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, especially high-pile carpet. However, the Miele Complete C3 Kona (Est. $930) is the exception. It's the top-rated canister vacuum cleaner at both Reviewed.com and TheSweethome.com. At the former site, Jonathan Chan awards the C3 Kona a perfect 10 rating, naming it both an Editors' Choice and a Best of Year. At TheSweethome.com, Liam McCabe names it the best canister vacuum, but the top vacuum there is an upright, although it's also a Miele.
Miele vacuums are pricey, to be sure, but they're also extremely durable, solid, high performing tools that will get any surface in your home clean without damaging high-end flooring. In particular, the Miele C3 Kona features an unpowered parquet tool that will go gentle on your wood floors while picking up anything you need it to. At Reviewed.com, chunky debris like uncooked macaroni and rice were no match for this canister vacuum. However, it's also a top-performer on carpet, with an adjustable height power head that, in testing, deep cleans as well as an upright. Other accessories include a crevice tool, upholstery tool and dusting brush -- all of which store on the canister. HEPA filtration is standard and works very well -- in one professional test the Miele Complete C3 Marin (Est. $1,200), identical to the Kona except with an upgraded power head, earns an Excellent for emissions. The bags are large, so they won't have to be replaced too frequently.
Owners say the foot controls on the Miele Complete C3 Kona make it easy to adjust suction and height without stooping. 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. Chan, at Reviewed.com, argues that this vacuum can replace your hand vac and stick vac, making it a great deal. A few say they don't think it seems to perform as much better as its high price indicates, but most are very pleased. 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. The replacement bags are the Miele SF-HA 50 (Est. $30).
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 more than worth taking a look at. McCabe says it's almost identical to the larger Kona, and includes the powerhead for carpet and parquet tool for floors, but is easier to maneuver and store.
Most people can't afford to reach towards the $1,000 mark for a full-sized canister vacuum. And that's okay, there's no need for that price range unless you're a real clean freak or just happen to have the cash.
Fortunately, Panasonic makes a couple of canister vacuums that get ratings in professional tests that are as good -- or better -- than some higher end vacuums. The best of the bunch is the Panasonic MC-CG937 (Est. $330). In one professional test this bagged vacuum earns a score of Very Good for its performance on carpet, right up there with the Miele. Owners agree, saying that it really sucks up dirt even on deeper pile, and that it's a perfect canister vacuum if you have both carpet and hard floors. In that same professional test, it also earns an Excellent rating for its performance on hard floors. It's also designated as a Best Buy.
In addition to its great performance, users appreciate the long reach of the wands for clearing dust from ceiling corners and vacuuming drapes and carpeting. Another bonus with the Panasonic is its very wide cleaning path -- 14 inches compared to the 11- to 13-inch paths on most full-sized uprights (the Miele C3 Kona's is 12 inches). Users love this additional width, saying it takes fewer passes to get their cleaning job done.
The Panasonic also offers a great range of attachments, including a floor brush, dusting brush, upholstery brush, crevice tool and 2 chrome wands. All store onboard the canister for convenience and space saving storage. The MC-CG937 is also extremely easy to use, owners say, with a brushroll activation switch located right on the handle, a long, 24-foot retractable cord, and accessories that are easy to swap out. The canister has a carrying handle and is fairly lightweight at 17.6 pounds, so it's ideal for cleaning stairs without having to grapple with a bulkier, more cumbersome canister let alone an upright vacuum.
The Panasonic MC-CG937 boasts a washable HEPA media filter as standard equipment, and both experts and users say it performs extremely well in keeping dust and other exhaust emissions under control. In the professional test noted above, the MC-CG937 earns an Excellent rating for emissions, and many users say they have noticed a decrease in the amount of dust overall in their homes since they started using this vacuum. The bags are the Panasonic MC-V295H (Est. $20 for 2).
The main complaint we saw about the Panasonic MC-CG937 was with durability issues. Several reviewers complain that the MC-CG937's power switch stops working within a fairly short period of time, just works intermittently, or the power head stops functioning. Customer service offers options for repairs; the problem is that owners must ship the vacuum at their own expense to the closest authorized repair center, which is often more than 100 miles away. Still, hundreds of users report no issues and rave about this vacuum -- we saw plenty of reports from people who loved it so much they bought another one for a relative.
If you prefer a bagless vacuum, take a look at the MC-CG937's sister, the Panasonic MC-CL935 (Est. $300) earns almost the exact scores -- as well as Best Buy status -- in that same professional test, scoring a bit lower for emissions and handling, but a bit higher for pet hair.
Users say it's a plenty powerful vacuum for just about any job, and the carpet height adjustment is reported to be useful not just for carpet, but for adjusting for chunkier debris on bare floors. Those who were specifically looking for a bagless canister vacuum say this one is easy to empty, although a few say they wish the dirt bin was larger. It does get raves for easy maneuverability.
The MC-CG935 vacuum includes a dusting brush and crevice tool that store on the vacuum. The cord is also 24-inches and it has a 14-inch cleaning path, just like the MC-CG937.
Most of the top canister vacuums we saw are priced at $250 to $1,000, but we found some strong reviews for budget canister vacuums priced at $100 or less. While these models generally cannot handle deep carpet cleaning, 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. $70), 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 reviewers.
Although many users wish it were retractable, the 3670G's 20-foot-long cord is also described as a bonus. Most agree that this model performs well on bare floors, but say it's not ideal for carpet or rugs. Nonetheless, it is generally seen as a good value for the money; most owners say that as long as your expectations aren't unrealistic, you'll be satisfied with its performance.
For just a few dollars more, the Eureka Mighty Mite Pet Lover 3684F (Est. $90) 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.
Many canister vacuums, even those with the word "Animal" in them get poor reviews for pet hair pickup, arguably one of the biggest challenges for any vacuum. However, one that gets better scores for pet-hair pickup in professional tests than most is the Kenmore Elite 81714. It earns Excellent scores in one test for pet hair and bare floors performance, and Very Good scores for carpet cleaning and airflow -- comparable to those of the much pricier Miele. Allergy sufferers may appreciate that it is also one of the top-scorers in that same professional test 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.
The Kenmore Progressive 21614 (Est. $280) also earns a score of Excellent in pet hair pickup in that same professional test, and is also named a Best Buy. At Reviewed.com, Chan dubs it a "Best of Year" and gives it an overall rating of 8.2 out of 10, calling it "A vacuum designed with pet owners in mind."
Overall, the 21614 is bigger and bulkier than the 81714, it weighs 23.1 pounds, but it also has a unique "stair grip" design that securely holds the canister body while you clean the stairs. It also features a slightly longer reach -- 11 feet -- and includes a bare floor tool in addition to the attachments included with the 81714. Only two attachments will store onboard, however, you'll have to find a place for the others. It also features HEPA filtration. Like the 81714, the 21614 has a retractable cord, but it's 2 feet longer, 28 feet total. As with the 81714, we found complaints of the 21614 being bulky and of durability issues, but overall most seem very pleased with this heavy-duty canister vac.