Do you plan to clean hard floors, too? If so, you may need to purchase an additional hard-floor attachment for your carpet cleaner. Or, see our report on steam mops.
Which convenience features are most important to you? You can get by without an internal water heater, indicator lights and automatic shutoff when the recovery tank is full, but all of these features make your carpet cleaning experience easier. Put some thought into which you're willing to pay for, as they may raise the cost substantially.
Are you okay with commercial cleaning solutions? The commercial cleaning solutions most manufacturers recommend can be pricey. Costs vary, but most start at about $20 for a 64-ounce bottle. Some owners dodge the cost and concerns about chemicals by using homemade cleaning solutions, but this may void the manufacturer's warranty; check the fine print.
How close are you to a service center? If you need warranty service on your carpet cleaner, some companies require that you take it to the nearest service center, then leave it for repairs. Some frustrated owners report having to repeat a round trip of up to 100 miles to collect their repaired appliance.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Carpet Cleaners: Which upright carpet cleaner is the best? Editors evaluate several models from Rug Doctor, Hoover and Bissell. The Hoover comes out on top.
Best Spot Cleaners: What's the best spot carpet cleaner? Editors compare the lightest, most portable carpet cleaners that still do a good job of getting stains out.
Best Rental Carpet Cleaners: Based on carpet cleaner reviews, we recommend the best rental carpet and spot cleaners like the Rug Doctor.
Our Sources: Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top carpet cleaners, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.