In this Guide
If you’ve been shopping for a vacuum, or any other type of home cleaning equipment, you’ll no doubt have heard of Shark and Dyson. These brands are two of the heavyweights on the market when it comes to vacuums, steam mops, and other home appliances.
Here at Best Pet Hair Vacuums, we decided to put the time in to really research and examine the top selling vacuums from each brand, to see how they fared in head-to-head matchups. We’ve compared features, parts, specs, and — most importantly — prices, on the leading models from each brand.
On this page, you’ll find our in-depth comparison reviews of two top models in each category: upright vacuums, canister vacuums, stick/lightweight/cordless vacuums, and handheld vacuums.
We compared lots of models to find our favorites from each brand in each category. We chose our recommendations to suit pet owners, but they’ll work just as well for everyone else, too!
Before we get started, here’s a quick look at some of our favorite models from Shark and Dyson:
Why create a whole guide just for Shark and Dyson?
There’s no question that in America, at least, there are no two more recognizable brands in home cleaning. That’s mainly thanks to their massive presence in advertising, infomercials, and TV spots, where they easily outstrip any other vacuum makers.
Both of these brands are responsible for elaborate marketing campaigns, including infomercials and placements in big box stores. Both companies excel at showing the marvels their vacuums achieve, and creating hype around their latest models. If you’ve seen the marketing, you probably have a few questions:
- How do they really stack up when it comes to real-world use?
- How do they cope with pet hair?
- Most importantly, which brand’s vacuums are better?
We know it can be pretty confusing to cut through all the marketing. It’s especially hard when a company like Dyson claims “the highest suction of any vacuum” but doesn’t give you an actual spec compare with Shark’s vacuums. Likewise, Shark makes some pretty ambitious claims that their vac’s can equal models twice their price in terms of performance and functionality. How do you know what to believe?
This guide will break down each brand’s patented features and distinctive design touches, so you can get a sense of what each is really about. We’ll also compare their products in a few specific categories: performance, user-friendliness, reliability, and value. We’ll be comparing them as objectively as we can–after all, we’re not tied to any brand! We can judge impartially and give you a neutral perspective.
We’ll be comparing their performance on carpets, hardwoods, tiles and other flooring. Our reviews incorporate our own extensive research and testing, as well as professional analysis by Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping, in-depth product research and analysis of long-term buyer reviews online.
First, let’s get to know each of our contenders in a crash-course history of the vacuum marketplace:
History of Shark and Dyson Through the Years
Dyson has been around since the early 1990s, and came to rapid acclaim with innovations in cyclonic suction technology, ball joint steering, and transparent dust chambers.
These and other smart design features won them awards from design panels, and led to the first Dyson vacuum being the number 1 bestseller in the UK. Since then the company has expanded many times over, and maintained a reputation for smart, innovative vacuums.
Overall, Dyson has been aimed at people who enjoy premium “gadgety” products, since they have brightly-colored casing and parts that go to great lengths to emphasize all the science and engineering that’s gone into each machine. However, their reliability record is pretty mixed, and their customer service has the same spotty track record.
Shark has been around as Euro-Pro since the early 1900s. Shark-branded vacuums have been around about as long as Dysons, and have been aggressively marketed as inexpensive, easy-to-use solutions for busy people.
While Shark has been primarily a budget brand for the last few years, their newer models have been aimed to compete directly with Dyson’s bigger, more powerful (and more expensive) models. These latest machines have powerful suction, and a plethora of attachments that make them a strong contender in the value department.
So, with Dyson holding its own in terms of engineering, but slipping in the quality control/reliability departments, and with Shark advancing quickly with its own smart features, how do the two compare? Is Dyson still ahead, or are Shark products a cheaper way to get the same cleaning power?
Let’s find out!
Our Guide to Dyson Vs. Shark Vacuums
- Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy
- Shark Nagivator Lift-Away
- Dyson Cinetic Big Ball
- Shark Rotator
- Dyson V8 Absolute
- Shark Rocket True Pet
- Dyson V6 Trigger
- Shark Rocket
Best Upright Vacuums
Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy
Dyson’s upright models are unique in that they operate on a central ball, rather than a set of wheels. Shark’s uprights feature canisters that actually lift away, giving you some of the flexibility of a canister model. Both companies claim that their uprights are powerful, never lose suction, and revolutionize maneuverability and ergonomics. How do they compare in the real world?
1. Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal+Allergy
This Dyson is a powerful, effective tool against pet hair, dirt, and allergens. It’s equipped with all of the company’s hallmarks, including multiple cyclone suction systems, a central ball, and bagless dust chamber.
We recommend it for people with wall-to-wall carpet in their homes, who need a powerful upright that’s more maneuverable than others.
It uses the same center-swivel ball design as their canisters. This allows for great maneuverability around corners. While you have to ease most uprights around corners by backing up and then going forward again, the Big Ball turns very easily, with a tiny radius.
Dyson claims that the air system on this upright provides “the strongest suction of any vacuum.” While we don’t do the kind of lab testing to guarantee that, we can definitely tell you that it provides very strong suction, thanks to the multi-layer cyclone system inside.
The special cyclone system is designed to capture fine dust and dirt particles via centrifugal force. It preserves the filter and maintains suction by depositing half the debris in the bin before it even gets to the motor filter.
The brush head self-adjusts. It’ll change heights and settings to seal in suction on hard floors or carpets, without you having to make any adjustments.
The sealed air system provides HEPA-certified air filtration. Another plus for allergen control is the hygienic dust chamber. It empties via a button, and drops everything into the trash without your hands getting involved.
The Animal+Allergy model comes with 5 tools, and a 12-foot attachment hose for using them. There’s a carbon-fiber dusting brush, which is narrow and low-profile. There’s also a mattress tool for upholstery. The reach-under tool is a special crevice attachment with bristles, ideal for vacuuming under cabinets or the stove.
It’s covered by a 5-year warranty.
You can’t store all the attachments onboard at once.
The power cord doesn’t retract–it’s meant to be looped around hooks.
While the new Cinetic system is supposed to keep filters clean indefinitely, we found that wasn’t completely true. Unless you empty the dust chamber after every cleaning, you’ll probably find that you have to scrape off filter screens periodically.
The floor brushes aren’t super protective on hardwoods.
Shark’s signature upright model is also their top selling vacuum. It’s another alternative to a traditional upright vacuum. While Dyson uses a ball joint to give their upright the maneuverability of a canister, Shark simply gives you the option to lift the canister right off the wheels.
It’s very inexpensive, less than half the price of the Dyson.
The lift-off feature makes it more versatile than other upright vacuums. It’s a quick-release with one button, which gives you the flexibility and reach of a canister vacuum when you need it. Since you can vacuum without the canister being on the ground, it’s even more maneuverable than the Dyson.
The powered beater brush works on any carpet type.
One of the downsides of upright vacuums is that you use the same brush head for both carpets and hardwoods. Even though a turned-off brush head works fairly well, it can scratch hardwood floors.
The Navigator solves the problem with a secondary floor head, which combines a suction strip with a microfiber sweeper pad. This polishes and protects your floors as you vacuum. Plus, it captures more fine dust particles and stuck-on dirt than a vacuum alone.
It’s very lightweight, at just 14 pounds all total. The canister weighs less than that, which makes it very easy to carry in lift-off mode.
The suction is adjustable. You can also adjust the settings on the beater bar for dealing with different types of carpeting.
It’s bagless. The filters are washable in the sink, and last indefinitely.
Because Shark’s cyclonic suction isn’t as strong as Dyson’s, the filter gets bogged down more quickly. The manual recommends cleaning it every few months, but we’d estimate it’ll be more like every few weeks.
It tips over very easily. While that’s not a deal-breaker for us, we know it can get annoying over time.
The attachments can’t be stored onboard.
The hose is fairly delicate. Some reviewers mentioned that cracks developed over time.
Customer service and warranty coverage are pretty poor. While Shark will repair models, you’ll have to pay for postage because so many of these vacuums are sold, parts are often on backorder.
Top Canister Vacuums
Dyson Cinetic Big Ball
Dyson’s canister vacuums use their signature ball shaped design, which makes full use of their radial cyclone technology. Shark, on the other hand, have integrated the “LiftAway” format from their upright models into a canister wheelbase. Here are the two brands’ best offerings right now:
1. Dyson Cinetic Big Ball
This ball-design canister vacuum is the latest version of Dyson’s best-selling model. It’s based on their zero-turn central ball system, and has been updated with new radial cyclone suction systems.
The central ball design makes the canister much easier to maneuver than some competing models. Since the canister swivels in the center, there’s no turn radius to speak of.
Reviewers said that the best part is it never flips over on its side. If you’ve used other canisters before, you’ll know how much of a pain that can be–not to mention risky for the vacuum parts.
The cyclonic suction system creates centrifugal force to separate out fine dust particles and grit. It saves the filter, improves air flow to the motor, and keeps suction levels constant.
The combo turbine head has two types of bristles. There are stiff nylon bristles for carpet agitation, and smooth carbon fiber brushes for smooth flooring.
It’s air-powered, which eliminates the need for a belt system. You can control the head and change the setting from the handle.
Reviewers said the trigger head is very easy to de-clog. Hair accumulates just like it does on any beater bar, but it’s much easier to remove on this model.
The hygienic dust bin empties with a button.
Between the 11 foot hose and 21 foot power cord, you’ll have just over 32 feet of cleaning radius. The power cord retracts into the canister for storage.
It’s not a great idea for medium-pile or deeper carpets. The brush head is smaller and narrower than you’d want for wall-to-wall carpet, and it simply doesn’t have the power to really dig into deep pile.
It feels and looks light and plasticky–a disappointment given the price tag.
It’s annoying to store, since the canister and wand don’t stand up.
2. Shark Rotator
Shark didn’t make any actual canister vacuums until the past couple years, but this new Rotator model is a surprisingly good entry into the market! It’s very light, and offers a lot of functionality for the price. Not only does it lift off like the company’s upright models, but it has a powered brush head that performs as well as Dyson’s on carpeting.
Like a lot of Shark models, the Rotator is all about value. It includes lots of modes, and includes two separate floor attachments: a parquet/hard floor tool and a brush head for carpeting. You can use it as a traditional canister vacuum, with a hose and canister following you around, or as a lift-away, ditching the wheeled caddy and carrying the suction unit by your side.
Having the options is surprisingly not a gimmick, unlike some of this company’s other “innovations.” Being able to simply lift the suction unit along with you while you use the floor attachment on a shortened wand is super convenient for stairways. You don’t have to worry about where to leave the canister.
It’s not a pain to carry, either. Even with the wheelbase and motor head attached, the whole Rotator only weighs about 10 pounds. Ditch the wheelbase, and it’s even lighter.
The brush head is powered by a motor, unlike most of the pricier options from Dyson. So, it actually ends up doing as good a job or better! Score one for the Rotator, at least on carpets. It does well on pet hair, too. The clear window on the top helps you keep an eye on wound hairs before they cause jams.
There’s also a flat hard floor tool, which you’d use for hardwoods and tile. It’s exactly what you expect, and does the job.
You can control it from the handle. That’s a convenience that’s usually confined to more expensive vacuums.
It includes a secondary, motorized brush head for dealing with pet hair. While other brands offer hand brush tools, nearly all of them are suction-powered. This one’s fully-powered, and excellent for upholstery and pet furniture in particular.
The canister keeps hair, dandruff, and fine dust allergens trapped inside. The completely sealed air system means you’ll never lose suction. It’s generous enough to hold lots of fur, without getting to be annoyingly large.
For something so inexpensive, it has a surprisingly good filtration system onboard. It’s HEPA-grade, so this is suitable for someone with allergies.
The 23-foot power cord means you can reach pretty much anywhere. Combine that with the hose and the lift-away feature, and you’re looking at a very versatile, maneuverable vac.
It’s covered by a 5-year warranty–a clear signal that this is supposed to compete with the Dyson class. We also found that this model does much better than other Shark vacuums in terms of reliability.
It’s fairly bulky. While it’s got decent ergonomics, it’s clunkier than what you’d have with a Dyson.
It’s definitely built more cheaply than the Cinetic Big Ball. While they have the same warranty period, you’re probably more likely to use the warranty with this one.
Judging by other Shark’s, you’ll have to wash the filters out a lot more frequently than the recommended 3-month intervals. That’s because the suction on this one isn’t as highly powered or finely tuned as the Dyson’s. It isn’t as good at keeping things from clogging filters, especially when pet hair’s involved.
Most Powerful Stick Vacuums
Dyson V8 Absolute
Shark Rocket Truepet
Shark and Dyson both make innovative new stick vacuums for spot-cleaning all around the house. Both brands have cordless stick models with similar features, like powered carpet brushes, pet tools, and convertible handheld modes.
However, Shark’s offering is half the price of Dyson’s V8. Let’s take a look at some of the differences:
1. Dyson V8 Absolute
This ultra-powerful stick vacuum from Dyson claims to be (and seems to be) the most powerful cordless model on the market. It’s the only cordless vacuum that we recommend as a primary cleaning machine as well as for spot cleans. The V8 Absolute can handle more intense messes that you usually wouldn’t be able to tackle with a stick vacuum.
For a cordless vacuum, it’s extremely powerful. It uses a digital motor to provide much more brute strength, and channels power through a 2-tier radial suction system. This creates the kind of layered cyclonic suction that you’d normally only see on a full-size upright vacuum.
Most reviewers said that the normal suction setting is plenty for average tasks, and lasts about 30-40 minutes. There’s also a Max mode for the most difficult tasks.
The direct-drive brush head eliminates tricky/delicate belt problems. In bypassing a belt, it also produces 75% more power than Dyson’s equivalent belt-driven attachment.
You also get a full tool set, including a crevice tool, under-cracks tool, and a motorized upholstery brush.
It’s a cordless alternative to a full vacuum.
The docking station holds the vacuum and attachments while it charges. It also shuts off automatically when things are charged, so you can use it as your storage space.
In Max Power mode, it only lasts 8-10 minutes.
For a relatively light vacuum, it’s expensive. With that said, it does far more than most other stick or light vacuums, and is more powerful.
You have to hold the power button down the whole time. This trigger feature is designed to save battery power, but could be annoying if you’re vacuuming a whole room.
The dust bin is pretty small, as you’d expect from such a small vacuum.
It doesn’t stand up on its own.
2. Shark Rocket TruePet
This shark fits in a similar niche to the Dyson V6, but costs about half as much. We’re impressed that it has the carpet-cleaning power of an upright, with added versatility around the house.
The powered floor head has thick bristles that can handle any kind of carpet. It has two speed settings, so you can choose what’s appropriate for your carpets.
The motor head also has a set of headlights, so you can better see what you’re doing. It also has swivel steering, and a low profile that can fit under furniture.
There’s also a set of headlights on the handheld unit, so you can see up into dusty nooks and crannies as you clean overhead. The lights are a nice advantage over the Dyson V6.
The Rocket includes Shark’s special hard floor attachment, which combines a suction head and microfiber sweeper pad. We love this, especially for working on hardwoods.
There’s also a smaller motor attachment for handheld cleaning. Most other brands, like the Dyson, use hand attachments with a pretty small footprint. The Shark, on the other hand, has about 6” of cleaning width, which is ideal for carpeted stairs and furniture, as well as car mats and upholstery.
The pet-specific model doubles the size of the dust bin over the normal Rocket. Buyers wrote online that the larger capacity made a big difference in their home usage, since there’s more space for hair and dirt.
It weighs less than 8 pounds.
This model comes with a 5-year warranty, which is refreshingly long for a Shark.
The motor is only 4 amps. While Dyson doesn’t provide specs on their own model, reviewers who used both said the Shark came close, but wasn’t quite as powerful.
Like the Dyson, it’s very top heavy, and doesn’t stand up on its own.
The carpet head doesn’t do a great job around the edges of a room. It’s also pretty small, so previous buyers said it took them awhile to cover a carpet.
It loses suction as it fills up. That’s because it’s less powerful than the Dyson, and the cyclonic suction doesn’t keep debris away from the filters quite as well. That means they’ll clog more quickly, and slow the system down.
Top-Rated Handheld Vacuums
Dyson V7 Trigger
In the handheld category, we’re looking at two popular, well-rated handhelds from Shark and Dyson. The Shark is corded, and the Dyson is cordless. Both are built to handle a variety of tasks around the house, and are nicely high-powered for handheld vacuums.
1. Dyson V7 Trigger
This Dyson handheld has consistently ranked near the top of Consumer Reports’ lists of the best handhelds. We’re impressed by its sheer power, as well as its versatility. The new V7 model gives you longer runtime, as well as motorized tools straight out of the box.
It’s powerful. Dyson claims that it’s several times as powerful as any other handheld. They’ve achieved this by integrating a digital motor and cyclonic suction on a handheld platform.
Competitors are constantly improving their suction, and even Dyson has beat this model with its new V8 stick series. However, it’s still in incredibly powerful device that will surprise you if you’re used to older handhelds.
Cyclonic suction means you don’t lose power as you clean. The suction system keeps dirt and dust from reaching the filter, which keeps air flow smooth.
The center of gravity is located around the grip, so it’s ergonomic to use. The whole thing only weighs about 3.5 pounds.
It has a 30-minute run time.
The lithium ion batteries provide fade-free power, up to the last second.
You can empty the dust chamber from the handgrip. There’s a quick release button, so you just hold the Trigger over the trash and press to empty.
It’s great for cleaning cars. You can take care of vents, nooks, crannies, and upholstery. Dyson also makes an optional add-on set of attachments specifically for cars, if that’s something you’d find handy.
It only takes an hour or so to charge. Many other handhelds need 3 or 4 hours to recharge after being drained.
If you use “Max Power” mode, you’ll run out of juice in about 10 minutes. That’s not very long. You shouldn’t need that much suction, but the same thing applies if you use the powered brush head.
Several reviewers commented that they weren’t happy with Dyson’s customer service. We found many responses from the company on these online buyer reviews, but we’re not sure what the outcomes of those were.
2. Shark Rocket
The Shark Rocket provides handheld maneuverability with corded power. We like it for cleaning pet enclosures, as well as more time-consuming handheld tasks like cleaning upholstery and stairs.
The corded design means this model won’t run out of juice. And with a 15-foot cord, you won’t have to worry about range.
It comes with an attachment hose for when you need to reach into a narrow space, where the suction unit won’t fit. There’s also a dusting brush and a crevice tool.
The motorized pet brush scrubs carpets of pet hair, dirt, and dust. It has a 6” brush roller. Since the Dyson doesn’t have any scrubbing attachments, this brush is a big plus for the Shark.
It weighs about the same as the Dyson, just over 3.5 pounds.
It empties the same way, too–with a button that releases the bottom door to let dirt and fur drop out.
The filters are washable and reusable indefinitely. There’s no overhead maintenance cost with this vacuum. Plus, you won’t have to worry about batteries dying down over time.
Reviewers said (and this is a rare one for Shark products) that this vacuum felt “rugged” and “very durable.” We didn’t find any reliability issues online!
Because it’s corded, it’s less convenient for cleaning your car. You’ll have to use an extension cord.
Some previous buyers found the hand unit a bit too bulky for them. It’s less balanced and ergonomic than the Dyson.
A few reviewers said they were underwhelmed by the powered brush attachment. They said it wasn’t powerful enough for really deep carpets. Of course, any handheld vacuum is meant primarily for spot cleaning.
Which Vacuum Should You Buy, Shark or Dyson?
For Upright Vacuums:
Shark’s LiftAway provides a lot of the power of the Dyson, with added versatility in the form of a separate hardwood attachment. We also have to give it props for its low price tag. This is a very decent budget choice for folks with wood flooring in particular.
However, it lacks the conveniences and design touches that make the Dyson a more enjoyable, user-friendly experience in practice. The Dyson also includes added warranty coverage and stronger cyclonic suction which preserves suction power and warrants the elevated price tag. If you can afford this one, we think it’s the better buy.
For Canister Vacuums:
Dyson’s Ball canister is clearly an all-time best seller for a reason. It’s more maneuverable than other canister models, and never tips over. Plus, it has the same powerful cyclonic suction as Dyson’s uprights. The real let-down is the air-powered brush head, though. There’s simply no good way to know if it will clean your carpets well or jam up instantly.
Used with the wheeled caddy or as a lift-away, the Shark offers about the same level of versatility as the Dyson. In fact, we think it’s a better choice for people with deep carpets, since it has a powered brush head, and the Dyson relies on suction.
However, it has weaker cyclonic suction, which means you have to clean the filters more frequently.
For Stick Vacuums:
Shark and Dyson have pretty similar offerings in this category.
Both the V8 and the Rocket have powered brush heads, and are designed to clean from floor to ceiling. In our comparison, we found that the Dyson provides much higher suction, and has a much more powerful brush head.
However, it is twice the price of the Shark.
The Shark Rocket offers reasonably similar performance and versatility, and offers budget buyers a pretty nice compromise. Plus, it has a few nice amenities like headlights and the hard floor sweeper head, which make it more than just a cheaper version of the Dyson.
The Rocket is probably the better choice for hard floors. The Dyson’s high-powered brushes and motor make it the better option for carpets.
For Handheld Vacuums:
In the handheld department, we’ve looked at a corded model from Shark and a cordless vacuum from Dyson.
The Dyson is a very high-powered, versatile handheld. However, it’s limited by a 30-minute run time.
The Shark never loses power thanks to its corded design, and has a quite nice powered brush head for carpets and upholstery. Of course, the tradeoff is that you’ll need a plug nearby.
How to Compare Shark Vs. Dyson Vacuums
Both Shark and Dyson make vacuums that are comprised primarily of plastic parts. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many metal pieces on either company’s newest models. Neither really stands out on that front.
In our book, Dyson has an edge on Shark in the quality department because of their innovative designs. They have more high-end offerings, which have higher build quality overall and better, smarter features.
For instance, while both companies use cyclonic suction to cut down on filter clogs, Dyson vacuums do a much better job overall. Dyson’s vacuums are also slightly better in terms of ergonomics and convenience features like retractable cords.
Dyson has a better reputation for quality than Shark does. They offer longer warranty coverage overall, and have more high-end offerings.
With that said, Dyson vacuums are increasingly plasticky, and the brand has had more complaints from customers in recent years. It’s not hard to imagine both companies being about even in the near future.
This is one category in which Shark really excels. Their vacuums are very affordable, and are designed to compete with the higher-priced Dysons. We found that Sharks tend to cost about half as much as the equivalent Dysons.
Dyson definitely has the edge over Shark when it comes to power.
While newer Shark models use similar cyclonic suction, Dyson’s patented radial suction systems are just better. They provide stronger overall suction, which cleans better and helps maintain airflow and filter health.
The company also does lab tests to back up their “best suction on the market” claims. While Shark models are still very powerful, the lesser cyclonic system means their suction does decline as you clean.
This is traditionally Shark’s biggest problem. The company has a reputation of replying inconsistently to customers and taking a long time to deliver replacement parts.
Dyson has been a bit better, with most customers reporting shorter wait times for parts and service. However, in recent years, buyers have started to complain more about Dyson’s service, as well.
Both companies have a fairly low 2-star rating with the Consumer Affairs Bureau. We’re still giving points to Dyson on the service front because they offer better warranty coverage, and generally seem to make returns and repairs less painful than Shark.
We hope this article has given you a good sense of what each brand has to offer, and how their vacuums compare in real-world testing. You can click on any of the models shown here to read more and compare prices.
If you haven’t seen anything that suits your needs on this page, check out our homepage for more reviews.