The robots are here! Once all but a fancy gadget that repeatedly headbutted furniture and entertained more than cleaned, robot vacuums have gone mainstream. And, looking back, the robot cleaners of yesteryear were incredibly rudimentary when help up against today’s advanced robot vacuums. Finding the right choice demands you compare robot vacuums and their features, specifications and reviews.

Knowing where to even begin is daunting. What once was an industry dominated by a couple of players with a few models each has mushroomed into scores of competing robot vacuums.

Robot Vacuum Choices Abound

Along with the advanced technology that has continually improved and refined robot vacuums, there’s been three clear trends: First, the robot vacuums available today have an extremely wide range of features. Second, as technology and components have become cheaper, brands have multiplied dramatically. Third, and finally, prices stretch a very wide range, from sub-$100 units all the way up to, and over, $1,000.

To make a choice without losing your mind, first you’re going to need to narrow the field. Here’s a few considerations.

Focus on What You Need it to Do

Like any choice, what matters and what doesn’t is the best way to navigate this decision. Here are a few qualifying questions that will narrow the field quickly.

Do you need a vacuum or a vacuum and mopping robot?

At one time all a robot vacuum could do was vacuum (go figure). Today, several units can both vacuum as well as mop floors. Knowing that you only need a vacuum can eliminate a handful of options. If you require a unit that mops, you’ve narrowed the field to just that handful of vacuums.

Will the robot be cleaning on a single or multi-level home?

All but a few intelligent mapping robot vacuums and mops support more than a single floor plan be held in memory. That’s important if you were thinking of using your robot on one floor of your home, then moving it to another floor to clean there.

How large of a home do you have?

Most vacuums can clean smaller homes or floors, say 1,500 square feet or less, with ease. Larger than that and many vacuums will need to return to their base, recharge, then continue cleaning. There are, however, a few vacuums, among the latest available, that have run times approaching and even exceeding three hours! These mops and robot vacuums can clean twice as much area or more.

Technophile vs. Technophobe

There’s a high degree of variability in how much technology all appliances and tools have today. And, so it goes for robot vacuums, too. All robot vacuums have technology at their core, but there are options to go all-in, or opt-out of much of it.

Wi-Fi, for your vacuum?

While some welcome connecting their robot to the Internet, others might have had enough of connecting their possessions to the web. This holds especially true now that many robot vacuums have cameras onboard and maps of one’s home onboard. With hacking on the rise, many might prefer a smart, while less-connected robot while others would embrace monitoring their robot’s progress, turning it on and off remotely, and a myriad of other features connectivity brings.

Bump-and-learn or futuristic LIDAR?

The earliest robot vacuums found their way by basically going in a direction until they hit something. Then, they’d compose themselves, pick a different trajectory, and try again. Today you can still buy bump-and-learn robots. In contrast to those first robots they bump less and learn more.

On the other end of the spectrum there’s robots packed with sensors including visual mapping and even LIDAR. These high-end robots make complex maps of their environments and use their sensors to jockey around new obstacles as they come across them. How important are these new modes of moving about? Well, the more complex of a home you have, the more you’ll appreciate a more spatially aware cleaner.

How, when and how much to suck?

One area where increased technology has improved both efficiency and effectiveness is in their sensors’ ability to know more about their ever-changing flooring surface. Sensors can detect if the robot is on a hard floor or deep pile carpet. Others can virtually see how much dirt there is to clean up.

These advanced sensors are great, but how much tech do you need? If you have a home with three kids and a dog, it might make a lot of sense. If you’re single and keep a tidy home, you might get by just fine with a simpler setup.

Will it stand your test of time?

You’ve likely heard of brands like Shark and iRobot. They both make robot vacuum cleaners and have for years. And, if you go to most any online store, you’ll find plenty of assessments of not only their current, but their older, vacuums.

But, if you check an ecommerce site which sells a wide variety of robot cleaners, you’ll see there’s plenty of brands you’ve never heard of. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider one. It just means you should scour the reviews a bit harder, verify the company’s track record with robot vacuums and similar products, too.

How long is the warranty, and what about parts?

Finally, if there is an issue, how long is the robot’s warranty? Not only should you look into how long it is, but also what it covers. Many warranties will cover the robot for a longer period of time than the battery.

Beyond factory fixes, be conscious of things you’ll attend to. Some units have brushes that should be periodically replaced while others do not. Some robots have washable filters whereas others are disposable. What if a wheel breaks or a brushroll is damaged? Are those parts available?

Choose well and enjoy!

Once you’ve narrowed the field and consulted your budget picking between robot vacuums becomes much easier. Whichever you choose, one thing is certain: You’ll enjoy handing off this chore!