While upright vacuums are designed to primarily excel in cleaning large spaces, they can be versatile tools in any household. They're easy to use, and their distinct, bulky shape generally allows for a bigger dirt compartment, which can be beneficial if you have a big mess to clean. They're also quite good for cleaning up carpet as they can clear most pet hair and debris without too much of a problem. However, upright vacuums can be heavier than stick or canister models, making them a bit less portable and maneuverable, particularly on stairs or on other, more narrow areas.
We've tested over 40 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best upright vacuum cleaners. These picks were selected not only based on their performance but also their design, feature set, and price. For more buying recommendations, take a look at our list of the best vacuums for carpets, the best vacuums for high-pile carpet, and the best vacuums.
The Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine is the best upright vacuum for bare floors that we've tested. This well-built but massive vacuum has superb performance on bare floors. It can pick up most pet hair as well as small and large debris from this surface type without a problem.
It has a suction power dial that can be adjusted four ways to suit your flooring, as well as a brushroll on/off button, which keeps the brushroll from scratching your hardwood floors. You can use it in a semi-handheld configuration when you connect it to its extension wand to access harder-to-reach places. Since it has an on-board storage rack to support all of its tools and brushes, they're always within close reach. It also has an excellent performance on low and high-pile carpet, which is great if you have a few rugs at home.
Unfortunately, there are a few recurring costs, including its disposable dirtbag. However, its parts are easy to maintain. Its large size also makes it a bit harder to move from room to room as it's pretty heavy and bulky. That said, if you don't mind its wide build, it's well-suited for tackling debris on bare floors.
The best upright vacuum cleaner for carpet that we've tested is the Dyson Ball Animal 2. Thanks to its self-adjusting vacuum head, it performs remarkably well on both low and high-pile carpet, as it clears everything from pet hair to coarse debris like sand with ease, not to mention material that can be somewhat difficult to suck up on shaggy surfaces, such as baking soda. Better still, performance remains consistent as its dirt compartment fills up.
Despite its large size, this is a surprisingly maneuverable vacuum, with a long power cord that should allow you to clean large or cluttered rooms without having to switch outlets. It also comes with a wide selection of tools and brushes to let you clean on top, around, or underneath furniture and upholstery. Its bagless design and washable pre-motor and allergen-trapping HEPA filters mean that there are practically no recurring costs to worry about.
Unfortunately, this vacuum can be a little tricky to put together, as it doesn't use the easy-clip mechanisms found in other Dyson vacuums. It's also a little heavy, so carrying it up and down flights of stairs can be a little tricky. Its all-plastic construction also feels somewhat cheap, especially at this price point. Still, thanks to its outstanding performance, the Dyson is among the best vacuums for carpets that we've tested.
The best budget upright vacuum that we've tested is the BISSELL PowerForce Helix. Although it has a plasticky build quality, it's a decently lightweight model, which makes it easy to take with you from room to room. Its half-handheld configuration can also be handy if you want to clean crevices or shelves.
It has excellent performance on low-pile carpet since it can pick up a significant amount of small and large debris as well as pet hair. It's also great on high-pile carpet like shaggy rugs. While it's not as great on bare floors, it can still pick up a decent amount of debris on this surface type. Although it doesn't have a lot of tools and brushes, it also comes with a crevice tool stored inside the extension wand as well as a soft bristle brush, which is great for gently cleaning fragile objects like blinds.
Unfortunately, even though it's fairly easy to maintain, some parts need regular maintenance. That said, only the pre-motor filter needs to be replaced over time as it uses a bagless dirt compartment. Its hose range is on the short side, which can make it a little more difficult to clean hard-to-reach places like the inside of your car. Still, if you're trying to keep your spending in check, this affordable upright model is a suitable choice.
If you'd prefer a budget-friendly upright vacuum that can be used in a handheld configuration, take a look at the BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033. Due to its lack of a brushroll, this corded upright/handheld has worse cleaning performance on carpet than the BISSELL PowerForce Helix, but it's much lighter and far more maneuverable. Its simple construction can be quickly reconfigured into a handheld vacuum to help you clean shelves, furniture, or even the inside of your car. Thanks to its bagless design and washable filters, there are virtually no recurring costs to worry about. The few parts that do need maintenance are very easy to access, which is handy. However, its all-plastic construction feels quite cheap, while its short power cord means that you'll need to switch outlets frequently when cleaning large rooms.
Get the PowerForce Helix if you need better carpet-cleaning performance, but consider the Featherweight if you want something far more portable and easier to maneuver.
10/15/2020: Slight changes to text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product recommendations.
Our recommendations are based on what we think are currently the best upright vacuum cleaners. 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 cleaner for carpets to suit all needs.
If you would like to do the work of choosing yourself, here is the list of all our upright vacuum reviews. 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.