Updated December 2013
A canister vacuum is more convenient than an upright in many cases, with better maneuverability and more flexibility for cleaning tough-to-reach areas such as underneath beds and furniture. We looked at thousands of owner reviews and the results of several professional comparison tests to choose the best canister vacuum for bare floors, best canister vacuum for pet hair, best canister vacuum overall and the best compact canister vacuum.
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Dyson DC39 Multi Floor HEPA Bagless Canister Vacuum
Dyson DC39 Multi Floor HEPA Bagless Canister Vacuum

Best canister vacuum

The Dyson DC39 Multi Floor lives up to its name with solid performance on carpets, bare floors and pet-hair removal. It's easy to maneuver, offers HEPA filtration on two levels, and comes equipped with a few accessories for cleaning hard-to-reach and above-the-floor areas. The DC39 Multi Floor is backed by a five-year warranty.
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Eureka 3670G Mighty Mite Canister Vacuum
Eureka 3670G Mighty Mite Canister Vacuum

Best cheap canister vacuum

The Eureka 3670G Mighty Mite boasts a compact canister that packs a lot of punch in two directions. A convenient blower port reverses the airflow for use in workshops and garage spaces to blow sawdust or other debris away. It's best for hard surfaces, but also does well for pet-hair removal.
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Dyson DC39 Animal HEPA Bagless Canister Vacuum
Dyson DC39 Animal HEPA Bagless Canister Vacuum

Best canister vacuum for hard floors

The Dyson DC39 Animal is designed for pet hair but really shines for its bare-floor performance. It's super-quiet, easy to maneuver and boasts two-layer HEPA filtration for better air quality. This vacuum is durable, has great airflow and low emissions, and is backed by a five-year warranty.
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Kenmore Progressive 21714
Kenmore Progressive 21714

Best canister vacuum for pet hair

Loaded with onboard attachments, the Kenmore Progressive 21714 is a top performer for pet-hair removal. With HEPA filtration, two filtration levels and certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, this canister vac removes more tiny particles that contribute to allergy and asthma symptoms in some people. The Progressive is backed by a one-year, limited warranty.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Canister Vacuums Runners Up:

LG Kompressor Pet Care Plus Canister *Est. $370

3 picks including: Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com…

Kenmore Intuition 28014 *Est. $480

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Good Housekeeping…

Eureka Mighty Mite Pet Lover Canister Vacuum 3684F *Est. $150

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Epinions.com…

Panasonic Canister Vacuum with HEPA Filter MC-CG902 *Est. $250

2 picks including: Amazon.com, Walmart.com…

Canister vacuums are bare-floor champions

Reviewers say canister vacuums are best for those who have a combination of hardwood floors and rugs, as well as those who plan to vacuum stairs, upholstery, drapes and other above-the-floor items. Upright vacuums, on the other hand, are best for homes with lots of carpeting. (See our companion report on upright vacuum cleaners.) Stick vacuums are a good alternative if you mainly need to clean hard floors, but not stairs or upholstery.

The biggest decision to make when buying a canister vacuum is choosing between bagged and bagless models. There are pros and cons to each type: Bagged canister vacuums require replacement bags that are generally affordable. Bagless canister vacuums have dirt canisters that must be emptied, which can be a messy process. Most owners suggest doing it outdoors or holding the dirt cup in a garbage can to avoid dust and debris flying back into the room you just cleaned.

Bagless canister vacuums sometimes have small dirt cups, meaning they'll have to be emptied more frequently. This is a complaint we read for several bagless models among consumers posting to review sites such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, HomeDepot.com and Viewpoints.com.

Some canister vacuums boast features that make them better for allergy sufferers. HEPA filtration, for instance, removes 99.97 percent of particles in the air down to 0.3 microns in size. While it's not the same as running a whole-house air filter, it does help improve the air quality. Emissions are another concern: If a vacuum is sucking up dust and debris from a carpet or floor and blowing it back into the air via the exhaust, you're not really accomplishing much cleaning. Filters reduce this problem, leading to a cleaner home overall. Finally, accessories and features that promote ease of use -- such as swiveling heads, extension wands, special wheels to tighten the turning radius and long power cords -- vary from model to model, but don't seem to be correlated with price.

There's also no clear correlation between cost and performance among canister vacuums, and prices vary widely. If you only need to vacuum bare floors, it is possible to find a decent, basic model for less than $100, although machines in this price range may not perform well on deep-pile carpets, rugs or upholstery.

At the other end of the scale, the Rainbow E-series E2 (Est. $1,600) is a vacuum, carpet cleaner and air purifier in one. Although most consumers at Viewpoints.com praise this model's cleaning power, some complain that it's not worth the high cost. Tests at a leading consumer magazine seem to confirm this, with the E2 achieving only mediocre ratings for carpet-cleaning performance, noise and maneuverability. It does, however, earn excellent scores for bare-floor cleaning, pet-hair removal and emissions. The best canister vacuums range in price from $80 to $500, and a few models offer decent performance, HEPA filtration and ample features in the middle of that range.

To choose the best canister vacuums for pet-hair removal and bare floors, as well as the best canister vacuums overall and the best compact canister vacuum, we evaluated thousands of owner reviews across retail sites that allow users to post comments on products they own or have purchased. We also looked at professional tests like those at ConsumerReports.org, which evaluates nearly 40 canister vacuums in its latest roundup. This review provides formal ratings and rankings of canister vacuums, scoring each model tested on factors such as noise; emissions; performance on bare floors, carpets and pet hair; maneuverability; and total airflow.

Other professional tests aren't as thorough, such as those at Good Housekeeping and Real Simple magazines, although they do conduct hands-on testing and compare various models. J.D. Power and Associates conducts an annual consumer satisfaction index survey, but this review rates overall brands instead of individual models.

Rainbow E Series E2 (One Speed) Vacuum Cleaner
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,249.00
In Stock.
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