Robot vacuums save time and effort — they can clean your floors when you’re asleep or away from home.
But the convenience they provide comes at a cost. So are robot vacuums worth buying?
In this guide, I break down the pros and cons of robot vacuums. You’ll learn how they work and what to expect if you buy one. I also provide side-by-side pictures of their performance compared to manually-operated vacuums.
By the end, you’ll be able to confidently decide if a robot vacuum is worth buying for your home.
Use the links below to navigate the guide:
- How Do Robot Vacuums Work?
- Robot Vacuum Pros
- Robot Vacuum Cons
- Bottom Line: Are Robot Vacuums Worth It?
A robot vacuum rolls along your carpeted and hard floors as it removes dirt and debris. Once you turn it on, it functions independently, using sensors to guide its path. As it learns a room, it makes a map to ensure it covers every part while avoiding obstacles.
Rotating brushes sweep up debris and push it into the vacuum. These brushes extend one to three inches beyond the vacuum’s diameter to reach corners and tight spaces.
Sensors on the robot vacuum keep it from falling down stairs and running into objects. Some vacuums, like the Roomba, can detect and avoid solid pet waste.
Robot vacuums are designed to clean open spaces, along walls, and even under furniture. They run on a battery and have a docking station where they charge after use.
Time and energy savings are the obvious advantages of robot vacuums, but they offer several other benefits, too. Let’s review.
The most notable benefit of a robot vacuum is convenience; just turn it on, and it vacuums your floor. You can relax or clean something else with the time you usually spend vacuuming.
You can even program the vacuum to run a cleaning cycle when you’re not home. It will detach itself from the charging base and clean during the times you prefer.
Some models, such as the Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 Robot, have self-emptying technology.
When the dirt bin becomes full, the robot will navigate back to the base station and discard the debris into the station’s larger container. That container can hold up to 60 days of dirt and debris.
Robot vacuums are simple to set up and easy to use. Most come assembled and only require you to snap a small brush to the bottom.
The initial setup varies by model but most come with a quick start guide that only takes a few minutes to complete.
For example, Shark robot vacuums require you to download an app, connect to Wi-Fi, and name your vacuum. Once you complete those steps, press “Clean” within the app, and the robot will start cleaning.
You can start each cleaning session by pressing the button within the app or schedule reoccurring cleaning jobs at a specific time each day or week.
Most models allow you to define zones to avoid and high-traffic zones that tend to get messier. The robot will adjust its path and suction levels accordingly.
Some models connect with voice assistant technology like Google Home and Alexa, allowing you to speak commands to the vacuum.
Some models allow for remote control or manual operation. For example, Shark vacuums have “Spot Mode.” With this feature, you place the robot where you want it to clean, and it will zigzag over that area and clean it thoroughly.
Like a standard vacuum, you’ll need to empty the small dustpan and clean the brushes regularly. However, some models self-empty into a larger receptacle in their base station.
Robot vacuums are small. Many models are 13-14-inch in diameter and less than 5 inches tall. Their small footprint makes them easy to store.
Below are the dimensions of several popular robot vacuums.
|Roomba 694||13.4 inches||3.54 inches|
|Roomba i7||13.4 inches||3.54 inches|
|Roborock S5||13.8 inches||3.8 inches|
|Neato D8||13.2 inches||3.9 inches|
Most robot vacuums are lighter than full-sized upright vacuums. Upright vacs range between 14-17 pounds, while robot vacuums tend to be 13 pounds or less.
If you’ve had issues pushing, lifting, or maneuvering a full-size upright vacuum, you should consider using a robot vacuum. Its hands-free and self-guided operation is perfect if you don’t want to or can’t handle an upright vacuum.
Below are the weights of popular robot vacuum models:
Pro: Can Clean Tight Spaces
A robot vacuum can clean along walls, under furniture (where it can get dusty), and in tight spaces.
A robot vacuum can go between the legs of a kitchen table and chairs, eliminating the need to move the chairs or bend under the table to clean the floor.
That said, you need to pick up large items and reduce clutter to ensure the vacuum won’t get stuck. It will lose its cleaning efficiency if it has to dodge multiple objects scattered across your floors.
Our Favorite Products in One Convenient Place
Want to see all the products we recommend in one convenient place? Visit the Prudent Reviews Amazon shop to browse a handpicked selection of our favorite cookware, kitchen knives, appliances, and more.
As an Amazon Associate Prudent Reviews earns from qualifying purchases.
Robot vacuums have a smaller motor than full-sized models, so they’re quieter.
Decibels (dB) measure the loudness of a sound. Robot vacuums are generally in the 55-80 dB range.
To give you an idea:
- 55 dB would be the same volume for a conversation between two people
- 70 dB would be the sound of a dishwasher running a cycle
- 80 dB might be as loud as a busy city street.
If you want a quieter operation, look for models that create less than 65 dB of noise. That way, you can run it without interrupting your family’s activities (like watching TV or conversing).
Below are a few examples of quiet robot vacuums:
|Robot Vacuum||Noise Level|
|eufy BoostIQ RoboVac||55 dB|
|zoozee Z50 Robot Vacuum||48 dB (on quiet mode)|
|Roborock S6 Robot Vacuum||64 dB|
Keep in mind the volume changes based on the floor surface and the vacuum’s settings. Carpeted floors muffle the sound better than hard floors.
Since robot vacuums have smaller motors, they consume less energy. They run on a rechargeable battery, so they don’t draw power from an outlet while cleaning.
Typically, robot vacuums take 2-3 hours to charge and can deliver 60 minutes or more of cleaning power. Depending on the model, charging can draw anywhere from 25-90 watts.
According to Constellation Energy, a typical Roomba robot vacuum can draw 28 watts of power while charging and 3.6 watts on standby (fully charged). A full-sized upright vacuum can draw between 500-3,000 watts during use.
Now that you know the advantages of robot vacuums, let’s review the disadvantages.
Con: Less Suction Power
The most notable disadvantage of robot vacuums is their lack of suction power. Robot vacuums have much smaller, less powerful motors than full-sized vacuums.
They won’t do a thorough job if you have a large mess with lots of debris. They’re ideal for maintenance, like picking up crumbs and dust, rather than deep cleaning.
They work best on bare floors or low-pile rugs. Shaggy or high-pile rugs will slow the vacuum down and use more battery.
Consumer Reports tested an upright vacuum versus a robot vacuum, and the upright model picked up more than double the debris.
I also conducted a few quick tests to compare the performance of a robot vacuum versus a manually-operated vacuum. I tested the Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 Robot Vacuum against the Dyson Big Ball Canister Vacuum.
I used both vacuums to pick up cracker crumbs on a hardwood floor and quinoa seeds from a hardwood floor and a low-pile rug.
The Dyson canister vacuum picked up every crumb and seed. Here are the before and after photos of the wood floors:
And here are the before and after photos of the rug.
As you can see, the canister vacuum successfully picked up all debris without leaving any trace of the mess. I had to go over the crumbs two times to complete the job, but that’s easy when manually operating the vacuum.
The robot vacuum did an excellent job picking up debris from the hardwood floors, as you can see in the before and after photos below. A few crumbs and bits of quinoa were left on the floor, but the vacuum picked up 95% of it.
However, it struggled to pick up the quinoa from the rug. The tiny quinoa embedded deep into the rug’s fibers, and the robot vacuum didn’t have the suction power to pick them up. As you can see below, it left behind about 10% of the quinoa.
Robot vacuums have a small, built-in small dustpan or dustbin. The capacity varies by brand and model but ranges from .3 to .6 liters. For comparison, the dirt bin capacity of full-size vacuums ranges from 1 to 3 liters.
Since robot vacuums fill quickly, you’ll have to empty them often. Many manufacturers recommend emptying the dustpan after every use.
Of course, how often you’ll need to empty the dustbin depends on the frequency of use, how dirty the floor is, and whether you live in a dusty environment or have pets that shed.
As I mentioned, some robot vacuums have self-emptying technology. When full, these vacuums return to the docking station, and a hose pulls the dirt into a larger container. Once emptied, the vacuum leaves the docking station and picks up where it left off.
These models are more expensive, but they save you the time and effort of emptying the bin after (or sometimes during) every cleaning.
Before using a manual vacuum, you can move small toys or jewelry out of the way. However, a robot vacuum picks up anything in its path.
So if you forget to pick something up before a scheduled cleaning, the vacuum can either get stuck on it or, if it’s small enough, vacuum it up.
It is wise to inspect the dustbin thoroughly after a vacuuming cycle.
According to Consumer Reports, a full-sized vacuum lasts approximately eight years. Robot vacuums have a shorter lifespan, averaging 4-6 years. Of course, how often you use your vacuum and the amount of debris it has to clean up impacts its lifespan.
Robot vacuums don’t come with attachments to clean specific areas, like crevices, upholstery, or vents. You’d need a quality upright or canister vacuum to take advantage of attachments.
Robot vacuums clean floors and along baseboards. You can’t use them for cars, couches, or other elevated surfaces.
Unfortunately, robot vacuums can’t totally replace other vacuums. You’ll still need an upright, canister, or stick vacuum for deeper cleaning.
Not only is a robot vacuum’s suction power lacking, but it’s not the best solution for spot cleaning.
For example, if you have young kids and they make a mess on the floor beneath their chairs at dinner time, it’s much easier and faster to pick it up with a manual vacuum than to place a robot vacuum on top of the mess.
Con: Risk of Scratching Wood Floors
Robot vacuums have soft brushes and rubber wheels, so the chances of scratching your wood floors are slim.
However, dirt, sand, or small objects can get stuck in a wheel or underneath the vacuum, which results in scratches.
Since robot vacuums operate independently, the debris can drag around without being noticed.
This guide provides tips on preventing robot vacuums from scratching your wood floors, including an analysis of the brands that pose the least risk.
Last but not least is the cost. Robot vacuums can be expensive. And remember, it’s an additional cost since you’ll still need a manual vacuum.
In some cases, robot vacuums are more costly than mid-range full-sized vacuums due to the built-in technology, such as special sensors and Wi-Fi connectivity. Models with advanced features like self-emptying technology are even more expensive.
The chart below shows the current prices of top-rated robot vacuums. Click or tap the prices to learn more about each item on Amazon.
Now that you understand the pros and cons of robot vacuums, the question is: are they worth buying?
If you’re looking for a device to help you keep up with crumbs, dust, and pet hair and don’t have the time to vacuum daily, a robot vacuum is worth the cost. They’re ideal for large rooms with hard floors or low-pile carpets.
But remember that a robot vacuum won’t fully replace your other vacuum(s). You’ll still need a larger, more powerful one for deeper cleaning, elevated surfaces, and thick rugs.
For most households, a robot vacuum is not a necessity. It’s a nice-to-have luxury that makes everyday cleaning more convenient.
If you’re ready to buy or want to learn more, I highly recommend the Shark AI Ultra 2-in-1 Robot Vacuum Self-Empty XL.
It has unique features like CleanEdge Technology, which blows air into corners for better cleaning, and an extra large self-emptying base. Unlike most robot vacuums, it also can mop your floors.
- Do Robot Vacuums Damage Hardwood Floors? (How to Prevent It)
- Bissell vs. Dyson: Which Vacuums Are Better?
- 4 Cheaper Alternatives to Dyson Vacuums
- Canister vs. Upright: Which Type of Vacuum Is Better?
- Bissell CrossWave Cordless Max vs. Pet Pro: 11 Differences
- Is a Central Vacuum System Worth It? (Pros & Cons)
- Best Vacuums for Hardwood Floors and Area Rugs (With Pictures)
- Is It Safe to Clean Hardwood Floors With Bleach? (Quick Guide)
- How to Deep Clean Hardwood Floors (5 Simple Steps)
- Rejuvenate Floor Cleaner and Restorer Review: Does It Really Work?