Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide Buying Guides

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide


The best wet-dry shop vacuum models come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, price points. Nearly every store that sells tools also sells shop vacuums. There are quite a few differences from a portable jobsite dust extractor, though. They don’t typically come HEPA certified (though some do), you don’t normally get automatic filter cleaning, and the motor tends to be smaller, so there’s less power. Those aren’t all the differences, of course, but it’s a good start.

But what makes a good wet-dry shop vacuum? It depends on your needs. It’s going to be a balance of portability, air flow (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 is different from job to job and person to person. So here’s our list of brands and models that our team turns to – including a few new ones they want to get their hands on.

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If you want to see how some of the biggest, baddest portable dust extractors shake out, check out our shootout.

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But we’re here to talk about the best wet-dry vacuum options on the market. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, it includes some of the most popular models that our Pros turn to along with some new players in the field. And not to worry – we’ll be reviewing each one in detail, so be sure to keep checking back to see how your favorites do.

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum By Class

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Under $50

Ridgid 6-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Under $50

Best Bet on a Tight Budget

Sometimes you have smaller jobs, but still want the convenience of a rolling wet-dry shop vacuum. Ridgid’s WD0670 has you covered with a 6-gallon model that comes in at $49.97. A 3.5 HP motor delivers 67 CFM through its 1-7/8″ diameter, 7′ hose. At a price point of less than $50, it’s the only one in this class that can still pull Pro duty on smaller jobs. You’ll notice a difference in the quality of fit and finish compared to higher priced models.

  • Model: Ridgid WD0670
  • Motor: 3.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 6-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-7/8″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 67
  • Water Lift: Not available
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
  • Price: $49.97

Included in Kit

  • Filter
  • Hose
  • Utility nozzle
  • Wands

Pros

  • Good rolling characteristics
  • Good accessory storage design
  • Excellent price

Cons

  • Power switch behind handle is small and almost hidden
  • No real cord or hose wrap
  • Hose is fairly stiff
  • Low CFM is the trade-off for low price
  • Build quality isn’t as good as higher-priced models

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Under $100

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

DeWalt 9-Gallon Pro Poly Wet Dry Vacuum

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Under $100

Best Entry into the Premium Class

DeWalt is taking their first shots at the Pro user with a new line of wet-dry shop vacuum models. In the sub-$100 class, you start with a 9-gallon unit that pushes 5 peak horsepower and delivers 90 CFM with 70″ of water lift. The build quality here is clearly a step above the rest.

  • Model: DeWalt DXV09P
  • Motor: 5 HP
  • Canister Size: 9-gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-7/8″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 90 Max
  • Water Lift: 70″
  • Warranty: 3 years limited
  • Price: $99.00

Included in Kit

  • 2 extension wands
  • Washable cartridge filter
  • Floor nozzle
  • Utility, crevice nozzles
  • Disposable filter bags
  • Accessory storage bag

Pros

  • Outstanding build quality
  • Outstanding rolling characteristics
  • 4 casters make tight turns easy
  • Oustanding hose and cord management

Cons

  • More expensive than others with the same specs – a trade-off for the better build
  • Storage pouch doesn’t allow for as much organization but keeps all accessories in one place

Ridgid 14-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Overall Bang for Your Buck

Ridgid’s 14-gallon wet-dry shop vacuum comes in just under the $100 mark with an Outstanding value proposition. The 6.0 HP motor is a step up, giving you a solid 168 CFM. A 20′ cord and 7′, 2-1/2″ diameter hose moves you into the higher performance side without breaking a Benjamin (unless you count tax, of course).

  • Model: Ridgid WD1450
  • Motor: 6 HP
  • Canister Size: 14-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 2-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 168
  • Water Lift: Not available
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
  • Price: $99.00

Included in Kit

  • Fine dust filter
  • Utility nozzle
  • Wet nozzle
  • Car nozzle
  • 2 extension wands

Pros

  • Good accessory storage design
  • Good rolling characteristics
  • 4 casters make tight turns easy
  • Excellent CFM rating
  • Big motor for the price
  • Very Good hose management on the accessories frame

Cons

  • Cord wrap is effective but needs longer tabs

Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac, 5 Gallon, Beast Series

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best for Vehicle Cleanup

If you want portability with power, check out the Vacmaster Beast 5-Gallon unit. Its 5.5 HP motor pulls 102 CFM and 82.6 ” of water lift to outpace most of the competition in this capacity class. The 7′ hose has a diameter of 1-7/8″ to match the smaller class and the 18′ cord gets close to the 20′ we like to see in these handheld units.

  • Model: Vacmaster VFB511B 0201
  • Motor: 5.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 5-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-7/8″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 102
  • Water Lift: 82.6″
  • Warranty: 5 years limited
  • Price: $80.84

Included in Kit

  • 1 extension wand
  • Fine dust cartridge filter
  • Foam wet filter
  • Crevice tool
  • Car, utility nozzles
  • Air/Noise diffuser

Pros

  • Pivoting cord wrap tabs stay out of the way during use – Very Good design
  • Good handle design for carrying
  • Excellent water lift for the size
  • Very good CFM rating for the size

Cons

  • Hose holder doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence
  • Accessory storage needs some help – plenty of accessories, but there’s not a spot for everything

Shop-Vac H87S600Cr

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Runner Up for Vehicle Cleanup

Shop-Vac has an attractive option for portable power with their H87 series. This handheld 5-gallon unit sports a slightly larger 6 HP motor that delivers 90 CFM and 50″ of water lift. It moves down to a 1-1/2″ hose, just a 1/8″ smaller than others in this size class.

  • Model: Shop-Vac H87S600Cr
  • Motor: 6 HP
  • Canister Size: 5-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 90
  • Water Lift: 50
  • Warranty: 5 years limited
  • Price: $89

Included in Kit

  • Claw utility nozzle
  • Crevice tool
  • Adaptor
  • Tool holder

Pros

  • Very Good cord wrap design, but it blocks the canister latch
  • Good balance between CFM and water lift

Cons

  • Accessory storage spaces are a little flimsy
  • No real hose wrap
  • Wide, flat carry handle could be more ergonomic

Shop-Vac ESSSQ550

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Small Capacity Vacuum

Staying small and lightweight but giving you the freedom of wheels to pull around the shop, Shop Vac’s ESS series takes advantage of SVX2 motor technology. This gives their 5.5 HP (11.6 amps) motor more power and longer life than their standard motor of the same horsepower. It balances 78 CFM with 70″ of water lift to combine airflow and suction power in a small unit.

  • Model: Shop-Vac ESSSQ550 (rolling model change hitting store shelves soon)
  • Motor: 5.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 4-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-1/4″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 78
  • Water Lift: 70″
  • Warranty: 5 years limited
  • Expected Price: $79.98

Included in Kit

  • 2 extension wands
  • Wet/dry nozzle
  • Crevice tool
  • Gulper nozzle
  • Round brush
  • Onboard tool storage

Pros

  • Good balance of CFM and water lift for its size
  • Very good cord wrap, but blocks canister latch
  • Good storage, but a little chaotic on such a small unit
  • Excellent accessory set for a small unit
  • Very Good rolling characteristics
  • 4 casters make tight turns easy

Cons

  • Handle needs to turn 90° for better carrying
  • No real hose wrap

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Under $200

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Shop-Vac EAL16-SQ650

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Overall

Shop-Vac’s 16-gallon EAL series is another group getting more power and life from their SVX2 motor. This time, it’s a 6.5 HP motor pulling 150 CFM with 75″ of water lift. The EAL series is an upgrade from the previous EL series with a handle that flips up to make movement around the shop or jobsite easier. What puts this at the top of the list for us is that it doesn’t have any major drawbacks while keeping everything else in good balance, including the price.

  • Model: Shop-Vac EAL16-SQ650 (rolling model change hitting store shelves soon)
  • Motor: 6.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 16-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 2-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 8′
  • CFM: 150
  • Water Lift: 75″
  • Warranty: 5 years limited
  • Expected Price: $149

Included in Kit

  • 2 extension wands
  • Floor nozzle
  • Crevice tool
  • Utility nozzle
  • Tool storage basket

Pros

  • Excellent hose and cord management
  • Excellent accessory storage design
  • Pivoting handle makes movement around the shop easy
  • Sleek, aggressive look compared to the rest of the group
  • No assembly required
  • Threaded hose connection
  • Excellent CFM rating
  • Very Good balance of CFM and water lift

Cons

  • No real cons on this model

DeWalt 16-Gallon Pro Poly Wet Dry Vacuum

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Overall Quality

When you’re going for large capacity, check out what DeWalt has to offer with their 16-gallon wet-dry shop vacuum. Moving up to a 6.5 HP motor, you get 116 CFM with 78″ of water lift for performance. With the power upgrade also comes a larger hose diameter as you move into the 2-1/2″ class. On the feature side, you move up to a 7′ crush-proof hose and you get a wide range to work around thanks to the 20′ cord. Like the other models we see from DeWalt, build quality is a step or two higher than everyone else in the group.

  • Model: DeWalt DXV16PA
  • Motor: 6.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 16-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 2-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 116 Max
  • Water Lift: 73″
  • Warranty: 3 years limited
  • Price: $179.00

Included in Kit

  • 2 extension wands
  • Washable cartridge filter
  • Floor brush
  • Utility, car, crevice nozzles
  • Disposable 3 filter bags
  • Hose adaptor
  • Muffler
  • Accessory storage bag

Pros

  • Very Good balance of CFM and water lift
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Outstanding rolling characteristics
  • Handle makes moving around the shop easy
  • Outstanding cord/hose management

Cons

  • Pouch storage is unorganized but keeps everything in one place
  • High price is the trade-off for better quality

Karcher WD5 Multi-Purpose Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner with 1800W Motor

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Overall Design

Karcher is out of Germany and they’re the only one in the group that gets away from the current design trend in wet-dry shop vacuums. Features like a filter cleaning mechanism and filter access that doesn’t require opening the canister are more a nod toward professional dust extractors than shop vacuums. Its 76 CFM rating is low for this price point, but water lift isn’t available.

  • Model: Karcher WD5 1.348-196.0
  • Motor: 2.4 HP
  • Canister Size: 6.6-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-3/8″
  • Hose Length: 7.2′
  • CFM: 76
  • Water Lift: Not listed
  • Warranty: 2 years limited
  • Price: $141.99

Included in Kit

  • Floor nozzle
  • Crevice tool
  • Extension wand
  • Cartridge filter
  • Fleece filter bag

Pros

  • Manual filter cleaning mechanism – push-button cleaning
  • Very good storage design
  • Filter access doesn’t require opening the canister
  • Cord hang
  • Handle pivots to lock or unlock canister instead of latches
  • Excellent rolling characteristics
  • 5 caster make tight turns easy
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • No real hose wrap
  • Low CFM at this price point
  • Higher price for this performance level is a trade-off for better design

DeWalt 4-Gallon Pro Tool Box Wet Dry Vacuum

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Storage Design

If you’re going for ultra-portable for quick cleanups or auto interiors, DeWalt has a solution with a new 4-gallon model. Its 5 peak horsepower delivers 90 CFM with 50″ of water lift. What’s nice about this one is that you get a 20′ cord to give you more reach with a 2′ – 7′ flexible hose to make working around those tight spaces easier. Getting all the accessories to fit on a small unit is tough, but DeWalt does a great job with side storage for the extensions, rear storage for the hose, and hidden storage for the rest in the top. The power switch is on the side instead of the front, but it takes all of about 2 seconds to get used to.

  • Model: DeWalt DXV04T
  • Motor: 5 HP
  • Canister Size: 4-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-7/8″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 90 Max
  • Water Lift: 50″
  • Warranty: 3 years limited
  • Price: $119.00

Included in Kit

  • 2 extension wands
  • Cartridge filter
  • Utility nozzle
  • Crevice nozzle

Pros

  • Flexible hose shrinks down to 2′ for tight space or extends to 7′
  • Outstanding storage design makes great use of available space
  • Very Good cord wrap
  • Very Good hose storage area in back
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • High price point for the class is the trade-off for better design/quality

 Vacmaster Professional Wet/Dry Vac, 16 Gallon, Beast Series

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best Value for Big Capacity

When it comes to value in the high capacity class, it’s tough to beat the Vacmaster Beast 16-Gallon wet-dry shop vacuum. The 12-amp, 6.5 HP motor pulls 150 CFM and 64″ of water lift through its 7′, 2-1/2″ diameter hose. Like its 5-gallon counterpart, it sports an 18′ hose to give you solid reach.

  • Model: Vacmaster VJH1612PF 0201
  • Motor: 6.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 16-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 2-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 150
  • Water Lift: 64″
  • Warranty: 5 years limited
  • Price: $117.05

Included in Kit

  • 2 extension wand
  • Fine dust cartridge filter
  • Foam wet filter
  • High efficiency dust bag
  • 14″ floor nozzle
  • 8″ utility nozzles
  • Air/Noise diffuser

Pros

  • Good cord storage with hang hook
  • Very Good accessory storage design
  • Spring-loaded latches make canister access/locking easier
  • Very Good rolling characteristics
  • 4 casters make tight turns easy
  • Excellent CFM rating
  • Outstanding value

Cons

  • Water lift could be better for the size
  • Cord could be a couple feet longer

Ridgid 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac With Cart

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best CFM (Dare We Say, This Sucks the Most – in a Good Way?)

At $159, Ridgid gives you the motor horsepower (6.5 HP) and capacity (16 gallons) of more expensive options in the class. A 7′, 2-1/2″ diameter hose pulls up to 203 CFM from the 12-amp motor. Accessories store in a pouch on the handle rather than on a caddy. The combination of price and performance specs is why so many Pros turn to this model.

  • Model: Ridgid WD1851
  • Motor: 6.5 HP
  • Canister Size: 16-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 2-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 7′
  • CFM: 203
  • Water Lift: Not available
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
  • Price: $159.00

Included in Kit

  • 2 wands
  • Utility nozzle
  • Car nozzle
  • Wet nozzle
  • Crevice tool
  • Diffuser
  • Accessory bag

Pros

  • Handle makes movement around the shop easy
  • Good rolling characteristics
  • Excellent Value
  • Outstanding CFM rating

Cons

  • Storage pouch doesn’t allow for much organization but keeps accessories in one place
  • Cord wrap works, but tabs need to be wider
  • No real hose wrap

 

Vacmaster Industrial HEPA Certified Wet/Dry Vac, 8 Gallon

Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide

Best for HEPA Applications

As you move towards the industrial side of things, sometimes you actually want a HEPA filter. Vacmaster has an 8-gallon model to satisfy that desire without breaking the $200 price point. 125 CFM and 106″ of water lift give you Pro-level dust extractor performance while a 10′ hose and 30′ cord give you plenty of reach.

  • Model: Vacmaster VK811PH
  • Motor: 1.23 HP
  • Canister Size: 8-Gallon
  • Hose Diameter: 1-1/2″
  • Hose Length: 10′
  • CFM: 125
  • Water Lift: 106″
  • Warranty: 1 year limited
  • Price:  $187.06

Included in Kit

  • (2) 20″ Locking Steel Wands
  • 1 Steel Elbow with Air Flow Adjuster
  • Round Brush with Horse Hair
  • Crevice Tool
  • Power Tool Adapter
  • 15″ Floor Nozzle (with 2 brushes)
  • Reusable Foam Sleeve Filter
  • High-Efficiency Fine-Dust Collection Bag
  • Microfiber Pre-Filter
  • HEPA Cartridge Filter

Pros

  • Metal accessories are more durable
  • Excellent rolling characteristics
  • Good cord management with cord hang
  • HEPA rated

Cons

  • No real hose wrap
  • Accessory storage works but is a little shaky

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.

Rating Key

  • Outstanding – best in this class
  • Excellent – not the top, but close
  • Very Good – solid, nothing to be ashamed of here
  • Good – It’ll work, but we wouldn’t want to go any lower

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 FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

Why Pro Tool Reviews is a Reliable Source

At Pro Tool Reviews, we have our finger on the pulse of the tool industry. We’re constantly keeping up with the latest press releases and researching the newest tools. The most relevant tools for our Pro audience make it into our editorial calendar for review. We do hands-on reviews of more than 200 tools each year as standalone evaluations. We run dozens more through our head to head tool shootouts. Additionally, we get our hands on hundreds of other tools at media events and trade shows throughout the country and internationally. With a team of Pro reviewers across every major trade involved in the construction process, you’re sure to get an expert opinion every time.

 

 

 

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8 Comments on "Best Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide"

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John
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Thorough and useful article save one thing. The article perpetuates the misinformation put out by the vacuum companies by discussing the “horsepower” of the motors as if it had any useful meaning. At best, the listed “horsepower” might be used as a rough comparison between models from the same manufacturer only. Otherwise, it is downright misleading. With the way these companies measure “horsepower,” a high performing well designed motor might actually have a lower “horsepower” than a lower performing poorly designed motor. (For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, vacuum manufacturers use all kinds of trickery to get… Read more »
Rich Cooke
Guest

I there are HEPA rated replacement filters available for shop vac. What is the difference between using a HEPA filter and a HEPA rated shop vac?

OldDominionDIYer
Guest

The Ridgid 4.5 Gallon ProPack® Portable Wet/Dry Vac Model: WD4522 is a way better option than the Dewalt DXV04T better storage, bigger capacity- (4.5 gallons vice 4 gal) and 107 CFM vice 90 CFM, lower price. Nice package Just saying.

Chris P
Guest

I have an Old Shop Vac 8 gallon. A little over 30 years old. Loud. Works decent.

Ian
Guest

I have to add Ridgid Model# WD3050A . It’s powerful and portable.