We’re big fans of iRobot’s robot vacuums, but the best Roomba models don’t come cheap. Still, there is a way to snag a self-emptying and room-mapping Roomba without immediately coughing up hundreds of bucks: the iRobot Select subscription plan, which costs $29 a month, plus one-time activation fee.
When you sign up for iRobot Select, you get one of iRobot’s fanciest Roombas, complete with a self-emptying bin, free replacement parts shipped to your door as soon as you need them, and even the chance to get a new Roomba every three years.
Then again, you are on the hook for $29 every month (plus that one-time activation fee, currently $149), and if you stop paying, iRobot will reach out and remotely deactivate your bot, rendering it useless. And if you go with a two-year plan with a lower activation fee (currently $49), there’s a stiff penalty if you cancel early.
So, is iRobot Select worth it? Or would you be better off ponying up the cash for a Roomba up-front? We’ve done the math and scrutinized the terms of service so you don’t have to.
iRobot Select: Your questions answered
What is iRobot Select?
iRobot Select is an iRobot subscription program that offers a variety of benefits, namely a room-mapping Roomba with a self-emptying dock, free replacement parts (with shipping included), a “premium” protection plan for the robot, and dedicated support. You can also get a brand-new Roomba every three years at no additional cost.
iRobot Select costs $29 a month, but there are two different plans, each with its own one-time activation fee.
Which Roomba do you get with iRobot Select?
Your iRobot Select membership gets you the iRobot Roomba j7+, a bundle that includes the Roomba j7, plus a dock with a self-emptying bin.
Currently the winner of our Editor’s Choice for best overall robot vacuum, the Roomba j7+ boasts a number of high-end features, including the ability to map your floors and avoid obstacles, not to mention standard scheduling capabilities and support for voice control.
The iRobot Roomba j7+ is a great package (I own two, one for each floor in my apartment); but with a list price of $799.99, it certainly isn’t cheap.
What replacement parts do you get with iRobot Select?
A feature dubbed Automatic Accessory Replacement service, iRobot will send you replacement brushes, filters, and Clean Base bags for free as part of your iRobot Select membership.
Even better, you don’t have to do anything to get the replacement parts; instead, iRobot will ship them to your door automatically after the iRobot app detects that they’re needed. This is a key benefit, as replacement parts represent a hidden cost of a Roomba (or any robot vacuum).
For example, a Roomba j7+ refill kit that includes just three dirt disposal bags (for the self-emptying bin), three high-efficiency filters, three edge-sweeping brushes, and a set of dual multi-surface rubber brushes retails for $84.98 when purchased separately. Given that iRobot recommends replacing the rubber brushes once or twice a year and the filter every two months (your mileage may vary, depending on whether you have carpets and/or pets), the cost of Roomba replacement costs will certainly add up.
According to iRobot’s estimate, the Automatic Accessory Replacement service will send you roughly $150 worth of replacement parts per year, although (as noted in the fine print) iRobot reserves the right to “limit” the number of replacement parts you get.
What else do you get with iRobot Select?
Your iRobot Select membership comes with a couple other key benefits: the iRobot Select Protection Plan and “dedicated” customer support.
The protection plan covers repairs and replacement for the Roomba and the dock “due to a mechanical or electrical breakdown during normal usage,” as well as coverage for “accidental” damage from “drops, liquid spills, and pet damage.”
The plan doesn’t cover “theft, mysterious disappearance, misplacement, software viruses,” or “reckless, abusive, willful or intentional conduct,” nor any “cosmetic” damage. Back on the plus side, the plan doesn’t replace the standard 1-year manufacturer warranty.
Meanwhile, the “dedicated” customer support includes access to an “Experience Manager,” who will be available for questions from 9 a.m.. to 9 p.m. ET on weekdays and from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. ET on weekends.
Can you get a new Roomba every three years through iRobot Select?
Yes, as part of your iRobot Select membership, you can get a new Roomba every three years, although the exact Roomba you can get won’t be entirely up to you.
According to the iRobot Select terms of service, once three years are up on your membership, you’ll be able to upgrade to “certain” Roomba products “specified by us” (“us” meaning iRobot). Once you’re eligible for an upgrade, you’ll need to contact the aforementioned “Experience Manager” through the iRobot Select membership portal to begin the upgrade process.
But if you’re thinking you get an extra new Roomba every three years in addition to the original Roomba you got through iRobot Select, that’s not how it works.
Once you get an upgrade, iRobot will deactivate your old Roomba. Also, iRobot will ask you to ship your deactivated Roomba back, and if you don’t return the old hardware, you’ll need to pay a second activation fee for the new Roomba.
Oh, and one more thing: The iRobot Select terms of service specifies that depending on the Roomba upgrade you choose, you might need to pay an additional activation fee, and there might even be a “modification or change” to your monthly membership fee–presumably to cover the cost of a more expensive upgrade pick.
Wait, what’s the iRobot Select activation fee?
Similar to the activation fee for a cellular phone line, the iRobot Select activation fee is a “one-time fee” you must pay to “initiate your membership” and “activate your products.”
The amount of the activation fee depends on the iRobot Select plan you pick, and we’ll get to that in a moment.
What are the iRobot Select membership plans?
There are two iRobot Select membership plans available; the first involves a two-year commitment, and the second is month-to-month.
Both of the plans involve monthly payments of $29, but the “activation fee” we mentioned earlier is much pricier for the month-to-month plan.
For the two-year plan, the standard activation fee is $99–although at the time of this writing, iRobot was offering a $50 discount on the two-year activation fee, making it just $49.
The activation fee for the month-to-month plan is a much steeper $199–although again, iRobot was advertising a discounted $149 activation fee at the time of publication.
While the month-to-month iRobot Select plan comes with a heftier activation fee than the two-year plan, the month-to-month option allows you to cancel whenever you want.
With the two-year plan, you’re essentially agreeing to a two-year iRobot Select commitment, and if you cancel early, you’ll owe a termination fee. The maximum fee is $696, but it decreases by $29 every month you’re subscribed to (and pay for) the iRobot Select plan.
It’s worth noting that there is a 30-day guarantee that allows you to return the Roomba and get a refund, provided you cancel within the first 30 days of service.
Also, if you sign up for the two-year iRobot Select plan, it will automatically switch to month-to-month once the initial two-year term is over.
What happens when your iRobot Select membership ends?
When your iRobot Select membership expires, either because you canceled your plan or simply stopped paying, iRobot will deactivate the Roomba and self-emptying dock that came with your subscription. Sounds weird, but that’s the deal.
Now, if you change your mind and re-up your membership, iRobot can always turn your hardware back on, so there’s that.
So, what’s the value of iRobot Select versus paying up front?
Time to warm up the calculator!
Considering first the month-to-month plan, let’s assume you pay iRobot’s discounted $149 activation fee, and then you begin paying $29 a month.
In the first year under the month-to-month iRobot Select plan, your total outlay will be $497, including that $149 activation fee (but not including taxes). That’s about $300 less than the $799.99 list price for the Roomba j7+–and remember, you’re also getting free replacement parts (potentially $150 worth or so), which would save you another chunk of change.
That sounds like a good deal, but consider this: The moment you cancel (or, to be more precise, at the end of the following billing period), iRobot will deactivate your Roomba hardware, leaving you with a hunk of junk. If you pay for the Roomba j7+ outright, you can keep it–and more importantly, actually use it–for as long as the robot remains functional.
Now, if you elect to stay with iSelect Roomba for (say) three years, your total cost will be $1,193, although your membership could potentially include roughly $450 in gratis spare parts over the three-year span. And once you’ve paid up for three years of iRobot Select, you’d be eligible for a new–and free–Roomba to replace the old one.
For the two-year plan, the main difference is that you’re on the hook for at least two years (natch), but the activation fee will be less (just $99, or $49 during iRobot’s current promotional period).
Assuming you sign up while iRobot is offering the discounted $49 activation fee for the two-year plan, two years of payments would equal $745, including the fee–and again, don’t forget the free spare parts, an (estimated) value of roughly $300 over two years. And after three years of payments–a total of $1,093–you’d be up for a new robot, same as with the month-to-month plan.
Is iRobot Select worth it?
Well, it depends.
If, for example, you live in a small apartment and/or you’re a first-time Roomba user, you might be better off paying full price for cheaper Roomba, such as the classic bump-and-run Roomba 694 (available on Amazon for about $250). Even the least-expensive Roomba models are known for their reliability, meaning they could last for several years, giving you more bang for the buck than iRobot Select could.
There are other reasons to skip iRobot Select. For example, you might want a Roomba that you can keep and use as long as you want, or you might want the freedom to pick the exact Roomba you need. Got floors that need mopping? The Roomba j7+ that comes with iRobot Select doesn’t include mopping functionality. Finally, keep in mind that you can’t give the Roomba from your iRobot Select plan to someone else, nor can you transfer your membership to another party.
That said, if you’re sold on the whole Roomba concept, you have a large home, or you have pets (and thus lots of pet hair on your floors), iRobot Select might make a lot of sense.
Anyone who’s owned a Roomba for a while knows how much they’re subject to wear and tear, not to mention the expense of all those replacement parts–and if you have dogs, cats, or other furry friends in your home, your robot’s brushes will almost always be covered with tangled hair.
Given the abuse your Roomba will take as well as the cost of continually replacing snarled brushes and clogged filters, you may well be better off with an iRoomba Select subscription that includes free replacement parts as well as regular Roomba upgrades.
Looking back, I probably should have signed up for iRobot Select rather than paying full price for my twin Roomba 7+ units, given the amount I’m spending on replacement parts as well as the prospect of my robot vacs eventually wearing out. But in the end, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether iRobot Select makes sense given your circumstances.