Upright Vacuum vs Canister Vacuum: Which is Better for You

Yellow Dyson Ball Upright Vacuum close-up

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Buying a vacuum for your home is a decision that needs some careful thought. You have a plethora of vacuum models to select from, including upright and canister versions. ​

​Deciding whether you want an upright or canister vacuum is really dependent on the use of the vacuum and what your needs are.

To help you decide which vacuum is right for you, we’ve compared the upright vs canister. Here’s everything you need to know about upright and canister vacuums to help you make your purchase.

​Upright Vacuums

Upright vacuums are an all-in-one unit. They use a handle to push the entire vacuum around as you clean. 

They collect dirt and dust in a canister or vacuum bag and use both sweeping and vibration to lift debris into the vacuum. 

A brush roller or beater bar helps remove dirt and dust from your carpet with suction that is created by a fan or suction motor.

Some of the more versatile upright vacuums also come with an extension hose and wand, making them great for hard-to-reach areas like the stairs. This allows you to place attachments on the vacuum to clean more areas in your home. 

Typically, an upright vacuum is pushed around the room using several paths to pick up dirt. Many upright vacuums can be converted to also work on hard floor surfaces.

Yellow Dyson Ball Upright Vacuum close-up

​Upright Vacuum Applications

​Upright vacuums are really designed to cover a large area of carpet quickly. The entire body of the vacuum is pushed along as you clean with a spinning brush or cleaning head that uses vibration and suction to lift dirt and dust from the fibers of your carpet.

Most models of upright vacuums are designed to be easy to push along as you clean, making it a simple task to vacuum room to room. They also work well for cleaning your thicker shag carpet fibers, as they are strong and powerful. 

Unless your upright vacuum comes with a hose and extension wand with attachments, it can be difficult to reach those high and low spots in your home. While many models offer this option, those that don’t can become clumsy and hard to maneuver in tight areas. 

Uprights aren't just reserved to traditional vacuum cleaners. The upright cleaning model applies to steam mops used for cleaning grout and tile flooring.

If you are trying to vacuum stairs, you will find you have to drag your upright vacuum along and worry about it tipping as you work.

Canister Vacuums

​​A canister vacuum is a style of vacuum mounted on wheels and has an extension hose where you can place a range of attachments on to clean. They are very flexible devices as they can be converted with an attachment for the task at hand.

The way a canister vacuum operates is by using beaters which are driven by an electric motor to create suction power to spin the brush roller using a belt drive. They are nimble cleaners as they can go virtually anywhere you need to them to. 

With the flexible hose extension, you can clean hard-to-reach spots which are high up or down low. The top canister vacuums on the market combine power and versatility into one option. 

​Canister Vacuum Applications

​Canister vacuums are most often used to clean areas of your home which need additional reach and access. Because a canister vacuum comes with a variety of attachment and has a mobile design, you can move it to where you need to clean with ease. 

You can use its extending wand to clean up high as well as down low, making it possible to clean all those hard-to-reach spots in your home. Some models, like the Dyson Big Ball Vacuum, are built to let you do this type of cleaning quickly and easily. 

While the canister vacuum is ideal for cleaning stairs, under furniture, and high places, it doesn’t excel at cleaning a large carpeted surface, which is found in most homes. This type of vacuum is also great for vacuuming inside your car.

You would literally have to drag the canister body of the vacuum back and forth to cover the entire surface of the room, even if you use the widest attachment possible. This can be laborious and is not the best application for a canister vacuum.

Yellow canister vacuum standing on a blue carpet

​Upright ​vs Canister

When comparing an upright vs canister, you will find your decision to purchase one vacuum cleaner over the other is dependent on your cleaning needs. 

  • If you have large carpeted surfaces, you will do better with an upright vacuum than a canister model.
  • However, if you are looking to clean hard-to-reach spots, a canister vacuum is perfect for these cleaning applications.

Cost is another factor you need to consider.

  • You can easily find an upright vacuum at a nominal cost, depending on the manufacturer and options. More expensive upright vacuums from ​brands like Shark are available, and they will offer you more cleaning capabilities with the added cost. 
  • Canister vacuums will run you a little more than an upright vacuum, but you will find they offer great flexibility with a range of attachments suited to a variety of cleaning jobs.

We've found the top stick vacuum without a cord and created a full review of it.

​Attachments are important features to consider when you're looking at a canister vac vs an upright vac. 

  • ​You will almost always get more attachment options with a canister vacuum. They come with a series of attachments which allow you to clean delicate areas as well as tough or aged stains and tough ground-in dirt messes.
  • Upright vacuums typically come with only one or two attachments, which can limit the cleaning that you can do in hard-to-reach spots.
Various vacuum cleaner attahments sprawled on the hardwood floors

Maneuverability is also a factor that needs to be considered when comparing upright vs canister vacuums.

  • Upright vacuums can easily be pushed from room-to-room. They may, however, be limited by the cord length. Many designs have made them easy to push and pull without too much effort. 
  • A canister vacuum can sometimes be hard to maneuver. While many come with wheels to make it easier, you will find there are limitations to where it can go.
  • But, you will have a longer cord with a canister vacuum which can allow you to clean room-to-room, or floor to floor (as it's an easy way to clean stairs) without interruption.


​After carefully considering the upright vacuum and the canister vacuum, we found the upright vacuum to be more versatile.

  • It can clean a large area carpet and most often comes with attachments that allow you to clean stairs and under furniture as well as get into tight crevices with ease.
  • It is easier to maneuver and can usually pick up dust and dirt in a single pass.
  • Many upright vacuums are affordable, making it possible for you to purchase one without breaking your budget.

W​hen you are looking to add a vacuum to your cleaning repertoire, look no further than the upright vacuum. It will give you everything you need to clean the carpet, and hard surfaces, in your home.

About the Author Allen Michael

Allen Michael is the Founder and Editor of Home Viable, a website that he started to provide readers with tips on home efficiency and automation. He draws on his engineering background combined with his family-of-four experiences for his articles.

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