If you have thick rugs or fluffy high-pile carpet in your home, you probably know how difficult it can be to get debris out. Some vacuums don't provide enough suction to pick up small debris like sand. Others may have heads that are too tall, so they end up gliding over dirt. An ideal vacuum for cleaning high-pile carpet should have a brushroll and a turbo brush for agitating carpet fiber and dislodging debris. It should also have a surface-type adjustment feature that lets it adapt to better suit your carpet.
We've tested over 135 vacuums, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuums for thick carpets you can buy. These picks were selected based on their performance on both low and high-pile carpet and their design, feature set, and price. For more buying recommendations, look at our lists of the best vacuums for carpets, the best cordless vacuums, the best Shark vacuums, and the best vacuums.
The SEBO Airbelt D4 is the best vacuum for high-pile carpet we've tested. The top-trim Premium variant comes bundled with SEBO's ET-1 powerhead, which is the most effective carpet-cleaning floorhead on the market, with four levels of height adjustment, an automatic shutoff switch, and an indicator light that'll let you know if the brushroll isn't making contact with the ground. If you're having trouble maneuvering the vacuum on thicker carpets, you can adjust its suction power via the handle-mounted controls. The vacuum also incurs low ownership costs since it uses high-capacity dirtbags and filters with a long service life. Its three-stage filtration system does a great job trapping fine particles, and its allergen-sealed body feels remarkably robust, if somewhat heavy and bulky.
If you're looking for a lighter, more maneuverable canister vacuum that still performs very well on high-pile carpets, you could consider a variant of the Miele Complete C3 with a powerhead, like the C3 Kona, C3 Marin, or top-tier C3 Brilliant. However, regardless of the C3 variant you go for, it'll have a shorter power cord and higher ownership costs due to its use of smaller dirtbags and less long-lasting filters.
Consider the Miele Classic C1 Cat & Dog PowerLine if you want something slightly cheaper. The C1 incurs higher recurring costs than the SEBO since it uses smaller dirtbags that you'll need to dispose of more frequently and filters that don't last as long. If you don't mind those higher ownership costs, it's a wonderful option for cleaning carpets. Its 1200W suction motor puts it in a similar ballpark to the SEBO in raw power, but it's packaged in a slightly smaller, noticeably lighter package. The Cat & Dog variant of the C1 comes bundled with Miele's SEB 228 powerhead, which offers five levels of height adjustment, so you can quickly raise its roller height when cleaning thicker carpeting, as well as a lightweight parquet brush for cleaning hard floors. This model also comes with a miniature turbo brush for cleaning pet hair from upholstered surfaces. This model variant also comes with a post-motor filter that contains activated charcoal to trap odors as you clean.
Unfortunately, its maximum range of a little over 27 feet is only slightly more than half the SEBO's cleaning range, so you'll need to swap outlets when cleaning faraway areas. In addition, while the build quality is pretty solid overall, it still feels noticeably less sturdy than the SEBO, not to mention the more upmarket Miele Complete C3. There's no built-in storage compartment either, though you can mount the included upholstery tool, dusting brush, and crevice tool on the rather flimsy feeling clip that can be attached to the base of its hose.
If you're looking for a mid-range vacuum that can handle debris on high-pile carpet, the Dyson Ball Animal 3 is a great choice. This bagless upright vacuum's floorhead offers three levels of surface adjustment, making it significantly easier to push along on dense carpeting when compared to its predecessor, the Dyson Ball Animal 2, which had a habit of tearing up carpet fibers. Combined with its powerful suction motor, this vacuum has no trouble clearing debris embedded deeply within low and high-pile carpet fibers. The floorhead also features built-in plastic vanes that are remarkably effective in capturing pet hair and preventing it from getting tangled around the vacuum's brushroll. That said, while it's great for use on medium to high-pile carpet, it isn't a great fit for shag carpeting since its brushroll can get tangled on very long carpet fibers.
Furthermore, build quality isn't nearly as robust as the Miele Classic C1, as it creaks and flexes while in use. The lack of a self-winding power cord is also disappointing for a vacuum in this price range. Its bagless design isn't as easy to maintain either; the Miele's disposable, self-sealing dirtbags make disposing of debris very easy, whereas you'll need to shake out the Dyson vacuum's dirt compartment and occasionally wash it to make sure there isn't any leftover debris left within.
The best vacuum for thick carpet we've tested in the budget category is the BISSELL PowerForce Helix. This basic upright vacuum's plastic construction feels very cheap, even compared to mid-range models like the Dyson Ball Animal 3, and its fixed-angle floorhead makes it trickier to maneuver in cluttered areas or around tables and chairs. That said, it performs impressively well when clearing away debris on high-pile carpets. It has a floorhead with five levels of height adjustment, making it easier to push around on uneven surfaces. However, there's no brushroll off switch, so it can sometimes get stuck on rug tassels and bogged down on really thick carpeting.
This vacuum has a few parts that need periodic cleaning; not all are easy to access. This includes its brushroll, which requires you to remove six screws to take it out. It's also far from the best option for allergy sufferers, as fine allergens can easily escape from gaps around its dustbin.
If you'd rather not deal with the hassle of a power cord when cleaning high-pile carpets, the Dyson V15 Detect is worth a look. While it doesn't have the raw performance of a more powerful corded machine like the SEBO Airbelt D4 or Dyson Ball Animal 3, it does offer a lot of power for a corded model. The V15's stick vacuum form factor makes it much easier to grab and use for smaller messes. The automatic power adjustment feature allows the vacuum to adjust its suction power automatically when passing over areas with a large concentration of debris, and the onboard particle sensor can give you a rough idea of allergen quantities within your home. Using the vacuum in its most energy-efficient configuration yields a long max runtime of over 70 minutes, but it'll drain its battery much faster if you use the high-power 'Boost' mode.
The V15 excels when dealing with debris on medium to high-pile carpet, but its multi-surface floorhead isn't height adjustable, so it can get bogged down on thick shag-pile carpeting and drag around lighter rugs. If you don't mind exchanging some level of suction power for improved maneuverability on carpets, the Miele Triflex HX1 is a solid alternative, even with its shorter max battery life of about half an hour and considerably smaller dustbin.
May 10, 2023: Recategorized Dyson Ball Animal 3 as 'Best Mid-Range Vacuum For High-Pile Carpet', replacing Shark Rotator Lift-Away ADV. Added Miele Classic C1 Cat & Dog PowerLine as 'Best Upper Mid-Range Vacuum For High-Pile Carpet' pick.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best vacuum cleaners for high-pile carpet for most people. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our vacuum reviews ranked by their performance on high-pile carpet. 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.