Average Customer Review:
Bagless vacuums are becoming increasingly popular as their technology improves. The big advantage is that they eliminate the hassle of buying and replacing bags, which is better both for the environment and your wallet. Today's bagless vacuums have improved filtration systems to trap allergens and dust, keeping those tiny particles from flying around the room or resettling on the room's furnishings. They're also easier and neater to empty than they used to be. However, if you prefer the additional filtration of a bagging vacuum, see our discussion of the best bagged vacuums elsewhere in this report. Don't like to vacuum? See our recommendations for robotic vacuums in its own report.
To say that Shark makes a lot of vacuums is like saying there are a lot of stars in the sky on a clear night: they make a LOT of vacuums. That includes vacuums that are manufactured for exclusive distribution through a specific retailers, including Target, Kohl's, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and probably a few others that we don't even know about. The fact is that most Shark vacuums are very similar, varying only by features and price.
Among all of those choices, the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 (Est. $150) consistently rises to the top as one of the Shark line's most affordable, versatile, easy to use vacuums. It's also not exclusive to any particular retailer, you can get it just about anywhere Shark vacuums are sold.
One of the best features of the Navigator NV352 is its versatility. It can be converted into a canister vacuum using the Shark's "Lift-Away" process to simply detach the main vacuum unit and power head from the upright's framework. That makes it easier to clean in tough spots like up a staircase or under beds. The NV552 has an 11.5-inch cleaning path. That's a bit narrow compared to some upright vacuum cleaners, and some say they wish it were wider. However, its extreme maneuverability and good array of included accessories make that a non-issue, most say. In fact, at Wirecutter, testers put that in a positive light, saying it makes the vacuum even more maneuverable between furniture and chair legs. Quite a few owners also comment that it's so easy to push that it doesn't feel like a chore to take the extra passes that its narrow width makes necessary. It weighs just 12.5 pounds, quite light compared to many other full-sized, upright vacuums.
As for accessories, the NV352 has a nice selection. Out of the box, the Shark Navigator includes a dusting brush, a 5.5-inch crevice tool and a 24-inch crevice tool -- great, users say, for edging along baseboards, ceilings and high shelves. The most popular attachment by far, though, is the pet power brush, which makes short work of pet hair on upholstery. If you need more accessories, there are quite a few that are available to buy separately. One caveat: because of the very wide range of Shark models, be sure you know what you're getting when you order. There is a puzzling variation in accessory packages even across models that seem to be the same and we saw many low reviews that praised the vacuum, but expressed disappointment that an accessory the buyer thought was included was not.
Allergy sufferers and pet owners are the biggest fans of the Shark Navigator. In addition to the pet power brush, it features a sealed, HEPA filter to trap allergens. Owners say they see very few emissions from this vacuum -- and it earns an Excellent in that category from Consumer Reports -- something they say helps keep their air cleaner. Many say they see a noticeable improvement in deeper cleaning of carpets than previous vacuums they have owned.
Another vacuum that's worth a look in this category is the Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless UH70120 (Est. $130). It costs a bit less than the Shark -- quite a bit less when the Shark's not on sale, or when the Hoover is -- and also does well in testing. At Consumer Reports it's one of the highest-rated bagless vacuums, earning both a Recommended nod and a Best Buy designation, with Excellent scores for bare floors, tool airflow, emissions and pet hair. It gets a Very Good for carpet cleaning.
Owners mostly agree with the experts, although more of them say that the Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless UH70120 is better on carpets than hardwood floors, primarily because it lacks a brushroll shutoff, which can result in debris being spewed around the floor as it hits the roller.
This Hoover has been around for a while, and features a five-position carpet height adjustment that's increasingly being phased out by modern vacuums in favor of automatic adjustments. Still, many people like having that control and say it allows them both the option of deep cleaning, and raising up the cleaning head for more "chunky" surface debris. The Hoover WindTunnel includes a crevice tool, powered hand tool, extension wand and combination upholstery tool/dusting brush -- a very good number of versatile attachments compared to even high-end bagless upright vacuum cleaners.
The cord on the WindTunnel is 27-feet long, but it's also retractable, a feature that's popular with owners, although some say the retraction mechanism stops functioning after just a few uses. The dirt cup is reported to be on the small side, owners say, and pet fur tends to accumulate and get stuck in the bottom of the cup, requiring manual cleaning or using your fingers to remove the packed-in fur.
If you primarily have bare floors in your home, you may want to take a look at the Dyson Ball Animal 2 (Est. $375). This model features an interesting technology that creates a seal on any type of floor resulting in superior pickup, especially on hardwood floors. In fact, it earns an Excellent in that category from Consumer Reports, as well as for pet hair, and a Very Good for carpet -- it's the second highest-rated upright vacuum in that roundup. The Animal 2 also earns the top spot and a Gold Award after testing at Top Ten Reviews. There, editors are impressed with how well it handles chunky cereal and kitty litter -- which many other vacuums just fling around.
There are other features that make this a particular hit with those who have pets, including a turbine tool that attaches to the hose and can be used to remove pet hair from upholstery. Also popular is the instant-release wand, which is integrated into the handle but detaches to clean under furniture or to remove cobwebs high on the walls. However, a few say it's awkward to use. The Animal 2 comes with a five-year warranty and Dyson gets excellent feedback for its customer service.
If your vacuuming needs are pretty basic, you can't go wrong with the Bissell 9595A One Pass (Est. $80). At 15 pounds, it's fairly lightweight, with a generous, 13.5 inch cleaning path to reduce the number of passes you have to make. While Bissell's claim that this "one pass" technology is all you need for complete cleaning is probably hyperbole, for light cleaning it will probably speed things up.
The Bissell 9595A is the top pick at Reviewed in their roundup of the best affordable vacuum cleaners of 2018. There, Jonathan Chan notes that it's "a great generalist." That means that if you don't have super deep pile carpets or unique challenges like a lot of pet hair or really messy kids, the 9595A will perform just fine. Although, it does get an Excellent rating on pet hair from Consumer Reports, as well as a Very Good for bare floors. Carpet cleaning is ranked as Good.
Owners generally like the Bissell 9595A and it gets above-average in tens of thousands of reviews. It's particularly popular with those who live in apartments and don't have a lot of ground to cover, or a lot of people or pets to clean up after. Accessories include a turbo brush tool, crevice tool and dusting brush. The cord is a bit short, at 25 feet, but, again, if you're dealing with a fairly small square footage, that probably won't be an issue. The one complaint we saw is that the hose is short and stiff. The manufacturer says it's a 6-foot hose (we double checked that with them), but a number of reviewers beg to differ, saying it "seems" shorter. Still, that seems to be an issue only with those who want to extend the hose to clean above their heads, not with most people who just want to vacuum the floor.