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SOME OF THE BEST VACUUMS cost the least, based on our tests of almost 60 models. But you'll still see a plethora of pricey vacs as big brands scrape for profits.
Superb carpet cleaning--our toughest test--helped make a new $230 Hoover WindTunnel Anniversary Edition the champ among uprights. Another Anniversary Edition did almost as well for even less. The line is the first manufactured by Hoover's new owner, TTI Floor Care, which makes Dirt Devil. Hoover has been among the more repair-prone upright brands. Dirt Devil has been more reliable; time will tell whether Hoover improves in our surveys.
As for canisters, three CR Best Buys cost $300 or less, roughly half the average price for models we tested. Another top pick, the Hoover Duros, sells for just $170.
Some of those same brands are also fielding new gimmicks and lofty names that deliver less than their prices suggest. Here's how to sidestep the hype:
Think twice about hybrids. Hoover's Convertible upright, $250, lets you use a bag for "optimal cleaning of fine dirt or dust" or go bagless. Performance was only so-so on bare floors and pet hair in …