Updated November 2013
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Cordless is convenient for quick jobs

Stick vacuums are lightweight, smaller versions of traditional upright vacuums. If you have a house full of wall-to-wall carpet, a stick vac can't replace a full-size vacuum cleaner or canister vacuum. Stick vacuums are useful for vacuuming hard floors and low-pile carpeting, such as area rugs. They're more convenient than a broom and dustpan because you don't have to bend over during use; they also capture debris in a dirt cup which makes disposal simple. Stick vacuums are also better suited than upright vacuums for sweeping under furniture and on stairs; plus, because of their light weight they're easier to lift and carry. Some stick vacs come with a swivel head which makes cleaning around corners an easy task. Included attachments can also help with cleaning hard-to-reach areas.

Stick vacs are available in corded and cordless models. Cordless stick vacuums are better suited for quick cleaning tasks because they can only run for about 30 minutes per charge, and recharging takes several hours. Cordless models either run on standard or Lithium-ion batteries. Models with Lithium-ion batteries are more expensive -- between $100 and $400 -- while standard battery-powered stick vacs typically run between $80 and $200.

Lithium-ion batteries don't fade as the battery drains, so these stick vacs run at full strength without losing suction power until the battery is completely drained. Those running on standard batteries, on the other hand, may lose suction power as the battery becomes low; these stick vacs also suffer from something called "memory effect," which results from recharging the battery repeatedly before it's completely drained. That means these batteries must be replaced more frequently, contributing to the overall cost of ownership.

How much power do you need?

A high-powered vacuum is essential for cleaning larger rooms and corded vacuums tend to be more powerful -- the trade-off is you may have to relocate the plug several times when moving from room to room. Most corded stick vacs have cords between 15 and 20 feet. Corded stick vacuums are also typically more affordable than cordless models. You can buy a corded stick vacuum for as little as $25.

When it comes to carpet cleaning, stick vacs with a rotating brush are the most effective, but not all have them. Because stick vacs are bagless and use a dust-collection cup for debris, cost of ownership is low. Some stick vacuums come with an integrated, detachable handheld vacuum. These 2-in-1 models share a single dirt collection container and are as compact and lightweight as stick vacuums that don't convert. If you need to clean both floors and other surfaces, these can be a cost-effective solution.

To identify the best stick vacs, we evaluate professional reviews, such as ConsumerReports.org, as well as detailed product recommendations from publications like 10Rate.com and The Huffington Post. We found most feedback from consumers themselves, however, reviewing thousands of owner-written reviews across sites such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, BestBuy.com and Viewpoints.com. Home-improvement retailers, such as Sears.com and Lowes.com, also have a considerable number of owner-written reviews for dozens of stick vacuums.

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