Best vacuum cleaner 2020: bagless and bagged, cordless and corded vacs ranked

The very best vacuums from Dyson, Miele, Vax, Shark and the rest. Dust: prepare to bite yourself

Best vacuum cleaner 2018: not just a two-horse race between Dyson and Miele (but not far off)

It's summer; time to do some cleaning. And whether you've got a small flat or a palatial home, it won't clean itself. What is needed here is the best vacuum cleaner. But what is the best vacuum cleaner? The market is changing, and battery-less vacs are now outselling corded (in terms of market value, if not unit sales). As living spaces are getting smaller, they're getting ever more powerful. The result is that corded vacuum cleaners no longer have many advantages.

Dyson has supposedly even stopped developing new corded vacs entirely, focusing instead on its growing range of Dyson cordless vacuums. It still sells them, though, and clearly there's still a lot to be said for traditional vacuum cleaners when it comes to sucking stuff up at full power for more than 20 minutes at a time. However, in mid-2019, I would recommend a cordless over corded for most users. Unless you live in a castle, with carpet pile up to your armpits, a cordless is all you need. Some day soon, we may not need to have a separate list of best cordless vacuum cleaners.

Looking for a cheap vacuum? Cyber Monday is a good time to get a discount– but there are sales all year round, and you'll see today's best prices below. (If you're specifically interested in Dyson deals, we have a separate page for that too.)

How to buy the best vacuum cleaner

First up, the key question: which is the best type of vac, cylinder, upright or cordless?

It used to be cylinders, and we still prefer that type for corded. On balance we'd usually push new buyers towards a cordless now, though…

What, you want an even more detailed answer? 

Yes, fair enough. There are longer answers to this but for most users, the best cylinder vacuum cleaners will do a great job on hard floors and an equally good job on most carpets. It's not like the old days when all they did was suck air through a tube; they have rotating brush heads for carpet now. 

Cylinder vacs are also far more handy for cleaning sofas, and other surfaces. 

The best upright vacuum cleaners are perfect for one thing: cleaning large expanses of carpet, especially deep pile. They make a decent job of hard floors too, but it's not really what they're for. 

Some, to be fair, have pull-out hoses so they can double as really odd-shaped cylinder vacs, but the form factor is not ideal for use in this way. 

In terms of storage, uprights have a smaller footprint on the whole, but are taller. You probably didn't need me to tell you that. They're easier to store away, although cylinders can be dismantled so as to take up much less space. But that does involve dismantling them, which is a bore.

Cordless vacs are what people are buying the most of however, and you can see why. If your house isn't absolutely huge, cordless, bagless vacuum cleaners are perfect. Some of them even look kind of chic, so they're a style statement. With the best will in the world, you can't really say that about a Henry, can you?

What about power and energy ratings?

The newspapers may be convinced that Europe’s energy efficiency rules mean that our houses will fill up with dust, so we all die, but this is FAKE NEWS. 

The power rating does give some insight into how effective it will be, but when you consider that certain cordless handhelds with a 22v battery are able to effectively clean carpets, so long as they aren't deep pile, you can tell that some older vacs were, if anything, unnecessarily over-powered. 

Just to confuse things, some vacuum cleaners list their power in watts (W), which is how powerful the motor is; others prefer to list suction power in air watts (AW), which tells you how much suction the device delivers. Either way, higher numbers are generally better, though not the be-all and end-all as the head and engine design can make an impact too.

In terms of their efficiency, the usual F to A+++++++++ (or whatever we're up to now) scale gives a very good idea of how eco-friendly your new vac will be in use. Even some of the best vacuums have alarmingly low eco-friendliness ratings – down into the Cs and Ds – but bear in mind that you aren't going to be using them for massively prolonged periods of time, so you aren't going to bankrupt yourself with electricity bills, or single-handedly cause the end of the world.

What are other key things to consider? 

Most important: the length of the hose (on a cylinder or certain uprights) and the girth of the power cord. If you’ve got a lot of space to cover or stairs to sort, especially if your house is short of power sockets, this could become a critical issue over time. Of course you could always just buy a cordless vac and never worry about that again.

The best vacuum cleaners, in order

Best cordless vacuum cleaner: Dyson V11 Absolute

The all-conquering V11, with its three battery/power modes

1. Dyson V11 Absolute

Best cordless vacuum cleaner, thanks to extra suction 'at the head', smarter power management and a battery gauge

Power: 28AW-185AW
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 2.97kg
Maximum run time: About 20-60 mins depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Sucks like a high quality corded vac+Doubles niftily as a handheld+More powerful, longer battery and bigger bin than the V8
Reasons to avoid
-Bulk and weight make it less versatile and fun to use than the V8

The best cordless vacuum cleaner overall, and just the best vacuum cleaner, if your house isn't enormous, is the new Dyson V11 Absolute, which will quite happily replace a corded vac in all but the largest abodes. People always go on about battery with cordless, but I just keep the V11 Absolute plugged in when not in use and it has literally never run out of battery, mid-clean. As well as a useful battery gauge that actually uses a countdown clock to the next charging break, the V11 Absolute has all the suction you need to get the job done.

Although only around 15 minutes of cleaning is possible with the 'Boost' setting, the middle-range 'Auto' mode lasts longer – 25-30 minutes generally, although it does vary depending on what tools you use and what your floors are like; that's what it Auto-matically adjusts to, to maximise battery efficiency. The 'Eco' mode isn't bad at all, especially for hard floors, and handheld dusting, and lasts for up to an hour.

The V11 Absolute is much bigger than older Dyson cordless vacs and so not as much fun to use handheld (but perfectly adequate). On the plus side, it's got a bigger bin (0.76 litres) that's easy to empty, and it sucks like a beast, especially with the Absolute model's adaptive, High Torque Head. That isn't included with the V11 Animal model, which is why I'd go for the Absolute every time.

Best vacuum cleaner: Dyson Big Ball Animal 2

2. Dyson Big Ball Animal 2

Best cylinder vacuum cleaner

Power: 180AW
Operating radius: 10.4m
Weight: 7.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning+Self-righting when it falls over
Reasons to avoid
-Not the lengthiest cable

Achieving Peak Dyson, the Big Ball 2 cylinder vac now comes in just one variant – Animal – now that the Total Clean and Cinetic have been discontinued. 

What Dyson has got spot on here  is the weight of the Big Ball cylinder and how it navigates and balances. Should it fall over, it will actually right itself, greatly reducing incidences of vac rage. 

• Buy Dyson Big Ball Animal 2 direct from Dyson

Suction is exemplary and while you do have to swop heads to get the absolute best results, you could probably slap on the turbine tool and use it for 80% of what you need to clean. The bin is easy to empty and the filters easy to clean, if you're one of the few people in the universe that actually does that.

Unless you have great, sweeping vistas of deep pile, this is our top recommendation, albeit by a hair's breadth from the Miele below. It's just so easy to pull around, looks good, and cleans more than admirably for the price.

Those with smaller apartments and/or budgets might be just as enthused by the Big Ball's similarly excellent Mini Me, the Ball Multi Floor.

Best vacuum cleaner: Miele Complete C3 PowerLine

3. Miele Complete C3 PowerLine

Best vacuum cleaner for hard floors

Power: 1200W
Operating radius: 12m
Weight: 5.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Total versatility+Massive power+Massive power cord, too
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most eco-friendly

This is a rather more staid looking device than the Dyson, but maybe you have enough style and excitement in your life without needing to extend them to your vacuum cleaner. It's also lighter than the Dyson and has a longer cable, but is a bit more of a pain to haul about due to its smaller casters.

A variety of speed settings and heads – including a turbo floor brush and swivelling hard floor head – foot controls and integrated tool storage make it as versatile as it is easy to use. 

It’s a tough old bird too: Miele actually crash tests its vacuums to make sure they can handle life’s lumps and bumps. although a D energy rating is the price you pay for cleaning this good. As with Dyson's Big Ball 2, there are several versions of the C3 PowerLine, including ones for pet owners and allergy sufferers.

Best vacuum cleaner: Vorkwerk VK200

4. Vorwerk VK200

Best vacuum cleaner for multi-surface cleaning

Power: 700W
Operating radius: 10m
Weight: 3kg (main body only)
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning across carpet and hard floors+A head for seemingly every task imaginable+Brilliant hard floor vac/mop head+Cool, space-age looks
Reasons to avoid
-A different order of expensiveness to Miele or Dyson

• Buy VK200 direct from Vorwerk

If you're not just serious about cleaning but very serious indeed about it, the VK200 is something you should consider investing in.

Only sold online or via representatives who visit your home and give demos, this is £750 in its most basic form, with a vacuum head that detects whether it's on hard floor or carpet and instantaneously adjusts its suction and mechanised, spinning brush accordingly. This doesn't seem 100% necessary, but it is very clever, and you can't argue with the results, which are unfailingly excellent.

It also removes 99% of allergens from the air, boasts a A+ energy efficiency rating, and isn't ear-splittingly loud either.

Fall further down the Vorwerk wormhole, however, and you can end up spending a lot more. The brand doesn't just do specialised heads for mattresses, glass (!), carpet dry cleaning, crevices and upholstery, it also sells cleaning solutions, stain removers and more.

Perhaps the best combo is the £849 VK200 and SP600 set (available from Vorkwerk here). This adds a head for hard floors which simultaneously mops and vacuums, with water and cleaning solution siphoned from a small tank. This tends to need topping up after each room, but that's fine. The mop heads (there are different ones for parquet, laminate, etc) are a cinch to attach and easy to clean after use in your washing machine.

I'd go so far as to say that for people like me who have a bit of carpet and a whole lotta light-coloured wood flooring, this is a game changer, a revelation and an Exceedingly Good Thing. Yeah, it's a bit on the pricey side, but what price clean floors, eh?

You can also go the whole hog and buy a VK200 with this and a plethora of other heads, for the slightly intimidating sum of £1,199. There's even one head that is specifically just for spreading dry carpet cleaner onto your carpet. Yes, that's right: just for putting it there, in an even way. You then use a different head to massage it into your carpet, before eventually vaccing it off. 

You can call this genius or OCD depending on your point of view but again, the results are hard to argue with. 

If I had to quibble about this set of products, it's that the level of complexity is probably above and beyond what a lot of people want to deal with, and the way the bags are attached is both unnecessarily fiddly and also doesn't feel very robust.

Best vacuum cleaner: Dyson Light Ball Multi Floor

5. Dyson Light Ball Multi Floor

Best Dyson upright

Power: 90AW
Operating radius: 9.4m
Weight: 6.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Light and easy to manoeuvre+Decent cleaning on hard floors and carpet+Useful suction tube and attachments+Quiet and economical
Reasons to avoid
-Resembles explosion in plastic rainbow factory

Considerably more affordable than the Big Ball Animal 2, this nonetheless offers a great mix of excellent cleaning as an upright vacuum cleaner – it's main job – with a side order of handling smaller jobs in a more cylinder vac style, via a choice of accessories that attach to a removable suction tube. 

A simple button system alternates between carpet and hard floor modes, or you can easily pull the suction tube out of the handle of the Light Ball Multi Floor and get stuck into stairs, 'crevices' and miscellaneous surfaces. 

It's hard to get fully accurate statistics on, but this Dyson is probably the UK's top seller, and it deserves that status. It's lightweight, turns on a dime – well, okay, on a £50 note – and is quiet and energy efficient. I'd recommend it more for mainly carpeted abodes, and Dyson could maybe continue toning down the colour scheme a bit, the next time it refreshes the line.

If you have pets the chunkier Dyson Ball Animal 2 might be more up your street, but the Light Ball should suit most users just fine.

Best vacuum cleaner: Vax Blade 2

6. Vax Blade 2 Max

Best affordable cordless vacuum cleaner

Power: 40v
Operating radius: infinite
Weight: 3.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent floor cleaning+Cheaper than a Dyson+Easy to empty bin+Solid battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not as good for handheld use as a Dyson-Emits horrendous racket

This new cordless Blade from Vax is generally about £40-£50 cheaper than a Dyson V8 and over £100 cheaper than a V10. That's a handy saving when you consider that it comes to cleaning floors, it seems at least as good, and the battery life also seems to be as good if not better. 

On both hard and carpeted floors, in my view, the Blade 2 narrowly outperforms both Dyson V8 and V10. Its spinning brush bar is highly effective, apart from a few occasions when it sprays stuff around rather than diverting it down the Vax's suction tube, and suction is good enough to mean it's effective even if you turn it off. 

Perhaps the Blade 2 Max's real pièce de résistance is its headlight, which activates alongside the brush bar and really helps with cleaning in dimly lit areas. The bin mechanism isn't as ingenious as Dyson's but it's easy enough to empty.

There are drawbacks to the Vax Blade 2. Compared to the Dyson V8 in particular, its bulk and awkward handle arrangement mean it's much less fun to use as a handheld, when cleaning surfaces other than your flooring.

Also, obviously, the Blade 2 is pretty ugly compared to the Dyson, and it also makes a much more unpleasant noise. Even so, I'd say it's still the Vax is now the best cordless vac you can get, especially when you take affordability into account.

7. Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine

Best Miele upright vacuum cleaner

Power: 900W
Operating radius: 14m
Weight: 9.7kg
Reasons to buy
+Superb on carpet+Acceptable on hard floors+Handy extending nozzle gives real versatility
Reasons to avoid
-Hefty as hell and twice as ugly-Not one for Green Party voters

Relentless on carpets, this also has an extending suction tube that emerges from the top of your Miele stand-up to clean stairs, shelves, sofas and everything else you might normally use a cylinder vac for.

Being the size and weight it is, the U1 isn't exactly a perfect hybrid of upright and cylinder, but if your home is heavy on the carpets but with some hard floor areas, and you also like to get in the FACE of your furnishings and surfaces, the U1 is your boy. It will leave your home looking beautiful and sleek (as long as you then hide it in the cupboard – it's not the sexiest looking thing).

8. Miele Blizzard CX1 Comfort Powerline

Another classic Miele vacuum cleaner for hard floors

Power: 1200W
Operating radius: 10m
Weight: 6.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant performance on hard floors, especially wood+Easy to empty bagless system+Speed controls on handle
Reasons to avoid
-Hefty-Sucks so hard on carpet, it becomes tricky to push

Miele does mainly bagged vacuum cleaners but the bagless CX1 range is also available, presumably in part to tempt Brits away from their Dysons. With this version, the Germans have done a great job.

In terms of pure cleaning power, I'd say this beats Dyson's Big Ball. That's undoubtedly true on hard floors, where the impressive suction, allied to a massively wide parquet head that wrenches dirt from the gaps between old boards, makes hard floor cleaning almost pleasurable. Almost.

On carpet, it's less straightforward, for quite an amusing reason. Yes, the Blizzard CX1 does a good job here too, but with its 'EcoTeq Plus' head on, it actually sucks so hard onto carpets and rugs that it can become quite hard to push it around. On Amazon, there's even a few people complaining they literally cannot move it, or that it starts to suck the carpet up off the floor… although I think they might be exaggerating a touch.

So if your home is mainly carpets, another option might be advisable. If you have old wooden floors with multiple crannies – or even just laminate, with tiling in the bathroom – this is a fantastic vac.

The bagless container isn't huge at 2 litres, but it's easy to empty once you've had a few practice goes. The on-handle speed controls, although hardly essential, are pleasing. They operate via something like Bluetooth, meaning you will have to change the watch battery in the handle every 18 months or so.

One slightly annoying quirk is that the cylinder neatly houses the crevice tool and small upholstery attachment, but for whatever reason can't find room for the dusting one. That doesn't seem like a great example of German efficiency.

This has a HEPA filter, but those who are allergic to both bags and pet hair should consider the Miele Blizzard CX1 Excellence Cat and Dog, which comes with tools for removing things that animals leave behind. 

Bosch BCS122GB Unlimited

9. Bosch BCS122GB Unlimited

Best Dyson clone for battery life (comes with two batteries)

Power: 18v
Power boost: Yes
Weight: 3.5kg
Accessories: Yes
Battery: Lithium-ion
Maximum run time: About 15-25 mins per battery depending on power setting
Reasons to buy
+Two batteries make running out of juice unlikely+Excellent cleaning performance+Awesome 'big crevice' tool
Reasons to avoid
-Actually manages to be more pricey than a Dyson-Crappy dusting brush

• Buy Bosch BCS122GB Unlimited from Amazon

The BCS122GB Unlimited is a very, very able Dyson clone – or 'rival', if we're being diplomatic. It has three major strengths: the inclusion of a second battery, excellent cleaning performance across hard floors and carpet, and the inclusion of a crazy, anteater-style long crevice tool. 

As they charge fully in about an hour, the pair of 18v cells should keep you vacuuming indefinitely, so long as you're judicious about charging one while using the other. They're the same batteries as in Bosch's 18v power tool range, so you could also use one in your compatible drill.

Cleaning on carpet and hard floor is excellent, and well up to Dyson standard in day-to-day use, even without the turbo mode engaged.

Now THAT is a crevice tool

The long crevice tool, as noted, looks decidedly odd, but it is fantastic on skirting boards, in footwells and down the back of the washing machine

It's quite pricey, a little weighty, and the duster tool is pretty poor – the brush part invariably tends to slight out of position as you push it along, which rather defeats the object of having it. Other than that, this Bosch is a near perfect cordless vacuum cleaner, and the best of the new breed of excellent Dyson cordless rivals.

10. Shark NV801UK

Powerful, splendidly brutalist, upright with unique cylinder hybrid mode

Power: 750W
Operating radius: 8m
Weight: 6.1kg
Reasons to buy
+DuoClean brush gives excellent results on hard floors and carpet alike+Pet Power version is double sealed to imprison allergens+Good value for money 
Reasons to avoid
-Small dust bin-Slightly dubious 'Lift Away' hybrid system

Shark makes a range of unique, ugly-but-effective hybrid vacs, where the bin and motor lift away, transforming from an upright to a cylinder. The NV801UK is the current flagship for this dual-purpose approach and also features 'Duo-Clean' technology, to keep the theme of duality going.

Viewed as a pure upright vac it's an excellent performer. The unusual, DuoClean brush works very well on both carpet and hard floor. The searingly bright headlamp is another big plus, although the amount of dust it reveals in my place when used is faintly terrifying.

I am not convinced by the 'Lift Away' concept - it's just too unwieldy, and when in cylinder mode, we're talking about a cylinder with no wheels, which is a tough sell. However, you can operate it more like the Dyson and Miele uprights further up this list, attaching brush heads to the tube coming from the cleaning head. Being able to Lift Away the dustbin and motor is also handy on stairs and trickier to reach areas.  

The dustbin could do with being bigger, and perhaps the NV801UK could have been bashed with the Ugly Stick just a couple of times fewer, but it's a very good machine. Pet owner and allergy sufferers may want to step up to the double-sealed, Pet Power version of the vac, which has both a HEPA filter and a Fort Knox-esque dustbin seal.

11. Dyson V8 Absolute

Best cordless vac for versatility

Power: 425W / 115AW
Operating radius: infinite
Battery life: 10 to 40 mins
Weight: 2.6kg
Reasons to buy
+Great for cars, shelves, surfaces and stairs+Very good on hard floors+Good on carpet too, all things considered
Reasons to avoid
-Small dust container-Fairly short battery life

You can read our review of the V8 Absolute, or see how it fares against its cordless rivals in our other vacuum buying guide. (Spoiler: it comes second behind the other Dyson).

To put it briefly, although the V10 is a better corded vac replacement, the V8 is the best 'pure' handheld vac you can buy. In smaller homes, especially where hard floors dominate, it's probably the best vac money can buy. Although, yes, it is quite a lot of money we're talking here. Well, you get what you pay for.

With its rotating spongey head on an extender arm, the V8 is a corking hard floor performer. It also laps up muck when used with it close-up cleaning brush head or, come to that, the rotating brush head that's intended for carpet. I wouldn't use it on a space with lots of deep shag but for the occasional rug or smaller carpeted areas, it is very good.

Where the V8 really scores is being ready at any time to clean up spills or do maintenance on a shelf, cupboard or worktop. It's the epitome of 'clean a little but often'. The rather short battery life when using the turbo mode – come on, the standard mode isn't bad but who ever turns off 'turbo'? – also encourages this approach. 

The V10, by contrast, is a better all-around floor cleaner, but its larger size makes it less ideal for handheld use and a little more of a pain to store.

12. Numatic Henry HVR200-11

Best no-frills-at-all vac with a rictus grin

Power: 900W
Operating radius: 27m
Weight: 8.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent cleaning+Seemingly unkillable+Hugely lengthy cable
Reasons to avoid
-Not one for fine Persian rugs or velvet drapes-Does fall over in the most annoying fashion-Stupid face

A close relative of the vacs used by office cleaners absolutely everywhere – not that they get to choose them – Henry is the exact, diametric, dictionary opposite of Dyson and Miele's machines in several ways. 

That is to say, it's cheap and totally not stylish or sophisticated. Nor does this version have any setting other than 'on', or any clever brush heads. 

However, Henry sucks up a storm, is engineered incredibly simply but well, and has never knowingly let anyone down. Okay, he does topple over at times when pulled around, at which point his permanently leering face does seem ever so slappable. But for cleaning anything that isn't delicate, he's great.

True story: I once left a Henry (not this model) outside on a damp balcony for two years, then used him to clean up shards of broken glass from a broken lampshade – not only did it work, I was also not electrocuted to death on the spot. 

I've also sucked up wet plaster, gravel and damp stuff out of wall cavities with him. You're not supposed to do any of those things of course, but Henry, as his Satanic fixed grin suggests, is seemingly impossible to kill.

I wasn't sure if Henry's rather meat-and-potatoes approach to cleaning would work as well at the lower power ratings now required but this one seems to suck well enough.

13. Miele Complete C3 Boost EcoLine

Best cheap Miele vacuum cleaner

Power: 800W
Operating radius: 11m
Weight: 8.2kg
Reasons to buy
+Very quiet+A energy rating+Very effective on hard floors
Reasons to avoid
-Not so great for carpets

Like all Miele cylinder vacuums, this bagged one puts almost all of their weight on the floor instead of on your arm, and the Comfort Boost EcoLine offers 800W of suction with a boost on hand for particularly strong spider removal. 

As its name suggests, however, the EcoLine range doesn't also murder the planet along the way – this has an A energy rating (some other EcoLines have an actual A+ but offer less impressive suckage). 

It's also exceptionally quiet, gliding around hard floors and offering a great combination of cleaning power, energy efficiency and quiet operation. 

On deep carpet, the little castors and suction are both found wanting slightly but if you have mainly hard floors with a few rugs, it's great. The price is more affordable than many C3 Miele vacs, too.