Suck it up!

By Mir
August 17, 2006

No, I’m not telling you off. I swear! I’m just answering your burning questions. Because that’s how I roll. Like this one, from Ginger:

Oh very wise and pretty Mir,
I am in desparate need of a vacuum cleaner. Kirby and Dyson are soooo out of my price range at the moment. I have a very large dog (80 lbs) and a 10 year old boy, so vacuuming is a necessity on almost a daily basis. Any advice? Free and/or cheap shipping also would be helpful.
Thanks for the help!

I love this question, because I have something of a vacuum cleaner fetish. Also because it brings everyone out of the woodwork; no matter what I say, someone is going to have a differing opinion. Which is fine. I’m looking forward to your contributions to the topic (just keep it civil).

But let’s start with my ideas.

As I discussed in a previous post, I happen to own a Kirby. It was insanely expensive (although I did get a good deal on it; I managed to get a $300 credit for my old vacuum, which probably only cost $100) and it’s also very heavy. It’s not for everyone, for sure. I am never going to recommend that everyone run out and buy a Kirby.

(But Kirbys do pretty much live forever. Just sayin’.)

Anyway, when I wrote that other post, someone left a comment about how Consumer Reports actually rated a couple of Kenmore models as being the best. Ever your intrepid fact-checker, after a knee-jerk and professional response of “Nuh uh!” I did some research and discovered that this was true. Their top picks are the Kenmore Progressive 35922 and 36932, so you may wish to check out your local Sears or go online and see what you can see. (Looks like they’re running a financing special online right now, as well as offering a few rebates on vacuums… though I don’t see either of the two lauded models online.)

The Consumer Reports picks are still going to run you around $200 on sale, which isn’t cheap. On the other hand, I’d argue this is an investment item (like a stove or a fridge) and much cheaper than that and you’re probably looking at something crappy.

And as long as we’re talking about Consumer Reports, check out their general tips on choosing a vacuum. Knowledge is power.

Want some more knowledge? Google is your friend. Read this. And then spend some time here. And for good measure (because you know I can’t bypass The Dollar Stretcher), read this one.

Okay. Have you done all of your reading? Are your eyes rolling back in your head, yet? Now here’s what you do:

  • Decide what you want. After you’ve completed your research, you should have narrowed it down to a couple of models you think will meet your needs both performance-wise and price-wise.
  • Decide on your timeframe. Do you need it right now, as in, you are currently without a vacuum? If you don’t have time to wait for a sale, you have to just bite the bullet and buy. But even if you decide on one that can only be bought in one location (like a Kenmore, which you have to get at Sears), you may want to open a charge account to get some percentage off. If you have a bit of time, shop around and/or wait for a sale.
  • Don’t overlook the road less travelled. You may have a local vacuum-cleaner repair place and not even know about it. They may sell vacuums, and if they do, the prices are likely to be excellent (though I don’t suggest going this route if they don’t offer a warranty).
  • Surf online for deals. You never know what you’re going to find at Amazon. It’s worth a few minutes of your time to see if they have anything acceptable (they also have a wide range of reconditioned products, which—as always—is a great way to save some money). And there’s a really good Overstock coupon coming up tomorrow, so come back for it and look there, too.
  • Just do it. At some point, you have to just make a decision and purchase something. I’m not saying to go into it blind, but make peace with your purchase and get it overwith within a reasonable period of time, and then stop thinking about it. It’s a vacuum, not a mechanism for world domination. No appliance is worth making yourself mental.

Notice that I’m not recommending a specific vacuum. That’s because I think this is one of those many-sizes-may-fit types of things. You have to choose what works for you… and then, of course, get the best deal on it.

Happy sucking! Wait. That didn’t come out right….


  1. Besides highly rated, I wanted light weight, HEPA filtered and quiet when I recently got a vacuum. The Kenmore I was looking at came highly rated and had a HEPA filter, but wasn’t light or quiet. I found a Bosch that suited all my needs and was cheaper than the Kenmore brand new on Ebay.

  2. I won’t recommend a vacuum, in my 7 year marriage we have bought 2 of them and gotten rid of our two “single” vacuums. We are so bad at picking it isn’t funny. However, I will tell you the story of my last “single person” vacuum, as another way to get a good vacuum. I asked for it for Christmas. Yup, I know it isn’t sexy or even fun, but when my ‘rents said, what do you want — I said, “I want my present to suck.”
    My father taped a note to the box that year that said, “Yup, it sucks.”
    So, if you can wait a few months, perhaps you mention it to a few folks to please pitch in and this is what you’d REALLY like. Or, not, your call.

  3. I recently invested in a Dyson after having a long line of cruddy vacuums that I replaced every couple years. I have never loved an appliance like I do my Dyson. With a dog and two cats, and three people, it is awesome. I had vacuumed with my Dirt Devil before I went to pick it up, though it did and good job, and then used the Dyson. It was incredible. I filled it up and then emptied it and filled it again. Plus no bags and very easy to use. Make the investment. It is totally worth it and will last a long time. It doesn’t pay to buy a cheap vacuum every couple of years.

  4. I haven’t yet made an investment in my vaccum. But my number one concern is “Can my 11-year old use it?”.

    I want a Dyson so bad. But I’ll never be able to afford one unless I win the lottery. Only got two numbers last night.

    I would throw in a caveat on the “open a charge account to get a percentage off” piece of advice. Unless it’s no-interest, or unless you pay off the balance before the first billing cycle closes, you’re going to pay your savings in interest fees. But if a smaller payment over time is what you’re looking for, then it’s good.

  5. I love my Oreck. It’s an older model, and was given to me by my husband’s boss. However, it still runs terrific, and has a lot of suck. I much prefer it over my Hoover Windtunnel (which I am so disappointed in – I cannot even begin).

    After going through many many many cheap vaccums (under $100), I ‘ve come to the general conclusion that investing in one of the higher end (thus higher $$) is worth it. They last, and work.

  6. I suggest looking at the Big Vac at The Clean Team ( I love it, love it, love it. It cleans my carpets WIHTOUT the beater bar attachment and goes straight from carpet to floors. I thought I would hate dragging a canister around but, as I believe I already mentioned, I love it.

    Everything the I have purchased through the Clean Team has been fabulous and exactly as they describe it.

  7. Um…try putting that “lottery” money in a can instead of a piece of paper that ends up in the trash and you’d be surprised what you could afford.

  8. I know I am going to get internet tomatoes chucked at me for this but I have stopped lusting for the Dyson. My father works for a carpet company and they do not honor their warranty on the carpet if a Dyson is used because the motor is so powerful it destroys even quality carpeting.

    My mother just got a screaming deal on an Orek at the outlet store online though.

  9. I’ve owned an Oreck, it was great on vast expanses of carpet, but the lack of attachments drove me nuts.

    I went out and bought a Kenmore Canister vac. I love it. I love its suction power. I love its power upholtstry attachment. I have three dogs and two cats, and that thing can eat every piece of hair they produce.

  10. Most Kenmore vacs (the uprights, anyway) are made by Panasonic. You can get the 3-digit prefix off the model number (e.g., 113.1234566), and do a web search on “Sears manufacturer codes”. The 113, etc. correspond to manufacturers. The now 6 year old Kenmore/Panasonic I have still works well. One nice thing about Sears is the parts availability, even though they’re a little high.

  11. I got a Hoover at a yard sale for four dollars and it is still going strong. We were newlyweds desperate for a vaccume and the price was right. Who knew that it would last this long? not me!

  12. Ok I’m going to be the lone dissenter here… but over the past 20 years I have had to replace every “Consumer Reports Best-Buy” vacuum I have bought. Every 2-3 years, and these are vacuums that cost $300-$400. Each. I finally went to the big W-mart and bought the cheapest vacuum they sold. I think it was $79. It has lasted 5 years already. Go figure. We don’t have dogs or an entire house of carpet, so maybe that helps? Beth

  13. This is timely for me as my latest Hoover is ready to be trashed. I seem to be buying a new expensive vacuum a year. This year’s version has broken the plastic piece that holds the whole thing upright and the switch only turns it on half of the time. We have three cats, two dogs and three kids,(whole lotta hair), plus 6 birds who throw birdseed everywhere. At this point I don’t care what I buy as long as it sucks up all the hair & seed and doesn’t break in the first year. Any suggestions for a proven heavy duty machine?

  14. Thanks everyone for the great advice! I happened to mention my need for a vacuum cleaner at my single mom bible study group last week. Someone from my church called me the very next day and got me a brand new Hoover for $50!!! It was a discontinued color but brand new, still in the box, with warranty paperwork and 10 extra bags!!! Yeah for me!!! Thanks anyway Mir! Happy Birthday!

  15. I’m with Beth – I love me some Consumer Reports, but they’ve done me wrong with vacuum cleaners … I’ve owned 2 also, and one didn’t even last me a year!

    I finally, after a very successful garage sale, bought myself a Dyson. I got the basic yellow model (DC07, I think?) – less moving parts. It was on sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and with the 20% coupons they are always sending out, it wasn’t that much more expensive than some of the others out there. The whole wand thing takes a bit of getting used to, and if you try to jam it under your couch (shut up!!) it makes a nasty noise, but so far, I really love it.

    I agree with you on the Kirby too, Mir – my mom had one for 22 years, it gave you an upper body workout to beat the band – lordy, that thing is heavy! – but it worked great until the day they left it at the curb, refusing to move it to their new house!

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