If you live in an apartment, you're no doubt aware of some of the considerations you need to make when choosing a vacuum. Space is at a premium, so having an appliance that's maneuverable and easy to store is crucial. Overall cleaning performance is important since you may need to deal with various kinds of messes. Of course, those aren't the only important criteria when selecting a vacuum for this environment. Affordability can also be a concern, but today's product landscape offers no shortage of budget-friendly options that sacrifice little in terms of features or capability.
We've tested over 65 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuums for small apartments. These picks were selected not only based on their performance on different types of surfaces but also their design and price. For more buying recommendations, take a look at our list for the best lightweight vacuums, the best handheld vacuums, and the best multi-surface vacuums.
The Shark Rocket Ultra-Light is the best vacuum we've tested for apartments with carpets. This corded stick/handheld model is quite portable and can be easily converted into its handheld mode if you're cleaning counters or tight corners. It only has a few parts that need regular maintenance and has virtually no recurring costs because of its bagless design and washable filters.
It delivers impressive performance on low-pile carpets, where it easily clears pet hair and most debris like sand and baking soda. It also does a good job of cleaning high-pile carpets, and its performance stays quite consistent even when the dirt compartment is partially full. It comes with several tools and brushes that can help with different cleaning jobs around your apartment, including a hard bristle brush for scrubbing away stubborn dirt, and an upholstery tool for cleaning fabric-covered furniture. Also, it's easy to maneuver under low furniture, like coffee tables or couches.
However, it doesn't come with a rack or any onboard storage for accessories, and the vacuum itself takes up quite a bit of space. It also has a mediocre build quality, and some parts feel like they might break if dropped, which could be a bit worrisome because it's prone to falling over. However, if you have a carpeted apartment to keep clean, its performance and versatility make it a great option.
If you need something to clean your carpeted apartment but prefer a canister-style vacuum, try the Eureka Whirlwind Bagless Canister. This corded model is bigger than the Shark Rocket Ultra-Light and doesn't come with as many accessories, but it performs much better on low-pile carpets and is slightly more effective at cleaning high-pile carpets. While you can't pick it up and use it in a handheld mode, it has a semi-handheld configuration useful for cleaning stairs or shelves. Its build quality is better, and it has a bigger dirt compartment, so you won't need to empty it too frequently. However, the power cord is quite a bit shorter, so you may need to swap outlets more often.
Go for the Shark if you want a more compact option that comes with lots of different tools and brushes. If performance on carpets is your main priority and you don't mind something bulkier, the Eureka is also among the best vacuums for apartments that we've tested.
The best apartment vacuum for bare floors that we've tested is the Eureka Mighty Mite. This corded canister model isn't especially heavy and features an integrated carrying handle, so it's easy to carry from room to room. Its lightweight design also makes it easy to maneuver, even in tight spaces.
It delivers remarkable performance on bare floors. It easily clears everything from pet hair to small and large debris, such as rice and pieces of cereal. Better still, performance remains consistent as its dirtbag fills, which is great if you've got a larger mess to deal with. It has a very simple design that makes it easy to access the few parts that require cleaning. Also, its disposable dirtbag is the only component that requires regular replacement, so recurring costs are fairly low.
Unfortunately, it feels quite plasticky. It also has a short power cable, so you may need to switch outlets if you have to navigate a cluttered apartment. Still, if you're looking for something that can handle messes on bare floors without breaking a sweat, this is a good option.
If you want a vacuum to spot-clean smaller messes on your floors or countertops, consider the HoLife MH036E. This cordless handheld model isn't suitable for long cleaning sessions like the Eureka Mighty Mite, but it's much more portable and has a similarly fantastic performance on bare floors. It easily clears pet hair and debris from surfaces like tile and laminate and even comes with a liquid nozzle for sucking up spills, although we don't test that currently. The battery provides roughly 20 minutes of continuous runtime, which is decent for a handheld model. It's also equipped with an allergen-trapping HEPA filter. However, it does incur some recurring costs and is more difficult to maintain.
Go for the Eureka if you want to be able to vacuum your entire apartment in one session, or just don't want to worry about running out of battery. Try the HoLife if you mostly need something for quick clean-ups and prefer a cordless handheld model.
The best budget vacuum for apartments that we've tested is the BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033. This corded stick model is easy to switch into a handheld configuration when you're cleaning stairs, shelves, and other awkward areas. It has two carrying handles and a slim, lightweight design, so it's very portable.
It delivers an impressive performance on bare floors, where it easily clears pet hair as well as debris like sand and cereal. On carpeted surfaces, it struggles with smaller debris like baking soda, but effectively cleans pet hair and delivers a decent performance overall. There's a crevice tool included that you can use to reach into narrow spaces. Also, because it uses a washable filter and dust cup, it incurs virtually no recurring costs.
Unfortunately, it has a short power cord, so if you're vacuuming a big room you may need to swap outlets fairly often. It also fails to suck up large debris like cereal when its dirt compartment is more than half full. That said, if you're looking for a cheap, portable vacuum to keep your apartment clean, it's a solid choice.
Dec 18, 2020: Added the Black+Decker dustbuster CHV1410L to Notable Mentions.
Dec 04, 2020: Added eufy RoboVac 11S to Notable Mentions.
Nov 13, 2020: Added Shark UltraCyclone Pet Pro+ to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuums for apartments. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our reviews of vacuums at an affordable price, with considerations made for portability and storage capability. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While no vacuum is perfect for every use, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.