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 Panasonic MC-CG937 (Est. $330) is an exception. In one professional test this bagged vacuum earns a score of Very Good for its performance on carpet, and 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.
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. Users love this, 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 a 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 offers a washable HEPA media filter, and both experts and users say it performs extremely well in keeping dust and other exhaust emissions under control. Many say they have noticed a decrease in the amount of dust overall in their homes since they started using this vacuum.
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.
Dyson has recently renamed their lineup of canister vacuums, and they are excellent choices as well, although mostly for hard floors, not for carpets. However, since there are so many old and new choices, we discuss them in a separate section of this report, so, if you're interested in a Dyson, head on over to our Dyson Canister Vacuums page to see our recommendations.
Miele vacuums are another high-end brand that get a lot of love from experts. However, they are often pricier than comparable Dyson canister vacs and don't perform appreciably better in professional tests. Users also don't find the performance of the Miele's to be any better than other top-end but less-expensive vacuums, which may be why owner feedback is also somewhat mixed.
However, the Miele Classic C1 Capri (Est. $330) (formerly the Miele S2121 Capri) is said to be an excellent choice for smaller spaces, such as apartments, and reviewers say it works very well on hard floors. The Classic C1 Capri is compact and lightweight with a large-capacity, self-sealing dust bag to prevent dust and debris from escaping back into the air when it's disposed of.
There are four models within the Classic C1 line and each offer a choice of colors and included tools. For example, the C1 Capri includes a non-HEPA filter (you can purchase an optional HEPA filter for about $50), a turbobrush and a parquet floor brush as well as a telescopic wand and three onboard accessories. The Miele Classic C1 Titan (Est. $600) offers a standard HEPA filter, an electric power brush and a parquet floor brush, along with a telescoping wand and various attachments. The Miele Classic C1 Olympus (Est. $330), includes a rug/floor combination tool, an XXL handle, a bag change indicator, and a few different types of wands and attachments, while the Miele Classic C1 Delphi (Est. $500) comes with an electrobrush, electric hose, and electric telescopic wand. The last in the series, the Miele. A complete list and comparison of the Miele Classic C1 series is available in this handy chart on the Miele website.
Reviewers say the Miele canister vacuums are a very good choice for hard floors, or if you have a mix of hardwood floors and area rugs. They don't do well, most say, on carpet, and professional testing backs that up. In one such test, the Miele brand performs no better than much less expensive vacuums across the board -- with the exception of the Miele S8590 Marin (Est. $1,000), which is now called the Miele Complete C3 Marin (Est. $1,000). But while its performance on hard floors is terrific, performance in that same expert test on carpet is merely Very Good. That, coupled with its relatively high price tag, keeps the C3 Marin out of our Best Reviewed list. Other Miele models in that same test fare even poorer when it comes to cleaning carpet, earning scores of Good to Fair in that regard.
However, where Miele vacuums do shine is in controlling allergens expelled from their exhaust. If allergies are a primary concern for your family, you might want to seriously consider a Miele. They get top reviews for emissions and many owners say they really help to control dust and pet hair and dander in their homes.
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 Progressive 21714 (Est. $400). 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 $1,000 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 slightly lower scores for noise and handling.
While some call this an exceptional canister vacuum for its price, owner opinions are split on the Kenmore 21714. 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 23 pounds, it's reported as too heavy and bulky for some users. But it does have an 8-foot hose reach and a variety of attachments for versatility, such as a crevice tool, combination bare-floor and upholstery tool, and a Pet PowerMate and pet-hair catcher for cleaning up more efficiently after pets.
Kenmore makes a few other models that earn decent ratings in professional tests and that have also been designated as "Best Buys" by a well-respected testing organization. The Kenmore Progressive 21514 (Est. $250) offers a 14-inch cleaning path, two filters, HEPA filtration and a total of five included attachments. It earns good scores for pet-hair removal in one expert roundup, and higher scores for carpet and bare-floor cleaning. Owners say it's powerful but very noisy, and like other Kenmore models, it's heavier than the typical canister vacuum at 23 pounds.
Another option is the Kenmore Progressive 21614 (Est. $270), which scores better for emissions and airflow in one professional test compared to the Progressive 21514. It also does a much better job of picking up pet hair, earning Excellent scores in testing and positive remarks from owners. In another expert test, conducted by Reviewed.com, it cleans as well as the far more expensive Miele S7 -- they call it a "vacuum seeking a cat lady." Each of these Kenmore vacuums is offered in a unique color -- the 21714 is red, the 21514 is white and the 21614 is purple. All are bagged vacuums.
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. 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 25-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. The Eureka Mighty Mite has an added feature that makes it useful as a garage or workshop-dedicated cleaner: A blower reverses the airflow and can be used to blow away sawdust, leaves or other messes.
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 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 designed for odor elimination and that cost about $2 each. 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 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.
Again, if you're interested in Dyson vacuums, head on over to our discussion of the Dyson line up in our separate page on Dyson Canister Vacuums where we try to clear up some of the confusion over their most recent name change. We also tell you which Dyson vacuums are worth shelling out $300-plus and which are not.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Canister Vacuums: Whether you need a whole-house canister vacuum, a vacuum for pet hair, or one dedicated to hard floors, these are the top canister vacuum cleaners.
Dyson Canister Vacuums: Dyson revamped and renamed their entire line of vacuum cleaners in 2015. We explain the new line, the older models and suggest which ones are worth the cost.
Buying Guide: There are thousands of options when it comes to canister vacuum cleaners. Our buying guide will help you choose the perfect canister vacuum for your cleaning tasks.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user tests, comparisons and reviews we used to find the best canister vacuum cleaners. They are ranked in order of their credibility and usefulness.