Today's advanced vacuum cleaners are nothing like the clunky models of decades past. They're lightweight, cordless and pack rechargeable batteries for extreme convenience and portability. These machines aren't simple dustbusters either. They rival traditional upright corded vacuums, both in power and flexibility. Many come with numerous attachments, and special modes to tackle multiple floor types, including hardwood floors and stairs, and household chores like cleaning furniture.
Dyson pioneered this field with its lineup of capable -- and pricey -- Cyclone V series stick vacs. A host of companies now offer their own cordless vacuums. In some cases these are shameless clones of Dyson products. In others, they're unique takes on the cordless vacuum, providing novel features all their own.
Are any of these vacuums worth buying over Dyson's premium models? And if so, which one makes the most sense for you? To find the answer, we selected eight current cordless vacuums. On the list are stick vacs from well-known vacuum cleaner heavyweights like Hoover, Shark, and Bissell. We also included a few options from vacuum newcomers Onson and Moosoo, both popular, low-cost Dyson alternatives sold through Amazon.
We then put them all through a rigorous battery of floor-care tests. The process took over 150 hours to complete. It also consumed multiple pounds of sand and rice, plus hundreds of handfuls of pet hair. After that, we've determined that these products are our picks for the best cordless vacuums for 2020.
The $599 V11 is Dyson's latest and greatest stick vac. It's also the most expensive machine in our test group. That said, this flagship model delivered best-in-class performance to match its steep price. On hardwood surfaces, the V11 literally wiped the floor clean. The vacuum demonstrated near-flawless pickup of both sand and black rice test samples (99.6 and 100%, respectively).
Pet owners will also appreciate the V11's prowess at eliminating pet hair. During anecdotal tests, the vacuum completely removed hair fibers from mid-pile and low-pile carpets. Pet hair pickup across hardwood flooring went almost as well. The only detractors were a stray clump the vacuum missed at the top of our test area. That and a few strands ended up wrapped around the V11's brush roll.
I certainly like how easy the V11's dustbin is to empty. Just aim the vacuum into the trash, and push a release tab to open the bin's lid. To close it, pull the tab in the opposite direction. Other models we tested were a nightmare in this regard. The Hoover BladeMax gave us the most trouble. Hair and dust typically became trapped deep inside its dustbin. I found its bin tricky to open too. Worse, it isn't always clear that the bin is securely attached.
Dyson also bundles numerous attachments in the box. Among them are tools for cleaning crevices, dusting and pulling ground-in dirt from carpeting. All this makes the Dyson V11 the clear choice for the best cordless vacuum money can buy. Read more about the Dyson V11.
The second-best performer in our group of cordless vacuums was the $279 Shark Rocket Pet Pro Cordless. It came very close to cleaning floors as well as the Dyson V11, but costs hundreds less. The Rocket removed just as much sand from both midpile carpets and hardwood surfaces. In fact the only area where the Shark trailed the V11 was over low-pile carpeting. There, the machine pulled away an overage of 67.6% of our test sand. By contrast, the Dyson V11 removed a greater amount of sand from our low-pile carpeting (78.4% on average).
The Rocket didn't have trouble handling pet hair either. On both low-pile carpeting and hardwood, the vacuum wiped away all traces of animal dander. Results were favorable across midpile carpet, too. Only a small tuft of hair remained after the vacuum passed over the thicker, more challenging surface.
Design is another of the Rocket Pet Pro's strengths. Its dustbin is almost as easy to empty as the Dyson V11. The container typically remains clear of dirt and debris as well, not stuck inside even after emptying. I also appreciate how the Rocket Pet Pro's wand attachment can stand upright on its own (disconnected from the main vacuum unit). So, if you seek a solid midrange cordless upright stick vac, Shark's Rocket Pro is an outstanding option.
If you'd like to own a Dyson but would rather not spend top dollar, consider the $449 Dyson V8 Absolute. This step-down model is a few years old, yet still performs like a champ. On our floor-cleaning tests, the V8 came in a respectable third. In our test group, only the Dyson V11 and Shark Rocket Pet Pro scoured floors better than the V8.
On hardwood, the vacuum managed to pickup an average of 98% of the sand we dropped. For low-pile carpets, that average fell to 68.3%. The average slipped further across midpile carpets, though remained at a respectable 52%.
Pet hair didn't faze the V8 much either. It pulled hair away from midpile and low-pile carpets completely. It did fail to remove a small amount of dander on hardwood. Additionally, some fibers became wrapped around the vacuum's brushroll.
And similar to the V11 Torque Drive, the V8 Absolute comes with a generous assortment of add-ons. That includes gadgets for dusting, reaching into tight crevices, and grabbing ground-in dirt. So for those who'd like to own a Dyson brand stick vac a little less cash, the V8 Absolute is worth a look. Read more about the Dyson V8.
Moosoo isn't exactly a household name. Nevertheless, the $98 Moosoo M X6 cordless vacuum packs a respectable punch, considering its low price. Despite costing much less than competing vacuums, the M X6 was the fourth-best performer in our test group of eight models.
The stick vac picked up 99% (on average) of our test sand from hardwood. On low-pile carpeting, that figure sank to 41.3%. The M X6 fared better across thicker midpile carpet though, earning a higher sand pickup average of 52.2%.
Black rice, our large particle test soil, was a breeze for the Moosoo vacuum. It managed pickup averages above 90% on hardwood, low-pile and midpile carpet (95.4, 96.8 and 94%, respectively).
Don't buy the Moosoo M X6, though, if you're a pet owner. At least some visible dander remained after vacuuming, no matter the test surface. The brushroll tends to wrap strands of hair around itself as well.
If you want cordless vacuuming on a tight budget, however, consider the Moosoo M X6. It just might fit the bill, and for much less cash.
How we test cordless vacuums
Putting cordless vacuums through their paces isn't as complicated as, but it still takes lots of time and careful effort. We run each vacuum in a straight line across three different surfaces (hardwood, low-pile carpet, midpile carpet). On all three test beds, the test area is the same length (30.25 inches).
The width of the test bed is proportional the vacuum's nozzle width. We measure this width ourselves. We also use nozzle width, plus the flooring type, to calculate the soil density for each test, per International Electrotechnical Commission guidelines. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers.
We use three types of soil. To simulate small particle size, we use a mix of play sand and landscaping sand. To emulate larger dirt particles, we use uncooked black rice. To see how vacuums deal with pet hair, we use our mixture of clippings sourced to us through our local pet groomer.
We perform three runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also test with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per vacuum. We weigh the vacuum's dust bin both before and after each run.
From there we can calculate the percentage of debris pickup for every run and the average amount of soil a vacuum manages to remove. Additionally, we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each vacuum, on all three floor types.
Want more cordless vacuum options? Here's a list of the other stick vacs we tested besides the models listed above: