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Should you buy a robot vacuum?

Are these clean machines worth it? We explain the pros, cons and need-to-knows.

should you buy a robot vacuum pros cons
Last updated: 18 June 2024

Need to know

  • Robot vacs can be a great help at home, but they're not a replacement for your regular vacuum
  • Our latest review of robot vacuums includes 26 models from leading brands such as Ecovacs, Dyson, Roborock, Eufy, iRobot and more
  • Join CHOICE to access full reviews of robot vacuums, stick vacuums and barrel vacuums to help you decide which clean machine is right for you

We all dream of having someone else to do our dirty work for us, so it's no wonder that robot vacuums have become so popular.

Who wouldn't love to have a machine that zooms around the house collecting dust and dirt while you sit back and have a cuppa?

These bots have evolved in leaps and bounds over time, becoming a futuristic solution for cleaner floors with a load of smart features on offer.

"CHOICE has been testing robot vacuums for years and their cleaning performance, as well as the various features they offer, have developed a lot during this time," says CHOICE expert Kim Gilmour.

Our tests show they still have a number of issues and limitations, so it's vital to do your research

Kim Gilmour, CHOICE household expert 

"At the same time, robot vacuums are generally expensive and our tests show they still have a number of issues and limitations, so it's vital to do your research to see if they'll suit your household and cleaning needs."

Some newer, high-end models take care of even more work, mopping the floor for you and even emptying the dust bins themselves. 

But before you jump on the bot bandwagon, there are a few pros and cons you should be aware of. Here's our expert take so you can decide if a robot vacuum is the best option for your budget and home.

Robot vacuums: The pros

1. They clean for you!

This point is so huge, it should be worth two pros, really. 

Running on rechargeable batteries, robot vacs use a combination of cameras and sensors to scan and clean your home so you don't have to. (Well, mostly – see the cons below.) 

Most models can be controlled and scheduled with a smartphone app, which displays a map of your home and will also send you (sometimes amusing) error alerts if your bot's in trouble. 

Some come with a webcam, so you can watch it clean (or chase your pets) remotely. 


CHOICE expert Matthew Tung puts a range of robot vacuums to the test in the CHOICE labs.

We spoke to some CHOICE staff members who swear by their robot vacuums.

"We have two young children so we have the maximum amount of dirt and the minimum amount of time to clean," says robot vac convert and CHOICE staff member, Grace. 

"We run our robot vacuum almost every day to get the bulk of the daily debris off the floor. While it may not remove 100% of the dirt, it keeps the house reasonably clean with zero effort, so for us it's a no brainer."

It keeps the house reasonably clean with zero effort, so for us it's a no brainer

Grace, CHOICE staff member

"I couldn't live without my robot vacuum," says fellow fan and CHOICE staff member, Ivone. 

"Before I bought it, I'd spend hours and hours vacuuming and mopping the floors each week. 

"Once a week it does a complete vacuum and mop of my entire house based on the zones we've mapped out on the app. 

"It also gets to those places that I can't access myself, such as under beds and sofas."

robot vacuum under couch

Robots are great for hard-to-reach places.

2. They can clean where you can't

Robot vacuums can be better than standard vacs at cleaning hard-to-reach spots such as under the bed or sofa. 

This makes them useful if you have mobility issues or just don't want to spend your time lifting or moving heavy furniture to clean the floor underneath.

"[My robot] is the best thing I have ever got," CHOICE reader Graeme told us on our Facebook page. "With two dogs and four people, it works a lot. It has to be emptied, but saves my back. I love it."

3. They come with handy features

Sure, they may not clean as well as stick or barrel vacs, but robot vacs do boast a smart range of features that can make your standard vacuum feel prehistoric.

robot vacuum map

The app's map shows your bot's cleaning progress.

Almost all of the newer models allow you to program cleaning times via a smartphone app, so they can hit the floors when you're out. You can view a virtual map to track your bot's progress and set up cleaning zones or 'virtual walls' to bar it from certain areas. 

And if you really love cleaning, you can even check the vac's cleaning history or steer it manually.

"I am super impressed with my robot vac's smart features that allow me to carve my house into sections and vacuum only what I need to," says CHOICE Community member Scott.

"I can schedule vacuums, I can set the vacuum to a silent mode or a 'strong' mode and I can even highlight a section of the house that might need a bit more attention."

Before splurging on a pricey model, ensure you'll actually use the fancy features you're paying extra for

As part of our 'ease of use' score we rate each robot vacuum we test on how easy it is to connect the app and robot vacuum to your home Wi-Fi network in order to operate it and schedule your cleans. 

Other more expensive models now come with self-emptying docks, mopping functions and even air fresheners. 

Before splurging on a pricey model though, ensure you'll actually use the fancy features you're paying extra for. 

4. They even do the mopping

More than half of the robot vacuums that crawl their way around the CHOICE small appliances lab these days also have mopping capabilities. Most use a microfibre pad, moistened by a small water tank at the base of the unit. 

Some models only come with a small water tank that you'll need to manually refill after every use, while others go back to their charging dock to draw clean water from a larger tank. 

High-end models will wash (and even dry) the mop pads, and empty the dirty water into a different tank, making your cleaning routine even less work.

Some mopping functions do leave more water behind than others, but you may be able to control the volume of water that's released so the on-board water tank doesn't run out as quickly, and so your floors aren't as wet after mopping.

Some robot vacs with mopping function would be good for top-up maintenance cleaning, especially for high traffic areas

CHOICE's expert testers have been pleasantly surprised by how well the mopping function on some robot vacs removes stains on hard floors.

We think some robot vacs with mopping function would be good for top-up maintenance cleaning, especially for high traffic areas. 

But they aren't a replacement for a dedicated mop, bucket and good old elbow grease. Be careful if you have a mixture of rugs or carpet as well as hard floors – a model that spreads dirt on your carpet can cause more problems than it solves. 

We test and score the mopping function for robot vacs that have this feature, but this doesn't contribute to the overall CHOICE Expert Rating since not all robot vacuums have this capability. 

Check out our robot vacuum reviews for specific results on mopping functions.

robot vac vs pet hair

Robot vac vs pet hair – which will triumph?

5. They help keep pet hair under control

If it's raining cats' and dogs' fur on your floors, a good robot vac can be a godsend. 

But be warned: our lab tests have seen plenty of models that can't handle a hair ball at all, so check our robot vacuum reviews first.

"We have two black and tan dachshunds and white tiles… [Our robot vac] cleans our house nine times a week and I am always astounded at how much it picks up!" CHOICE reader Pip told us on Facebook.

Community member Sue is also a fan: "With four dogs in the house, I can run the vacuum every two days, or even schedule it to run every night, and in the morning, it's as if the cleaning fairy has been in."

Do robot vacuums really work and are they worth it?

Do robot vacuums really work and are they worth it?

Robot vacs: The cons

1. They don't clean as well as other vacuum types 

Now for the bad news: if you're counting on your robot to terminate 100% of dust and debris around your home, you might be disappointed. 

Our rigorous lab tests have found robot vacs generally don't clean as well as traditional barrel or stick vacuums. Of course, given that you're not the one doing the cleaning, you might be fine with that – and you can always schedule your robot more often to compensate. 

Our rigorous lab tests have found robot vacs generally don't clean as well as traditional vacuums

Test data from our recent reviews shows bots usually perform well on hard floors, but can really struggle with carpet, corners and pet hair.

Cleaning test scores Average score Score range
Hard floor 91% 71–98%
Carpet 34% 4–59%
Pet hair 51% 20–90%
Corners and edges 60% 40–80%

The results aren't surprising when you consider robot vacs' smaller motors can't generate as much suction as normal vacs to get deep into carpet or pick up as much pet hair. 

Plus, their dirt receptacle is smaller and their brushes don't agitate surfaces as much as a hand-driven head might. 

Robot vacs' smaller motors can't generate as much suction as normal vacs to get deep into carpet or pick up as much pet hair

In our most recent tests, four robot vacuums 15% or less for carpet cleaning, barely picking up anything when we put them to work on a sample carpet in our labs. 

And while the average overall score for performance on hard floors is high, there is still a marked difference between the best and worst models. The Eufy X10 Pro Omni ($1699) scored just 71% for cleaning hard floors – the lowest of all the 26 robot vacs in our latest review.

While this score is still rated as 'good' by our experts, we tested other models at a similar price point that perform much better on hard floors.

If you're spending hundreds on an appliance that's specifically designed for cleaning hard floors, you'd probably want better bang for your buck. 

2. They can be very expensive

All this automation and functionality may sound fab and futuristic, but robot vacuums don't come cheap. Turns out you need to pay more for the privilege of hands-free housekeeping!

Here's how they stack up compared to stick vacuums:

In our current stick vac review, prices range from $79 to $1649, with a median price of around $600.

The robot vacs in our latest review cost between $280 and $2700, with a median price of around $1150 – quite a step up from stick vac prices.

Whether a robot vac is worth it will depend on your budget, the size and layout of your home and how much you really, really hate vacuuming (and mopping).

robot vacuum getting text messages

Expect to get a few notifications from your robot vac.

3. They get stuck – a lot

Robot vacs might sound amazing, but sadly you can't 'set and forget' them just yet. 

Despite all their sensors and smarts, they're famous for getting into strife and sending an SOS to their human owners to rescue them.

They frequently get stuck – under furniture, on door thresholds or thick rugs – or get snagged on things including stray clothes, shoelaces, phone chargers and pet toys, which usually stops them in their tracks and requires some tricky de-tangling.

eufy dress strap

Appetite for obstruction: Bots will eat anything.

"I never leave it running when I go out because it sometimes gets stuck under things that it hasn't had problems with before," says CHOICE reader Marilyn, who got her bot from Aldi. "The mop function doesn't get used because it mops the carpet too!"

"Our robot vacs like to eat anything in their way," adds CHOICE Community member Nat. 

"Our first managed to vacuum up a lizard that wasn't quick enough to get out the way, which was a huge mess to clean. Our second vac likes to mount the skirting board in order to eat our net curtains."

To avoid such choking hazards (and lizards), it's vital to do a thorough floor check first – and that can take some time. 

(Admittedly, you'd have to do this if you were manually vacuuming too, but it just shows that buying a robot vac doesn't completely excuse you from all vacuuming tasks.)

4. Potential privacy and tech issues

While your robot vac is picking up the dirt on your floor, it could also be picking up dirt on you. 

If you want to take advantage of all of your vac's functions such as scheduling, maps, checking battery status, viewing cleaning reports and setting power levels, you'll need to hand over your personal data.

Some of that data could be handed over to third parties. And if you have a super-fancy model with a camera, that could mean that images of your home could be shared, too.

If you want to take advantage of all of your vac's functions, you'll need to hand over your personal data

"You should be aware of the data they've collected on you and opt out of sharing more than what is needed," Kim says. 

"You'll be able to use them without apps but only for the most basic tasks."

Want to know more? We explain what your robot vac knows about you and how to protect your data.

In addition to privacy, there's also the issue of app supports and updates to consider.

If you're considering different brands of robot vacuum, Kim recommends keeping an eye on how long the manufacturer will support app updates. 

You'll also need to keep your smartphone's operating system (Android or iOS) up to date, as app support may eventually be discontinued for older versions. 

5. Reliability and repair

With its computer brain, sensors and app integration, a robot vac is a much more complex machine than your standard stick or barrel vac. 

Not only do they need more regular maintenance (cleaning out wheels and brushes, for example), you'll need to replace the battery every couple of years, and they can be harder and more expensive to fix. 

According to our expert Kim, robot vacs are more likely to go rogue and break down than traditional vacs, and despite their high price point, the warranties are usually limited to just one or two years. 

Robot vacs are more likely to just stop working altogether compared with other types

CHOICE household expert Kim Gilmour

"As many robot vacuums cost $1000 or more, you'd expect to get many years of life out of them. It's therefore disappointing that most robot vacuum manufacturers only offer one- or two-year warranties," says Kim. 

"Typically, consumable accessories like brushes, mop pads and filters won't be covered, nor will you be covered if your robot accidentally runs over something it shouldn't," she says. 

"Some clauses in warranty terms seem unclear, such as iRobot's which 'will not cover faults due to normal wear and tear with reasonable use'." 

When CHOICE surveyed robot vacuum owners about reliability in 2020, battery problems (such as the vacuum not charging) were a common complaint. If you're using your robot vac every day, expect the lithium-ion battery to eventually need replacing, which could cost up to $169 outside the warranty period. 

Other reliability-related issues included poor suction and the robot failing to work altogether.

Thankfully, if you experience a major fault, you'll still be covered by Australian Consumer Law

Expert verdict: Can a robot vac replace a normal vacuum?

Based on their mixed results, our expert Kim doesn't recommend a robot vac as your home's only vacuum, so don't put your old barrel vac on eBay just yet.

"We've found robot vacuums are best for 'top-up' cleans in between more thorough laps with your stick or barrel model," says Kim.

"Of course, it does depend on your home's layout and things like whether you have pets and hard floors or carpet or rugs."

Robot vacuums are best for 'top-up' cleans in between more thorough laps with your stick or barrel model

Kim Gilmour, CHOICE household expert

It's a finding echoed in owners' experiences on the ground. 

"My robot vac still doesn't do as good a clean as our 'real' vacuum cleaner," says Corinna, who owns two robot vacs. 

"It's lousy on edges, as it can't get close enough, so sometimes we'll use a handheld vacuum if the cat fur and dust bunnies have escaped there. So, it's not a replacement as such."

Another bot owner, Audrey, says that although her robot vacuum "was the best thing I bought during the first lockdown", she still owns a stick cordless vacuum "that I use for spots the robot can't reach", as well as to vacuum up after the mess created by dinnertime with two littlies under the age of five.

"The bonus of the stick vacuum is that little hands can also help," says Audrey. "The robot vacuum scares them a bit, so I tend to run it when no one is home."

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.