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Cheap Vacuum Cleaners Buying Guide

The cheap vacuum cleaner segment is populated by well-known brand names such as Bissell, Hoover, Dirt Devil, and Eureka. We awarded two cheap uprights the best-in-class title.

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The Bissell CleanView with OnePass 9595 (starting at $69) garners heaps of praise for cleaning performance and light weight. The Eureka 4870MZ Boss SmartVac (starting at $140) is a favorite because its power and long cord make quick work of pet hair, crumbs, and whatever lands on the floor. Two other models we like include the Hoover Tempo WidePath Bagged Upright U5140900 (starting at $80) for good overall performance and value, and the Dirt Devil Dynamite Plus Bagless Upright (starting at $59) for its light mass and ease of use. One cheap upright that doesn't meet expectations is the Eureka AirSpeed Zuum AS5203A (starting at $100). Many users report incidents of overheating and disappearing suction after using this Target exclusive just a few times.

Even among cheaper uprights, the assortment of product features and accessories is far from shabby. They do, of course, vary by model and make, and the best package for the price depends in large part on individual consumer's needs. Homes may have a large or small footprint with rooms of more or less square footage. Some people like sparsely furnished spaces and others prefer jam-packed interiors. Households may be filled with children and/or pets and others with just an adult or two. The inhabitants may have allergies or may not be obsessively concerned about microscopic particulates in the air. Given such diversity, we set relatively flexible criteria in terms of specifications when searching for the best cheap uprights. What we did insist on, though, was exemplary cleaning performance.

What We Looked For in the Specifications

Light Weight.

Twenty years ago, lightweight vacuum cleaners didn't exist; most were bulky beasts that weighed 30 to 40 pounds. These days consumers can find high-performing uprights weighing less than 20 pounds, which makes them easy to push around. Among our picks, the Dirt Devil Dynamite Plus Bagless Upright is the bantamweight champ at 10.75 pounds, which earns rave comments from users who appreciate the ease of carting it up and down stairs. The Eureka 4870MZ Boss SmartVac, at 21.5 pounds, smashes through the weight barrier to snatch the heavyweight crown but still claims advocates who say it's basically self-propelled and pulls back with little effort even as some bemoan its heft.

HEPA Filtration.

Modern vacuums are multi-tasking machines, with powerful suction that pulls up dirt from rugs and carpets, "sweeps" hardwood and ceramic tile floors, "dusts" around moldings and furniture, and inhales pet hair and dander wherever they fall. That's a lot of dirt flowing through the filter, prompting us to look for uprights with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration. The gold standard in this category, HEPA filters trap more than 99.97 percent of dust, bacteria, pollen, and other nasty particles and are especially welcome by pet owners and folks with asthma or sensitive to allergens, according to postings at sites such as Viewpoints. That said, a well-respected consumer products testing site has reported that other filter arrangements are equally effective.

All of models we researched feature HEPA systems except for the Hoover U5140900 Tempo WidePath, which uses a filter that the specs assert captures 99 percent of dust and allergens. Its sibling, the Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Pet Rewind Bagless UH70210 (starting at $129) comes with a HEPA and a carbon filter, the latter helpful in absorbing pet odors.

Note: It's important to keep the filter clean. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning frequency.

Cleaning Path.

Why does this matter? Because the wider the cleaning path, the fewer "sweeps" across the floor. Anyone who needs to vacuum large expanses of carpeted or bare floors might prefer the Hoover U5140-900 Tempo or Eureka 4870 Boss SmartVac, each with a floor nozzle that clears a 15-inch path. Narrower nozzles (i.e., cleaning paths) are better-suited for smaller or crowded rooms, being easier to maneuver around table legs, chairs, and sofas. The Dirt Devil Dynamite Plus is the slimmest on our list with an 11-inch width.

Long Cord.

The length of the power cord is often an afterthought that users come to regret. Depending on the area to be vacuumed, five feet of cord can mean the difference between efficiency and frustration; the longer the cord, the greater the reach and the fewer outlet changes. All of our picks feature a cord at least 25 feet long. The longest cord in the bunch, at 30 feet, is found on the Eureka 4870MZ Boss SmartVac.

by Raechel Conover (Google+ Profile)

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