Upright vs Canister: Which Vacuum is Better For What?

So, you need to buy a vacuum. While it may not be the highlight of your weekend, it can be easier than it sounds. One of the major decisions when choosing a vacuum is – do you buy an upright vacuum or a canister vacuum?

There are pros and cons to each type, and as far as determining which is right for your daily vacuuming needs, we’ll consider 4 areas:

  1. Floor type
  2. Storage
  3. Affordability
  4. Miscellaneous pros and cons

Floor Type

What type of floors are you vacuuming most often?

Traditionally, an upright vacuum was considered best for carpets and a canister vacuum for bare floors (i.e. hard wood, linoleum, vinyl, etc…). But now, most vacuums, while they might be better suited for one or the other, clean well on both carpet and bare floors. Even though there is less discrepancy, if you have all carpet in your house, an upright vacuum will serve you well.

If you have all bare floors, a canister will probably work better for you. Most people, however, have a combination of flooring, which makes the decision less black and white. As you weigh in the other factors, perhaps you’ll be able to make an easier decision.

Storage Options

You can find very slim upright vacuums these days. Some are very lightweight and take up less than half a coat closet. It’s pretty much unanimously agreed that an upright is easier to store. If closet space is limited, and you don’t want a bulky canister vacuum falling on guests as they hang up their coats or open the linen closet, then an upright might be the way to go.


You can spend $50 to $1200 on either type of vacuum; however, typically you get a higher quality upright for the same price as a lower quality canister vacuum. Meaning, if you have $300 to spend on a vacuum, your $300 will get you a better upright than a canister. You might have to spend $400 to get a canister vacuum as good as the $300 upright. But, if you have all bare floors and storage is not an issue, the canister may still be a better choice due to its versatility while cleaning.

There is a wide range of affordability, and more expensive isn’t always better. On of the best rated upright vacuums on Amazon right now is the Shark Navigator, priced at around $120. If you walked into an Oreck dealer, it would almost beimpossible to spend less than $300. Both Shark and Oreck make great vacuums, but a high price tag isn’t always the best indicator of the best vacuum for you.

Miscellaneous Considerations

Besides the obvious price, flooring, and storage considerations, there are other factors that you should consider. If you can get a cheaper but higher quality vacuum that takes up less storage space, it might seem like an upright if the right choice.

However, I personally prefer canister machines when it comes to having three sets of stairs at home! Also, without a canister, I wouldn’t be able to vacuum my car very easily (I would need to pick up a separate handheld vacuum). With little kids riding in my back seat, there are cheerios and raisin crumbs galore that have been sitting there for who knows how long. They only get vacuumed when I finally get around to going to the car wash.

Another option is to get a very high quality vacuum in one category (i.e. upright) but get a cheaper (but still good) canister vacuum for the stairs, the bare bathroom floor, and the car. Or, on the flip side, get a high quality canister for your stairs, car, and the entire main level covered with hardwood; but, keep an inexpensive upright in a bedroom closet for vacuuming rugs and/ or carpets.

If you have to choose one, there really is no “right” choice. It’s just a matter of what suits your needs best at this moment (and in the near future).

So, which do you think you’ll pick, and why?

In any case, good luck to you! And don’t forget to check out these other 2 articles:


1 Comment
  1. For me, not having a retractable cord is almost a plain deal-breaker. I just don’t understand how a company(such as Dyson) spends so much moneyon advertisements that confidently boast about their cutting edge technology while I kneel down and manually wind a cord around a movable hook and a stationary one. 6 full revolutions, being mindful of the moving top hook.I don’t there is a single upright owner in the world who hasn’t been in a rush yet was forced to realign that hook and start winding from the beginning again. I can admit that I’ve shoved my Dyson into a closet with the 30′ cord laying all over its floor. There’s a time or two where I didn’t vacuum because of it. I know I cut my appointments too close by I don’t need my vacuum to make it so obvious. The first retractable cord was, I think, in the late 70’s. Does that Dyson guy think that a pair of super-tough bell bottom jeans are worth $400 too?

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