Deciding Between a Canister or Upright Vacuum


How do you know which type of vacuum cleaner you should buy for your home?  Understanding the differences between upright vacuum cleaners and canister vacuum cleaners—and their pros and cons—can help make the decision easier. 

Canister or Upright: The Difference in Vacuum Styles

An upright vacuum cleaner contains the motor and the suction head together in one unit. An upright vacuum uses a powered brush roll that combs through carpeting to loosen embedded dirt, making it ideal for carpeted areas. 


A canister vacuum has multiple pieces: a compact wheeled canister that houses the motor, a hose with a rigid nozzle and a suction head.   A canister vacuum is ideal for hard floors, which don’t need a powered brush.

The Pros of Upright Vacuums and Canister Vacuums

These qualities make some people devoted to their upright vacuums. 


  • Because the unit is one piece, it’s easy to use with one hand.
  • You seldom have to bend over when using it.
  • The dust bag holds more than a canister’s dust bag.
  • You have several options on an upright, including self-propelled models, bagless models and models that include a hose and attachments.

These advantages are some key selling points for a canister vacuum.


  • A canister vacuum is easy to maneuver under furniture and in tight spaces.
  • Because it’s lightweight, a canister vacuum is easier to use on stairs.
  • The small size of a canister vacuum makes it easy to store.
  • Versatile attachments, including powered suction heads with brush rolls, make cleaning most surfaces in your home quick and easy.

The Cons of Upright Vacuums and Canister Vacuums

In general, an upright is heavier, making it difficult to carry and use on stairs.  The larger size of the suction head makes it difficult to vacuum under furniture and around tight corners.  An upright vacuum cleaner can’t clean other surfaces in your home unless you choose a model with attachments. 


While the versatility of a canister vacuum is great, it can be inconvenient to keep changing the nozzle attachment for different surfaces.  It can also feel awkward to pull the canister behind you while using the hose in front.