Wet/dry shop vacuums are a must have item for your garage or work-space. Although they are usually called shop-vacs, that is not the correct terminology since Shop-Vac is an actual brand. They are especially useful for sucking up saw dust or liquids. There are also more advanced dust extractors which have attachments that work with power tools to capture the dust they create.
Some of the features to look for, besides actual performance, is the tank size, filter, hose diameter and length. The filter can be really important because if you are working with fine sheet rock dust then a good HEPA filter is a must. For most household and garage units a 9-14 gallon tank is fine, but if you are cleaning up wood chips or sucking up lots of water you might want to consider a 15-20 gallon tank.
Below we review the top 10 best shop vacs.
For more information check out our wet/dry shop vacuum buying guide.
Perhaps the nicest attribute to the 9-20-28 is the noise. At just 66 decibels, it is significantly quieter than most models.
Priced at $499 it is expensive and might be overkill if you don’t need to use your shop vacuum as a dust extractor with power tools. This version comes with a set of attachments included, although you can also get versions of the 9-20-28 without attachments or the HEPA filter for as much as $100 cheaper.
It comes with a top handle, cord wrap, and accessory storage bag which are features that all come in handy and that you often don’t find on lower price units. The top handle combined with larger rear wheels make it easier to get up and down stairs. The hose is 7 feet long and has a diameter of 2.5″.
We recommend the Ridgid WD1851 primarily for use on job sites or users who will use it a lot. For more occasional users there are cheaper options available.
Priced at $110 the Craftsman 12007 provides excellent performance at a decent price. In fact you won’t find better suction at a lower price than this.
This version is a great auto-start dust extractor as long as your power tools are not generating too much dust since the tank will fill up faster. A major plus is that the 9-20-27 features the longest hose of any shop vacuum on our list at 16 feet with a 1.375″ diameter.
If you need to collect small amounts of dust then the Fein 9-20-27 Turbo I is perfect. However, if you need to collect large amounts of wood debris or a large volume of liquid then this unit will not work well for you.
This 14 gallon model features a 7 foot hose with 2.5-inch diameter and comes with an auto detailing kit.
The WD1450, which is this vacuum minus the auto detailing kit, was picked as a Best Buy by the leading consumer magazine. Overall we feel that the Ridgid WD1451 is a perfect choice for a normal user who does not need professional dust extraction.
We would recommend Craftsman XSP 12006 for any user who needs an affordable way to clean up jobs around the home, shop, or garage and does not need dust extraction.
One nice attribute of the VBV1210 is that it also features a detachable blower. It has a 2.5″ diameter, 7′ long hose.
The Vacmaster VBV1210 will work fine for basic jobs for almost all homeowners, but it is not recommended for fine dust collection.
Shop-Vacs like the 5986100 are built in the USA from components sourced from around the world and the United States. It is a great choice for user who has small jobs.
Features include a 7 foot hose with 1.25″ diameter, stainless steel tank, on-board cord and tool storage just like the 5986100.
If you are looking for the best cheap shop vacuum for use around your home and in the garage then this is good choice for you. Just know that for certain jobs the 5 gallon tank will be a liability.
The Craftsman 12002 is not a good choice to tackle jobs with large debris like wood chips, leaves, or other shop debris. It is a decent choice for users who need a wet/dry vac to use inside and outside the home for small jobs.
Best Shop Vacuum Comparison Chart
|Peak HP||Hose Length
|Fein 9-20-28 TURBO II||9.3||$499||20.1||8.4||1100 watt||13||1.375||18||66|
|Fein 9-20-27 TURBO I SET||9.0||$346.77||17.9||5.8||1100 watt||16||1.375||16||66|
|Vacmaster VBV1210||8.7||$81.10||18||12||5||7||2.5||12||~ 80|
|Shop-Vac 5986100||8.6||$72.99||21||8||5.5||7||1.25||12||~ 80|
|Shop-Vac 5986000||8.6||$59.49||14.3||5||4.5||7||1.25||6||~ 78|
Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide
Features to consider:
Types of Jobs – Knowing which types of tasks you will be using your shop vacuum on will determine which style you should get. For general wood-shop clean up such as wood chips and shavings, experts recommend a 2.5″ diameter hose. Hoses smaller than this might clog, however if you will be using the hose as a collector on your power power tools, then a smaller and more flexible hose might be preferred. If collecting dust is your primary use then get a automatic tool-triggered vacuum for dust extracting.
Capacity/Tank Size – Go with a bigger tank, 15-20 gallons, for sucking up wood chips or other big cleanups such as liquids. For basic garage use 9-14 gallons is a good size. Remember also how much space it will take in your shop. You can also get wall mounted units with long hoses if space is a problem for you.
Filters / Bags – You will need to clean and eventually replace your filter, so know how much a replacement costs – this can vary greatly for different models. For some projects, like sheet rock, you might need a special filter like a HEPA filter for the fine dust. Some models use bags to collect dust and debris – you may want one built for fine dust, sometimes called sheetrock bags. Also most models require you to change filters for wet versus dry operation.
Noise – Most units are very loud at around 80 decibels and up. The best wet/dry vacuums are around 65 decibels.
Drain Valve – You will want this to drain any fluids otherwise you have to take the lid off and lift and tip the tank to empty it, which is not an easy task with 16 – 20 gallons of liquid.
Maneuverability – A wide set of wheels and a low profile will help to prevent tip-overs. Also if you have to transport your vacuum up and down stairs then look for a model with large back wheels and a handle for easy use.
Storage – Cord wraps and on-board storage for accessories keeps everything neat and tidy.
Accessories/Attachments – Remember to check which attachments come with the unit you want to buy. Some brands come with only very basic accessories and you will need to purchase more to accomplish your tasks.