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Should you choose an upright or canister when buying your next Vacuum Cleaner?

Updated on June 4, 2012

Are you in the market for a new vacuum cleaner? Today's vacuum cleaners offer a variety of features such as on-board tools and HEPA filters and come in a range of prices. However one choice remains the same as it always has- whether to buy an upright or a canister model. What’s the difference and which one should you choose?

An Upright Vacuum
An Upright Vacuum

Upright Vacuum

An upright vacuum, just as it sounds, stands upright in one self-contained unit featuring the motor at the bottom with a long handle attached. To vacuum with it you push it back and forth in front of you gliding along the carpet. One of the most common vacuum types, it is usually less expensive than the canister vacuum. They are often quite heavy to lift, making them inconvenient in multi-story homes. They can also be awkward for stairs and other hard to reach areas. However, many now come with tools and attachments that allow your upright vacuum all the convenience of a canister vacuum. While not as effective on hardwood and other flooring, they work wonderfully on wall to wall thick carpeting.


  • offers more control because you move it forward in the direction you wish to go
  • usually less expensive than a canister vacuum
  • many now come with an assortment of onboard tools and attachments that make them as convenient as canister vacuums


  • heavier, especially a factor in two story homes
  • can be hard to store in small homes and apartments
  • not convenient for stairs
  • not great on all flooring surfaces, such as hardwood floors

A Canister Vacuum
A Canister Vacuum

Canister Vacuum

A canister vacuum contains the motor in one unit which is attached to a long hose and cleaning unit. You vacuum by holding the hose and nozzle and dragging the canister behind. This can sometimes be hard to manoeuvre if you have a room cluttered with furniture. The canister vacuum usually includes an assortment of tools and attachments that store in the canister and work great on different flooring surfaces and upholstery and make it easy to vacuum steps and under furniture. Canister vacuums are usually compact, light and easy to store. However, they can be considerably costlier than an upright vacuum.


  • lighter and easier to store
  • great for stairs and other hard to reach areas
  • work well on hardwood floors
  • come with a great set of specialty attachments


  • -can be more expensive than an upright vacuum cleaner
  • -may be difficult to manoeuvre around furniture
  • -may not be as effective on deep pile or plush carpeting

Which to Choose?

Whether to buy an upright or canister vacuum is a personal choice. If you are looking to purchase a new vacuum here are a few questions to keep in mind before making your decision:

Will it be used mostly on carpets or do you have multiple flooring types in your home?

Where are you going to store it when not using it?

Do you have steps that need to be vacuumed?

Before you purchase your new vacuum cleaner spend some time in the store with the different models testing how easy they are to manoeuvre, checking out the features and attachments, and considering if it will fit the needs of your home and family.

A Bagless Vacuum
A Bagless Vacuum

Other things will you also have to consider are what type of features you must have and what you can live without, whether to go bagged or bagless and just how much you want to spend on your new vacuum cleaner.


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