Robotic Icon Choose among the best-rated suction pool cleaners with our helpful guide and reviews

updated: October 08, 2019
Top-rated suction pool cleaner
Suction pool cleaners are among the simplest and most affordable of all automatic pool cleaners.

Are you worried that the best suction pool cleaners might make a big dent in your wallet? The good news is that suction-side pool cleaners are among the simplest and most affordable of all automatic pool cleaners. Operation involves simply plugging it into the intake of your pool pump system.

What is a suction-side pool cleaner?

It’s basically a vacuum that uses the pressure from the pool’s intake to suck in water as it moves around the pool to remove bugs, leaves, hair, and other debris. The dirt is sucked into your pool’s filtration system, where you can easily remove the filter basket and clean it.

What type of pools work best with suction-side cleaners?

Suction pool cleaners are best for light to medium dirt and debris. If you have a lot of trees around your pool or a newly constructed pool, you may need a separate leaf canister attachment or a pressure-side or robotic cleaner instead.

Suction-side cleaners are good not for all pools

The biggest limitation is that suction-side pool cleaners are only as good as your pool’s pump system. If you have a weak pump that struggles under normal conditions, a suction cleaner won’t perform well. Variable speed pumps (which are used to save energy) would have to run at a speed of at least 2600 RPM (25 GPM) for several hours at a time, which can impact your electric bill.

Some suction pool cleaners won’t do well on some types of pool surfaces. Delicate brushes or rubber blades could be damaged by extra-rough surfaces, so it’s important to find one that is a good match for your pool’s wall and floor material.

How do suction pool cleaners work?

Suction-side pool cleaners come in a wide variety of designs and functions. While their basic mode of operation remains the same, some are very simple and others have advanced technology. They all have brushes or rubber blades that remove debris from your pool’s floor, walls, waterline, steps, and other areas.

The simplest suction pool cleaners move in random patterns around the pool, while more advanced models have navigation settings. The advanced models usually have wheels. Simpler designs look like a flat disc that scoots around like a stingray.

PROS

    Pros:

  • Runs off pool pump – no separate power source needed
  • Affordable (average $200 – $600)
  • Picks up light to medium dirt and debris
  • Easy to install & repair
  • Durable
CONS

    Cons:

  • Makes the pool pump work harder
  • May increase your electric bill
  • Big hoses are visible in water while it’s running
  • Not good for large amounts of debris, big leaves, etc.

Have a look at our reviews and buyers guide to see if a suction-side pool cleaner is a good choice for your pool.

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Top-Performing Suction-Side Pool Cleaners – 2019 Ratings and Reviews

Most Adaptive
Poolvergnuegen Suction PoolCleaner
Best for Variable-Speed Pumps
Hayward AquaNaut Suction Pool Cleaner
Our rating: 9.4
Price: High
Widest Cleaning Path
Pentair Kreepy Krauly
Our rating: 9.1
Price: Average
Best Value for the Dollar
Zodiac Baracuda G3 Pool Cleaner
Hayward Navigator Pro
Our rating: 8.6
Price: Average
Zodiac MX6 Suction Pool Cleaner
Our rating: 8.3
Price: Low
– 2 or 4-wheel drive versions;
– Self-adjusting turbine vanes;
– Patented tire treads;
– Adjustable roller skirt;
– Pre-programmed steering settings;
– Available in 2 & 4-wheel models;
– V-Flex tech with variable suction;
– High-traction tires;
– Adjustable roller skirt;
– 3 intake throat sizes;
– 15-inch wide cleaning path;
– Fast;
– Bristle-drive action;
– Manual attachment included;
– Adjustable hose length;
– Affordable;
– Best for small to medium sized debris;
– Only one moving part;
– Quiet;
– Flexible to fit into pool corners;
– Self-adjusting FlowKeeper valve;
– Good for pools up to 20’ x 40’;
– 2 versions – gunite and vinyl;
– 40-foot hose;
– SmartDrive steering;
– Best for fine debris;
– Great at wall cleaning;
– Cyclonic suction/scrubbing;
– Good for 2-speed and variable pumps;
– Affordable;
– Modular design for easy part replacement;

Best Suction Pool Cleaner - Poolvergnuegen PoolCleaner
Adjustable flow and debris intake with pre-programmed steering

Though the name Poolvergnuegen may be impossible to pronounce, that doesn’t detract from how well it performs as a pool cleaner. It has a patented, programmable steering system that ensures a more thorough clean than random-pattern models.

It comes in both 2-wheel drive (pools up to 16’ x 32’) and 4-wheel drive (pools up to 20’ x 40’) versions. Choose between white/blue and gray/black.

Minimum pump size: ½ HP or 35 GPM
Hose: 33 feet (2-wheel) or 40 feet (4-wheel)
Warranty: 2 years

ProsThe Good

The design of the tires helps this cleaner climb over toys, drains, and other obstacles and helps it make sharp turns in tight spaces. A self-adjusting turbine system helps the cleaner adjust to changes in pressure from the pool pump.

For cleaning versatility, the intake throat has 3 settings for varying sizes of debris. Adjustable roller skirts help maintain maximum suction. Pre-programmed steering modes allow for consistent cleaning paths for thorough coverage.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

As is, this cleaner is best for concrete and other rough-surface pools. Smooth fiberglass or vinyl pools may require purchasing separate tape tires. Those wheels can be expensive and hard to find.

While it does clean floors remarkably well, walls can be hit or miss, especially with the 2-wheel version. It may not work well with sand filters, which are common in certain regions.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

For most customers, they loved how well it cleaned, saying it sucked up everything but the largest debris. Several have owned and used one for 4+ years. Many leave it in their pools the majority of the time.

Some customers who have owned earlier versions of this model say the newer ones don’t seem to last as long. The most common issues involved the cleaner not climbing walls or getting stuck with the wheels jammed.


Hayward AquaNaut Photo
Versatile cleaning with less clogging for variable speed pumps
Hayward AquaNaut
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Our rating: 9.4
Price: High

Ideal for inground pools up to 20’ x 40’, the AquaNaut 400 is a 4-wheel drive model with similar features to the Poolvergnuegen. It also comes in a 2-wheel drive version for pools up to 16’ x 32’. The 400 model is the best choice for pools with deep ends.

Minimum pump size: ½ HP or 35 GPM
Hose length: 33 feet (2-wheel) or 40 feet (4-wheel)
Warranty: 2-year limited

ProsThe Good

Patented V-Flex technology with self-adjusting variable vanes mean this cleaner can clean up all sorts of debris without getting clogged. This makes it a better choice for pools with variable speed pumps. You can also choose between 3 throat sizes as needed.

High traction tires climb over all types of pool surfaces to clean the floor, walls, and coves. The adjustable roller skirt maintains good suction over uneven terrain. Multiple steering sequences allow for a thorough clean.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

Like the Poolvergnuegen, this model is pretty pricey. It may require separate tape tires to better adhere to smooth pool surfaces like vinyl and fiberglass.

You’ll have to watch it for the first cycle or two in order to make any adjustments to the hose floats or intake throat. If it starts to climb the wall and falls off, it will most likely land on its side and wobble there like a stuck turtle.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Most customers with inground pools were happy with this cleaner. One customer said it worked great in an above-ground pool. A few customers advised adjusting the hose float if you find the cleaner gets stuck or flips over too often.

Some customers with vinyl-lined or fiberglass pools complained that it didn’t climb walls. Other customers noted it got stuck on their pool drains. People with curved pools noticed more tipping over than those with square pools.


Pentair Kreepy Krauly Suction Pool Cleaner
Fast moving with bristle-drive action and wide cleaning path
Pentair Kreepy Krauly
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Our rating: 9.1
Price: Average

The Kreepy Krauly name is so familiar, it’s become a common nickname for all suction-side cleaners. This model is average-priced and a little different than the original version. A 15-inch wide cleaning path with scrubbing bristles and navigation settings make this one a good choice for medium to large in-ground pools.

Hose length: 40 feet
Warranty: 1-year limited

ProsThe Good

Though it’s completely automatic, an attachment comes with this model to allow you to use it with your manual pool vacuum handle. This is handy in case there are tight spots like steps and other areas that the cleaner may miss.

The bristle drive quickly propels this guy through the pool and up the walls to the waterline. It comes with 12 1-meter hoses so you can easily adjust the hose length for any size of pool.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

If you have a pool liner, and it’s damaged, or if you have rocks or roots under the liner, this cleaner could damage it due to the bouncing movement and rotating bristles. This cleaner isn’t great at cleaning steps in some pools.

For walls, it will need a good curved transition between the floor and wall. A right angle transition means the walls will probably be missed. It’s also better with walls at the deep end rather than the shallow end.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

They love how fast this guy can move. Some people said it worked a lot better when they cleaned the pool filter regularly. A few said they left the cleaner in the pool every day for a few years before they needed a new one.

Some customers complained that the cleaner often won’t leave the deep end of the pool. A few customers felt the quality had declined with flimsy plastic parts.


Zodiac Baracuda G3
Affordable, simple, quiet operation with very little maintenance

The Zodiac G3 cleaner looks a bit like a sea creature and works well for pools with lower suction. It’s best for small and medium-sized debris on the floor, walls, and steps. The flat rubbery diaphragm slides along and adheres well.

Hose length: 39 feet
Warranty: 90 days

ProsThe Good

Compared to other suction cleaners, the G3 is very affordable. Simple, quiet, and only one moving part so less likely to require expensive repairs. It’s flexible enough to get into tight corners that other cleaners might miss.

The FlowKeeper valve auto adjusts the water flow to maintain good suction even with lower horsepower pumps. Scuff-resistant hoses won’t leave marks on pool surfaces. A 36-fin disc diaphragm doesn’t get hung up on drains, lights, and other obstacles.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

For stairs and other narrow spots, it can’t get enough suction to clean them well, so you’ll need to scrub those manually. It doesn’t do well with large leaves sometimes, and may clog. A separate leaf canister might be necessary if you have lots of leaf debris.

The hose connection can loosen as it moves along and bumps into the pool walls. If you see it stuck in one spot, check to see if the connection needs to be retightened.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Most customers felt the G3 was a great performer for the price. It worked well for people with free form pools. For most people, it climbed the walls but sometimes struggled with fiberglass. Several customers bought it as a replacement for the Kreepy Krauly.

It can get stuck in shallow water, depending on where the hose floats are positioned. This is more common in pools with big transitions from deep to shallow. Some customers also thought the included instructions weren’t clear enough.


Hayward Navigator Pro Suction Pool Cleaner
Removes fine debris with quick start up and smart steering
Hayward Navigator Pro
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Our rating: 8.6
Price: Average

This is yet another offering from the big Hayward pool cleaner family. It comes in two versions for different pool surfaces – one for concrete/gunite and the other for vinyl-lined/fiberglass. Each one has “feet” specifically designed for those surfaces. The Navigator is designed for pools up to 20’ x 40’ and goes from box to pool cleaning in 10 minutes or less.

Hose length: 40 feet
Warranty: 2-year limited

ProsThe Good

SmartDrive preprogrammed steering provides intelligent, thorough cleaning paths. Extended vacuum wings and skirt provide more suction and debris pickup. This makes it excellent for fine debris such as sand, pollen, bugs, etc.

Unlike other cleaners, this one has feet that are specific to your pool type. The vinyl feet, for instance, are less abrasive than the gunite feet. With the proper hose length and water flow settings, it should perform well.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

You need to do a little pool maintenance before operation for best performance. The pool filter should be thoroughly cleaned and backwashed. Large debris and algae should be removed to avoid clogs.

The Navigator may not climb pool walls if there’s a sharp angle between the floor and wall. A curved transition may work better. Parts such as the wings, flaps, and feet can wear out quickly. You’ll need to check them often for wear and replace as needed.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Several customers have bought this a second or even a third time or as a replacement for other Hayward cleaners. Those with fine dust and other small debris that settled on the pool floor were very happy with this cleaner.

The biggest complaint was the unit stopping randomly or getting stuck. Some customers didn’t like having to replace worn parts yearly, but some of those owners ran the cleaner all day, every day. Others weren’t happy that the cleaner didn’t climb walls.


Zodiac MX6
Sleek and modern design with great wall-climbing ability
Zodiac MX6
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Our rating: 8.3
Price: Low

The budget-friendly MX6 has a very sleek and modern look. It’s compact and light and works fairly well with 2-speed and variable speed pumps at lower RPMs. This cleaner can work with both small inground and above ground pools of all types. It’s designed to clean floors, walls, and waterline and is best for small to medium-sized debris.

Minimum pump size: 25 GPM
Hose length: 30 feet
Warranty: 2-year limited

ProsThe Good

Cyclonic brushes work quickly to sweep up debris. Instead of tires, it has rubber tracks that allow it to climb walls better than other models. X-Drive navigation allows for smart steering and a more thorough clean.

Optimized flow regulation controls excess water flow for better performance and durability. All parts are modular and easy to replace with just a screwdriver. The turbine is easy to access for clearing out any stuck debris.

ConsThe Not-So-Good

With only one directional turn gear, the MX6 may get stuck in corners since it can’t reverse direction. It can get clogged with excess leaf litter and other debris, so you may need to purchase a separate leaf canister.

With only about 30 feet of hose, it may not be enough for larger pools, but extra hose lengths are available for purchase if needed. The hoses aren’t super sturdy, but you can interchange with standard ones.

Customer OpinionWhat Customers Say

Most customers loved how well this cleaned, especially after they fine-tuned the suction settings. They were impressed with its wall-climbing ability. In dry areas with extreme changes in weather, it performed well with various debris, but owners noted that they used the inline leaf canister for larger debris.

The most common complaint was that the cleaner got stuck on pool steps and ladders. Some customers reported cracked hoses and thought they were substandard.


There are variety of cleaners which you may have to try
You may have to try a few pool cleaners before you find one that suits your pool

If you don’t take away anything else from this guide, remember this one rule: What works in one person’s pool may not work in yours.

Many factors affect how well a pool cleaner works. For suction pool cleaners, the water pressure from your pool’s pump is a big factor. Then there’s the type of pool surface, pool shape, water depth, type and amount of debris, and obstacles such as stairs, ladders, and drains.

So, this means you may have to try a few pool cleaners before you find one that suits your pool. We’ve compiled this guide and reviews, however, to help you narrow down the choices in the hopes that you won’t waste time and money on incompatible products.

Types of Pool Cleaners

While suction-side pool cleaners are among the cheapest of automatic pool cleaners, they’re not always the best choice for your pool. You have a few basic options.

  1. Manual pool cleaners: These are your pool skimmers, manual vacuums and brushes. They’re the cheapest option, but will require the most physical effort. If you have a small pool, you’re on a budget, and want to burn some calories, this is your best bet.
  2. You could brush your pool too.
    Manual pool cleaners are the cheapest option
  3. Automatic pool cleaners: We’ll divide these into three distinct choices.
    • Suction-side – As you’ve seen, these are fairly affordable and depend on your pool’s pump intake. If your pool pump can’t consistently move at least 25 gallons per minute, then this isn’t the option for you. Variable speed pumps often struggle with this.

      You also have to stay on top of cleaning the pool filter and ensuring all the plumbing connections are airtight. They’re best for fine and small debris and will often need a separate leaf canister if you need to remove large leaves, twigs, acorns, etc.

    • There is a choice between the suction-side and the pressure side pool cleaners
    • Pressure side – These run on your pool’s return port. They’re cheaper than a robotic pool cleaner, but more expensive than a suction-side cleaner. They’ll pick up larger debris easier than a suction-side cleaner.

      Some of them run on the filter pump via a wall return fitting or dedicated cleaner line, but depend on your pool filter being kept clean. Some run on a separate booster pump with a dedicated cleaner line and don’t require your pool’s filter system. But they can also boost your electric bill.

    • Robotic – These are the most technologically advanced, most independent, and most expensive of the automatic pool cleaners. They run on their own power source and don’t require your pool’s pump at all. They’ll pick up debris of all sizes and are great for larger pools.

How to find the best suction-side cleaner for your pool

Make sure your pool pump is powerful enough
Your pool pump should be able to consistently produce 25 GPM at minimum

First off, your pool pump should be able to consistently produce 25 GPM at minimum. Some suction cleaners will list the minimum pump GPM while others don’t. We’ve listed it in our reviews when we could find it.

When in doubt, you can always reach out to a pool supply store rep or call the manufacturer directly to see if your pool pump is compatible. If they can’t tell you, then that’s probably a good hint to skip that brand.

Beyond pump power, there are other important things to consider.

You should match the size of your pool to the amount of hose sections purchased

Hose length

The bigger your pool, the more hose you’ll need. This also includes pools with deep ends. The good thing is that most cleaners come with several sections of hose that you simply snap together until you get the length you need. If your cleaner can’t reach the furthest corner of the deep end with all the hose sections, you’ll need to purchase extra hose lengths.

Type of pool surface

Construction materials are another big factor. Often, these cleaners lack enough suction to climb the walls of smooth surfaces such as vinyl and fiberglass. Special “tape wheels” or tracks may be needed to make these work.

We’ve listed compatible surfaces in our reviews when possible. But browse through customer reviews and see what their experiences have been with various pool types. You can also call that handy pool supply rep or manufacturer to see if a certain cleaner will work for your specific pool surface.

Types and amount of debris

If you have a lot of leaf litter, you may need a separate inline leaf canister

Generally, suction-side cleaners do best with fine to medium sized debris like bugs, small leaves, dirt, grass, hair, etc. Some cleaners have adjustable intake valves so you can make the opening bigger for bigger debris.

If you have a lot of leaf litter, you may need a separate inline leaf canister to prevent clogs. Or you should opt for a pressure side or robotic cleaner instead.

Amount of debris is another consideration. Since they depend on your pool filter, suction-side cleaners will require that you keep your skimmer basket clean, so heavy debris may require more maintenance from you. On the other hand, a fenced-in pool with no trees around it and minimal dirt trafficking will not pose much of a challenge debris-wise.

Price

You don’t have to spend a lot to get a good cleaner.

Suction-side cleaners can run anywhere from $200 – $600, with the simplest models being the cheapest. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a good cleaner. A small pool with minimal debris will do just fine with a simple Kreepy Krauly.

However, if you have a large pool with a lot of debris and frequent usage, you may want to invest more in a cleaner that will tackle the mess faster and more efficiently. Look at the pre-programmed models and those with adjustable throats. Purchasing a separate leaf canister and a repair kit of spare parts isn’t a bad idea either.

Troubleshooting tips

From what we’ve gathered from pool professionals and customers, here are some of the most common issues you’ll find with suction cleaners and how to address them.

  1. My pool cleaner won’t move or moves too slowly
    • Backwash your filter and empty the pump basket if needed.
    • Check for trapped air. Do you see a lot of air bubbles in the pump basket or return lines? Are all the hose connections tight? Are the fittings at the pump tight? Is the o-ring at the pump basket in good shape?
    • Look inside the cleaner to see if debris is jamming the turbines.
    • Check the flow regulator valves on the cleaner to make sure they’re at the right setting.
    • Make sure nothing’s caught in the wheels or tracks and that they’re not damaged.
  2. My pool cleaner won’t cover the whole pool.
    • Make sure you have adequate hose length to reach all the way across and all the way to the bottom of the deepest end.
    • Adjust hose float as necessary. This is especially important in pools with big depth changes.
    • Adjust programmed steering settings to change the number of wheel rotations.
    • Are the return line fittings turned downward? Use a return diverter if needed.
    • Is the hose kinked or coiled? Straighten and lay in the sun to remove bends.
    • Is the hose broken, cracked, or damaged? Replace with new hose length(s).
  3. My pool cleaner won’t climb walls.
    • Adjust flow intake and hose float.
    • The wheels/tracks/feet may not be compatible for that pool surface. You may be able to purchase additional ones from the manufacturer.
    • Check that the cleaner throat and turbine are clear of debris.
    • Backwash filter and empty pump basket if needed.
    • Replace worn feet, wheels, skirts, or tracks.
  4. My pool cleaner gets stuck on steps, drains, or ladders.
    • Try a ladder guard kit to block the ladder.
    • Try a pool drain cover to ease the transition from floor to drain.
    • Make sure the main drain is closed.
    • Adjust the water flow or direction of the cleaner.
    • Shorten the hose to keep it from going in those areas.
With little routine maintenance, you could keep your pool clean

If you have a good pool pump, keep your pool filter system cleaned, and with a little routine maintenance on the machine itself, you should be able to run a suction-side cleaner for at least 1 – 3 years. Since they use minimal energy and have no danger of shorting out, they can be left in the pool for an extended time, unlike those that require their own power source.

When you find one that works well for you, stick with that model or with similar models from the same manufacturer when you need to replace it. And don’t be afraid to ask your local pool supply reps for their recommendations. They should be familiar with your pool type and the debris most likely found in your area.

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