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Best Shop Vacs (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

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BY/ LAST UPDATED ON November 14, 2021

The best shop vacs are agile in their movement around your garage, excellent at sucking up everything from sawdust on woodworking tables to dropped nails and bolts, and adaptive enough for even wet leaves on your patio. Today, there are dozens of different shop vacs, most differentiated by suction power, capacity, number of accessories, and ergonomics such as swiveling casters and oversized carry handles to maneuver well in tight spaces. Some even come in small 2-gallon varieties for light work, such as auto detailing, while others come in five gallons and up. Trying to find the right shop vac for your needs? After exhaustive research on more than 40 different shop vacs, we've got you covered with this comprehensive buying guide which includes our top recommendations for one of the most versatile tools around.

Best Overall

Craftsman Heavy Duty Shop Vac

Summary

List-best power (6.5HP) and monstrous, 16-gallon capacity for tackling the toughest cleaning jobs.

Pros
  • Powerful specs (16-gallon capacity and 6.5 horsepower)
  • Works with wet/dry vacuuming 
  • Extra-long 20-foot power cord
Cons
  • Canister may be a bit too wide for smaller garages 
  • Locking mechanism could be stronger
Best Value

Porter-Cable 5 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum

Summary

Versatile dry/wet vac with a sleek stainless steel design and powerful filtration.

Pros
  • Easy to move using swiveling casters 
  • Sturdy and wide stainless steel base
  • Durable quick-lock hose for hose and nozzle connections
Cons
  • Shorter than average power cord (10 feet)
  • Hard to find compatible replacement bags
Honorable Mention

Stanley Wet Dry Vacuum

Summary

3-in-1 powerhouse with the highest number of accessories (nozzles and wands) for auto and home.

Pros
  • Offers 3-in-1 functionality (dry, wet, and blow)
  • 360-degree casters for easy movement 
  • Excellent airflow rating (80 CFM)
  • Carry handle doubles as cord wrap
Cons
  • Shorter than average power cord (10 feet)
  • Hard to find compatible replacement bags
Best Shop Vacs (Review & Buying Guide) in 2022

Our Methodology

For this review, we researched more than 40 different shop vacs. Each shop vac was evaluated based on several criteria, including size, power, capacity, and the number and variety of nozzles for different cleaning projects. All of our picks are classified as dry, wet, or combination (wet, dry, blower) vacuums with a minimum of 4 horsepower and a capacity anywhere from 2 to 18 gallons. These are specs we feel comfortable using for even the most high-volume messes. To learn more about our methodology, visit About Guides & Gear, And The Drive’s Product Reviews Department

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

Learn more

Best Shop Vac Reviews & Recommendations

The Craftsman Heavy Duty Shop Vac is a jack of all trades. It offers the most power on our list (6.5 horsepower) and a 16-gallon capacity, which is excellent for larger garages and rooms. Another big draw is dual-flex technology, which allows its 2.5-inch vacuum hose to move 180 degrees, cutting nicely in tight corners and spots. It also includes several accessories, including a utility nozzle, wet nozzle, car nozzle, and two extension wands to reach high places. And we like having all of this variety for cleaning messes large and small.


On the ergonomic front, the Craftsman Heavy Duty Shop Vac offers an extra-large on/off switch and an oversized carry handle with cord wrap to stow it neatly when not in use. Four swiveling casters also allow it to rotate a full 360 degrees in a single spot, making it easier to handle.


Product Specs

  • Capacity: 16 gallons
  • Horsepower: 6.5HP
  • Style: Dry/wet vac

Pros

  • Powerful specs (16-gallon capacity and 6.5 horsepower)
  • Works with wet/dry and wet vacuuming 
  • Extra-long 20-foot power cord 

Cons

  • Canister may be a bit too wide for smaller garages 
  • Locking mechanism could be stronger

The Porter-Cable 5 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum offers an excellent combo of value and functionality as it’s a lighter-duty wet dry vacuum running a peak of 4HP with a 5-gallon capacity, which is enough to cover the messiest households in a single pass without having to empty the container. Filtration power is strong, containing all dirt and dust in the container using sponge, filter cloth, and air cyclone filtration to keep your air contaminant-free.


One of our favorite features with the Porter-Cable 5 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum is its design as its wide stainless steel base, large carry handle, and oversized on/off switch gives it plenty of pop, a nice contrast to plastic containers. However, this unit does have some drawbacks, including a clumsy, shorter-than-average 10-foot power cord and a 90-day warranty, which is paltry compared to the three years limited and limited lifetime warranty of some of our other picks.


Product Specs

  • Capacity: 5 gallons 
  • Horsepower: 4HP
  • Style: Dry/wet vac

Pros

  • Easy to move using swiveling casters 
  • Sturdy and wide stainless steel base
  • Durable quick-lock hose for hose and nozzle connections

Cons

  • Lower-than-average power (4 horsepower)
  • Very short warranty length (90 days)

The Ridgid 40103 Wet/Dry Vac is excellent at cleaning up tough messes, offering a solid 5 horsepower with a 12-gallon capacity, good enough for larger home improvement projects and moderate overflows over a light clean up. Kudos for its healthy number of attachments, two extension wands, and three types of nozzle heads for smaller messes and larger piles.


One downside to the Ridgid 40103 Wet/Dry Vac is its size. At 19 inches wide, 26 inches tall, and weighing close to 22 pounds, this unit is one of the largest ones we've researched. Even with four swiveling caster wheels, don't expect a lot of agility in tight spaces with this one. You’ll also need to purchase the special filter if you plan on vacuuming water, as it doesn’t come with the vacuum.


Product Specs

  • Capacity: 12 gallons
  • Horsepower: 5HP
  • Style: Dry/wet vac 

Pros

  • Powerful airflow (141 CFM)
  • 180-degree flexibility using Dual-Flex Locking House system 
  • Generous power cord length (15 feet)

Cons

  • May notice burning smell with extended use
  • Wet filter not included

The DeWalt DXV06P 6 gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac comes highly recommended. It comes with a peak 4HP motor, 80 CFM airflow rating, and a 6-gallon capacity, which works great for light clean-up jobs like vacuuming sawdust off your woodworking or miter saw table. We especially appreciate its fine-dust cartridge filter which helps trap smaller wet and dry particles and keep contaminants from hitting your air.


Like many of our recommended shop vacs, the DeWalt DXV06P 6 gallon Poly Wet/Dry Vac comes with a nice variety of nozzles for different jobs, including a floor, utility, and crevice nozzle. Four swivel casters also allow it to rotate easily, hitting tight spots well. An extra dust bag is also included. It is, however, a bit expensive to replace the debris bags and the 10-foot power cord could be longer for our liking. 


Product Specs

  • Capacity: 6 gallons
  • Horsepower: 4HP
  • Style: Wet/dry/blower vac 

Pros

  • Includes fine-dust cartridge filter  for smaller particles
  • Comes with built-in blower port 
  • Above-average three-year limited warranty 
  • Very easy to assemble 

Cons

  • A bit expensive to replace bags 
  • Shorter-than-average 10-foot power cord

The Bissell, Red, MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage and Auto Vacuum Cleaner is a formidable shop vac in more ways than one. It features a strong 11-amp motor and 6-gallon capacity, designed to offer powerful suction for light to moderate clean-up jobs. Plus, it is an absolute looker with a stainless steel body and wand, a welcome change from your typical plastic bodies and wands.


Arguably the Bissell, Red, MultiClean Wet/Dry Garage and Auto Vacuum Cleaner's biggest strength is with auto cleaning as it contains an auto tool kit complete with crevice, blowing/suction, and upholstery brushes, good to cover virtually every inch of your vehicle. It's a breeze installing each attachment to the main hose, too. What we wish was better was its weight. It’s a heavy unit weighing in at 16.1 pounds, which would be difficult to move in and through your car. And the hose is thinner than the average one seen throughout this list, which may make it more prone to clogs.


Product Specs

  • Capacity: 6 gallons
  • Power: 11 amps
  • Style: Dry/wet/blower

Pros

  • 3-in-1 functionality (dry, wet, and blow)
  • Monstrous 6-gallon capacity 
  • Comes with three detailing tips for inflatable devices
  • Includes seven-piece auto tool kit with crevice tool and storage bag 

Cons

  • Heavy at 16.1 pounds 
  • Thinner-than-average hose more likely to clog easily 
  • No automatic cord rewind or clear filter indicator

The Milwaukee M18 Wet/Dry Vacuum is one of the finer shop vacs we've researched. Curiously shaped like a toolbox, this is the only portable vacuum on our list, running off of an 18V lithium-ion battery with a 2-gallon capacity. We appreciate its design, weighing only 10 pounds and easy to move around with several indents and nooks along with the motor's housing to store crevices and nozzles.


Not surprisingly, power with the Milwaukee M18 Wet/Dry Vacuum is on the low end (45 cubic feet per minute), paltry in comparison to peak 4 horsepower models. Its battery also leaves much to be desired, as it's good for only 10 minutes of continuous run time before suction power starts to weaken considerably. We would have also liked to see a washable and reusable filter. If you do frequent auto detailing work or clear up nothing but sawdust or occasional food crumbs off a sofa, then we highly recommend the Milwaukee M18 WetDry Vacuum.

Product Specs

  • Capacity: 2 gallons
  • Power: 45 CFM
  • Style: Portable

Pros

  • Weighs only 10 pounds 
  • Indents and nooks for easy nozzle storage
  • Excellent hose design 

Cons

  • Limited power (45 CFM)
  • Battery only good for 10 minutes of continuous use 
  • Filter is not washable/reusable

The Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac is a well-rounded unit as it offers above-average power (peak 5.5 HP) and a 5-gallon capacity for smaller cleaning jobs. Its biggest calling card is its durability. Its rugged, matte black polypropylene tank with the wild Beast logo is corrosion- and impact-resistant—more than suited for punishment in a crowded garage or shop.


Another plus with the punchy Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac is a healthy variety of attachments. It includes a thin crevice tool for tight spaces, a thin/wide car nozzle, and an extension wand for hard-to-reach places such as ceiling fans. It also includes a fine dust cartridge filter and cartridge filter retainer to prevent contaminants from hitting the air. Bonus points for its 18-foot power cord, blowing past the standard 10 feet for many shop vacs.


Product Specs

  • Capacity: 5 gallons 
  • Horsepower: 5.5HP
  • Style: Wet/dry vac 

Pros

  • Excellent suction power (5.5HP and 102 CFM)
  • Integrated hose storage for convenience 
  • Solid reach with 7-foot hose and 18-foot power cord
  • Includes foam filter for wet vacuuming and fine dust filter for dry vacuuming

Cons

  • Accessories storage area could be more spacious
  • Hose holder rung poorly designed

Our Verdict on Shop Vacs

Our pick for the best shop vac goes to the CRAFTSMAN Heavy Duty Shop Vac. It is one of the most powerful units on our list, featuring a 6.5-horsepower motor and 16-gallon tank with a 2.5-inch vacuum hose to suck up debris with ease. It also comes with multiple nozzles (utility, car, and wet) to handle all types of messes.

What to Consider When Buying a Shop Vac

Types of Shop Vacs

Wet/Dry or Wet/Dry/Blower Shop Vac

Shop vacs combine the best in wet/dry and/or blowing. They work using a single or two-stage motor to create high airflow and high-pressure suction, good for light duty to heavy duty cleaning assignments. Power is determined based on suction pressure (expresses in inches), airflow (cubic feet per minute), and peak horsepower, or the motor's maximum output.

Many of the best shop vacs also come with 2-inch diameter hoses, which are large enough to pick up leaves and larger debris. Do not forget all of the appropriate extension wands and nozzles to hit hard-to-reach areas.

Our recommendation is for a non-handheld shop vac to 3-in-1- functionality (wet, dry, and blower), plus a combination of one or more of a suction pressure rating of 75 or better, airflow rating of 100 CFM or greater, and a minimum of 4 peak horsepower. All of these specs offer enough power to pick up virtually any type of particle from fine sawdust to heavy, wet leaves without breaking a sweat.

Portable Shop Vac

Handheld vacuums are miniature versions of shop vacs with diminished power across the board, good for light-duty clean-up such as bread crumbs of a sofa or small, loose sediment off your car seats. If it offers a max 2 peak horsepower and a 2 to 2.5-gallon capacity, then you are good to go.

Shop Vac Key Features

Size

When comparing shop vacs, consider the overall size of the vacuum unit. Smaller units are easier to move around. Some are small enough to be handheld and portable. Other units are larger and are too heavy to lift. These units will be on casters to help you move them around.

A larger unit will have more capacity and power. This makes them better for consistent use and the cleaning of larger messes. So while it will be harder to move a larger unit around, you’ll also get several benefits that make the larger unit better.

Capacity

You can buy a shop vac with a capacity of 2 to 18 gallons. This capacity is the wet or dry mess that the vacuum can hold before you’ll need to empty it. A larger capacity can clean an increased number of smaller messes or larger single messes between cleanings.

When a shop vac has a larger capacity, the whole unit is larger because it needs to house the larger tank. Larger-capacity units have features to make them easier to use. This includes things like built-in spouts or drains. This will make emptying the larger tank easier and cleaner.

Power

The power is the size of the motor and the suction power of the shop vac. The larger the motor, the larger the debris it can suck up. If you’re only cleaning light dust and dander, then you don’t need a very powerful shop vac. If you’re cleaning a lot of water or wood chips and shavings, then you’ll need a larger and more powerful motor.

Top Brands

Vacmaster

Owned by Cleva North America, Inc., the Vacmaster brand specializes in cleanup products for home and commercial such as wet/dry vacuums, cordless vacuums, and air movers for heavy-duty blowing. One of its most popular products is its 2.5 gallon, portable wet/dry vac and two-stage motor, 16-gallon stainless steel wet/dry vac.

Porter-Cable

Porter-Cable is a top power tools manufacturer producing everything from orbital sanders to circular saws. Founded in 1906 as a jobbing machine and tool shop, its humble beginnings saw the production of small-time products such as pencil sharpeners and automatic tire pumps. In the late 1920s, it began to differentiate itself from industry competitors with the introduction of the first portable belt sander and helical gear drive saw. Further innovations throughout the 1950s and 60s also saw magic happen with the first portable Band Saw and the first high speed, small-orbit finishing sander.

Today, Porter-Cable continues to design and manufacture high-quality power tools.

Craftsman

Formerly a house brand managed by struggling hardware store Sears and later sold to Stanley Black and Decker, Craftsman is a well-known line of tool and hardware products, as well as an outdoor tools and equipment line.

Stanley

Founded in 1843, Stanley is a designer and manufacturer of home, industrial, and commercial-grade tools, especially known for hand, automotive, and home improvement tools and accessories.

DeWalt

DeWalt is one of the most popular tool manufacturers in the world. Founded by Raymond DeWalt, its first claim to fame was the first electric universal woodworking machine, the "Wonder-Worker," a radial arm saw that could be configured in nine ways. The early 1940s also saw DeWalt play an integral role with national defense and wartime machinery as one of the nation's leading defense building contractors. Today, it sells everything from power tools to vacuums, widely considered a trusted brand.

Ridgid

Ridgid focuses heavily on industrial and commercial grade tools spanning threading, pipe fabrication, pressing tools, power tools, and of course, dry/wet vacs. In 1923, it introduced the first pipe wrench and met a key niche exporting products post World War II to help rebuild Europe. Key inventions include the first aluminum handle wrench and key improvements to speed chucks and threading machines throughout the 1950s.

Bissell

Founded by Melville and Anna Bissell and in business for over 140 years, Bissell is a popular manufacturer of cleaning tools and home accessories such as vacuums, sweepers, and portable fans. Its early days saw heavy sweeper production, quickly gaining the endorsement of Queen Victoria in the late 1890s. Other innovations in the space saw the introduction of the first vac/floor scrubber and two-brush sweeper. Today, many of its products come with a lifetime warranty on the backing of a solid reputation.

Shop Vac Pricing Considerations

When it comes to pricing, the pricier, the better. Shop vacs under $75 usually have less powerful motors and basic filters. Shop vacs priced between $75 to $125 fall in the medium-sized range for gallon capacity and motor horsepower. You’ll also find they have some nice features like castor wheels, an extended hose length, or a high-end HEPA filter. Shop vacs priced at $125 or higher are the largest or high-quality shop vacs. You’ll find they are the ones with the largest gallon capacity and commercial-quality motors. They also come with extra features and tools to make them the most versatile on the market.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and shop vacs. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Remove all small objects from the floor before you start vacuuming. They may block the blower and cause the vacuum to malfunction.
  • Keep an eye on the collection bag/canister, and remember to empty it on a regular basis. It may tear if you use it when it’s full.
  • If you notice a stain on the mat or surface you’re cleaning, consider treating it with a spot cleaner. Vacuums cannot get rid of stains.
  • Consider doing a deep clean occasionally after vacuuming. It will help you keep the garage surface or your car cleaner for longer.
  • Read the manufacturer's recommendations on the correct setting you should adopt for cleaning different surfaces. A hardwood surface may require a different setting from a shaggy rug.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: Can a shop vac be used to clean up a vehicle?

Yes, you can use it to clean dirt from your floor mats, seat covers, and your truck’s bed. Most shop vacs can also get rid of pet fur and tiny hair stuck on your seats. A standard shop vac can also fit in a recreational vehicle and be used for clean up.

Q: Can I use a shop vac without the collection bag?

Without the collection bag, you may have a hard time draining the fine dust from your vacuum. You may struggle to keep the dust particles from flying around your trash can. Also, all the fine dirt may blow back into the room the next time you switch on the vacuum. If your shop vac doesn't have a collection bag, consider purchasing a reusable cartridge filter that will pick up most of the fine dust.

Q: How much suction does a shop vac have?

How much suction a shop vac has depends on its airflow and pressure rating. Airflow is expressed in cubic feet per minute and suction is expressed in inches. The higher the cubic feet and inches, the greater the suction. Some top-shelf vacuums carry as high as 100 CFM of airflow and 80 inches of suction.

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