Corded or cordless? Cordless vacuums eliminate the hassle of relocating and navigating around a power cord during use, but they have a limited run time. Corded vacuums tether you to a wall socket, but have unlimited cleaning time and get better reviews for long term durability.
How large is your cleaning area? If you want a stick vacuum as your main cleaning tool a corded stick vacuum may be your best choice as you can clean an entire home without the power running out. Alternatively, if a cordless stick vacuum has a replaceable battery, you can purchase a backup battery to continue cleaning after you've drained the first one. If you just want a stick vac for small, quick-to-clean messes, you can get by with a pretty basic model of either type.
Where will you store your stick vac? If you have limited storage options, consider a model with a fold-down handle for easy storage. Another consideration in choosing a cordless model -- does your storage area have an electrical outlet for charging the battery?
What type of flooring do you have? Stick vacuums are, generally, best on hard floors or low-pile carpeting. There are a few models that perform well on carpets because they have a roll brush that combs through carpet fibers for dirt and debris, but these tend to be pricier -- cheaper vacuums often have that feature but it usually doesn't perform as advertised.
Do you need to clean something other than floors? If you like to use a lightweight vacuum for cleaning nooks and crannies, baseboards, or other tight spaces, crevice tools and wand attachments can prove useful.
One theme we saw repeatedly when perusing stick vacuum reviews were low ratings from people who were disappointed that the vacuum would not clean their carpets very well. While some stick vacuums will dig in to clean medium-pile carpet and plush area rugs, no stick vacuum will deep clean shag or deep-pile carpeting -- not even a $300-plus model.
If this is the type of carpet you have in your home, stick to stick vacuums just for touchups or for your hard floors. For deep cleaning opt for an upright vacuum cleaner or canister vacuum cleaner, both of which we cover in separate reports. If you keep your expectations realistic -- that is, buying a cheap stick vacuum to help control dust and lighter messes on hard floors, a better stick vacuum for low-pile carpet and area rugs -- you're much more likely to be happy with your purchase.
Elsewhere in this report: