How to Buy a Vacuum Cleaner

Consumers are offered a wide variety of choices in styles and features of new vacuum cleaners. Most brands and models are solidly build and will last several years without maintenance problems. The choice in models comes down to your specific needs and tastes.

Major attributes to consider include:

  1. Type - Make sure you consider what types of surfaces you’ll be cleaning. Your choice of the type of vacuum cleaner will depend on it.
  2. Comfort - Make sure you test drive the vacuum to see how well it handles, and how heavy it is. Is the handle comfortable?
  3. Filtration - If you suffer from allergies, consider a unit with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particular Air) filter.
  4. Attachments - Make sure it has the attachments you need, but don’t pay for those you don’t. For example you don’t need the drapery cleaner if you don’t have curtains.
  5. Noise - Some people place a great deal of importance on noise considerations. To respond to this, some models have insulated materials around the motors.
Shown above (left to right), Dyson Upright, Kenmore Canister,
Hoover Stick, Hoover Handheld


  • Upright versus Canister - Uprights are ideal for cleaning just carpets. Canister are more versatile, but may be more difficult to move around.
  • Stick/Broom Vacuum - Stick vacuums look like stream-lined uprights. They usually have less power than uprights and canisters and are ideal for people in small apartments.
  • Handhelds - Handhelds are very small vacuums (usually battery operated) for use in cleaning up specific spots that may be difficult to reach with other vacuums.

Other attributes to consider are listed below.


  • Motor Power (amps) - Measures the amount of current used by the motor. Higher amps doesn’t necessarily mean more cleaning power. Airflow is a truer test of effectiveness.
  • Air Flow - Usually measured in cfm (cubic feet per minute)
  • Filtration System - The level of filtration varies from none (use a bag to collect dust) to sophisticated (filter out pollen and particles less than 100? microns). Units with filtration systems generally cost more, but can be effective in reducing allergen in the home. HEPA filters claim to capture 99.97% of all particles.
  • Dust Collector - Can be a bag (thick paper) or bagless with a plastic container. Both systems work well.
  • Construction - Can be plastic or metal. Metal vacuum cleaner are usually more durable.
  • Cord length - Make sure that the cord is long enough for you to effectively clean one area of you home without having to change outlets.
  • Brush Agitator (roller brush) - The roller with bristles under the machine that spins when the machine is on. It increased the cleaning effectiveness on carpets.
  • Edge Cleaner - Some models have vacuum areas that extend to the edge of the bottom of the machine for cleaning tight edges.
  • Other Tools - Detachable hose, extensions, upholstery brushes, corner cleaners. Some units have caddies to hold all the tools.
  • Headlights - Some models have lights at the front of the base. Unless you live in a particularly dark home, this feature is more of a novelty than a necessity.