12 best cordless vacuum cleaners to buy, from Dyson to Hoover

Cordless vacuum cleaners, also known as stick vacuums, free you from the frustrating faff of cords. They're lightweight, easy on the back and run on rechargeable batteries, meaning no more irksome plugging and unplugging as you move around the house.

Features vary between models; some have far more power than others, better attachments and, crucially, longer battery life. Before you buy, consider the size of your home, its occupants (including cats and dogs!) and any extra tools that may come in handy.

What cordless vacuum should I buy?

At the GHI, we put 43 stick vacuums to the test to find the best for tackling pet hair, cars, carpets, hard floors and more. There's a model for all households and budgets in our top 12.

Are cordless vacuums worth it?

There are several types of vacuum cleaner on the market, including upright, cylinder, robot, handheld and stick. The design of a cordless stick offers the most convenience and manoeuvrability, typically featuring a slim "stick" body and a smaller canister to be regularly emptied. They’re compact to store (some can be mounted on the wall) and lighter than upright and cylinder vacuums, making them generally more comfortable to use.

Sticks tend to come with a range of useful attachments, such as a crevice tool for awkward areas like cars, an upholstery tool for de-crumbing sofas and a motorised brush for collecting stubborn pet hair.

You can usually recharge batteries within a few hours andsome models let you buy two at once for twice the running time. The suction power of sticks is also getting stronger as technology develops, making the top-end performers a brilliant investment.

Do cordless vacuums work as well as corded?

Yes, is the short answer. But whether they will work as well for your home, is another question – if you live somewhere bigger and like to do all your cleaning in one go, then you may find that stick vacuums’ smaller capacity and limited battery life isn’t quite right. If this is the case, a cylinder vacuum could be a wise alternative.

12 best cordless vacuum cleaners to buy, from Dyson to Hoover

If you take a more room-by-room approach and don’t mind having to empty the canister or recharge your batteries more frequently, then there’s little reason why a stick vacuum wouldn’t suit your home just as well as a corded one, if not better.

How do I choose a cordless vacuum cleaner?

The technology behind cordless vacuum cleaners has come a long way in the last few years, with lots of options to choose from. Some of the latest innovations to look out for include:

• Sensory technology: The floorhead senses the floor type and adjusts its power accordingly, saving precious battery life by ensuring the stick only uses the necessary power.

• Headlights: LED lights on the floor head help you see under furniture and in dark spaces.

• Smart technology: Connect your stick to your phone to monitor its usage and battery life and enjoy unusual statistics such as how many calories you burn while cleaning.

• Battery level indicator: Groundbreaking it's not, but this can be a handy feature for a cordless appliance. The Dyson V11 impressively counts down your remaining battery time in minutes and seconds.

• Slit to cut hair: Long strands of hair tend to wrap around the floorhead brush and need to be cut free. Some sticks conveniently feature a small slit along the bar that you can run a pair of scissors through.

• Weight: Be wary of this, as anything over 3kg can feel heavy after prolonged use. Bottom-heavy designs that carry the weight in the floorhead will be easier on your arms.

• Bagged or bagless?: Some vacuums contain bags that are replaced once full. One benefit of these is that you needn’t touch the dust and dirt to remove it from the canister; you may need to do this with a bagless model as some dirt may spill or become trapped. However, if you opt for a bagged model, you’ll need to keep some empty bags in stock at all times.

How we test

We test each cordless vacuum cleaner on three different floor types: carpet, laminate and floorboards. First, we assess general pick-up using a formulation of dust designed by the GHI experts. We lay down a set amount and weigh out exactly how much each vacuum has collected after a set number of sweeps.

Does it make light work of picking up pet hair? Well, we call in plenty from the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to find out. We grind pet hair into the carpet before vacuuming, to create the worst-case scenario. We also test performance when picking up small residue, such as crumbs, particularly when testing in handheld mode.

On top of this, we run an interior car cleaning test to assess how well each vacuum tackles crevices, before trying it out on a set of stairs to see how easily it manoeuvres. We judge the design, ease of use, instructions and any innovative features.

From Dyson to Hoover and Vax, we've tested all of the latest models to find the top 12 for you.