Comparison: Upright vs Canister Vacuums

By Maria Hernandez / September 18, 2021 / 0 Comments

Our expert editors independently review, test, and recommend products to help you make an informed decision. We may earn commissions on purchases made from our product links.

Most people know whether they prefer Coke to Pepsi, or Skippy to Jif. But when it comes to vacuums, how do you choose between uprights or canisters? Some go by facts, others by price – but for most, it’s merely a matter of preference.

No matter which camp you fit in, a little extra information might help solidify your decision. It certainly couldn’t hurt. So, stick around for the showdown of the century (well, not really… but it made you laugh—didn’t it?).

Kidding aside, here are a few ways to tell which type of vacuum fits your lifestyle.

Canister Vacuum Pros & Cons


  1. Quiet.
  2. Lightweight.
  3. Retractable cords.
  4. Powerful.

Canister vacuums produce less noise than their upright cousins. Since the motor is housed in a separate unit, there is room for better sound insulation. Most canister vacuums emit between 60-65 decibels.

In comparison, most uprights start around 75 decibels.

When choosing a canister vac, consider the weight. You can buy a canister vac that weighs as little as 7.5 pounds. To find an upright vacuum that size, you’ll need to settle for a stick model.

Unlike most uprights, nearly all canister vacuums have retractable cords. Apart from the convenience factor, retractable cords are safer to use. Think about it:

How many times have you tripped over the vacuum cord—silently swearing as it dislodges from the wall? See what I mean?

Which brings us to the last point: canister vacuums just seem to work better than most uprights. Even the smallest models register around 9 amps of power.


  1. You must bend to use it.
  2. You must drag it behind you.
  3. You’ll have to juggle two pieces.
  4. Canisters are difficult to store.

If you have a larger home, vacuuming can be a chore. If you suffer from back pain, vacuuming is downright painful. Particularly so if there are lots of corners and crevices.

Canister vacuums are low to the ground. You must bend to turn them on, and again when you switch them off. Reaching into the corners to get those cobwebs—you guessed it, another bend.

If you’ve ever lugged a shopping cart down a crowded aisle, you’ll understand the next point. Dragging canister vacuums is a lot like pushing a cart – except in reverse. Not to mention, the wheels may scuff your floors, or the housing may bang into walls and furniture.

Some people were born graceful – and then there’s the rest of us. Juggling two pieces of equipment while transitioning through rooms is a pain. Especially when that retractable cord comes loose and smacks you in the foot.

So, you’ve finished vacuuming for the day, now what? That’s right, it’s time to put the machine to bed. So, assuming you’ve packed it all away, it should be easy, right?

Not exactly.

There’s a price to pay for all those handy attachments and hoses. They take up a ton of space.

But, if you’re still on team canister— take a look at three popular options:

Back to Top

3 Recommended Canister Vacuums

1. Dyson Ball Multi-floor Canister

Weighing in at 16.9 pounds and hailing originally from Wiltshire, United Kingdom—the Dyson Ball. This canister vac packs a powerful punch and makes dust bunnies everywhere quiver in fear. The Dyson Ball features a 21-foot cord, washable filter, and bagless design.

Dyson vacuums were voted #1 in customer satisfaction and #2 in performance in a 2017 survey by JD Power and Associates. Customer reviews for the Dyson are predominantly favorable. A majority of reviewers cited the model as easy to maneuver and excellent as a hardwood floor vacuum cleaner option.

The Dyson Ball is also certified allergy & asthma friendly.

2. Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Canister

Our next contender is the Shark Rotator. This light-weight canister features dual-motors for better cleaning. If that’s not enough, the Shark also sports a swivel head, made for cleaning tight spots.

This model features handle controls—no more bending down to switch settings. If you feel like vacuuming at night, go ahead. This Shark vacuum has LED headlights to light up dark corners.

Reviews for the Shark Rotator are overwhelmingly positive. Many comments came from pet owners who noted the vacuum’s superior suction capabilities.

3. Bissell Zing Rewind

The Bissell Zing is surprisingly affordable. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but if price is a concern, it’s a smart choice. This model costs less than $75 & is available from several online retail sites.

The Zing features a bagless design and a bare floor setting. This model includes two washable filters, removable dirt cup, and retractable cord.

Customer reviews for the Bissell are mixed. Those who rave over the vacuum say it’s a breeze to clean. Others complain the Zing feels cheap, and is cumbersome to use.

Back to Top

Upright Vacuum Pros & Cons


  1. Simple to use.
  2. Easy to store.
  3. Better for large areas.
  4. Easy to empty.

When it comes to simple cleaning tools, it doesn’t get easier than an upright vacuum. These machines are plug and play. Many come with onboard attachments—allowing you to switch focus on the fly.

After an intense cleaning bout, I’ll bet you’re ready for a break. Good news: upright vacuums are easy to store in a closet or corner.

Some compact models even come with wall-mounts.

Upright vacuums are terrific for large areas. Their wide-body design enables you to cover more ground in less time. These vacuums are especially effective on carpet; dust and dirt won’t stand a chance against a beater bar.

Lastly, most uprights are bagless, making clean-up a breeze. Bagless models have plastic collection cylinders that snap into place. If you’ve ever wrestled to change a vacuum bag, you’ll understand.

But, it’s not all hearts and flowers. There are disadvantages to working with these vacuums:


  1. Loud.
  2. Heavy.
  3. Can’t get into tricky cracks and crevices.
  4. Challenging to vacuum stairs with an upright.

While there are quiet uprights on the market, most sound like a freight train. Due to their unibody design, upright vacuums can’t muffle sounds as well as canister vacs. Your best bet—look for a model that’s rated at 75 decibels or less.

Pushing an upright vacuum gets tiresome after a few minutes. The good news is there are lightweight models on the market. An extra workout has its benefits, but for comfort’s sake, opt for a vacuum that’s less than 10 pounds.

If your floorplan is made up of nooks and crannies, an upright isn’t the best choice. Even with attachments, it’s difficult to get behind furniture or other objects. Save yourself the aggravation by choosing a canister vac.

One last caveat: stairs. It’s nearly impossible to clean steps with an upright. If you manage to get the vacuum to the top, you’ll risk tripping and falling over the cord.

Back to Top

3 Recommended Upright Vacuums

1. Dyson Ball Animal 2

No surprises here, it’s another Dyson. This model is pricey, but according to reviewers— it’s worth every penny. The Dyson Animal backs up its name by supplying 270 air watts of suction.

This beast weighs just 17.5 pounds and features a 35-foot cord. The cleaning head self-adjusts, giving you better control over surfaces. It also comes with a stair tool and a turbine attachment.

It’s worth noting: this model’s rigid hoses frustrated some reviewers. Other than that, the Animal 2 scored high marks in both power & performance.

2. Oreck Touch Bagless

At 16 pounds, the Oreck Touch weighs more than the brand’s previous models. It’s also on the pricey side— just under $400. But, if you’re looking for a vacuum with staying power, this models hard to beat.

The Touch is bagless and easy to clean. It features a swivel neck, HEPA filter, and dual motors. This Oreck comes with several attachments, including a dusting brush and stair tool.

Die-hard Oreck fans cast this vacuum in a favorable light. Most customers state the Touch has exceeded their expectations. On the other hand, some commentators expressed frustration with the narrow head design and limited 5-year warranty.

3. Eureka FloorRover Bagless Upright

The Eureka FloorRover wins big with economy-minded shoppers. It holds it’s own against the big boys, but costs less than $200. The FloorRover comes with an impressive 10-amp motor, 30-foot cord, and washable filter.

It’s also cool to look at. The oversized wheels glide over transitions with ease, while its lightweight design makes it a snap to maneuver.

Eureka customers note this model as robust, versatile and easy to clean. Negative comments focus on the cord placement, with some reviewers describing this model as noisy.

Back to Top


Which is better: an upright or canister vacuum cleaner?

Canister vacuums are quieter compared to upright versions. They are lightweight and easy to move from one room to another. The cords are often retractable, so they are less of a safety hazard. You could potentially trip over the cord of an upright vacuum cleaner. Canister vacuums are typically smaller in size but have very powerful motors. Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum is ideal as it weighs only 16.9 pounds and has a 21-foot cord. These factors make canister vacuum cleaners the leading choice.

Are canister vacuum cleaners better?

Yes; they are quiet, easy to use, light-weight, often have retractable cords, and can have powerful motors for better suction. They are ideal for people who are tired of lugging around an upright vacuum. Retractable cords are much safer, as the risk of tripping over it is less. A recommended canister vacuum is the Dyson Big Ball Multi-Floor canister vacuum cleaner. This appliance has carbon fiber filaments to pick up fine dust. The stiff nylon bristles remove dirt buried deep within carpet fibers.

How long do canister vacuums last?

With proper cleaning and maintenance, a canister vacuum has an average lifespan of 8 years, and experts recommend that you replace your vacuum cleaner every 8 years at least. In addition, some canister vacuum cleaners use batteries that need to be replaced with regular use. The lifespan of your vacuum will depend on how much you use it, how well you clean it, and how it’s stored. Following the manufacturer’s instructions will ensure your canister vacuum operates for many years.

How long do upright vacuums last?

Some models can last up to 10 years, but it’s recommended to replace your vacuum every 8 years. Following the cleaning and care instructions from the manufacturer is essential. The cord may need to be replaced if it suffers from wear and tear. How often you use the vacuum cleaner and how well you look after it will make a difference to the lifespan of the product. Unlike canister vacuums, upright vacuums don’t require batteries that need to be replaced.

Which is the best upright vacuum vs canister vacuum to buy?

Canister vacuums are quiet, lightweight, powerful and often have the added bonus of retractable cords. On the other hand, you must bend down to operate them and drag them behind you as you clean. There are two sections of the vacuum — the nozzle and actual canister — so they are sometimes difficult to operate, and they are large so storing them can be difficult. 

Upright vacuums are usually cheaper, have better deep cleaning power and are excellent for cleaning carpets. Some upright vacuums can be difficult to clean, though, and they’re more difficult to store than canister vacuums. 

The type you choose will largely depend on your individual needs. If you have a smaller apartment you may want a canister vacuum, but if you have a large house with wall to wall carpets then an upright vacuum will be a better option. 

If you’re looking for the perfect canister vacuum, we recommend the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister Vacuum as ideal for those who suffer from asthma or allergies. The best upright vacuum would have to be the Dyson Ball Animal 2. It features a 35-foot cord, weighs only 17.5 pounds and has a self-adjusting cleaning head.


When it comes to a victor, it’s simply too close to call.

Both upright and canister vacuums have come a long way in the few years. It all comes down to whichever you prefer.

Both types feature powerful motors, light-weight designs, and endless attachments. Depending on your floor-plan, one style may work better. Ultimately, only you can decide.

Your best bet is to research reviews, scan online forums and stop by your local stores. You may decide on a particular brand, only to change your mind when you view it up-close. If you do decide to buy online, be sure to get a written warranty and confirm the store’s return policy.

Back to Top

About Maria Hernandez

Senior Floor Critic, 25 years of experience in residential and commercial cleaning

Maria Hernandez has 25 years of experience in residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services. From hardwood to carpet to marble floors, Maria has developed a deep expertise in cleaning and maintaining many different flooring types.

Back to Top

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *