Shag-pile carpeting is one of the hardest surfaces for a vacuum to clean, requiring a unique blend of power and finesse. No doubt, you'll need a vacuum powerful enough to draw debris out from deep within carpet fibers, but all-out suction power isn't the be-all-end-all. If the vacuum forms too tight a seal, carpet fibers can clog a vacuum's brushroll or even get torn out. Adjustable suction levels are a must, and features like head-height adjustment can make it a lot easier to maneuver the vacuum on uneven surfaces without getting bogged down.
We've tested over 130 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best vacuum cleaners for shag carpets. We selected these picks based on their performance on carpet and their design, feature set, and price. If you're looking for more general product recommendations, check out our picks for the best vacuums. Alternatively, if you're looking for a vacuum but have lower-pile carpeting in your home, see our recommendations for the best vacuums for high-pile carpet and the best vacuums for carpet.
The best vacuum for shag carpet we've tested is the SEBO Airbelt D4. When cleaning dense carpeting, its ET-1 and ET-2 powerheads are some of the most effective attachments on the market, with four levels of height adjustment and an automatic brushroll cutoff. However, you'll have to spring for the D4 Premium model to get those attachments or buy either floorhead separately. You can tweak its suction output using the rocker switch on the handle, so you don't get bogged down on carpets. The vacuum is bulky but packed with convenience features, with a three-stage filtration system to help trap fine allergens, onboard storage for its three included attachments, and a long operating range of about fifty feet. It's also remarkably well-built, very easy to maintain, and incurs low ownership costs, as it uses high-capacity dirtbags and long-lasting filters.
If you're looking for something lighter and a little easier to maneuver, the Miele Complete C3 is a good option; however, it incurs higher recurring costs as a result of its smaller dirtbags and less durable filters. Like the SEBO, you'll need to purchase a C3 variant with a powerhead for cleaning shag carpeting, like the C3 Kona or C3 Marin.
The best vacuum for shag carpet we've tested in the upper mid-range price bracket is the Shark APEX Upright Vacuum. This bagless upright vacuum isn't nearly as sturdily-built as the SEBO Airbelt D4 or as easy to maintain. Its floorhead is also a lot less sophisticated than the SEBO ET-1 head, with no height adjustment or motor cutoff; however, it's also a lot cheaper than the pricier canister with its powerhead. It's also surprisingly effective at handling debris on shag-pile rugs without getting bogged down on carpet fibers.
Unlike most conventional uprights, you can decouple its canister body from the floorhead, making it a lot easier to clean hard-to-reach areas, like shelves, or behind and underneath couches and tables. It has a large dustbin, so you won't need to empty it often.
Look at the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Turbo if you're shopping on a tighter budget. It feels a little less sturdy than the Shark APEX Upright Vacuum and has a smaller dustbin, but it delivers broadly similar performance on thick carpeting. While you can't adjust its brushroll height, its position is set high enough to not get bogged down on long carpet fibers. If you're still having trouble moving it around, you can lower its suction using a slider. There's also a brushroll off switch, so you can easily free the vacuum if its floorhead gets tangled.
Unfortunately, while this vacuum's bagless design results in low ownership costs, there are quite a few parts that need regular cleaning, and they aren't always easy to access; just removing the brushroll requires you to loosen ten screws. Its allergen-sealing performance isn't particularly impressive either. If you don't mind replacing a dirtbag now and then, the Kenmore Intuition Bagged is a suitable alternative with much better allergen-sealing performance; however, it's harder to maneuver on a thick carpet.
Consider the Hoover WindTunnel Tempo Bagged if you want a budget-friendly vacuum to clean shag carpeting. Its debris pickup performance on thick carpeting does lag behind the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Turbo. In addition, its bagged design results in higher recurring costs since you'll need to swap in a new dirtbag now and then, though they do have an impressively substantial debris capacity. However, it's also noticeably cheaper, not to mention much easier to maintain. It also still offers a few features that are handy for cleaning shag carpeting that aren't always guaranteed for models in this price point, with a floorhead that offers five levels of surface adjustment and a brushroll cutoff switch.
Unfortunately, and despite its mainly plastic construction, this is still a bulky, heavy vacuum, which makes it a bit of a nuisance to store when not in use or to pick up and carry around. Its lack of a pivoting floorhead makes it challenging to maneuver in cluttered environments.
If you don't want to deal with the hassle of a power cord, check out the Miele Triflex HX1. Generally speaking, cordless vacuums are seldom the best option for cleaning shag carpeting, with smaller, lower-output motors than corded models like the SEBO Airbelt D4 and fairly rudimentary floorheads that can get tangled in thick carpeting. However, this high-end cordless vacuum has a fairly sophisticated surface detection system that enables it to change its suction power automatically depending on the surface you're cleaning or stop its brushroll if it gets tangled on something. While it also has enough power to clear away debris embedded in carpet fibers, it doesn't form too tight a seal with the surface it's on, meaning it won't get stuck on shag-pile rugs.
Unfortunately, battery performance is unimpressive, as its battery life can vary roughly between 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the power setting and attachments you're using. It also has a rather small dustbin that'll need emptying often. If these are both deal-breakers for you, the Dyson V15 Detect is a solid option with better battery life and a larger dirt compartment, but its powerful suction motor and low-lying floorhead can cause it to get bogged down on plush carpets.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best vacuums for shag carpet. We don't just base our results on overall performance, but also factors like availability, price, and reader feedback, so it isn't as though there's a single best vacuum to suit all needs.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our vacuum reviews listed alongside their performance on carpet as well their maneuverability score, which is an important aspect of determining how easy a given vacuum is to use on shag 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.