Best Budget Vacuums

A good vacuum should effectively clean the dirt off your floors, be easy to use, and if you spend your dollars wisely, last you a long time. But with prices ranging from $100 up $1,000, how to know which models offer the best value?

For shopping advice and some high-rated picks I caught up with Carolyn Forté at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, where her team has tested over 40 vacuums for overall performance.

Upright or Canister?

When shopping for a vacuum the first consideration is likely to be style -- upright or canister. Both clean effectively. "It depends on the kind of house you have and what you need to vacuum," says Forté. A canister vacuum is generally more versatile. Like uprights, they handle carpets well, but are also great at cleaning bare floors, vacuuming stairs and sucking up dirt from corners. However, "if you've got one floor and lots of wall to wall carpets, then the upright is the way to go," she says.

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Bagged or Bagless?

Next thing to think about is whether you want a bagged vacuum or a bagless one. "Think about how much you want to interact with the dirt. If you do have allergies and just want to get rid of the dirt with one shot, a bagged vacuum is the way to go," says Forté. One caveat is, of course, that you do have to repeatedly buy bags - which is an added cost. "If you don't want to buy them, then think about a bagless [vacumm], but keep in mind that a canister needs to be cleaned and emptied…and if you are sensitive to dust that might be irritating," Forté says.

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What About AMPS or Horsepower?

"Those numbers are just the power that the motor uses or the amount of electricity the motor uses," says Forté. "It's not really going to tell you how well the vacuum really cleans." What really impacts how well the vacuum works, she continues, is the air flow, how the air moves through the vacuum and how well it's designed. Unfortunately, there really is no way for a consumer to know how well a vacuum will clean. Best advice? Read reviews and make sure the store has a good return policy!

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Here are the top 3 budget buys from Good Housekeeping's research:

Kenmore Intuition, $249

This is a canister vacuum that's bag-equipped, has HEPA filtration, a brush on/off switch, and a 27-foot retractable cord. A great overall vacuum. One drawback is that it's a bit on the heavier side - weighing 21 lbs.

Hoover Anniversary Windtunnel, $350

This vacuum gets fantastic reviews for being easy-to-use and for performing well on both hard-surfaces, as well as carpeting. GH also liked it for its variable suction power, which allows you to reduce suction speed when cleaning delicates like drapes or antique rugs.

Panasonic Jet Force Cyclone, $150

If you need just the basics, Panasonic's Jetspin Cyclone will not disappoint. The machine handles pet hair, short carpets, and hardwood floors like a pro. GH gave it a good rating for performing well on embedded dirt, bare-floors and pet-hair pick-up tests.

What's a vacuum you swear by? Join the conversation on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit

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