In this Guide
Handheld vacuums are great tools for supplementing full-sized vacuums.
They’re quick and easy solutions for cleaning up pet messes, spot cleaning, and cleaning out your car. They’re also a great low-cost cleaning solution for dorm rooms and small apartments!
However, many handhelds just aren’t very good. They have weak suction, poor ergonomics, and aren’t particularly effective.
For those of us who can’t drop $200 on a Dyson handheld, it can be confusing and frustrating to determine which affordable handhelds are really worth your money.
We’ve come to the rescue! We’ve spent lots of time and energy researching the best portable models on the market, to help you find the right one for your home.
The best options are compact, powerful, and affordable. We went looking for models that tick all three boxes and then some!
We compared features, specs, and professional reviews from the experts at Good Housekeeping and Consumer Reports. Then, we read hundreds of reviews from buyers who have actually spent time with these models.
On this page, we’ve put together our own comprehensive, in-depth reviews of three top handheld vacuums. Our recommendations will suit a whole range of cleaning needs, as well as different budgets!
After our reviews, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you figure out which one is the best choice for you!
Here’s a look at our three favorite handheld vacuums. Click on images below to view top products at the amazon store!
Best on a Budget
BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser
Black and Decker MAX Lithium
Best Handheld Vacuum Reviews
1. BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser
The BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser is our top recommendation for people who need to deal with pet hair on a budget.
It performs better on fur and dander than most pet tools on full-sized vacuums. We love the special pet hair nozzle, which combines the best parts of an upholstery brush and rubber fur tool in one attachment.
Plus, it’s extremely affordable, at half the price of the Eureka or Black & Decker.
The BISSELL’s specially-designed pet hair nozzle is an ideal tool for getting pet hair off of all your fabric surfaces. You can use it on upholstery, carpeted stairs, car seats, and pet enclosures. The nozzle uses little nubs to pull pet hair off fabrics like a brush. Meanwhile, the rubber material attracts any loose fur, so that it doesn’t spread around your house.
Previous buyers were very impressed with the BISSELL’s performance on their stairs and upholstery. One wrote, “My stairs haven’t looked this good since the carpet was new. It’s a snap to clean up dog hair from the sofa.”
There’s also a dedicated nozzle for cleaning hard surfaces. It’s better for picking up litter, kibble, and fur balls from wood and tile floors and countertops.
The BISSELL is one of the cheapest models on the market to feature cyclonic suction. This gives it more power than ordinary handhelds. It also keeps suction constant, because cyclonic suction directs fur and dirt away from the filters. This keeps the air flow clear, and means you won’t have to clean the filters as often.
You’ll also never run out of power, thanks to the corded design. It provides constant power, with a 16-foot range. If you’ve got pets, you’ll know how long it can take to clean all the fabric surfaces in your house. After all, hair seems to stick absolutely everywhere. The BISSELL will help you get the job done without having to worry about losing suction halfway through.
Overall, previous buyers said they were very impressed with the power of the Pet Hair Eraser, especially given the price. One reviewer said, “This little thing has the power of a much, MUCH larger machine.”
It’s light and ergonomically friendly. The central handle design also helps you put pressure on the hair nozzle, taking the load off your wrists. The Pet Hair Eraser also weighs only 4 pounds, which is much less than some other corded models.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty. That’s not an inordinately long period, but it’s pretty impressive given that the BISSELL is one of the cheapest models on the market. It’s also got great ratings in terms of reliability.
The air vents are annoyingly positioned on the sides of the Pet Hair Eraser. Previous buyers said that means it blows hair around on hard flooring. The Pet Hair Eraser is better at handling more solid messes like litter and kibble. For pet hair on hard floors, you’ll want to stick with your full-size vacuum.
It’s pretty loud.
2. Black & Decker MAX Lithium
Black & Decker’s latest edition of the Pivot handheld vacuum uses lithium ion batteries for more constant suction power and faster charging time.
We love the Pivot’s powerful cyclonic suction and maneuverable nozzle design. It’s a great cordless option for cleaning out your car, as well as spot cleaning around the house.
The Pivot’s special nozzle design fits practically anywhere. It’s wide and narrow, and is perfect for reaching between cushions around the house and in the car. It’s great for nooks and crannies where larger models just can’t fit. There’s also a clever rubber flap built into the nozzle, which keeps debris from falling back out of it, no matter what angle the nozzle is pointing at.
Previous buyers loved how maneuverable the Pivot was. One wrote, “Almost as strong as my upright and a lot lighter. Was able to get in tight spots with ease, love this thing!!”
We also love that the Pivot’s attachments are built right into the nozzle. The crevice tool slides out from inside the larger nozzle. The brush tool flips out from under the nozzle. This makes them easier to access, and easier to store when you’re not using them.
The Black & Decker features cyclonic suction, giving it much more power than most handheld vacuums. As with the BISSELL, the cyclonic suction keeps hair and dust away from the filters, ensuring that airflow is clear and suction is constant.
The Black & Decker also has a multi-stage filtration system. There are two filters in front of the motor. The third filter makes sure no allergens leave the vacuum on the exhaust end. That’s a big plus over some other handhelds, which only have intake filters. The Pivot’s filters are pleated, for more air coverage in a compact design. All of the filters are washable and reusable.
The lithium ion battery pack gives this new Pivot model better battery life and faster charge time than the older models. We also like lithium ion batteries because they don’t fade as they lose charge. With older batteries, you’ll steadily lose suction as the battery dies. Lithium ion batteries give you full power right up to the end.
We also love the Black & Decker’s charging station, which doubles as a stand. It’s great because it lets the Pivot stand up vertically, which takes up a much smaller footprint than it would on its side.
The dust bin on the Lithium is larger than the dust chamber on the older models. It empties easily with a side port. You can also remove the whole container, for washing it out under the sink.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
Some previous buyers said that the pleats on the Pivot’s filters filled up with dirt faster than smooth filters.
Like some other Black & Decker vacuums, the Lithium Pivot has a mixed track record for reliability. Some people had issues with their motors overheating. We’d recommend making sure you’re on top of cleaning out the filters, since clogged filters are usually the culprit of motor damage. And, of course, any issues in the first 2 years will be covered by the warranty.
It’s not the greatest for fabrics. The Pivot has a dusting brush, but no real pet hair attachment or upholstery tool. It’s better at cleaning smooth fabrics and leather upholstery.
3. Eureka RapidClean
This updated take on the popular Eureka EasyClean features a motorized roller brush head, a hard floors brush, and an attachment hose, all in one small package.
It’s a powerful, versatile handheld vacuum that can tackle all kinds of tasks around the house. We love it because it’s essentially a miniature version of a full-house vacuum!
The Eureka is one of the only handheld vacuums to have a fully-powered brush head. It works like a mini version of a carpet head on a full-sized vacuum. It has a motorized brush roll with thick bristles for loosening dirt and hair from carpets, fabrics, and upholstery.
We love the powered brush head for cleaning furniture, carpeted steps, and rugs and seats in your car. It’s also ideal for cleaning plush pet enclosures, beds, or climbing furniture. These areas become caked with pet fur in no time, and you need a motorized roller brush to get them off quickly. The Eureka is even quicker than the BISSELL at pet hair removal.
To clean hard surfaces, you can flip down a soft brush head which fits neatly over the roller. With the motorized brushes switched off, you’ve got yourself something in between a dusting brush and a parquet floor attachment. The soft brush won’t damage your hardwoods, and there are also roller wheels to help the vacuum move along without scratching. One buyer wrote, “If you have stairs, this is a MUST HAVE! I am not sure how I got along without it! It sucked up more gunk than I care to admit was on my stairs! Easy to use, lightweight, compact.”
The Eureka also has an attachment hose, for reaching all those tight spaces where the wide brush head won’t work as well. The hose unwraps right from the body, and gives you a 3 feet of range. You can also use it with an included crevice tool. The best part is, since the hose is standard size, you can use any attachments from your standard vacuum with it!
Even though the Eureka is a corded handheld, it has a range that can compete with any cordless model. Its power cord is an impressive 25 feet long, comparable to most full-size vacuums!
The dust compartment is bagless. You can pop the whole thing off the vacuum to rinse the container and filter in the sink.
Like the Pet Hair Eraser, it’s covered by a 1-year warranty. The RapidClean also has great reliability ratings.
While the dust cup is larger than the compartment on the older Eureka EasyClean, it’s still the smallest of our three recommendations. If you’re planning on cleaning all around the house, you can bet you’ll have to empty it at least once.
It’s a fair amount heavier than other handheld vacuums. The RapidClean weighs in at around 6 pounds. It could be cumbersome to use for people with smaller hands or arthritis.
Which Portable Vacuum Should You Buy?
If pet hair is your primary concern, you’ll want to look at the BISSELL Pet Hair Eraser!
Its special rubber nozzle is ideal for scrubbing fur off carpets and upholstery, and it has a surprisingly powerful motor. It’s also the cheapest of our recommendations by far. With that said, it works best on fabric surfaces, and won’t help you much on hard floors.
For routine household messes and spot cleaning, as well as cordless convenience for vacuuming your car, we highly recommend the Black & Decker.
It’s the best of our recommendations for handling hard surfaces. It also provides very powerful suction for a cordless model, thanks to the cyclonic design. The one downside of the Black & Decker is that it’s not very effective on thicker fabrics or carpets.
The Eureka can handle fabrics and upholstery just as well as the BISSELL, and is versatile enough to take over from the Black & Decker on hard floors and countertops.
It’s the best choice for people who want a handheld vacuum for doing all sorts of cleaning chores around the house and in the car. However, it doesn’t have quite the same range or ergonomics as the Black & Decker.
How to Shop for the Best Hand Vacuum Cleaner
Consider your budget:
Handheld vacuums are available for between $20 and $200. The most inexpensive options are corded vacuums, which are generally under $100. The most expensive options are handheld vacuums with cordless, lithium ion battery systems.
Overall, more expensive models will have better suction power, cyclonic suction, upholstery attachments, and other tools to help you clean around your house and car.
We recommend that people shopping for a cordless model avoid the cheaper vacuums, since they use old-fashioned nickel cadmium batteries. Since lithium ion batteries aren’t much more expensive, we’d recommend spending a little extra upfront for something that will last longer and provide more juice.
You don’t want to spend nearly as much on your handheld vacuum as you would on a full-sized vacuum. Try to keep your budget under $100. Unless you’ve already spent lots of money on your household vacuum, a handheld vacuum over $100 is disproportionately expensive and unnecessary.
Think about ergonomics:
When it comes to ergonomics, not all handheld vacuums are created equal. You might think that just because a vacuum is small, it’ll be easy to use. That’s not necessarily true!
You’ll want to look at the handle design, the center of gravity, and the attachments or tools that come with your handheld vacuum. If you have arthritis or other joint issues, you’ll want to look carefully at the weight of a handheld vacuum, to make sure you’re not putting a strain on your wrists or elbows.
Set your cleaning goals:
Before you start comparing handheld vacuums, you’ll want to make a list of all the cleaning projects you’re hoping to tackle with your new handheld vacuum. That’ll give you a better sense of what features to look for, and guide you in narrowing down your search.
For instance, if you want a car vacuum, you’ll want to look for a cordless model or a corded model with lots of range.
If you want a handheld vacuum for dealing with pet hair, you’ll want a brush attachment or rubber hair tool. One way to start making your list is to think about all the weak points on your full-sized vacuum. You can buy a handheld vacuum that will fill in all the gaps!
You want your handheld vacuum to be light and maneuverable, but you don’t want to sacrifice suction power.
Look for handheld vacuums with cyclonic suction. These systems help maintain constant suction, and keep your motor happy.
If you’re looking at a cordless model, make sure you choose a vacuum with lithium ion batteries. These provide constant power right up to the last second of the charge life.
Older nickel cadmium batteries will lose suction steadily as they die. This can be super inconvenient if you’re working on a tough cleaning task.
Decide between corded and cordless models:
The advantage of a cordless model is, of course, range. Cordless handheld vacuums will work practically anywhere you can think to use them.
They’re especially convenient for cleaning cars, since you won’t have to park close to an outlet. We also love cordless vacuums for how much quicker they are to set up in the house.
The advantage of corded vacuums is power. You’ll have more power, and you’ll have it for longer.
Corded handheld vacuums are cheaper than cordless models, and they’re also a bit more reliable. After all, any battery will eventually give out. There’s nothing to stop a corded vacuum from giving you years of service.
Not quite sure which handheld vacuum is the best choice for you? Check out more great handhelds on Amazon or simply click Cheap Vacuum Under 100!