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 60 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 Miele Dynamic U1 PowerLine. This corded upright model delivers exceptional performance on surfaces like hardwood and linoleum, where it easily clears everything pet hair to bulky material like cereal, not to mention smaller debris like rice. It also does an excellent job of clearing messes on the occasional carpet or rug too. Its performance remains consistent as its dirtbag fills up, so it doesn't need to be replaced very frequently.
It's amazingly well-built, with high-grade plastic construction, smoothly rolling wheels, and a telescoping wand made of aluminum. It's also incredibly easy to maintain, as the few parts that require maintenance are readily accessible. It makes the most of its large size with on-board storage for its included crevice cleaner, soft-bristle brush, and upholstery tool. It also has a very long power cord, which should let you clean large spaces without needing to swap outlets.
Unfortunately, this variant doesn't have a HEPA filter fitted as standard, which could be a little annoying if you have a heavily-shedding pet. It's also very bulky and heavy, which can make it difficult to carry up flights of stairs or into another room. That said, it offers decent maneuverability for a machine of its size and weight, in no small part thanks to its swiveling head. Overall, its excellent build quality, remarkable ease of maintenance, and versatile performance also help make it one of the best multi-surface vacuums that we've tested.
The best upright vacuum cleaner for carpet that we've tested is the Dyson Ball Animal 2. Thanks to its self-adjusting 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 model, 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, it can be a little tricky to put together, as it doesn't use the easy-clip mechanisms found in other Dyson models. 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 BISSELL PowerForce Helix is the best upright vacuum in the budget category that we've tested. This affordable model feels light in your hand and is equipped with a carrying handle, so it's very portable. You can also use it in a semi-handheld configuration, which is useful if you're cleaning stairs or shelves.
It can easily clear pet hair from all surface types. It also delivers excellent performance on low-pile carpets, where it sucks up debris like baking soda and sand with no issue. It struggles a bit more on bare floors and high-pile carpets but still clears most debris. This vacuum has five surface-type adjustment settings, and it comes with a few tools and brushes, including an extension wand to increase your reach and a crevice tool for getting into narrow spaces. Its dirt compartment is a good size, so you shouldn't need to empty it very often. In addition, because of the bagless design, it has fairly very low recurring costs.
Unfortunately, it's not very maneuverable in its upright configuration since it lacks a rotating head and is fairly bulky. The hose is also quite short, which limits your reach when using the vacuum in its semi-handheld configuration. Still, if you want an upright vacuum for a budget-friendly price, it's a solid choice.
If you want an upright vacuum that's also relatively easy to carry around, try the BISSELL Featherweight Stick 2033. This lightweight upright model isn't as good at cleaning carpets as the BISSELL PowerForce Helix, but it can be used in a handheld mode, making it much more portable and better-suited for cleaning your car or furniture. It's easier to maintain and also has basically no recurring costs since it uses a bagless design and washable filters. Unfortunately, while it has an impressive performance on bare floors, it struggles to suck up large debris like cereal when its dirt compartment is partly full, so it needs to be emptied frequently. Also, if you're cleaning a big room or staircase, you may need to switch outlets quite often, because it has a short power cord.
Go for the Powerforce if performance is your priority or if you prefer a vacuum with a dirt compartment that doesn't need to be emptied very often. If you want something that can be used in a handheld configuration, the Featherweight is a good alternative.
12/17/2020: Minor text updates with no changes to product picks.
11/26/2020: Added Hoover WindTunnel Tempo Bagged to Notable Mentions.
11/05/2020: Added the Shark ION P50 Upright to Notable Mentions.
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.