Pros: Long lasting, durable, multi-use machine
Cons: Heavy, and can be difficult to get service.
I started working for a local Kirby distributor in 1994. I still work for the same distributor part time in the office. Over the last ten years, I've heard a great deal of stories about how much people love their Kirbys. I've also handled my share of phone calls from people who HATED their machines.
I personally love my Kirby. I hate spending money, so a lot of people are surprised that I own one. Of course, I didn't pay retail (I work for the company, after all). But it made financial sense. The average person buys a new vacuum ever two to four years. They spend on average between $100=$400 dollars on it. Over a lifetime, that adds up to literally thousands of dollars wasted. Considering the average Kirby life expectancy is 20-40 YEARS, the math was in Kirby's favor.
The machine is heavy to carry, and not a good choice for elderly folks with stairs. This is perhaps the one problem with the machine. The weight is due in part to the fact that the machine is made out of metal, one of the few vacuums on the market that isn't made of plastic. Of course, plastic would make the machine lighter, but then I'd be sacrificing durability. So, I'll accept the fact that I can use my Kirby to build muscle.
Kirby has an attachment for everything. That's the good news. The bad news is that it can take some time to figure them all out. Fortunately, any problems working the machine can be avoided by simply making the salesperson show you how to use everything before he leaves. I am the first to admit sometimes the salesman is a bit quick to want to get out of the house after making the sale. Don't let them off the hook so easily. Make sure they show you how to use your attachments. Once you know, you'll love them. The only other downside is that the attachments are not on board the machine, and if you have kids you can bet the parts will end up all over the house (particularly the spray gun and the wands, as for some reason kids see them as a toy gun and toy swords).
The shampooer attachment is my favorite part of the machine. It hooks up in minutes, uses less than a quart of water, and my carpet is dry in usually under 30 minutes! Most shampooers on the market use gallons of water, and retrieve less than half what they put into the carpet. Ever pull up a carpet to discover those black patches underneath? That's mold. Where did it come from? Darkness plus moisture=mold central. If you suffer allergies, you don't want a mold farm under your carpets. I often add a few drops of essential oil to the shampoo to leave a scent in the carpet (and here's a hint: add a few drops of citronella oil to help ward off ants).
Kirby has a solid warranty, with three-years up front and a lifetime rebuild program. The lifetime rebuild program allows you to send your machine to the factory and have it completely rebuild for a pro-rated fee (about a tenth of what you would pay for a new machine). It is not, however, a LIFETIME warranty, as some customers think. You still have to pay to ship the unit to the factory to take advantage of the rebuild program. But on the plus side, if I could ship my car to the factory and get it completely rebuilt for a tenth of the price I bought it for, I'd be in heaven.
And a little warning about the warranty...the warranty only covers you if you purchase a new machine from an authorized distributor. That means somebody with a KIRBY sign over their door, and somebody not selling ten other brands of vacuums. Also, machines bought over the internet are NOT covered by the factory warranty. Make sure if you buy a Kirby from an online vendor or vacuum shop that you know the difference. A lot of people complain that they buy Kirbys only to discover the warranty is useless. This is normally caused by people looking for deals on ebay or elsewhere buying something that has been reconditioned. It has become such a problem that the Kirby Co has added a disclaimer to their website warning customers of this. http://www.kirby.com. Just a word of caution, only Kirby distributors can sell new Kirby vacuums with the factory warranty. If you buy a machine from a non-distributor, make sure you fully understand their store's warranty and get it in writing.
The machine has two safety switches that prevent it from coming on if the machine is not together properly. The good news is this keeps kids from sticking fingers in potentially moving parts. The bad news is that if you don't have your salesperson show them to you, you might plug your machine in one day to find it not coming on.
The biggest concern for most people is getting service for their machine. Distributorships open and close over time, and it can be difficult to get repair work done. Usually, however, simply visiting the Kirby site will direct you to the location of the nearest authorized service center. It can sometimes be hard to find a service center close by, but fortunately the machines require little service to begin with.