What makes a good wet/dry shop vacuum? As we said in our recent Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum Buying Guide, it really depends on your needs. We tend to appreciate as much power and performance as we can get for our money. But we also appreciate solid cord and hose management systems, accessories, and storage capabilities. Many manufacturers have tried to do this common cleanup tool justice over the years, and most have succeeded in making adequate tools that tick those boxes to varying degrees. By balancing power, performance, design, features, and price, the Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac makes a pretty strong case for being one of the best overall shop vacuums we’ve had the pleasure of working with.
- 6.5 HP Motor: The Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac shows some of the best performance specs in its class. It uses Shop-Vac’s SVX2 motor that cranks out 6.5 peak horsepower. It can pull 150 CFM and 75″ of water lift (suction).
- 16-Gallon Tank: 16 gallons seems to reach par for the proverbial course as far as the bigger shop vacuum models are concerned. Portable units go as high as 20 gallons or so and there are plenty of smaller options. The Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac maintains maneuverability and keeps the price reasonable by settling into this size.
- Blower: Most shop vacuums allow to convert the motor exhaust to a low-power blower and it’s really no surprise that this model has it, too. Simply pull the hose from the intake, and plug it back into the exhaust. Presto chango, you’ve got yourself a blower.
- Mobility: Like most wet/dry vacs that are in the 16-gallon+ category, you get two small casters and two large back wheels. The caster spin 360° and help with maneuvering tightly, but its turning radius isn’t as good as a set of four. Those two larger back wheels help maintain stability and roll over objects like cords that full caster units can’t. Additionally, this Shop-Vac model has a helpful pivoting handle to move around the shop.
- Hose and Cord Management: Hose storage is hit or miss on many wet/dry vacs, but the Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac actually has some decent hose management going for it. When it’s time to pack the whole thing away, you’ll appreciate that the hose wraps neatly around the unit and is held in place at the base. Likewise, this model has an effective cord wrap around the top handle.
- Accessory Storage: All of the various wands and nozzle attachments have their own home on the back of the unit. Most models have their own version of this feature, but most of those models don’t implement their design as successfully as this Shop-Vac.
- Drain Spigot: Feel like picking up and emptying a 16-gallon canister full of dirty water (or worse)? I didn’t think so and neither does Shop Vac. There’s a drain plug at the base to take care of that for you.
- 2 extension wands
- Floor nozzle
- Crevice tool
- Utility nozzle
- Dry particle filter
You can look at the box and see the 150 CFM and 75″ water lift numbers, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Where were those measurements taken? Was it using the same length and diameter of hose that comes with the set? While we’re not calling into question Shop-Vac’s integrity, we are bringing to light that not every brand tests their vacs in identical conditions. That’s why you have us.
Using the stock hose, Shop-Vac recorded a pull force of 6.9 pounds, second best of all the models in our test. The only one to give us more is DeWalt, and it’s going to cost you another $30 to move up to it. Next in line is the Vacmaster Beast, pulling more than a pound less.
When it comes to CFM, Ridgid has this model beat with both its 16-gallon and 14-gallon models but comes in with much less pull force in our test. So what does all that really mean?
It means Shop-Vac has created a very well-balanced vacuum on the performance side of things.
The Best Wet/Dry Vacuum Model Overall
We chose the Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac as the best overall model for our buying guide, and here’s why: it strikes a great balance between performance, maneuverability, design, feature set, and price. It’s not the most powerful and it’s not the cheapest in its class at $149. But it does pull everything together in a machine that doesn’t leave us feeling like we’re shortchanged on any aspect.
Shop-Vac 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac Specs
- 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