Shopping for a Vacuum Cleaner Can Be a Mind-Numbing Experience

Shopping for a vacuum cleaner can be a mind-numbing experience because there are so many makes and models to choose from and with price tags from $25 to $1,500 or more. But don’t worry. Even the most neat-freaky of neat freaks need not spend four-figures on a vacuum to ensure a clean house.

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To identify the best inexpensive vacuum cleaner out there, I came up with this criteria: A great vacuum has to be lightweight, bagless, easily cleanable and most importantly—have consistent suction power.

Lightweight. The test for me is if I can pick it up with one hand and carry it up a flight of stairs. If it takes two people to lift, you know that’s a machine that will knock the paint off door jambs and slam into legs of furniture because it is just too heavy.

Bagless. Disposable vacuum cleaner bags, while designed to be neat, clean and convenient, are not always. Worse, they’re pricey! My ideal vacuum must be bagless but designed in a way that emptying the canister is a neat and clean operation.

Cleanable. Am I the only one who cannot stand the smell of a dirty vacuum? That’s why I want a vacuum cleaner that comes apart so I can wash it out. Is that too much to ask?

Suction power. The best-looking vacuum in the world is a piece of junk if it cannot suck dirt out of carpet and upholstery and pick up every last crumb and speck of dust, dirt and pet hair in a home. And it needs to have consistent suction regardless if the dirt collection canister is empty or nearly full.

After a great deal of research and personal experience, the coveted designation as Everyday Cheapskate’s Best Inexpensive™ Vacuum goes to Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional. What an amazing piece of engineering and ingenuity. Weighing in at under 15 pounds, it certainly can be called lightweight.

Shark Navigator Upright Bagless Vacuum Cleaner NV22L

Shark Navigator is bagless and boy can it collect a shocking amount of dirt, dust, and other disgusting looking stuff. The canister lifts off the machine to be held over a trash can. Pushing a single button releases the bottom of the canister, and everything simply falls out. Neat, clean and quite tidy.

This canister is completely washable. I run a sink of hot soapy water and put that emptied canister right in. And I wash the filters at the same time, then roll them in a towel and allow them a couple of hours to air dry.

Last, no vacuum I have ever used can measure up to Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional when it comes to powerful suction. I think it might actually suck the paint off a wall if put to the test!

This baby handles like a dream, too, with its swivel action, onboard crevice tools, on/off brush roll for carpet and hard-surface floors and hose that stretches to 12-feet. The power cord is 30 feet long and stores easily on the back. I’m so sold on Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional, I bought two: one for home and one for the EC office.

Regular retail for this machine, but you can be sure I didn’t pay that. In fact, Shark Navigator is currently available here with Prime shipping.

Updated 3-23-18
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40 replies
  1. Ceci says:

    I was wondering if you know anything about the Shark Navigator liftaway DLX? Is it better or same as the one you mention? It’s on sale at Kohl’s for 189.99 and I can get 30% off that.

  2. Cheryl Ann says:

    I got this vacuum about 3 months ago and am sold on it, especially after getting a new knee joint on June 10. It does not stress me to use it-so easy to push and lots of suction. Price was same from Best Buy.

  3. kaetra says:

    Wish I’d seen last year’s recommendation before I bought my expensive Dyson. I absolutely HATE it. It has suction, but you can’t remove the beater bar to get the hair off! There is virtually no “edging” suction. The bottom of the vacuum is so close the ground you have to tip it up to pick up anything that’s not dust (it pushes a Cheerio). Also using the wand is a huge pain in the rear because the hose it’s attached to feels like pulling a tight spring, always wanting to snap back – it’s almost like fighting a python while you try to vacuum. It was a $400 huge disappointment.

  4. Donna says:

    I bought a Shark Navigator Professional based on Mary’s recommendations. I will never buy another brand vacuum again . It cleans better than anything-We have multiple dogs and cats and vacuumed up the pet hair that my previous vacuums left behind, including vacuuming up hair that had been ground in. This vacuum never clogs, and comes with a 5 year warranty. I love my Shark! Thanks Mary!

  5. Grammie Shell says:

    I have always been a canister vac girl. After a recent move into an RV with a built in system I didn’t bring along my vacuum. Too late I discovered a previous owner had taken the extension wands. I’m short, but not THAT short! So I looked at Walmart online and discovered Hoover upright WindTunnel with all of the above features at…drum roll please…$130 with free Site to Store shipping. I thought that at that price if it was a piece of junk (as I suspected) it wouldn’t be too much of a loss! I have heard good things about the Shark Navigator from others too. I will keep it in mind when it’s time for a new vac.
    I really look forward to your daily emails in my Inbox! Especially the days you post readers tips/tricks!

  6. Emily Booth says:

    I bought this based on an earlier rec by Mary! This vacuum is the best for my bedroom carpeting! I have 2 cats and it picks up ALL cat hair. I have light colored carpeting and dark colored cats. The carpeting visibly looked cleaner after using this vacuum. It is lightweight, easy to use and easy to clean. The cord is kind of awkward. I wish it had a retractable cord.

    I would like to mention that if there’s any concern re: bed bugs, a bagless vacuum is not recommended. Whenever I come home from travel, I use my canister vacuum. After I thoroughly vacuum my suitcase and shoes, I toss the bag.

  7. lizanne says:

    I have really bad allergies & asthma…as a result I usually go with bag vacuums… Does this one have a HEPA filter? If not, did you determine which was the best one for allergies as well?

  8. Remmie says:

    I bought one when Mary first recommended it. I like everything about it except that the model I have is very unstable. I
    t falls over repeatedly when I am using the dust brush. I can’t seem to find a way to correct this issue. It does a fantastic job getting dirt up.

  9. ebryce says:

    Yes, Mary, you are right! The last time you posted this, I had purchased an Oreck, mainly due to its light weight. Then, a week ago, my sister purchased a Shark Rotator Model NV502 for $250 at Bed, Bath, & Beyond; by using a 20%-off coupon, she saved $50. She, too, was “disgusted and embarrassed” at the dirt her vacuum had left behind. Having just (the day before) thoroughly vacuumed my den with my Oreck, I went to B, B, & Beyond, and bought the same Shark Rotator model: vacuuming only the walkways of my den, the cannister was half-filled with dirt and pet-hair!

  10. NoVa says:

    I love my Shark. I purchased it from Shark, and got the free floor steamer for my kids.
    You can also purchase it at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and use your 20% coupon.

  11. Renee says:

    We have found that the customer service is wonderful! We have had parts replaced for FREE and another time we called for help and they took their time and helped us break down the shark until we found the problem and walked us thru how to fix it. I love how it picks up and how easy it is to keep clean! We also have a Silver Queen vac which is also a great vac but it is big and bulky. I wouldn’t trade my Shark for anything 🙂

  12. Ali says:

    I bought a Shark Navigator based on Mary’s recommendation, but I ended up returning it a day or two later. It cleaned well enough, but it was top heavy and much more difficult to maneuver than my older vacuum. I didn’t feel the front was wide enough either so I had to do more passes. I didn’t see anything amazing about it and went back to my old vacuum, which saved me $150.

  13. Blythe says:

    I must ask the obvious question. Mary, do you receive money in any way if someone clicks on that Amazon link and/or buys the product through the link? I’m not questioning your integrity – just asking for full disclosure. Thanks for all that you do.

    • maxhalberg says:

      Hi Byythe,

      DPL does receive a small commission if a sale is made through our affiliate link. We disclose this information at the bottom of each email, as well as in our privacy policy/terms page (

      Disclosure of Material Connection

      Some of the links in posts on this site are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Everyday Cheapskate may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, EC only recommend products or services we have used personally and believe will add value to our readers.

      Since Everyday Cheapskate is a free website, hosting costs, email costs, and the time spent writing and editing is immense so using affiliate links is a way to help keep the site free while still being able to keep our doors open.

    • Mary says:

      Blythe – thank you for asking the obvious question. I’ve also noticed there is a lot of targeted marketing for Amazon and figured there must be some kickbacks happening. I am still a believer in bricks and mortar stores – they are the ones that are supporting our communities.

  14. Cathy says:

    When I read the title of this article, I was afraid Mary had found another vaccuum because I bought my Shark Navigator on her recommendation the last time she wrote this article. So I was very glad to read she still recommended it. I love mine as we have had quite a few other brands over our 42 years of marriage. I was telling my sister about my new vaccuum and she said, “Wait! I have to tell you about MINE! It’s a Shark Navigator!” Her daughter told her about it. I “sold” one to our daughter, daughter-in-law, and 2 friends. They should give me a commission! I’ve had mine for about a year and I love the stairs attachment which is great for furniture too. I recommend the white one which has a larger canister and longer cord. I love seeing the dirt accumulate and as said by others, it’s so easy to empty. I hadn’t thought about washing the canister, but will try that. I have washed the filters and that couldn’t be easier. Thanks for the tip!

  15. Susan says:

    I have owned several Shark cleaning tools and won’t buy another. They always seem to be a great idea but they are poorly made and do not last and are not nearly as wonderful as they seem. I also read somewhere that people with allergies should use a vacuum with a bag. I like my Hoover.

  16. Robert Smith says:

    They rock, scored two refurbs from Woot and they are the best we have had, like them better than a high $ Oreck we had. The upholstery attachment really gets the cat hair off.

  17. Ellen says:

    Bought my Shark Navigator on Mary’s recommendation and absolutely love it. I even vacuumed my gutters with it recently and it worked so much better than either of my husband’s Shop Vacs. It got really dusty but as Mary says, it is really easy to clean up. Every time I use it, I can’t believe how much stuff it picks up. Incredible!

  18. Gigi says:

    I have this vacuum and love it! Although I bought it for less than $100 when it was on sale at Walmart. Thanks Mary, for once again making me glad I made this purchase.

  19. GaelicWench says:

    I will be in the market for a new vacuum when I move to another state next year. Glad to hear this vacuum cleaner – for the price – got a good rating by Mary. And thanks to all who provided their thoughts on this product. I will definitely keep it in mind when it’s time to shop for one.

  20. Dennis S says:

    No question this is a good vac, but I am surprised that a price comparison was not done, especially on a site with “Cheapskate” in the name. Walmart has offered this vac for $129 with free shipping for some time, and has one of the most generous return policies in the business. I am not a big Walmart fan, but $20 saved is $20 earned, IMHO.

  21. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm says:

    One of the best things I ever did was buy two vacuums…one for downstairs and one for upstairs. The most expensive piece of equipment on this farm and in this home is…ME. It pays untold benefits to treat me gently and well.

  22. Jess says:

    We had this vacuum and loved it, but parts did wear out pretty quickly. That could be because we have 4 kids and pets so I vacuum constantly. We tried another brand but after a few weeks broke down and bought another shark because the other was too loud and seemed really hard to maneuver after becoming accustomed to the swivel head on the shark. This time we went with the rotator professional, for just over $200 it’s a little heavier but can be used as a canister/upright, comes with a car detailing kit, and is the easiest vacuum ever to use as far as tools and emptying.

    • Deb says:

      What is the model number on yours? The best prices I’m seeing for a rotator professional are $250. 🙁 I’m leaning towards the NV355 ($180) but the car detailing kit is really appealing… Thanks for any help you can provide! 🙂

  23. Gayle says:

    I have to agree with everyone. I only paid 9 dollars and change for mine, of course I do a lot of surveys online and saved up to get it. I was well worth it. I have 4 cats (all white) and if I don’t vacuum for a day or so I get a white haze on the carpet this gets all the hair up.

  24. Janet says:

    I have had one for a few months and I love it! I have two house dogs and it cleans up all their fur. Washes up great, just like Mary said. I would buy another in a heartbeat!

  25. MdMom says:

    We finally couldn’t keep our old vacuum going any longer and so bought this one a few months ago. After 24 years of marriage, my husband is actually volunteering to vacuum because it’s easy to use and sucks up everything in sight. Including the long, soft dog hair that our old vacuum was leaving behind. It’s the best one we’ve ever owned! And the stair attachment is equally as good — gets up all the dirt and hair in no time at all.

  26. crafty says:

    This is truly the best vacuum I’ve ever used. With 2 furry dogs, I was surprised to see the canister fill with more dust than dog hair. I empty the canister after vacuuming every room…never had to do that when I had a vacuum with bags. If this vacuum broke today and couldn’t be repaired, I’d buy another one just like it tomorrow.

  27. mitomom says:

    We bought one of these on Mary’s recommendation. My husband does almost all the vacuuming in our house, and he does not like it. Doesn’t think the suction is that good and he finds it hard to use. Sigh. Just my .02.

  28. hijjo says:

    I agree with everything except that recently I questioned a reputable saleswoman about bagless and bag vacuums & she stated that the ones with bags did a better job.


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