The best canister vacuum has

  • An allergen filter. Even non-allergy-sufferers benefit from cleaner air, and allergen filters remove particles and dust smaller in size than other filters are capable of capturing.
  • A long power cord. Upright vacuum cleaners with short power cords mean users must frequently relocate the plug, which can be inconvenient. Most upright vacuum cleaners have cords at least 25 feet long, while some models boast 39-foot cords.
  • Extension wands. Extension wands are useful for cleaning baseboards without stooping, dusting ceiling fans, and removing ceiling/wall cobwebs.
  • High amperage. Upright vacuums rely on amps for suction strength. Most upright vacuum cleaners are powered by about 10 amps, but some have as little as 5.5 and others as many as 12.
  • Low weight. An upright vacuum cleaner that weighs nearly 30 pounds is tough to carry, especially when cleaning stairs. Upright vacuum cleaners vary widely in weight, with some weighing as low as 11.5 pounds while others weigh 22 pounds or more.
  • An ample warranty. When it comes to vacuum cleaners, defective units and malfunctions plague every single model, albeit some more so than others. Look for a warranty of at least one year. Most models offer at least two years, and some go up to 10 years under certain circumstances.

Know before you go

Are there allergy sufferers in your home? HEPA filtration removes the most allergens from the air and can remove smaller particles than other types of filters. Bagged models with sealed filtration systems and sealing dust bags are also useful for allergy sufferers, preventing the escape of any captured dust and debris back into the air.

Do you have stairs? If you'll be cleaning stairs regularly, look for an upright vacuum that's lightweight or converts to a canister vacuum, so you're not lugging a 22-pound machine up the stairs with you. Also, some upright vacuum cleaners have special tools designed to make stair-cleaning simpler.

Will you be cleaning pet hair? Pet hair is one of the vacuum industry's biggest challenges. A few upright vacuum cleaners have attachments designed specifically to clean up after your fuzzy friends, such as a rubberized upholstery tool with knobs that grab pet hair from fabric.

What types of surfaces will you be vacuuming? Not all upright vacuum cleaners are created equal when it comes to carpet-cleaning performance, and some have more issues with bare floors than carpets. You want a vacuum with a brushroll shut-off option if you have hard floors, for instance, and a manual pile-height adjustment is useful for precise control if you have different carpet heights throughout your home.

Are you nimble and flexible? Some manual pile-height adjustments and other controls require bending over and a few minutes of effort to operate. If you suffer from arthritis or mobility issues, look for an upright vacuum cleaner with easy-to-use controls conveniently located on the handle for easy access.

Buying tactics and strategies

  • Look for special deals. Upright vacuum cleaners can be quite expensive, and even some of the highest-priced models don't come standard with a HEPA filter. Some retailers, however, offer special deals including a free HEPA filter with your purchase. If you're considering one of these models, shop around to find the best package deal.
  • Pay attention to model numbers. Many manufacturers sell similar vacuums under different, but similar, model numbers. The difference is in the attachment package. It can take some looking around to figure out which model numbers are sold where and include what attachments, but it's worth your time to get the most bang for your buck.
  • Negotiate add-ons. Just because an upright vacuum cleaner doesn't come with the attachments you were looking for doesn't mean you can't get them. Negotiate with the retailer and show comparative deals from other stores. Ask them to match the deal by including a few more accessories with your purchase.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

Whether you opt for a bagged or bagless upright vacuum cleaner, there might be filters or dust bags to purchase. If you vacuum daily, this ongoing expense can add up. There are a few generic vacuum cleaner bag manufacturers offering bags to fit many available models for a lower price. Be careful, however, because these cheaper bags may be made from cheaper materials. If your standard bags have filtration capabilities, opting for generics means you're giving up some of that cleaner air. Buying in bulk online is another option that results in a lower per-bag cost.

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