Three best handheld vacuums

Stacey L. Nash

To prevent frequent changes between electrical outlets, look for a corded handheld vacuum with the longest cord possible.

Spilled cereal, kitty litter, or dirt from your kids' latest adventure with your favorite potted plant make you realize how great it would be to have a handheld vacuum. Let's face it, the convenience is hard to beat.

Accessories, wet/dry options, and better suction -- handheld vacuums have come a long way since they first entered the market. But how do you know which model is right for you?

At BestReviews, we've put together a shopping guide to help you make an informed decision. We've also included our top three picks, handheld vacuums that we think stand out from the crowd.

Considerations when choosing handheld vacuums

Corded vs. cordless: Both corded and cordless vacuums have their pros and cons. In general, corded vacuums have stronger, more consistent suction and more powerful motors. However, they're limited by their need for an electrical outlet. Cordless models offer better portability and versatility, cleaning your car, boat, or RV with no problem. However, cordless models aren't as powerful, the battery pack adds weight, and you've got 30 to 40 minutes of cleaning time, at best.

Dry vs. wet/dry: Wet/dry vacuums give you a wider range of uses and might be a necessity if you live in a wet climate. On the downside, wet/dry vacuums lack the suction power of dry models. Many wet/dry models also require you to clean the canister after each wet use to prevent mildew, mold, and maintenance issues.

Handheld vacuum features

Weight: Cordless handheld vacuums weigh more than corded models because of the battery pack. Some vacuums can weigh as much as five pounds. People with limited strength or mobility issues might find the weight fatiguing after a short time.

Accessories: Extra tools give you more cleaning options. Hoses, nozzles, and crevice tools let you reach into tight spaces. The tools make the vacuum more versatile, but they also add to the price.

Canister/bag size: Larger canisters don't need to be emptied as often. However, larger canisters also require more complicated removal and assembly. Save yourself some frustration and look for a handheld vacuum with simple emptying instructions.

Handheld vacuum prices: While you can find handheld vacuums for under $20, these are typically underpowered, which means they also underperform. You can find a good basic dry vacuum for $25 to $35. These don't have many accessories, but they work well for the occasional spill. From $35 to $50, you'll see dry vacuums with more accessories. Wet-dry vacuums cost over $50. While these vacuums are more expensive, one can be invaluable if you live in a wet climate. You'll also find brand-name vacuums with several accessories at this price.


Q. Can I mount the charging station for a cordless vacuum to the wall?

A. Wall-mounted charging stations are convenient and save space. However, not all stations are designed for wall mounting, so check before you buy.

Q. Which lasts longer, a corded or cordless handheld vacuum?

A. In general, corded models have a longer lifespan simply because they don't have a battery that can wear out. However, lithium-ion battery technology has considerably extended the life of cordless vacuums. You can find models that run for 30 to 40 minutes per use and last for years, depending on how often it's used and how well it's maintained.

Handheld vacuums we recommend

Best of the best: Black & Decker 16V Lithium Cordless

Our take: With an impressive battery life and unique design, this little handheld vac doesn't disappoint. This is the tool for those who do frequent spot cleaning, such as pet owners and families with children.

What we like: The lithium-ion battery provides excellent longevity and motor power. The powerful suction and compact profile enable you to use it in tight spaces.

What we dislike: The front assembly can pop off if it gets caught or bumped.

Best bang for your buck: Bissell Pet Hair Eraser

Our take: If you've got pets, this is the vacuum for you. Together, the accessories and suction make this a formidable model.

What we like: This vacuum doesn't stop at pet hair. Kitty litter, dirt, and debris are no problem for its HEPA filter and powerful suction.

What we dislike: The dirt canister can be tough to remove and empty.

Choice 3: Dirt Devil Scorpion Quick Flip Corded

Our take: For a vacuum of this size and weight, it shows impressive suction. You get a lot of accessories and good cleaning power for the price.

What we like: We like the flip-down crevice tool because it's handy and easy to access. The included hose and dust brush provide some extra cleaning options that make this a versatile vacuum.

What we dislike: There's no onboard cord storage.

Stacey L. Nash is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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