Help a Home-Ec Reader Find the Right Vacuum: A Friday Ask the Audience

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
Target has a gift card promotion this week with the Dysons. I’ve been thinking about purchasing one but the only thing holding me back is the fact that my house isn’t covered in carpet except for the basement which isn’t a very large space. Can anyone recommend a vacuum cleaner that would be comparable to Dyson but cost less? I can’t see myself spending so much for such a little space.
Bagless in Baltimore

comparable to Dyson but costs less


Heather says:

This is a fantastic question for the Home-Ec 101 Readers and an excellent opportunity for me to introduce you to my friend Dave Taylor. Dave runs where he answers all kinds of tech questions. A recent question How to Research a Tech Product Before I Buy It translates beautifully to your question “Which vacuum cleaner should I purchase for a small space?”

Personally, I use a Roomba i530 on the main level of our home, which is all hard flooring, with very few rugs because I can’t make a decorating commitment of that magnitude, apparently. . . If you would like, here is my personal review of the iR0bot 530, with a lot of feedback from Home-Eccers. And, I just ordered an upgrade for my Roomba as it’s time to replace the brushes after some abuse from the other minions -the kind on two and four legs. I used Dave’s advice when I checked out the reviews of the iRobot 500 Series Upgrade (I have the white, but the black upgrade had more reviews).

Upstairs on the carpet, I use a factory reconditioned Dyson. Do you know what factory reconditioned means? Factory reconditioning is a process by which a returned product is checked, by the manufacturer, before being resold. By law a product returned to a store cannot be sold as new. Not every product is returned because of an actual defect, some people simply return an item because it doesn’t fit their needs or maybe there was a slight defect that was repaired. Factory reconditioned products are significantly cheaper than new. Occasionally factory reconditioned items have a couple cosmetic blemishes. In this case, it’s a vacuum, last I checked we didn’t spend weekends going to vacuum shows, showing off vintage models. Your vacuum is going to receive abuse, so why pay a premium? Now you have a way to purchase an actual Dyson vacuum cleaner without spending as much on a new Dyson vacuum.

Let’s do a quick comparison:

Over on we see the Dyson DC41 Animal Upright for $599. (eek!) Now, let’s head over to Amazon and put in Dyson Animal Reconditioned: (You aren’t going to get the LATEST model, but again with the, it’s a frigging vacuum). Look at that, the most expensive one is $309, which also has free shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime Member -I am simply for this and the streaming video perks- that’s down to nearly half the cost. Now, if that is still out of your intended budget (which I completely understand, we have carpeting in the upstairs bedroom and my office, and with our I-shed-all-the-time-basset-hound, I still feel justified having a the vacuum I do, but that’s a personal decision, judge away, if you must)

I have also tested a Bissell Pro-Lite Multi-Cyclonic Upright Vacuum and also found the Bissell performed well. This vacuum rings in at $119 brand spanking new. I did a quick search, but didn’t see a factory reconditioned option. You can certainly look on e-Bay and other sites to see if they are out there as an option.

Since I’m only one person and have only one house and have limited consumer product testing time and facilities, I’m opening this reader question up to the Home-Ec 101 audience.  What vacuum would YOU recommend, based on your experience, for a reader with a fairly small carpeted area?

Ready? Go!

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25 thoughts on “Help a Home-Ec Reader Find the Right Vacuum: A Friday Ask the Audience”

  1. I just bought a new Hoover canister a couple of days ago. It was the number 2 rated bagless canister per CR (I think…may need to double check that), Hoover has a great repair record (plus had an upright from them that lasted for over 10 years), & I found it online on sale with free shipping –Trifecta! So far the suction is pretty awesome, but it’s a little awkward moving (like CR said it was).

    I’ve had both Miele & Kenmore brands before, but they didn’t hold up. And Dyson scares me because of the horrible repair record, & I’ve had friends who says the suction is not good especially if you have pets & reiterated that they don’t last. I’ve never tried the Roomba, but it’s been on my Christmas wish list for 4 years. 🙂

    Oh & I have mostly hardwoods & tile with rugs downstairs & all carpet upstairs.

  2. I have a Bissell Heavy Duty. I have hardwood floors in three rooms, a rug in one, and carpet in the bedrooms. The thing I love is the amount of dog hair it seems to be able to get, even when I think I’ve gotten it all. It’s great. The one negative thing is that it does shut off if it overheats. It scared me the first time that happened. I have also had to take it apart to unclog some of the previously mentioned dog hair. (Large dog that sheds a lot in the spring.) I found it at Wal-Mart.

  3. I’m old enough to have been through a number of vacuum cleaners. My best experience has been with Eureka; my worst — a Hoover baglesss.

  4. We got a reconditioned Dyson off of about a year ago for $179. The canister wasn’t perfectly clean. I immediately got it dirtier by, you know, vacuuming. Everything else about it was perfect, and it’s an awesome vacuum.

  5. We have the Dyson DC24 We bought it off of Craigslist, brand new and still sealed in the box, for about $200. That was over 2 years ago and I’m still very happy with it. At the time of purchase, we had a dog and a new baby so I used it every day. I’ve only had to drop it off for repair once and it was covered under their warranty. My advice is to find one on Craigslist!

  6. I saw some dysons at a pawn shop the other day – they test them before they buy them from people, so that’s an option, too! (I actually received a dyson as a gift, and I love it – I also really loved my oreck because it was so lightweight…but it died pretty quickly…)

  7. My aunt bought one of those Shark mini vacuums and she compared it to the Dyson and said it was better. She has cats and said it picks up the hair perfectly and it can also be used on hard floors.

  8. I’ve got the iRobot Roomba for Pets and it gives me an hour or two of my life back every week (compared to a normal push vacuum). Literally life changing and my house is cleaner because I can vacuum every day without doing more than pressing a button.

  9. I had great experiences with two expensive Panasonic vacuums, but that was a decade ago. Currently, since budget means no pricey vacuums, I have two cheap Dirt Devil upright bagless vacuums. I think I paid $40 each for them on sale at Target and have one at home and one at my office. The only real complaint I have about them is that hair gets wound around the pre-filter and cuts suction. This requires disassembly of the housing that holds the dirt cup, pre-filter, and HEPA filter. The disassembly is quite easy, but having to do it several times while cleaning gets annoying. The HEPA filter also clogs with dust pretty quickly, but don’t toss it! I brush out the folds with the cheapie boar bristle paint brush I keep with the vacuum precisely for dusting of all kinds, and then every couple of weeks I give the filter to my husband and let him take it out to his shop to blow it out with compressed air. It’s a very tough filter and stands up to this treatment with no problems. The house vacuum has to deal with throw rugs, wood, slate tile, and exposed aggregate concrete (the rough concrete-rock stuff they put around swimming pools), and manages all with no problems. They are little, lightweight, and loud. And since they are so cheap, they don’t have a headlight and feature only two tools. I don’t care; they work. So if you need a vacuum on a tight budget, you should check these out.

  10. I can’t see spending over $100 just to clean such a small space, let alone buying a Dyson. If you just need something for small areas like an apartment or only a few rooms with carpet, I HIGHLY recommend the Bissell Powerforce Compact Upright Bagless. It’s between $35 and $40 at Walmart, comes in fun colors (purple, green, pink) and it works very well. I got one a few weeks ago, put it together in 10 minutes and started using it. It has very powerful suction. It made my carpets look better than they looked when I moved in. For what it’s worth, I have shoulder length hair and shed like crazy and a cat that sheds. This vacuum sucked up both like a champ.

  11. I don’t have a recommendation, but I can tell you I do NOT recommend an Oreck upright. I loved it at first, but then I found myself missing the ease of my old Kenmore canister vac (which had gone to vac heaven) and wishing I’d just replaced it with another similar model. My Oreck is VERY lightweight, but it would not go under most of the furniture that I need to vacuum under – it’s just a bit too thick to fit. And it won’t get into small spaces – my old Kenmore had a quick-detach powerhead which would let me use just the hose to get into little spots. Now I have to use a separate, hand-held vac to do that stuff. Oh, and the free handheld Oreck I got with the upright died about a year ago. (Right after I bought a supply of filter bags. Meh.)

  12. We’ve been pretty happy with a Sears Kenmore Progressive canister (we have mainly hardwood floors & some rugs). It’s great at picking up pet fur, etc. Some of the plastic latches are kind of flimsy — be careful — but we’ve had it 3.5 years and it still works great. It has a long cord, but a rather short hose, and a super little power-brush upholstery attachment. It was about $300 on sale.

  13. I got a Bissell Cleanview Helix Upright (bagless) a couple years ago as a wedding present. Love it. Currently, our house is all concrete with a few rugs, but I use the attachments all the time on the couches, corners, and cobwebs. Our dog is a medium shedder and it handles her fur pretty well.

    Before we moved, we cleaned out my husband’s old house (his roommates had a 20+year old semi-broken vacuum) and my old apartment with it and I was very happy with the suction power. I believe that at the time it was highly rated by Consumer Reports.


  14. Most of you probably have never heard of this before, but you should really try Riccar Vacuums. My mom bought hers at least 10 years ago and it’s still going strong! Every once in a while she has to take it into a vacuum shop for a tune up but they last. Yes the new prices are higher than your typical vacuum but, again, they’re good quality and they’re worth fixing if they have a part that breaks. Most target/walmart vacuums that if something breaks, you might be able to order the part that broke from the manufacturer, but usually it’s time to buy a new vacuum.

    When I needed a vacuum for my first apartment, I found a used one on ebay for around $100. It’s been a few years and so far so good. I don’t expect that it will last as long as my mom’s, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

  15. My Dyson gets heavy use throughout our 3 bedroom house because we have a long hair dog and a cat that sheds like crazy and it just, well, works. I use it on our carpet, wood and tile floors. While I cannot live without my Dyson, I would advise to save your money for such a small space.

  16. I have to go with a Dyson…I have the animal (purchased for $300 on craigslist, brand new in the box, some lucky couple got TWO as wedding gifts), got it about 2 or 3 years ago. After replacing wal-mart vacs every single year. There are 8 in our family, 5 are guys, plus 3 dogs. I don’t have a ton of carpet (see above!) but I use it for dusting cobwebs, etc. This thing is amazing for me. When suction starts to wan, we clean the filters and its like new. I’ve not had to have it serviced or repaired. I never thought I’d love a vacuum, but I do!

  17. I have a Miele and I love it. I know they are expensive- I bought mine used on eBay, and saw them listed also on Craigslist. I have a total of 2 throw rugs in my large house but I use the vacuum everywhere, I think it works better than sweeping which seems to redistribute dirt more than get rid of it. It is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and quiet. Should last quite a while, too, mine must be at least 10 years old now and no issues.

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