Will you be using it indoors or out? If you need a hand vac to clean your car, a corded model may require an extension cord. A cordless hand vac isn't restricted by cord length or proximity to an electrical outlet.
How long is your typical cleaning task? If cleaning tasks generally take longer than a few minutes, a cordless hand vac could run out of power before you're finished.
Do you have pets? Pet hair is difficult to remove from upholstery and carpets. Hand vacs with extendable hoses, brushrolls and rubber extensions make pet hair pickup easier.
How frequently will you use your hand vac? Some cordless hand vacs take up to 24 hours to recharge. Removing a hand vac from its charger and using it mid-charge can damage the battery and reduce run times.
What are your storage options? Most cordless hand vacs are accompanied by charging docks, which must be located near an electrical outlet for recharging. If your storage area lacks outlets and you don't want a handheld vacuum hanging on your kitchen wall, opt for a corded model which can easily be stored out of sight.
Hand vacs aren't expensive gadgets, unless you opt for a $200 Dyson. There are some ongoing costs to consider, however. Some hand vacs have nonwashable filters that must be replaced every few months. In most cases, filters cost around $10 each, but this adds up for an appliance that only costs $40 to begin with. Warranties are another consideration, with most hand vacs offering only a one- to three-year warranty for manufacturer's defects. Batteries worn out due to inappropriate charging aren't usually covered under warranties, so follow the recharging instructions carefully.
Hand vacs are taking all different shapes and sizes these days, and mini-canister-style portable vacuums are gaining popularity among consumers. These portable vacuums are more useful for longer cleaning jobs, as the main unit can be placed on the floor to reduce hand strain associated with holding a 5- to 7-pound vacuum for 20 minutes. These portable vacs feature extendable hoses, allowing users to reach into even tighter spaces than possible with a standard hand vac.
Another trend is cordless hand vacuums relying on Li-ion batteries, which don't suffer from memory effects and can hold a charge even when not plugged in. The typical Ni-Cd batteries used by most handheld vacs tend to fade as the battery drains, creating a loss of suction. Li-ion batteries, on the other hand, maintain full strength until completely drained.