Upright vacuums have been around since the vacuum cleaner was invented. We probably all remember our parents or grandparents owning a heavy-duty Hoover vacuum cleaner. Bulky but reliable, these upright vacuums were built to last. As technology has improved, upright vacuum cleaners have increased in the suction power and versatility.
Over the past decade or so, consumers have come to demand a vacuum cleaner with more convenience and less weight. Enter the stick vacuum, a lighter version of the traditional upright vacuum. With the improvements in cyclonic technology, nowadays stick vacuum owners can have convenience without necessarily losing out on suction power.
The stick vacuum is lightweight and versatile. The upright vacuum is powerful and longstanding.
So which model is best for you? Both upright vacuums and stick vacuums are fantastic options, but which one you should buy is based on several criteria.
We’ll evaluate the distinguishing factors and help you decide whether to buy a stick vacuum or upright vacuum.
Perhaps the most obvious place to start in examining the differences in sticks vs uprights is with suction power. And, the differences aren’t as obvious as you might think.
Upright vacuums are built to maximize suction power. Generally speaking, dollar for dollar, an upright vacuum is going to have more suction power than a stick vacuum. However, that is not universal, and there are several things to examine.
For starters, there are many stick vacuums on the market that have a tremendous amount of suction power. They take advantage of all of the things that distinguish stick vacuums: lightweight and ultra convenient. A stick vacuum with high suction power is truly the complete package, and they cost a lot of money.
That is why we say that upright vacuums have more suction power than stick vacuums dollar for dollar. For the same spend, you will generally see upright vacuums having more suction power than an equivalently priced stick vacuum.
Again – don’t read this the wrong way – you can find stick vacuums that have a bunch of suction power too. They will just come with a hefty price tag. If you are looking for the full package: a lightweight, versatile vacuum with lots of suction, then we recommend you look at some of the top-end stick vacuums.
On the hand, many of the mid-range upright vacuums will have an equivalent suction power. It will likely be heavier and bulkier than a stick vacuum, but you’ll get lots of power for a decent price.
What situations necessitate high suction power from your vacuum? Lets go through a few that we’ve seen in our testing:
Thick carpet, such as shag carpet, and long fibers that trap a lot of dust and debris. Over time, this dirt works its way deep into the carpet. Even if you only wait a few days in between vacuuming, chances are your thicker carpet already has dirt worked down into the base of your carpet fibers.
Because of it’s thickness, pulling all this dirt out of thick carpet requires a vacuum with strong suction power. An added necessity is a vacuum with a brush roller, which helps to agitate and “kick” up the dirt and debris.
Pet hair has this pesky and annoying characteristic of being “sticky.” Unlike so many other types of debris, pet hair sticks to whatever it falls on – flooring, carpet, furniture, blinds, etc.
Related: The Best Vacuum for Pet Hair
To get pet hair up requires a vacuum with strong suction. Without a powerful vacuum cleaner, you might find yourself examining the floor after a clean, only to see the dirt gone but the pet hair still there.
Again, just like with thick carpet, a powerful vacuum combined with a brush roller is the best combination to pick up pet hair.
High foot traffic brings more dirt and debris than lower foot traffic – this much is obvious. However, unless you want to be making several passes every time you vacuum, you need to strong powered vacuum cleaner to be able to handle the high amount od debris.
If you live in a home that has a lot of inhabitants, or an area that gets a high amount of foot traffic, you’ll want a vacuum with strong suction power. This will keep you from having to vacuum multiple times every time you need to clean.
Lets look at the next factor to consider when selecting between an upright vacuum vs a stick vacuum.
Weight might not be the first factor you look at when examining a vacuum cleaner, but it can be a very important one. Heavier vacuums are harder to maneuver and harder on your body. They are tough to move around, and even worse to carry up and down stairs.
Meanwhile, a lightweight vacuum makes your cleaning significantly easier. You’ll find vacuuming easier, and you’ll be more likely to get the vacuum out more frequently. Trust us, we’ve seen this play out over and over again in our own lives!
Vacuums today can weight as little as 4 pounds and range all the way up to 20 pounds and above.
Obviously, there can be compromises with lighter weight vacuums. Typically, they don’t have as powerful of a motor, resulting in a lower suction. They also don’t usually have as large of storage bags for the debris you collect, meaning you’ll have to empty your vacuum more frequently.
The upsides of a lightweight vacuum are obvious: less weight to have to push and pull around your house as you go over varied surfaces and up and down staircases. A lightweight vacuum lets you get the job done faster and easier.
Stick vacuums are almost always lighter in weight when compared to an equivalent upright vacuum. Most stick vacuums weigh under 10 pounds, while you’ll find upright vacuums can weigh anywhere between 8-25 pounds. These are averages, of course, but it helps to understand the generalities.
In our opinion, you should try to find the lightest weight vacuum you can that has the suction power you need. Where you will be using the vacuum has a tremendous influence on the weight you’ll end up with.
Need a vacuum for your whole house, which includes hardwood floor and thick carpets? You might not end up with a lightweight vacuum, unless you want to spend a lot. Just want a vacuum for your downstairs closet to touch up heavy traffic areas at the end of the day? In this case, a lightweight stick vacuum should suit you great.
Prior to the last 10-20 years, it was unheard of to have a cordless vacuum cleaner. Vacuums required a tremendous amount of power to suck up debris, and it just wasn’t possible to do that with something battery powered. Nowadays, technology has made cordless vacuums quite qualified to do the job.
Like buying a lightweight vacuum, a cordless vacuum makes your life a lot more convenient. It sounds a bit trivial, but not having to deal with messy cords makes vacuuming so much easier. Simply dashing to the closet and pulling a charged vacuum out makes cleaning a piece of cake.
Because it is so much easier, you’ll actually find yourself vacuuming more. This results in a cleaner home. No kidding.
It would be easy to assume that cordless vacuums don’t have as much power as their corded counterparts. And, while this can be the case, we don’t see a very strong correlation. Cordless vacuums can come with tons of power or very little power, depending on what you need.
There are many things to consider when evaluating between corded and cordless options, and then you have to translate that over to stick vacuums vs upright vacuums. We’re going to do our best to simplify it here:
One of the greatest limiting factors for cordless vacuums actually comes down to battery life. All cordless vacuums run on battery power. And, these batteries only last so long. Depending on the specific vacuum and the power settings you are using, batteries can last as little as 8 minutes and as long as 40+ minutes.
If you’re planning on vacuuming your entire house with a cordless vacuum, you need to be very careful about which one you select. While the most expensive cordless vacuum cleaners can last 40-50 minutes, most mid-priced cordless vacuums last 20-25 minutes. And, this is without the high power mode engaged (if your model has that option).
20-25 minutes might not be enough for your home, depending on its size and type of flooring. You can opt to vacuum in two sittings, but this means you’ll have to wait for the battery to charge, which can take anywhere from 4-9 hours.
As you’d expect, thicker carpets use up more battery, as they involve more suction and the use of the brush roller. Low pile carpet and hardwood flooring typically uses less battery power.
If your home has lots of thick carpet, no matter what the size, pay close attention to the specific cordless vacuum that you buy. You want to make sure it can do an adequate job, and that you’ll have enough battery power to handle your home.
Some cordless vacuum cleaners come with removable batteries, allowing you to purchase more than one. This can be a great way to overcome a large home or thicker carpet, the two biggest culprits of reducing battery life.
If, in the end, you can’t find a cordless vacuum that satisfies your specific scenario, you might be better off with a corded vacuum cleaner. While not as convenient, you’ll never have to worry about running out of battery power, or forgetting to charge the cordless unit.
With a corded vacuum, you can go straight from hardwood floor to thick carpet without worrying about battery life. Flick the brush roller on and leave it on for as long as you like. Go over the carpet several times – you don’t have to worry about how much battery power you have left.
Speaking of the cordless vs corded vacuum cleaner debate, Determining what you need out of your vacuum is a great step to determining which type is best.
The more you need out of your vacuum, the more versatile you’ll need your vacuum to be. Whether a stick vacuum or upright vacuum, you’ll want to determine what specifics you require first.
A lot of this has already been discussed above, but its worth a quick review here. Vacuums expand their versatility through their suction power and attachments.
The stronger the suction power that the vacuum has, the more surfaces it can adequately vacuum.
Likewise, the more attachments that a vacuum has, the more different types of specific needs it can handle.
Here are the top situations where you need a versatile vacuum. After, we’ll talk about whether an upright or stick vacuum is best suited for each.
If you live in a home that is all hardwood flooring, you don’t need a very versatile vacuum cleaner.
On the other hand, if you have hardwood or engineered flooring in some parts of your house, along with carpet, you might to consider otherwise. Additionally, carpets come in all different types. There are low pile carpet and areas rugs, which are distinctly different than thick burber or shag carpet to vacuum.
Related: The Best Hardwood Floor Vacuum
Upright vacuums are heavier and less convenient, but they’ll be able to handle a large variety of floor surfaces a little better than a stick vacuum. The expensive Shark and Dyson stick vacuums will be able to keep up with all of your floor types though.
What you don’t want to buy is a less expensive stick vacuum if you have a variety of floor surfaces. This will definitely let you down.
As we said earlier, the thicker the carpet, the higher the need for a brush roller. You can find brush rollers in a variety of stick and upright vacuums.
Will you be cleaning your car with your vacuum? Do you have stairs that you will need to keep clean?
Stick vacuums are made for convenience, so the more additional cleaning needs you’ll require from your vacuum, the more likely you’ll want to opt for a stick vacuum.
Many stick vacuums are what they call “2-in1” or even “3-in-1.” This means that you get several types of vacuum cleaner in one. Often, a 2-in1 vacuum cleaner will be both a stick vacuum and a handheld vacuum, for example.
This is really convenient if you need to use your vacuum for additional cleaning needs, such as cleaning your car. Simply pop off the handheld portion and you’re off to the races.
The same can be said for your stairs, your blinds, and under your furniture. Stick vacuums tend to come with more versatility built in, and so chances are you’ll want to stick with a stick vacuum (pun intended).
Related: The Best Vacuum for Stairs
On the other hand, if you just need a workhorse to keep your carpets clean, you probably don’t need all the additional cleaning needs that come with a stick vacuum, and would do just fine sticking with an upright vacuum.
Both pets and children create additional cleaning requirements. And, in order to handle those, you’ll either need to buy additional cleaning products and appliances, or make sure that your standard vacuum can handle them.
This one is a little trickier to give advice on which way to go when it comes to a stick vacuum vs upright vacuum.
On one hand, upright vacuums typically have stronger suction power (dollar for dollar), and thus do a better job picking up pet hair and the messes a child can create.
On the other hand, a stick vacuum often comes with specific attachments to handle these situations, which makes them very optimal.
In the end, when you have pets or children (or both), you’ll need to take a more holistic approach in evaluating which is best for you. If we had to pick, we’d opt for the versatility of a stick vacuum over the stronger power of an upright vacuum. But there are merits for either a stick vacuum vs upright vacuum in this case.
Perhaps we’ve saved the most important factor for last. Cost is always a huge factor in what you purchase, as it should be. And, when it comes to evaluating an upright vacuum vs stick vacuum models, there is a huge variety of costs.
Its worth mentioning that we have already evaluated the relative cost of a stick vacuum vs upright vacuum when it comes to suction power. Upright vacuums will be cheaper when suction power is compared right up against an equivalent stick vacuum model. That doesn’t tell very much of the story, though.
Generally speaking, both stick vacuums and upright vacuums can cost as little as $25 and range all the way above $500. That is a huge spread, so lets look at it a little more specifically.
At under $50, you’re getting a bare bone vacuum cleaner. That isn’t necessarily bad! But don’t expect any of the extras when you’re in this price range.
We’ve reviewed the best vacuum under $50!
The best stick vacuum for under $50 will do an adequate job on hardwood floors and low pile carpets. They will be a corded stick vacuum – you don’t start seeing cordless stick vacuum models until the $100 price range.
You might see a 2-in-1 model or two in here, but generally speaking, these stick vacuums won’t have a lot of versatility. If you have pets, you’ll need something more powerful (and expensive).
The best upright vacuum for under $50 will have a little more power than it’s stick counterpart, and might be able to handle some mid-thickness carpets. Look for a brush roller if you can, as not many sub-$50 models have them.
Just like the stick vacuum, an upright vacuum for under $50 won’t do an adequate job on pet hair. If you have dog hair or cat hair to vacuum up, you’ll need to look at a more expensive model.
Technology has improved enough that its worth considering a vacuum under $50, and you’ll get a decent cleaner. Don’t expect much more than the essentials, and you’ll be happy.
Once you start getting into that $100 price range, you start to see some expansive options and stronger power. You can do really well purchasing a $100 vacuum. As an example, our recommendation for the best stick vacuum comes in right around $100.
We’ve reviewed the best vacuum under $100!
The best stick vacuum for under $100 is going to come with a lot more power. You’ll have enough suction power to handle low and medium pile carpet. Many models come with a brush roller, allowing you to suck up a lot more dirt and debris.
You’ll also find a number of models with cordless options, featuring battery run times of roughly 20 minutes. These options won’t have the long run times of 40 minutes like the more expensive options, nor will they charge under 4 hours. But being able to buy a cordless stick vacuum for under $100 is pretty amazing.
You’ll also have several attachments, suitable for pets, stairs, and upholstery.
The best upright vacuum under $100 is going to have good suction power, and will be very adept at handling a variety of floor surfaces. They’ll still be pretty heavy usually ranging between 10-20 lbs.
At this price point, you can find a versatile vacuum that will do an adequate job. None of the conveniences are well developed or robust, but they’ll give you a taste of the convenience you can have at the higher price points.
In our opinion, this price range is the sweet spot. At $200, you will find some amazing vacuum cleaners with a multitude of options and attachments. Once you start going above $200, you start seeing diminishing returns on your money.
We’ve reviewed the best vacuum under $200!
The best stick vacuum for under $200 will give you adequate suction power for virtually all surfaces. Perhaps still not optimal for thick carpets, they’ll still be able to help out quite a bit.
You can go for either corded or cordless, and have good selections for either. At this price point, we would vote cordless unless you have some thick carpets. Then, a corded stick vacuum should have enough power to get you through it.
You’ll have loads of attachments to help you tackle dog, cat, and pet hair. You’ll be able to convert your stick into a handheld vacuum for stairs and car cleaning.
The best upright vacuum for under $200 will have enough power to handle any and all circumstances. Mind you – not ALL upright vacuums in this price range can, but there are several well-designed ones that do an amazing job on even the thickest of carpets.
You’ll also start see upright vacuums that are designed more ergonomically to reduce the weight on your hand, arm, and back.
In our opinion, purchasing a vacuum in the $200 price range is the best choice. Whether a stick vacuum or an upright vacuum, you’ll get a high quality brand name vacuum that can handle virtually every situation.
This is a pretty wide price range, as we’ve reviewed vacuums that are $600-$700. With that being said, once you get above $200, the advantages start to get similar.
That isn’t to say that vacuums in this price range aren’t amazing – they are. The first time you use a vacuum in this range, you’ll probably be shocked and how far technology has come.
These vacuums combine powerful suction with lightweight and ergonomic designs. They are incredibly versatile, able to handle every floor situation. Corded options have long cords that maximize their power usage. Cordless options last for 40+ minutes and recharge in 3-4 hours.
We actually find that upright vacuums in this price range act more like commercial vacuums, able to handle a lot of debris and dirt over time.
Vacuums in this price range often have HEPA filters, which remove allergens from the air as they suck the dirt in. They are also typically bagless, making cleaning out the dust bin simple.
If you have the budget, these vacuums are amazing appliances. Whether a stick vacuum or upright vacuum, you’ll get all the bells and whistles. If you have a high traffic home or pets that shed heavily, this type of vacuum may well be worth the investment.
It’s impossible to objectively say which is better when considering a stick vacuum vs upright vacuum. Both stick vacuums and upright vacuums are great options, depending on your specific needs.
Generally speaking, stick vacuums are going to be lighter weight and easier to use. They come with a variety of cordless options, and are highly versatile, allowing you to adapt the stick to a handheld or car vacuum.
Upright vacuums are incredibly powerful and come with high suction. Since their focus is typically on this one area, they aren’t as versatile, but also aren’t as costly.
Whatever you choose, enjoy the advances that technology has afforded vacuum cleaners in recent years. This isn’t your grandparent’s Hoover any longer!