Medium-pile rugs are sprinkled with carefully composed dirt, which is embedded deep into the rug with a 30-pound weight. Then testers pass a vacuum over the carpet 16 times. They weigh the carpet, as well as the vacuum, to determine how much dirt the vacuum picks up. Testers don't stop there. The vacuums also have to pick up sand from bare floors.
Shedding pets present another big challenge for vacuums. Consumer Reports uses real cat hair embedded into carpet to see how well the vacuums can handle that, too. So do you have to shell out big bucks to get a top-performing vacuum?
Consumer Reports found several near the top of the ratings that cost about $100. Those include the Eureka AirSpeed, a bagless vacuum that's excellent on bare floors and impressive at cleaning carpet. For a bagged vacuum, consider the Hoover Tempo Widepath. It rated excellent for cleaning bare floors and carpet.
If you are looking for a canister vacuum, Consumer Reports says unfortunately you won't find one for even close to a $100. Testers recommend the $500 Kenmore Intuition model 28014. It excels at cleaning bare floors and pet hair.