5 Best Upright Vacuums of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Find the best upright vacuum for your floors and carpets by shopping our editor-tested picks. We vacuumed up three boxes worth of Cheerios in search of the best, most powerful machines out there.

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November 29, 2023

Photo by: Photo and testing by Brigitt Earley for HGTV.com

Photo and testing by Brigitt Earley for HGTV.com

Our Top Upright Vacuum Picks

Whether your home has carpeting or hardwood floors, you need a reliable vacuum to keep them dirt- and dust-free — especially if you have kids and pets in your home. But there are tons of different styles of vacuums out there (handheld, cordless stick, robot vacuums — the list goes on), so how do you know which one is best for you? Upright vacuums are one of the most common vacuum cleaners, especially in single-story homes with wall-to-wall carpeting. They tend to be bulkier and heavier than other vacuums on the market, but they're known for tackling ground-in, embedded dirt. It's that weight that helps the machine get deeper into the pile of a rug to lift dirt up and out. Of course, you can still use these vacuums in multi-story homes with hardwood (they often come with tools for crevices and moldings, too) but consider whether you can commit to the heft before investing. You'll also want to choose a model with adjustable heights, otherwise you risk debris scattering or, worse, damaging delicate surfaces.

Photo by: Photo and testing by Brigitt Earley for HGTV.com

Photo and testing by Brigitt Earley for HGTV.com

How We Tested

Our team of editors tested and reviewed 11 upright vacuums from six different brands. The vacuums we tested came at a variety of different price points — from basic budget-friendly picks to luxury models with special features like lights and odor-neutralizing technology priced at several hundred dollars. To choose the best ones, we vacuumed up Cheerios from carpet and hardwood floors, taking into account efficacy as well as weight, maneuverability, noise, and any special features or claims. We also checked user ratings and price for each vacuum. Below are our top picks for the best upright vacuum cleaners.

The Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2023, Tested by HGTV Editors

Shop our editors' most-loved vacuum cleaners for every surface and budget.

$239.99 $179.99
What We Liked
  1. Lighter than other upright vacuums
  2. Canister lifts out to help you reach under furniture
  3. Equipped with a special anti-allergen technology
What We Didn't Like
  1. On the more expensive side

The Shark Navigator ADV is Shark’s bestselling vacuum, and it’s easy to see why. In tests, it expertly tackled messes on both hardwood floors and carpets. Most vacuums needed at least two passes to suck up Cheerios from hardwood, but this model lifted everything in a single pass. Comparatively, it struggled with full Cheerios on carpet, needing a back-and-forth pass, but had no issue with crumbs on either surface. In fact, the vacuum is so powerful that we found it actually propels itself forward if you loosen your grip.

Like other upright vacuums, the Shark Navigator ADV has a hard time reaching under furniture — the canister prevents full reach — but this one has a unique feature that separates it from others: The canister lifts out of the vacuum, so you can use the hose to reach under furniture, high into corners, or more easily clean areas like stairs. It’s an extra step, but one that only requires a single toggle. Because the vacuum is only 12.3 pounds — on the lighter side for upright vacuums — it isn’t all that cumbersome, either.

Overall, we found this vacuum to be worth every penny. It’s powerful and lightweight enough to use as a whole-house vacuum. Plus, it comes with the crevice and brush tools you need, as well as a special anti-allergen technology to block 99.99% of dust and allergens, a feature that we didn’t test, but think could be useful for some.

Buy It
What We Liked
  1. Lighter than other upright vacuums
  2. Canister lifts out to help you reach under furniture
What We Didn't Like
  1. On the more expensive side, especially for a more basic model

For those who don’t want to spend quite as much on a vacuum, Shark’s more basic Navigator is hard to pass up. It may not have the same anti-allergen technology and it’s a negligible .3 pounds heavier, but it truly wowed us in tests, performing just as well as the advanced model.

The vacuum is incredibly easy to maneuver because it’s lightweight and pivoting ability. Plus, you can lift the canister out to use the hose to reach under furniture, up into corners, and in tight areas like stairs. The machine had no trouble with Cheerios on either hardwood or carpet. Both surfaces required just one pass. The vacuum even performs well around baseboards. In tests, we didn’t need any special attachments — just two quick passes.

At nearly $175, it is more expensive than other more basic models, but for the overall value, you really can’t beat this vacuum. It far outperformed anything less expensive.

Buy It
$279.99 $199.99
What We Liked
  1. Equipped with tons of special features to help with heavy messes
  2. Cleans carpets very well
  3. Canister lifts out to help you reach under furniture
What We Didn't Like
  1. On the heavier side
  2. Floor settings aren’t as clear on this model

In tests, Shark was clearly a high performer. And although their Pet-specific vacuum is slightly more expensive and weighs more, we found it to be a better heavy-duty option for those who regularly vacuum up a lot of hair and other large debris, especially from carpets. It’s equipped with an extra-large capacity canister to hold more debris at a time, a grippy base to attract hair, a self-cleaning brush roll, odor-neutralizing technology, and a HEPA filter. It also has a light to help you spot anything you might otherwise miss.

In tests, the vacuum, which weighs a hefty 15.18 pounds, did a fantastic job of cleaning both full and crushed Cheerios from carpets. On carpets, the machine sucked up every Cheerio in just two passes; it removed all crumbs in a single pass. It struggled a little bit on hardwood — after a few passes, there were still some Cheerios present — though it’s worth noting that the settings aren’t as clear on this model, so this could be attributed to user error.

And although it’s heavy, it does have the same Lift Away canister our top overall and top value picks do. This makes it easier to clean under furniture and other tight spots, but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this model for large homes with multiple sets of stairs — it’s simply too cumbersome for that kind of cleaning.

Buy It
What We Liked
  1. Equipped with a special Febreze allergen system
  2. Tackles small dust and debris well
What We Didn't Like
  1. Very heavy
  2. Fragrance may be too strong for some

Out of the three Bissell vacuums we tested, this one, one of the brand’s pet-specific upright vacuums, performed the best, particularly with crumbs and other small pieces of dust and debris. The machine had no trouble with crushed Cheerios, sucking them up in just two passes. Unfortunately, the vacuum struggled with whole Cheerios, crushing and spreading them rather than sucking them right up. We needed to make upwards of four passes, even in areas that weren’t initially affected by the mess, to be satisfied.

Notably, this vacuum has a special Febreze allergen system that’s very useful for eradicating the smell of any pet dander or other musty smells, like from old furniture. In tests, the smell lingered for the better part of the day. It’s worth noting that this optional fragrance is very powerful, so it’s not suitable for anyone with scent sensitivities or allergies to synthetic fragrances.

This vacuum is also very heavy — a whopping 17.75 pounds — so it’s not the easiest to maneuver, particularly in multi-story homes. It does, however, have the same lift-off canister that our favorite Shark models were equipped with. This makes it a bit easier to reach under furniture and access other tight spots, despite the heft.

Buy It
What We Liked
  1. Pivots extremely well
  2. Quieter than others
What We Didn't Like
  1. Very expensive
  2. Very heavy

Dyson may be a buzzy name in vacuums, but this pick failed to grab our overall spot because it’s hefty and displayed mediocre performance in tests. We do, however, think it’s worth a look, particularly because it’s quieter than any other model we tested. Most models clocked in at 80 decibels (some were even higher), but this unit operates at 78 decibels. It may not sound like much, but it does make a difference, especially for apartment dwellers.

We also liked the aesthetic of this vacuum. It looks like a modern appliance, plus has a fully nesting wand for convenience. The long-reach hose releases from the rest of the machine smoothly, allowing you to effortlessly clean up high and beneath furniture despite the heft of the unit.

Overall, the Dyson was middle-of-the-pack in terms of performance. It tackled whole Cheerios in about one to two passes on both hardwood and carpets and had no trouble at all with crumbs. It also gets right up to baseboards to take care of any messes in tight corners. If noise level is important to you, it may be reason enough to try this vacuum.

Buy It

Things to Consider Before Buying an Upright Vacuum

Weight: Upright vacuums tend to be on the heavier side. If you have a house with a lot of stairs, a heavy vacuum may not be right for you, so make sure to only consider upright vacuums closer to 10-12 pounds.

Price: Our tests indicate you don’t need to spring for the priciest models to get a good vacuum. At the same time, the most budget-friendly models don’t perform well for anything more than simple cleaning (light layers of dust and minimal crumbs). If you’re willing to spend in the range of $175 to $225, you can find very high-quality upright vacuums that’ll get just about any job done.

Bag vs. Bagless: Bagless vacuums come with a dust cup and filter that requires regular emptying and cleaning — a job that can be messy and less-than-ideal for those with allergies — but you don't have to stock up on bags. Bagged vacuums are easier to maintain and are ideal for allergy sufferers, since the bags keep all that yucky stuff contained. However, you do have to keep a constant supply of bags on hand to use the vacuum. We tested only bagless models this time.

Attachments: All of the vacuums we tested came with a crevice tool and a brush. Some models came with others like the stair tool the Dyson comes with. Attachments are important because they help you clean areas that need special attention. The brush tool, for example, allows you to effectively and gently clean damage-prone moldings.

HEPA Filter: A HEPA filter isn’t a must, but it’s a nice addition for pet owners and those with allergies, since they are highly effective at removing airborne particles like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and even smoke. Just keep in mind: These filters do need to be changed out regularly and tend to be more expensive to replace.

Who Should Buy an Upright Vacuum?

Upright vacuums are most suitable for single-story homes with lots of carpeting. Since these vacuums are heftier, they can tackle any dirt and debris that gets embedded into piling, but can be a bit too rough on delicate flooring like hardwood. Despite the weight, upright vacuums are generally corded, so they’re also ideal for people who don’t want to think about charging their machine.

What Features Are Important in an Upright Vacuum?

Good suction: Though this is hard to accurately measure, any good vacuum must have solid suction capability to clean up messes. All of our top picks were able to tackle the Cheerios in a few passes.

Brush Roll: In general, motorized brush rolls maximize cleaning performance, since the agitation helps dislodge dirt the machine then sucks up. It’s also helpful to take a quick peek at the brush roll. Does it have bristles that appear to be easy to clean or one that can be removed for easier cleaning? Other features like adjustable heights and a light are also helpful.

Swivel Joint for Cleaning Head: A swivel joint gives the vacuum the ability to pivot at a moment’s notice, which greatly improves maneuverability, especially in heavier machines.

Attachments and Hose: The right attachments make specific cleaning tasks — like tackling molding or hard-to-reach corners — easier and more effective. Most vacuums come with a crevice tool and a brush, but some come with others like special motorized pet brushes or stair tools.

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