Upright vacuum cleaners run that gamut from basic to fancy
Upright vacuum cleaners are all quite similar in overall design, but the more you are willing to pay, the more features and versatility you'll get.
The most important feature to consider is a bagging versus a bagless design. Bagless upright vacuums mean you don't have to purchase replacement bags. The dirt and debris are deposited in a removable canister that you take out, dump, clean (if necessary) and replace. Bagging vacuum cleaners have a removable bag that you discard and replace when full.
Bagless vacuum cleaners are convenient and easy to use. The most obvious advantage of a bagless vacuum cleaner is that you don't have to buy replacement bags. However, bagless vacuums have a two-step process -- larger particles are deposited into the removable container, smaller particles go into the filter -- and the filters may need to be replaced. Some bagless vacuums are messy and awkward to dump. And, eventually, dirt and pet hair will accumulate in the nooks and crannies of the container so it will have to be cleaned -- a task most owners find unappealing. However, not having to dispose of the bag is more environmentally friendly as it eliminates an added layer of trash. One other advantage to bagless: If you accidentally vacuum up a small item, you don't have to tear open the bag and dig through the contents to find it; the canisters are mostly see-through.
Bagging upright vacuum cleaners get slightly better reviews for overall performance. Most bagging vacuums have bags that are constructed of filter media, adding an extra filtration step to the overall system. This means some bagging vacuums can boast of three-stage filtration. Many owners also prefer this no-muss, no-fuss approach to getting rid of their vacuuming debris, although some bags are trickier to put in place than others. Some bagging upright vacuum cleaners use self-sealing bags, which prevent any particles from escaping back into the air during the bag-disposal process.
The major downside to bagging upright vacuum cleaners is that bags must be purchased throughout the life of the vacuum cleaner. Bags typically range in price from $2 to $7 per bag, although generic bags are an option in some cases and bags can often be ordered in bulk for a lower per-bag cost.
Both bagging and bagless vacuum cleaners vary widely in price. Some inexpensive models run $50 or less, while the top-end models can price out at more than $1,000. As with almost anything, the more features and versatility, the more expensive the vacuum will be. We found very well-reviewed vacuum cleaners from a low of $100 to a high of $550. HEPA filtration, which removes 99.99 percent of particles down to 0.5 micron in size from the air, is a much-touted feature but doesn't seem to have much effect on price; upright vacuums with HEPA filtration land near both ends of the price spectrum.
ConsumerSearch editors evaluated dozens of upright vacuum cleaners, narrowing down the top picks by examining professional and expert reviews. We consider performance on different flooring surfaces, pet-hair removal, features and attachments, ease of use and lifestyle features to help you find the perfect upright vacuum cleaner for your cleaning needs.