upright vacuums require you to reach further down to remove clips or press buttons). Its generous 1-gallon bags are slightly larger than those of our canister pick.

The Felix uses S-class filters, which need to be exchanged only every 10 to 20 bags but filter a tiny bit less particles than HEPA filters.

It’s stylish and can be dressed up. With its curvy, retro shape the Felix looks nicer than most other vacuums we tried. It comes in three colors (red, blue, and white), each with a coordinating patterned “skirt.” The skirt is actually an exhaust filter, and you can purchase additional patterned skirts (flowers, plaid, cheetah print, and geometric designs, among others) to change up your Felix’s look.

It’s durable, with an excellent warranty and great customer service. Service specialists we spoke to generally love the German-made SEBO machines. SEBO is short for Semigewerkliche Bodenpflege (Semi-commercial Floorcare). “From its DNA, it’s a commercial vacuum cleaner company,” said John van Leuven, CEO of SEBO America, explaining that the company was founded in 1978 but only started selling residential machines in 1999.

Based on interviews with vacuum specialists and repair technicians, we have evidence that SEBO models can last for decades with proper care and maintenance. (“Twenty years is not unusual,” Van Leuven told us.)

SEBO also offers the most generous and comprehensive warranties of our picks. Parts and labor are covered for five years and the motor for seven years. The warranty automatically increases to seven years and 10 years respectively, if you register your vacuum with SEBO. (The machine must be purchased from an authorized dealer or directly through SEBO.)

SEBO’s customer service is excellent. When we called, a cordial and knowledgeable agent picked up the phone within the minute and helpfully—and correctly—answered our questions. (Unlike Shark, maker of our budget pick, SEBO can also be reached via email.)

Flaws but not dealbreakers

It’s an upright. The Felix shares its biggest flaws with most other upright machines. Compared to a canister vacuum, it can feel heavy on your hands and wrists, and it lacks an automatic cord rewind.

It’s pricey. We tested upright vacuums ranging from $30 to $1,200. At around $750, the Felix is more expensive than most of the vacuums we tried, but it performed better and should last much longer.

It’s difficult to adjust the handle length. The Felix’s handle height can be adjusted by pulling on a plastic lever on the base, but some of our testers struggled to make it work.

It’s a bit noisy. Due to its powerful motor, this model was noisier than most of the cheaper uprights we tested. (Only the more powerful Riccar and the Dyson Ball Animal 3 Extra were louder.) If noise is an issue for you, we recommend you opt for one of our canister picks, which tend to be quieter.

It’s not as widely available as other vacuums. You have to order SEBO vacuums from SEBO’s website or buy them online from an authorized dealer. SEBO models aren’t available at major department or big-box stores, so it may be difficult to pick one up in your area (check SEBO’s dealer locator). Note that Amazon and Walmart aren’t authorized dealers; machines bought through those sites won’t come with a warranty.

Though SEBO has more than 400 authorized dealers and service specialists in the US (a little less than Miele, maker of our runner-up canister pick), you may not be able to find one in your area: There are none in Manhattan and only a handful in Brooklyn and Queens, for example. But defective machines can be sent directly to SEBO’s US headquarters in Colorado. SEBO pays for shipping both ways during the warranty period.

Budget pick: Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (4)

Budget pick

Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352

A cheap, well-rounded upright

Though far from perfect, this bagless upright is one of the best vacuums you can buy for less than $200. We’ve been recommending it since 2014.

Buying Options

$180 from Amazon

$180 from Home Depot

$180 from Wayfair

Though it lacks the power and extra features of our top pick, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 vacuum cleaner is the most effective and reliable under-$200 vacuum we’ve tried. But it doesn’t do well on thicker carpets and rugs, and its warranty is extremely limited. If anything breaks (apart from the motor), you’re out of luck.

It’s a capable cleaner (for smaller debris). Thanks to its impressive suction and airflow, the Navigator sucked up more than two-thirds of the sand we spread out, while its competitors in the same price range only got about half or less. It also did great on fur and glitter. Tons of customer reviews, even some negative ones, agree that the Navigator is an excellent cleaner. (Pet-hair pickup in particular earns wide praise.)

But it struggles with larger debris. Because of its low-riding cleaner head, which isn’t height-adjustable like that of the SEBO Felix, the Navigator snowplowed Cheerios and bird seeds.

And it chokes on thick carpet and rugs. While the Navigator is comfortable enough to maneuver on dense, low-pile carpet, we struggled to push it on our fluffy, low-pile testing carpet, even after opening the mechanical suction bleed all the way. Our FindOurView analysis revealed that many customers have problems pushing the Navigator across carpets and rugs. (Other Navigator models appear to suffer from the same issue: More than 20% of customers complain that they can’t comfortably push the virtually identical Shark Navigator 360 on carpets and rugs, for example.) We asked Shark about the issue, and while we were asked to answer a list of questions (which we promptly did), we never received a response.

Several repair specialists have told us that Shark’s cleaner heads often break prematurely.

It’s easy to maneuver. The Navigator is only less than a pound heavier than our top pick—and its swiveling cleaner head, which is narrower than that of our other picks, makes it easy to steer in small corners and around obstacles. But because of its weight distribution, this model has a tendency to tip over if you yank the hose.

It converts into a handheld cleaner and has useful tools. While not extraordinary anymore, the “lift-away” feature makes cleaning up above ground easy: You can take off the pod and set it down, so you’re left with just hose, handle, and hand tool. Basic crevice and upholstery tools are included with all Navigator models. The latter does well on stairs and upholstery. But unlike our top pick, a dusting brush doesn’t come included—you have to buy it separately.

It’s more durable than most budget vacuums. Owners report that they have had this machine for many years, and some even replaced their old one with the same model. Wirecutter staffers who have owned the Navigator for seven or eight years told us that it still performs like it did on day one.

But the warranty isn’t as generous as it appears. At first glance, Shark’s five-year warranty on the motor looks reassuring. However, no other parts are covered under the warranty, so if anything else breaks, you’re on the hook. Fortunately, replacement parts, like the dustbin, hose, nozzle, and handle, are readily available and repair specialists are usually familiar with the brand.

The brush roll is hard to remove. Unlike those of the SEBO Felix and Airbelt K3, the Navigator’s brush roll is tricky to remove. It requires a special torque-star security screw bit. (To make matters worse, each Shark cleaner necessitates a different-size tool.) If hair tangles around the brush roll, we recommend cutting it out with a razor for an easier fix.

It suffers from other small design flaws. Its three-way switch (off/suction/brush roller) is located on the pod instead of the handle, forcing you to bend down to make adjustments. (On the plus side, if the handle gets damaged over time, it won’t affect the power supply.) Its dust cup is secured with clips that some users complain no longer hold tight after extended usage.

While its measured decibel level equaled that of our top pick, the Shark Navigator sounds more grating.

It has a tiny dustbin. Storing less than one quart of debris before suction drops off, the Shark Navigator has to be emptied frequently, particularly if you have several hairy pets. (In comparison, our top pick stores almost a gallon of debris.)

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Our pick for the best canister vacuum: SEBO Airbelt K3

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (6)

Our pick

SEBO Airbelt K3 Premium

The best canister vacuum

This bagged canister vacuum excels on both bare floors and carpets, and has many adjustment options and useful attachments. It should last for the long haul.

Buying Options

$849 from Amazon

7-Year Standard Warranty

$899 from SEBO

10-Year Extended Warranty

Even if you’re a diehard devotee of upright vacuums, the powerful, versatile, and whisper-quiet SEBO Airbelt K3 may turn you into a canister convert.

It’s got excellent cleaning power. The Sebo Airbelt K3 was a top performer in our cleaning tests, gobbling up glitter, birdseed, fur, and Cheerios more thoroughly, and in fewer passes, than almost all its competitors. In our sand test, it outperformed our runner-up canister pick, the Miele C3 Calima but ran (negligibly) behind its upright cousin, the SEBO Felix. Its electric cleaner head struggled to remove all of the baking soda on bare floors close to the baseboards, but its parquet attachment excelled at this.

Its electric cleaner head is the best we’ve tested. The SEBO Airbelt K3’s 12-inch electric cleaner head has a motorized brush roll that lifts and agitates dirt into the tube. Because it’s self-propelled, it glides easily on different types of flooring and over thresholds and requires less effort to push than the other canister vacuums we tested (in fact, sometimes it’s so speedy you’ll have to play catch up).

Like the SEBO Felix, the Airbelt K3’s cleaner head can be adjusted to four heights, helping it run smoothly on different types of flooring.

Its electric cleaner head is also easier to maintain than those of other vacuums. As with the SEBO Felix, the brush roll can be removed for cleaning with the push of a button, and a small flap on the cleaner head allows for easy clog removal. (We have not experienced clogs with this model.)

It’s comfortable and versatile. At 21 pounds, the SEBO Airbelt K3 is heavier than our upright picks, but its weight distribution—split between its compact wheeled canister, wand, and cleaner head—makes it more comfortable to carry and maneuver.

Its ergonomic handle was comfier to hold than that of the Miele C3 Calima, and its adjustable wand allowed testers of vastly different heights to vacuum easily. Fully extended, the machine’s hose and wand have a radius of up to 11 feet, so chances are you’ll only have to lift the wheeled canister when getting it out of storage or when moving it up and down stairs.

It has useful attachments. The SEBO Airbelt K3 can be outfitted with three useful attachments: a thin, extra-long crevice tool (great for cleaning radiators or along baseboards); an upholstery tool that works well on fur; and a triangular horse-hair dusting brush that swivels 360 degrees and is handy on bookshelves and in tight corners.

SEBO sells even more attachments online, including a pet kit with a mini turbo brush and a grooming tool.

It has nifty extra features. The Airbelt K3’s crevice tool slots away cleverly in the back of the machine. The canister sports a spongy shock absorber (the “Airbelt”) to protect furniture from nicks and scratches. Its “tug-and-retract” cord rewinder reels the cord in automatically when pulled. (It takes some practice to get the motion right.)

It’s whisper-quiet. The SEBO Airbelt K3 measured the same on the decibel scale as the Miele Complete C3 Calima, but its hum felt nicer to our ears.

It’s got excellent filtration. Like the SEBO Felix, the Airbelt K3 has three filters. Its bag captures virtually all the debris and dust sucked up by the vacuum. Its S-class pre-motor and exhaust filters make the Airbelt K3 an excellent choice for allergy sufferers.

It’s got an outstanding warranty and excellent customer service. The SEBO Airbelt K3 offers a five-year warranty for parts and labor, with seven years of coverage for the motor. Registering the vacuum extends these periods to seven years and 10 years respectively (applicable only when the vacuum is purchased via authorized dealers).

SEBO has a decent network of repair specialists, but you can also send the vacuum to the manufacturer for free repairs under warranty, with shipping covered both ways.

SEBO’s customer service is top-notch. Quick and knowledgeable phone support is available, and, unlike Shark, SEBO can also be contacted via email.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

It’s expensive. The Airbelt K3 costs more than four times as much as our budget pick, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352. However, it has a much longer life expectancy, it’s more versatile, its parts are easily replaceable, and it is much nicer to use.

Its parquet brush is middling. The Airbelt K3’s parquet brush is inferior to that of the Miele Complete C3 Calima PowerLine, lacking flexibility and smoothness. Its electric powerhead, however, works well on all types of floors, making the switch to the parquet brush unnecessary for the most part. Just switch off the motorized brush when using it on delicate hardwood floors.

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (8)

It’s less widely available than other canister vacuums. SEBO only has about 425 authorized dealers and service specialists in the US, whereas Miele has 550. It’s also not sold on Amazon or at big-box stores. So trying out a SEBO in person may not be possible in all parts of the country. On the plus side, defective machines can be sent directly to SEBO’s US headquarters in Colorado, and SEBO pays for shipping both ways during the warranty period. (Note: Amazon and Walmart are not authorized dealers, and machines bought through these websites don’t come with a warranty.)

Runner-up: Miele Complete C3 Calima PowerLine

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (9)

Runner-up

Miele Complete C3 Calima PowerLine

Reputable canister, some caveats

This proven bagged model has great suction power and excels on bare floors and (most) area rugs. It works on low-pile carpets but balks at thicker ones.

Buying Options

$839 from Amazon

$839 from Walmart

If you have mainly bare floors with just a few rugs and you want a powerful vacuum cleaner made by a company with an excellent reputation, the Miele Complete C3 Calima PowerLine is a great choice.

It’s an excellent vacuum—on the right surfaces. Boasting the highest suction and airflow of all the machines we tested, the C3 Calima is a powerful cleaner, particularly when it comes to fine dust, fur, and sand on hard floors and certain types of carpet and area rugs. It especially shines on delicate hard flooring: Its swiveling, soft-bristled parquet brush was nicer to maneuver and gentler on sensitive surfaces than any cleaner head we tested. In our test, it cleaned baking soda alongside baseboards more smoothly than any other brush we tried.

Since none of its cleaner heads are height adjustable, the C3 Calima snowplows Cheerios and other large debris. (A simple solution: Pick the cleaner head off the ground for a second or two—it’s lighter than a stick vac.)

This model’s non-electric TurboTeQ cleaner head worked relatively well on our writers’ heirloom rugs but it balked at our fluffy, low-pile test carpet, making it hard to push. (A good number of Amazon reviewers also complain that it can be onerous to maneuver on carpets.)

George Tjoumakaris, product manager at Miele, admitted that the pile of carpet and its feel influence performance. “Density is one factor, and the actual feel and softness is another,” he explained. “That’s what’s causing the vacuum to sometimes sink down or get bogged up.” Tjoumakaris recommended users turn down the machine’s six-tier electronic suction setting and open the bleed valve on its power brush head. (We tried the sand test with these adjustments, and while the cleaner head became easier to maneuver, the machine picked up significantly less sand than before.)

It’s convenient, comfortable (under the right circ*mstances), and easy to maintain. While we prefer controls on the handle of a vacuum (like on all SEBO machines), Miele’s foot-control pedals are the next best thing. Located on top of the canister, its pedals control suction power, turn the machine on and off, and rewind the cord. Miele’s auto-rewind function is smoother than that of the SEBO Airbelt K3 and particularly convenient when compared with the manual cord hooks of most upright models.

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Unless you find yourself on a surface your Miele objects to, this canister model, with its low-riding, swiveling cleaner heads and its height-adjustable tube, is comfortable to handle and navigates smoothly around and under furniture. Its three useful tools—crevice, upholstery, and a dust brush that swivels 360 degrees—are smartly stored on board the canister.

Miele canister vacuums are among the quietest vacuum cleaners available. In our tests, only the SEBO Airbelt K3 rivaled the three Mieles we tried.

Miele vacuums aren’t known for clogging often (which can happen to any type of vacuum), but if they do they come apart at all the major joints. Unfortunately, you do need a screwdriver to open its TurboTeQ brush head.

It’s got excellent filtration. The C3 Calima’s sealed system has three filters: its bag, its motor intake filter, and its S-class exhaust filter. The bags are self-sealing, too: When you swap out an old one, its rubber flap closes, so dust and allergens don’t escape. Multiple Amazon reviewers write that they’ve seen noticeable improvements for allergy sufferers after they started using a Miele.

It’s got a phenomenal reputation. Technicians, salespeople, enthusiasts, vacuum collectors, and regular people all love Miele vacuums. Senior staff writer Tim Heffernan’s 15-year-old Miele “still runs like new and has never had a single issue,” even after he mistakenly vacuumed up a lot of plaster dust without a bag in place. Deputy editor Christine Cyr Clisset has used hers for nearly a decade.

George Tjoumakaris, product manager at Miele, told us that the company tests all its canister vacuums for a service life expectancy of 20 years.

But its warranty is skimpy. Longevity aside, in 2020, Miele scaled back its warranty to three years for its Complete series and one year for its Classic series. Miele maintains that they have not made any changes to its C3 line other than having updated its turbo brush head and available colors.

It has a decent authorized-dealer and service network. Sold on Amazon and at P.C. Richards, Miele vacuums are more widely available than SEBO models. The company lists 550 authorized service providers (of those, approximately 400 are also authorized dealers). As with SEBO vacuums, you’ll need to purchase your Miele from an authorized dealer to obtain warranty coverage. If you’re concerned about buying from the wrong source online, buy your Miele in person.

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Other Miele canister vacuums worth considering

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Miele canister vacuums are available in many variations and price ranges.

If you have wall-to-wall carpeting you might consider upgrading to a model with an electric cleaner head, like the Complete C3 Kona PowerLine. You can also buy the somewhat pricey electric cleaner head separately—it fits both the C3 Calima and the Classic C1.

For a less expensive alternative to the C3 Calima and the C3 Kona, consider the Classic C1 Turbo Team PowerLine (for hard floors and low-pile rugs) or the . The latter includes an electric power brush head specifically for carpets and a mini turbo brush for pet hair on upholstery.

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (13)

We tested the Miele Classic C1 Turbo Team PowerLine and found its cleaning power comparable to that of the Miele Complete C3 Calima. It had the same airflow and suction in our tests and cleaned up about as well as its pricier cousin. But it’s a bit louder, and its filtration isn’t quite as good. Also, the Classic C1 line’s warranty is only one year (compared to the Complete C3 Calima’s three years).

If you have mainly bare floors with a few rugs you might also want to consider the Miele Classic C1 Pure Suction, the most basic, lowest-priced vacuum in Miele’s extensive lineup of canister vacuums. Although it doesn’t work well on thick rugs, it’s exceptionally effective and comfortable to use on bare floors. Miele Classic C1 Pure Suction has a universal floorhead, which features rubberized wheels and bristles that you can extend or retract, so it’s excellent on bare floors and solid on flat-weave or low-pile rugs, too.

The Miele Boost CX1 is a powerful and elegant little machine that may work well in a small apartment with hard floors and a few rugs. It has great cleaning power (except when it comes to fur), but it doesn’t have bags, so therefore its filtration is inferior. We think for this price you’d be better off buying the Miele Classic C1 Pure Suction or the Classic C1 Turbo Team PowerLine.

Other good vacuums

The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums (14)

If you want an ultra-powerful vacuum and don’t mind some noise: The Riccar Tandem Air Deluxe was hands down the most powerful vacuum cleaner we tested. No fleck or speck, however large or small, escaped it. It has a seven-year warranty and it is beautifully and smartly designed with a long, smooth hose for above-floor cleaning, a horsehair brush tool, and a height-adjustable cleaner head with headlights. But its heft and noisiness hurt our shoulders and ears and reminded us of the vacuums you see used in hotels and airports.

If you want a decent, mid-priced vacuum and are willing to take some risks: The Shark Stratos Upright Vacuum might appeal. We considered making it our new top upright pick for its excellent cleaning power and ease of handling at a relatively affordable price (around $300 for the main model, or $430 for the pet version). Its powerful suction and airflow make it an efficient cleaner, and its self-propelling brush roll, which works well on all types of flooring, makes it easy to steer and maneuver.

However, a disproportionate number of Amazon reviewers reported brush roll issues, and several repair specialists told us that brush roll problems are common in Shark vacuums. The cleaner head, like most of its parts, is not covered under Shark’s limited five-year warranty, which means that if the brush roll fails, you’ll have to purchase a new one for $90 (it’s often out of stock on Shark’s website). Shark didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment about the reported brush roll issues on its vacuums. We’ll continue long-term testing the Stratos and monitoring whether Shark addresses the concerns.

The Stratos is certainly the best upright vacuum under $500 we’ve tested—no other model in that price range came close to its power and convenience. But the risk of brush roll failure, and the cost of replacing the part, is unacceptable. That said, if you’re willing to roll the dice, and if you can find it at a deep discount, it may be a valid choice.

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The competition

The Dyson Ball Animal 3 Extra did great in our cleaning tests and was the only vacuum we tested whose brush didn’t get entangled no matter the length of the hair. But a $400 vacuum cleaner should be easier to assemble and take apart. Its motor “ball” made it awkward to maneuver in small furnished rooms, and we found the Ball Animal 3 Extra hard to push on our test carpet.

The new Hoover WindTunnel TangleGuard is easier to maneuver across carpets than the Dyson Ball Animal 3 Extra, but it didn’t measure up to our picks in its sand pickup. It also felt excessively noisy, and complaints about breakage and Hoover’s customer service are rampant.

The Kenmore DU5092 was quieter and more comfortable to maneuver than the Hoover WindTunnel, but its cleaning performance wasn’t any better. And despite its claim of eliminating hair on its brush roll, it did terribly with 18-inch-long hair.

The Bissell SurfaceSense Allergen Pet Lift-Off Vacuum screeched and screamed, and it underperformed in most of our cleaning tests.

There’s usually a reason a vacuum cleaner costs less than $200: Its parts break easily and/or it may lose motor power and suction after just a few months. The Bissell Swivel Pet Vacuum Cleaner (which is currently unavailable) looks cheaply made and feels huge and clunky. The Eureka WhirlWind looks cheap, cleans mediocrely, and takes up a lot of space. The Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Stick Vacuum dumped Cheerios back out after shutoff, and its primitive cleaner head feels scratchy on hard floors. None of these vacuum cleaners are worth your money.

How to clean your vacuum

Regular cleaning and maintenance are key to keeping your vacuum in good working order. Our article on how to clean every part of a vacuum goes in-depth, but here are three steps you should take to avoid losing suction:

  • Empty the bin or replace the bag regularly. This is important: A stuffed bin prevents airflow, and airflow is essential for your machine’s cleaning power. A bagless vacuum requires you to empty the canister after a run or two. On the same note: Don’t wait to replace the bag of your Miele or SEBO until it’s completely stuffed.
  • Wash or replace the filters. When a vacuum’s filters get clogged with dust, it loses suction. Check the manual to see which filters to clean or replace and how often (the advice varies widely by manufacturer). And if you’re washing a reusable filter, let it dry thoroughly before putting it back in the vacuum.
  • Clear out clogs and tangles. Over time, hair and other fibers will wrap around the vacuum’s brush roll; use scissors or a blade to cut those off and keep the brush rolling freely. If your vacuum suddenly loses suction, disconnect the hose, wand, and cleaner head and look for clogs in each part. Use your fingers, a pipe cleaner, or a skewer to clean out stuck debris. Removing the hair without opening the brush housing requires a razor blade or scissors.

Sarah Bogdan, Liam McCabe, and Michelle Ma wrote previous versions of this guide, which was first published in 2013. This article was edited by Courtney Schley and Ingrid Skjong.

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Sources

  1. James Brown, service specialist and museum curator at Mr. Vacuum Cleaner, Video interview, December 30, 2022, and email interview, August 21, 2023

  2. John van Leuven, CEO of SEBO America, Video interview, April 26, 2023

  3. George Tjoumakaris, product manager at Miele, Video interview, August 29, 2023

  4. Doug Blocker, senior value engineering manager at Tacony Corporation, Video interview, August 1, 2023

  5. Tom Gasko, vacuum cleaner collector and repair specialist and owner of Mid Missouri Vacuum, Video interview, February 1, 2023

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