Guide to Choosing the Best Cordless Vacuum

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When comparing all the various different models, cordless vacuums offer a number of benefits. They are lighter, battery-powered, and don’t have a cord trailing behind to trip on, so they are easier to take almost anywhere.  Because of their design they are ideal for smaller areas and quick cleanup of messes.  You might also hear them referred to as an “electric broom,” because while a broom might work just fine for non-carpeted floors such as hardwood or tile, a cordless vacuum will often work just as well or better.

There are three different kinds of cordless vacuums: stick, handheld, and combination stick/handheld (also known as 2-in-1).  Cordless stick vacs most resemble corded models in having a longer handle that makes it easier to clean the floor.  Handheld cordless vacs are much smaller and are used for spot cleaning instead of floors.  2-in-1’s have a handheld vacuum integrated into their body, which can be removed and used separately.

To choose the ideal cordless vacuum for you, a few things need to be considered.  How big is the space that needs to be cleaned?  What kind of mess do you want to clean up?  And how long at a time will you be planning on using the vacuum?

There are a lot of options to choose from, so let’s look at the main categories first so we can narrow things down.

Cordless Stick Vacuums

These are like regular corded vacuums, but lighter and more compact.  This makes them easier to store, which fits nicely with the fact that they are intended to be used for smaller spaces that often have less storage space.


-the most consistently powerful of the cordless vacuum options
-longer handles make it much easier to clean floors


-may not work for cleaning furniture, tight spaces, or inside a vehicle due to their size

Cordless Handheld Vacuums

Handhelds are very maneuverable and lightweight.  They are designed to be used for spot cleaning and small messes.


-great for cleaning up crumbs and getting into crevices and hard to reach places
-portable enough to be taken out to the car or wherever else it might be needed


-most models not as powerful as corded or stick cordless options
-smaller capacity to hold dirt and dust

2-in-1 Cordless Vacuums

Combination stick/handheld models offer the best of both worlds.  They can be used to clean floors without bending over, and a detachable handheld vacuum can be popped off to reach anywhere a handheld can.


-effective at cleaning flooring in stick mode
-versatile handheld mode for cleaning furniture and tight spaces


-can be limited by the dustbin capacity
-power may be limited due to the size in handheld mode

If you have a small space like an apartment and have carpets and floors that need cleaning, you’ll want to go with a stick cordless vacuum.  If spot cleaning dropped crumbs or making sure your furniture or car are clean are more of a priority, a handheld cordless vacuum would be ideal.  A 2-in-1 can help with both floors and spot cleaning, and will be the best choice if you want to cover all your bases with one purchase.

Cordless Vacuums by Price

Given that they each have very different purposes, there is not one category that would be best for a limited budget.  Each type of vacuum begins below $50, however.  2-in-1’s are on the whole the most expensive, but may be worth spending more money on due to their versatility.

Cordless Stick Vacuums $50-320
Cordless Handheld Vacuum: $20-$200
Combination Stick/Handheld: $30-350


The power level is important for creating and maintaining suction.  If you’ve ever used a vacuum that left the carpet or the car looking as if it hadn’t been cleaned at all, it might have been suffering from a severe lack of power. For cordless vacuums, power is measured in volts (V).  In general, the higher the voltage, the more powerful it is and the better it will pick up dirt and dust.   Cordless vacuums range from 6V models made for small messes to stick vacuums as high as 22.2V which can fully replace a corded vacuum.


All cordless cleaners use rechargeable batteries and include either an AC adapter or a base station.   You can compare how long each model can be operated before recharging by its run time.  NiCad batteries are found in the least expensive models, and typically have the shortest run time. Lithium-Ion batteries generally have a longer run time.  Many vacuums last between fifteen and twenty minutes, which should be ample for the small areas they are designed for, but some can last up to forty-five minutes.  Using motorized accessories will drain the battery faster.   How quickly the battery will charge is another consideration, with rapid-charging models being more efficient both for the environment and the user’s electric bill. Lithium-Ion batteries hold an advantage here as they charge 3-5 times faster than NiCad.

Dust Container

Unlike regular vacuum cleaners which often have a bag to collect dust and dirt, all cordless models are bagless.  Some also have a clear dust bin, so you can tell when it is getting full. Emptying the dust container is as simple as pressing a release button and emptying it over a garbage can.


A docking station or stand can be a very useful and convenient way to charge your cordless vacuum.  Other accessories that increase versatility include crevice tools for cleaning small spaces, dusting brushes for cleaning delicate items, brushes with stiff bristles to help clean ground-in dirt, and extension wands to reach ceilings and fans.

Wet Cleanup Capability

Most vacuums are only designed to handle dry cleanup; attempting to clean up a wet mess can short out the motor.  Fortunately, certain cordless models are made to handle wet cleanup. Some have a switch to toggle between wet/dry settings, while others can automatically be used for both wet or dry messes.


Vacuuming can stir up a lot of dust, which can be bad for people with allergies.  A good filter can help to lessen that issue. Some filter types include a cartridge type which can be removed and shaken clean, foam that can be washed, and HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters which are great for those who are very sensitive to dust and allergens.


Weight is more of an issue with handheld models because, as their name implies, you are holding the entirety of their weight with your hands.  Luckily, because they are intended to be used for small cleanups, they do not need to be used for extended periods of time.  Regardless, weight is still an important factor to consider in any type of vacuum.  A lighter vacuum may cost more, but it may also be worth it depending on your situation.

Now that you’ve narrowed your choices down, check out our detailed product guides using the links at the top and side of the page to find the perfect cordless vacuum for you!