Today’s robot vacuums are becoming a bit like cars: with all the features, upgrades, and fancy trimmings available these days, it’s easy to forget that they can just be simple machines that get us from point A to point B. Yes, some bots blow hot air on their bums (mop pads) and deftly navigate dog poop, but there are plenty of basic budget robot vacuums that just do a decent job cleaning your floor autonomously — as long as you tidy up first.
While higher-priced, higher-powered robot vacuums clean better, budget bots do a perfectly good job, especially if you run them regularly. The biggest downside of cheaper models is they get stuck on cables, socks, shoelaces, and other paraphernalia you leave lying around. If you’re home and can untangle it, great, but if you’re not, then it will just sit there stuck until its battery dies, and you have to charge it up again before it will clean your floors.
Fancier models have obstacle recognition, and some even use AI to tell popcorn from poop and avoid the latter. If you want one of those, check out my Best Robot Vacuum buying guide. But if you think you can manage the task of picking up after yourself (and your puppy), a budget bot will save you a lot of money and still do a good job cleaning your floor.
Here’s a list of my favorite robot vacuums that don’t cost a fortune and will still get the job done.
What I’m looking for
Yes, there are sub-$100 robots out there. No, I do not recommend you buy them. With so many new models coming out almost daily, it’s better to look for a sale on an older model from a well-known company than buy a no-name budget bot.
You can pick up a brand new, two-year-old Roomba or Roborock with mapping and advanced navigation for half its original price. These gadgets should last for years, so it’s not like buying last season’s Prada slip-ons.
That said, sales are hard to keep track of, so some of the prices listed here may seem high for a budget bot. If you see one that fits your needs, keep an eye on The Verge’s deals page for when they go on an even better sale.
The cheaper the bot, the more important suction power is, as they tend to have fewer features that improve cleaning. Higher-end robots have things like better brushes, carpet boost mode, and dirt detection.
At a minimum, look for 2,500Pa (if the manufacturer lists suction power; some don’t). I also much prefer rubber roller brushes or a rubber/bristle hybrid over just bristle brushes. Rubber rollers get up more dirt and get tangled less than bristles.
A mop (or not)
Bear in mind that most budget mopping bots don’t really mop — it’s more just using a damp cloth to pick up the fine dust the robot’s vacuum left behind, which is useful but not essential. Mop attachments with water reservoirs also take up space on a robot and mean a smaller bin.
A big bin
A big bin means you don’t need to empty it as often. Eight hundred milliliters is the largest I’ve seen, but anything over 450 ml is decent on a budget bot. With many bots now pulling double duty as mopping robots and the prevalence of auto-empty docks, it’s hard to find robots with big bins. But if you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend extra for the dock, a big bin will mean less hands-on time with your vacuum.
Or an auto-empty option
If you can swing it, I strongly recommend an auto-empty dock, and there are finally some cheaper versions out there. While it’s a nice-to-have rather than a must-have, delegating the chore of emptying the bin to the robot does mean your floors will be cleaner since a vacuum with a full bin won’t suck up dirt. Many standalone robots now have an auto-empty dock option you can add later if you want to wait and see, but buying them together is generally cheaper.
Navigation / mapping
Few truly budget bots use the vSLAM (visual simultaneous localization and mapping) or lidar-powered navigation or mapping found on higher-end robots. Instead, the cheapest use the bump and roll technique, with more now adding a gyroscope function that at least makes them go in a straight line.
Choosing a newer Roomba or an older version of a high-end robot will get you this higher level of navigation, but I’ve also included a few bump-and-roll bots with basic mapping capability, which makes the experience better all around. Non-mapping bots may miss entire sections of your home and, when they start again after charging, may go over the area they last cleaned. However, mapping is less important if you want a bot for a single room or small apartment.
Good battery life / long runtime
While most bots can recharge and resume (go back to their charging base and refuel before going back out again), a bot that can go for at least two hours on one charge will get the job done more quickly and be less annoying. I look for at least 120 minutes of runtime (180 is the best).
A decent app
A lot of budget bots have barely usable apps; this is another reason why buying a lower-cost option from a company with higher-end models gets you a better experience, as the app is usually more polished.
A good basic app, though, should have the ability to set multiple schedules to send the robot out, an option for a do-not-disturb period (so it doesn't start up again at 2AM because it finally recharged), and a way to link to voice assistants and smart home platforms like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri.
Even at the budget end, you’ll be spending close to $200 on a robot vacuum, so repairability and the availability of replacement parts are a big bonus.
Best budget robot vacuum
Suction power: unknown / Dustbin capacity: 419ml / Runtime: 90 minutes / Brush style: dual rubber / Auto-empty dock option: yes / Mopping option: no / Mapping: yes / Keep-out zones: physical only / Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri Shortcuts
The Roomba i3 Evo isn’t the cheapest robot on the block, but its cleaning chops, attractive design, superb software, and robust hardware make it the best choice for spending a smaller budget.
The i3 cleans almost as well as iRobot’s high-end j7 but for a lot less. While it has slightly lower suction power, it has Roomba’s signature dual roller rubber brushes, which do an excellent job of removing pet hair from hardwood floors and sucking up oatmeal from plush carpets. It doesn’t have the AI-powered obstacle avoidance of the j7 (which knows the difference between poop and popcorn), but that’s not a feature you’ll find on any budget bots.
The Roomba i3 has two long rubber brushes that move in opposite directions and do an excellent job at getting up pet hair and other debris.
What the i3 does have is mapping and room-specific cleaning, so you can send it to clean the kitchen if you want. Only a handful of the budget bot features mapping, and Roomba’s maps are some of the best in my experience, mainly because they rarely have to be rebuilt.
The biggest negative here is there are no virtual keep-out zones. If you have somewhere you don’t want the bot to roam, you’ll need to buy one of iRobot’s virtual wall towers. It also has a relatively small bin, but you can pair it with an auto-empty base (although that increases the cost substantially).
The i3 is a solid vacuum with big wheels that can easily tackle any floor surface you throw at it, managing most transitions. But it does tend to bump into things, resulting in a few toppled chairs during testing. This means it gets almost everywhere you want it to and won’t be put off by a bed skirt. But if you have delicate items on rickety tables, watch out.
As with all Roombas, the i3 is easy to self-repair, and you can buy (not inexpensive) replacements for all its parts. I’ve actually rebuilt one after it rolled over some dog poop. The iRobot app is also simple, uncluttered, and easy to use, with multiple options for scheduling.
It’s worth noting that the Roomba i4 is the same robot vacuum as the i3 Evo, so pick up whichever offers the best price.
Best basic bump-and-roll bot
Suction power: unknown / Dustbin capacity: 425ml / Runtime: 120 mins / Brush style: single bristle / rubber hybrid / Auto-empty dock option: no / Mapping: no / Keep-out zones: no / Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home
The Shark Ion’s big bin, simple app experience, decent battery life, repairability, and bullish nature make this an excellent bump-and-roll bot. That is a robot that doesn’t map or have any special navigation features other than colliding with things and changing direction. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done.
It’s a good one to stick under a bed or desk and set to run when you’re not home, as it’s loud and rattly and will bang into everything in its path. But its big wheels and 120-minute runtime mean it’s less prone to getting stuck or running out of juice than simpler $100 bots.
Unlike many budget bots, it uses a hybrid roller brush that’s both bristle and plastic and doesn’t get as tangled as standard bristle brushes. Its short, squat side brushes are surprisingly effective at getting debris into the robot’s path, and because they’re short, they’re less prone to getting tangled in stray cords.
But the best thing ‘bout this bot is its tank-like wheels that will roll right over anything in its path, including high transitions between rooms, obstacles like lounger chair legs, and other furniture traps that regularly stump other bots. That’s a good thing, as there’s no mapping, obstacle detection, or any way to set keep-out zones here. This bot just goes.
Another bonus: replacement parts are easily available, making this more repairable than most non-Roombas.
The Shark has big wheels and a hybrid brush that isn’t prone to tangles.
Shark doesn’t share suction power specs, but it ably handled all my tests, including the toughest: raw oatmeal. Those little flakes are hard to pick up; side brushes will spin them all over the floor. It did a good job on pet hair, too, although, like most robots I tested, it required at least two runs to get everything up effectively.
The app is super basic: just on / off, basic scheduling, and a choice of three power levels (all loud). Disappointingly, you can only schedule it once a day. Most robots can be programmed to do two to three passes, but in place of that, I like the option to schedule it to go out twice to make sure it gets the job done. I couldn’t do that with the Shark. Still, you can press its button or use the app to send it out again if needed.
A quieter option
The Eufy G20 robot vacuum is a quieter option that does well in small spaces. It’s the shortest bot I’ve tested and is whisper-quiet, so it’s better for work-from-home types. Its big 600-milliliter bin is good for a small apartment or as a second bot for upstairs. It has 2,500Pa suction but only runs for 90 minutes. The bristle / hybrid brush works well, and there’s a version with a mop.
Best budget robo vac with mopping
Suction power: 2,500Pa / Dustbin capacity: 470ml / Runtime: 180 mins / Brush style: single rubber / Auto-empty dock option: yes / Mapping: yes, plus lidar navigation / Keep-out zones: no / Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri Shortcuts
The Roborock S7 is one of those high-end robots you can usually find for a low price. Previously Roborock’s flagship bot, it’s still one of the best robot vacuum mop/combos I’ve tested. And while its successor, the S8, has fancy features like AI obstacle avoidance, the S7 does a darn good job for a now-sub-$400 vacuum (it was $650 when it launched).
A good vacuum with a large dustbin and a really big 300-milliliter water tank, the S7 does a good job mopping because it carries enough water to actually clean your floors. It also has a sonic-mopping technology that vibrates the mopping pad up to 3,000 times per minute to create some friction. Plus, it can lift its mop up over (thin) carpets to avoid getting them wet.
The Roborock app has mapping, virtual keep-out zones, and a host of scheduling features and cleaning options. You can also buy the S7 with an auto-empty dock or upgrade to one later, although those are still expensive.
Also good and probably cheaper
Best budget self-empty bot with mapping and mopping
Suction power: 4,000Pa / Dustbin capacity: 400ml / Runtime: 180 mins / Brush style: single bristle / rubber hybrid / Auto-empty dock option: yes / Mapping: yes, plus lidar navigation / Keep-out zones: yes, virtual / Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home
The midrange Dreametech D10 Plus is one of the few bots you’ll find that mops, maps, and auto-empties for $400 or less. I like its more compact auto-empty station, which helps compensate for its small 400ml bin.
Decent suction and a rubber / bristle hybrid brush provide a good clean, similar to the Tapo RV10 Plus, but nowhere near as effective as the Roomba i3 Evo with its dual rubber rollers.
The big selling point here is that the Dreame does have lidar navigation and mapping to allow for room-specific cleaning with keep-out zones. Keep-out zones are handy for ensuring the robot finishes the job; if it gets stuck somewhere regularly, you can tell it to avoid that spot.
The Dreame has a small, removable water tank and a washable mopping pad.
The only other auto-empty bot in this price range that does this is the Roborock Q5 Plus, which is often around $500. For $100 or so less than the Q5, the Dreametech D10 Plus adds mopping (with a thin pad and a small 150-milliliter water tank) and higher suction power.
The Dreame has no-mopping zones in the app, and you can also remove the mop before you send it out. The Dreame did a good job navigating my complicated second floor, and while it’s quite a burly bot, it still fit under most furniture and handled transitions well.
Best cheap self-empty bot without mapping
Suction power: 2,000Pa / Dustbin capacity: 350ml / Runtime: 180 mins / Brush style: single bristle / rubber hybrid / Auto-empty dock option: yes / Mapping: no / Keep-out zones: physical only / Works with: Amazon Alexa, Google Home
The best, cheapest robot vacuum that will empty itself is the Tapo RV10 Plus. Its deceptively small and slimline auto-empty dock holds a huge 4-liter bag, almost double most others, meaning you will have to empty that even less (Tapo claims 70 days). A hybrid rubber / bristle brush does a decent job of sucking up dirt and tackled my oatmeal-on-carpet test admirably.
However, it only has 2,000Pa suction power, and combined with the lack of mapping (it’s a gyroscope bot, there’s no lidar mapping or navigation), I found I had to send it out twice to get a thorough clean.
The Tapo has a compact auto-empty dock that fits easily into small spaces.
The good news is the easy-to-use app lets you set it to run up to three times on one job, so you can set it and forget it. You can also schedule it to go out as often as you like and set cleaning preferences for each run, including adjusting suction and / or water levels if you use the mop attachment. But with no mapping, there are no keep-out zones. You have to use magnetic tape (or doors) to keep it from going where it wants to.
The app is a high point of this robot. Tapo is a robust smart home brand owned by TP-Link, so your robot vacuum, smart home camera, lights, and other devices can all be controlled from one app, something no other robot offers.
While this is technically a mopping bot, it does so with a combined slimline water tank and pad that it just drags along. It will help get up a bit of fine dust or debris the vacuum misses, but it’s not going to scrub your floors.
There are also two cheaper models of the RV. The one worth noting is the Tapo RV10 Lite. It’s one of the only robot vacuums I can find that still has a big 800-milliliter bin. So, if you don’t want to pay for an auto-empty dock, it’s a good option at around $200. I’ve not tested it, but all its other specs are identical to the RV10 Plus.
Photos by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge