The best cordless vacuums include 3 Dyson models (and 1 alternative)


Person's hand holding Dyson V12 Detect Slim cordless vacuum

Even if you’re not sold on robot vacuums, manual vacuuming still doesn’t have to feel like a chore — not if you have an upright vacuum that you enjoy breaking out. The best stick vacuums are simultaneously compact enough to zip around one-handed and powerful enough to conquer pet hair on carpets and debris blowing around on hard floors. And not for nothing, they’re able to reach the spots that a botvac just can’t.

Which is better: Robot vacuums or upright vacuums?

If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

The convenience of not lifting a finger to clean isn’t always worth the cringe that comes with watching a robovac ignoring crumbs under the cabinet lip or eating a laptop charger. Despite impressive upgrades in smart mapping, AI small obstacle avoidance, and debris and floor type sensors over the past few years, even the best robot vacuum cleaners can’t match the precision of, you know, an actual human with a brain.

However, your willingness to do it yourself also matters: Whether or not a robot vacuum is worth it really comes down to the time you personally care to spend on vacuuming. I personally have both at the ready at all times and can argue for the value and practicality on either side, depending on the situation. And while I wouldn’t want to completely live without the convenience robot vacuums provide when I’m frazzled, I haven’t been able to shake the reflex to reach for a cordless stick vacuum in more cases than not. Have scientists looked into this as a genetic trait? Because I’m officially my mother.

So yes, the ideal setup would be to have both — perhaps splitting your budget into spending a few hundred dollars on each rather than splurging on one. But if that’s not practical in your home, a cordless upright vacuum is the more robust choice.

Cordless stick vacuums are generally more powerful, as their design is optimal for airflow and includes the real estate to house more powerful motors, cyclone systems that create extra force on top of suction power alone, and a larger dust bin. Manual operation is especially crucial for the upkeep of tricky spots that aren’t even on a robot vacuum’s radar, like staircases or cars.

A robot vacuum’s motor can’t exceed the three or four-inch clearance that the vac needs to scoot its whole body under furniture. The motor of an upright vacuum typically lives completely separately from the vacuum head and roller brush and is thus under fewer constraints. So, not only do stick vacuums have bigger, better motors that create stronger centrifugal force, but you can also bring the vac to the exact right spots because you’re the one steering.

After testing top vacuums from brands like Dyson, Shark, and LG, we created this guide to the best cordless stick vacuums. Go ahead and free yourself from the shackles of the wall outlet in 2024.

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