If you want a vacuum that will run reliably for decades and keep your home as clean as you can hope, your best bet is a Miele canister, particularly from the C2 or C3 series.
Miele canister models have a phenomenal reputation. Technicians, salespeople, enthusiasts, testing houses, and regular people who bought one all love these vacuums. Some of the experts we talked to said that if they could recommend just one vacuum, they’d recommend a Miele canister. They’re easy to maintain and built to last for decades (20 years is not uncommon) allowing for a great long-term value in spite of the high purchase price. They’re fantastic cleaners with excellent filtration and smooth handling, and they run about as quiet as any vacuum. Granted, they use bags, which are less convenient and cost extra over time compared to bagless vacuums. They are also canister-style machines, whereas most people in North America are more familiar with uprights. But this is as sturdy and effective a vacuum as you can get.
The model we’d get is the Miele Compact C2 Electro+ because it’s the most affordable one that comes with an electrified cleaning head. It’s the best tool, we’ve found, for deep cleaning shag and high-pile carpeting, and it works great on other rugs, too. The bare floor tool sucked up more debris from hardwood floors faster than all the other vacuums we’ve tested, and its soft bristles are gentler on sensitive surfaces than an upright vacuum’s wheels and spinning brush roll. The C2 body is just reliable and durable as any of the models in the pricier C3 series, and it is also smaller and lighter. The downside is that it uses a slightly smaller bag (about 15 percent), so you’ll need to change it more frequently.
That said, you might find that one of the C3 variants is a better fit for you. They use larger bags, and their hoses are less likely to get tangled up while you’re cleaning. The variants come with different combinations of cleaning heads and filters.
Miele also makes a slightly more affordable C1 line. It cleans similarly, but the filtration isn’t quite as excellent, they run a little louder, and the hoses aren’t crushproof. We’d buy a C2 or C3 model, but a C1 isn’t a bad choice if you want to save the money now.
Here’s a cheat sheet, accurate per the time of writing, for all the Miele vacuums, in a rough descending order of how likely each will be the best choice for your home. Some older models, including the C2 Topaz and C2 Onyx, may still be available at certain retailers, although we expect them to be phased out at some point.
Miele canister vacuum cheat sheet
Reason to buy
Compact C2 Electro+
Works on nearly any kind of flooring. Great value. Our pick.
Complete C3 SoftCarpet
Similar to our pick, but a larger bag and nicer controls.
Complete C3 Calima
Short carpet, bare floors
For thin carpeting.
Complete C3 Cat & Dog
Comes with odor-snuffing filter and mini turbo tool for getting hair off upholstery.
Complete C3 Kona
Not as good of a deal as the similar SoftCarpet or Cat & Dog models.
Complete C3 Marin
Has a slight advantage on longer carpets compared to our pick. Headlight.
Complete C3 Alize
Flat rugs, bare floors
Not great for carpets.
Complete C3 Brilliant
Top of the line. Similar to the Marin, with extra “comfort” features. The best, if not the best value.
Classic C1 Cat & Dog
Same floorheads as Miele C2 Electro+, plus pet hair tool. Louder, less-sturdy build.
C1 Compact Turbo Team
Short carpet, bare floors
Air-powered brush is okay for shorter carpets.
C1 Compact Pure Suction
Flat rugs, bare floors
Not great for carpets.
The main reason we love the Miele canister vacuums is that they’re impressively sturdy without feeling clunky. Miele advertises the life span at around 20 years. Driscoll, the Reddit vacuum guy, told us that he has seen 30-year-old Miele canisters. That’s incredible longevity for any kind of electric product these days.
It starts with the parts: The canister casing is a lightweight plastic with a rubberlike anti-cracking quality. The hose on the C2 and C3 models have metal wiring sort of like a Slinky, which prevents the airway from getting crushed if you accidentally step on it. Miele claims that it designs its models’ motors to last for 1,000 hours, so that works out to roughly one hour per week for 20 years. The Miele canisters also have a handy auto-rewinding power cord, a really convenient feature compared to most upright vacuums’ manual cord hooks.
A handful of other high-end vacuums (from brands such as Riccar and Sebo) are similarly durable, but Miele has a wider service network than any of them, so you’re more likely to find a place to patch up your vacuum once it needs an inevitable midlife tune-up. The seven-year warranty is also one of the longest in the industry—only the first year is comprehensive, but the body casing and motor are covered for seven.
Another highlight is that the Miele C2 and C3 are totally sealed systems. The bags are self-sealing, too: When you swap the old one out, it closes its own rubber flap as you remove it from the vacuum, so dust and allergens can’t escape that way. The standard filtration is excellent, and you can even upgrade to HEPA filters if you want.
So if somebody in your household has asthma, allergies, or any other condition that’s affected by indoor air quality, Miele canisters can make a substantial positive impact. This Amazon reviewer writes that her son would have allergy attacks whenever he visited her house, but after she started using the Miele, he could stay as long as he wanted without any trouble. Jeffrey May, an indoor-air-quality consultant and former Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America board member, told us that he personally owns a Miele. Even if you don’t have severe reactions to airborne irritants, it’s a good idea to keep your indoor air fresh (evidence is building that small, airborne particles cause negative outcomes for health). Ultimately, some other vacuums match or nearly match the Miele models’ filtration, but we’re not aware of any that outperform it.
The Miele canisters are among the quietest vacuums you can buy. We measured the Compact C2 Electro+—running with the power head attached and the brush roll spinning at the maximum suction setting—at 74 dBC, which is about five dBC quieter than our main pick. The motor is also a slow starter, meaning that it gradually revs up to maximum power over a few seconds rather than turning on at full blast. It’s not as jarring. You might be able to get away with vacuuming while somebody is sleeping nearby, something we can’t say about many other vacuums.
Everyday reliability is another upside to the Miele canisters. They don’t need maintenance very often. All of the cleaning heads made for carpets all use no-stretch geared belts to drive the brush rolls, so they maintain their spin speed and cleaning ability over time. (The vacuum should last long enough that you’ll need to replace the belt eventually, but that’ll probably be once a decade. Most people can handle the replacement themselves, or you can take it to a shop.) They’re also not especially prone to clogs, because they have wide, straight intake paths. If they do clog (which can happen to any vacuum of any type), they come apart at all the major joints without any tools. That makes it easy to get into the cleaning head, the wand, or the hose to knock the obstructions loose.
Cleaning performance is top-notch, too. The suction is strong enough in every model that even the cleaning heads with air-powered, turbine-driven brush rolls seem to outperform many vacuums with electrically driven brush rolls. And the technicians we spoke with said that Miele models that do have electric cleaning heads may be the very best cleaners you can buy, period.
The relative downsides: The Miele vacuums are bagged and canisters, neither of which are very popular in North America circa 2018. We covered the pros and cons of this style earlier in this guide, so we won’t repeat them here. We understand why people tend to avoid this style, but these particular vacuums are so good that we think most people can get comfortable with it.
The last big downside to buying a Miele is that you may not have an authorized service center near you. Most large and midsize cities have at least one, but it’s worthwhile to check the service map before you buy a Miele so that you don’t end up having to drive 90 minutes to a vacuum shop in case you need service under warranty.
On a similar note, it’s very important that you buy your Miele from an authorized dealer. Amazon is an authorized dealer, but third-party Marketplace sellers on that site often are not. Make sure the Miele model you choose is sold by Amazon through Amazon, or by an authorized dealer through Amazon. Bed Bath & Beyond is another authorized dealer. If you’re nervous about buying from the wrong source online, buy your Miele in person. Also remember that the first year of the warranty is all-inclusive for the entire vacuum and its accessories, but in years two through seven, coverage is limited to the body casing and motors—the expensive parts that really shouldn’t break anyway.
Other uncommon complaints that we’ve read in owner reviews:
In models with electric cleaning heads, the hose can’t fully rotate at its connection point because the power cord gets in the way. If you turn around on yourself while you’re cleaning, the hose can get tangled, and sometimes you can flip over the canister. This annoyance is typical of any canister vacuum with an electric cleaning head.
The automatic cord-rewinding mechanism can get stuck in the not-rewound position. We’ve read a couple of accounts of its failing after just a year. This can happen to any vacuum with an auto-rewind feature, but it should not happen to a vacuum this expensive. The mechanism is covered under warranty for the first year (though the full seven years of coverage would be better). You can still use the vacuum even if the rewinder is stuck, though it will be a pain to deal with a free-swinging 33-foot cord.
The plastic latch for the bag-door can break, leaving you unable to keep the door closed securely. Most people open the door only a few times per year anyway, so breakage seems unlikely. And in the worst case, you can still use the vacuum when it has the broken latch; gravity and suction keep the door shut as long as the canister is on its wheels. This repair should be covered under warranty anyway.
Some people find the wand to be a little heavy, especially with the variants that have wiring to power electric cleaning heads. If you’re used to handling the plastic accordion hose on your upright vacuum, this component will seem heavy because it has metal parts.
And finally: Nobody can guarantee that your particular Miele canister will last as long as other people’s Miele canisters. We’ve heard stories of these things crapping out beyond the point of easy repair after just three or four years. That may be due to user error—they’re very sturdy vacuums, but not invincible. Still, you’d hope that they’d be able to stay in service longer than that even with improper use. Is it a good idea to pay so much for a vacuum up front and risk a premature breakdown? That’s your choice to make, but based on what we know about these vacuums, we think they’re worth the asking price.