Home > Home & Garden > Canister Vacuums > Best Canister Vacuums

Best Canister Vacuums

By: Kelly Burgess on May 24, 2017

Canister vacuums are a versatile cleaning tool

In general, canister vacuums are best for households with a lot of hard floors, and, because of that design, most canister vacuums don't get very high marks for cleaning carpets. One exception to that rule is the Miele C3 complete series, and, within that line, Miele Complete C3 Cat & Dog (Est. $950) offers both powerful performance and enough included attachments to make it a versatile cleaning tool. It earns a perfect 10 score at Reviewed.com, although that's based upon testing of a similar, pricier vacuum in the C3 series. At TheSweethome.com, where it was a former top pick, they note that the Cat & Dog offers, "Excellent cleaning for medium carpets, plus an odor-killing filter and mini turbo tool included."

Miele vacuums are pricey, to be sure, but they're also extremely durable, solid, high performing tools that are particularly good choices for those with hardwood floors. While the Miele C3 Cat & Dog's most popular attachment is the above-mentioned mini turbo tool that picks up pet hair off of any surface, it also includes an unpowered parquet tool that will clean high-end flooring without damaging it. Other attachments that come standard with the Cat & Dog are a crevice tool, upholstery tool and dusting brush. Other accessories are available as optional purchases. All of the included accessories store on the canister. Jonathan Chan at Reviewed.com says, "Given the C3's arsenal of accessories, this machine could replace your dust buster, your stick vacuum, and your carpet vac, all at once."

Although canister vacuums don't generally perform as well on carpet, especially deep-pile carpet as upright vacuums -- or even today's high-tech stick vacuums (both of which we cover in their own reports) -- Miele vacuums do better than most. This is in part due to the adjustable height power head that, in testing, earns above average scores on carpet at ConsumerReports.org.

The Cat & Dog, with its focus on controlling odors and pet hair, includes a standard, carbon-based AirClean filter; a HEPA filter, the Miele HEPA SF-HA 50 (Est. $25) is available as an optional purchase. However, the HEPA filter, which is widely reported as an excellent choice for controlling emissions, is included with the Miele Complete C3 Marin (Est. $1,050). The Marin is very similar to the Cat & Dog; power-wise, they're identical, but the Marin has a couple of extra convenience features too, including a "parking" system that shuts off the vacuum when you take a break, then turns it back on when you resume without you have to flip any switches. The Marin does not include the turbo brush, however, so we recommend the somewhat cheaper Cat & Dog for most households, the Marin for households where allergies are an issue.

Regardless of which Miele you choose, ease of use compared to upright vacuums, owners say, is superb. The foot controls on the Miele Complete C3 Cat & Dog make it easy to adjust suction and height without stooping, and the retractable 24 foot power cord coupled with the extendable hose and wand make for a generous, 36-foot cleaning radius. It's extremely well-balanced, and, although it weighs 23 pounds, feels lighter, owners say, thanks to its ergonomic design. Many users who upgraded to this vacuum after years of using "cheapies" wonder why they waited so long, saying the premium price is worth it for premium build and performance. A few say they don't think it seems to perform as much better as its high price indicates, but most are very pleased -- especially those with pets, stairs or lots of hard floors. Miele offers one of the best warranties in the business: seven years on the casing and motor, which includes parts and labor, one-year on accessories and hoses.

If you don't need a full-sized canister vac, but still want the Miele's outstanding performance, the Miele Compact C2 Onyx (Est. $500) is also worth taking a look at. At TheSweethome.com, McCabe makes it the pick if their top choice is sold out -- which it probably will be soon since that Miele canister vacuum, the Miele Complete C2 Limited Edition (Est. $400), is, as its name implies, a limited edition model that Miele is no longer manufacturing, according to the Miele rep we spoke with.

Kenmore canister vacuums are a great value

Most people can't afford to reach towards the $1,000 mark for a full-sized canister vacuum. And that's okay because there are plenty of canister vacuums that cost much less and do just as well in testing. The tradeoffs generally come in maneuverability and ease of use, so, unless those latter two attributes are your top concern, or you just happen to have the cash, there are some terrific canister vacuums that won't set your budget back quite so much.

Kenmore has long been a well-respected name in canister vacuums, and the Kenmore 81614 (Est. $300) is a worthy addition to the line, experts say. In testing at ConsumerReports.org the 81614 earns Excellent scores for its performance on bare floors and pet hair, Very good for carpet, the same scores as the top-rated Miele Marin. The Kenmore also gets an Excellent score for emissions, thanks to its HEPA filtration, which is standard on the 81614, rather than an upgrade as it is with the Miele Cat & Dog. What brings the 81614's overall score down there is ratings of just Good for tool airflow and noise.

Jonathan Chan at Reviwed.com also tests the Kenmore 81614 and finds a lot to like. It aced his tests on bare floors, carpet and throw rugs using a variety of debris, and really excelled when it came to pet hair pickup. Like most canister vacuums, it's not the best performer on carpet, although it's not bad. Ultimately, Chan gives the 81614 a score of 7.6, with both Editors' Choice and Best of Year awards. Where it falters I Chan's tests in usability. The top-heavy wand tends to fall over easily and the plastic clip that's supposed to keep it standing breaks easily. He also says it feels heavy, although at 23 pounds it's the same weight as the better-balanced Cat & Dog.

Owner reviewers are less complimentary, however that's to be expected from a Kenmore appliance for a couple of reasons. First, because they're only sold at Sears, there are many fewer reviews and, in our experience, people tend to be more likely to take the time to leave a poor review rather than a good one. A deep dive into the few dozen reviews we spotted shows a lot of user satisfaction, with some complaints about maneuverability and usability -- the same issues Chan had -- with what seems like overly downgraded scores for those complaints. One legitimate issue, though, is that everyone seems to agree that the Kenmore 81614 is loud; although whether that should lead to a one-star rating from an otherwise satisfied customer is debatable.

The Kenmore 81614 includes a small powered pet tool, a crevice tool, dusting brush, and a bare floor tool; all accessories store on-board. It also features a long, 28-foot, retractable cord, a 10.5-foot tool reach and a wide, 14-inch cleaning path.

Another great choice in this category, although it carries a higher price tag, is the Kenmore Elite 81714 (Est. $400). ConsumerReports.org gives it Excellent scores for pet hair and bare floor performance, and Very Good scores for carpet cleaning and airflow. Allergy sufferers may appreciate that it is also one of the top-scorers there when it comes to emissions, earning an Excellent rating. That's bolstered by the vacuum's two levels of filtration, including HEPA media technology for removing more allergens from the exhaust. On the down side, it gets lower scores for both noise and handling.

While some call this an exceptional canister vacuum for its price, owner opinions are split on the Kenmore 81714. Durability is one area of concern. We spotted some reports of breakdowns within the first few months, but many other owners that say this is an extraordinarily well-built vacuum cleaner that lasts for years. It's not the lightest canister vacuum and, at 22 pounds, it's reported as too heavy and bulky for some users -- the wand is said to be especially heavy and awkward. But it does have a 10-foot attachment reach and a variety of included accessories for versatility, such as a crevice tool, floor brush, dusting brush, and a motorized hand tool for cleaning up more efficiently after pets. All attachments store on the vacuum's body. It has a wide, 14-inch cleaning path and the cord is 26 feet long.

If you just have hard floors, a basic canister vac has plenty of punch

Most of the top canister vacuums we saw are priced at $300 to $1,000 or more, but we found some strong reviews for budget canister vacuums priced at $100 or less. While these models generally cannot handle carpets very well, they should be adequate if you vacuum infrequently or have light cleaning jobs, particularly if you only need to vacuum hard floors.

Among these, we saw the most positive comments for the Eureka 3670G Mighty Mite (Est. $80), which is why it's our top pick among cheap canister vacuums. This incredibly lightweight (less than 9 pounds) bag-equipped vacuum manages to pack a surprising amount of power in a small package, according to expert and owner reviewers. Although it's an older review, Chan at Reviewed.com gives the Mighty Mite a lot of praise, saying that on short-pile carpets and hardwood floors, "it provided performance as good as vacuums that cost five times as much."

Owners are very complimentary too, saying this is a terrific, basic, no-nonsense vacuum for hard floors. A number say they keep in in their beach homes for quick sand pickups. Although many users wish it were retractable, the 3670G's 20-foot-long cord is also described as a bonus. Most agree that as long as your expectations aren't unrealistic, you'll be satisfied with the performance of the Eureka Might Mite's performance.

For just a few dollars more, the Eureka Mighty Mite Pet Lover 3684F (Est. $80) is a step up from the regular Mighty Mite with features that make it better suited for pet-hair pickup as well as a HEPA filter for cleaner vacuum emissions. Both the Mighty Mite and the Pet Lover Mighty Mite are reported as noisy, but owners don't seem to mind. In fact, some point out that noise is expected of any vacuum, particularly one that boasts so much power for such a compact unit.

Both Mighty Mite vacuums can use special Arm & Hammer Filter Bags (Est. $9 for 9 bags) designed for odor elimination. Both models have 12 amps of power and weigh less than 9 pounds. The Pet Lover does have a wider cleaning path by an inch; it's 11 inches compared to the regular Mighty Mite's 10 inches. Both have blower ports for blowing out sawdust, leaves or other dirt from a garage or workshop. The Pet Lover Mighty Mite includes a special attachment for removing pet hair, but owners have mixed opinions on how effective it really is, and some say the vacuum actually works better without it. In that case, the less expensive Mighty Mite is a better buy if you aren't concerned about HEPA filtration.

Elsewhere In This Report
Recently Updated
Canister Vacuums buying guide

What every best Canister Vacuums has:

  • Multiple filtration levels.
  • Wide cleaning path.
  • Long power cord.

Read More »

Learn More »