Upright vacuum cleaners are best for carpet, reviewers say, although most upright vacs can also clean bare floors. However, if you have bare floors with just a few rugs, a canister vacuum is a better choice. Canister vacuums are generally heavier and more expensive than uprights, but they are much easier to use on stairs and work better on bare floors, drapes and upholstery. See our separate report on canister vacuums for more information. If you want an upright vacuum and only need to clean bare floors, you could also consider a lightweight stick vacuum, covered in our separate report. Handheld vacuums are also reviewed separately.
Overall, ConsumerReports.org performs the best vacuum cleaner testing, and the ConsumerReports.org website has a continuously updated list and analysis of the vacuum cleaners it has tested. As of April 2012, 82 upright vacuums are rated for cleaning ability on carpet and bare floors and performance with tools, as well as noise, emissions and ease of use. ConsumerReports.org editors also test how well vacuums can pick up pet hair on carpet.
Which?, the U.K. contemporary of ConsumerReports.org, also tests upright vacuums. Although not all tested vacs are available in the U.S., editors cover several Miele, Sebo and Dyson vacuums that are, with lots of details about their performance and ease of use. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute also conducts very thorough tests of vacuum cleaners, though it does not directly compare individual models. These three sources are easily the most comprehensive reviewers of vacuum cleaners.
Along the same lines, Australia's Choice magazine tests and compares vacuum cleaners in three separate price categories. Most of the vacuum cleaners reviewed aren't available in the U.S., but it's worth a look to see whether the model you're considering is included in the latest round of reports. (Australian model numbers may be different, so it's best to compare photos and specs when looking for the model you're interested in.)
Popular Mechanics editors compare just three popular upright vacs (two Dyson vacuums and one Eureka upright model) against each other in thorough head-to-head testing, including carpet and hard floor suction tests, hose functionality and ease of use under short tables. No formal ratings are provided, but analysis is detailed and editors offer a bottom-line explanation, disclosing which models perform best. We also found a couple of less formal reviews from sources such as Wired and The Wall Street Journal.
Owner reviews posted to retail sites (including Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Sears.com, Kohls.com and BestBuy.com) and product-review sites (such as Viewpoints.com and Epinions.com) are very useful when it comes to upright vacuums. Many vacuums at Amazon.com have received hundreds of owner-written ratings, giving us a good picture of long-term reliability and ease of use. We also found some useful information on retailer websites like AllergyBuyersClub.com. However, this site covers only the models it sells, and testing methods aren't clearly defined.
We found an interesting split in the reviews for upright vacuums: The most highly recommended models are either high-end ($400 and up) or budget models ($125 or less). Among bagless models, expensive Dyson vacuums dominated the ratings, with one budget-priced Hoover coming in a strong runner up. Among bagging vacuums, by contrast, an inexpensive Hoover was the clear standout, with more recommendations than high-end Miele and Sebo uprights. Only one mid-range vacuum, the Hoover Platinum Bagged Upright with Canister UH30010COM (*Est. $230), was a strong contender.