Canister vacuums stand out from the crowd due to their compact design. They tend to have great maneuverability, using a long hose and wand to get into hard-to-reach places while their canister body follows behind on wheels. Many can also reconfigure 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 135 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best canister vacuums to buy. We select these picks based on not only their performance across a variety of surfaces but also their design and price. Look at our lists of the best vacuums, the best laminate floor vacuums, and the best multi-surface vacuum cleaners.
The Miele Complete C3 is the best canister vacuum we've tested, and if you want the best of the best, check out the flagship Brilliant PowerLine variant. Like most C3s, it has seven levels of suction power adjustment, a power cord that retracts at the press of a button, an allergen-sealed body, and an onboard storage compartment for its dusting brush, upholstery tool, and crevice tool. Additionally, the Brilliant includes a surface-sensitive automatic power adjustment system, sound insulation for its already quiet motor, and the brand's flagship HEPA AirClean post-motor filter. This variant comes with three floorheads: a parquet head for cleaning hard floors, a universal pure suction floorhead with retractable bristles for cleaning low-pile carpet, and the height-adjustable SEB 236 powerhead for cleaning various types of high and shag-pile carpeting.
If the Brilliant is a little too pricey, consider the C3 Kona model. The C3 Kona comes with two floorheads instead of the C3 Brilliant's three and lacks the latter's automatic power adjustment system, additional sound insulation, and handle-mounted controls but delivers otherwise identical performance on most surfaces. On the other hand, if you want a canister vacuum with a longer range, check out the SEBO Airbelt D4. The SEBO delivers similarly superb performance and feels remarkably robust. It also incurs lower recurring costs than the Miele since it uses higher-capacity dirtbags and longer-lasting filters. However, it's also noticeably heavier and bulkier than the Miele, and its stiff hose can make it a nuisance to maneuver in tight spaces.
If you're shopping for a canister vacuum at a slightly lower price point, the Miele Classic C1 Cat & Dog PowerLine is a great choice. Unlike the Miele Complete C3, C1 models lack an onboard tool storage compartment and feel less well-built. That said, the C1 lineup offers similarly excellent performance at a cheaper price point, with all variants equipped with the same powerful 1200W motor. The C1 Cat & Dog is a particularly good, slightly more budget-friendly, alternative to any C3 model. This high-end C1 variant is equipped with Miele's height-adjustable SEB 228 powerbrush, making it a solid option for a wide variety of carpet types, as well as a lightweight parquet tool for cleaning hard floors. The C1 Cat & Dog also has a miniature turbo brush tool for cleaning pet hair from upholstered surfaces.
While this variant isn't bundled with the top-of-the-line HEPA AirClean filter, it does come with the brand's Active AirClean filter, which uses activated charcoal to trap odors as you clean. Besides, you can purchase the higher-end filter separately if you have allergies. Unfortunately, its power cord is shorter than that of the C3, so you might need to swap outlets when cleaning bigger rooms or far away areas. Like many other Miele canister vacuums, recurring costs are high since it uses relatively small 2.5L dirtbags.
If you aren't willing to spend as much on the Cat & Dog variant of the C1, look at the Miele Classic C1 Pure Suction PowerLine, the entry-level model in the C1 lineup. On the surface, the two vacuums look almost identical. However, there's an important difference between the two that isn't immediately apparent: the C1 Cat & Dog has an electrosocket at the base of its hose that allows it to use a powered floorhead, while the C1 Pure Suction doesn't. While this is a huge disadvantage if you have a lot of thick carpeting in your home and need a powerhead, this entry-level model is a significantly better value proposition if you mostly have hard floors, where you'll only be using a simple pure suction floorhead. The SBD 365-3 floorhead isn't as lightweight as the secondary parquet tool included with the Cat & Dog model. However, it's still great for dealing with debris on surfaces like vinyl or hardwood, and you can retract the bristles to clean low-pile area rugs.
This model comes with the entry-level AirClean filter, which does a pretty good job of capturing allergens. However, you can always swap in a HEPA AirClean or Active AirClean filter if you want even better air filtration performance. If you want a similarly-priced canister vacuum that uses larger dirtbags, the NaceCare HVR 200 Henry is a great alternative with a remarkably sturdy, easy-to-maintain design. However, it has a less powerful suction motor and doesn't do as well on low-pile carpeting as the Miele.
The best canister vacuum cleaner we've tested at a budget-friendly price is the Eureka Mighty Mite. Given its very low price point, it's no surprise it isn't as well-built, quiet, or packed with convenience features as a premium canister model like the Miele Classic C1 or Miele Complete C3. That said, its 12-amp motor is powerful for something this cheap, and it has no trouble clearing away solid debris on bare floors. You can retract the bristles on its straight suction floorhead to improve surface contact on low and medium-pile carpets. Its compact, lightweight design makes it easy to maneuver in tight spots or to pick up and carry.
Unfortunately, this vacuum feels pretty cheap in places, especially its wand, which is made of a pair of plastic tubes and can fall apart if you don't force them together tightly enough. Since this is a bagged vacuum, you must replace its filters and dirtbags periodically. However, the cost of both those items isn't especially high, and it's very easy to swap them out thanks to the Mighty Mite's simple design. Still, if you want to completely avoid dealing with the expense of replacing filters and dirtbags, the Eureka Whirlwind Bagless Canister is a good option. Unfortunately, it has an even shorter overall range, so you must swap outlets when cleaning bigger rooms.
If you want to avoid buying new dirtbags periodically, consider the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball. It doesn't offer the same level of performance as the similarly-priced Pure Suction variant of the Miele Classic C1, as it struggles with bulky debris and material embedded deep in carpets. However, unlike the Miele, ownership costs are practically nonexistent if you maintain it according to manufacturer recommendations, given its bagless design and the lack of conventional fabric or paper filters. Dyson advertises its cyclonic filter system as being capable of providing HEPA-level filtration. However, it still won't be your first choice if you suffer from serious allergies; shaking out its dustbin can release a cloud of dust into the air, making it a much less hygienic process than disposing of a sealed dirtbag.
This compact vacuum is easy to store and maneuver in tight areas. The canister body is rather heavy but carries most of its weight very low to the ground, so you don't need to worry about the vacuum tipping over when pulling it around on uneven surfaces. Unfortunately, some debris can get stuck at its floorhead's wheels due to static buildup.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuums with a canister design. 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 vacuum with a canister design, most are good enough to please almost everyone, and the differences are often not noticeable unless you really look for them.