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Is it worth it to buy a self-emptying robot vacuum now?

If you’re shopping around for a robot vacuum, you’re no doubt familiar with the self-emptying variety. These devices have optional dustbins that will essentially vacuum the inside of your robot vacuum, depositing dust, dirt, pet hair, and debris into a sealed vacuum bag. You’ll see these marketed as Clean Base Dirt Disposal (iRobot), Auto Empty Station (Ecovacs), or Self Empty Base (Shark). Are self-emptying bases worth it, though?

Automatic dirt disposal: What to expect

There are a few things to consider in robot vacuum models that feature a dirt disposal base option. One is the size of the emptying station because you’ll need to make sure you have a place to put it. These bases are typically tall and narrow, meaning that unlike a basic vacuum robot, they won’t fit under most furniture. Some manufacturers are now starting to redesign these units so they can hide a bit better. You’ll need to find a place to put the disposal base that’s free from obstacles so the botvac can get to and from its work easily. You’ll also need power and an area free of low furniture.

iRobot Roomba s9+ empties itself.
iRobot Roomba s9+

For the most part, you don’t need to worry about emptying the robot vacuum’s onboard dustbin into the base station or disposal. These robots are typically smart enough to know when they’re full and will even dip to the disposal base mid-clean to clear things out if needed.

Most automatic emptying bases also double as charging docks, so you’re economizing space with a dual-purpose unit.

Why get an automatic empty station?

Automatic emptying stations for dirt disposal bases can add a significant cost to the price of a robot vacuum. So what is the incentive to pay extra for this pricey added technology? In a word: Hygiene.

A lot of folks don’t like the idea of having to open up the robot vacuum, remove the dust bin, and dump it in the garbage, which spreads dirt and dust back into the air. Using a dirt disposal base means never having to get your hands dirty — literally.

Another reason these automatic emptying stations are so handy is that you never need to remember to empty the onboard dust bin. The feature is particularly useful if your robot is scheduled to automatically clean several times a week. It’s all too easy to forget to empty the onboard dustbin after each cleaning. Not doing this step can clog the vacuum, leading to overflow when you remove the bin. More importantly, it also impedes the robot vacuum’s ability to clean effectively because the onboard bin can’t handle any more debris.

Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL RV1001AE, Robotic Vacuum cleans itself.
Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty XL RV1001AE

A third popular reason to invest in an automatic disposal unit is that it can hold several weeks’ or months’ worth of dirt before it gets full. This means your robot vacuum can become an extremely independent member of your housekeeping team.

Are clean bases expensive?

Depending on the brands you’re choosing between, prices for this technology can vary wildly, and it doesn’t help that sometimes you’ll see these advertised as a package (with bot and base sold together), while at other times, you can buy the dirt disposal base separately from the robot.

Some robot vacuum manufacturers are making these bases cost-effective and affordable; packages can start at just a few hundred dollars and go up to nearly a thousand dollars. It definitely pays to shop around and read reviews like the ones we’ve written on Shark IQ, the budget iRobot Roomba i3+ review, or the higher-end iRobot Roomba s9+ model to see which vacuums are reliable, durable, and that you can count on to live up to the hype.

If you think about cost, one of the alternatives is to hire a cleaning service to come in and keep the floors tidy, but that can be pricey and add up over time. Of course, you could always ask your kids or spouse to help you with the sweeping and vacuuming, but that’s not so reliable. The great thing about a robot vacuum is it will never argue or raise its rates.

The verdict

Circling back to our original question, is it worth it to buy a self-emptying robot vacuum now? The answer is certainly yes. If you have the space and the budget, these devices can make your robot vacuum even more useful, versatile, and autonomous.

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