While upright vacuums are designed to excel primarily 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 less portable and maneuverable, particularly on stairs or narrower areas.
We've tested over 130 vacuum cleaners, and below are our recommendations for the best upright vacuum cleaners. These picks were selected based on their performance, design, feature set, and price. For more buying recommendations, look at our lists of the best vacuums for carpets, the best vacuums for high-pile carpet, and the best vacuums.
The best upright vacuum we've tested is the Dyson Ball Animal 3. This bagless upright vacuum has a powerful suction motor and delivers exceptional cleaning performance on different floor types. Its floorhead has three suction gate settings, letting you adapt to everything from high-pile carpet to flat surfaces like hardwood or laminate. The floorhead also features a set of plastic combs that capture long hair, preventing most of it from getting tangled in the mechanism. There's also a brushroll off switch, so you can clean hard floors without worrying about sending large debris scattering everywhere or easily free the vacuum if it gets tangled on something.
The top-range Complete variant, available only from the manufacturer's website, comes with various attachments for handheld use, including a mini turbo brush, a multi-angle brush, and even a dedicated pet grooming tool. Unfortunately, build quality isn't a strong point, with a mainly plastic body that creaks and flexes slightly while in use. There's also no automatic power cord retraction system, which is disappointing for a vacuum at this price point and can be a nuisance due to the cord's length.
While the Dyson vacuum's ball-shaped wheel makes it fairly maneuverable for an upright, this is still a bulky and heavy machine, and you might find it a bit of a hassle to set up and use for smaller cleaning jobs. If you're looking for something a little more portable, the Shark Stratos Upright is a good option. Like most of Shark's other upright models, its 'Lift-Away' design lets you pick up and carry its canister body separately from its floorhead, making it much easier to clean tight spots with its wand than the Dyson. However, it doesn't perform as well as the Dyson on carpets and has a less sophisticated floorhead.
The Shark Rotator Lift-Away ADV is a very solid option for something cheaper. Unlike the Dyson Ball Animal 3, you can't change the floorhead's height, so it isn't as well-suited to dealing with messes on plush carpeting, where it tends to get bogged down. It also has a less powerful suction motor than the Dyson, resulting in inferior deep-cleaning performance on carpets or in cracks and crevices. However, it still does an outstanding job of cleaning up debris on bare floors and very well on low to medium-pile carpet. Its 'Lift-Away' design lets you pick up and carry the canister body separately from its floorhead and clean awkward spots with its hose. The Shark also comes with a handy selection of attachments, like a miniature turbo brush and a hard bristle brush for dealing with stuck-on dirt and debris, though there's no multi-angle brush or pet grooming tool.
While there's no way of changing its floorhead's height, there are two different speed settings for its brushroll, meaning you can increase the vacuum's surface agitation on carpets. Unfortunately, while the manufacturer advertises the primary brushroll as self-cleaning, hair can still get wrapped around it. Worse, the primary brushroll isn't designed to be removed, making it hard to pull out any stuck-on debris or tangled strands of hair. While it feels sturdier than the Dyson, some components in its mainly plastic construction feel a little flimsy, like its clear plastic dirt compartment.
Check out the Kenmore Intuition Bagged if you're shopping for an upright vacuum at a mid-range price point. It incurs higher ownership costs than bagless alternatives like the Shark Rotator Lift-Away ADV since you'll need to occasionally replace its disposable filters and dirtbag. However, it's even cheaper than the Shark, and since it uses dirtbags that seal in fine particles and has a separate HEPA filter, it offers superb filtration performance. Better yet, you can release its dirtbag from its internal compartment with the press of a single latch, so you won't dirty your hands when taking it out. While debris pickup performance falls short of pricier, more powerful uprights like the Dyson Ball Animal 3, the Kenmore still delivers impressive overall performance on carpets and bare floors. It also has a brushroll off switch, preventing it from scattering around larger debris.
Like Shark's series of 'Lift-Away' upright vacuums, you can disconnect its canister from its floorhead and carry it around, making it easier to clean hard-to-reach areas with its wand. Unfortunately, there's no way of adjusting its floorhead height, so it can easily get bogged down on plush carpeting. Its bulky dirtbag compartment also makes cleaning under tables and chairs tricky. Check out the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser Turbo if you want something easier to maneuver on thick carpeting. However, it feels flimsier, and its bagless design is more demanding in terms of maintenance since you'll need to empty its dustbin and clean its filters regularly.
If you're looking for an upright vacuum at a budget-friendly price, consider the BISSELL PowerForce Helix. In terms of build quality, this vacuum falls short of even mid-range options like the Kenmore Intuition Bagged, and it does a terrible job of sealing fine allergens. Still, if you're seeking strong debris pickup at a bargain price, it's got plenty to offer. Performance on carpeted surfaces is great, as it easily clears solid material and pet hair away. Its five-level brushroll height adjustment feature is rare for a vacuum at this price point and lets you adapt to different lengths of carpet if you're having trouble pushing it around. Unfortunately, there's no brushroll off switch, so be careful when cleaning around obstructions like rug tassels, which can get wrapped around its brushroll and trapped in its floorhead quite easily.
This vacuum's mainly plastic construction makes it very lightweight for a vacuum of this type. However, this does come at the cost of durability, as its plastic body creaks and flexes while in use, though this isn't much of a surprise given its very low purchase price. Thankfully, it's easy to maintain, aside from its brushroll, which requires removing a few screws to pull it out, making it a bit of a nuisance to clear away any tangled hair. Want a budget-friendly upright with a larger dustbin? The Dirt Devil Endura Max is a good alternative, though it doesn't perform as well on carpeted floors.
The Shark Vertex Pro Powered Lift-Away is a solid option if you're looking for an upright but want to avoid dealing with the hassle of a power cord. Its cordless design allows you to clean far-away areas far more easily than even uprights with a long power cord, like the Dyson Ball Animal 3, which has an operating range of nearly 40 feet. However, this comes at the cost of runtime, as it can only run for a maximum of about 40 minutes when using it in its upright configuration. Worse, you can drain its battery in as little as 10 minutes if you use it continuously in its high-power 'Boost' mode, though that setting is only intended for small, stubborn messes. Like many more conventional Shark uprights, its 'Lift-Away' alternative configuration allows you to pick up and carry its canister body separately from its floorhead while cleaning tight spots with its hose. However, that's made even easier by the cordless model's more compact body.
This vacuum delivers exceptional performance on bare floors and does a great job dealing with pet hair and other kinds of solid debris on carpets. It's lighter and more maneuverable than most conventional uprights, but its lack of a brushroll off switch and floorhead height adjustment can cause it to get stuck on rug tassels and dense shag-pile carpeting. Despite its advertised "Self-Cleaning" design, the primary brushroll in its twin-roller floorhead collects a lot of pet hair. Worse yet, like many other Shark vacuums, the roller isn't removable, making it hard to clear away any stuck-on debris.
Jun 02, 2023: Small in-text adjustment to improve clarity of information.
May 04, 2023: Verified that all main picks are still available and represent the best fit for user needs.
Apr 14, 2023: Minor in-text adjustments for improved clarity and legibility. Ensured all main picks are still available and represent the best fit for user requirements.
Mar 08, 2023: Verified that all main picks still represent the best choice for user needs. Removed less relevant Notable Mentions picks.
Feb 10, 2023: Verified that all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for user needs.
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 on 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.