In most homes, the iRobot Roomba cleans up more debris than other bots because it gets stuck less and covers more ground. It’s also quieter and more affordable than other worthwhile vacuums, and it has the best across-the-board user ratings of any robot vacuum, period. This is a particularly great bot if you live in smaller quarters with a disconnected or crowded floor plan and mostly bare floors and short rugs, but it can work pretty well in almost any home. Other robots are more suitable for homes with lots of open space and medium-thick rugs, so you should shop around a bit, but the Roomba 650 should be the first bot you look at.
Who should buy a robot vacuum
You’ll still need a human-operated vacuum for tough jobs, but a bot lets you wait longer between big cleanings. You don’t need a robot vacuum. But if you want one, then heck yeah, get one. A robot can do a great job keeping your floors tidy with very little effort on your part. It’s more than just a novelty or a toy. You’ll still need a human-operated vacuum for tough jobs like deep-cleaning dust out of plush carpet, but a bot lets you wait longer between big cleanings, if you want.
The raw cleaning abilities of most worthwhile robot vacuums are similar to those of good cordless vacs or very cheap plug-in models: great for debris like tufts of pet hair, crumbs, grit, and anything else that you can feel stuck to the bottom of your feet, but not so great for fine dust that has settled deep into carpet fibers.
Probably the best part of a robot, though, is that it never procrastinates or gets bored. A robot that runs for an hour a few times per week will always cover more ground and pick up more debris than 10 minutes of half-assed, human-operated cleaning a few times per month, even if you’re using the world’s best vacuum.
And just to set your expectations, robot vacuums are imperfect. They’re designed to adapt to your home and all of its hazards on the fly, and they do that remarkably well considering that every single home is at least a little different. But most people will find that their bot struggles in a particular area of their home—maybe around a certain couch or a corner with a lot of obstacles nearby. The trick is to buy the model that best matches your home and then make adjustments as needed (usually minor) to make the most of your robot helper. A typical life span for a bot is three to five years with good maintenance, which probably seems short given the price. But it’s typical for a midrange vacuum cleaner—and in this case, a robot comes attached to the vac.