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Best Shop Vac

Do you work in a garage or workshop? Are you sick and tired of having to sweep the floor before you vacuum so that screws and other debris don’t damage your vacuum cleaner? There is another way! Shop vacuums are designed in such a way that they don’t mind sucking up all these items and so there’s less work needed to clear the floor.

We’ve put together a guide to some of the best shop vacs on the market so that you can spend less time researching and more time doing what you love: tinkering away in the workshop.

Best Shop Vac – Quick Overview

In the table below, you’ll see the name of each product we’ll be reviewing, as well as its bag capacity. Our top recommendations have a lot more to offer than just box size, however, so hold off on making a decision just yet.

Product NameBag Size
Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum 2.5 gallons
Shop-Vac 5986000 Wet Dry Vacuum4.5 gallons
Vacmaster VF408 Wet/Dry Floor Vacuum4 gallons
DEWALT DCV581H Wet-Dry Vacuum2 gallons
Shop-Vac 9633400 Wet or Dry Vacuum12 gallons

Now that you’ve gotten a feel for the products we’ll be discussing, let’s examine each of them more closely. We’ll begin with the least expensive product, the Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum and work our way up. This should make it easier for you to find the best shop vac for your needs and budget.

1

Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Vacuum – Best Budget Shop Vac

The Armor All AA255 is a nice, wallet-friendly shop vacuum. It retails for around $35 and its two horsepower motor offers enough power to handle most messes you’ll encounter, whether they’re wet or dry. Garage floor covered in sawdust? That’s alright. Spill your beer? That’s fine too.

The AA255 measures 32.7” deep, 15” wide and 15.4” tall. It’s pretty lightweight at just seven pounds, so all things considered, this shop vac is ultra-portable. It doesn’t have any kind of casters, but realistically, these aren’t necessary for such a small model. It even includes a two-year warranty so if it breaks or fails to live up to your expectations, you can always just return it without paying a penny.

It has a 2.5-gallon capacity, a six-foot hose, and a ten-foot-long power cord, so it has a pretty long reach. It does require a wall outlet, so whilst you can’t plug it directly into your car if you can park within ten feet or so, you can clean it out just fine. It can even be used as a blower, so you can just open up the opposite door and blast finer, particle based messes right out. If the vac detects that it’s nearing full capacity, it’ll automatically shut off to prevent blowing dust and debris all over the area you’re trying to clean, which is great.

This model includes a built-in air and noise diffuser. This basically means that it’s quieter to use than other low-budget shop vacs, and also a little more efficient as less air is cycled into the bag. Instead, the air is blocked and the debris gets in instead. It comes with two filters, one for wet and one for dry messes. These are reusable but will eventually need to be replaced – when this time comes, you’d benefit greatly from getting a HEPA filter. These trap far smaller particles and are better if you suffer from allergies or a dust sensitivity.

 Also included are a few accessories. There’s a crevice tool, a car nozzle, blower nozzle and detail brush which should allow you to cover all your bases. These accessories can be stored directly in the top of the shop vac and there’s even a handle to make it easier to move around the vac.

Given its small size, this product would have benefited greatly from the inclusion of a car adaptor. As it stands, if you can’t park close enough to your house, you’ll need to trail a long extension cable out which seems a shame.

That said, this product isn’t bad at all, given the price. It won’t be enough for huge workshops, but for your home or small business, it’ll get the job done with no problems. The inclusion of a blower is one of its biggest selling points: sucking up debris is all well and good, but if they’re spread out over a large area the blower will allow you to collect them all in one place for easier disposal.

PROS
  • Small and lightweight
  • Includes a blower
  • Two-year warranty
CONS
  • No car adaptor
2

Product Name - Ultra Short Description.
Example: iRobot Braava 380t – Great for Busy Households

The 5986000 from Shop-Vac is slightly smaller than the last model we saw, but costs slightly more at around $50. There are a few improvements which justify this higher price, though, and Shop-Vac have worked really hard to fit them into as small a product as possible.

The tank is made of stainless steel and has a nice black, white and red color scheme. It’s mounted on top of four casters which allow you to move it around easily, and there’s even a blower port on the rear of the unit. There’s even a carry handle, plus the six-foot-long power cord and included accessories can be stored in the vac itself for greater portability.

The motor in this vacuum is 50% stronger than the one in the AA255 – it has 3.1 horsepower as opposed to just 2. This means that it does a better job at picking up very fine particles whilst also reducing the likelihood of a blockage occurring. Like that product, though, it comes with two filters: one is made of foam and is for use on wet messes, and the other is a reusable disc filter for dry messes.

It does have a slightly shorter reach than the AA255, though. Its six-foot power cord and seven-foot-long adjustable neck offer a reach of just 13 feet, instead of 16. This is a shame and almost defeats the point of having casters in the first place. Sure, this shop vac is almost twice as heavy (it weighs 14.2 pounds), but still isn’t something you’ll struggle to lift. Luckily, to increase the reach of the vac, it comes with three extension wands which, when combined, can increase the range to 16.5 feet, a slight improvement over the AA255.

It stands 19.5” tall, 13.5” deep and wide, so it’s nice and compact. You can store in under a table in the garage or even in a cupboard when not in use since it barely takes up any room at all. It is pretty loud, but as the power of the motor increases, so too does the noise it creates, so this is to be expected.

This model comes with a three-year warranty. This means that if anything goes wrong, you can have it repaired or replaced at no additional cost. Since there are a lot of things which can go wrong with a shop vac, this is a very welcome inclusion and should give you some peace of mind if you choose this product.

There’s a lot to like about this model. It has a pretty powerful motor given its small size, a very generous warranty period and it looks pretty great too. It has a slightly shorter reach and lacks the different attachment heads of many of its competitors, but if you’re looking for the most powerful shop vac on a fairly limited budget, you could do a lot worse than this product.

PROS
  • Very compact
  • Powerful motor
  • Three-year warranty
CONS
  • Short reach without extension wands
3

Vacmaster VF408 Wet/Dry Floor Vacuum – Best Shop Vacuum Under $100

The Vacmaster VF408 is a powerful shop vac with a good weight to it. It comes in a gorgeous powder blue color and the removable top part is black, which contrasts nicely.

It has a four-gallon capacity, so it doesn’t need to be emptied too frequently – even if your garage regularly gets covered in sawdust, you’ll be able to clean it a few times without having to empty the bag. It also comes with casters on the base for added maneuverability. It’s pretty large: it stands at 17.3” tall, 17” deep and 13” wide, plus it weighs a hefty 17.2 pounds – casters alone might make moving this product a bit of a pain, so Vacmaster have added two large single wheels to the back.

There are a couple of improvements to the design of the unit too. First off, this one comes equipped with a HEPA filter which traps microscopic particles of dust and prevents them from leaving the bag once they’ve been sucked up. Secondly, the power switch has been sealed to prevent dust from creeping in and jamming the mechanism.

This model has a large reach thanks to its seven-foot long hose and 18-foot long power cord. This gives the VF408 a maximum reach of 25 feet, 9 feet more than the AA255. There’s no need to manually coil the wire back in either since it has an automatic rewind function.

It’s also significantly more powerful. It features a five horsepower motor to provide a far greater level of suction. This motor works in two stages which helps to keep it quiet: Vacmaster estimates that when in use, it produces noise of about 72 decibels – comparable to the sound of a car driving past you.

Thie VF408 comes with a few accessories. These include three 14” extension wands, a two in one utility nozzle, a dust brush, and a crevice tool. These should ensure you’re equipped to deal with just about any mess you encounter, and when you don’t need them, they can be stored directly in the caddy on the rear of the vac. There is a slight issue in that when the extension wands are attached, there is some loss of suction, but it’s not much and you can still clean an area pretty well.

So how much do you think a product like this costs? Probably quite a lot, right? Well, happily, this shop vac is actually pretty affordable. It retails for a little over $70 and Vacmaster even throw in a two-year warranty with it so you’re safe even if it breaks.

This shop vacuum is one of the best. It’s powerful, attractive and quiet, plus it comes with a range of accessories and a good warranty agreement. It’s a good all-rounder, so no matter what kind of mess you plan on making, it can handle it. Better still, if you have a budget of $100, you can buy this and have enough left over to get your car waxed after you’ve cleaned it.

PROS
  • Very powerful motor
  • Includes HEPA filter
  • Two-year warranty
CONS
  • Extension wands reduce suction power
4

DEWALT DCV581H Wet-Dry Vacuum – Best Portable Shop Vac

From time to time, you’ll need a shop vacuum that’s more portable. Maybe your power cord isn’t long enough or you’d like a model which can be more easily moved from place to place. If this sounds like you, the DEWALT DCV581H would be a fantastic choice.

This product can be used in one of two modes. You have the choice of plugging it into a wall like a standard vacuum, but if you purchase an 18V battery and charger, you can use it cordlessly as well. Unfortunately, the battery and charger don’t come with the vacuum, which is a shame since that would really increase its appeal.

It has a washable HEPA filter. We’ve mentioned before that these trap small specks of dust very well, and this one, in particular, is capable of catching 99.97% of all particles which are one micron or larger in size. For context, a micron is about 1/25000 of an inch in size, so you know this filter is good. It’s reusable too – just give it a wash when it starts getting clogged and it’ll be as good as new.

The hose on this model is five feet long and crush resistant. Normally, this would be too short for general use, but given that this is a handheld model, five feet should be more than enough to reach most areas in your workspace. A crevice tool and a wide nozzle attachment are both included, and these can be stored on the top of the unit for easier access and increased portability.

The DCV581H is a little weaker than most if its competitors. It has just 1.85 horsepower, but handheld vacuums tend to be weaker anyway, and compared to other handheld models, it’s actually pretty powerful. It’s ideal for light to medium cleaning, but if you have a large area or a particularly messy floor, you might want to consider something a bit more heavy duty.

Added convenience isn’t free, however. Because this model is so portable, it costs a little more. It retails for around $110, which is not cheap but not ultra-expensive either. It weighs 11.1 pounds and measures 17.2” long, 13.1” tall and 12.3” wide, so it’s easy to find somewhere for it to stay when you aren’t using it. It even comes with a three-year warranty so should anything go wrong, you’re covered and don’t have to spend any money on a replacement.

If you don’t need to move around your workspace or take your shop vac from one location to another, there’s really no reason to buy this product. That said, if you have multiple areas to clean or you don’t need something all that powerful, the DCV581H would make a great addition to your home or garage. Wet or dry messes are both easy prey for this product and the HEPA filter ensures that allergy sufferers will see their symptoms reduced significantly.

PROS
  • Lightweight and very portable
  • Includes HEPA filter
  • Three-year warranty
CONS
  • Weaker than less portable models
5

Shop-Vac 9633400 Wet or Dry Vacuum – Best Shop Vacuum

Alright, now we’re getting into the higher end shop vacuums. The Shop-Vac 9633400 costs around $130 dollars, but it has a lot more to offer than most of the lower cost options we’ve reviewed today.

It isn’t the most attractive product, ever, we’ll admit. It stands 22.8” tall and 18.2” deep and wide. It weighs a huge 24.2 pounds and comes mounted on casters to help take some of that weight off. It has a large, bright yellow casing with a black contrasting top part which may not appeal to some people.

First off, the other products we’ve seen have had a six-foot power cord. The 9633400 triples this right off the bat. Further, it has an eight-foot long hose, for a total maximum reach of 26 feet. This allows you to clean a far larger floor space without having to reconnect it to a different outlet.

Next up is capacity. The second largest model, the Shop-Vac 5986000 could store up to 4.5 gallons of dust at once. This product more than doubles, and in fact, almost triples that figure – it’s capable of holding up to 12 gallons so you can go longer without emptying it. This makes it perfect for business applications – if you have a large garage to clean, there isn’t anything that’ll hold more for less than $150.

The more you look at it, the better this product gets. Its 6.5 horsepower motor is the strongest one in this list, a power increase of 24% on the second best shop vac we’ve seen. Its warranty is longer than any other – when you buy this, you’re covered in case of damage or breakages for four whole years.

What about accessories? This vacuum simply cannot be beaten. It comes with several extension wands, a 14-inch floor nozzle, an elbow connector, a crevice tool, utility nozzle, blower nozzle, and concentrator nozzle. As with the other products, these accessories can be stored directly on the unit so there’s no need to carry them around yourself.

There are a couple of areas in which this shop vac could use some work. It uses disposable filters instead of reusable ones, which means there are additional running costs. As before, we’d highly recommend using HEPA filters instead of the ones provided, because the more efficient cleaning those provide would turn this into one of the very best products available. Also, due to its high power, this isn’t one of the quietest shop vacs around. We’d try to only use this product during working hours or you might annoy the neighbors.

We understand that not everyone will be able to fit this product into their budget, and that’s okay. For small work areas or home use, this is overkill. Rather, it’s intended to be used in industrial settings – places where the floor is covered more or less constantly with dust or debris. It’s very powerful, comes with every accessory you’ll ever need, holds more dust than its competitors and even has a very generous warranty period, so if you’re in the market for a high-end shop vacuum, what more could you ask for?

PROS
  • Large and powerful
  • Includes wide range of accessories
  • Three-year warranty
CONS
  • Uses disposable filters

Best Shop Vac - Buyer's Guide

Shop vacuums aren’t the hardest thing in the world to compare, but it’s worth taking some time to get to know the various important specifications of a product and learning how they impact on its day to day usage.

We’ve put together a short guide to some of the most important things to look out for before buying a new shop vac. This should help you make an informed decision as to which is the best model for your needs.

Physical Considerations

The first thing you should consider is the size and weight of the shop vac. If it’s large, is there enough room to store it when you aren’t using it? If it’s small, does it use batteries? These will have to be charged, so how long does that take? Does it have a large enough capacity? Big products need to be emptied less frequently, but take up a lot of space.

How heavy is the vacuum? Lighter ones are generally less powerful, but heavier models can be harder to control. Does it have casters on the bottom to help you move it around or is it strictly handheld? Is it light enough to use for extended periods of time? Often, you’ll find that even if it seems fine at first, after twenty minutes or so, your back begins to ache.

How far can the vacuum reach? You’re limited by the power cord here, plus the length of the nozzle. These can often be extended with accessories, but you’re unlikely to find a model with more than 25 feet of reach. This is where handheld products excel – you can reach just about anywhere with the right attachment.

Is it powerful enough? Motor strength is measured in horsepower, but as the power rises, so too does the amount of noise the product makes. Horsepower is a pretty tricky subject, but there’s a more detailed explanation available here in case you’re interested.

Accessories and Maintenance

A lot of the lower-end models will try to sell you based on the number of accessories they have. Handheld products are particularly bad for this, but the truth is, you might not actually need them all. The majority of the areas in a given workspace can be cleaned using either the hose itself, the crevice tool or the brush tool, so give this some thought before spending any money.

The type of filters a product uses is also important. Disposable filters make replacing them super easy, but aren’t great for the environment and also contribute to slightly higher running costs. Try and get a washable, reusable filter if you’d like to save some money. Also, you might want to consider a HEPA filter. These trap microscopic particles and prevent them from escaping once they’re in the dust container. Because they trap finer particles than most other filters, they’re great for alieving allergy symptoms.

Conclusion


Each of the products we’ve seen is perfect for someone, but there’s one in our list which should appeal to more people than most. The Vacmaster VF408 Wet/Dry Floor Vacuum is a very powerful product which has a good reach and even comes with a few of the more common accessories. Better still, it costs less than $100, so it’s perfect for people with a low budget.

We hope that you’ve found this article helpful, and if so, feel free to leave a comment or a rating below, we’d really appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and have a great day.