This is the infamous vacuum cleaner post I have been promising to write.
I just bought a refurbished vacuum cleaner. A Tristar MG-2 canister, if you must know. It’s a compact model which is handy to pull out quickly when you track something in and for carrying out to the garage for cleaning out the cars. New Tristars are very expensive. Refurbished they still are not cheap but they will outlast most of the plastic junk built today.
A family I knew well, bought a Tristar back in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Back then the styling had not changed since the 1940’s. The family nicknamed it The Pig, because it looked like a little piggy rolling behind them. It was ugly in a cute sort of way, built like a tank and powerful. I know they used it for over 20 years and they loved it.
Vacuum Cleaner Buying Guide
Better to buy a quality refurbished vacuum than a new cheap plastic vac. Most new plastic vacs cost $150 to 500 or more. The really cheap ones are abysmal and all are kind of considered disposable.
Here are the numbers I am seeing: You can buy a new “high end” plastic vacuum cleaner for $500. It might be made in China or it might be assembled in Germany from Chinese parts. Or you can spend $250 - 500 for a quality refurbished vacuum cleaner, made in USA, made of metal, that will still be running in 10 - 15 years. Heck, $250 - 350 buys a heck of a lot in the refurbished department.
Most of the high quality vacuums are made in the USA. I like that.
High quality vacuums can be repaired, Usually it’s just a new belt. They can be refurbished and have a second life and will probably still outlast the modern plastic ones. I’ve learned this the hard way.
It is okay to have more than one vacuum cleaner. I have one for each floor of my house because I’m done lugging a vac up and down flights of stairs. Also a vac model that is perfect for your ground floor may not work as well upstairs where the bedrooms are.
Bag vs. Bagless
I’ve owned expensive bagless vacuums. I hated having to go outside to the dumpster all the time to empty the dirt collector with dust flying everywhere in the wind. Trying to empty that dirt cup into a garbage can indoors just puts dust back in the air. And it’s all plastic so dust clings to that dust collector like crazy. If you have pets, the disposable bags are neater and do not collect pet smells the way plastic does. The only bagless vacuum I recommend is Rainbow (see below).
Upright vs. canister
Whatever you prefer. I have had several upright vacuums starting with a couple of Hoovers to a couple of Dysons. Uprights cant get under furniture the way a canister can. Uprights need some room to maneuver. Uprights seem to work better in offices and retail stores than in smaller home spaces. If you have large rooms and hallways with big expanses of wall to wall carpet, and are used to an upright, get an upright. Get a refurbished Kirby. You want one with a Kevlar fan blade.
If you have small rooms with lots of tight spaces I think a canister is better.
Why Buy Refurbished Vacuums?
Why buy a refurbished vacuum cleaner? If you buy one of the vacuum cleaners listed below brand new, you are going to pay over $1000 - 2000 or $3000 or more depending on model. That is a lot of money - too much money for me. If I buy a properly refurbished machine I get like 96% of the machine if it was new at a fraction of the New price.
Get to the Vacuum Cleaner Models Man!
Upright: Kirby. Search for Reconditioned Kirby’s. Runner up: Electrolux/Aerus upright.
Rainbow: Made in USA. These use water to filter out dust and dirt instead of a bag. Even the older pre-HEPA models are remarkable at filtering the air. I’m convinced every home should have a Rainbow and here is why: a Rainbow can suck up water: plumbing leaks, basement seepage, roof leaks, windows left open in a storm, defrosting the freezer the Rainbow can suck those wet messes up. If you live in a place prone to flooding a Rainbow is great for cleaning up afterwards. It’s great for sucking up excess water out of a basement carpet. It’s great to have one in reserve. Search for Reconditioned Rainbow’s.
Pro Tip: If you buy a Rainbow, invest in a non-electrified wet hose, plastic tubes and squeegee attachment if your unit didn’t come with it. These can be aftermarket but made for your model Rainbow. Cheap insurance!
Even if you already have a working vacuum cleaner, a rebuilt Rainbow with it’s wet pickup can be a good investment and a compliment to your primary vac. Add the optional carpet shampooing attachment and it has even more uses.
Plus, of course, it vacuums up dry dust and sand like crazy. It works really well for dusting and not putting allergens back in the air.
There is a downside to the Rainbow, because you have to fill the tank with water before each use, it is not the best for a quick cleanup when the kids track in dirt and the in-laws are due any second, or for lugging out to the driveway to vacuum the interior of the car. The Rainbow is for weekly cleaning day.
Others in no particular order. You really can’t go wrong with any of these.
Electrolux/Aerus: These are well built machines which are sort of torpedo shaped. They have a great disposable filter bag system so bag changes are clean and neat. The retractable cord is a great feature. They last a long time. Search for Reconditioned Aerus.
Tristar: Made in USA. compact, powerful, they are built to last. If you need something smaller and lighter for lugging around or in a cramped home or apartment this is perfect. The Tristar is a handy size for carrying out to the garage to clean the carpet in your car yet it is big enough to clean your whole house. Search for Reconditioned Tristar.
Update: Up above, when I first wrote this, I had a Tristar on order. Now I’ve had a chance to really use it and it’s a fantastic machine, very powerful and well built. I would not hesitate to buy one again.
Filter Queen: Made in USA. my experience is only second hand but they have a reputation for lasting forever and being very good at cleaning and air quality without losing suction. These can be good if you have a long haired pets. They even make a dog grooming attachment. Refurbished Filter Queens seem to be in high demand, but they are priced right. Search for Reconditioned Filter Queen.
Filter Queen Update: I’m seeing the refurbished older model Filter Queen (red, green and blue color models) often priced at $200 - 250ish range. That makes these rebuilt Filter Queens one of the best bargains of everything listed in this buying guide. If money is tight but you still want quality seriously look at the Filter Queens.
The only caution I hear about Filter Queen is, officially, you are supposed to change the paper filter cone - every time you use it - if that is true in real practice then it’s not quite the grab and start sweeping type of vac like an Aerus, Tristar or Kirby is. Plus the cost of those cones could add up. I have no experience with Filter Queen, but I suspect that most owners don’t change that filter quite that often unless they have lots of pets or allergies. Again, a rebuilt Filter Queen will last a good long time and likely outlast any plastic vac.
Best Vacuum for solving your problems
- Lots of carpet, lots of big shedding pets. Get a newer Kirby model (Diamond, Sentria). These really work on getting pet hair out of carpets. You will probably still want to have a good bagged canister for dusting and getting under beds, sofas and other furniture.
- Lots of hard floors, lots of pets. Any of the bagged canisters listed above.
- Sever allergies - Rainbow E or E2 models or newer. Not only do they filter with water but they have a HEPA after filter. Clean floors and dust furniture with the Rainbow.
- Mildly dust sensitive (temporary sneezing, mild irritation) - Any Rainbow model. The water filtration really works. Again clean floors and dust furniture with it.
- Most portable for carrying up/down stairs. Tristar.
- Best for cramped rooms with too much furniture. Tristar or any canister.
- Best for bedrooms and getting under beds. Any canister.
Where else to buy?
Online Retailers: There are a number of them, a good search engine will find them. I bought my Rainbow from Great Vacs a few years ago and I just ordered that Tristar from them because I was satisfied with their service.
eBay: You need to do your homework buying a refurbished vacuum cleaner on eBay. You want to find a seller that really refurbishes the machine and doesn’t just polish up the exterior with Armor All and pass it off as refurbishment. Find out: 1. what the seller does for refurbishment, 2. what their return and refund policy is (if they don’t have one pass), 3. what is their sales history and buyer satisfaction rating, 4. how much is shipping and what is the final price with shipping, 5. what exactly you are getting: hoses, attachments etc. You want to separate the garage sale finds from a truly refurbished model done by someone that knows what they are doing.
What if I Want a New Vacuum Cleaner?
We’ve established that the vacs above are too high priced if bought new, at least for me. But some people really want a new decent quality vac at an affordable price or they just don’t like the looks of the reconditioned vintage style vacs, above.
In my opinion, you will not find a really good quality vac for $100 - 200 range. You get what you pay for and at those prices, even the plastic seems 3rd rate.
I have no direct experience with any of these brands or models. My information comes from doing a lot research online.
Sebo - as of this writing, Sebo vacuums are still made in Germany. They have a reputation for quality and some good features. They make both canisters and uprights. They are not cheap. Search for Sebo vacuum cleaner.
Perfect - new retro. These are reproductions of classic Electrolux/Aerus model canister vacs. I have no experience with them. I have heard they have a very powerful motor. Made in China. C101 has a metal body. C103 is a copy of a newer model with a high grade plastic housing. Search for Perfect C101. C103.
Miele - as far as I can tell, Miele is an EU company but these vacs are made in China. I have no experience with them. They seem to be well regarded and they generally run lower in price than the Sebo and Perfect models. Be sure to check if they are bag or bag less so you get what you want. Search for: Miele vacuum cleaners.
Pro Tip: You will see some canisters say “hard floor vacuum cleaner”. They appear to be less expensive. This is because they do not include a power head. These are only good if you have no carpet and no area rugs. IMHO you are better off getting a vac that lets you clean hard floors, carpet and area rugs right from the beginning.
What do you have?
Note: reading below is strictly optional in case you have insomnia.
I have a Rainbow “D” model bought refurbished as my main machine on my main floor. I dust with it and sweep the floors with it. I bought this a few years ago online from Great Vacs (see above.) It’s also my “just in case” vac should I ever have a wet cleanup requiring more than just a quick mop (ie. dishwasher leaks, clothes washer leaks, plumbing leaks, water in the basement, etc.)
Pro Tip: I dump my Rainbow dirty water on the back lawn in good weather. The lawn loves it. In winter I empty the water into the toilet.
When I bought the Rainbow, I already had a subcompact 1990’s Royal canister with shoulder strap for quick spot cleaning, doing the stairs and cleaning car interiors. It was too small in capacity for general cleaning but it was good for those jobs. The Royal also had a tendency to flop over off it’s wheels when trailing behind. The Royal finally broke down and repairs were more than the little plastic vac was worth. The refurbished Tristar, mentioned above is replacing the Royal.
My upstairs is all carpet. I have a refurbished Electrolux, that I bought on eBay. It is close to the model we had when I was a kid, so I guess nostalgia.
Unfinished basement: I have a Dyson canister. I originally bought this as a general purpose vac. I hated it from the start. I replaced it with the Rainbow. The Dyson sits next to my workbench, plugged in and ready to suck up sawdust and anything else on the concrete floor in that area and off the workbench. It works well for that task.
(Electrolux is now called Aerus.) 2018.
I tried to cover everything pretty extensively. If you have questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I will try to get you an answer.
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