The most important test -- how well a vacuum cleans carpets. Consumer Reports puts a hard-to-clean mix of sand and powder onto a carpet. Then testers use a weighted roller to press the dirt in to mimic what happens when you walk on it.
Some vacuums make big claims, such as the Eureka SuctionSeal Pet, which says it beats the Dyson DC41 on the carpets at half the price. The Eureka does only cost $160 compared with the $600 Dyson. But in Consumer Reports' tests, both turned out to be mediocre at cleaning carpets, and neither made the recommended list.
Testers also measure how much force you need to push and pull a vacuum. And Consumer Reports evaluates how difficult the models are to carry and empty.
For bagged uprights, Consumer Reports says consider the Kenmore Progressive 31069, a Best Buy at $170. And for a bagless upright, try the Eureka AirSpeed AS1000A, costing $120, also a Best Buy.
Consumer Reports says canister vacuums are easier to use on stairs and for cleaning under furniture, and named the $300 Kenmore Progressive canister 21614 a Best Buy. Kenmore vacuums are sold at Sears.