Handheld vacuums are convenient tools for small projects and pickups around the house and in the car. They’re also ideal cleaning machines for dorm rooms, offices, or small apartments.
The best handheld vacuums are powerful, portable, and versatile enough to handle any job. We particularly love these for those times when you don’t want to go through the hassle of getting out a big, bulky full-sized machine.
However, not all handhelds are quite up to snuff. Many hand vacs have weak suction, cheap plastic parts, and bad ergonomics which will strain your wrists as you clean.
They clog easily, or let you down when you need them most. With so many options on the market, it’s hard to know which ones are the stinkers, and which ones will improve your life!
We are here to help you! We’ve put time and energy into finding the best handheld vacuums on the market.
We compared features, specs, and prices for dozens of leading models. Then, we compared professional reviews from Consumer Reports and other publications.
Most importantly, we took the time to sift through hundreds of reviews from previous buyers who have spent time with these machines in their homes.
In the end, we chose 3 models which we’re confident are the best of the best! We’ve consolidated all of our findings in our own in-depth reviews of each model.
Let’s start by having a quick look at our favorites:
Best on a Budget
Dyson V6 Trigger
Bissell Pet Hair Eraser
Best Hand Vac Reviews
The RapidClean is the latest update to Eureka’s best-selling EasyClean hand vacuum.
This model has a powered brush head, an attachment hose, and a powerful motor for working on both fabrics and hard surfaces.
It’s a versatile choice which we love for cleaning out the car, as well as upholstery and stairs around the house. It’s basically a miniature version of an upright, with most of the same features!
It’s one of the only handheld vacuums (and certainly the cheapest) to feature a powered brush head. It’s essentially a miniature version of the brush rolls you’d find on an upright machine. It’s equipped with stiff nylon bristles that can work their way into carpet fibers and upholstery fabrics. We really like it for cleaning car fabrics, both on seats and in seatwells.
We love that it works for vertical surfaces as well as horizontal terrain. That makes it easy to clean up car seats, and on carpeted stairs.
For cleaning hard surfaces, you can flip a soft, stationary bristle head over the powered nozzle, turning it into a wide dusting brush. The flip-down housing also has small roller wheels which help the nozzle move over hard surfaces without scratching finishes. You can also switch off the roller brush motor, which keeps the RapidClean from flinging bits of dirt around as you clean.
It has an attachment hose, just like a full-sized machine. You can use it with the included crevice tool, as well as on its own. That’s particularly helpful, given how wide the main nozzle is. It’s harder to fit in tight places than your average dust buster, so the additional (smaller) nozzles really come in handy. We like the crevice tool for cleaning in between cushions and car seats, as well as in tight spots at home.
It’s corded, so you won’t lose power. This makes the Eureka more effective for larger tasks, like cleaning out an entire car. You might think a 15-minute run time is impressive, but it’s easy to burn through it all vacuuming out seatwells, instruments, and all the other annoying spots in a vehicle. The power cord wraps around the handle for convenient storage.
While you’ll need to plug this one into an outlet, you won’t be sacrificing range. The power cord has a 25-foot reach, and the attachment hose stretches for another 3. So, while this one might not be cordless, it’s certainly not going to limit you much.
The dust chamber has been enlarged over the previous version. That makes this one a better choice for people with pet fur to deal with. It’s bagless, empties easily, and has a removable filter that you can wash and reuse indefinitely.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
Best of all, it’s very affordable. Considering how many different functions you get, the price is a steal.
Even though this one has a larger dust compartment than the previous generation, it’s still relatively small. Especially if you have pets, you’ll find that the vacuum fills up quickly and needs emptying often.
It’s pretty heavy for a handheld vacuum. This one weighs about 6 pounds all told. That could be aggravating for older folks with arthritis.
This best-selling hand model is your new best friend for tackling pet hair.
We love the smartly designed fur nozzle, which uses a rubber tip with grippy nubs to lift pet fur off of any fabric surfaces. This one is also very powerful, thanks to cyclonic suction. We’d recommend it to anyone who has a full-sized vacuum without a great upholstery or pet fur tool.
We absolutely love the pet fur nozzle on this model. It’s all made of a rubber material which attracts pet hair like nobody’s business. It’s also equipped with little nubs to drag tenacious hair off of carpet and fabrics. The nubs and rubber take up the hair, and then holes in the nozzle allow you to suck it all up into the chamber.
There’s also a secondary nozzle for vacuuming on hard floors. It’s a bit longer, and looks a lot like the extension hose on an upright vacuum. It’ll be the best choice for cleaning up kibble or litter.
It’s corded, but still gives you plenty of range. The Bissell has a 16-foot power cord, which wraps around the handle for storage. That’s enough to get around your house, and to clean most cars with ease.
It uses cyclonic suction. That’s pretty impressive for such an inexpensive vacuum. We like cyclonic suction because it keeps fur and dander away from the filter assembly, and deposits it at the edges of the chamber where it belongs. That keeps your filters cleaner longer, and helps suction stay high as you clean. The Pet Erase is one of the cheapest vacuums on the market that features this system.
It’s a bit more ergonomically-friendly than the Eureka. The handle curves up from the body, and gives you plenty of leverage to scrub tricky fur off of stairs and furniture. It’s less than 4 pounds, and the power button is right on the handle.
It has a bit bigger dust chamber than the Eureka. That’s essential for vacuuming up clumps of pet fur, which can build up in no time. There are also a couple of different filters between the intake and exhaust. They keep the motor from being damaged or compromised, and trap allergens in the vacuum.
It’s even more affordable than the Eureka. The Bissell is available for about half the price of the other model.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty. That might not seem particularly long, but it’s very impressive on such a cheap vacuum.
The engineers have placed the air vents on the sides of this model, rather than at the back. That might’ve seemed like a good idea on paper, but in practice it means that pet fur blows around on hard floors and surfaces. That limits this one to fabrics and carpets. We’d recommend it to people who specifically need to tackle pet hair, but have a good full-size vacuum for the rest of their cleaning.
The V6 is Dyson’s flagship handheld vacuum, and one of the most sophisticated models on the market. We love the powerful cyclonic suction, as well as its smartly-designed, ergonomic built. While you’ll pay more for this than any other handheld, it’s unparalleled in terms of sheer power.
This one uses a sophisticated cyclonic suction system to give you constant, impressive power. While the Bissell uses a simple cyclonic system, the Dyson takes the concept to a whole new level. It’s loaded with several tiers of layered cyclones, which all work together to create a powerful vortex in the vacuum chamber.
It’s cordless, but has more power than any corded handheld. Dyson have lab tested this model to be the most powerful handheld on the market! In terms of sheer suction, this one can compete with a big upright vacuum!
There’s also a high-suction MAX feature for the toughest cleaning tasks. It’s good for yanking dust bunnies and cobwebs out of far corners, or cleaning out cracks and crevices that you can’t get to with the tools.
The V6 uses a lithium ion battery pack to give you constant suction power and extended life overall. We love lithium ion batteries because they don’t fade as they lose charge. Older batteries, like nickel cadmium, lose power as they run out of charge. Lithium ion gives you full power up until the last second. These batteries also have better longevity over time than other types.
It charges more quickly than other cordless vacuums. This one will top up in around 3 hours.
It comes with a basic attachment set of dusting brush and crevice wand. We like the Dyson’s tools because they’re built right into the nozzle. They slide into action, and retract when you’re not using them.
It’s very expensive. This is a hand vacuum, but it’ll cost you as much as some full-sized vacuums. While you’re certainly getting an impressive amount of power for that price, you’re not getting many extra features or tools. Some people might have a hard time swallowing the sheer price tag of the V6.
It only includes two attachments, which are pretty basic. Dyson makes a full tool set for this vacuum, but it adds another $75 or so to the cost. That’s pretty exorbitant for a few detail brushes.
Which Handheld Vacuum Cleaner is Perfect for You?
The Bissell is the best choice for people who are looking for a handheld vacuum to tackle pet hair!
In terms of pet hair removal from fabrics, carpets, and car seats, it’s hard to beat. The price is also fantastic. It’s by far the cheapest of our recommendations, and makes sense for most people to add to their vacuuming arsenal. However, it’s not as versatile as our other recommendations, and it doesn’t do very well on hard surfaces.
The Eureka is an affordable choice for people who want the carpet cleaning capability of the Bissell with more versatility.
Its powered brush roll does nearly as well on pet hair as the Eraser, and the bristles do a better job of loosening all the other dirt and debris.
We especially like this one for cleaning cars and stairs, since it has an extremely long power cord, and can’t run out of battery. On the downside, it’s heavy and could be hard to use for older people or those with joint issues.
The Dyson is our recommendation to people who want the absolute most powerful handheld vacuum out there.
It’s loaded with sophisticated suction that puts a lot of full-sized vacuums to shame. We also love the smart, ergonomic design, which is easy on wrists and makes vacuuming less of a chore.
It also has the convenience of being a cordless vacuum, so it’s ideal for vacuuming cars if you don’t park near an outlet. However, it’s extremely expensive, so we know it’ll be out of reach for some buyers.
How to Choose the Best Hand Vacuum Cleaner
Think about your budget:
Handheld vacuums usually cost between $20 and $200. The most affordable options are corded models. You’ll find them for between $20 and $50. Above $50, you’ll probably be looking at a cordless model. The most expensive options are cordless handhelds with lithium ion batteries. They’ll run you at least $75.
The more you spend for a handheld vacuum, the more suction power you’ll get. You’ll also find that more expensive options are better engineered, and have improved reliability ratings.
They’ll be easier to use, and easier to keep running smoothly. Most of all, high-end handhelds have better suction power.
Make a list of cleaning goals:
To help you get a better sense of what to look for in a new handheld vacuum, you should take a minute to think about what cleaning tasks you want to get done with it.
If you’re looking to conquer pet hair, say, you’ll want a power brush or a rubber tool for scrubbing hair off of fabrics and carpets.
If you’re planning on cleaning your car, you’ll probably want a nice dusting brush for dealing with your instrument panel and console. Getting a good checklist together is a good way to make sure your new purchase ticks all the boxes before you buy.
Corded vs. cordless:
The biggest decision you’ll have to make when you’re buying a handheld vacuum is whether you’ll go for a cordless or corded model.
Corded vacuums have a few advantages. They’re more affordable than cordless vacuums, by a good $50 or more. They’re also better for larger tasks, since they don’t run out of power. 15 minutes can be up in no time when you’re cleaning out all the nooks and crannies of a car!
Cordless vacuums give you the convenience of having as much time as you need.
Of course, the big downside of corded vacuums is the range. You’ll be limited to a certain range from an outlet.
That’s where cordless models really excel. They’re the logical choice for people who want to move around the house quickly to spot clean before a party, or for people who need to clean their car and don’t park near an outlet. Quite simply, they’ll work wherever you need them to.
The downside of cordless vacuums is the charge time, which is 20 minutes at the top end of the spectrum. If you’re using a cordless model for lots of tasks, you’ll want to plan on cleaning in stages.
Looking for something a bit different? Take a look at all the best-selling handheld vacuums from leading brands on Amazon today or by checking our guide by clicking on Best Vacuum Cleaner Reviews.