A good wet/dry shop vac is an essential tool for any garage, basement or workshop. Shop vacs excel at sucking up large amounts of debris quickly, making them perfect for big and dirty clean-up jobs. Shop vacs are perfect for collecting sawdust or drywall dust on job sites, providing powerful cleaning power for a dirty car interior or garage floor. In addition, most shop vacs are known as wet/dry vacs because they can also suck up water or liquid spills—something you can’t do with a traditional vacuum.
Best Shop Vacs Product Reviews
Craftsman XSP (16 Gal., 6.5 HP)
This Craftsman XSP 16 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac offers innovative cleaning power technology designed to tackle the toughest cleanup projects at the jobsite. shop. garage or home. Vacuuming wood chunks. metal shards. nails or sawdust in the shop. clearing drywall chunks. broken glass and screws at the job site. liquid pickup in a flooded basement and lastly removing leaves and other debris from gutters (gutter kit sold seperately) are just a few of the projects XSP can handle. Innovative top-tray storage allows you to conveniently store items such as mechanics tools. power drills, screws or necessities on top of the vacuum so they are easily accessible when needed. On-board hose, accessory and power cord organizers eliminates unneeded hassle and reduces overall storage space. Equipped with an extra-large drain, it quickly empties the tank of liquids. An over 27 Foot cleaning reach (7 Hose, 20 Power Cord Extension Wands) allows you to reach larger areas without unplugging the unit. The 2-1/2 diameter secure fit hose system keeps the hose in place during use. Heavy duty 360 swivel casters offer enhanced mobility on most surfaces, integrated ergonomic top handle provides comfort and easy transport. Quickly control the power with the large dust sealed on/off switch.
Vacmaster VBV1210 (12 Gal., 5 HP)
The Vacmaster VBV1210 model wet-dry is a solid runner up in our list of best shop vacs. While most shop vacs double as blowers (useful for blow drying spills, blowing dirt out your garage, or even air drying your car after a wash), this Vacmaster is perhaps even more useful because the motor unit detaches from the canister enabling it to serve as an extremely versatile handheld blower. The Vacmaster VBV1210 also features a 210 mph blower speed, 7 -Foot x 2-1/2 -in. vac hose, cord wrap, an extra-large drain port, on-board accessory storage, an automatic shut off float valve to prevent liquids overflowing the canister, and double-insulated accessories, including two extension wands, crevice took, utility nozzle, and a concentrator.
- Affordable quality
- Detachable blower
- Relatively quiet (for a vacuum)
- Large 12 gallon capacity
- Just slightly more expensive than the Pro Series 12 Gallon model, but down half a horespower on power
Vacmaster VJH1211PF Professional
The Vacmaster "Professional Beast Series" (gotta love marketing...it's a beast!) is a 12-Gallon, 5.5 Peak horsepower wet/dry vac. This model includes integrated storage for accessories, the hose, and power cord. The 7-ft hose and 20-ft power cord combine for 27 ft. of cleaning range, which is fairly standard among models. Finally, 360-degree casters make for easy mobility. At the time of review, this model was selling for just a couple dollars less than the Vacmaster VBV1210, also reviewed here. This model has 1/2 a hp more power than the VBV1210, although that little of a power difference is imperceptible. The quality of both models is good, we suspect the black trim on this "professional series" is mostly marketing. The reason to spend a few bucks extra and opt for the VBV1210 comes down to whether you want that model's detachable blower.
- Good price-point for the power and features offered
- Includes a wet foam filter and squeegee
- Blower is not detachable like the similarly Vacmaster VBV1210
- Quality is good, but there's not a big difference between this "Professional Series" and standard Vacmaster models
Craftsman 17590 (9 Gal., 4.5 HP)
This Craftsman 9 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac features a 4.25 peak HP motor, making it a middle-sized shop vac choice for DIY renovations or other residential use. It can handle almost any dry vac job you throw at it while also having enough power to handle light flooding or removing water from a clogged sink.
- Compact size but decently powerful motor
- Qwik Lock° Filter Fastening System makes removing and installing filters easy
- More powerful models are available for the same money
Craftsman 17584 (6 Gal., 3.5 HP)
The Craftsman 6 Gallon Wet/Dry Vac has a 3.5 peak HP motor and is a good lightweight shop vac choice. It's smaller than some of our other picks and features a less powerful motor, but competently handles household jobs like car clean outs, dirt piles and even broken glass or debris from (light) renovations.
- Light and extremely portable
- Qwik Lock° Filter Fastening System makes removing and installing filters easy
- Less capacity and power than other models
Shop-Vac 5989300 (5 Gal., 4.5 HP)
This Shop-Vac wet dry vacuum is a fantastic deal for a mid-size, mid-power wet/dry vac. The 4.5 peak HP motor is plenty powerful for this size vac, while its smaller size makes it portable and convenient for household use.
- Great value
- Includes 7' hose, 3 extension wands, and an assortment of attachments
- Smaller capacity and smaller motor than other models
Shop-Vac 5989400 (8 Gal., 6 HP)
The Shop-Vac 5989400 wet dry vacuum, featuring a 6 HP motor and large 8 gallon capacity is large and powerful enough for even larger renovation clean-ups. At $59.99 at the time of writing, it's also a great deal when compared to similarly-powered vacs from other brands.
- Good value
- Includes 7-foot hose, 3 extension wands, 10-inch wet dry nozzle, gulper nozzle, crevice tool, cartridge filter, foam sleeve, and filter bag
- Quality is decent but lags behind other brands
Stanley Wet/Dry Vac (6 Gal., 4 HP)
Stanley's SL18116P shop vac features a 6-gallon, 4-peak HP heavy duty motor. The rear blower port converts vacuum power to a handy blower. Swiveling casters provide easy maneuvering in any direction. Accessories include a 1-1/4-inch wide by 6-foot long hose, two extension wands, crevice nozzle, 10-inch floor nozzle, cartridge filter and dust bag.
- Provides maximum suction power for heavy duty pickup
- Powerful rear blower port instantly converts vacuum to power blower
- On/off switch with waterproof design for safe and quick access
- Heavier than similar models
What Makes A Good Shop Vac?
The best shop vacs provide a combination of ample suction power, good build quality to withstand years of use under harsh conditions, and the ability to easily move the shop vac both during use and between jobs.
A good shop vac should be able to easily pick up larger objects like small nuts and bolts, while also making quick work of water or other liquid spills.
But the most powerful vacuum isn’t much use if you can’t move it (between your garage and basement, for example). That’s why nearly all shop vacs come on casters to allow a 360-degree range of motion. Higher-end models may also feature handles and rear dolly wheels for easily rolling the vac up or down stairs. As shop vacs can be large, you may also want to take weight into account if you’ll need to carry the vac up or down stairs, or load it in and out of a vehicle.
Finally, don’t neglect build quality when choosing a shop vac. If you spend more, you’ll get a more powerful vacuum motor, but you’ll also buy better materials, which may end up being more important in the long run. As long as you keep your filter clean, your vacuum motor should last a long time. More than likely, it will be cheap plastic bits that fail first. Some higher-end shop vacs come with metal canisters and connections, making them more apt to stand up to years of rugged use.
How Much Should You Spend On A Shop Vac?
Shop vacs start just under $50 for a basic model. More powerful models start around $80 and you can spend over $100, with some heavy-duty models approaching the $200 mark. Most homeowners don’t need to spend a lot to get a shop vac that will handle most clean up and spills around the home. You’ll obviously want to consider a higher-end model if you’re a contractor taking the vac to job sites and submitting it to daily use. Also, homeowners who will use their vac for heavier duty projects (such as cleaning up during drywall mudding/sanding) might want to opt for a higher-powered model.
Another factor to consider is the cost of replacement filters. All shopvacs feature removable dry filters to capture fine particles during vacuuming. These filters should be removed for wet vac use, although some manufacturers like Craftsman sell specific wet filters, but they are optional. The dry filters can be removed and cleaned off with water, but will still need replacement after enough use. Filters cost between $13 and $30 for most models, and less-expensive generic filters are available on Amazon.
How We Picked The Best Shop Vac
Our choice for the best Shop Vac is the Craftsman XPS 16 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac, selling for $133 on Amazon at the time of review.
This vac’s larger 16 gallon canister and 6.5 peak horsepower motor makes quick work of nearly any mess you throw at it. Compared to other brands, we like the Craftsman line of shop vacs because of their long history making wet/dry vacs and readily available parts and filters. (You can buy replacement Craftsman filters at most ACE Hardware stores, for example, in addition to Amazon and other online merchants.
Although Craftsman vacs feature plastic canisters, the canister and parts feel higher-quality than some competitors.
We preferred larger vacs with more powerful motors, although you may ultimately want a smaller model. At nearly 30 pounds empty, this unit can get prohibitively heavy, especially if you’re filling it with water. The smaller Craftsman 17584 is a good option if you want something smaller, lighter, and less expensive. The 6 gallon tank and 3 peak hp motor should be enough for most household messes. Used side-by-side, you can definitely appreciate the extra power of the XPS model, but the smaller vac will handle most things you throw at it with ease.