Vacuums tend to have very specific uses and the canister vacuums are best for things like bare floors (hardwood, linoleum, tile), drapes, and upholstery. They lack the power that the upright vacuums offer so they are less effective on carpets in general. Where uprights fail, canister succeed such as on stairs or under furniture. The tank portion of the vacuum is heavier than most uprights, but you don't have to push the canister around the house. You can simply maneuver the hose with the head on it to wheverer you need to clean. Many of the canister vacuums have wheels so you can push them with your foot while you continue vacuuming. Prices on canister vacuums typically range between $150 and $700 (some models are close to $2000 though).
Bagless vacuums dominate the upright models but are less prevalent in the canister variety. The Rainbow e-Series canister vacuum costs about $1900 and gets the best reliability ranking with least amount of repairs needed, but the unit is big and bulky (33 lbs) and not meant for household carpets which it doesn't clean very well. Look for models that have on/off switches on the handle/wand portion so you don't have to bend down each time you want to turn the vacuum on or off. The longer the hose the less work you will have to do in terms of lugging the canister/tank section around. Try out the extension wand in the store if possible to make sure that easily slides under furniture and check to make sure the nozzles for upholstery and shades are convenient to get on/off. Users say canister vacuums are great for stairs, getting under beds, cleaning curtains, and removing lint, dirt, or hair from upholstered furniture. Stick with the upright models if carpets take up the majority of the flooring in your house. One thing is for sure and that is the higher priced vacuums don't seem to perform any better than the cheaper models in many respects. The more expensive brands like Kirby, Rainbow, Bosch do give you better reliability, but at perhaps too high of a cost to justify buying them. We found some excellent reviews online at Amazon.com and About.com and Good Housekeeping in the past has rated vacuums along with Consumer Reports. Down below we have tried to list the "top picks" in various categories. BUYING ADVICE - Amazon.com is the leading consumer products website on the Internet and they carry all the leading vacuum brands with in depth reviews done by owners. You can browse their top selling canister vacuums here.
Best Canister Vacuum:
The Kenmore Progressive 25614 ($350) gets top billing from CR since it compared quite favorably to other high end models that cost $1000 or more from Bosch, Aerus, and Rainbow. Kenmore is sold through Sears stores and reviews online backup what Consumer Reports found with this model (and 25615). It cleans carpets and bare floors and gets pet hair as well. The emissions are low meaning you won't have bunch of dust or allergens escaping the filter. The Electrolux Oxygen Ultra EL7020A ($500) scored better than the Kenmore in several categories but it didn't handle as well and was noisier. Plus at $150 more in price, it's hard to recommend it over the 25614 from Kenmore. The Bosch Premium Prestige Electro Duo was also considered, except at $800 it is over twice as much as the Kenmore canister vacuum and it only did average on picking up pet hair and fur. BUY - the Miele S4210 Galaxy Canister Vacuum Cleaners - works great on bare floors and handles pet fur and hair just fine.
Top Rated Canister Vacuum:
From all the reports we have read you would think that Dyson vacuums get the nod for top rating but that is not true if you compare owners (unbiased) reviews to those of experts. Even the expensive Electrolux canister vacuums, though solid in performance, are not perfect. Miele gets the best overall reviews and feedback from consumers and even experts agree that they perform the best. The drawback to Miele vacuums is that they are at $400+ and not always the best solution for household vacuuming. You can view all the Miele vacuum cleaners on Amazon.com here.
Bagless Canister Vacuum:
Bagless models are hard to come by amongst canister vacuums, but the Hoover S3765-040 WindTunnel Electronic Bagless Canister Vacuum ($220) gets praise from customers as well as professionals who tested this machine. Amazon.com has this model listed as the most popular on its site and over 90% of the customer reviews rate it 4 or 5 stars. Features like finger touch variable speed control let the user vary the suction and therefore clean a variety of surfaces and the telescoping wand is great for reaching drapes or hard to get to areas. The bagless technology lets you easily discharge what you pick up by dumping the bin. The HEPA filter does a great job of keeping dust to a minimum. The one knock against this model is that it doesn't do so well with picking up animal/pet hair. Some consumers also complain that the canister portion is too heavy, but the majority don't mention this. Positive opinions include "a super sucker" and "cleans like a mini tornado". It's available on Amazon, in Wal-Mart, and Buy.com or in many department stores like Sears.