Upright Vs Canister Vacuums: Which Should You Buy?

Jeneva Aaron
Jeneva is the founder and CEO of thehousewire.com where she provides honest and objective reviews on home and cleaning products. She is a cleaning enthusiast. She got inspired to build her own cleaning blog when she realized how cleaning can make an impact on our lives and how a cleaner home can affect a person's mood.
Learn more about The Housewire’s Editorial Process
Updated May 18, 2022

Both vacuums. Both awesome. But which is best for you?

Both vacuums. Both awesome. But which is best for you?

Upright vs Canister

It’s a minefield to choose a new vacuum cleaner. The market is crowded with so many different types, and it can be hard to decipher the technical jargon. So how do you know which one Is right for you?

If you’re struggling to decide between a canister or upright vacuum, we’ll compare the advantages and disadvantages of them both. That way, you can discover all you need to know before picking which one is right for you.

So let’s start off by learning a bit about some of the main differences between these two types of vacuum cleaners.

Upright vs. Canister Vacuum Comparison Chart

ProductUpright VacuumCanister Vacuum
Check Price
Check Price
US Market Shares
Easy to move from room to room with one single hand
No need to bend
2 pieces to worry about
Requires to bend
Power Suction
Great suction but smaller motors
Large powerful motor
Hard Floors
Mutlifloor hears switch easily from hard floor to another
Highly efficient
Won't scratch them
Cleaning stairs is painful
The wide cleaning head don't fit stairs
Maneuverable in stairs
Small cleaning heads make them suitable for stairs
Perfect to clean carpets thanks to their motorized brushes
Less efficient on carpets
But won't damage them
Hard to Reach Areas
Can't reach cordners, crevices, under furnitures
Excellent for hard to reach areas
Large Areas
Excellent at one-pass cleaning
Not efficient due to their small cleaning heads
Plenty of options
Easy but belt can broke easily
No belts
Filters are easy to maintain and change

What’s The Difference Between an Upright and a Canister?

The main difference between a canister and an upright vacuum is the construction.

An upright vacuum is one single unit with all the components contained within it. Things like the motor, separation and filtration systems, and exhaust port are all hidden away inside the casing.

Then, there’s a floorhead at the bottom that usually has a motorized brush roll. There might also be an extra beater bar to make cleaning carpets easier. But you push the whole unit around to vacuum your home.

Meanwhile, a canister vacuum has a main body with a separate cleaning head attached by a wand and hose. The motor, separation and filtration systems, and exhaust are all in the main body. So you just hold the cleaning head while the other components stay in the vacuum unit.

They’re both very different to use due to their designs.

Upright Vs Canister Vacuum: In-Depth Comparison

Let’s find out some more about the usability when it comes to canister vs upright vacuum cleaners.

Market Shares

Upright vacuums are the most popular kind in America. Of the 26 million vacuum cleaners sold in the USA in 2010, 19.3 million of them were uprights. So they made up a whopping 69% of the market share.

Canister vacuums are also popular, and they accounted for 7% of the sales in 2010. This means 2 million canister vacuums were sold in America. It’s a lot, but not nearly as many as upright models.


The upright vacuum cleaner dominates market shares, so it wins round one.


Upright vacuums are ergonomic and straightforward to use. The controls are all easy to reach on the handle, so you can manage them with one hand.

And since the vacuum is all one piece, you can move it around furniture by flicking your wrist to direct it where you want it. This makes it easy to navigate moving from room to room. But it can feel heavy after a while.

On the other hand, you have to maneuver both parts of a canister vacuum.

You hold the cleaning head and hose, then have to drag the main body. It can feel cumbersome and a bit of a faff, especially if the wheels get caught! And you may have to bend down to manage the controls, which isn’t the best if you suffer from back pain.

But it does feel lightweight to use thanks to the weight being spread across the two parts. And the wand is slimline and the hose is maneuverable for getting into tight spots.


Both upright and canister vacuums have their perks when it comes to maneuverability.


Upright vacuums tend to be the heaviest. And even though you don’t have to lift them up, you still feel the weight after pushing them around for a while.

They can weigh 20 pounds or more, but you can get lightweight upright models to make it easier.

For example, this Dirt Devil only weighs 9 pounds compared to this 17 pound Hoover.

Canister vacuums don’t weigh as much in general. And since the weight isn’t all in one place, they feel even lighter to use. You really notice it in tight spaces and when cleaning stairs.

This Bissell model weighs 10 pounds, although this Kenmore is a heavier 24 pounds.


A canister vacuum feels lighter to use, so it just edges the win against upright vacuums this time.

Suction Power

As a general rule, most canister vacuums have more suction power than upright vacuum cleaners. There’s more space for a bigger motor, which leads to more suction power.

The extra suction control of canister vacuum cleaners makes them a great choice for cleaning bare floors and hard surfaces.

In contrast, upright vacuums are limited on space thanks to the smaller casing. So they often end up having a smaller motor, which means reduced suction power.


Canister vacuums have a bigger motor for better suction, so they win this round vs upright vacuums.


Let’s break this down into the different surfaces you have around your home.

Hard Floors

Since canister vacuums don’t tend to have motorized brushes, they’re ideal for hard floors. There’s no risk of the brushes scratching surfaces, be it tiles, lino, or wood. And you don’t have to spend time fiddling with settings to get the brush at the right level for your floor.

Most upright vacuums tend to use a mechanized brush, but they often have a bare floor setting. So you can switch the rotating brushes off to use them on hard floors.


Canister vacuums tend to have smaller cleaning heads, so they’re a good size to clean stairs. And you can hold the canister portion in one hand and have the other one free for vacuuming.

Meanwhile, vacuuming stairs is a struggle with an upright vacuum. You have to lift it onto each step and they’re heavy machines! Plus, the vacuum heads tend to be wider and don’t fit on stairs as easily.


Most canister vacuums don’t have motorized brush bars, so they’re not as effective for deep cleaning carpets. Motorized brushes agitate carpet fibers and lift the dust from deep down for enhanced cleaning.

The strong suction power of a canister vacuum still offers an effective clean, though. And the flat head is less likely to damage your carpets. There’s nothing for carpet fibers to hook on to, so it reduces the risk of them pulling.

Uprights are a great choice for thick carpets due to the motorized brushes on the power head. By agitating the fibers, they remove more dirt, dust, and pet hair to leave your carpets feeling super clean. And models with dust bags are often more effective than bagless vacuums.

Hard to Reach Areas

Thanks to the separate wand, a canister unit is perfect for getting into hard to reach areas. You can extend the wand for high dusting or getting into corners and under furniture without any faff.

On the other hand, upright cleaners are bulkier and harder to get into these tight spots. You could add accessories, but it’s more of a hassle to swap the settings around.

Large Areas

A canister vacuum cleaner will often have a smaller floorhead than an upright vacuum cleaner. This means you have to do more sweeps, so it’s slower to cover a large area.

You can cover more ground in less time with an upright vacuum due to its larger floorhead. The wider path means you’ll save time and won’t need to walk as much.


There are some serious pros and cons for both of these cleaners in the surface round of canister vs upright vacuums.


The power cord is a big aspect of how convenient your vacuum cleaner is. The longer the cord, the less time you have to spend swapping power outlets. But the more chance you have of tripping over it.

An upright vacuum cleaner is in front of you when you use it, so there’s less chance of you tripping over it. But a canister vacuum cleaner trails behind you, so it’s more of a trip hazard.

Saying that, canister vacs often have retractable cords that hide inside the vacuum unit. It keeps the cord tidy and is less of a hazard. Upright models tend to have a manual cord rewind that stores on the outside of the unit. It’s a messier system and it’s easy for it to get tangled.

For example, this Bissell vacuum has a 27 feet cord that wraps around the back.


The retractable cords on canister vacuums are safer and look neater. So the canister vacuum is the winner of this round.


Canister vacuums are trickier to store than upright vacuums. They should still fit in most closets, but they take up more space due to them being in two pieces. The hose section also has a tendency to fall over, which is annoying.

But upright vacuums stand upright, so they’re easier to store wherever you want. Some models will come with a storage mount, so you can pop them on the wall and free up floor space.


An upright vacuum cleaner is simple to store, so they edge this round over a canister vacuum.

Attachments and Accessories

Canister vacuums have loads of accessories available. You can get several attachments, such as a crevice nozzle, upholstery brush, and a dusting brush.

They’re super convenient for cleaning different surfaces around your home. Upholstery brushes are perfect for sofas and curtains, while the crevice nozzle is good for stair edges. And the dusting brush makes light work of computer keyboards.

Upright vacuums don’t have as many attachments available. So while they’re good for cleaning floors, other areas can be a bit trickier.


The range of accessories you get with a canister vacuum cleaner makes them the winner this time.


Unfortunately, all vacuum cleaners are pretty loud. There’s no good method for sound insulation, so even the quietest uprights still tend to put out around 70dB. For context, that’s about the same level as a toilet flushing.

It’s hard to muffle the noise from the motor on upright vacuums thanks to their unibody design. This means they tend to be noisier, but you can get some quieter models that are around 70dB.

Canister vacuums have somewhat better sound insulation, so they’re often quieter. They sit at the 60-65dB level instead. It might not sound a lot less, but in reality, it makes a huge difference.

This makes them a good choice if you have anxious pets or are sensitive to noise yourself.


Canister vacuums are miles ahead when it comes to noise. They’re much quieter to use and are the winner of this round.


A canister vacuum doesn’t use any belts, so you don’t need to worry about damaging or replacing them. And they have good airflow, so you can vacuum up larger debris without it blocking the hose.

It’s also easy to access the filters when you need to clean or change them. So overall, a canister vacuum requires minimal maintenance.

On the other hand, upright vacuums use belts that can break and need replacing. So this is an extra hassle.

But cleaning an upright is straightforward due to most of them having a bagless design. It’s simple to take off the plastic dirt container and empty it, then rinse it out.


There are good and bad points for both upright and canister models. So it comes down to your personal preference and what maintenance you’d rather carry out.

Canister vs Upright: Which Do You Want?

So, it’s time to decide. An upright vacuum or a canister vacuum. Which one do you prefer?

Both types of vacuum cleaners have their pros and cons when it comes to cleaning your home. An upright vacuum is easy to maneuver and great for giving your carpets a deep clean thanks to the power head.

But a canister vac feels lightweight and the straight suction leaves bare floors super clean. Plus, the retractable cord is a real bonus that will save you time.

Consider what you want from your vacuum cleaner. There are some fundamental differences that will have an impact on how you clean your home. It all comes down to your personal choice of which type you prefer.

Now you’ve learnt more about both canister and upright models, it’s up to you to decide which one you should buy. Let us know in the comments below!

Related Reading

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *