Battery operated, wireless, rechargeable vacuums of 2016: 5 stars rated, most powerful cordless vacs

Cordless vacuums give you the convenience to clean anywhere in your house without worrying about having outlets nearby. They’re also great for cleaning in your car, or for cleaning up staircases where power cords can be a major inconvenience.

The problem is, many of them just aren’t very good. Some have weak suction, long charge times, or batteries which don’t give you enough time to get your cleaning done.

So we set out to find answers to these questions:

How much do you have to spend for a decent cordless model?
Which type should you buy?
How do you tell which ones are really worth your money?
Why are so many buyer reviews conflicting?

We’ll answer all your questions in this guide to the best cordless vacuums!

We’ve looked at dozens of top models on the market. We compared reviews and ratings from lab testers at Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping, and other top publications.

We also made our own comparisons of features, specs, and warranty policies. Most importantly, we did careful analysis of reviews from previous buyers, to get a clear picture of how these machines work in real life.

To help you narrow down your search for a new cordless model, we have three top recommendations.

These are great cordless models that we think you’ll love. We’ve provided our own in-depth reviews, and we’ll help you figure out which one best suits you.

Selected models:

– Shark Freestyle
– Black & Decker Lithium Max
– Dyson V8
 

Best for floorsBest for the restBest Overall
Shark FreestyleBlack & Decker Lithium MaxDyson V8
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Rating: 4.2
Reviews: 1,804
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1 Year Warranty
Rating: 4.3
Reviews: 3,248
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2 Year Warranty
Rating: 4.3
Reviews: 25
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Cordless vacuum cleaner reviews

1. Shark Freestyle:

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The best-selling Shark Freestyle was named top stick model for cleaning up pet hair by Consumer Reports.

It’s a versatile cordless machine that we think is a great choice for small houses and apartments with a mix of flooring.

Pros:

It works on both carpets and hard flooring. The Freestyle has a fully-powered brush head, which can handle even deeper carpets and thick area rugs. You can choose the high brush speed for deep cleaning carpets, or turn the brushes down to clean hard floors without flinging dirt around (as some uprights will).

The floor head has swivel steering for maneuvering around furniture and corners. That makes the Shark ideal for tighter spaces like apartments and small houses. The floor head is also low-profile, so it can fit easily under couches, coffee tables, and other furniture.

It’s got all the range you expect from a cordless machine. The Shark gives you about 15-20 minutes of cleaning time per charge. Most previous buyers said that was enough to clean a small home in one fell swoop!

The dust bin is extra large. That’s a big advantage over other cordless models. You’ll have plenty of capacity to get you through your whole cleaning session without needing to empty it several times. It empties easily over the trash can, with the push of a button.

The charging base doubles as a stand for the Freestyle. It’ll shut itself off when the battery is charged, so you don’t have to worry about unplugging it.

It’s very inexpensive. The Shark is less than half the price of more expensive Dyson cordless stick models, and is actually cheaper than quite a few corded models.

Cons:

The older batteries used in the Freestyle aren’t as long-lived as newer lithium ion systems. They also lose some suction power as they lose charge.

The brush roll can’t be turned completely off. That means the Freestyle’s not the top choice for people who have delicate hardwood flooring, since the brushes could potentially scratch the finish.

There aren’t any other attachments or cleaning modes. The Freestyle is limited to cleaning your floors.

It’s built from lightweight plastic. Previous buyers noted it’s not the most reassuring in terms of durability. The light plastic body means it’s also louder than models that are more heavily built.

2. Black & Decker Lithium Max

popular cordless model

The Lithium Max is Black and Decker’s most recent addition to their Pivot lineup of handheld models.

It’s more powerful than its predecessors, thanks to cyclonic suction and has a larger dust capacity. We think it’s a great supplement to a full-size machine, and a good choice for dorms and smaller spaces.

Pros:

A lithium ion battery pack means you’ll get longer life out of each charge, and higher suction that won’t fade as the battery runs out. Older nickel cadmium batteries like you’d find in the previous incarnations of the Pivot fade as the battery dies, which means you’ll sacrifice performance. Not so with the Black & Decker! You’ll have full power until it’s absolutely dead. It charges quickly, too, in about 4 hours.

The updated model also integrates cyclonic suction, which up until now has been limited to full-size machines and expensive Dyson handhelds. Cyclonic suction provides a power boost, and also keeps filters cleaner by directing fine dust and debris away from the motor assembly and into the dust bin where it belongs.

The dust compartment on the newer model offers 50% more capacity than the older model, and empties easily via a side door. The filters are removable, and you can wash them out under the sink when they get clogged.

We love the nozzle design on these Pivot models, since it’s narrow enough to fit into tight spaces without sacrificing size of the suction head. It has a wide coverage without becoming bulky! It’s perfect for cleaning between cushions, in the house and in the car, as well as under and between furniture.

The nozzle also has the accessory tools built right in. There’s a crevice tool which slides out of the end of the nozzle, and a dusting brush which flips into action. Having them onboard makes them easier to access, and easier to store.

The charging base doubles as a stand. We like that it keeps the Pivot standing upright, which lets it take up a smaller footprint than it would on its side.

It’s covered by a 2-year warranty. That’s pretty impressive for a handheld, especially at this price.

Cons:

This model has fairly mixed reliability. The most commonly reported issue was with motors overheating and/or burning out. We’d recommend making sure you’re on top of cleaning the filters, to be sure the airflow stays clear! Any issues should be covered by the 2-year warranty. Previous buyers who had issues said Black & Decker shipped out replacements promptly.

It’s not great on carpets or upholstery. There’s no motorized brush, and no dedicated attachment for dealing with fabrics.

3. Dyson V8

stick vacuum with layered cyclonic suction

The most affordable cordless crossover model from Dyson is the V8.

It combines the maneuverability and versatility of the Black & Decker with the floor cleaning power of the Shark. The Dyson is small and light, but packs the power to clean a whole home!

Pros:

It’s extremely powerful. Dyson’s V8 motor channels air through layered tiers of cyclones, creating lots of force inside the chamber. This helps keep finer dust and dirt away from the motor, and prevents the filters from clogging and interrupting suction. It’s more powerful than other stick or handheld models, and can compete with full-size machines, as well!

There’s also an optional “MAX” power mode, which ups the suction even further for tricky spots, deep carpet, or pesky cobwebs.

The V8 comes with a motorized roller brush for cleaning carpets. We’re impressed by the power brush on the V8, given that this is Dyson’s least expensive floor vacuum. For comparison, the more expensive Ball canister models only have an air-powered carpet tool, which isn’t nearly as effective.

The floor head has two types of bristles, for cleaning all types of floors. Stiff, short bristles work their way into carpets for deep cleaning and loosening hair and debris. Long, thin carbon filaments help loosen dust and dirt from hardwoods and tile without damaging finish. You can switch speeds as you change between flooring types, much like the Shark.

It’s powered by a lithium ion battery pack, for fade-free power. It lasts for about 20 minutes of cleaning time on each charge. The lithium ion batteries also have longer life than the nickel cadmium batteries in the Shark, which start to have trouble holding their charge after a year or so.

The dust compartment empties hygienically, with the touch of a button.

It’s ergonomically designed. While many lesser handhelds are bulky and awkward, the Dyson is designed to distribute weight evenly do you don’t get sore while you are cleaning.

It’s more reliable than the other two options. The Dyson is covered by a 2-year warranty, and has a much better track record than the Freestyle.

Cons:

It doesn’t come with many attachments. There’s just a crevice tool and a dusting brush. Dyson sells their full attachment sets separately, which isn’t as convenient or affordable.

This model has a belt-drive motor head for carpets. It’s not as powerful as the direct drive system on the higher-price V8 sticks.

On MAX mode, you’ll only get about 6 minutes of cleaning time. Most previous buyers said they rarely needed the higher power setting, but that’s still a pretty short amount of time.

It’s pretty expensive. While this V8 is the cheapest Dyson stick vacuum, it costs a fair amount more than cordless stick models from some other brands. However, the Dyson is more powerful, and has better reliability.

Which cordless vac is best for you?

If you’re looking for a smaller cordless vacuum to supplement your full-size household model, our recommendation to you is the Black & Decker.

It’s very light, versatile, and surprisingly powerful thanks to its cyclonic suction. It’s ideal for cleaning out the car, and doing quick spot cleaning without grabbing a large one. However, you won’t be able to clean whole floors with it.

If you’re looking for a cordless solution for cleaning your floors, the top one for you is the Shark Freestyle.

It’s versatile enough to handle all flooring types, and has the dust capacity to get through a small house or apartment. The one downside is that floors are the only surface it’ll clean.

For a cordless vacuum that will do both, with ample power, we strongly suggest the Dyson V8.

It has the Shark’s ability with carpets and hardwoods, and breaks down into a handheld model that’s as maneuverable and versatile as the Black & Decker. The one downside is that it’s as expensive as buying the other two together.

How to choose the right cordless vacuum for you

Decide how you’ll be using your cordless vacuum:

Will it be your primary vacuum, or a supplement to a full-size one? If you’re looking for a cordless model to clean your floors, you’ll want to look at some form of a stick type. Depending on your flooring type, you’ll need a hard floors attachment, or brush head.

If you’ve already got a great full-size vacuum for your floors, you’ll probably want to find a smaller, handheld cordless version for cleaning all the spots where your full-size won’t go.

We suggest using a cordless handheld model in the car, on the stairs, or for quick spot cleaning between vacuuming sessions with your big model.

You can also find crossover models which convert between a handheld vacuum and a stick vacuum, like the Dyson V8 we’ve reviewed here. These give you the power of an upright vacuum with the maneuverability of a handheld.

Consider your budget:

Cordless vacuums start as low as $30, and can cost $300+.

The cheapest options are handheld models, which (with the exception of Dysons) cost below $100. The more you pay for a handheld type, the more suction power you’ll get.

Cordless stick vacuums are available for about the same price range. Cordless stick vacuums with powered brush heads do cost more. You can expect to pay at least $100 for a cordless vacuum that can handle carpet.

With either sort of cordless vacuum, the more expensive models will have superior lithium ion batteries, cyclonic suction, and more sophisticated attachments.

Don’t cheap out on batteries:

Cordless vacuums have been around for a while. While you can save money by buying an older model, you’ll want to be careful about the batteries.

Lithium ion battery packs are your best bet. They’ll last the longest on a charge, and continue to hold charges much longer than older batteries.

One affordable alternative is a nickel cadmium battery pack. These are the previous generation, before lithium ion batteries came out. They’ve got roughly the same capacity as lithium ion batteries, but they’ll take just a little bit longer to recharge.

The one downside is that they fade as they run out of charge. That means you’ll lose some suction power as you get close to the end of a cycle.