Stick vac convenience comes at a cost

Our survey shows that cordless batteries aren't lasting more than a few years.

Person using cordless stick vacuum cleaner in kitchen.

The stock of cordless stick vacs is on the rise. Three years ago, fewer than one in 8 vacs in our reliability survey was cordless; this year that proportion has almost tripled.

They appeal because they’re more convenient and easier to use than a corded vac, and our testing shows the latest models clean as well as the average plug-in. Unfortunately, cordless vacs also have a notable downside – dubious durability.

When nearly new, stick vacs are as reliable as corded models. However, according to owners who responded to our latest reliability survey, sticks don’t age well:

Three brands – Dyson, Electrolux and Hoover – account for 82 percent of stick vacs in our survey. No brand is an angel, with all three having a similar pattern of failures increasing from 2 years of age. However, reliability of older Dyson sticks is significantly lower than average:

Cut the cord, cut the reliability

Cordless convenience has revolutionised how many of us vacuum. However, replacing the plug and cord with a battery and charger is the main cause of faults reported by stick vac owners.

For sticks aged between 2 and 5 years, when more than a quarter of them become faulty, cordless power accounts for 78% of all reported problems – a significantly reduced runtime is reported in 54% of faulty sticks and a failure to charge appears in 24% of them.

Owners say these are serious problems: 98% of charging faults and 84% of battery problems are reported as “catastrophic” or “major”, meaning owners think their vac is unusable or they need to use it differently.

Dysons not Built to Last

Dyson stick vacs perform very well in our testing: the five models we've tested average 82 percent, while the average stick vac scores 73 percent. However, its stick vacs aren't ageing well, and Dyson owner satisfaction (while still high compared to other brands) is slipping.

Consumers expect sticks to last. In our recent survey, 74 percent of owners said they expected at least six years from their stick. As you might expect for the market-leading brand with a very good reputation, Dyson owners expect their stick to be more durable than what owners of other brands do:

“How many years do you expect your vacuum to last from new?”

And, if they develop faults along the way, Dyson owners expect them to be more repairable:

“If your vacuum becomes faulty, do you expect it to be repairable?”

Filter or filter fitment parts (11% of Dyson faults) was also significantly more commonly reported than it was for other stick vacs.

Are the common cordless stick vac faults repairable?

Yes. No-one should throw out a stick vac because of a faulty battery or charger. Dyson has replacement batteries, chargers and filters available from its New Zealand website. Batteries cost between $96 and $159; chargers $35. Dyson vacs come with a two-year warranty, so any replacements will be free within that period.

However, while we should celebrate the repairability, the party feels a bit flat. Having spare parts available is commendable, but it’s the minimum a brand should offer. You'd rightly feel aggrieved if you had to spend a further $100 on a new battery for your $1000 vac that's only a few years old.

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