Canister vacuums stand out from the crowd due to their compact design. They tend to have great maneuverability as they use a long hose and wand to get into hard-to-reach places, while their canister body follows behind it on wheels. Many can also be reconfigured to tackle different surface types or debris by swapping the vacuum head for different tools, which is handy if you're cleaning stairs or inside your car. Their canister bodies can hold a larger dirtbag or dirt compartment than stick vacuums, and some specially designed canister models can even tackle finer debris found in workshops or garages.
We've tested over 80 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best canister vacuum cleaners to buy. We select these picks not only based on their performance across a variety of surfaces but also their design and price. For more buying recommendations, take a look at our list of the best vacuums, the best laminate floor vacuums, and the best multi-surface vacuum cleaners.
The Miele Complete C3 Alize PowerLine is the best canister vacuum that we've tested. This extremely well-built vacuum has seven different suction power settings, so you can easily adapt to whatever surface type you're cleaning. It's also very maneuverable with smoothly-rolling rubber wheels and LED lights on its handle to help you see what you're doing in shadowy corners.
It uses a spacious dirtbag, and its performance stays consistent as it fills up. It delivers an incredible performance on bare floors, where it easily clears pet hair and debris, like rice and cereal, and does an excellent job on low and high-pile carpets as well. You can switch it into a semi-handheld mode and use it with any of its tools and brushes, which include an upholstery tool for cleaning fabric-covered furniture and a crevice tool for getting into tight corners. It's equipped with a HEPA filter, which is nice if you're concerned about allergens.
Unfortunately, it incurs relatively high recurring costs since the dirtbags and filters need to be replaced regularly. The power cord is also on the short side, so you may need to swap outlets once or twice if you're cleaning a big room. That said, its amazing build quality and versatile performance make it one of the best vacuums we've tested.
If you're looking for a canister vacuum that's easier to pick up and carry, you should take a look at the Miele Classic C1. It has a shorter power cord than the Miele Complete C3 Alize PowerLine, lacks a HEPA filter, and doesn't clean debris quite as effectively on low or high-pile carpet, but it has a slightly lighter design. Otherwise, it's similarly designed to the C3, with a mainly high-grade plastic construction that's fantastically easy to maintain. It can also be used in a semi-handheld configuration to clean debris from furniture and shelves and has a multi-level surface type adjustment feature that should make it easier to clear messes from different floor types on the fly.
Get the C3 if you prioritize performance above all else, but consider the C1 if portability is a slightly more prominent concern.
The best canister vacuum with a bagless design that we've tested is the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal Canister. This model's canister has a big ball-like wheel, which helps make it more maneuverable in cluttered areas. Because it uses a bagless design and filters that don't need to be washed, it incurs virtually no recurring costs and is incredibly easy to maintain.
It easily clears most pet hair from bare surfaces as well as carpets and also does a good job of clearing small debris like baking soda from low and high-pile carpets. It comes with a variety of tools and brushes, including a hard bristle brush for scrubbing away stubborn dirt, a turbo brush for cleaning fabric-covered furniture, and a soft bristle brush you can use to dust delicate objects like lampshades. Conveniently, the vacuum has onboard storage for its tools.
Unfortunately, it has a hard time picking up bulky debris like cereal, which tends to get pushed around or clog the vacuum entry. The hose is also on the short side, which limits your range when using the vacuum in its semi-handheld mode. That said, if you want a bagless canister vacuum, it's definitely worth considering.
The best canister vacuum that we've tested in the budget category is the Eureka Mighty Mite. This basic canister vacuum delivers exceptional cleaning performance on bare floors, where it easily clears pet hair as well as bulky and small debris, like cereal or rice, without too much difficulty. It clears an impressive amount of debris on low-pile carpet and does a good job of sucking up material on high-pile carpet.
This vacuum's plastic construction is also very lightweight, which makes it easy to pick and carry to another room or maneuver in cluttered areas. Its dirtbag is fairly spacious, so you shouldn't need to empty it too often. Its also fantastically easy to maintain, as the few parts that need to be cleaned periodically are simple to access.
Unfortunately, it doesn't feel especially premium, and while the assembly isn't too complicated, the wand could fall apart if it isn't properly put together. It also doesn't come with very many tools, with only a combination upholstery and crevice tool with a sliding hard bristle brush at one end. Otherwise, this is a good choice if you're looking for a basic canister vacuum that delivers good overall performance on a variety of surface types.
May 07, 2021: Verified that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Apr 08, 2021: Verified picks to ensure the best products are still being recommended and that they're available.
Feb 26, 2021: Checked that we're still recommending the best products for our users and that they're in stock.
Feb 05, 2021: Verified picks to make sure the best products are recommended and in stock.
Jan 15, 2021: Added the BISSELL Zing Bagless Canister to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best canister vacuums. We don't just base our results on overall performance but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback.
If you'd like to do the work of choosing yourself, here's the list of our canister vacuum reviews. Be careful not to get too caught up in the details. While there's no single best canister vacuum, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.