Battery-operated vacuums or usually people called cordless vacuums are incredibly convenient tools for cleaning your car, hard-to-reach areas around your house, and spot cleaning when you don’t want to haul out a full-sized machine.
As newer models become more powerful and more sophisticated, there are even some that can clean your whole house, carpets and all! There are handhelds, sticks, and even some cordless uprights on the market today.
With so many vacuum options available, it is not easy to know where to start looking. Plus, when you’re shopping for battery-powered models online, it’s easy to be confused by the many conflicting reviews of the same model.
Not to worry! We’ve put this guide together specifically to help you navigate the confusing world of cordless or battery-powered models, so you can find the model that will help you out the most.
Let’s take a quick look at our favorite cordless options:
Best on a Budget – Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH MAX Lithium Flex Vacuum
Best Quality – Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Stick Vacuum
Best Battery-Operated Vacuum Cleaner Reviews
We go into in-depth reviews to help you figure out how much you need to spend, what type of cleaner you need, and what tasks you’ll be able to tackle with your new purchase.
To narrow down the field, we did extensive research to comb through all the different options on the market. We read professional reviews and roundups in Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and other publications.
Then, we took the time to read through and analyze the hundreds of reviews from previous buyers, to see how these models fared in the real world, especially after a while. In our in-depth reviews, we’ve compiled all the essential points to help you see why these models are the best on the market.
1. Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH MAX Lithium Flex Vacuum
~ Best on a budget
It’s also highly maneuverable, thanks to its narrow nozzle design and agile attachments. We love it for cleaning out cars, especially if you park somewhere hard to reach with a big machine.
This one is also a great tool to have for quick pickups around the house!
It’s very powerful. The Black & Decker is powered by a 20-volt motor, which drives a cyclonic suction system. This creates far more suction than you’ll be used to form a traditional dustbuster. It’s the same type of system as expensive Dyson machines, and it makes a tangible difference when you’re cleaning.
The cyclonic suction system is excellent because it keeps finer dust and debris away from the motor assembly, where it would otherwise clog up filters and slow the machine down. The system keeps your filters cleaner longer, and keeps your suction strong as the chamber fills up!
The lithium-ion battery system provides fade-free power. Most traditional battery systems fade as they lose each charge, which can be a drag on your suction after a few minutes. Thanks to lithium-ion power, the Black & Decker runs at full blast up to the last second! Lithium-ion batteries also last a bit longer than previous types. This one will run for 15-20 minutes per charge.
The nozzle is wide and narrow, easy to fit in cracks under and around furniture. It’s ideal for cleaning between cushions and car seats. It also pivots to any angle, which makes it great for reaching into awkward spaces where other machines won’t go. Black & Decker has really thought this function out, as well, and has integrated an internal flap that keeps captured dirt and debris from falling back out if you’re cleaning at weird angles.
The attachments are built right into the nozzle! There’s an even narrower crevice tool that slides out from the larger nozzle, for cleaning the tightest spots. There’s also a dusting brush, which flips down into action from the bigger nozzle. Having the attachments right on the nozzle saves time, space, and makes the whole thing more convenient.
The smart charging base saves space and keeps your battery safe. We like it because it lets you stand the machine up on its end, rather than lying lengthwise. It saves shelf space and also makes this one easy to store on a countertop. It’ll shut itself off automatically, so your battery isn’t damaged by you leaving it on the stand.
The dust compartment has been enlarged over the previous model, and it’s easy to empty thanks to a side door. While it doesn’t compare to a full-sized machine, it provides plenty of room for most small jobs. You can detach the whole thing to wash it out in the sink.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
Previous buyers had mixed experiences with reliability. Some people had issues with the motors burning out, which is usually caused by dirty filters. However, they said that Black & Decker shipped out replacements promptly, which solved the problem.
While it’s much less expensive than a Dyson handheld, it’s more expensive than some other cordless models. That’s mostly because of the lithium-ion battery system. Still, this one isn’t as budget-friendly as some people might like.
2. Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute Cordless Stick Vacuum
~ Best Quality
The V10 Absolute is a premium cordless stick vacuum that can handle absolutely everything in your house. It’s powerful, versatile, and reliable.
This lightweight device is powered by Dyson digital motor v10 that is able to pick out fine dust and particles from hard floors as well as carpets. The suction motor is also a direct-drive digital system, which is more efficient than traditional vacuum motors. That means you’re getting more suction power from each charge.
The Dyson V10 converts between a full-length stick vacuum, a compact handheld, and a half-length crossover for vacuuming around the car, on the stairs, and in other difficult places.
This Dyson V10 model uses a cyclonic suction system to provide plenty of power, without any fade. While some other vacuums (like the Black & Decker) have cyclonic suction, the Dyson takes it to a whole new level. It uses a few tiers of layered cyclones to create a veritable vortex inside the vacuum chamber. The powerful cyclones direct dust and dirt away from the filters, and into the dust bin where they belong.
There’s a special boost cleaning mode, for the trickiest tasks. It cranks up the suction even higher, so you can capture hard-to-reach cobwebs in high corners or other tenacious messes.
It’s designed smarter than the competition. Unlike many hand vacuums, the Dyson won’t strain your wrists. That’s because the center of gravity is located where your hand hits the vacuum, rather than out in front.
It uses a lithium-ion battery system. Lithium-ion provides fade-free power and longer life than traditional nickel-cadmium systems. This one will give you about 60 minutes of suction time per charge, depending on which attachments you use.
We like the Soft roller cleaner head, which uses to pick out fine dust and large debris that’s even more effective than some full-sized vacuums. If you want a cordless vacuum to handle absolutely any cleaning task, look no further!
This Absolute edition also has a Torque drive cleaner head which is perfect for upholstery, carpeted floors & stairs, and cleaning out your car. The motor gives you the power you need to really get into deep carpet fibers, especially in rooms that are completely carpeted. It’ll bog down less.
This one comes with many attachments, like a crevice tool and dusting brush. You’ll find those on almost any vacuum, but the Dyson’s are built into the shaft (kind of like the Black & Decker). This one stands out because it comes with another attachment that we love. It’s a smaller dusting brush that is ideal for vacuuming car seats, carpeted steps, and upholstery. The combination tool and mini-motorized tool can ease your cleaning tasks.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty. This one is also much more reliable than the Black & Decker or Shark.
The V10 isn’t cheap (as you’d expect from a Dyson). It’ll run you more than the Black & Decker and Shark combined. However, it does the job of multiple vacuums and has more power than those two combined at the same time.
While this one is perfectly able to clean your whole house, it might not be able to do it all at once. The battery life, averaging 30 minutes, does decline faster if you use the power/motorized brushes.
3. Shark Navigator Freestyle Bagless Vacuum (SV1106)
~ Best Seller
This Shark is one of the most popular battery-operated models ever! It’s a cordless stick model that can handle full floors, carpets, hardwoods, and tiles.
We particularly love the powered carpet head, which allows this one to tackle any floors you can throw at it. It’s simple, affordable, and we think it makes a solid primary machine for apartments and smaller houses.
It’s much cheaper than other cordless stick models. This is less than half the price of the cheapest Dyson stick vac and can compete with budget upright vacuums in terms of value. We like this one for buyers on a tight budget, who still want the convenience of a cordless option.
It has lossless suction, thanks to a modified air system. Shark uses an unfiltered intake feed to keep suction strong even when the dust chamber starts to fill up. While it’s not quite the same as cyclonic suction, it’s certainly more powerful than traditional stick vacuums.
It has a motorized brush roll. That’s especially impressive given that the Freestyle is available for less than $100. The power brush means this one can handle wall-to-wall carpets, as well as thicker rugs and mats. You can turn the speed down to a lower setting for vacuuming your hard flooring. That’s important because fast brushes tend to fling bits of dirt and grit around faster than the suction can pick them up.
The floor head swivels on a neck joint, so it’s easy to maneuver around furniture and in corners. We like the compact, low-profile design, which is much easier to get around an apartment or small house than a full-size upright. And even though it’s smaller, the powered head gets the same job done.
It has a larger dust compartment than other cordless sticks. Previous buyers found that they got through a whole charge without needing to empty the compartment. The chamber is bagless and lifts off the vacuum to empty.
It charges in about 4 hours. You can also use the charging base as a stand. That’s convenient because most stick vacuums tend to tip over (making them a pain to store).
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
It uses older nickel-cadmium batteries, as opposed to a lithium-ion pack. That means that power will fade somewhat as you run out of charge. Nickel-cadmium batteries also tend to have a shorter life overall and will hold a quicker charge after a year or two of regular use.
It has a pretty mixed reliability record. The Freestyle is built from lightweight plastic, and it can feel a bit rickety. We found that while some people had better experiences, quite a few buyers said it didn’t make it past the second year.
It doesn’t have any attachments or other cleaning modes. That means the Shark is pretty much limited to cleaning your floors. If you have an apartment or house with lots of nooks and crannies, this might not be a good primary vacuum for you.
You can’t turn the brushes completely off. If you have delicate hardwoods, you might not want to buy the Freestyle, as it does have the potential to scuff less resilient finishes.
How to Choose the Right Cordless or Battery-Operated Vacuum for You?
The following are the five most important points to consider when you want to get a battery-powered rechargeable vacuum cleaner.
- Consider your budget:
Cordless vacuums start at around $30, and range over $300. The more you pay, the more power you’ll get, as a general rule.
The least expensive options have older batteries, which won’t last as long and take longer to charge. Budget cordless vacuums also tend to have weaker suction and are built pretty cheaply.
The higher-end models have powered floor brushes, longer battery life, and much better reliability. They’ll compete with any cordless full-sized vacuum.
Over $75, you’ll start to see better battery packs, more suction power, and smarter features like powered brushes, cyclonic suction, and attachments to help you with specific tasks.
Since we’ve found that models over $75 tend to be much more reliable and powerful than cheaper options, we’re going to establish that as our baseline for how much you should spend.
It’s easy to be put off by high price tags on cordless vacuums. However, if you’re going to be using a cordless model as your primary vacuum, think about how much money you’d spend on a primary corded model.
Most of us would reasonably expect to pay around $300. So, cordless models aren’t necessarily more expensive. Just make sure your new cordless vacuum has all the features you need to replace your old primary vacuum.
- Look at batteries:
One big difference between cheaper cordless vacuums and the more recent, high-priced models is the battery type.
Older models use nickel-cadmium batteries, which are fairly reliable but do fade over the course of a charge. That means that you’ll lose suction as they die. These batteries also start to hold less of a charge with each cycle over a year or two.
Newer, more expensive options use lithium-ion battery packs. These don’t fade as they lose charge, so you get full suction power right till the end.
They also have longer lifespans than nickel-cadmium. We think they offer a pretty sizable advantage, so it’s worth spending more to get a lithium-ion system.
However, they might be inaccessible to some budget-minded buyers.
- Prioritize suction power:
Some cordless stick vacuums are marketed with lots of gimmicky features and accessories. While they might look good on an infomercial, they probably won’t be essential to your daily cleaning.
They’re too often underpowered and over-equipped. We recommend spending your money where it really counts–on the motor and suction power. You’ll be able to make a very strong vacuum work in nearly any situation, regardless of attachments.
- Look for warranties:
Cordless vacuums are notoriously temperamental. Between the lightweight construction and battery packs, there are plenty of risks for long-term issues.
That’s why we recommend having a strong warranty on any new cordless vacuum. We’ve only recommended models with at least 1 year of coverage.
You can also tack on coverage from Amazon pretty cheaply, which can extend your coverage for another few years without adding much to the overall cost.
- Think about your cleaning goals:
Make sure you take the time to think about all the chores you want to get done with your new vac. Then, think about the features you need to get them done easily and effectively.
This will help you figure out what kind of cordless vacuum you want. Here are some examples:
- If you wish to clean carpeted floors, you’ll want a stick vacuum with a powered brush head.
- If you intend to vacuum your car, you’ll want a vacuum with handheld mode so that you can reach tight spaces.
We suggest making a list of all the specific jobs you want to get done with your new vacuum so that when you look at a model, you can make sure it ticks all the boxes.
One way to come up with ideas is to think of the weakest points of your current vacuum, so you can make sure your new one doesn’t have the same flaws.
Final Words: Which Battery Operated Vacuum is Perfect for You?
The Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH is the best option for people who want to supplement their full-sized vacuum or have a separate light vacuum for cleaning the car or stairs.
It’s more powerful than other dustbuster-sized vacuums and has excellent maneuverability for reaching tight or awkward spots. We think it’s the best handheld choice for quick pickups and smaller projects. However, it won’t work for full floors.
The Shark Navigator Freestyle SV1106 is the least expensive choice for people who want a cordless vacuum as their primary machine. It’s versatile and powerful enough to vacuum any type of floor and has the battery life to get through most apartments and small houses. However, it’s limited to cleaning floors. If you’ve got more awkward spaces to vacuum, like stairways or tight spots, you might want to look at a model with attachments or pair this one with a Black & Decker.
If you want a cordless vacuum that can do absolutely everything you’d expect from a full-size cleaner, we strongly recommend getting the Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute.
It gives you the power and reliability of a full-sized vacuum with the versatility and convenience of a cordless stick. And while it might seem like a lot of money to spend on a lightweight cordless vacuum, remember that you’d probably spend $300+ on a full-sized vacuum anyway.