How to Shop and Save on Robot Vacuums
Most people agree that vacuuming is a mundane task, so the idea of a robot taking over this chore is appealing. Because we all have less time for cleaning, and smart home products are on trend, it’s no surprise the robotic vacuum market is expected to grow 17.7% annually and reach 9.4 billion by 2027.
When you’re shopping for a robotic vacuum cleaner, there are a lot of models to choose from. The variety of features and price points can be overwhelming for first-time buyers. This guide narrows down the features and brands, and offers tips to find the best deal on a robot vacuum.
Robotic Vacuum Brands
These are some of the major brands of robotic vacuum cleaners:
When contemplating brands, check review sites like Consumer Reports , PCMag, and Business Insider for their top picks. This can help you home in on some brands to shop for, but keep in mind there are a lot of smaller brands out there; they may also be worth considering. You’ll want to take your research a little further by searching for reviews on specific models to get a better idea of how these machines perform.
Robotic Vacuum Features
At a basic level, robotic vacuum cleaners have a motor and sensors that allow them to move around the home independently picking up dirt and debris. How well they carry out this task depends on the specific features included. Here are the some of the main ones to consider:
Your home may be mostly carpet, all hard floors, or a mix of both. Many robot vacs can handle hard and soft surfaces, but some are better than others at switching between them. Others may only be designed for one type of flooring.
Types of Cleaning
Cleaning robots are mostly associated with vacuuming, but some mop instead, and others can do both. Think about what the machine will be picking up in your home. If you have pets, for example, you may need a model specifically designed to handle shedding.
Suction and Brushes
When reviewing the specs for robot vacs, you may see a listing for suction power measured in Pa, or Pascal Pressure Unit. Higher numbers indicate a greater ability to lift and loosen dirt, hair, and debris. Vacs that feature side brushes, which can pick up things out of the main brush’s reach, may also provide a more thorough clean.
Dimensions and Shape
Robot cleaners have the advantage of fitting in tight spaces that are difficult to clean with a traditional upright vacuum. For instance, many can go under a couch or bed. However, the height and width of these units can vary. If you have tight spaces you need vacuumed, measure the space under your furniture and across any narrow pathways to ensure the robot you want to buy will work for these areas.
When it comes to shape, many robotic vacuums are round. Others are D-shaped, a design that makes the unit more effective at getting close to walls and into corners. Since debris can land or get pushed to these areas, these can be a good option for getting a more complete cleaning.
Sensors and Mapping
Robot vacuums have drop-off sensors that detect stairs or other steep drops to avoid falls. Sensors also help the unit avoid obstacles in its path, or detect walls to follow. More advanced sensors will identify areas that have concentrated dirt and need extra attention, or adjust suction power when transitioning between hard and soft surfaces. Others assist with navigation, tracking how far the bot has traveled and the turns it has made.
Rather than just relying on sensors for navigation — which tend to take the machine on random paths around the room — higher-end vacuum bots use mapping technology. Cameras or lasers collect measurements and data points to make a layout of the rooms the vacuum works in. This allows more precise, efficient cleaning. This means the vacuum can work in straight lines without missing any part of the room, or going over the same spot repeatedly. It can also pick up exactly where it left off if it needs to take a break to charge.
Mapping will allow for creating restricted areas you don’t want vacuumed, although some models without this feature include virtual barriers (a small device that prevents the bot from entering a certain area) or you can use magnetic strips or other physical barriers, like simply shutting a door to a room you don’t want entered.
A smart robot vacuum can be controlled through an app, which can allow for starting or stopping cleaning from anywhere, creating a cleaning schedule, setting preferences, and more features. This also typically allows for voice control through Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Samsung Bixby.
Battery Life and Self-Charging
Robot vacuums run on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. When comparing models, check for the battery size (larger sizes usually mean longer run times) or how long the model can clean on a single charge. Some bots will conveniently return to their base when getting low on power, then resume cleaning again after charging up.
Dust Bin Capacity and Self-Emptying
Emptying the dustbin is one of the main things about a robot vac that requires human intervention. The bins on these machines are known to be on the small side and need to be cleared regularly to prevent the vacuum from clogging up, or even worse spitting dirt and debris back out on the floor. A bigger bin can mean less time spent on this task.
Self-emptying models have a larger container at the charging base, where the bot can deposit several smaller loads, leading to you clearing things out less frequently.
Robot Vacuum Pro Tips
Robot vacuums are expected to work independently for the most part, but there are things you can do to improve the process.
Clear the path
Robot vacs can avoid obstacles, but they have been known to eat up things like cables, shoelaces, socks, or other small objects you don’t want sucked up — one robot even famously ran over dog poop and dragged it around the house. It makes sense to periodically scan the room and pick up any clutter (or things that’ll just make a mess) to avoid damage to your stuff or the machine.
Do some trial runs
If you have a new cleaning robot, you might feel compelled to immediately set it free to do its work independently. Before doing so, try it out a few times while monitoring to identify potential problem areas — where it stalls, gets stuck, or attempts to clean something unintended. A few adjustments may be needed to smooth out any kinks in the process.
Besides emptying the waste bin regularly, CNET recommends regular maintenance on the wheels, main brush, and side brushes to keep the unit in tip-top shape.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a cheap robot vacuum worth it?
We’ve seen deals on robot vacuums for as low as $80 to $100. When shopping at the lowest price points, you’ll often see lesser-known brands with fewer features. This makes it more likely that you’ll need to monitor the vacuum to correct common issues that come up, such as getting stuck or rapidly filling a small waste bin. Premium specs, like mapping and self-emptying, add greater functionality and a more hands-off approach, but also come with a much higher price tag of up to $1,000 or more.
When looking for the best cheap robot vacuum cleaner, check the specifications and any reviews you can find for the model (particularly if it’s a brand you aren’t familiar with) to find one that gives the most value for the money. If you haven’t used a robotic vacuum before, and you don’t want to spend a lot, it can be worth trying out an inexpensive model. You may find that it is sufficient for your needs, or discover the features that are more important to you if you replace it at some point.
How can I get the best deal on a robot vacuum?
We list the best robot vacuum cleaner deals we find, and the items featured on our site are verified to be the lowest current price available. If you don’t see a deal for the specific item you are interested in on DealNews, you can research where it is sold and compare prices between stores. In addition, search for coupons that can drop the price even further. As an example, Kohl’s has general coupon codes that can apply to many of the robot vacuums they sell.
You can also consider buying refurbished. Many of the lowest priced new models in our deals are from lesser-known brands with fewer features, but deals on refurbs can be from major brands — offering you better specs at a low price point. They also typically come with warranties in case there are any problems, but be sure to check for this!
Can a robotic vacuum replace an upright vacuum?
Robot cleaners have come a long way, but generally they are not considered a full replacement for a traditional vacuum cleaner. As Consumer Reports explains, robot vacs just aren’t as powerful as uprights. They have other limitations, too, such as not cleaning stairs. They are ideal for performing maintenance between deeper cleanings, and getting into smaller spaces that an upright has difficulty reaching.
Sarah Jones is the resident coupon expert at DealNews and oversees a team that covers deals, coupons, and Black Friday content. Her articles or quotes have been featured on sites such as Christian Science Monitor, Oprah.com, Fox Business, Kiplinger, and Lifehacker.