How to buy the best cordless vacuum cleaner
By Matthew Knight
Tips and advice on how to choose the best cordless vacuum cleaner for you and your home.
Video: how to buy the best cordless vacuum
Cordless vacuum cleaners - also called stick vacuum cleaners – are a great option if you want a vacuum that you can use for quick ad hoc cleaning jobs, such as whipping around the kitchen after the kids' meal time, or sprucing up before guests come over.
Our video above shows a cordless vacuum in action, and explains what to look for when choosing one.
We’ve tested, reviewed and rated all of the biggest selling cordless vacuum cleaners from manufacturers including Dyson, Bosch, AEG and Gtech.
Don't miss our reviews of the Best Buy cordless vacuum cleaners that have topped our tests.
How much do I need to spend to buy a decent cordless vacuum?
Although many cordless vacuum cleaners cost less than normal vacuums - the Morphy Richards 73200 Supervac and 731000 Cordless are only around £100 for example - some are nearer triple that price. The Dyson V8 Animal costs over £400, and Bosch's Athlet models cost more than £200.
Our tests on cordless vacuums have shown that several of the cheaper models fail to deliver decent cleaning power - but while quality generally rises with price, spending more on the most expensive models doesn't necessarily guarantee you a top-class cleaner either.
Use our cordless vacuum cleaner reviews to compare brands, retailers and prices to make sure you get the best value for money.
What cordless vacuum features should I look for?
The amount of time you can use a cordless vacuum cleaner depends on the type of battery and what setting you use it on. Running times really vary – from less than 10 to around 40 minutes – so you’re unlikely to clean your entire house with just a cordless vac, especially as 54% of people we've surveyed said they take more than half an hour to vacuum their home.
All cordless vacuum cleaners have a battery indicator light to let you know when it's running low.
Bear in mind that the battery life claimed by the manufacturer is sometimes different to the actual amount of time we measured in our tests - one vacuum cleaner brand said its vac runs for 30 minutes, but in our tests it only lasted for 20.
Battery charging time
All cordless vacuum cleaners need to be charged at a docking station before they can be used. Many of these charging stations can be wall mounted, which makes them easier to store and set up quickly, if you don't mind your vacuum being permanently on show.
Again, the amount of time it takes to fully charge a cordless vac can vary – it can take as little as two hours, or more than 16.
Cordless vacuum cleaners are all bagless, saving you the expense and hassle of having to replace bags. However, emptying the canister of a bagless vacuum cleaner can be messier than removing a bag, so they're often not ideal for people with allergies.
Cordless vacuum cleaner capacity
The amount of dust that a vacuum cleaner can pick up is determined by the capacity of the canister. For cordless vacuum cleaners, it's a lot smaller - anything from 0.3 to only 1 litre, while conventional vacuum cleaner capacities range from around 2 to 3 litres. You'll find, therefore, that you're emptying your cordless vacuum cleaner more often, and you may not be able to vacuum as much of your home in one go.
Cordless vacuum cleaner weight
As you would expect, many cordless vacuum cleaners are lighter than conventional ones. The lightest of the cordless vacuum cleaners we’ve tested weighs just 2.1kg, while the lightest corded vac we've tested is 4.5kg, although the majority are around 6kg for a cylinder model, and around 8kg for an upright one.
When it comes to weight, cordless vacs beat normal vacs hands down. But what are they like when it comes to power?
What types of cordless vacuums are there?
Standard cordless vacuum
A standard cordless is basically a lighter and more compact version of a regular push-along bagless vacuum cleaner, with the added bonus of being cordless. Some models have an extendable hose with a nozzle or attachment that can be used to get into crevices or difficult-to-reach places such as stairs.
Two-in-one cordless vacuums
Some cordless vacuums allow you to take a body off the main handle, turning it into a handheld vacuum cleaner. This makes them even more flexible than standard cordless vacuum cleaners, as it means you can take a small body out to your car or get it into very small spaces.
None of the two-in-one vacuum cleaners have topped our tests but there are some strong scorers to be found. Log in to see our cordless vacuum cleaner reviews an find the best two-in-one models.
Handheld vacuum cleaners
Even smaller and generally cheaper than a cordless vacuum cleaner, handhelds are also cordless, usually weight around 1.5kg, have a capacity of about 0.5 litres, and can run for around five to 30 minutes on a full battery.
Handheld vacuum cleaners also tend to be cheaper than upright cordless vacs, but they may not clean as well. For more detailed information on handheld vacuum cleaners, take a look at our guide to buying a handheld vac, as well as our handheld vacuum cleaner reviews of a number of models.
62% The proportion of Which? members who say they'd only buy a cordless vacuum if it cleaned as well as a regular vacuum
Are cordless vacuums as good as a corded ones?
Some cordless vacuum cleaner manufacturers claim their models deliver equivalent or better suction than corded vacs and are marketed as full replacements, while others are designed as second vacs for quick jobs and to be used in tandem with a conventional model.
In terms of suction, we can reveal that only the very best cordless models are comparable to corded on hard floors, but on carpets, even the best do not come close to the type of dust pick up you should expect from a good corded model. Visit our cordless vacuum cleaner Best Buys to find out which vacs came out top in our tests.
Many cordless vacuum cleaners are cheaper, but we have found Best Buy conventional cylinder vacuum cleaners for around £100 and Best Buy upright vacuum cleaners for around £200.
Less powerful cordless vacuums
Some models of cordless vacuum cleaners don't claim to be as good as a conventional vacuum cleaner, but to works as a convenient way to do a quick bit of light cleaning.
In our tests, we found that only two secondary cordless vacuum cleaners scored more than 60%, so if you want a decent every-now-and-then model for convenience, see our cordless vacuum cleaner reviews.
Our verdict on cordless vacuums
The best cordless vacuum cleaners will keep your hard floors spotless, they are convenient, light weight and easy to use. However their suction on carpet is not comparable to a good corded model and the battery might not last long enough for you to do your entire home in one sitting.
The best corded models will give you an all-round and exceptional clean. But they trail a cord and are bigger and heavier than cordless, so are undoubtedly less convenient and more difficult to use.
Now find the perfect cordless vacuum cleaner for you by checking our cordless vacuum cleaner reviews.