You say you're in the market for a new vacuum cleaner that works like a charm but doesn't suck up your savings?
We'd bet the bevy of choices in stores --from lightweight stick vacuums that can cost as little as $30 to upright and canister models that can run as much as $900 -- is only confusing matters.
To clear things up, we've demystified the costs and results associated with the different vacuum types and the countless models on the market to help you find one that gets your floors clean -- and is wallet-friendly, too. Take Inventory of Your Cleaning Needs
Before you embark on a vacuum purchase, assess your floor-cleaning needs. Do you have carpets? Mostly bare floors? Area rugs? Do you need a vacuum that's good at pet-hair removal? Answering these questions first will help you determine what type of vacuum will best meet your lifestyle needs and work well on the floors in your home.
What about longevity? "You should expect to get about five or six years out of your vacuum," Carolyn Forte, director of home appliances and cleaning products for the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI), told WalletPop. (Be sure to check the time frame of the warranty since the period covered can range from one to five years.)
Forte says lower-priced vacuums -- the ones that run from about $60 to $130 -- tend to last fewer than five years. So if you want to up your chances that your vacuum will last a good part of the decade, plan to spend between $200 and $300, Forte recommends.
"The more you pay, the better design, better construction [you'll get]. A lot of plastic is used in the inexpensive models," she says, which make them susceptible to breakage.
Expert reviews and recommendations aside, you should give vacuums a test run by pushing them around in the store to help you decide which one feels best. Only you can determine if the weight and feel of a model suits your preferences.
Are Uprights Right For You?
Upright vacuums dominate the market, accounting for more than half of all vacuums sold in the U.S., according to market research firm NPD Group.
As a general rule, upright vacuums are multipurpose, as they work efficiently on bare floors, carpets and rugs. They're also considered superior to canister vacuums when it comes to getting dirt out of carpets.
Prices for uprights range from as little as $59 to as high as $900, Debra Mednick, executive director of client development for home at the NPD Group, told WalletPop.
Bagged vs. Bagless
These days, bagless upright vacuums are more common than bagged models. Yet there are pros and cons to each kind.
With bagless models, you don't have worry about buying and replacing vacuum cleaner bags, which range from about $4 to $6 for a pack of three bags.
On the flip side, bagless models can be messy. When you're removing the dirt canister to dump it into the trash, there's nothing to contain all the dust, dirt and debris. So you end up dispersing all the loose particles into the air, "which can be an irritant," Christine Frietchen, editor in chief of ConsumerSearch.com, a review aggregator that compares product ratings from expert and user reviews, told WalletPop.
If this is a concern for you, you might want to consider a bagged vacuum.
Recommended Affordable Uprights
Here are a few upright models that make both the quality and affordability cut, according to experts:
• GHRI recommends Eureka's Boss SmartVac Pet Lover, which costs about $160, for its "superb pickup from all floor types" and the fact that it doesn't tip over when you're using the hose.
Cons: It's heavy, and the motor is loud.
(The GHRI-ranked vacuums are also recommended for their ability to trap microscopic particles and keep irritants out of the air due to their HEPA --high efficiency particulate air-- filters.)
• For around $80, Hoover's Tempo Widepath vacuum got a top rating from ConsumerSearch.com. "In tests, it vacuums carpets, rugs and bare floors just as well as some $500 models," Frietchen says. And it weighs about 16 pounds, which is a lot less than other models. "The downside is that it has a short power chord," she adds.
• ShopSmart, Consumer Reports' shopping magazine, gave a high ranking to the Kenmore Intuition 31100, which runs about $240 and is available at Sears and Kmart only. The vacuum performed well on carpets and floors, picked up cat fur easily, and, according to a ShopSmart buying guide, "it's almost half the price of other top vacuums."
• For a big bargain -- just $50 -- Dirt Devil's Featherlite Bagless M085845 is "impressive" on carpets, "superb" on floors and pet hair, and easy to push around, according to ShopSmart. One drawback: It's super noisy.
The Case for Canisters
Canisters are known as the vacuums of record for bare floors. They're also adept at getting into small, tight spaces because of the telescoping wand that's attached to the canister with a flexible hose. The hose makes them better at cleaning curtains and drapes than other types.
They're also easier to maneuver, especially on stairs, and store because they're smaller and lighter, Frietchen says.
Canister vacuums can cost anywhere from $175 to as much as $1,000. Because they're less widely available, they're typically pricier than uprights.
Expert Recommended Canisters
Unlike uprights, it's hard to find well-rated canister models under $500, but there are a few.
• GHRI says the Kenmore Canister 2029219, for a mere $150 at Sears.com, works well removing embedded dirt while doing a good job on bare floors. The downside is, the vacuum "tends to shimmy" in all directions, according to the GHRI, making it somewhat difficult to maneuver.
• ConsumerSearch.com rated the Hoover Anniversary WindTunnel S3670 its best overall bagged canister vacuum. The vacuum, which runs about $299, does an admirable job cleaning bare floors, rugs and low-pile carpet, while a telescoping wand helps you reach curtains.
This model also includes features like a retracting cord, auto height adjustment and a full-bag indicator. However, the 24-pound vacuum is heavy and noisy, and there's room for improvement when it comes to maneuverability, ConsumerSearch.com says.
• The Kenmore Intuition 28014 got high reviews from both ShopSmart and GHRI. "It cleaned and filtered the best," Forte says. ShopSmart also said it does an impressive job on bare floors, pet hair and carpet. The downside is that it's pricey and heavy: $500 and a hefty 26 pounds.
These super-lightweight models are the least expensive vacuums on the market, ranging in price from as little as $20 up to about $140.
But it's important to note that they're not designed to be used as a primary vacuum unit nor do they have the suction power to clean carpets and rugs effectively, experts say. However, they do a pretty decent job on bare floors.
Think of it this way: Stick vacs do the job of a broom and dustpan, Mednick says. "They're lightweight, versatile, and can get into small areas," says Mednick. "Some are cordless [battery powered], and many of them come with a built-in handvac."
• Consumer Reports recommended the Bissell Versus 76T8 stick vac, which runs about $60. Consumer Reports says the model works extremely well on bare floors and is easy to maneuver, though it is noisy.
• For about $40, the Eureka Quick-Up Cordless 96F does a good job of picking up debris on bare floors and low-pile rugs, but it doesn't work well on carpet and has a short runtime, ConsumerSearch.com says.
• ConsumerSearch.com recommends the Hoover cordless stick vac BH50010. At a cost of about $140, it's one of the pricier ones on the market. However, it works well on hard floors and also on carpeting -- unusual for a stick vac -- because of its powered brush roll, while weighing in at just about 7 pounds. One drawback? The wide nozzle can be tough to use in small spaces.
If you're looking to get the most bang for your vacuum buck, these tips can help:
• Consider purchasing your vacuum at retailers that have liberal return policies, such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl's, Frietchen says. If the vacuum goes kaput and it's past its warranty period, chances are, these retailers will still let you return it, but remember to hold on to your receipt.
• Avoid getting swept away by high-tech or glamorous looking vacuums: You're paying extra for the design and cool factor, but not necessarily its superior performance. "Don't get hung up on what the vacuum looks like -- it's not going to sit on your kitchen countertop," Frietchen says. "The Dyson vacuum is a good example of that."
The Dyson, which ranges in price from about $400 to $600, masterfully set itself apart in the vacuum business by marketing its cyclonic technology as superior to those of other models. While the Dyson vacuum works well, some experts point to the Hoover WindTunnel + Cyclonic, for one, as a comparable model that does as good a job as the Dyson. And for about $200, it costs a lot less, too.
• Because vacuums are a highly promotional product category, retailers run sales almost weekly, so wait for one before you buy.
• Don't forget to use those coupons. Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, offers 20% off coupons on a regular basis, which can save you a bundle on a high-ticket purchase like a vacuum, Forte says.
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