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 100 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 best upright vacuum for bare floors that we've tested is the Shark Rotator Lift-Away ADV. This upright vacuum offers superb performance on bare, even surfaces like linoleum or hardwood, where it easily cleans a wide variety of debris, ranging from pet hair to bulky material like cereal. Its twin-brushroll vacuum head has a fluffy roller that you can remove to clean stuck-on debris more easily and another that uses angled plastic fins to reduce the risk of hair wraps.
This vacuum's bagless design and washable, reusable pre-motor and allergen-trapping HEPA filters result in low recurring costs. It also feels decently sturdy and is easy to disassemble or reassemble. Its 'Lift-Away' function allows you to unlatch the canister and carry it around while holding its wand in your hand, which helps deal with messes on furniture or shelves. Its power cord is fairly long, so you shouldn't need to swap outlets even when cleaning larger spaces.
Unfortunately, its vacuum hose is short, which could be a nuisance when trying to clean messes on high-up shelves or in hard-to-reach spots. There are also quite a few parts that need regular cleaning. Also, its bulky dirt compartment can get in the way when trying to clean under tables or chairs, while rug tassels can occasionally get stuck in its main vacuum head. Otherwise, its exceptional bare floor performance and allergen-trapping HEPA filter make it one of the best HEPA vacuums that we've tested.
If you prioritize the cleaner means of dirt disposal that come with a bagged vacuum, consider the Kenmore Intuition Bagged. It does incur higher recurring costs than the Shark Rotator Lift-Away ADV, but since it uses a dirtbag, you shouldn't need to worry about a plume of dust releasing when emptying it. Thanks to its onboard HEPA filter, it should also be effective in trapping allergens as you clean. This vacuum does a superb job of cleaning bare floors, though it does struggle slightly more with pet hair on this kind of surface. Like the Shark, you can disconnect its canister from its main body and carry it around, making it easier to clean hard-to-reach areas. It comes with a motorized turbo brush, a combination upholstery cleaner/crevice tool/dusting brush, and a hard bristle brush. Unfortunately, it lacks a surface height adjustment feature, so it can sometimes have trouble climbing over some low-lying obstructions. Its bulky design can also make it tricky to clean under tables and chairs.
Get the Shark if you want a vacuum that incurs virtually no recurring costs, but consider the Kenmore if you want the superior filtration performance that comes with a bagged vacuum.
The best upright vacuum for carpets that we've tested is the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright. This corded bagless upright delivers outstanding performance on low-pile carpet, where it easily cleans pet hair and fine debris like baking soda or larger material like sand. It also does a great job on high-pile carpet. Suction performance doesn't drop noticeably as its spacious dirt compartment fills either, so it shouldn't need emptying very often.
The vacuum's 'Lift-Away' design lets you pick up and carry its canister separately, which helps tackle messes in hard-to-reach areas. It features three levels of surface adjustment, enabling you to change the height of the main vacuum head on the fly, and also stop the rotation of the brushroll if you ever need to clean bare floors. You can attach a turbo brush, an upholstery tool, or a crevice tool to its wand to suit your needs. It also incurs virtually no recurring costs, thanks to its lack of a dirtbag and washable pre-motor and allergen trapping HEPA filters.
Unfortunately, despite its pivoting head, this vacuum can still be a hassle to maneuver in tight spaces due to its bulky top-mounted canister and short vacuum hose, making it tricky to clean high-up shelves or countertops when you use it in its 'Lift-Away' configuration. Still, if you're looking for an upright vacuum that can easily tackle messes on carpeted floors, this is a solid choice.
If you're looking for something a little more affordable, you may want to consider the Eureka FloorRover Elite NEU360. This bagless upright struggles more with larger material like sand on carpets compared to the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright, but it's notably cheaper and does an even better job of clearing fine debris, like baking soda, from high-pile carpets. Its dirt compartment is quite spacious and consequently shouldn't need to be emptied very often. It also has its HEPA filter to trap allergens as you clean. It comes with a motorized turbo brush, a crevice tool, and a dedicated upholstery tool for tackling debris on fabric-lined surfaces. Unfortunately, unlike the Shark, you can't pick up its canister and carry it around, so you need to keep the vacuum upright and clean with its short extension hose. It also feels more cheaply built than the Shark.
Get the Shark if you want a better-built vacuum with a more maneuverable alternative configuration, but consider the Eureka if you want to save some money without giving up much in terms of overall performance.
The best budget upright vacuum that we've tested is the BISSELL PowerForce Helix. It's fairly lightweight and includes a carrying handle so you can easily move it from room to room or upstairs. It also has a good-sized dirt compartment, so you shouldn't have to empty it too frequently. It has low recurring costs since the only part that needs periodic replacing is the pre-motor filter, and it has a bagless design.
It performs well on most surfaces types. It has no trouble picking up pet hair and does well with large and small debris on high- and low-pile carpets. However, it's less suited to bare floors since its always-spinning brushroll can scatter material like rice or cereal. That said, it comes with five manually adjustable surface type settings, so you can optimize it to your floors as needed.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to maneuver. It doesn't have a rotating head, making it harder to maneuver in tight spots or corners, and its dirt compartment is somewhat bulky, so you may have trouble reaching under tables or couches. It doesn't come with many tools, but you can use it in a semi-handheld configuration to more easily clean furniture or hard-to-reach areas. All in all, this is among the best upright vacuums we've tested for those on a budget.
If you want an upright vacuum that can switch to a fully handheld configuration, check out the BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033. While it's not as adept as the BISSELL PowerForce Helix at clearing debris from different kinds of carpet, it's significantly lighter and smaller, and it has a corded handheld configuration that's ideal for cleaning up small messes or hard-to-reach areas. Overall, it performs well on bare floors, but it has trouble picking up bulky material like cereal once its dirt compartment is more than half-full. Unlike the PowerForce, it has virtually no recurring costs as long as its parts are well-maintained. While the vacuum is very light even when using it in its upright configuration, it doesn't have a swiveling head, and the placement of the dirt compartment means it may get in the way when cleaning under tables or sofas. You also have to empty the dirt compartment more often since it's smaller.
Get the PowerForce Helix if you want one of the best upright vacuums on a budget with better carpet performance. If you want a vacuum that can easily switch into a handheld configuration, the Featherweight Stick is a good alternative.
Sep 24, 2021: Added new 'Bagged Alternative' and 'Cheaper Alternative' category picks.
Aug 25, 2021: Verified accuracy of picks; no change to recommendations.
Jul 26, 2021: Replaced Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine with Shark Rotator Lift-Away ADV as 'Best Upright Vacuum For Bare Floors' due to current availability. Replaced Dyson Ball Animal 2 with Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Upright as 'Best Upright Vacuum For Carpet' due to poor on-carpet maneuverability. Added Dyson Ball Animal 2 and Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine to Notable Mentions.
Jun 08, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Apr 09, 2021: Verified picks to ensure that we're still recommending the best products and that they're in stock.
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.