Visitor Review: Kirby Generation 3 Vacuum

Kirby Generation 3 Vacuum

My parents, and by extension me since I had the vacuuming chores, have owned one of these beasts since 1991 and it has been rock solid in terms of performance and durability until just a couple years ago when it started to show signs of its age. They replaced it with a Dirt Devil, not aware of the Kirby G3’s lifetime rebuild warranty.

The G3 is the Humvee of vacuum cleaners. You could take this thing to a war zone and vacuum up bullet casings with it. Suction is powerful and consistent along the entire length of the powerhead. It has a neat feature where it blows adjacent small objects like lego pieces or earrings to the side of the powerhead if you run it near them.

The techdrive really works although it can be a little too aggressive when vacuuming tight areas with short strokes. Although a cool feature, if you can’t maneuvre this behemoth without the tech drive on, you probably shouldn’t own it anyways since you’ll have trouble lugging it between floors.

Unlike many other vacuum cleaners, switching to the hose attachment does not seem to decrease the suction power by much. The attachments are many and well designed. Cleaning hardwood floors was very effective with the bristle head (it is a bit narrow for floor cleaning however) and it is particularly good at cleaning car interiors because the extreme suction through the samurai sword attachment really grabs the bits and piece of dirt in the hard to reach areas inside your car, like between and underneath seats and around the floor mats.

There are three main drawbacks to the G3: it’s loud, like leafblower loud; it’s heavy, although my mom and I lugged it up and down three floors for years without much problem, and it fills up the bags quickly (which are pretty expensive). I guess this is a consequence of it’s immense sucking power so it’s a double-edged sword.

After 15 years of service little things started to break down. Belts broke, headlight and LED light fritzed out, the spring on handle wore out, the straight pipe extension piece cracked, powerhead bearings wore down and the tech drive stopped working — all the usual wear and tear that comes from almost 20 years of almost daily use. The motor is the one thing that is still running strong though.

I don’t remember how much my parents originally paid for it, but I know it was a heck of a lot more expensive than a regular department store vacuum cleaner. But seeing as how my parents are dirtaphobes, the peace of mind from bringing a cannon to a pistol fight was worth it.

Bottom line: If Arnold was a housekeeper, this would be his vacuum of choice.


  1. Phyllis

    I bought my Kirby G3 vacuum 17 years ago and it just went to the shop for the first time 12/09. It worked just as good as day 1 for all these years (plastic fan finally cracked) and with 3 kids and a farm it received a LOT of use. I have never met a vacuum that works as well. And it shampoos carpets too!! It has paid for itself just by that.

    • patricia

      in 1970 just turned 18, had a new baby, living in a $40 a month little rental house and working minimum wage at a bank. had a husband that worked when the weather would allow, as a bricklayer. his income was at best unpredictable. bought MY first kirby from a door to door salesman for $300.00. had to make monthly payments. had been using second hand vacuums given to me. had grown up with a kirby and did not expect any other vacuum to be as good and they were not. it was good enough for my fussy clean freak mother. well my baby is 48 years old. i’m retired. the husband went (have been with a better man for 35 years). the one thing in my life that has been faithful and dependable is my kirby. it has usual wear but the cloth bags never wear out. my husband has rebuilt it a couple of times. have bought 2 more at auctions. that has kept me from having to carry it up stairs. now moved to a one story home in our old age, but kept my kirbys. have one on both ends of my long ranch, one other in garage. have no experience with the newest models. because i probably will never have to buy another vacuum in my life time. the only maintenance i do is now and then i vacuum up some carpet fresh powder to freshen bag. would give kirby a good review and rating.

  2. Kirby Fanatic

    G3 is Fantastic: I have to disagree with the disadvantage of the bags filling up quickly. Use the top of the line Sentria cloth bags. They provide much much better filtration than the G3 bags, and hold lots more dirt. I have an 08 Sentria and my father’s old G3. There isn’t that much of a difference in performance between them. I have been told by the technician who works on Kirbys that the 2010 Sentrias have a plastic bottom to reduce the weight. It is not nearly as durable. The only weakness I see with the G3 is that the original bags did not provide HEPA filtration. That is easily remedied. The original fan was tough, but not Kevlar. I had dad’s old G3’s fan replaced with the newer Kevlar fan. The filtration has been upgraded. A refurbished G3 can be purchased with the shampooer and tools for around $200. That is a steal. A refurbished G3 will last for many years and will outperform anything bought new at even twice or three times the price. The asking price for a new Kirby is $2300, although you can talk the Kirby salesmen down to less than half that price. I got our brand new Sentria in October of 2008 from Kirby for $900 and that included the warranty/lifetime rebuild program, the standard attachments, and the shampooer. But, to tell you the truth, I would rather have a refurbished G3, G4 etc. than the newest Sentria with the plastic bottom. My ’08 Sentria is a great machine, but not that much better than the G3. That is because the G3’s design is so good that its predecessors biggest differences are mostly cosmetic (or at least they were until the 2010 Sentrias.) So if the G3 is so good, why did I buy a Sentria in 2008? My dad was still living then. I didn’t inherit the G3 until a few months after I had already purchased my Sentria. And that brings up another point. How many vacuums are so good that they are worth handing down after 15+ years of use? Hopefully Kirby will decide to go back to the metal bottom in their vacuums.

  3. Robinson

    Kirby Generation Three: I became a part of the Kirby Family back in 1990. I love the suction of the Kirby; you truly get a clean carpet. I had all attachments but only shampooed carpet myself twice. I had my Kirby serviced and maintained through a local vacuum dealer where I also purchased all supplies (bags, belts).

    In 2009 my Kirby needed servicing but I only have Area Rugs now so I gave my Kirby to a friend and purchased a smaller vacuum. The friend had the Kirby serviced and parts replaced for $65.oo. What a mistake I made by giving it away. This 12 amp vacuum I purchased has a filter that clogs so easily. The suction is worthless.

    So I have to borrow my Kirby, which I gave away, from my friend to get a clean carpet. My sister purchased a Kirby in the late 90’s and still has hers today.

    I don’t care what advertisements say about other vacuums – Kirby is definitely 100% dependable and worth the money.

  4. Anonymous

    Kirby is the best: I used to be a Kirby salesman. I have 2 Kirby’s since the distributors run contests for the salesmen and I won several but gave the rest to family members. one is about 25 years old and bagless, I use it in my shop. It will pick up nuts, bolts,nails and of course the dirt. The other is about 8 years old, It is a self propelled model. After years of doing demonstrations against other vac’s I gone against them all. Nothing compares to a Kirby when it comes to making your carpets last. Mine were installed in 1990 and still look new. I shampoo twice a year. The biggest complaint people have is the weight but if you want truly clean carpets it’s the only way to go. I once traded in a 1943 Kirby during a sale and when I did the salt comparison test there was no salt left for the new one to pick up, this proves that a 45 year old kirby not only was still running but also that it was still as strong as day 1. The lady told me she had never had to have it serviced. Think of the money she saved not having to buy a new vac every 6 years. She only bought the new one because it had a wider head and new attachments like the shampooer that were not available in 1943.

  5. Ramona

    Kirby Generation #3: My story begins when my then boyfriend bought a used Kirby from a door to door salesman just before I met him, a Generation 3. Now I believe I know what it would be like to maneuver a Panzer tank around my living room, let alone up a flight of stairs. Throw in a pair of steel-toed safety boots and your ready to roll.

    Be prepared for wall damage if you plan to have your children help out with vacuuming chores. I almost ruptured an internal organ while carrying the contraption up and down the stairway and have the bruises on my shins as it smashed it’s way along each step up or down. As for it’s cleaning ability, no question, it does a great job, but so did my Electrolux without the pain and exhaustion.

    Right now I can’t get the power head to spin, I have monkey’d around with the on and off strap for about an hour and I am so frustrated I am ready to take the whole thing out to the gun range and use it for target practice. I ended up attaching the hose and using the floor attachment (which comes apart in pieces at the slightest push/pull motion)to vacuum the carpet in my bedroom.

    So I figure I am just going to NOT vacuum until I find another lighter, less complicated, child-friendly, easily maneuverable machine that has the same cleaning capabilities. When the day comes I agree to spend that kind of money for a new vacuum cleaner is the same day my dog starts pooping gold nuggets, seriously! I mean, have you seen how much a new one costs!? I also won’t let my new husband to EVER shop without me again.

    • Tia

      The motor on mine just caught on fire. Scary! I drug it out of the house while it was on fire.

  6. Dustin

    After 30 Years, Still Amazing: My grandmother bought her Kirby Tradition on 9/22/1980, so it just turned 30 2 days ago. All I can say is that it is such an amazing machine. Only 3 attachments have been lost, and the shampoo system has been used maybe 3 times. Since she’s the original owner, and paid about $800 for it back then, I can send it in to Kirby for a rebuild that only cost $59.50. What an amazing deal!? I was looking at Dysons, and other worthless plastic machines, and then I remembered her Kirby that sat in her closet because she’s in her 70’s and can’t push it. Unlike any of the G’s and Sentria, it doesn’t have Tech Drive. It’s a bit heavy, but who cares? It sucks like a beast! Even has an attachment that you can water plants, and paint walls with. I would LOVE to have a Sentria or G6 or G5, but do I even need it?

    I will use this Tradition for another 30 years. She passed it to my dad, who passed it to me. Do you think a Dyson will last 30+ years and still be able to be rebuilt? I think not!

    If you want to see pictures of what it looks like today, let me know — I’m currently waiting for the letter from Kirby to send it in for the rebuild. I’m 21 years old and completely ecstatic about rebuilding a 30 year old vacuum. It’s like a piece of my family history that when my grandmother passes, and I hope that won’t be soon, I will always be able to remember her by. Trade it in for a newer Kirby? Never!

  7. Anonymous

    Generation 3: I just purchased a reconditioned Generation 3 from a local vacuum repair shop locally. Other than needing a new headlamp it works just fine. I would recommend this vacuum because of its powerful suction and easy maneuverability thanks to the Tech Drive feature.

    I plan to get the attachment kit later this summer.

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Anonymous

    It’s A Keeper: Bought my G3 in 1991. Had it looked over 10 years ago. Still works like new. Best vacuum I ever had or ever will have. It’s a keeper.

  9. Dena

    My KIRBY GENERATION ||| was given to me by my mama when she remarried and we bought her house. She paid about $1,200 for it, if I recall correctly. (and that didn’t include all the attachments, etc.) I’m not going to go through every attachment I have and what it can do. ( Most people covered that subject). I’m just going to tell you that every attachment works and everyone that has good things to say about this machine is true…

    I have 2 dogs and NO other vacuum could completely pick up their hair. THANKS MAMA!

    I’m not mechanical in ANY way, but the rod that holds the back wheels together and drives them, broke. The back wheels actually fell off …lol
    We spent $202 to have it repaired rather than buy a new vacuum. THAT should say a lot about this product 🙂
    God Bless you all ~

  10. Jos

    I have owned many kirbys since 1983.For the last 15 years I have been cleaning homes. Right now I own 4 Kirbys. One in my car, one upstairs in my 2 story home, and 1 downstairs. 2 ARE GENERATION is a G5 and the other is a Diamond Addition. I have owned others without the transmission drive 2 to be exact. I love all of them. The last two, one I gave to a good friend. The other a non Kirby guy sold me a non Kirby electric cord and fried the motor. A good learning experience. Your house cleaner is only as good as her vacuum. I will never not own one.

  11. Zach

    I inherited my grandparents generation 3 a few years ago.
    Absolutly LOVE it.
    They bought it new in 1990 when the line was first released.
    Twenty eight years later, all I’ve had to do is replace the cord.
    My cleaning lady had a Rainbow she swears by. But after she leaves, I’ll go over the rugs once more with my Kirby and pick up dirt the Rainbow left behind.
    Fluffs up the pile too.

    I would definitely buy another Kirby if I were ever in the market. However, since I have a Kirby, I doubt I will be.

  12. Barbara

    I owned a Generation 3 and loved it! I had a salesman show up at my tiny little house that had cheap carpet. I grew up with a Kirby and knew the quality. I had the salesman show me the demonstration. I was newly married and had to have this vacuum even though we had no money. So I bought it and was put on a payment plan. I loved the shampoo feature, I would clean my friends carpets. Yes it’s is a heavier vacuum than most, but who couldn’t use a little workout. When I divorced 20 yrs later I still had that Kirby and it was one of the items I took with me. Lol highly recommend.


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