The best shop vacs come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and price points. Nearly every store that sells tools also sells shop vacuums. These handy tools range from larger-capacity units to smaller, portable models. We separate shop vacs from dust extractors based on hose size and intended use. Our picks for best shop vac for 2021 came from countless hours of hands-on testing and reviews. We then separated our picks into categories for various needs and applications.
What is the Best Shop Vac?
Shop vacs typically have a larger diameter hose and they don’t typically arrive HEPA certified (though some do). You don’t normally find automatic filter cleaning, and the motor tends to be smaller, so there’s less overall power. Those aren’t all the differences, of course, but it’s a good start. The best models take advantage of these differences and best the competition.
Our best shop vac reviews cover the gamut from compact models to larger vacuums destined for woodworkers in the shop. So what makes a good wet-dry shop vacuum? It depends on your needs. It’s going to be a balance of portability, airflow (CFM), suction power (water lift), and capacity for the most part. Add in included accessories, storage, and hose/cord management to bring it full circle.
How you personally weight each of those categories differs from job to job and person to person. So here’s our list of the best shop vacs for 2020 based on our extensive testing and industry experience using dozens of these tools.
If you want to see how some of the best portable dust extractors and how we tested those, check out our best OSHA-compliant dust extractor shootout.
Best Shop Vac Overall
Ridgid HD1600 16-gal 6.5 HP NXT Wet/Dry Vac
We love the Ridgid HD1600 for a number of reasons. First, it has enough power and airflow to take care of just about any cleanup job you can imagine—in the shop or on the job site. The 16-gallon container also holds quite a bit of material before you have to empty it. You can go bagless with this vac. However, for less mess, use a dust bag or liner, and you’ll have almost continuous use with little downtime. Just charge it to the job.
We also love the NXT feature whereby the top of the Ridgid HD1600 comes off to let you use the motor as a 6.5HP 161 CFM blower. At a price point of less than $120, it saves you more than $50 from the Red/Black Ridgid models with nearly identical features and specs. Add on a 20-foot cord, HEPA filter compatibility, and the locking hose and accessories, and this is our best rated shop vac overall.
We also recommend
- DeWalt DXV14P 14 Gal. Poly Wet/Dry Vac
We can’t help but include the DeWalt DXV14P 14-gallon wet/dry vac. It actually has much better accessory storage over the Ridgid HD1600. The rear-mounted bucket just holds everything easily. It, plus the equally-long power cord and 7-foot hose really impressed us. While it doesn’t include a removable blower, you can still use it as a blower (by moving the hose to the exhaust port) when needed. Grab it for around $144 online.
Best Small Shop Vac
Vacmaster Professional VFB511B 5-gal Beast Vac
If you want portability with power, check out the Vacmaster Beast 5-gallon shop vac. Its 5.5 HP motor pulls 102 CFM and 82.6″ of water lift to outpace most of the competition in this smaller capacity class. The 7-foot hose has a diameter of 1-7/8″ to match the smaller class and the 18-foot long cord gives you ample room to move around while you work. For $88, it’s also hard not to appreciate the value.
Also check out:
- Shop-Vac 5870200 5-gal 6HP
- Shop-Vac 5910400 4-gal 5.5HP
This second-best small Shop-Vac Hawkeye 5870200 offers plenty of power without the storage of a larger wet/dry vacuum. It delivered 50 inches of water lift while providing 90 CFM of suction. We also loved the included accessories, from the claw nozzle to the crevice adapter—plus how they store right on the vac. Pick this one up for around $120.
A similar model, the Shop-Vac 5910400 shaves another gallon off while managing 78 CFM and an impressive 70 inches of water lift. For smaller cleanup, it’s hard to beat the portability of this wet/dry shop vac. Grab one for $109 at Amazon.
Best Shop Vac For Car
Milwaukee M18 Compact Vacuum 0882-20
When vacuuming out trucks or vehicles with rubber mats we typically prefer a larger vac with a long hose. For small vehicles with carpeted floors, however, the Milwaukee 0882-20 works remarkably well. The reason comes down to its extreme portability. You can easily move it from the trunk to the driver’s seat—and then put it up when you’re done.
Milwaukee also managed to eke out 40 CFM of suction from this cordless handheld shop vac—enough for basic cleanup. While the canister holds just 36 ounces—72% less volume than the Milwaukee M18 2-gallon wet/dry vacuum—it’s enough to tackle your periodic car vacuuming.
Another reason we think this is the best shop vac for a car or truck has to do with its convertibility. For example, if you want a quick stick vac, just slap on the two included extension wands and the floor tool. You can easily vacuum your car—and then sweep up up a couple of small rooms before the battery runs out.
Speaking of batteries, with a minimal load we got over 20 minutes of run-time from a 5.0Ah pack. Expect over 35 minutes using a 9.0Ah battery—and even more if you slap on one of their monstrously large 12Ah packs.
If you have a larger vehicle or one that requires a bit more suction and capacity, check out the following instead:
- Makita XCV11 Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum
- Milwaukee 0880-20 M18 Cordless Wet/Dry Vacuum
As you might tell from our recommendations, we really like cordless shop vacs for automotive use. They move more easily and you don’t have to deal with extension cords. The Makita XCV11 cordless wet/dry vacuum combines a compact design with balanced performance and runtime.
When not cleaning your car or truck, we recommend keeping in your work trailer as a lightweight, highly portable option to move around the job site or shop when you don’t need the power of a larger vacuum. Get your own for around $155.
If you want to stay on the Milwaukee M18 platform but need a bit more than 36 ounces of capacity and more suction, the 2-gallon 0880-20 might work a treat. We love this $99 vacuum for its power and also for how well it stores the hose and accessories.
Best Cordless Shop Vac
Ridgid HD0918 Cordless Shop Vac
The Ridgid HD0918 cordless wet dry vacuum is a no-compromise battery-powered replacement for a corded 9-gallon vac. It has the power to clean up wet and dry messes effectively and is capable of well over an hour of runtime when you use both of its battery ports. That runtime really pushed it over the edge to become our best cordless shop vac.
We love this model as a primary option for mobile car detailing and job site cleanup where power is unavailable or at a premium. Its convenience coupled with an 82 CFM airflow and tons of runtime really makes this a great choice for any garage or shop. Perhaps the icing on the cake is the $119 price.
The only other true cordless shop vacs in town:
- Hoover ONEPWR BH57125 cordless wet/dry vacuum
- Ryobi P770 6-gal cordless shop vac
Having used the Hoover ONEPWR vacuum system extensively, we like the new 20V batteries and the wide range of products now available in the line-up. Their 65 CFM 6-gallon cordless shop vac only costs $169 if you already have a battery and a charger.
Pick up the Ryobi P770 6-gal cordless shop vac at Home Depot for around $109. It gives you ample 6-gallon capacity with the only real detriment being run-time due to support for just one 18V battery. While there are several cordless dust extractors to choose from, cordless shop vac options are few and far between. Still, the price and features of this Ryobi make it easy to recommend.
Best Shop Vac For Dust Collection
Vacmaster Beast 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac
The maneuverable Vacmaster Beast 16-gallon shop vac puts up excellent performance numbers while doing the “little” things well. It also pegs out at 150 CFM, making it one of the more powerful vacuums and our best shop vac for dust collection. Considering the whole package, we see this model presenting the best value in the large capacity class.
Now, you might be tempted to also consider this the best shop vac for drywall dust, but you’d be wrong. For that application, we turn back to a dust extractor. And the best we’ve tested for drywall is the iQ Power Tools iQ426HEPA. If, however, you’re not ready for a shop dust collector, you can nab the Vacmaster Beast 16-gal for around $116.
Best Shop Vac For Woodworking
Laguna B|Flux 1HP Dust Collector
When you start talking about the best shop vac for woodworking, we’re going to steer you towards a true dust collector. You simply can’t get the same CFM out of any of the portable products unless you only want to connect to a single miter saw or sander. You really need to know what shop vac has the best suction for the money.
With that said, the Laguna B|Flux 1HP Dust Collector provides around 650 CFM of suction. Suffice it to say, it moves a lot of air for small woodworking shops. You can go bigger, but this system really hits the sweet spot.
We like the powerful 8.4-amp motor that operates off a standard 110V circuit. It comes standard with a 1-micron canister that filters 99.97% of particles between 0.2 ~ 2 microns. The 17.2 square foot polyester-spun bond-pleated filter keeps the airflow high. To top it all off, its $499 price won’t break the bank.
More options we like:
- Shop Fox W1685 1.5HP 1,280 CFM dust collector
- WEN 3401 5.7A 660 CFM dust collector
If you want more air movement, the Shop Fox W1685 delivers with its 1.5-amp motor and 1,280 CFM airflow. The 10.1-inch diameter hose feeds the 5.4 cubic feet of bag volume, making this an excellent value dust collector for just over $400.
For more of a value choice, you can opt for the WEN 3401. This 5.7-amp dust collector produces 660 CFM of dust collection with a 12-gallon bag. You can also go for the optional wall mount to get it up and out of the way. The price? An astonishingly low $111.76.
Best Portable Shop Vac
Makita XCV10ZX HEPA Backpack Vacuum
The Makita XCV10ZX backpack vacuum easily wins our best portable shop vac award. It gives you up to 62 minutes of continuous operation using two 5.0Ah batteries. Plus, the brushless motor gives you 64 CFM of suction and 44″ of water lift. On the filter side, a two-stage HEPA system captures 99.7% of particulates 0.3 microns and larger. It also works with the Makita AWS system.
While not the most inexpensive solution for a portable shop vac, the $499 Makita XCV10ZX certainly gives you a ton of flexibility in how you use it. We think it’s worth every penny.
Be sure to also look at:
- Milwaukee Backpack Vacuum
- Kobalt 24V Max 3-gallon shop vacuum
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel backpack vacuum is great for quickly cleaning up, especially on your final cleanup at the end of the job. It won’t fully replace your wet/dry vac since it’s not rated for wet messes. We like the included accessories and long battery life (25 minutes on High). At $299 for the bare tool, it also makes an economical choice.
On a more traditional side, the Kobalt 24V Max 3-gallon shop vacuum makes for the best inexpensive portable shop vac. For $99.98 as a bare tool, you really can’t go wrong here—particularly if you already have a battery and charger.
Best Shop Vac for Home Use
Craftsman 16-gallon 5HP Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
We can’t find a better bargain out there than the Craftsman 16-gallon 5HP shop vac. Our best shop vac for home use recommendation comes easy for this model. You get tons of capacity, a locking hose inlet, and plenty of accessories. You also get all this for under $80.
More great choices include:
- Vacmaster Professional 12-gallon Beast wet/dry vac
- DeWalt DXV06P 6-gallon wet/dry vac
The Vacmaster Beast Series 12-gallon 5.5HP vac offers plenty of capacity and excellent maneuverability. At just $80 you definitely want to take a good look. You get a large hose, long cord, onboard accessory storage, and extra-large drain port for fast empties.
If you can find it, the DeWalt DXV06P 6-gallon wet/dry vac gives you a compact 6-gallons of storage combined with a washable filter and great suction for household use. In the home, the 10-ft power cord could be longer but combined with the 7-foot hose you should have plenty of reach. At just over $90, the price is right, too.
Best HEPA Shop Vac
Since our top pick, the Ridgid HD1600 16-gal 6.5 HP NXT wet/dry vac, supports a HEPA filter we can recommend that as our best HEPA shop vac as well. However, we want to point out another model that does a great job for HEPA use as well, the Bosch VAC090AH 9-gallon HEPA vac.
Bosch VAC090AH 9-Gal HEPA Vac
The Bosch VAC090AH technically falls under the dust extractor category. However, once we talk about HEPA filtration, it became relevant. This remains one of the all-around best HEPA shop vacs (or dust extractors) you can buy without jumping way up in price. At $649 it doesn’t come cheap, but this vac impressed us in several ways.
It features automatic filter cleaning as well as automatic tool activation. Plug a tool into the included outlet and you can activate dust extraction when you power up the tool. With fresh, new filters installed, the Bosch VAC090A pulled water up 75.5″ of 2-1/2″ pipe. It did, however, lose about 6% power after we ran 20 lbs of concrete dust through it.
This was the only model we tested at this price point that delivered 150 CFM. That’s enough to run a 6-inch grinder to OSHA Table 1 standards!
Best Wall Mount Shop Vac
Rikon 60-101 Wall-Mounted 1 HP Dust Collector
For a true wall-mounted shop vac we presume you may want to do more than simply clean up some floor space. For connecting woodworking equipment to a shop-wide vac system on a budget, we like the Rikon 60-101. Our best wall-mounted shop vac collects up to 99% of dust as small as 1 micron.
It features all-metal construction and the motor’s 10-inch impeller creates 800 CFM of suction using 4-inch ductwork (up to two devices). With 5-inch ducting, you can get up to 1100 CFM for single-tool use. This system can really handle pulling dust and wood chips from bandsaws, table saws, jointers, planers, and more. You can’t beat this for $439.
Best Heavy Duty Shop Vac
Vacmaster VK811PH Industrial Wet/Dry Vac
The $165 Vacmaster VK811PH Industrial Wet/Dry Vac gets our best heavy duty shop vac nod for several big reasons. First, this shop vac had the highest tested water lift in its price class at 106-inches. Even with that kind of pull, it still managed 125 CFM of suction.
We also think 8-gallons of storage presents the “sweet spot” for commercial maneuverability and capacity. Large rubber back wheels let you get over bumpy thresholds without marring surfaces. The hose measures a paltry 10-feet, but there are ways around that. We also like the metal accessories and excellent cord management. It’s even HEPA-rated.
Best Shop Vac for Construction
DeWalt DXV16PA 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac
The DeWalt 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac managed to stay a notch or two above most other models we tested. It produces 116 CFM of suction with 73-inches of water lift. In the end, however, we named this our best shop vac for construction because we tended to use it so much. It just works.
The hose wraps nicely and we love the long, 20-foot power cord. We ran it bagging concrete dust as well as bagless for water cleanup. It had tons of power in both applications.
They located the top-mounted switch in just the right spot, and the swiveling casters really worked well on a variety of surfaces. The rear bucket holds all the accessories nicely…this shop vac just runs all the bases, making it well worth the ~$193 price.
Why a Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum?
Wet-dry shop vacuums (or Shop Vacs as the industry knows them) are the cleanup workhorses from house to jobsite. Their ability to clean up a variety of wet and dry messes from inside the house to your car to your jobsite makes them incredibly versatile. While they’re typically not as powerful as portable jobsite dust extractors, they’re also much less expensive, starting at less than $50. Unless you really need all the extra bells and whistles of a dust extractor, they’re definitely the way to go.
What Are the Criteria?
The major boundary for this group is to have a retail price under $200. We looked closely at CFM and water lift ratings along with feature sets. The most important features to our Pro team include cord length, hose length, capacity, accessory storage, hose/cord management, and rolling quality among others.
See Some Brands that are Missing?
While this certainly isn’t a comprehensive list of wet-dry shop vacuum brands, it includes some of the most popular among our Pro team as well as some new models we think you’ll want to know more about.
Disagree With Our Choices?
That’s okay! We know personal preferences take a front seat in determining the best wet-dry shop vacuum for you, and every Pro is different. Do Pro Tool Nation a favor and tell us what your top pick is and why you love it. Feel free to put it in the comments below or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
How We Test
Airflow simply reflects the amount of airflow running through the nozzle over a set period of time. CFM equates to cubic feet per minute. CFM essentially takes the airspeed in feet per second, convert to feet per minute, and factor in the nozzle opening in square feet. The higher the CFM, the faster the shop vac picks up material. That translates into it doing a greater amount of work.
Water Lift (Suction Power)
We test water lift simply to understand the power of the shop vac. Our water lift test mimics standardized tests we see manufacturers using to determine the water lift number as measured in inches. A high water lift is what tells you the vac can pick up concrete chunks, nails—heavy items.
Clearly, the capacity you need depends upon the application for your shop vac. When comparing similar models in an application, we factor in the amount of material a vac can take in. We also look at how efficiently it stores material. A shop vac with a well-placed filter can outperform another model in terms of realistic storage capacity.
Not every shop vac qualifies as a “portable” tool, but even larger units need to transport from the tool crib or shop to the job site. We look at the wheels, handle design, and more to understand which models present the best portability for maneuvering and transport.
Accessory storage consistently presents a problem for wet/dry vacuums. No matter how much attention manufacturers pay in this area, it seems you can’t help but snag a hose or drop a nozzle. Some vacuums, however, at least address accessory storage in a way that gives you a fighting chance to ensure those flooring tools, brushes, and extension nozzles are there when you need them.
Many shop vacuums include some form of cord wrap, but we also look at how easy the shop vac makes grabbing and replacing the cord when you plug it in and when you’re done for the day.
Price and Value
We consider the price of the vacuum and weigh it against the performance and features of the tool along with the warranty, depth of line (for cordless products), included accessories, and more.
Best Shop Vac Buying Guide
We’ve given you a lot of information so far, but there’s more to the story. Here are several other considerations to help guide to the best shop vac for you.
Corded or Cordless?
Our favorite shop vacs still come with a cord. Many manufacturers, however, have smaller-capacity vacuums designed for very portable use. And some actually have cordless shop vacs with higher CFM and water lift capabilities. These cordless vacs can truly help your job site cleanup since you get to skip hunting for an outlet. Run-times keep getting better as well, making them more practical than ever.
Dust Extractor or Shop Vac?
When considering between choosing a dust extractor or a shop vac we recommend looking at what you hope to achieve. A shop vac typically thrives at picking up materials like wood chips and debris. It often has a wider nozzle to handle these tasks without easily clogging. A dust extractor, on the other hand, focuses more on removing airborne particles like concrete dust.
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