Are cheap vacuum cleaners any good?
By Matthew Knight
Buying a cheap vacuum cleaner can be a gamble. Find out if it pays to spend a little extra, and how to find the best-value options.
Vacuum cleaners can cost more than £450, but do you really need to spend that much to get a decent one? We've analysed the cost vs performance of hundreds of vacuum cleaners, using the results from our independent cleaning tests, to help you find the best value models for your budget.
Our research reveals that it's possible to get a very good vacuum cleaner for between £100 and £150 – if you choose wisely. To get the very best you might need to spend a little more, but 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 vacuum cleaners page for a list of our top-rated models for 2018, which you can sort by price.
Buying the best cheap vacuum cleaner
We've analysed pricing and test score data for all vacuum cleaners that we've tested and that are still available to buy.
The graph below plots the price of each corded vacuum cleaner against its overall performance 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.
Because the price points and performance are quite different, we've split out corded and cordless vacuums. Generally speaking, if you're after the cheapest possible model, a corded vacuum is likely to offer better value. However, if you're mostly interested in cordless models, jump straight to our cordless vacuum cost analysis using this link: cordless vacuum cleaners – price vs performance
The best way to guarantee that the vacuum cleaner you buy will clean brilliantly 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, as you can see from the graph above, 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. They're not quite up to Best Buy standards, but can do a good, if limited, job around the home. Some might be fine if you only have a small space to clean, or one type of flooring. But the cheaper you go, the more quality can vary dramatically. Around the £50 mark we've found some good vacuums, but also many that are so poor at cleaning we've had to label them Don't Buys. You can filter by price on our vacuum reviews to see the best options within your price range, whether you want a bagged or bagless, cylinder or upright model. Make sure you also check our list of Don't Buy vacuum cleaners to see the models to steer clear of.
Some premium brands, such as Dyson or Miele, can charge more than £400 for a top-end vacuum cleaner, but our tests show that it's possible to get an excellent vacuum cleaner for a fraction of that price. Premium vacs may have useful extras or longer warranties, but if you just want a decent vac, you don't need to splash out.
At some price points there can be a big difference between how good different vacuum cleaners are at keeping your home spotless. For example, paying £200 could get you one of our best-performing vacuums, or a middle-of-the-road model. And at £300+ you could end up either delighted or disappointed by your vac, with little in between.
As you might expect,our analysis shows that, in general, the more money you spend, the better chance you have of getting a good vacuum cleaner. It's no guarantee, though, as a handful of pricey models proved less than exemplary in our tests. 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. Or 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 £265. This is roughly in the middle of the price range for vacuum cleaners. However, the graph shows that you can get slightly lower-scoring Best Buys (models scoring more than 73%) for around £150 less, without compromising too much 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 be worse at cleaning and score less overall. Vacuum cleaners that cost less than £75 can be very poor indeed. But if your budget can stretch to £100-£150, 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.
Cordless vacuum cleaners appeal to many people, as they are usually light and easy to manoeuvre, making them handy for quick clean-ups. In general, they are more expensive than corded vacuums, and they're not quite as good at cleaning. The graph below shows price vs performance for all the models we've tested.
As you can see, paying less than £150 means you'll be very unlikely to get a decent cordless vacuum. However, even paying hundreds of pounds is no guarantee of good cleaning performance. In fact, we've found more Don't Buy cordless vacuums – models that are so poor at cleaning we recommend you steer clear of them – than Best Buys.
However, if you choose carefully, you can get a great cordless vac on a budget – we've found some good-value Best Buys for less than £200.
See all our cordless vacuum cleaner reviews to compare models by price, battery life and more.
How we test vacuum cleaners
We test all of the latest models on the high street and online in comparable lab tests so that we can tell you, with confidence, which vacuum cleaners are a great deal and which ones to avoid.
Our lab testing involves not only examining a vacuum cleaner's ability to suck up dust, dirt and fluff from various 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 use around your home. Head to our how we test vacuum cleaners page to find out more.
Graphs last updated: 19 June 2018