The 8 Best Shop Vacuums That Really Suck

A shop vacuum is a must-have piece of equipment for every garage. The amount of “stuff” that can be cleaned up with it is incredible.

Shop vacuum uses range from sucking up potting soil, sawdust, spider webs, paint chips, and water to blowing away leaves to filling up inflatable pools. When a water pipe in the house has a leak, a wet/dry vacuum combined with a powerful air mover will make the situation a lot less stressful.

When shopping for the best shop vacuum, the two most important features will be the tank size and the strength of the motor. Large tanks are popular in a garage or workshop environment, but those with small tanks are more versatile, especially if you have stairs to climb.

The cord length can make or break a job, so shop for models that provide 10 feet or more unless it’s a wall-mounted model or you don’t mind using an extension cord. Below you’ll find 8 highly rated shop vacuums that were selected based on overall customer satisfaction, performance, and price.

Our 8 Favorite Wet/Dry Vacuums

 ProductCapacityMotorHoseCord
best-shop-vacuumVacmaster VBV121012 gal5 HP7' x 2.5"12'
shop-vac-reviewsRidgid WD127012 gal5 HP7' x 2.5"15'
best-wall-mount-garage-vacBissell Garage Pro4 gal12 amp32' x 1.25"6'
top-wet-dry-vacuumVacmaster Beast5 gal5.5 HP7' x 1.88"18'
wet-dry-vac-reviewsDeWalt DXV09P9 gal5 HP7' x 1.88"10'
craftsman-shop-vacuumCraftsman CMXEVBE1759516 gal6.5 HP7' x 2.5"20'
5-gallon-shop-vacShop-Vac 59893005 gal4.5 HP7' x 1.25"6'
shop-vac-for-carArmor All AA2552.5 gal2 HP6' x 1.25"10'

Shop Vacuum Reviews

#1 – Vacmaster VBV1210 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

best-shop-vacuum-2One of the best wet/dry vacs for the money has to be the bright blue Vacmaster VBV1210. This popular model has a large, 12 gallon holding tank to minimize downtown and a large drain port for quick emptying of water.

The 7-foot hose has a 2.5-inch inside diameter so it won’t clog up like older styles of wet/dry vacuums or some smaller models. For shop or professional use, this large diameter is a must.

You will get more for your money because this garage vacuum can be converted to a detachable blower with the flip of a single switch. Blower mode is powerful and the manual’s recommendation to wear goggles is no joke.

The Vacmaster is capable of moving air over 200 mph, and strong enough to move built-up leaves, dirt, and debris with its 5 horsepower motor. What’s surprising with all that power is how quiet a shop vacuum this really is.

Vacmaster VBV1210 review

At the top of the unit is an over-sized switch which is equipped with a dust-seal, and it comes with a 2-year warranty if you do have a problem. The Vacmaster also includes a full set of tools and comes with a 12 foot cord which is an adequate length for most users but we wish it was a few feet longer.

While it’s rated at 10.5 amps, a few users reported the vac caused their breaker to trip. If this happens, it’s likely the breaker for that particular outlet isn’t rated high enough and a different outlet (on a different circuit) should be used. Some purchasers noted loose wheels as a negative but they most likely forgot to secure them with the included screws. The casters snap into place so it’s easy to forget the screws but it’s an important step.

For a medium to heavy duty shop vacuum, the Vacmaster is hard to beat. The Ridgid model below is also a great option and has a longer cord but you lose the detachable blower feature on this model.

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#2 – Ridgid WD1270 12-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

shop-vac-reviews-2Known for their high quality power tools, Ridgid is a household name when it comes to professional grade. This 12-gallon shop-style vacuum has a smaller drum than larger 16-gallon models for easier storage without compromising the ability to tackle larger messes.

Side carry handles and four swivel casters allow you to move the vac using minimal effort. A 15-foot power cord is a good trade-off for usage and on-board storage.

The 5.0-peak horsepower motor provides excellent suction power even heavy-duty tasks. Owners note that it can handle tough jobs where the motor needs to run for extended periods of time. In addition, it can handle wet jobs just as easily as dry vacuuming, making it an excellent choice for consumers with a wider range of needs.

Like the Vacmaster above, the Ridgid has a large 2.5-inch diameter hose that’s 7 feet long allowing it to quickly clean up dry and wet messes. The included attachments (2 extension wands, utility nozzle, car nozzle, and wet nozzle) work well and store on-board for quick access.

The single biggest issue with this shop vacuum seems to be the on/off switch. Several users have reported having problems that result in the vacuum losing power or failing to turn on altogether. While the majority of switches work perfectly, be aware this part may need to be replaced or serviced at some point. Fortunately, Ridgid offers a full lifetime warranty against these types of manufacturing defects.

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#3 – Bissell Garage Pro 4-Gallon Wall-Mounted Wet/Dry Vac

best-wall-mount-garage-vac-2The Bissell Garage Pro (18P03) is a wall-mountable garage vacuum that’s perfect for cleaning your car, garage, or workshop. Its 12 Amp motor can handle both wet and dry cleanups, as well as converting to a blower. The 4-gallon dirt tank uses a two-stage filtration system to collect debris.

The 32-foot long hose reaches almost anywhere in most garages. It’s similar to what you see in a home with a central vacuum system without spending a fortune on. If you don’t need the portability of a typical shop vacuum, it’s well worth considering a wall-mounted model such as this one.

You’ll appreciate having this vacuum always ready to go. It’s comparable to having a retractable air hose reel installed instead of having to lug around your air compressor.

The Garage Pro comes with a wall mounting kit and hose holder and accessory bag with seven attachments to tackle a wide range of surfaces. Installation is quick and easy. You’ll want to have an outlet nearby as the power cord is only 6 feet long.

One of the design choices that makes this a popular vacuum among consumers is the thinner 1.25 inch diameter hose. This narrowness allows the vac to be handled more easily and reach places too small for a wider hose. Mounting is a breeze, making this a great choice for a garage or workshop with limited floor space.

Two major complaints seem to haunt the 18P03. The first is the lack of a caddy as shown in the manual. Instead, there is an accessory bag which simply hangs on the hose holder. While this isn’t a critical issue, some type of tool caddy for easy tool retrieval would have been nice. Second, be warned that the filters aren’t pleated and may require frequent cleaning in dusty environs.

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#4 – Vacmaster Beast VFB511B 5-Gallon Shop Vacuum

top-wet-dry-vacuum-2This powerful 5 gallon wet/dry vacuum boasts a 5.5 peak horsepower motor to handle even the toughest jobs. The integrated 7 foot hose (1-7/8″ interior diameter) and 18 foot cord make it possible to reach across most rooms without having to unplug the unit. We like that the hose is wide enough for large jobs but still goes where some 2-1/2 inch hoses can’t.

Eight accessories are included to allow for a wider range of tasks, and each has its own place in the  on-board storage. While the 5-gallon tank means you’ll have to empty it more frequently than its big brother (see our #1 pick above), it’s narrower shape allows it to be carried around much easier.

Owners of the “Beast” really appreciate the way it holds the hose for storage, a feature most other vacuums lack. In fact, every facet of the design revolves around portability without sacrificing performance. Between design and incredible suction power, this is one of the best compact models on the market.

The only real downside to this vacuum is the size of the filter. Its filter is small enough that it will clog easier than with other vacs. When using for wet pickup, blowing, or general cleaning, this isn’t a problem, but it might hinder cleanups in a wood shop or where a lot of dirt accumulates quickly.

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#5 – DeWalt DXV09P 9-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac

wet-dry-vac-reviews-2With a 5 peak horsepower motor and 9 gallon poly container, the DXV09P is an excellent choice for the workshop or taking on-site. Its casters are rubberized and ultra-durable; while the 7 foot hose (1-7/8″ diameter) and extra sturdy carrying handle make it easy to get the vac to nearly any messy location.

On the back is a built-in accessory storage bag to keep your attachments organized and accessible. We really like this design compared to other models. What we don’t particularly like is the short 10 foot power cord so expect to be using an extension cord most of the time.

Portability is the biggest feature of the DXV09P. Between the compact size, light weight, and moderate-sized tank, this a a great choice for contractors and DIYers alike. Despite its small size, the motor provides excellent suction power, adding to the convenience.

The filter on this model isn’t the greatest, making it a necessity to use bags when picking up dry debris. Additionally, be ready to move this vac around a lot, as the cord is simply too short to span many larger spaces without connecting to an extension cord or changing outlets.

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#6 – Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16-Gallon Heavy Duty Wet/Dry Vac

craftsman-shop-vacuum-2While some Craftsman tools have gone downhill, this excellent wet/dry vacuum is an exception. Boasting a large 16-gallon tank and 6.5 peak horsepower motor, the 17595 is perfect for a variety of heavy duty projects. Its rear blowing port is perfect for clearing leaves or other yard debris while the oversized drain ensures dumping liquids is quick and easy.

The 7 foot, 2.5 inch diameter hose incorporates dual-flex technology, allowing it to bend 180 degrees without kinking. We like the long 20-foot power cord and wish all larger models had it. Seven accessories are included to allow you to use your 17595 for a variety of chores.

One often overlooked feature that consumers love about this model is the inclusion of a float to automatically shut the vacuum off when the tank reaches liquid capacity. The 17595 also performs another key task that other shop vacuums tend to fail at: storing all of the accessories on its body effectively.

A few consumers have had problems with the latching mechanism fitting incorrectly or breaking. While such an issue can be fixed easily, it does illustrate the need for better quality control in modern manufacturing plants. You may also want to buy better filters, as the one included is a basic filter.

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#7 – Shop-Vac 5989300 5-Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum

5-gallon-shop-vac-2Shop-Vac Corporation is the pioneer in wet/dry vacuum cleaners and has been making high quality models since 1953. While the competition has caught up and even surpassed it in some cases, they continue to make good shop vacuums.

The Shop-Vac 5989300 is a 5-gallon wet/dry vac with a powerful 4.5 HP motor. It’s a popular seller due to its compact size, good suction, fairly low noise level, and trustworthy name.

Suited for the home, small shop or garage, you can use it for most wet and dry spills and messes. It doesn’t have the holding capacity as some of the larger models but not everyone needs a large unit. While the hose is the standard 7-foot length, the inside diameter is a fairly narrow 1-1/4 inches. This is great for getting into tight places but not so good for anything more than light jobs.

We used to be big fans of Shop-Vac but unfortunately, the quality has gone downhill. From the plastic handles and tool rack to the cord winder, it just feels a lot cheaper than previous models. In addition, the short 6-foot cord means you’ll almost always have to use an extension cord with it.

But owners will point out that the Shop-Vac does actually work well when it comes to sucking things up whether it be sawdust or water. In addition, the company continues to have some of the better customer support in the business.

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#8 – Armor All AA255 2.5-Gallon Wet/Dry Utility Vac

shop-vac-for-car-2As the most compact vacuum on this page, the Armor All AA255 is great if you need a light and portable unit. You won’t strain yourself lifting the 8.4 pound vac, and the 2.5 gallon holding tank will be perfect for small cleanup tasks or detailing the inside of your car.

Keep in mind that its 6-foot 1.25″ diameter hose will be more prone to clogging if you attempt to use it the same way as a much larger and more powerful unit. The 10-foot power cord is just about right for this size of vacuum.

It’s hard to beat the AA255 when it comes to vacuuming out your car (even pet hair!) and taking it places where that larger models can’t go.

The tank is topped off with a powerful 2 horsepower motor, and it comes with all of the attachments you need to get started right away. Designed with you in mind, it allows on-board storage of the attachments, and features and auto-shut off to alert you when the tank is full.

Don’t expect the same amount of power as the above units though. Also, the vac is surprisingly loud for being so small making it sound like it’s working harder than normal.

If one of the units above might be a bit overkill and you tone down your expectations, the ArmorAll AA255 is a great option for a fairly powerful compact wet/dry vac.

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FAQs

By now, a few questions might be stuck in your mind. How big should I go? Which of these models best suits my needs? What else can I do with these vacuums that I can’t with my old Hoover? Read on to find out.

What Size Wet/Dry Vac Should I Get?

The size will depend greatly upon what you need the vac for. There are three basic size ranges of canister, each of which have their own perks.

Small (1 to 6 gallons) –These are the most portable models and are often handheld in the smallest sizes. A small vac is perfect for keeping in a van or boat and can pick up small messes easily but are essentially useless in a more industrial setting. Horsepower on these models tends to range from 1 to 4.45 peak HP.

Medium (7 to 14 gallons) – Boasting a five to six horsepower motor, these moderately-sized vacs are perfect for most tasks. When looking for something to keep your home, workshop, or yard clean, this is the size range to go for.

Large (15 to 18 gallons) – These are best suited for industrial or commercial use due to the large storage capacity and 6-plus horsepower motors. Due to their size, they’re inconvenient for use in homes or small shop or garage settings.

What are Some Common Shop Vacuum Uses?

While a shop vacuum has obvious uses as a a hybrid wet/dry vacuum cleaner, it has a much wider range of uses. Medium and large models have an exhaust port that allows you to turn your vac into a handy blower (sometimes detachable), eliminating the need for several other space-hogging tools in your garage. If you find your small air compressor inadequate for blowing up that large inflatable pool, a shop vacuum operating on blower mode is a great option.

Parents can also use their vac to quickly pick up all of those caltrops (AKA Lego bricks) into the empty canister for easy dumping into a storage tray or toy box. In a few extreme cases, a shop vacuum has even been used to dislodge clogs, although we suggest caution and knowledge of the pipes’ condition before attempting this.

For more great ways to get the most out of your shop vacuum, we suggest you check out these handy tips.

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Comments

    • Brent – You’re not the first person I’ve heard of that has had a Shop-Vac for 10+ years. Both the Shop-Vac and Vacmaster models above would be great upgrades.

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