The Best Shop Vac – Wet/Dry Vacuum Reviews & Comparisons

As the old saying goes, ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’.

While it’s probably safe to assume that DIY workshops weren’t the original point of reference here, it goes without saying that a clean garage is a happy garage, and there’s no better way to keep a clean garage than to invest in the best shop vac you can.

However, figuring out who makes the best shop vac around is no easy task. To be quite frank, a lot of them out there flat-out suck (see what we did there?).

Here at SawGuy, we’ve got years and years of experience putting tools mercilessly through the wringer, and subjecting them to use and abuse that would probably be criminal if the tools were living, breathing things. The various shop vacs we’ve blown through over the years are no exception.

What follows is a brief list of what we feel to be the best shop vacs currently around – that is, the ones that represent the most ‘winning’ combination of performance, price, and overall value.

Keep in mind that the term ‘Shop-Vac’ is actually a brand name, even though most people use the term loosely to describe any outside garage/workshop wet dry vacuum.

The Craftsman 12004 6 or 9-Gallon 3 HP Wet/Dry Vac is an excellent option if you’re looking for a larger size vac in this price range, and the 3hp motor (4hp for the 9-gallon model) provides more than enough juice to take care of a range of messes, wet or dry.

Our favorite feature, though, is that it comes with attachment hoses that allow for up to 17ft of total reach. An overall great pick.

The Shop-Vac 2036000 2.5-gallon Wet/Dry is a good value option, although it’s smaller than the Craftsman with only a 2.5-gallon capacity. The 2.5hp motor provides plenty of power for the compact size, and the vacuum is super light, making portability a breeze.

It’s loaded with a few great features like a collapsible handle (wet/dry vacs are always awkward to carry), a wall mount, and a super convenient filter replacement system.

If you’re in the market for something larger and borderline industrial-strength, the 12-gallon VBV1210 by Vacmaster is an excellent, very reasonably-priced option.

Like the others on the list, it converts into a blower with the simple bush of a button, and it comes with several different hose attachments, which is always a good thing – the more, the better.

Our pick for the best shop vac for dust collection is undoubtedly the Craftsman XSP 16-gallon 6.5hp. You want something pretty beefy for shop-wide sawdust collection, and the 6.5hp motor on this guy is more than sufficient.

Also, this is an excellent choice if you plan on putting together a central, homemade/DIY dust collection system that’s powered by a standard shop vac (we’ll talk more about this shortly).

Lastly, the Shop-Vac 3940100 Wet/Dry Vacuum is another really good mid-range option that we have experience with, and have been largely pleased with overall.

It’s really similar size-wise and power-wise to the 2.5hp Shop-Vac, albeit a bit larger with a 3.5-gallon capacity and 3hp motor. The big draw, however, and the reason it made it onto this list, is that it comes as a kit and includes a boatload of different attachments, extensions, and accessories.

Reviews of The Best Shop Vacs/Wet-Dry Vacs

Let’s breakdown some of our top picks and see specifically what the pros and cons are, depending on why you need a shop vac.

Craftsman 12004 6 or 9-Gallon 3 HP Wet/Dry Vac

For the price, this Craftsman blower/vacuum combo is actually very well-built. A lot of wet/dry vacs are awkward to move, top-heavy, tippy, the wheels don’t work, and so on and so forth.

Not the case with the 12004. The wheel mechanisms are totally beefed up and very well designed, it’s stable, and it rolls around smoothly and unhindered like it’s actually supposed to.

Additionally, the one-piece carrying handle on the top is great addition for when you can’t roll it and actually have to pick it up. (We’ve used other lesser vacs where you basically have to bear hug the thing in order to haul it around).

Moving on, any decent shop vac hose needs to be flexible when it comes to twisting, turning, and maneuvering into tight spots. Craftsman definitely took this into consideration when it added full 360-degree swiveling casters – finally, no more pulling and yanking on the hose and knocking the whole thing over when you’re twisting around trying to get into tight spots.

In regard to how much this vac sucks, one of the biggest positives that consistently pops up in user reviews is power. The main thing a good shop vac needs to do is suck up what you want it to – you won’t be left disappointed in this regard, as the 3hp (6-gallon) and 4hp (9-gallon) motors provide ample juice for a range of applications.

For size reference, the 9-gallon model measures about 21” tall x 15” wide (not including wheels that jut out).

Things we liked

  • Ease of mobility
  • Overall power and performance
  • Converts to blower
  • Comes with 4 different hose attachments – all the standard ones you need

Things we didn’t like

  • A bit bulky for storage, and no option for wall mount
  • Only a 1-year warranty – could be more


Shop-Vac 2036000 2.5-gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum

This is a small little guy for those of you looking for a nice, lightweight, very portable wet/dry vac for around the house jobs.

At only 12” tall and just under 7 lbs, it’s light enough to put your five year old to work cleaning up the garage and vacuuming out the cars.

Not surprisingly, the 2.5hp motor has ample juice to power the 2 ½ gallon unit – more than enough sucking power to lift even that frustratingly hard-to-get sand and dirt that embeds deep into your car floormats.

It doesn’t have wheels like the larger shop vacs, but like we said, with the flip-up carrying handle and its minimal weight, this really isn’t an issue.

Based on reviews, the majority of people are drawn to this vac because of its compactness and effectiveness for inside-the-house messes. If you’re one of those folks who keeps a big, full-size shop vac out in the garage, you know that bringing that sucker into the house is usually a full-size pain in the butt (as one reviewer cleverly put it) – this little 2.5-gal is an excellent alternative.

Things we liked

  • Portability and compactness
  • Wall mount option – keeps it up off the floor and out of the way
  • Converts to blower
  • 3-year warranty

Things we didn’t like

  • 4’ hose (6ft would be nicer)
  • Doesn’t come with retention bags (although you don’t need them to use it)

Vacmaster VBV1210 12-gallon 5hp wet/dry vacuum/blower

This is an awesome, very reasonably priced option for those of you looking for a bigger, full-size shop vac to keep in the garage. It’s substantially less expensive than the 12-gallon brand name Shop-Vac, and in our opinion, performs better to boot.

Our favorite thing about the Vacmaster is its ‘rigidity’, so to speak. Like we mentioned earlier, a lot of shop vacs are clunky, tippy, and not balanced right.

Not the case with this one. It’s ultra well-designed wheel bases give it excellent balance, and its 12ft power cord and 7ft hose (not including extensions) give you over 20ft of reach without having to bust out the extension cord. All reasons why this is the full-size vac we keep in our own personal garage.

It is a bit bulky at over 24” tall and nearly 18” wide, but that should be expected for a full-size 12-gallon vacuum. If you’re looking for something smaller, there’s plenty of suitable options out there.

One of the things that users and reviewers consistently rave about is the blast of power this thing provides, without blowing your eardrums out. Most bigger vacs like these with 3hp+ motors are annoyingly loud, but the 5hp Vacmaster really isn’t too bad, and more importantly, you’ll never be underwhelmed with the amount of juice it kicks out (or sucks in).

Also, it kicks butt as a full-on blower too – 210mph of max blow force, in fact.

Things we liked

  • Stability, rigidity, and balance
  • Overall value for the price; for this size class, there’s plenty of other lesser quality vacs that are substantially more expensive
  • Comes with 2 hose extensions and 6 different hose fittings
  • Blower is detachable

Things we didn’t like

  • Filter replacement/swapping from dry to wet filter could be simpler

Best shop vacs for dust collection

Craftsman XSP 16-gallon 6.5hp

Central dust collection systems are great, but they’re absurdly expensive and way out of reach for most DIY’ers and average homeowners.

Fortunately, for most standard size garages and DIY woodworking shops, there are much cheaper alternatives where with a few hose extensions, connectors, and the right accessories, you can set up a fully-functioning central collection system that’s run off a standard wet dry vac.

The Craftsman XPS 16-gallon would be a great option for running a system like this. For central dust collection you need something with plenty of power, but the majority of 6hp+ wet dry vacs are super pricey – the XPS on the other hand, is very affordable and is more than capable of providing the necessary power to run a centralized collection system.

It has a standard 2 ½” hose, but adaptors can be used to run 1 ¼” out to any of your cordless or stationary power tools. (Here’s a really awesome step-by-step video showing you how to hook up each one of your shop tools to a central vac for a tiny fraction of the price).

Overall, the XPS 16-gallon has excellent reviews more or less across the board, showing that we’re not the only ones who are impressed by it’s performance-to-price ratio. The only downside users seemed to mention is that you need to put any small pets in their cages when you turn this thing on, as it’ll suck them in from several feet away. (That’s a joke).

Things we liked

  • Price, price, and price. You won’t find a better value 16-gallon wet dry vac anywhere.
  • Awesome for dust collection
  • 6.5hp motor is a BEAST. Seriously, if you have a small chihuahua or something, keep it away from this sucker

Things we didn’t like

  • Size. It’s pretty beastly and burly, and it takes up a good deal of space. No really getting around that though if you’re looking at 16-gallon shop vacs
  • The thing is LOUD. Again, though, no really getting around that


Shop-Vac 3.5-gallon 3hp Wet/Dry Vacuum kit

This is another great mid-range shop vac at a decent price, but it makes this list primarily because of the insane amount of attachments that come in the kit.

The vacuum itself is a mid-size option at 3.5 gallons, kind of halfway between a full-size garage vac and a small in-house vac. It’s got a super convenient and well-designed wall mount if you want to keep it stored up off the floor, or if you plan on using it in one specific spot (like over a workbench).

The kit comes with a huge variety of accessories and attachments, which like we said is the main reason we decided to include it on this list – an incredible value considering everything it comes with.

In addition to the massive 18ft-long hose, it comes with three extension wands, four different nozzles (gulper, crevice, brush, 10” wet/dry), both wet and dry cartridge filters, a collection bag/retainer, a tool bag, and a good quality wall mounting bracket.

These are all things that you’ll have to eventually replace or buy anyway if you purchase a vacuum by itself, so it really pays to get a combo kit like this.

Aside from all of the goodies and accessories that come with the kit, one of the biggest acclaims users seem to have is the generosity in power, given the vac’s mid-range size. A lot of other wet/dry vacs in the 3-gallon class are powered with 2 or even 1hp motors, but this baby’s equipped with a gut-crunching 3hp – plenty of juice, and you’ll never be left frustrated by a lack of sucking power.

Things we liked

  • Huge array of accessories/attachments in the kit
  • Plenty of power for a mid-range 3-gallon vac
  • Super long 18ft hose (not including extension wands)
  • Converts to blower

Things we didn’t like

  • Can be a bit cumbersome for inside use
  • A bit large to be used as a wall-mount vac

Additional Considerations: what to look for when purchasing a wet/dry shop-vac

If you’re still stuck kind of hemming and hawing over what type or size shop vac would be best for you, consider the following:

What’s it going to be used for?

Inside? Outside? If you plan on it primarily being a garage vac, look for one of the bigger models (6-12 gallon). The smaller (2-4 gallon) ones are much more efficient – and less cumbersome – for inside use.

Does it come with filters?

Shop vacs need to be used with filters. A paper cartridge is needed if you’re using it as a dry vac, but you need to switch to a foam filter for wet messes. Make sure that the one you buy comes with both (all of the ones we recommended do).

Some final things to consider

  • Take advantage of the wall mount option. Wall mounts are perfect if you plan on storing and using the vac in a permanent location, but they’re also excellent for general storage. Shop vacs are bulky things – do what you can to keep it out of the way when you’re not using it.
  • Hose length. Out of the four shop vacs we recommended, hose lengths varied from 4’ to 18’. Having the longest hose possible isn’t always the best thing – if you plan on using the vacuum 90% of the time indoors, for instance, you don’t want a massive hose dragging around, freaking out the dog, and knocking things over all across the house.


It’s tough to announce one clear winner of this product roundup, given the differences in size and various applications of each. One thing we will say however, is that the 12-gallon Vacmaster is the best value full-size wet/dry vac you’ll find anywhere, in our opinion. Excellent stability, appropriate hose length, and both wet and dry filters included.

For a smaller option, you can’t go wrong with the pint-sized (not literally) 2.5-gallon Shop-Vac. Great wall mount, perfect size for indoor use, excellent portability, and more than enough juice to take care of some outdoor/garage jobs as well.

About Jake Roberts

I have been working on wood projects since I was a young boy. My dad made rocking chairs and other furniture to sell all over the mid west. I alway enjoy the next challenge to build to keep sharpening my working skills.

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