The $1,500 vacuum cleaner – MarketWatch

The pitch

It sounds like the ultimate in a high-end product, one that “merges style and sophistication” with “performance and innovation” and that boasts a design “derived from luxury German automobiles,” according to the manufacturer. But we’re not talking about a yacht or a jet. Instead, we’re talking a …vacuum cleaner. Nevertheless, Miele, a 114-year German-based appliance manufacturer, very much considers its newly released canister-style S 8990 UniQ the Mercedes-Benz of vacuums. And it comes with a steep price tag — at $1,500, it’s one of the most expensive home vacuums ever sold through traditional retail channels. (Vacuums sold through door-to-door salespeople can be pricier, but they often come with an extensive array of accessories.)

Meet the Mercedes-Benz of vacuums

So, what justifies the Miele’s cost? Begin with the look, says Miele product manager Tracie Davis. The vacuum has “small touches and details you’d see in a fine car,” she explains, pointing in particular to the mahogany metallic finish. But Davis adds that the vacuum has plenty of practical features fairly unique to the UniQ, from the underbody lights (for illuminating the path in darker spots — say, a closet) to the velvet bumper (for protecting furniture from the occasional, well, bump). Oh, and don’t forget the “deluxe comfort grip handle” that allows users to control the entire machine without ever having to reach for the canister, according to a Miele press release.

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Of course, all this is in addition to features that are common to all Miele vacuums, the company notes, such as a powerful and durable motor — “It’s tested to last 20 years,” says Davis — and a sealing system that helps ensure the dirt and dust stay within the vacuum. All Miele vacuums also have multi-year warranties, but the UniQ ups the ante — it comes with a 10-year warranty on the motor. In other words, this is a vacuum that should last through this season of spring cleaning — and many, many more.

The reality

Even the most neat-freaky of neat freaks need not spend four-figures on a vacuum to ensure a clean house, say experts. In fact, when Consumer Reports recently put a number of vacuum cleaners to the test, it found that price often had very little to do with quality — its top-rated canister vacuum was a Kenmore model for around $500. (The Miele UniQ was not yet on the market at the time of the test.)

Which is not to say that Miele vacuums don’t rate highly. “Many of them do very well in our tests,” says Consumer Reports deputy home editor Celia Lehrman, adding that one of the biggest selling points to the brand is the fact its vacuums tend to be very quiet when compared to the competition.

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To some extent, Miele doesn’t dispute that the UniQ may be a little too much vacuum for many appliance buyers. Davis notes that company has other vacuums for as little as a third of the UniQ’s price — she’s especially high on such models as the S 6270 Onyx ($499) and S 6279 ($749), even if they lack some of the UniQ’s features. But in general, Miele vacuums are expensive for a reason, Davis says: They’re indeed built for the long run, which could work out to be a better value versus replacing one cheaper vacuum after another over many years. “It becomes about the return on investment,” says Davis.

Still, if the UniQ seems pricey, it’s a bargain in comparison to what has been deemed the world’s most expensive vacuum: a limited-edition gold-plated model from, an online retailer. The price: $1 million. (“Plus, we offer free engraving,” says the company.) So far, has yet to find its first buyer for the gilded machine.

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