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Cheap Canister Vacuums Buying Guide

Dirt Devil, Hoover, Bissell, Electrolux, and Eureka are the major manufacturers of cheap canister vacuums. Prices at the entry-level end of the market run between $50 and $100 while high-end canister vacuums can cost upwards of $600.

Such upscale models may have power nozzles for deep cleaning and impressive suction power and operate with less noise than their budget counterparts, but they aren't necessarily superior to cheaper canister vacs for daily upkeep.

We identified the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G (starting at $57) and Dirt Devil Featherlite Cyclonic Canister Vacuum SD40100 (starting at $59) as the best cheap canister vacuums due to their user-friendly weight, features, and performance. We also like the Eureka ReadyForce Bagged Canister Vacuum 900A (starting at $57) and Panasonic MC-CL310 Bagless Canister Vacuum (starting at $85) because they deliver value for the money. One low-cost model we could leave in the dust is the Dirt Devil Lite Bagless Canister SD40010 EZ (starting at $79), which garners its share of dings for build quality and a tendency to clog.

We compiled a list of critical features and read online user reviews to help you winnow down your options. The first decision you'll have to make is whether to go for a bagged or a bagless canister vacuum. Many users like the simplicity of dumping the cup on a bagless model into the garbage, but others say doing so can unleash a swirl of dust. In general, sealed bags do a better job containing the dirt and are easy to dispose of, although a bagged design requires more effort and a stream of replacement purchases. Among the models on our list, the Dirt Devil Featherlite Cyclonic and Dirt Devil EZ Lite SD40010 and the Panasonic MC-CL310 are bagless while the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G and Eureka ReadyForce 900A take bags. Another Eureka model worth noting, the Pet Lover Mighty Mite 3684F (starting at $75), collects dirt, hair, and dust in an odor-eliminating bag.

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The next decision point concerns filtration. Some consumers consider it vital to have a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. A HEPA filter is supposed to capture more than 99.9% of the tiniest dust, dander, mites, and other particles embedded in floors and furniture and is especially helpful for people with allergies. Of the models we researched, the Dirt Devil Featherlite Cyclonic and EZ Lite SD40010, the Panasonic MC-CL310, and the Eureka Pet Lover Mighty Mite all feature HEPA filters. The Eureka ReadyForce uses a microfiltration system and the Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G relies on a standard filter. Regardless of type, filters should be cleaned or replaced regularly; those on the Mighty Mite 3670G and Dirt Devil Featherlite can be washed. Just a note of caution: Make sure replacement filters are readily available. One post at Target reports that finding replacement filters for the Dirt Devil EZ Lite is a challenge.

Canister vacuums are meant to be more portable and versatile than upright models, so look for lightweight vacuums with long hoses and cords for easy maneuverability. The svelte Eureka Mighty Mite 3670G and its Pet Lover sibling weigh just 8.6 pounds while the heaviest model on our list, the Panasonic MC-CL310, tips the scale at 13 pounds but is still lighter than an upright, which typically weighs more than 14 pounds. Power cords on the models we researched run 16 or 20 feet in length, and hoses are either 5 or 6 feet long; several have wands for a longer reach.

Also check out the accessories to be sure they're meant for the surfaces you'll be vacuuming. A subset of bare-floor brush, dusting brush, crevice tool, soft-brush (upholstery) tool, and telescopic wands come with the cheap canister vacuums we researched. The Eureka Pet Lover Mighty Mite 3684F features a "pet power paw" attachment that's designed specifically to tackle pet hair on carpet and upholstery.

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Most budget vacs come with a one-year warranty, although the Dirt Devil EZ Lite SD40010 warranty extends for two years.

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