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The Best Cheap Vacuums of 2016

March 1, 2016
Product Comparisons, Shopping
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Based on 7,882 analyzed reviews

NerdWallet Shopping’s scoring of the best affordable vacuums are based on our analysis of the opinions of experts and shoppers like you.

Picking an inexpensive vacuum isn’t easy. We researched some of the most popular models on the market to make your decision less confusing. To narrow down the field, we looked at expert opinions from review sites such as The Sweethome, CNET and Good Housekeeping. Next, we analyzed user reviews to see what shoppers were saying about the various attributes of each vacuum.

We recognize that consumers look for different qualities in vacuums, so we scored users’ observations on multiple features of top models, including their performance on carpet and hard surfaces.

Our analysis

Our scores range from a low of 1 to a high of 10. Here’s how we devised them:

Overall score: The overall score reflects reviewers’ satisfaction with each vacuum in 10 categories, including how well it cleans across various surfaces, ease of use, durability and noise.

How well it cleans: This score reflects reviewers’ satisfaction with the vacuum’s performance on carpet and hard floors, including hardwood, bare, tile and vinyl. It also considers their satisfaction with the vacuum’s ability to clean up pet hair and debris.

Ease of use: This score reflects reviewers’ satisfaction with the vacuum’s ability to maneuver, including its weight and cord length; the process of emptying or cleaning it out; and whether it was considered easy to operate.

These vacuums are our top picks, ranked in order of overall score.

The best vacuums under $100

1. Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 Cordless

Cordless and quiet, the Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 stick vac ($98) impressed reviewers with its powerful suction of dirt, dust, debris and stubborn pet hair off of both hard flooring and carpet.


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Shark Navigator FreestyleSV1106

  • Overall score: 8.66
  • How well it cleans: 9.3
  • Ease of use: 9.2

Buyers Like

  • Equally good on hard flooring and carpet
  • Excellent on pet hair
  • Powerful suction

Buyers Dislike

  • Ran through a charge quickly
  • Not very durable

2. Dirt Devil BD20035Red Cordless

The lightweight, bagless, cordless Dirt Devil BD20035Red ($64.78) stick vacuum works like a dream on hard flooring and stairs, and when you’re done, the dust cup is mess-free and easy to empty.


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Dirt Devil BD20035Red

  • Overall score: 8.64
  • How well it cleans: 9.2
  • Ease of use: 9.2

Buyers Like

  • Excellent on stairs
  • Neat and easy cleanup

Buyers Dislike

  • Difficult to maneuver into tight spots
  • Relatively noisy

3. Eureka AS3030A

The powerful Eureka AS3030A ($99.99) upright features adjustable height settings and AirSpeed technology that reviewers praised for its ability to clean ceramic, wood and tile flooring.


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Eureka AS3030A

  • Overall score: 8.62
  • How well it cleans: 8.9
  • Ease of use: 8.0

Buyers Like

  • Excellent job on hard flooring
  • Neat and easy-to-empty dust cup

Buyers Dislike

  • Not great on stairs
  • Not very durable
  • Less-than-stellar customer service

4. Bissell Zing 6489

The Bissell Zing 6489 ($49.99) is a lightweight, bagless canister vac with suction you can adjust depending on the job. It cleans low-pile carpeting, upholstery, bare floors and stairs effectively.


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Bissell Zing 6489

  • Overall score: 8.56
  • How well it cleans: 8.6
  • Ease of use: 8.8

Buyers Like

  • Excellent on hard flooring and stairs
  • Great on pet hair

Buyers Dislike

  • Noisy motor
  • Insufficient cord length

5. Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G

With its lightweight design, blower port, auto shut-off, triple filtration bag system and variety of attachments, the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G ($65.97) canister vacuum is perfect for users who value portability.


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Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G

  • Overall score: 8.53
  • How well it cleans: 7.6
  • Ease of use: 9.1

Buyers Like

  • Light weight makes cleaning stairs easy
  • Durable
  • Does well on hard flooring

Buyers Dislike

  • Did not perform well on carpets and rugs
  • Power cord is too short and inconvenient
  • Loud motor

Read our full Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G review

6. Bissell CleanView Onepass 9595a

Weighing in at just 15 pounds, reviewers loved the upright Bissell CleanView Onepass 9595a’s ($79) performance on carpeting and upholstery, and especially lauded the job its turbo brush tool did on stairs.


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Bissell CleanView Onepass 9595a

  • Overall score: 8.49
  • How well it cleans: 8.9
  • Ease of use: 8.2

Read our full Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G review

7. Bissell Lift-off Pet 53Y81 Cordless

One of NerdWallet’s best stick vacuums, the lightweight Bissell Lift-off Pet 53Y81 ($53.25) is quiet and easy to use for smaller jobs around the house.


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Bissell Lift-off pet 53Y81

  • Overall score: 8.43
  • How well it cleans: 8.5
  • Ease of use: 9.1

Buyers Like

  • Lightweight and maneuverable
  • Excellent customer service
  • Quiet motor

Buyers Dislike

  • Ineffective on pet hair and litter
  • Clogged easily

8. Hoover WindTunnel UH70120

The lightweight upright Hoover WindTunnel UH70120 ($99) has a five-position adjustable height feature, WindTunnel Technology for consistent suction, a 27-foot retractable power cord, an extension wand, crevice tool, and powered hand tool to get into those hard-to-reach areas.


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Hoover WindTunnel UH70120

  • Overall score: 7.83
  • How well it cleans: 8.5
  • Ease of use: 7.9

Buyers Like

  • Deep cleans carpet
  • Fantastic for pet hair pickup

Buyers Dislike

  • Poor performance on hard flooring
  • Not very durable
  • Less than helpful customer service

Read our full Hoover WindTunnel review

The best vacuums under $200

If you can spend up to $200 on a vacuum, consider these models as well:

1. Oreck Commercial XL2100RHS

The powerful upright Oreck Commercial XL2100RHS ($176.70) features a low-profile head that slides under furniture with ease, powerful suction, and a MicroSweep brush that digs in deep to make dirt disappear.


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Oreck Commercial XL2100RHS

  • Overall score: 9.15
  • How well it cleans: 9.5
  • Ease of use: 9.3

Buyers Like

  • Great job on both hard flooring and stairs
  • Easy to maneuver
  • Hands-free transition between surfaces

Buyers Dislike

  • Motor is a bit noisy
  • Lengthy power cord adds weight

2. Hoover WindTunnel Air UH72400

The lightweight upright Hoover WindTunnel Air UH72400 ($128) is the perfect choice for apartment dwellers with wood, tile or linoleum floors.


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Hoover WindTunnel Air UH72400

  • Overall score: 9.10
  • How well it cleans: 9.1
  • Ease of use: 8.9

Buyers Like

  • Impressive performance on hard flooring
  • Lightweight and easy to maneuver

Buyers Dislike

  • Difficult to use on stairs
  • Not very durable
  • Subpar customer service

3. Electrolux Ultrasilencer El6986a

The most expensive vacuum ($183.83) on our list — the cheery purple Electrolux Ultrasilencer E16986a canister vac — is quiet, lightweight and easy to clean.


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Electrolux UltrasilencerEl6986a

  • Overall score: 8.76
  • How well it cleans: 7.7
  • Ease of use: 9.3

Buyers Like

  • Neat and easy to clean
  • Quiet motor

Buyers Dislike

  • Not great on carpets and rugs
  • Less-than-helpful customer service

4. Hoover WindTunnel Pet UH70935

Because of its air-powered, rubber-bladed pet hand tool, and pet upholstery brush, the powerful upright Hoover WindTunnel Pet UH70935 ($129.99) scored a spot on our top vacuums for pet owners. It also features a 10-foot hose and extension wand to help clean those hard-to-reach spots.


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Hoover WindTunnel Pet UH70935

  • Overall score: 8.74
  • How well it cleans: 9.7
  • Ease of use: 7.7

Buyers Like

  • Extremely effective pet hair removal
  • Great on stairs

Buyers Dislike

  • Heavy weight makes it difficult to maneuver

5. Shark NV356

The upright Shark NV356’s ($159.99) Turbo Brush attachment works wonders on pet hair while the powerful suction effectively cleans hard floors and carpeting.


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Shark NV356

  • Overall score: 8.63
  • How well it cleans: 9.5
  • Ease of use: 8.7

Buyers Like

  • Turbo brush eliminates pet fur
  • Great on carpet and rugs
  • Light weight

Buyers Dislike

  • Awkward to maneuver into tight spots
  • Cleanup is messy
  • Customer service is lacking

6. Shark NV22L

The Shark NV22L ($147.99) is a lightweight upright that cleans carpet, hardwood and stairs with ease, but also comes with a pet hair tool, an easy-clean dust cup, and a detachable hose for getting at those hard-to-reach spots.


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Shark NV22L

  • Overall score: 8.58
  • How well it cleans: 8.8
  • Ease of use: 9

Buyers Like

  • Excellent on carpeting and stairs
  • Compact and light
  • Pet hair tool

Buyers Dislike

  • Relatively noisy
  • Customer service is lacking

The best cheap vacuums buying guide

Whether your home is covered in lush carpeting or wide wooden planks from long ago, picking the most effective vacuum for your particular needs can be a tricky proposition — especially if you want to spend less than $100. Here are some categories you should consider as you shop:

Surface
Although the Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 Cordless tested well on both hard flooring and carpet, most do better on one or the other. So if your house is mostly carpeted, you might want to consider an upright, like the Bissell CleanView Onepass 9595a. But if it’s all hardwood, the Bissell Zing 6489 canister vac might be the machine for you.

Special uses
If your living space has ornate mouldings or lots of nooks and crannies, you might want to prioritize a model with a detachable hose, like the Hoover WindTunnel UH70120, which can easily get into small spaces. Pet owners are going to want a vac that also does a good job on fur, like the Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 Cordless.

Weight
You can buy the best vacuum ever made, but if you can’t lift it comfortably, it’s not going to do you much good. Uprights tend to be heavier and bulkier, so if you’re going to be carrying it up and down the stairs, you may want to opt for a stick vac, like the Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 Cordless. If you do go with a cordless, its battery-life is short, so weigh the pros and cons as you weigh the vacuum.

Noise
Infants, close neighbors and skittish pets are valid reasons to factor the volume of the vacuum into your decision. The Dirt Devil BD20035Red got high marks for its prowess on stairs, but users were less impressed by its noisy motor.

Corded or cordless
The benefit of a corded vacuum is you don’t have to worry about recharging it. But the downside is that your cleaning area is limited to spots with outlets, which can be inconvenient.

People who live in small homes or generally clean in short bursts may be able to get the job done with one 20-minute charge, so a cordless might make sense for them. But if you live in a larger home and prefer to get all your cleaning done in one fell swoop, a corded upright model may be better for you. The length of the cord can also be a deal breaker for some, so if that’s important, check it before you buy.

Cleaning
Nobody wants to make a big mess after they’ve finished cleaning, so it’s important to factor in ease of cleaning the machine when you’re making your decision. Dumpable dust cups can save you money on bags, but they’re sometimes more mess than they’re worth.


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Top image via iStock.

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