Go back a few years and it's hard to imagine anyone getting too excited about buying a new vacuum cleaner. But the arrival of the cordless vacuum - spearheaded in popular perception by Dyson - revamped the market, and all of a sudden there's a lot more to think about than whether you want a Henry or a Hetty.
We're busy testing a selection of different vacuums - cordless, corded, and multi-surface - to find the best of the best, and the hoovers you see below are our recommendations so far. Before that, we'll break down the main things you need to know when choosing a vacuum - and head to our guide to the best robot vacuums if you'd like something a little more hands-off.
Vacuum cleaner buying advice
A vacuum isn't just a vacuum any more, and devices are split into three broad categories. Here's what you need to know.
This is your old-fashioned type of vacuum: think Henry the Hoover. Requiring a direct connection to the mains for power, corded vacuums tend to offer the most powerful suction, the largest bins, and save you from ever worrying about battery life - especially useful if you have a big house to clean.
There are of course two big downsides: weight and, well, the cord. Corded cleaners tend to be the biggest and heaviest, so they tend to take a big of effort to lug around the house, especially up or down stairs. The cords also limit their mobility, and leave you plugging and unplugging them repeatedly as you move around the house.
If you want to go corded, you'll also have to choose between an upright or cylinder design. The former combine the vacuum and head, while the latter see the hoover head connected to a separate vacuum cylinder via a hose. They can be a bit unwieldy, but allow for bigger bins and more power, while keeping the brush head itself light and maneuverable.
Cordless vacuums used to be solely useful for spot-cleaning, thanks to limitations to both battery life and suction power. Recent models have improved on both though, to the point that with the Cyclone V10 Dyson announced that it will no longer be designing and producing new corded vacuums - the company reckons that cordless are the future.
Battery life and suction power remain the key things to look for between different models, as they can vary significantly, while weight is also crucial. You're more likely to be carrying a cordless cleaner the whole time, rather than resting it on the floor, so if it's too heavy it's likely to really get on your nerves.
Multi-surface cleaners are a small but growing chunk of the market, and look likely to take over the space regular corded vacuums used to occupy. Combining both a vacuum head and a mop or brush, multi-surface cleaners aim to be your one-stop shop for floor cleaning, saving you from worrying about separately mopping and hoovering.
The downside is that the extra functionality makes multi-function cleaners bigger, heavier, and more expensive than rival devices. As you'd expect with anything trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, there's also always the worry that they won't mop or vacuum quite as well as separate standalone devices.
Best vacuum cleaner reviews
- Reviewed on: 16 April 2019
The V11 is an iterative update on the Cyclone V10 in terms of pure power, but a more substantial one when it comes to user experience.
Silly as it may sound, the introduction of an LCD screen on the handle is a genuine innovation, giving live battery updates and troubleshooting advice on the go. The High Torque head’s Auto mode is also ideal for those of us used to ploughing ahead with the same old attachment no matter the surface, with the V11 now capable of making up for our laziness.
The extra suction power is welcome, but with minimal battery improvements and extra weight compared to previous models this might not win over anyone yet to be convinced by cordless.
At the end of the day, this is without a doubt the current best cordless vacuum on the market, but at this price it would have to be, and for most people the company’s cheaper rivals will do the job just as well. And with the Auto mode strictly Absolute-only (in the UK) there's really no reason to go for the cheaper Animal model.
Read our Dyson V11 Absolute review.
- Reviewed on: 21 March 2018
The Cyclone V10 is undeniably a phenomenal cordless vacuum, and likely as close as anyone’s gotten yet to killing cords for good. It packs more than enough oomph to justify the steep price, with three power settings, multiple attachments, and a slick design with added options like wall-mounting.
The hour-long battery life (less on higher speeds) isn't quite enough to clean a big house top-to-bottom, and the weight will also be an issue if you're trying to clean for that long anyway, but for most people this will be plenty.
Just stick to the Animal model, and resist paying over the odds for unnecessary add-ons in the Absolute and Total Clean versions.
Read our Dyson Cyclone V10 review.
- Reviewed on: 21 November 2018
The Philips SpeedPro Max is an excellent cordless vacuum, which is at a similarly high level to Dyson's Cyclone V10.
There's little to choose between the two with features like a modular design, powerful suction and three speed settings. We like the LED headlights here and the runtime is slightly longer but not enough to make a difference.
The Dyson narrowly pips it due to being cheaper and actually coming with more attachments.
Read our Philips SpeedPro Max review.
- Reviewed on: 23 November 2018
A good deal if you can find it on sale, the Shark DuoClean Powered Lift-Away NV801UK is a mouthful but one of the better vacuum cleaners available in the UK today.
Excellent on hardwood floor and carpet, the versatility of the Lift Away system, means it’s a one-size-fits-all cleaner to have around the home for floors, under furniture and even curtains.
It’s easy to manoeuvre and not very heavy, and doesn’t do much wrong at all – all with a five-year guarantee. A fine if pricey buy.
5. Roidmi F8
- Reviewed on: 20 November 2018
The Roidmi F8 is one of the best cordless vacuums we've seen to date. It's impressively lightweight at only 1.5kg while still offering great suction and almost an hour of battery life on a single charge, along with a variety of attachments and more novel features like smartphone support.
Our biggest gripe is with the small 0.4l bin, which means you'll have to empty this fairly regularly. But beyond that, this is an easy cordless vacuum to recommend, offering performance close to the best from Dyson and Philips at a significantly lower price.
Read our Roidmi F8 review.
- Reviewed on: 30 April 2018
We can’t argue with the capabilities of the Vorwerk VK200 system, but it’s the price that’ll hold most people back. At £500, we’d be running to buy this ourselves, and even that is expensive. But we can absolutely see how the more house proud among us would be able to justify the £1,500 for the whole system.
It can clean all of your floors to an amazing standard, and offers a tool or accessory for pretty much anything you need it to do. It’s likely to last for a lot longer than many alternative vacuum cleaners, too.
It’s a shame it’s a bit clunky to use on the stairs, and that it always requires a power cable (albeit a very long one), but aside from those quibbles there’s not much else to find fault in. And if you’re unsure, you can request a demo in your own home before you commit.
Read our Vorwerk Kobold VK200 review.
- Reviewed on: 16 August 2018
The Hoover H-Free is a decent attempt to bring a premium cordless vacuum to a much lower price point - at just £140, it costs much less than even the cheapest Dyson model, despite offering a similar set of features and accessories.
Still, there are downsides. Slightly lower suction is to be expected, but fiddly buttons and stiff connections feel like unnecessary compromises, even at this price. On the plus side, in our testing it breezed past Hoover’s own claim of a 25-minute battery life, one of the most important features of any cordless.
So there’s an element of ‘you get what you pay for’, but if you want a cordless vacuum with good battery life and don’t want to spend £200+ for it, the H-Free offers solid bang for your buck, annoyances aside.
Read our Hoover H-Free review.
- Reviewed on: 19 July 2018
The Bissell CrossWave is a multi-surface cleaner that allows you to vacuum and wash most types of floors in one go, either vacuuming and mopping simultaneously, or using the two modes separately. If you have pets or messy kids you'll probably like it, as it allows you to get hairs and mud out of rugs rather efficiently, but it has some limitations.
It's corded, which is an obvious downside, and the bulky body means it struggles to clean under and around furniture, while brush head design struggles to get right up into corners. Those are big problems, and mean that as convenient as the CrossWave is for cleaning spills, you'll probably still need another handheld or cordless vacuum to clean those tight spots.
Read our Bissell CrossWave review.