Are Robot Vacuums Worth It?

If you're asking yourself: Are robot vacuums worth it? We asked a technology expert for all the pros and cons.

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What is a robot vacuum?

Vacuuming a home is one of those chores that nobody wants to do, which is why robotic vacuums are so brilliant…in theory. When the first-generation Roomba was introduced in 2002, it seemed too good to be true—after all, it’s an actual robot that does all the work for you. In the last few decades as technology has dramatically improved, robotic vacuums have become all the rage. Companies like iRobot, iLife and Eufy offer products that promise to automatically clean your carpets and hardwood floors, leaving you more time to do the things you love. But are robot vacuums worth it?

Ahead of spring cleaning—one of the most popular times of the year to buy robot mops, handheld vacuums, traditional vacuum cleaners, cordless vacuums and vacuum mop combos—we asked technology expert Burton Kelso to rundown all the pros and cons to determine if robot vacuums are really worth the investment. Don’t forget to shop the best vacuum deals, including discounts on Dyson—the most popular vacuum brand on the market.  

Robot vacuum pros

Robot vacuum cleaner cleaning the living roometernalcreative/Getty Images

If you’re asking yourself: Should I get a robot vacuum? Here are the reasons why the answer is yes.

It will reduce your cleaning time

Instead of pulling out a bulky appliance and spending hours sucking up the remnants of your life, a robotic vacuum, like this Roborock Mop Robot Vacuum Cleaner will do it for you. “The great thing about robot vacuums is you can set a regular schedule to clean the floors of your home,” explains Kelso. “Set your cleaning time and the robot vacuum will do the work you need.” Looking for other ways to cut down your cleaning time? Here are fast house cleaning products to tidy up quickly.

It’s compact and fits into constricted areas

Have you ever tried cleaning underneath your couch with a vacuum? It’s nearly impossible. “Robot vacuums can fit under most pieces of furniture that your traditional vacuum can not fit,” points out Kelso. “This means that couch or bed you don’t vacuum under because they’re too heavy to move.” Smart devices, like this Pro Robotic Vacuum, help reach places you’re not vacuuming.

It cleans multiple surfaces

Many vacuums come with a bunch of annoying add-ons for different types of flooring. Thankfully, that’s not the case when it comes to most robotic vacuums, including this smart-mapping Neato version. “Robot vacuums clean carpet, laminate or hardwood floors,” says Kelso. “This saves you a hassle because you don’t have to worry about switching attachments on your vacuum from the carpet cleaner to the one for your floors.”

Many are smart home friendly

Most robot vacuum models, including the iRobot, work with smart home devices like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, points out Kelso. A higher-end model like the iRobot’s S9+ can even do next-level tasks, like map out your home and clean accordingly, then return to its base on its own. “A simple voice command can activate your vacuum to clean up your house,” adds Kelso. Just beware: These are things you should never vacuum.

It’s not as noisy as the traditional vacuum

No one likes the noise of a standard vacuum, which is a great bonus when it comes to a robot like the Roborock. “Its low noise level means you can set your vacuum to work overnight cleaning your floors,” says Kelso. You can also run them when you aren’t home via an app, avoiding the noise altogether. This mini desk vacuum is also a noiseless gadget to keep your workspace clean.

Robot vacuum cons

Are robot vacuums worth it? There are a few reasons why they might not be right for you.

The dust collection boxes aren’t that large

In theory, you can go months without cleaning the dustbin of a stand-up vacuum cleaner, even the new hybrid options like the Tineco iFloor3. However, this isn’t the case with a robot. “Unlike your traditional in-home or upright vacuum, a robot vacuum does not have a large container to hold all the dust and dirt collected,” points out Kelso. “This means you have to constantly dump the dustbin out more often than you would on a standard cleaner.”

It only works on level surfaces

If you live in a multi-level home, or if there are lots of step-ups, a robotic vacuum may not be for you. “A robot vacuum can only work on level surfaces, which means you still have to use a standard vacuum to do the stairs,” says Kelso. A solution is to purchase more than one unit for different levels, or simply carry the vacuum to different areas around your home. If stairs are an obstacle, consider investing in the editor-loved Bissell Little Green machine. By the way, find out the places you should (and should’t) store a Roomba.

They’re pricey

Unfortunately, robotic vacuums aren’t cheap. While most models start around $400, a super high-tech one will set you back over $1,000. “Quite a jump when the starting point for a standard vacuum is $60!” says Kelso. Where can you get better deals? Shop sales, especially big ones like Black Friday. Here’s what you need to know about shopping at Target vs. Walmart.

Your home has to be robot vacuum friendly

Do you have young kids who leave little Legos around? Or often drop jewelry on the ground? “If you tend to have members in your household who don’t pick up after themselves, then you might have to rethink purchasing a robot vacuum,” warns Kelso, who adds that items like socks, toys and unmentionables get easily caught. Also, if you have frilly rugs or floor coverings with tassels, they will likely get stuck in the vacuum.

Do you want to keep your floors spotless? Here are tips for cleaning vinyl floors, plus a list of products you should never use on wood floors.

Low battery life

Be prepared to charge your robot vacuum in between rooms. “Most robot vacuums have a two-hour battery life, which means they spend a lot of time charging,” says Kelso. If you have a small home, this isn’t a problem. However, larger spaces take longer to clean when you factor in charge time. Want to get as many years as possible out of your vacuum? Then avoid doing these 13 things that are shortening the life of your vacuum.

FAQs

What is the best robot vacuum?

There’s a wide range of robot vacuums on the market, starting with less expansive, no-frills models that cost a few hundred dollars, to ones that are over $1,000 with smart features. While there are lots of well-reviewed models, Kelso maintains that overall, the iRobot Roomba is still the best robotic vacuum available.

Do robot vacuums work?

Robot vacuums work well, and are even capable of “seamlessly navigating around furniture, along wall edges and in places that humans don’t often reach with traditional vacuums,” explains Brent Hild, Senior Product Manager at iRobot. “Roomba robot vacuums can be scheduled to clean when it’s convenient for owners, even when they’re not home,” says Hild.

Do robot vacuums work on carpet?

Yes, robot vacuums work on carpet. As Kelso explained, they can be used on soft surfaces in addition to laminate or hardwood floors. As for cleaning areas other than the house, try these car vacuums.

How long do robot vacuums last?

In regard to holding a charge, according to Kelso, most robot vacuums have a two-hour battery life. In terms of their lifespan, he maintains that a quality robot vacuum should last 7 to 10 years.

What is the best inexpensive robot vacuum?

If you’re on a budget, Kelso suggests the Serenelife robot vacuum. He says it’s an “awesome alternative” to the more expensive Roomba. If you prefer a traditional vacuum, check out our review for the Shark VacMop.

What is the best robot vacuum for pet hair?

Pet hair can be challenging to vacuum up. Kelso’s top two picks for keeping fuzzy fur in check are the Ecovacs Deebot and the Roomba J7. Looking for a smaller vacuum for pet hair? The hand-held Bissell Pet Hair Eraser is Reader’s Digest-approved.

Final verdict: Are robot vacuums worth it?

So, are robot vacuums worth it? It totally depends on your home specs and lifestyle habits. Many people, especially those who are incredibly busy, find them to be a lifesaver; while others consider them too big of a splurge. Only you can determine if a robot vacuum is worth the investment, but hopefully, our breakdown of the pros and cons helped you decide!

Where to buy robot vacuums

You can shop for robot vacuums just about anywhere you’d buy upright vacuums. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.

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Leah Groth
Leah Groth covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for Reader’s Digest. When she isn’t working on a piece, you’ll find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus-year-old home outside Philadelphia.