Cordless hand vacuums, which we cover elsewhere in this report, are a terrific choice for quick cleaning jobs, but they do have one big downside: short run times. That issue can be avoided with a corded hand vac like the Eureka Easy Clean 71B (Est. $40).
Reviewers agree that the Easy Clean excels when it comes to powerful suction and durable design -- several say they've owned and used this vacuum for more than five years. It also earns good scores in professional tests, landing near the top of the pack in one comparison test conducted by a well-respected consumer testing organization. The 71B receives an Excellent score for bare floor and edge-cleaning performance, a Very Good for pet hair and noise, but a slightly lower score, just Good, for its performance on carpeted surfaces. However, most portable vacuums do better on hard floors than on carpeting, so that's not surprising.
While the Easy Clean 71B offers the unlimited run time that only a corded vacuum can provide, a few reviewers quibble about having to unplug and plug back in the power cord when they want to clean multiple areas of their home. Most, however, say the Easy Clean's 20-foot cord is more than sufficient, and many others just use an extension cord.
Owners love the versatility of the Easy Clean 71B, saying it has excellent suction and is great for picking up pet hair thanks to its motorized brushroll. The brushroll can also be turned off for vacuuming smooth surfaces. Eureka's "Riser Visor" lifts from the brushroll to clean vertical surfaces and it includes a crevice tool for tight spaces.
For people who struggle with pet hair landing on anything and everything, the corded Bissell Pet Hair Eraser 33A1-B (Est. $25) is the perfect fit. It features a special rubber nozzle that Bissell says attracts hair, and reviewers say it really works. This Bissell has a 16-foot cord that some owners say is way too short, but there is always the extension cord option.
Most users agree that the Bissell has powerful suction and is built to last, earning high praise for durability. Some owners say they've owned it for years and had no issues even after regular and fairly rigorous use.
The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser has a HEPA filter, whereas the Eureka has a standard, reusable filter -- but neither is washable. The Eureka, which gets higher marks overall in professional tests, outperforms the Bissell in one roundup in all but carpet cleaning where the Bissell earns a very good rating and the Eureka comes in just a single step lower. Both are backed by a one-year warranty.
If your primary concern is removing pet hair from your furniture, the Bissell is a solid contender. However, if you're looking for a more versatile hand vac that works on carpet and stairs, the Eureka is a better buy and, thus, our best-reviewed pick.
However, if you're looking for a great car vacuum, look no further than the 12-volt Black & Decker PAV1200W (Est. $35). Automobiles are a big challenge for portable vacuums because they have many curved surfaces, crevices that are hard to get to, and because most vacuums (cordless ones, anyway) have a limited run time. If keeping your car tidy is your top priority, the PAV1200W is a great choice, say reviewers. It comes with a 16-foot power cord that users say is plenty long for all but the biggest vehicles and, because it plugs into your car's cigarette lighter/accessory power outlet and is powered by your car's battery, its run time is more than long enough to handle almost any vehicle clean-up task. It also gets great reviews for its powerful suction and the narrow, pivoting nozzle which helps it reach into even the tightest squeezes. The PAV1200W has a flexible hose and includes two dusting brushes.
This Black & Decker automotive car vac is reported as very easy to use and store; it folds up then the cord wraps around it, it also includes a storage bag. Many owners say they keep in in their car or RV for touchups when camping, tailgating or just to keep their kids' debris under control. The replaceable filter is dishwasher safe.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Handheld Vacuums: There's a portable, handheld vacuum for any cleaning need, from quickly sucking up spot messes to detailing your auto. These are the top handheld vacuums for any task.
Best Cordless Handheld Vacuums: A cordless portable vacuum is versatile and convenient to use, reaching into even the least-accessible nooks and crannies. We found a top choice for cleaning pet hair, too.
Buying Guide: There are thousands of options when it comes to handheld vacuum cleaners. Our buying guide will help direct you in choosing the portable vacuum you need for your cleaning tasks.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user tests, comparisons and reviews we used to determine the best handheld vacuum cleaners. They are ranked in order of their credibility and usefulness.