Vacuums have come a long way. You no longer have to suffer the indignity of dragging around an unwieldy plastic hose connected to a clumsy, wheeled canister the size of a Galapagos tortoise. In fact, you don't even need to get off of the couch. There are many good robot vacuums available to help you dispose of dust, pet hair, and other debris in your home—without needing to lift a finger. Which is the right one for you? We've rounded up our highest-rated robot vacuums, and provided a few pointers to help you find just the bot you're looking for.
Robot Vacuums vs. Canister and Upright Vacuums
Unlike more traditional canister or stick models, robot vacuums are autonomous and (for the most part) intelligent. The vacuums we've tested are equipped with lasers, motherboards, sensors, and even Wi-Fi to navigate around your home without assistance. With a few exceptions, you barely have to interact with them at all.
Just pick a robot-accessible spot for the charging dock, and the bot will return on its own before it runs out of juice. When it does, it will sit there until it has enough energy to go back out and continue to bust dust from where it left off. You can also set schedules for most bots to wake up and start a cleaning job, so it can take place while you're out of the house. That means you can potentially avoid all physical interaction until the vacuum needs to be emptied.
Unlike many traditional vacuums, most of the robots included here don't use bags to hold the dust, hair, and other debris they suck up. Instead, they use an easy-to-remove dustbin you can simply eject and empty into the nearest garbage can.
The Best Robot Vacuum Deals This Week*
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains
- Eufy RoboVac 30C Max Wi-Fi Robot Vacuum — $199.90 (List Price $299.99)
- Roborock S6 Robot Vacuum and Mop — $379.99 (List Price $649.99)
- Roborock E4 2000Pa Robot Vacuum and Mop — $249.99 (List Price $349.99)
- Ecovacs Deebot 500 Robot Vacuum — $169.99 (List Price $279.99)
That said, one of the best innovations in the robot vacuum space in recent years has been the development of models that can empty their own dustbins. Beyond offering greater convenience than traditional models, they significantly limit your exposure to dust, a big plus if you suffer from allergies. As recently as a couple of years ago, you'd be hard pressed to find a sub-$1,000 self-emptying robot vacuum, but the pricing on these models has been coming down. Several excellent options, including the iRobot Roomba i3+ and Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL, are now available for less than $600.
Most self-emptying models, such as iRobot's Roomba s9+ and Roomba i3+, transfer the contents of their bin into a bag, which can hold around 60 days worth of debris, depending on how often you vacuum and how dirty your home is. The nice thing about that is that you never have to come into contact with dust and debris. The downside is that you'll eventually have to buy more bags when you run out.
An exception is the Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL, which has two dustbins: one in the robot itself, and a larger one in the base station that holds up to a months' worth of debris. When it's full, you simply remove the dustbin, hold it over a trash can, then press the Empty button on the side. The bottom of the dustbin will open, and the contents will fall out into the trash. While allergy sufferers may prefer models that empty their contents into a bag, the IQ Robot XL is more convenient and wallet-friendly, since you don't have to worry about buying replacement bags.
Self-emptying or not, most robot vacuums also come equipped with small HEPA filters that capture allergens in the air as the robot vacuums your floors.
Are Robot Vacuums Worth It?
A robot vacuum is usually higher in price than a traditional vacuum (though not always). The models listed here range from around $200 to $1,000. That's a pretty sizable investment, even on the lower end. Let's consider just what you get for the price.
Unless you really love to vacuum, the task itself is pretty mundane. Depending on the size of your house, a robot vacuum can save you anywhere from minutes to hours of your time every week by taking care of a pretty thankless chore. That alone is reason enough for some people to consider one.
In addition, robot vacuums have reached the point where they're basically just as powerful and effective as regular vacuums. The robots rounded up here combine spinning brusholls and side brushes to clean your home just as well as their upright equivalents. They're also fairly compact, so they won't take up much space. And they're able to travel underneath most couches and tables, so you don't have to rearrange furniture.
Wi-Fi-connected robot vacuums are much more affordable these days than they once were. What are the benefits of connectivity? Smart robot vacuums can be programmed and controlled remotely using your smartphone. Many can even be activated with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands.
Connected bots also typically generate statistics and maps of the areas they've cleaned. Many even create personalized floor plans, allowing for targeted room cleanings and eliminating the need for you to use physical "virtual walls" to cordon off sections of your home.
Some of the most advanced robot vacuums, such as the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI, feature artificial intelligence technology to automatically identify and avoid obstacles like shoes and toys. Premium models may also feature a camera, letting you view live video of your home from wherever you are.
Which Vacuum Is Best for Pet Hair? Hardwood?
Generally speaking, all the vacuums we've tested can handle hardwood floors and pet hair without issue. Floor-cleaning robots like the iRobot Braava Jet specialize in mopping and sweeping. They aren't eligible for this list because they don't suck up dirt and debris, but they will get your hardwood floors nice and shiny.
How We Test Robot Vacuums
We test robot vacuums in our actual homes, with the following categories in mind: battery life, navigation, obstacle avoidance, setup, suction power. If it supports Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, we also evaluate its app experience and other smart features.
Chances are you don't want to babysit your vacuum. That means you're looking for a robot that can traverse different floor types or maneuver around furniture without needing help. This is especially true if you have dark flooring, as infrared sensors might mistake a black carpet for a ledge, and refuse to pass over it. We test vacuums on hardwood, tile, and rugs to see how well they manage the transitions across various surfaces.
Battery life is also an important factor to consider based on the size of your home. In general, most robot vacuums can run for at least 60 to 70 minutes, which should be enough to tackle smaller homes and apartments. If you have a bigger living area, you'll want to look for a robot vacuum that can get at least 90 minutes of battery life so it can hit every room before requiring a recharge. To test this, we charge the battery to full, start a cleaning cycle, and time how long the robot runs before it needs to be docked. In some cases, it may take several complete cleaning cycles for a robot to run out of juice.
Another note on battery life: The number you see listed in the chart below is our tested result in normal mode. High-power modes often bring that number down a bit.
Most robot vacuums are reliable when it comes to getting rid of standard household detritus, so you don't really have to worry about whether or not they'll be able to suck up lint, dirt, or hair. Since we test all the robot vacuums in the same home environment, we check how full dustbins get and whether obvious debris like pet hair and visible dust bunnies are picked up.
We also note whether the robot cleans in a random or methodical pattern. Many of the latest models feature a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) laser (the same technology used in self-driving cars) to map your home and plan an efficient cleaning route. But some budget-friendly robot vacuums still haphazardly ping-pong from wall to wall, inefficiently crossing over the same space multiple times as they clean.
Finally, we test how easy it is to set up, program, and control the robot. Some only require an initial battery charge, while others ask you to install side brushes and batteries. For connected bots, app design and reliable Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are major factors that impact your experience.
We provide a detailed analysis of each of these vacuums in our reviews, and you can see our vacuum product guide for the latest models. When you find the right one for you, be sure to read up on our simple robot vacuum tips.