Are cheap vacuum cleaners any good?
By Matthew Knight
Find out if it pays to spend a little extra on a vacuum cleaner, or if you can pick up a great one for less than £100.
Vacuum cleaners can cost in excess of £500 these days, but do you really need to spend that much to get a decent clean? We've analysed the cost vs performance of hundreds of vacuum cleaners using the results from our independent vacuum cleaner tests, to help you find the best value models for your budget.
We've found that it's possible to get a brilliant vacuum cleaner for less than £100 - if you choose wisely. And whether your budget is £100, £200, £300 or more, we can help you find the vacuum that will give you the most for your money.
Read on for more tips on how much to spend, or skip straight to our Best Buy vacuums page for a list of our top-rated models for 2017.
Buying a cheap vacuum cleaner
To find out whether it's worth buying a cheap vacuum cleaner in 2017, we've analysed pricing and test score data for the 115 vacuum cleaners we've tested over the past two years (older vacuums were tested in a slightly different way so aren't comparable).
The graph below plots the price of each vacuum cleaner against their overall percentage score from our independent lab tests. This score takes into account a variety of individual test results including a vac's cleaning performance, ease of use, manoeuvrability and noise. See how cheap and expensive vacuum cleaners compare overall, and then use our buying tips below the graph to find the best-value vacuum cleaner for you.
The best way to guarantee that the vacuum cleaner you buy excels is to choose one of our Best Buys. These are the top-scoring models from our tests, meaning you can rely on them to clean effectively and be easy and intuitive to use. The good news is that we've found several excellent options that won't break the bank. To find out which cheap vacuum cleaners take the top spots, visit our vacuum cleaner reviews.
Even if your budget is small, you can pick up some good models for £50-£100. But the cheaper you go, the more quality can vary dramatically. Around the £50 mark we've found some brilliant vacuums, but also some that are so poor at cleaning we've had to label them Don't Buys. You can filter by price on our reviews to see the best options within your price range, whether you want a bagged or bagless, cylinder or upright model.
While premium brands, such as Dyson or Miele, can charge more than £450 for a top-end vacuum cleaner, our tests show that it's possible to get an excellent vacuum cleaner for a fraction of that price.
At some price points there can be a big difference between how good different vacuum cleaners are at keeping your home spotless. Paying £150 could get you one of our best-performing vacuums, or a middle-of-the-road disappointment.
As you might expect, the data in the graph shows that, in general, the more money you spend, the better chance you have of getting a good vacuum cleaner. But our vacuum cleaner reviews take away the guesswork, so if you want to splash out you can be sure it isn't on an underwhelming model, and if you're keen to stick to a budget, you can ensure you get a cheap but effective vacuum cleaner that won't prove to be a false economy.
The best vacuum cleaner we've tested under our current test programme is currently available for £240. This is roughly in the middle of the price range for vacuum cleaners. However, the graph shows you can get slightly lower-scoring Best Buys (models scoring more than 73%) for around £100 less, without compromising on cleaning power. See our round-up of the best vacuum cleaners to find the best-value options from our top recommendations.
With the odd rare exception, most vacuum cleaners below the £100 mark tend to score less well in our lab tests, and vacuum cleaners that cost less than £50 can be very poor indeed. But if your budget can stretch to £100-£150 then there are some great options out there for you.
Why pay more for a vacuum cleaner?
Not all expensive vacuum cleaners are the same, but the sort of features you should be expecting from a premium priced machine include;
- Adjustable suction power Top-end vacuums tend to give you the opportunity to adjust the power level depending on the cleaning task. Cheaper cleaners might not have this capability, or might have a more rudimentary version of it.
- Advanced bin-emptying technology Premium bagless vacuums have recently started to have bin-emptying mechanisms that are claimed to make emptying the vacuum easier and more hygienic, so you avoid breathing in a cloud of dust.
- Self cleaning filters Some premium machines have filters that will clean themselves at the touch of a button or, in the case of Dyson's Cinetic vacuum cleaners, do away with the need to clean or replace filters entirely.
- Better ergonomics You're more likely to see on/off switches on the handle, along with power adjustment settings, on premium vacs. Having these switches on the handle rather than the body of the vacuum means less bending down to make fiddly adjustments.
These features can reduce the effort needed to use and maintain your vacuum cleaner, but more features don't necessarily always make for a better user experience. We've found that expensive vacuums aren't always easier to use than cheaper machines for everyday vacuuming jobs.
How we test vacuum cleaners
We test all of the latest models and biggest sellers available on the high street and online to get a full picture of the market. We can tell you, with confidence, which vacs are a great deal and which ones to avoid.
Our lab testing involves not only examining a vacuum's ability to suck up dust, dirt and fluff from different floor surfaces around the home, but also takes ease of use into account, so we can tell you which vacuums are a breeze to move, lift and clean around your home. Head to our how we test vacuum cleaners page to find out more.