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The Best Upright and Canister Vacuums

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Buying a plug-in vacuum is like saving for retirement or sorting your laundry—a boring but sensible endeavor that should pay off in the long run. Cordless sticks and robot vacuums are convenient, but the best plug-in uprights and canisters clean better and last longer. We’ve tested dozens of plug-in vacuums over the years, and the Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 has been our favorite since 2014.

How we tested
Cleaning power
We vacuumed a mix of sand and baking powder from medium and high pile rugs and used a scale to measure how much we picked up.

How it handles
We created a slalom course mimicking the tight layout of a small apartment, then had 22 people run each vacuum through it.

Ease of maintenance
To see how prone each vacuum was to clogs, we tried stopping it up with shredded paper, Cheerios, Lego pieces, and toy dinosaurs.

Noise levels
We used the SPLnFFT app to measure both the volume and frequency of noise from each vacuum when used on different surfaces.

Read more
Our pick

Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352
Well-rounded upright vacuum, great value
This reliable, effective, easy-to-use, and reasonably priced bagless upright vacuum cleaner will work well in most homes, and it’s been our pick for seven years running.

$180 from Amazon
$180 from Wayfair
$180 from Best Buy
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352 needs very little maintenance and has essentially no recurring costs. That’s because its parts are made to last the lifetime of the machine, whereas most affordable vacuums need fresh filters and belts to keep running well. If something does break, Shark’s customer service is generally good about honoring the five-year warranty. It’s rare to see such an affordable vacuum backed by a policy that basically guarantees this kind of longevity. In our testing, we found the NV352 to be a capable, well-rounded cleaner that can pick up all the typical types of debris (dust, crumbs, pet hair, and more) from almost any kind of flooring (including bare floors, and short and long carpets). Handling is smooth and light, the extra tools are useful and conveniently store onboard the vacuum, it’s easy to empty, and owners tend to love this vacuum.

Runner-up

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360
Almost identical to our pick for best upright vacuum
If the NV352 is sold out, any model from the NV350, NV360, and NV370 series is essentially the same thing, with very minor differences.

$170 from Amazon
$189 from Walmart
May be out of stock

Any other models in the Shark NV350, NV360, or NV370 series are essentially the same vacuums as the NV352. Performance is nearly identical, and the only differences are minor—their tool sets, bin sizes, colors, and button placements. So if our main pick is sold out, grab one of these. We’ve found that the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe V360 is currently the easiest to nab for a good deal, so start there.

Upgrade pick

Miele Complete C3 Calima
A top-notch canister vacuum, built to last
Praised by nearly everyone as excellent, this nimble canister vacuum works on any kind of flooring, runs quiet, and should last for decades. This model is great for those with asthma and allergies, but it requires bags.

$799 from Amazon
$799 from Walmart
$799 from Abt
If you’re willing to upgrade to a vacuum that can clean the heck out of your home and last for decades, buy a Miele C3 canister vacuum cleaner. Every industry expert we’ve spoken with (even one from a competing brand!) has told us that these are excellent vacuum cleaners, and a few technicians have said they’re simply the best you can buy. The cleaning performance is impressive, and the vacuums feel great to use. The filtration is excellent, which is good for everyone, but especially great for people with asthma or allergies. Miele canisters are also among the quietest vacuums anywhere. That being said, this canister vacuum isn’t cheap, and you’ll also pay for new filters and bags pretty regularly (around $20 per year, if you buy online). But a Miele canister can last so long—20 years, in some cases—that it works out to be an excellent long-term value.

We tested many different Miele canister vacuums, each suited to different types of flooring. Check out our chart to see which one fits your needs the best. But we wanted to point out the Complete C3 Calima in particular; we found in our tests that the air-powered turbo brush head it comes with works better on rugs than the electrified head included with some other Miele models. The C3 Calima is the most affordable model with a turbo brush head in the Miele lineup, and like other Miele vacs, it has a crush-proof hose and a totally sealed body, for better dust control and quieter operation.

Everything we recommend
Our pick

Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352
Well-rounded upright vacuum, great value
This reliable, effective, easy-to-use, and reasonably priced bagless upright vacuum cleaner will work well in most homes, and it’s been our pick for seven years running.

Buying Options
$180 from Amazon
$180 from Wayfair
$180 from Best Buy
Runner-up

Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360
Almost identical to our pick for best upright vacuum
If the NV352 is sold out, any model from the NV350, NV360, and NV370 series is essentially the same thing, with very minor differences.

Buying Options
$170 from Amazon
$189 from Walmart
May be out of stock

Upgrade pick

Miele Complete C3 Calima
A top-notch canister vacuum, built to last
Praised by nearly everyone as excellent, this nimble canister vacuum works on any kind of flooring, runs quiet, and should last for decades. This model is great for those with asthma and allergies, but it requires bags.

Buying Options
$799 from Amazon
$799 from Walmart
$799 from Abt
Looking for something else?

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What’s the Best Vacuum for Pet Hair?
The Best Vacuum Cleaners
The Best Vacuum Cleaners
What’s the Best Vacuum for Hardwood Floors?
What’s the Best Vacuum for Hardwood Floors?
Why We Love the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum
Why We Love the Shark Navigator Lift-Away Vacuum
Read more from Appliances

The research
Why you should trust us
Who should get an upright or canister vacuum
Bagged or bagless? Canister or upright vacuum?
How we picked upright and canister vacuum cleaners
How we tested upright and canister vacuum cleaners
Our pick for the best upright vacuum: Shark Navigator Lift-Away NV352
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Long-term test notes
Runner-up: Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 (or any Shark Navigator, actually)
Upgrade pick: Miele Complete C3 Calima (or any Miele canister vacuum cleaner)
Do you need a special vacuum for pets?
Do you need a vacuum with HEPA filters?
What about Dyson upright vacuum cleaners?
What about a cheaper vacuum?
Other good vacuums
How to clean your vacuum
What to look forward to
Why you should trust us
We’ve been reporting on and testing vacuum cleaners at Wirecutter since 2011, and we cover everything from robots and handhelds to cordless vacs and plug-ins. We’ve collectively looked at over 1,000 different vacuum models; spent hundreds of hours testing more than 80 contenders, in houses and apartments with different floor layouts; interviewed more than a dozen experts, including engineers, repair technicians, and indoor-air-quality specialists; and talked to regular vacuum owners around the country.

Sarah Bogdan has been on the vacuum beat since 2017, first for the Good Housekeeping Institute and now for Wirecutter. Liam McCabe has covered vacuums for Wirecutter since 2013, and he once had 20 different vacuums in his apartment at the same time.

Although we do our own testing, we also think it’s important to hear what other people have to say about vacuum cleaners. For research, we:

Interviewed owners and repair technicians at independent vacuum stores, including Denis Spindler, owner of Mr. Sweeper Sew & Vac in Waltham and West Roxbury, Massachusetts