Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

By Anonymous

Whether you've got a small flat or a palatial home, it won't clean itself. What is needed here is the best vacuum cleaner. Or maybe even two: a corded one for power and the best cordless vac for convenience and tight spots. 

  • Or how about a robot vac?
  • We also have steam cleaners
  • Take our test: Which is the best Dyson vacuum cleaner for you?

How to buy the best vacuum cleaner

First up, the key question: which is the best type of vac, cylinder or upright?

Cylinders, obviously. Next! 

What, you want an even more detailed answer? 

Yes, fair enough. There are longer answers to this but for most users, the best cylinder vacuum cleaners will do a great job on hard floors and an equally good job on most carpets. It's not like the old days when all they did was suck air through a tube; they have rotating brush heads for carpet now. 

Cylinder vacs are also far more handy for cleaning sofas, and other surfaces.

The best upright vacuum cleaners are perfect for one thing: cleaning large expanses of carpet, especially deep pile. They make a decent job of hard floors too, but it's not really what they're for. 

Some, to be fair, have pull-out hoses so they can double as really odd-shaped cylinder vacs, but the form factor is not ideal for use in this way. 

In terms of storage, uprights have a smaller footprint on the whole, but are taller. You probably didn't need me to tell you that. They're easier to store away, although cylinders can be dismantled so as to take up much less space. But that does involve dismantling them, which is a bore.

What about power and energy ratings?

The newspapers may be convinced that Europe’s energy efficiency rules mean that our houses will fill up with dust, so we all die, but this is FAKE NEWS. 

The power rating does give some insight into how effective it will be, but when you consider that certain cordless handhelds with a 22v battery are able to effectively clean carpets, so long as they aren't deep pile, you can tell that some older vacs were, if anything, unnecessarily over-powered. 

Just to confuse things, some vacuum cleaners list their power in watts (W), which is how powerful the motor is; others prefer to list suction power in air watts (AW), which tells you how much suction the device delivers. Either way, higher numbers are generally better, though not the be-all and end-all as the head and engine design can make an impact too.

In terms of their efficiency, the usual F to A+++++++++ (or whatever we're up to now) scale gives a very good idea of how eco-friendly your new vac will be in use. Even some of the best vacuums have alarmingly low eco-friendliness ratings – down into the Cs and Ds – but bear in mind that you aren't going to be using them for massively prolonged periods of time, so you aren't going to bankrupt yourself with electricity bills, or single-handedly cause the end of the world.

What are other key things to consider? 

Most important: the length of the hose (on a cylinder or certain uprights) and the girth of the power cord. 

If you’ve got a lot of space to cover or stairs to sort, especially if your house is short of power sockets, this could become a critical issue over time. Of course you could always consider a cordless vac…

Even the best cordless vacs have less power and considerably less storage than corded ones but for some homes they are perfect. 

At the other end of the scale, traditional vacuums with big motors and big dust canisters can be heavy. Oh and they're usually noisy, so either forgo chat with your partner or housemates when 'hoovering' (sorry, 'Hoovering') or take shouting lessons.

The best vacuum cleaners, in order

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

1. Dyson Big Ball

The best vacuum cleaner

Specifications

Power: 180AW

Operating radius: 10.4m

Weight: 7.5kg

Reasons to buy

+Excellent cleaning+Self-righting when it falls over

Reasons to avoid

-Short cable-Cinetic version seems unnecessarily expensive

Today's best Dyson Big Ball Animal deals

Achieving Peak Dyson, the Big Ball cylinder vac comes in three key variants: Total Clean for those who want more cleaning heads than they can shake a stick vac at (six, to be precise, covering all eventualities I can think of); Animal for pet lovers, or those dating very hairy men; and Cinetic, for those who actually clean their vacuum cleaner filters,  but would rather not.

Of the three the Total Clean is the best deal, although obviously Animal is better for animal lovers. The Cinetic is great and all, but the premium you pay to not have to ever clean your filters seems a tad high. Who ever cleans vacuum filters anyway?

What Dyson has got spot on here is the weight of the Big Ball cylinder and how it navigates and balances. Should it fall over, it will actually right itself, greatly reducing incidences of vac rage. 

Suction is exemplary and while you do have to swop heads to get the absolute best results, you could probably slap on the turbine tool and use it for 80% of what you need to clean. Unless you have great, sweeping vistas of deep pile, this is our top recommendation, albeit by a hair's breadth from the Miele below.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

2. Miele Complete C3 Total Solution PowerLine

Best 'traditional'-looking cylinder vacuum

Specifications

Power: 900W

Operating radius: 12m

Weight: 5.4kg

Reasons to buy

+Total versatility+Massive power+Massive power cord, too

Reasons to avoid

-Not the most eco-friendly

Today's best Miele Complete C3 PowerLine deals

This is a rather more staid looking device than the Dyson, but maybe you have enough style and excitement in your life without needing to extend them to your vacuum cleaner. It's also lighter than the Dyson and has a longer cable, but is a bit more of a pain to haul about due to its smaller casters.

A variety of speed settings and heads – including a turbo floor brush and swivelling hard floor head – foot controls and integrated tool storage make it as versatile as it is easy to use. 

It’s a tough old bird too: Miele actually crash tests its vacuums to make sure they can handle life’s lumps and bumps. although a D energy rating is the price you pay for cleaning this good. As with Dyson's Big Ball 2, there are several versions of the C3 PowerLine, including ones for pet owners and allergy sufferers.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

3. Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine

Best upright vacuum cleaner

Specifications

Power: 900W

Operating radius: 14m

Weight: 9.7kg

Reasons to buy

+Superb on carpet+Acceptable on hard floors+Handy extending nozzle gives real versatility

Reasons to avoid

-Hefty as hell and twice as ugly-Not one for Green Party voters

Today's best Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine deals

Relentless on carpets, this also has an extending suction tube that emerges from the top of your Miele stand-up to clean stairs, shelves, sofas and everything else you might normally use a cylinder vac for.

Being the size and weight it is, the U1 isn't exactly a perfect hybrid of upright and cylinder, but if your home is heavy on the carpets but with some hard floor areas, and you also like to get in the FACE of your furnishings and surfaces, the U1 is your boy. It will leave your home looking as beautiful and sleek as it is hideous and bulbous.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

4. Numatic Henry HVR200-11

Best no-frills-at-all vac with a rictus grin

Specifications

Power: 900W

Operating radius: 27m

Weight: 8.1kg

Reasons to buy

+Excellent cleaning+Seemingly unkillable+Hugely lengthy cable

Reasons to avoid

-Not one for fine Persian rugs or velvet drapes-Does fall over in the most annoying fashion-Stupid face

A close relative of the vacs used by office cleaners absolutely everywhere – not that they get to choose them – Henry is the exact, diametric, dictionary opposite of Dyson and Miele's machines in several ways. 

That is to say, it's cheap and totally not stylish or sophisticated. Nor does this version have any setting other than 'on', or any clever brush heads. 

However, Henry sucks up a storm, is engineered incredibly simply but well, and has never knowingly let anyone down. Okay, he does topple over at times when pulled around, at which point his permanently leering face does seem ever so slappable. But for cleaning anything that isn't delicate, he's great.

True story: I once left a Henry (not this model) outside on a damp balcony for two years, then used him to clean up shards of broken glass from a broken lampshade – not only did it work, I was also not electrocuted to death on the spot. 

I've also sucked up wet plaster, gravel and damp stuff out of wall cavities with him. You're not supposed to do any of those things of course, but Henry, as his Satanic fixed grin suggests, is seemingly impossible to kill.

I wasn't sure if Henry's rather meat-and-potatoes approach to cleaning would work as well at the lower power ratings now required but this one seems to suck well enough.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

5. Dyson V8 Absolute

The only cordless vac that can replace a corded one

Specifications

Power: 425W / 115AW

Operating radius: infinite

Battery life: 10 to 40 mins

Weight: 2.6kg

Reasons to buy

+Great on hard floors+Very good on carpet+Also the best handheld you can get

Reasons to avoid

-Tiny dust container-Fairly short battery life

You can read our review of the V8 Absolute, or see how it fares against its cordless rivals in our other vacuum buying guide. (Spoiler: it wins).

To put it briefly, the V8 is the best handheld vac you can buy, and in smaller homes, especially where hard floors dominate, probably the best vac money can buy. Although, yes, it is quite a lot of money we're talking here. Well, you get what you pay for.

With its rotating spongey head on an extender arm, the V8 is a corking hard floor performer. It also laps up muck when used with it close-up cleaning brush head or, come to that, the rotating brush head that's intended for carpet. I wouldn't use it on a space with lots of deep shag but for the occasional rug or smaller carpeted areas, it is very good.

Where the V8 really scores is being ready at any time to clean up spills or do maintenance on a shelf, cupboard or worktop. It's the epitome of 'clean a little but often'. The rather short battery life when using the turbo mode – come on, the standard mode isn't bad but who ever turns off 'turbo'? – also encourages this approach. 

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

6. Dyson Big Ball Cinetic Animal Upright

Best Dyson upright is the real 'appliance of science'

Specifications

Power: 1200W / 120AW

Cord length: 10.8m

Operating radius: 15.25m

Weight: 8.7kg

Reasons to buy

+Exceptional engineering+Big reach

Reasons to avoid

-Big old thing

  • Buy Cinetic Big Ball Animal direct from Dyson

If you’re looking for the cutting edge of vaccum technology then the upright version of the Cinetic Big Ball is it – and also Dyson's top corded upright. 

Dyson’s Big Ball means it’s considerably more manoeuvrable than it looks, and the brush bar and Turbine tool are brilliant for picking up after shedding pets. It’s good for stairs too, with a maximum reach of 15.25m. Like all big Dysons it’s on the heavy side at nearly 9kg, but that ball makes it feel a lot lighter when you’re using it.

As it's a Cinetic model you also never need to clean or replace the filters on this big boy, yet the air comes out cleaner than what you're currently breathing.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

7. Miele Complete C3 Boost EcoLine

The purring, eco-friendly Rolls-Royce of vacuums

Specifications

RRP: £300

Power: 800-1200W

Cord length: 7.5m

Operating radius: 11m

Weight: 5.4kg

Reasons to buy

+Very quiet+Very powerful

Reasons to avoid

-Not great for carpets-Not everyone likes bags

Like all Miele cylinder vacuums, this puts almost all of their weight on the floor instead of on your arm, and the Comfort Boost EcoLine offers 800W of suction with a boost to 1200W for particularly strong spider removal. 

As its name suggests, however, the EcoLine range doesn't also murder the planet along the way – this has an A energy rating; some other EcoLines have an actual A+. 

It's also exceptionally quiet, gliding around hard floors and offering a great combination of cleaning power, energy efficiency and quiet operation. 

On deep carpet, the little castors are found wanting but if you have mainly hard floors with a few rugs, or smaller carpeted rooms, it's fine. These vacuums are bagged for mess-free emptying. There's a lot to be said for Dyson-style bagless vacs, but emptying them can be almost more of an art than a science. A bag may be old fashioned, but there's less aiming involved.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

8. AEG SilentPerformer Cyclonic Silent ASPC7160

The bag-free cyclone that doesn’t need to shout

Specifications

RRP: £249.99

Power: 800W

Operating radius: 9m

Weight: 7kg

Reasons to buy

+Very quiet+Brilliant on hard floors

Reasons to avoid

-Rivals offer longer cords-Heavy for its size

Few people would describe the sound a vacuum makes as pleasant, but some are actively unpleasant: we had one bag-free upright that sounded like we’d opened the very gates of Hell, which you don’t really need on a hungover Saturday. 

Hurrah, then, for quiet cyclones such as AEG’s SilentPerformer, which promises not to exceed 72dB. That’s the volume of a shower, or a dishwasher. It’s triple-A rated on hard floors (there’s a multi-floor model if you need to do a lot of carpet work too) and the 6m cord means you can cover a lot of space without having to find a plug socket. 

The fact that it looks like a space marine’s helmet is a bonus.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

9. Miele Blizzard CX1 Excellence Cat and Dog

Yes, Miele can make bagless vacs as well…

Specifications

Power: 1,200W

Operating radius: 10m

Weight: 6.5kg

Reasons to buy

+Usual Miele cleaning excellence+Bagless and easy clean+Superb filtering so great for pets

Reasons to avoid

-Fairly piffling cord length

The cat and dog versions of Miele vacuums are usually a little more expensive than the non-pet versions – like others, the CX1 is available in a non-pet version – but you get the attachments you need for dealing with shedding and the general mess that comes from having four-legged family. 

In addition there’s an AirClean lifetime HEPA filter to remove allergens, extremely high airflow to remove the maximum amount of dust and dander, and in a first for a Miele it’s a bagless device. 

Its 1,200W “Vortex” motor delivers an air speed of more than 100Km/h and splits dust into two kinds: coarse stuff goes into the clear dust container and the really fine stuff into a separate, filtered container.

That’s not the only departure from Miele tradition. The design looks reasonably modern too – think Transformer’s helmet – and the CleanStream filter has a sensor controlled self-cleaning system. It’s a bit jarring to see something so modern-looking with a Miele logo, but hey, we're not Luddites around here.

Best vacuum cleaners 2018: top bagless and bagged vacs ranked

10. Gtech AirRam Mk 2

Best upright cordless vacuum

Specifications

Power: Not quoted (22v battery)

Operating radius: Infinite

Battery life: 40 mins

Weight: 3.5kgs

Reasons to buy

+Exceptionally easy to use+Efficient pet hair collector+Excellent run time

Reasons to avoid

-Not as powerful as corded

This is rather different to most cordless vacuums in that it's not designed as a super-versatile handheld instead but as a much lighter, more manoeuvrable take on the classic upright vac.

As long as you accept that it will not suck the pips out of an apple, the Airram 2 is an excellent device for routine clean-ups of hard floors and most carpets and rugs. It has a tendency to suck up light rugs and probably isn't up to really deep pile, but it makes light work of everything between. 

Excellent value, and Gtech does a double pack with its decent Multi handheld, for £50 off. You can read more about the Airram 2 in our roundup of the chordless vac premier league.