Robot Vacuum vs Stick Vacuum: Which Is Better?

Robot vacuums are becoming ever more commonplace in people’s homes as buyers contemplate the potential time and effort that be saved by having one in the house. One of the closest contenders for robot vacuums has to be cordless stick vacuums in terms of price and what they can offer when it comes to convenience.

In many ways you can see robot vacuums and stick vacuums complementing each other. However, for many a choice has to be made between a robot vacuum vs stick vacuum.

To try and help you make the call we are going to review both categories of vacuum cleaners inin terms of:

  • Overall Effectiveness
  • Versatility
  • Time Saved
  • Battery Life
  • Capacity
  • Value For Money

Robot Vacuum Vs Stick Vacuum

Let’s take a look at some of the key characteristics for robot vacuums and stick vacuums to see which one comes out on top.

Overall Effectiveness

When it comes to overall effectiveness both stick vacuum cleaners and robot vacuum cleaners have a good case to make.

Stick vacuum cleaners can very often replace more clunky traditional corded vacuum cleaners as they can get around the home and do pretty much all the same jobs and in some cases more. Whether its carpets, hard floors or wooden floors stick vacuum cleaners can handle them all. Whether you are in the middle of an open floor or trying to get at crumbs and dust in corners, stick vacuums will generally have you covered.

Robot vacuums can also said to be quite effective though perhaps not quite as their stick counterparts. Whilst they can handle low to medium pile carpets in addition to hard floors, robot vacuums generally aren’t as adept at tackling corners and those hard to reach areas. For this reason their overall effectiveness is not quite up to the level you get on stick vacuums.

Winner: Stick Vacuums


When it comes to versatility around the home, stick vacuums have a lot to offer. As well as using them on floors, they can also be put to good use on furniture such as sofas as well as beds if need be. They can prove to be very useful when clearing dust from curtains and other high to reach places. As they can often be flexed to a relatively flat position they can also offer cleaning under furniture.

Another major bonus when it comes to versatility for some stick vacuums, such as the Dyson V range, is the ability to use them as more compact hand-held units. This can be particularly useful when trying to clean the car for example. It means you save money on buying separate hand held unit.

The other area that really stands out for stick vacuums is the stairs. Due to their lightweight nature and in many cases, ability to be used as a hand-held unit stick vacuums are particularly well suited to handling stairs.

Robot vacuums do simply do not offer as much versatility as stick vacuums. Once you get them off the floor there is not much else they can do. Unlike stick vacuums you can’t use them to clean any other type of surface e.g. sofas etc and certainly not the car. Crucially they are also not suited to the stairs and are indeed designed to avoid the stairs in case they fall.

Winner: Stick Vacuums

Time Saved

For many people when they move away from traditional upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners it is because they are looking for a more convenient way to clean that could potentially save them time.

Both stick vacuums and robot vacuums help with the aim of saving time spent vacuum cleaning when compared to traditional methods but to varying degrees.

Stick vacuums typically have a far quicker setup time than a traditional upright. This is mainly because assuming the battery is already charged you simply have to pick it up and get going. Then when you’re done, you put it back where it was without the need to unplug it from the wall and wound up the cable as they are cordless. In some cases such as the Dyson range, stick vacuums also come with a wall mount which makes it even easier to store and grab and go.

Aside from the time spent setting up and shuting it down, it’s hard to see where else stick vacuums have a clear advantage in terms of the time saved when compared to traditional vacuum cleaners.

Robot vacuums on the other hand save more time for users than both stick vacuums and traditional upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners. This is because robot vacuums can clean automatically whilst you are doing something completely different. As well as quick setup time (either pressing a button on the unit; remote control or phone app), robot vacuums get on with their job without you having to physically assist them throughout the whole process.

Robot vacuums can also be set to clean on an automated schedule so you do not have to be there to get them started.

Where you are likely to spend time dealing with a robot vacuum is with maintaining it and emptying its dust bin which based on most reviews users say they do after every clean.

Winner: Robot Vacuums

Battery Life

The battery span of stick vacuums and robot vacuum cleaners is crucial to their success.

Traditionally the battery life for stick vacuums has been something that consumers were concerned about as the early iterations of units had fairly limited spans. Now increasingly stick vacuums batteries appear to be improving all the time with some units now going up to 60 minutes with non-motorised cleaning heads.

Typically most stick vacuums will have a range of around 20 – 45 minutes with the higher end models stretching up to 60 minutes. It is worth keeping in mind that when you are looking at battery spans for stick vacuums you need to consider what they can do at (i) their maximum suction and (ii) their standard suction rating. The headline battery span you’ll often see quoted is what they can do on their standard suction often without a motorised brush-head which is when they’ll be most effective.

Robot vacuums on the other hand tend to have longer battery spans with some going up to 100 minutes plus. As a bonus a lot of robot vacuums will automatically go back to their charging base when they are low on power. Some will then automatically pick up where they left off if they were mid-clean.

When it comes to comparing battery life though it’s important to keep in mind that stick vacuums and robot vacuums are used in different ways.

Stick vacuums are guided entirely by the user so how effectively they clean with the given battery life to an extent depnds on how they are guided. Robot vacuums on the other hand rely on an automated process with some having mapping capability whilst others use random patterns to cover a room. This can often mean that a room can take longer to clean with a robot vacuum than it would with a stick vacuum.

Therefore it would make sense that you’d see longer battery spans on robot vacuums than you would on stick vacuums. So strictly speaking robot vacuums have longer run times but they also typically need longer to get a job done. Whereas stick vacuums may have shorter battery spans but they can whizz around a room as quickly as their user can effectively clean.

Winner: Robot Vacuums


The capacity of your chosen vacuum cleaner will go some way in determining how much intervention in needs in terms of emptying its bin.

It’s also worth noting that in many cases when a dust bin is starting to get full, the overall effectiveness of the vacuum cleaner can sometimes be impacted. Therefore having a large capacity can mean you can clean for longer without having to empty out the bin.

When it comes to dust bin capacity stick vacuums and robot vacuums have a fairly similar range in terms of sizes:

  • Robot Vacuums typically – 0.4 to 0.7 Litres
  • Stick Vacuums typically – 0.4 to 0.76 Litres

What this means is that you’ll likely have to empty out the dust bin fairly regularly with both stick vacuums and robot vacuums. Indeed typically user reviews mention having to empty out their dust bin on robot vacuums after every clean of their home. In many instances this is what is recommended by manufacturers.

With stick vacuums users also mention emptying out their dust bin frequently though not necessarily after every clean. What can be quite helpful with a lot of cordless stick vacuums is that their dust bins are transparent meaning you can tell how full the bin is and whether you need to empty it out. This is in contrast to robot units where you typically cannot see how full the bin is and therefore it may be easier to simply empty it after each clean.

There is one instance however, where robot vacuums take the lead in terms of dealing with the issue of bin capacity and having to empty it out frequently. This comes in the form of the iRobot Roomba i7+ which has the ability to empty itself out automatically. The i7+ robot vacuum has a docking station with a larger dust bin which will take the waste from the robot and store it until the much larger bin is full.

This means rather than having to deal with the dust from the robot potentially after each clean, you can wait until the main storage unit is full before emptying that out. From what we can see this appears to be the most hands-off robot vacuum available.

In terms of overall dust bin capacity however, it seems stick vacuums and robot vacuums are fairly evenly matched.

Winner: Tie

Value For Money

When it comes to cost both stick vacuums and robot vacuums typically set you back more than traditional upright and cylinder vacuum cleaners. This is to be expected as the technology is newer and constantly improving.

Stick vacuums can range from around £150 to £600 at the high end. You can get some very good machines for around £200 – £300 that will do a great job.

Robot vacuums tend to range from around £200 – £800. WIth competition increasing in the market, there are lots of good options in the £200 – £400 bracket with varying level of features to consider.

The main thing to consider when looking at pricing is the fact that with stick vacuums you are able to get a unit that could potentially replace your main upright or cylinder vacuum if you have one or mean you don’t need to get one. Whereas typically most users with a robot vacuum also tend to have or need a stick vacuum or traditional vacuum cleaner to finish the jobs it can’t do e.g. the stairs.

Winner: Stick Vacuums

Conclusion: Robot Vacuum vs Stick Vacuum

So which way do you go when it comes to robot vacuum vs stick vacuum? As we’ve seen both categories have their merits and it really depends on what your needs are around the home. If you need an alternative to your upright or cylinder vacuum that offers versatility as well as convenience then a stick vacuum may be the way to go. Whereas if you want something that will save you lots of time from having to vacuum clean your floors daily then perhaps a robot vacuum may be the way for you.

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