My TriStar Vacuum Cleaner

Tristar vacuum cleaner

The TriStar MG-2 is a minimalist’s dream in it’s simplicity. And there is a certain genius in that simplicity. The ergonomics are very good. It is very powerful and there is not a lot of things to break on it. TriStar came out in 1948 and the basic way it operates has not changed. It was way ahead of it’s time, so much so that several companies have copied it.

How It Works

How it works: Dirt enters through the hose and the dirt gets dumped into a bucket shaped, disposable filter bag. The disposable bag nests inside a permanent cloth bag so your air is filtered by these two bags. There is a final foam filter between the fan and powerful motor. The air, keeps the motor cool. And then there is a disposable final filter just before it exhausts. Generic final filters have a charcoal disk in them for odor control. You can buy an upgraded HEPA final filter direct from the manufacturer if you need more filtration.

TriStar’s are renown for their suction and for keeping their suction as the bag fills. The dirt gets dumped at the front wall of the bucket shaped bag while the air gets sucked out of the rear wall. A “cyclonic” air dam keeps the dirt toward the front as it slowly fills the bag maintaining suction. It works.

The bucket shaped bag has a wide mouth. It’s not as hermetically sealed like modern bags so you can see all the crud this vac has gobbled up. Still, bag changes are easy - far easier and more sanitary than most of the modern bagless machines. Bonus: the wide mouth at the top of the bag means that should you accidentally suck up your kid’s Lego block or an earring, you can fish it out without major surgery.

Features and Pros:

  • Die Cast metal alloy body with a rubber bumper all the way around. Almost indestructible. Metal does not absorb odors the way plastic does.
  • Compact size. Makes it maneuverable in tight spaces.
  • Rubberized hose with gas pump style handle. This drapes well and is easy to handle. Some vacuum cleaner hoses (especially the cheap ones) seem to always be fighting you, this one is well behaved.
  • 360 degree castor wheels. The machine turns easily and follows you around as you work nicely. Stays upright.
  • Bagged. Bagged machines seem to work better when you have pets because they don’t absorb odors like bagless machines. The bags hold a lot.
  • Big on/off switch. Big simple, power switch on the top of the vacuum you can hit with your foot
  • Carry handle. Ergonomically placed handle which is right at the weight balance point of the body which makes it easier to carry. With an all metal body, the Tristar is an 18 pound machine so this is important.
  • Powerful motor
  • Long power cord. Something like 27 feet. For storage you wrap it around the underside of the body. There is a quick release for unwrapping the cord.
  • Can balance on end for storage.
  • Power head. Well built, L-shaped carpet power head which helps you vacuum around furniture legs. The body of the power head is also die cast metal.
  • Good tool set.
  • Made in USA.


  • Weight: At 18 lbs. this is not a light machine. Might be too much for an elderly person to carry around. Likewise, the power head is 5 lbs. with the weight all at the end of the wand.
  • No Full Bag Indicator: Frankly, I’m not sure this is actually a Con. It’s so easy to just unlatch the lid and take a glance at how full it is, that I really don’t think this is a negative. It’s one less thing to break.

Cost to Operate

This is a big plus. Good, third party bags and filters are easily available on Amazon at very reasonable prices. Most local vacuum repair shops should also have the bags or you can get everything from the manufacturer as well. It just does not cost much to run this vacuum.

Even the parts, either OEM or third party, are reasonable and widely available. There isn’t that much to break and new motors, new switches, new hoses can all be had online at reasonable prices should you ever need them. This is a machine that can be kept running for decades.

Buying a Tristar

New TriStar’s are very expensive and sold door to door by salespeople giving in-home demos. I recommend buying a refurbished Tristar and you can read all about that in my Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide.

The current model is the CS. The MG-3 was the predecessor and the MG-2 before it. I would expect to pay about $400 - 500 for a professionally refurbished Tristar. YMMV.

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with TriStar or any other retailer. I actually own a machine that I paid for and base my opinions on that.

Brad Enslen @bradenslen



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