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How to choose the best Dyson

By Matthew Knight

We bring you our expert Which? guide to Dyson vacuum cleaners. Find out whether that Dyson you've got your eye on is worth all that cash.

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Sir James Dyson invented the first cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaner almost 30 years ago, and today people who are looking to buy a Dyson vacuum can choose from a wide range of models.

Dyson vacuum cleaners are among the most popular vacuum cleaners sold in the UK, and the majority of Which? members who own an upright or bagless vacuum cleaner own a Dyson. But if you're in the market for a new dust-busting appliance and you're considering going for a Dyson, what should you be checking before you buy, and are there other cheaper options available?

In this guide, we explain what you get with a Dyson, how to choose between the models, and how they compare with other vacuum cleaners, including:

  • Dyson technology explained
  • Animal vs Multi Floor vacuums
  • Upright vs cylinder vacuums
  • Dyson's cordless and robot vacuums
  • How Dyson vacuums compare to rivals
  • Whether Dyson vacuum cleaners last
  • Top tips for buying a Dyson

To get straight to our verdict on which Dyson vacuum cleaners are best, head to our independent Dyson vacuum cleaner reviews.

Dyson vacuums: the basics

All Dyson vacuum cleaners are bagless and make use of cyclone technology. This means that dusty air sucked into the vacuum is channelled through the cones visible at the top of the vacuum cleaner's dust canister. The air spirals inside the cones, generating centrifugal force that flings the dust and dirt out into the surrounding dust bin. 

Over the years, this cyclone technology has been developed and refined. Most models now have two tiers of cyclones, with one row positioned above another. Dyson says this should help to separate out more microscopic particles from the air than before, increasing the amount of dirt that ends up in the canister. But do Dyson vacs pick up more dust and dirt than models from other manufacturers? You can find out by checking our vacuum cleaner reviews.

Dyson vacuum cleaner technology explained

All Dyson vacuum cleaners include Dyson's cyclone technology and 'ball' design for manoeuvrability, both of which are unique to Dyson - although they have been imitated by rivals.

Dyson Ball

Dyson Ball vacuums ride on a single large ball and supporting castors instead of wheels. The ball pivots around itself so you can change direction more easily. 

Dyson claims that Ball vacuum cleaners are easier to move around than other models. The Ball also houses the motor and other components which Dyson says helps make the vacuum quieter, while also lowering the centre of gravity for better stability.

In 2016, Dyson launched the Cinetic Big Ball cylinder vacuum, which has a built-in self-righting mechanism, allowing the vacuum to right itself if toppled over.

Dyson Cinetic vacuums

Dyson's Cinetic vacuum cleaners are the most premium models in the range. The cyclones on the Cinetic vacuums have soft rubber tips, which oscillate as the vacuum cleans. Dyson says this oscillating action filters more tiny dust particles than standard cyclones, and is so effective that additional fine-dust filters aren't needed.

With other vacuum cleaners, you'll need to regularly clean and maintain the filters, because if they become clogged with fine dust this can affect the air flow, meaning the vacuum is less effective at picking up dust. With Dyson Cinetic vacuums, you won't need to remember to do this, or buy replacements if they wear out. However, you'll have to pay a high price for the convenience, as they usually cost upwards of £400.

This technology is impressive, but you don't need to pay a premium for excellent dust pick-up and lasting suction. We've found cheaper Best Buy vacuums from other brands that will leave your carpets clean and won't lose suction over time, although you will need to clean the filters from time to time.

Dyson's Cinetic technology does away with the need for bags and filters, but we've found rival vacuums that are better at cleaning carpets

Our cheapest Best Buy, which currently costs less than £100, picks up around 80% of the dirt we put down on carpets. The highest-scoring Dyson we've tested picks up less - just under 75%.

See our pick of the best vacuum cleaners to find a brilliant vacuum on a budget.

Tangle-free Turbine tool

Most vacuum cleaners aimed at pet owners come with some kind of mini turbo brush. This usually has a rotating bar with bristles designed to lift pet hair from areas such as carpeted stairs or upholstery. Since 2012, Dyson's Animal vacuums include its Tangle-free Turbine tool, which does the same job. Instead of a rotating brush bar, it has two counter-rotating spinning discs with bristles which pull hair into the middle and suck it up. 

Dyson says its unusual design picks up fur and hair without getting all tangled up - something traditional turbo brushes are prone to, particularly with longer hair. We've tested this tool out on a number of different Dyson vacuum cleaners to find out whether it really will clean up pet hair - you can read our verdict in our Dyson vacuum cleaner reviews.

Dyson Animal vs Multi Floor vacuums: which is right for you?

Whichever size or shape of Dyson vacuum you choose, you'll usually have two versions available to you: Multi Floor or Animal. You may also see some 'Total Clean' models around. These are only sold in certain retailers and have additional accessories for specific cleaning jobs.

On upright vacuums, usually the only real difference between models is that the Animal version comes with the tangle-free pet tool. If you're not fussed about the extras, the Multi Floor version would usually be your best-value option.

With cylinder vacuums, you may get an additional or different design of floor tool, along with the pet tool, on the Animal version. Here, a different floor tool can be the difference between a vacuum cleaner being a Best Buy or not, as the floor-head design has a big influence on how well a vacuum cleaner picks up dirt. We've found this to be the case with some Dyson models, so make sure you read our Dyson cylinder vacuum reviews to find out which version is worth investing in.

Dyson uprights vs Dyson cylinders

When it comes to upright vacuum cleaners, Dyson models are extremely popular with Which? members. But we've found that some cylinder models are great buys too, so it depends on what features matter most to you.

Advantages of bagless upright vacuums over cylinders

  • Easier to store, as no trailing hose
  • Tend to be better for covering large floor areas
  • Generally better at picking up pet hairs
  • Often have larger capacities

Advantages of bagless cylinder vacuums over uprights

  • Tend to be lighter
  • Often easier to manoeuvre
  • Better suited to sitting on stairs
  • Often quieter

You can see how Dyson's upright vacuum cleaners compare with its cylinders in our Dyson vacuum cleaner reviews.

Cordless Dyson vacuum cleaners

Dyson also has a popular range of cordless vacuum cleaners. Cordless vacuum cleaners tend to be lightweight and easier to use than their corded equivalents. However their limited operating time and small dust capacity means they can be better suited to smaller homes or as a secondary vacuum for quick jobs. 

Cordless Dyson vacuums tend to have a shorter battery life than rivals, but their versatile slim stick design, which converts to a small handheld cleaner, has caught on. It makes it easy to switch from cleaning floors to things like stairs, upholstery - or even the car.  Dyson has three main ranges of cordless vacuums:

Dyson V6 cordless vacuums

This is the older range. Prices start from just under £200 for the basic V6 model and reach over £400 for the V6 Absolute. Also includes the V6 Fluffy, which has an unusual soft roller floor head designed for optimum dust and dirt pick-up on hard floors.

Dyson V7 cordless vacuums

New for Spring 2017, the V7 range bridges the gap between the two older ranges. You'll get some of the features found on the V8, such as the dust ejector mechanism, but not quite all the power and and specs of the V8 range. Battery life falls somewhere between the two, as does price. We'll be testing the V7 range soon with our first impressions due in May and full test results around June 2017.

Dyson V8 cordless vacuums

Launched in 2016, this premium range has new features including a hygenic dust-ejecting bin mechanism and a longer run-time. The V8 models start from £400. As with Dyson's standard vacuums, you get additional accessories and tools as you go up the range. 

See our cordless Dyson reviews for independent advice on which models are the best for cleaning, and easiest to use.

Are cordless vacuum cleaners any good?

We've found that cordless vacuum cleaners can be a bit of mixed bag when it comes to cleaning.

The average amount of dust standard vacuums pick up from carpets is 70%, compared to just 48% for cordless models.

Our tests have uncovered some that do a brilliant job, competing with the very best plug-in versions on cleaning power. However, we've also uncovered some dreadful models - and plenty of mediocre ones too.

Find out which cordless vacuum cleaners we recommend - and the ones to avoid - by reading our independent cordless vacuum cleaner reviews.

Dyson's robot vacuum cleaner

In 2016, Dyson finally unveiled its new robot vacuum cleaner, the Dyson 360 Eye. It costs a cool £800, but promises to merrily clean its way round your home unaided. Our tests have shown that, on the whole, robot vacuums can't match full-sized models for cleaning power, but the best models can keep your home looking clean, so you have to dig out your main vacuum less often.

We put the Dyson robot to the test, alongside rivals from iRobot, Neato, Miele, Samsung and more. Only one robot impressed us enough to become a Best Buy, and several were so poor we labelled them Don't Buys to avoid. The worst models struggled to find their way around and did a dreadful job of cleaning - one model picked up just 4% of the dust we put in its path. 

If the idea of a robot helper appeals, check our robot vacuum cleaner reviews to see the model we recommend. 

Dyson vacuums vs other vacuum cleaners

All that technology and glossy marketing can look tempting, but how do Dyson vacuums compare to others when it comes to the essentials?

Bagless cleaning

Dyson vacuums really took off after a marketing campaign around the benefits of bagless cleaning. The main benefit being that you don't have the ongoing cost or hassle of buying replacement bags. 

You can buy bagless vacuums from many brands now, but one drawback with all bagless vacuum cleaners is that the dust is not neatly contained in a bag that you pull out and throw away. Emptying bagless vacuums can be a messy job and may not be ideal for those with allergies.

For more information, see our advice on buying a bagless vacuum cleaner.

Dyson's Hygenic Dirt Ejector

More recent Dyson vacuums feature its new Hygenic Dirt Ejector mechanism. This is essentially a silicone collar that slides down the inside of the dust container, pushing dust and debris out. This should mean you don't have to stick your hands in the bin to get any leftover bits out - something we've had issues with in the past.

See our review of the Dyson V8 Absolute for our verdict on this feature.

Dust capacity

Dyson vacuums tend to combine high suction with small-capacity canisters - as small as 0.5 litres on some models, although we have seen a few with a 2.1-litre capacity.

The average vacuum cleaner has a capacity of 2.3 litres. Bagged vacuum cleaners tend to have larger dust capacities than bagless models - 3 litres as opposed to 1.8 litres on average.

A smaller capacity may help to keep down the overall weight of the vacuum, but it means you'll be making more trips to the bin to empty the dust canister.

Noise and weight

Two complaints that Which? members make to us about Dysons, other than their cost, is how heavy they are and the amount of noise they make.

We test how noisy vacuum cleaners are by taking decibel measurements in two specially prepared sound chambers at our lab. We combine this result with a subjective assessment from a panel of experts to account for any particularly annoying noises. Some of the noisiest vacuum cleaners we've tested reach 90 decibels - that's equivalent to standing next to a busy road as a truck goes past.

86 decibelsthe loudest Dyson vacuum cleaner we have tested

Some Dyson vacuums we've tested have proved significantly quieter than others. Before you buy, make sure you check the individual noise ratings on the test results page to find a quiet model. Models rated five stars for noise are the quietest money can buy.

10.9kgthe heaviest Dyson vacuum cleaner we have tested

Dyson vacuums can weigh almost 11kg. That's a lot to haul up and down the stairs, especially when you consider that we've found some vacuum cleaners weighing just 4kg.

We include the weight of the tube and hose, plus any attachments designed to be stored on the vacuum, when we weigh vacuum cleaners - something manufacturers often leave out. You can use the specs page on individual Dyson vacuum cleaner reviews to check the weight of different Dyson models.

Buying a Dyson - what's the cost?

It's no secret that Dysons are some of the most expensive vacuum cleaners out there. Newly launched models usually start from £400. That's right at the top end, although Dyson is by no means alone - Samsung, AEG, Vax and Miele also have vacuum cleaners in this price range.

While some of these brands offer cheaper alternatives, you'll struggle to get a new Dyson for less than £200, and most will set you back at least £300. We've found plenty of Best Buy vacuum cleaners for less than £150 though, so it's worth thinking about whether you're paying more for the brand name.

If you're set on a Dyson, the current best-value option we've seen is the DC40 Multi Floor, which Dyson is selling for £200. Check our review to see if it's worth buying.

Are Dyson vacuum cleaners reliable?

Most upright and cylinder Dyson vacuums come with a five-year guarantee. Cordless models usually have a shorter two-year guarantee, which might sting if you've just spent £400+ on the Dyson V8 Absolute.

In addition to our lab tests on Dyson vacuum cleaners, we also survey thousands of vacuum cleaner owners each year to find out how long their vacuum cleaners have lasted, and what went wrong if they broke down. This means we can tell you which brands last the distance when you get them home. 

According to our most recent brand reliability data, gathered in 2016 from vacuum cleaner owners, Dyson vacuums are generally relatively reliable - but not as reliable as some rival brands. To get our full verdict on reliability, head to our round-up of the most reliable vacuum cleaner brands.

Top tips for buying the best Dyson 

Keep an eye out for trade-in offers

Dyson sometimes offers money off a new vacuum cleaner if you trade in your old one.

Decide what accessories and features you need - and what you can live without

Having multiple specialised accessories can be more of a hindrance than a help. Check our reviews to see which models get the basics right, and then look out for specific accessories you're keen on. Mini pet tools are handy for fur-covered upholstery, and a removable brush bar is a godsend if you have lots of longer haired residents, as it will need regular cleaning.

Check the alternatives

There are some brilliant Dyson vacuum cleaners out there, but also some that don't live up to the premium price tag. Our vacuum cleaner reviews can guide you to the ones worth buying, and the best alternatives worth considering.

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