Thanks to their convenient design, cordless vacuums are a popular alternative to bulky traditional vacuums. But you should avoid cheap cordless vacuums. They aren’t great at cleaning floors, and when all is said and done, a corded vacuum is a more cost-effective and long-term investment.
This may not come as much of a surprise, but cordless vacuums aren’t very powerful. To conserve battery life, they run at a much lower power level than corded vacuums—they’re not very good at sucking up dirt.
A cheap corded vacuum may run at 250 watts, but cordless vacuums under $400 tend to run at 120 watts. (Once you get past the $400 price tag, you start finding more powerful cordless vacuums, such as the 400-watt Dyson V8.)
Admittedly, wattage isn’t the best way to measure a vacuum’s suction power. Wattage simply tells you the amount of power that a vacuum consumes. A vacuum may have an outstanding wattage rating, but it could offer mediocre suction power due to a not-so-efficient motor or a thick HEPA filter, for example. We’re only talking about wattage because cheap vacuums don’t list any other important specs.
That said, low wattage usually indicates that a vacuum doesn’t use a high-quality filter. A cheap cordless vacuum won’t do a great job clearing pollen, dander, and other allergens from your home. It could even spit these allergens back into the air. Many corded vacuums utilize a HEPA filter (or a HEPA-styled filter) to eliminate this problem.
We also need to worry about battery life. If you live in a small apartment, you may only need a few minutes of battery life to clean all of your floors. But in a larger home, especially one with pets, vacuuming could take half an hour or longer. Cheap cordless vacuums have a battery life of around 20 minutes, and this number decreases as the battery wears out.
Bin size is also a problem, at least in some models of cordless vacuum. These devices are usually intended for small jobs, and they need to be emptied often. Of course, this “problem” mainly affects people who live in larger homes or people who own pets.
I should also note that cheap cordless vacuums tend to lack any attachments. They usually can’t clean furniture, curtains, or baseboards (you know, the wooden bumper that runs along the bottom of your walls).
Dyson V8 Animal Cordless HEPA Vacuum Cleaner + Direct Drive Cleaner Head + Wand Set + Mini Motorized Tool + Dusting Brush + Docking Station + Combination Tool + Crevice Tool
The Dyson V8 is one of the most well-known cordless vacuums, and for good reason. It features powerful suction, multiple attachments, a HEPA filter, and a 40-minute battery life.
The big selling point of a cordless vacuum, at least in my mind, is that it gives you a reason to vacuum more often. Pulling a stick vacuum off its charger is a lot more convenient than unwinding a long cable!
Here’s the problem; cordless isn’t always convenient. And this is especially true when you use a cheap cordless vacuum.
Due to the reduced suction power of a cordless vacuum, you’ll find yourself spending more time cleaning your rugs or carpets. So, not only will you stand around pushing the vacuum back and forth over the same spot, but you’ll need to pay close attention to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Bin and battery size are also two huge inconveniences, at least in larger homes. Cordless vacuums tend to use very small bins, which need to be emptied often. And as your vacuum’s battery wears down, it may only last 10 minutes on a charge, forcing you to stop your chores early.
You can replace your cordless vacuum’s battery, which is nice. But at that point, you’re paying $40 every few years just to keep a vacuum going. And that’s on top of the usual maintenance that you should be doing with any vacuum.
Shark ZU561 Navigator Lift-Away Speed Self Cleaning Brushroll Lightweight Upright Vacuum with HEPA Filter, Red Peony
The Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuum features a self-cleaning brushroll for pet hair, a true HEPA filter, and a lift-away design that's handy for cleaning curtains and stairs. It's a great vacuum at a very reasonable price.
All vacuums require maintenance. And, of course, all vacuums will eventually break. But cheap vacuums need a lot more attention than mid-range or high-end models, and they often break after a couple years of regular use.
To be clear, I’m not just talking about cordless vacuums. This is a problem that affects all cheap vacuums, and for many families, it’s an unavoidable money pit. You can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars on a vacuum, so you buy something cheap every few years instead.
Well, that’s all the reason to avoid cordless vacuums. You’re better off spending that money on a corded vacuum, which will offer improved suction power, several attachments, and (hopefully) a higher quality air-filtration system. Plus, a $200 corded vacuum won’t be as cheaply made as a similarly-priced cordless option.
But there’s one thing we haven’t mentioned in this article—a cordless vacuum doesn’t need to be your main vacuum. And in some situations, a cheap cordless vacuum might make sense.
A cheap cordless vacuum is usually a bad investment, especially if you need something that can clean your entire home. But maybe you already own a good vacuum, and you just want something extra to keep upstairs, or in a mud room, or near a litter box. If that’s the case, a cheap cordless vacuum isn’t a bad idea.
And, realistically speaking, some homes don’t need a vacuum. If you have hard floors and a couple of tiny area rugs, you can clean everything with a broom and dustpan. A cheap cordless vacuum may be a good addition for those days when you don’t have time for a broom.
Cheap cordless vacuums are also a good choice for college kids. The cordless design will encourage a college kid to clean more often, and it should make moving easier. Plus, since it’s a cheap vacuum, you won’t get too mad when it’s destroyed by careless youth.