Anyone who’s ever owned a bagged vacuum cleaner will probably have at least one memory of running out of bags just as the vac is full, the house is a mess and they’ve got friends or relatives coming round. The solution? Go bagless.

Bagless vacuum cleaners have other benefits. They tend to be easier and quicker to empty than their bagged contemporaries. And as some come with anti-bacterial protection, which can reduce house dust mite and cat allergen content significantly, they can also be a better option for allergy sufferers. But be warned, they usually have smaller dust capacities – the average holds 2.6L compared with 4.2L in bagged machines.

We tested bagless vacs – upright, cylinder, cordless and robot – for their suction and manoeuvrability, as well as how heavy they are and how easily they reach into tight corners and between floorboards. We considered how quiet the machine is, what extra features it had and how easy it was to empty the cannister.

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Dyson V11 absolute: £499, Dyson

The microprocessors in the cleaner head, battery and motor of this vacuum from Dyson speak to each other to work out how to provide the deepest clean according to floor type and you really can feel the difference.

We got an hour on eco mode (a bit less on thick pile carpets) and a quarter of an hour on turbo, but your “run-time anxiety” (apparently it’s a thing) will be allayed by the countdown display, which tells you to the second how much time you have left, even changing as you switch between eco or turbo modes.

Or just switch to auto mode, which works out the optimum balance between power and run time, so you don’t have to think about modes or battery life at all. The display also alerts you to any blockages or if the filter needs cleaning. It’s lightweight and easy to use, but is expensive. Charging time is four and a half hours.

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AEG compact LX5-2-4DB: £139, AO

Use this quiet cylinder vacuum cleaner on floorboards or laminate and you won’t believe how clean they are afterwards – it even reaches right between the floorboards. You’ll need to switch the head for carpets and although we didn’t get such a wow factor finish as with hardwood floors, it wasn’t half bad, especially for the price tag.

The filter works well to protect those who suffer from allergies – which we think is at least as good as with some machines we tested that are double the price. It comes with a good range of accessories too. But the cord could be longer and we couldn’t get it to pick up larger crumbs, which made vacuuming under the table after a family dinner a bit disappointing.

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Shark anti-hair-wrap lift-away NZ801UK: £229, Shark

You won’t have any trouble getting your home spic and span with this upright vac, largely thanks to Shark’s special duoclean floor head, which has a turbo brush bar and soft roller brush to suck up debris of all sizes.

The floor head is also designed to self-clean so it swoops up hairs without clogging up the brushes – good news for pet owners who, by the way, will also notice how good it is at eliminating evidence of your four-legged friends even during moulting season. It’s easy to assemble and a breeze to push around, as well as enabling you to use the tube to reach right into tricky corners. But not everyone likes upright vacuum cleaners.

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Miele Blizzard CX1 comfort powerline lotus cylinder corded vacuum cleaner: £316, Currys PC World

This is one of a handful of bagless vacuum cleaners from Miele and it doesn’t come cheap. But true to the brand’s top-drawer reputation, this smart-looking and exceptionally powerful machine breathes new life into dirty carpets and with minimal effort and noise. It’s designed to reach into every nook and cranny and does a grand job on upholstery.

There’s an excellent self-cleaning filter and we really like the controls on the (very comfortable to hold) handle to switch between floor surfaces. But this kind of power sucks rugs right up into the air and we’re not sure we’d spend this much if we only had hard floors, which it doesn’t seem to be quite as good at.

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Beko bagless cylinder VCM7180P corded vacuum cleaner: £90, Amazon

Another well-priced machine, especially for the suction, this is best on hard floors – often a weaker area of vacuum cleaners. We put it through its paces after a tea party for toddlers and it had the whole place looking spotless in no time. And because it holds three litres, you barely ever need to empty the cannister – not that it’s any trouble to do so.

We like the nifty two-in-one crevice and upholstery tool for when you’ve got time for more than a quick once-over and there’s a pet hair upholstery tool too, although we rate other machines better for pet owners. It will do allergy sufferers proud with its effective filter too. Not quite as good on carpets, though.

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Karcher FC5: £190.93, Amazon

This is a serious machine for serious jobs. Think caked-in mud and entrenched crumbs. It works by washing, scrubbing and polishing the floor at the same time as vacuuming it, with a twin-tank system that keeps clean and dirty water separately. No need to worry about the floors staying damp – that’s where the microfibre and (machine washable) rollers come in.

And it reaches right up to the edges with ease too. So far, so brilliant. But you can’t tilt the machine and it’s a pretty hefty, cumbersome thing to move around – we felt exhausted after using it, although to be fair, not half as much as if we’d done the two jobs separately and the end result was more than worth it. Be warned you have to buy the cleaning fluids separately.

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GTech air ram Mk 2: £199.99

This cordless stick machine will be a godsend to those who like giving the place a quick once-over without all the faff of plugging and unplugging their way through their home. You’ll be particularly wowed by its performance on hard floors and it’s pretty good on carpets too (although not quite as fabulous), with no need to switch modes between the two.

With a running time of 40 minutes, you should be able to get around your whole home in time and it’s got an impressive filter. But it’s on the heavy side and unlike other cordless machines, it lacks a detachable handheld gizmo. We wouldn’t recommend it for pet owners.

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Vax blade 2 max 40V: £179, John Lewis

Another cordless machine – this one with a 45 minute run time – the Vax blade 2 max doesn’t just stop at vacuuming floors well, but also does a good job on upholstery, walls, skirtings and even ceilings. Cobwebs, crumbs, cereal, dust – you name it, they will be gone, with extra thanks to the headlight on the brush that helps you see into dark spaces.

It reaches right under furniture too, and on the top of wardrobes. It’s nice and light and works as a handheld or as an upright. But you may find you have to empty it after every use.

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Dyson small ball allergy upright: £199.00, John Lewis

If you like upright vacs, but find them heavy and cumbersome, then this lighter, more compact machine is well worth considering. Brand new to the Dyson range, it is a corded machine and its suction was easily enough to fulfil all our vacuuming needs for debris of all sizes on all floor types, although we did find it marginally better on carpets than wood.

It looks smart and even works pretty well in homes with furry friends. The filter is a marvel, making a big difference to the allergenic composition of your home, and Allergy Standards Limited must agree as they have endorsed it. On the downside, we had trouble getting it to reach under the sofas and it’s also on the louder side.

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iRobot E5154 robot vacuum cleaner: £390.06, Amazon

If you can’t stand vacuuming, this may become your new best friend. With significantly more oomph than earlier models of robot vacs, this one has a three-stage cleaning system and multi-surface rubber brushes, all of which lead to a seriously impressive end result. It senses if there are particularly dirty areas to do a more thorough job and the auto-adjust cleaning head means it adapts to different floor types.

But although it’s supposed to find its way back to base automatically when it’s cleaned the whole floor, it can get lost and run out of battery en route if you don’t follow certain procedures. The brushes, filter and washable bin have been designed with pets in mind, so we think this is the ultimate robot vac for four-legged friends.

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The verdict: bagless vacuum cleaners

We were surprised to find that our favourite bagless machine – the Dyson V11 absolute – was cordless – a double whammy on the advantages front as you won’t have to plug and unplug your way around your home. But it doesn’t come cheap, so for a more purse-friendly option go for the AEG compact LX5-2-4DB, which is particularly good on floorboards and laminate floors, as well as on hard-to-reach places.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.