The Best Shop Vac of 2018

Most DIYers will scurry to find the best shop vac when they discover that their household vacuum doesn’t cut it when it comes to spills, metals and all the other difficult-to-suck objects that miraculously turn up to clutter the garage floor.

Ever since the original Shop-vac (the brand) hit a home run with their range of highly efficient wet and dry vacuum cleaners, most leading manufacturers have followed suit and launched their own versions of similar machines.

As a result, the market is cluttered with wet and dry vacuums in a multitude of configurations, sizes and price points. Which one will be the best shop vac for your garage?

We’ve put the best shop vacs through the motions and these are the ones that stood out from among the crowd.

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Vacuum Brand

Capacity

Power

Craftsman

16 Gallon

6.5 HP

Shop-Vac

3.5 Gallon

3 HP

Vacmaster

12 Gallon

5 HP

Shop-Vac

2.5 Gallon

2.5 HP

Craftsman

6 Gallon

3 HP

craftsman XSP shop vacThe Craftsman XSP is a brute of a vacuum that can tackle just about anything that comes its way. Metal, sawdust, drywall, leaves, liquids or even leaves from your gutter (separate gutter kit) will disappear in seconds as the 6.5 peak HP motor whirrs to life. If you often use a chainsaw or a jigsaw or any power tools that create a mess then this shop vacuum will be able to clean up those messes easily.

A 20-feet power cord and 360-degree swivel caster wheels allow you to access every nook and corner of your garage, shed or home without unplugging it or the need for an extension.

Maneuvering and controlling the vac is super-easy. There is an ergonomic top handle and a secure-fit hose system that helps you control and use it with ease.

The hose is 2 ½ inches in diameter which translates into fewer passes to clean a job site.

Access to hard-to-reach areas is facilitated via a 7 feet hose and a set of extension wands.

You can flip a button and convert it into a powerful blower if you need to clear the dirt or dust off the jobsite floor.

The XSP comes with a 16-gallon collection tank that eliminates the need for frequent emptying. There’s a separate fast-draining liquid compartment in the tank that has you covered for situations like a flooded basement.

Small footprint

If real estate is a premium in your garage, the Craftsman XSP might be the best shop vac for you.

It stands 24.88” tall and just 21.5” wide allowing you to tuck it away in a corner easily. There are a bunch of organizers that further reduce the space needed for storage.

The Craftsman XSP also features a storage tray on top for quick access to frequently used tools like power drills or screwdrivers.

Pros Cons
  • Compact sized, powerful wet and dry vac
  • At 31.6 lbs. with an empty tank, the Craftsman XSP can get really heavy especially if you use it as a wet vac
  • 16-gallon collection tank

 

  • Separate fast-draining tank for liquids
 
  • Reasonably quiet
 
  • 27-feet reach (20-feet cord and 7-feet hose)
 
  • Caster wheels and ergonomic handle
 
  • Separate accessory kit
 

Final Thoughts: You can’t go wrong with the Craftsman XSP. Great pricing, flawless performance and excellent reviews all over.

shop-vac-wet-dryThe Shop-Vac 3940100 is a mid-sized wet and dry vacuum that can be a great pick for a small to medium sized garage or job site.

It is compact but has a reasonable 3.5-gallon collection tank and comes with a very convenient wall-mount assembly that allows easy storage or even usage if you don’t intend to move it about too much.

Just hang it on the wall, power it on and use it conveniently. It has a huge 18-feet hose that lets you move about freely.

In addition to this, the package includes a boatload of attachments that extend the reach, allow you to take it into tiny crevices and store it conveniently.

The Shop-Vac 3940100 is powered by a 3 peak HP motor that gives it a lot of juice for a vacuum this size. Customers have used it in varied scenarios including in job sites, for cleaning cars and in homes without any complaints.

An impressive accessory bundle

One of the biggest draws of the Shop-Vac 3940100 is the accessory kit which makes it a value-for-money option.

There are three extension wands, a gulper nozzle, a wet and dry nozzle, a crevice nozzle, a brush for cleaning upholstery, dry/wet filters, a bag for collecting the dust, a wall-mount bracket and a bag for carrying tools.

This saves you a lot of money otherwise spent on replacements.

However, we must mention that at times, the hose tends to get clogged. If you find that the vac isn’t sucking anymore, just detach the hose and clean it. Also, the Shop-Vac 3940100 can be loud. Get some earplugs while you use it, will ya?

Pros Cons
  • Compact, mid-sized wet/dry vac
  • Is a little loud
  • 5-gallon tank
 
  • 18-foot long hose
 
  • Bunch of useful accessories
 
  • Wall-mounting assembly for convenient storage
 
  • Budget pricing
 

Final Thoughts: If you want a mid-sized shop vac with a lot of sucking power, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better choice than the Shop Vac 3940100.

vacmaster-shop-vacWe first spotted the Vacmaster 12-gallon shop vac in action at a car wash. It was being used as a blower and boy, did it have some power. Certainly, blew us away!

This is a large and powerful wet and dry vacuum that’s best suited for job sites and garages. It has a 12-gallon tank that can hold a considerable amount of debris or liquids and comes with a durable 7-feet hose that’s 2.5” in diameter.

It weighs a very pleasant 12 pounds when empty and moves around on four detachable 360-degree swiveling caster wheels.

The cord length is 12-feet which is a little less than its nearest competition, the Craftsman XSP. But that’s only a minor niggle. You can easily pull this around using the hose itself. Doesn’t detach or leak.

One of the best features is that you can completely detach the vacuum from the tank (one-touch release) and use it as a blower and a powerful one at that.

If you are looking to clean dust off a jobsite fast, there’s no better choice. The 5 peak HP motor generates a whopping 210mph wind speed. Enough said.

Eight attachments and two filters

We love the attachments that come bundled with the Vacmaster 12-gallon wet/dry vacuum.

There are nozzles for car and crevices, a spot-cleaning tool for concentrated cleaning tasks, two extension wands for reaching out without clambering on a ladder and a blower nozzle.

These accessories can be stored onboard in the dedicated accessory rack.

Most importantly, the suction power is second to none. When cleaning liquids, the Vacmaster can suck in a gallon of water in a second and a half. That’s some serious power if you frequently use it to drain your pool or in a car wash.

Also, it has a large drain port conveniently located at the bottom that allows you to drain the tank without having to lift or tilt the entire unit.

Pros Cons
  • Large and powerful dry/wet vac
  • The 12-gallon tank is sizeable and storage might be a problem in homes or workshops with limited space
  • Detachable and convertible into a blower
 
  • Blower with 210 mph wind output
 
  • 8 accessories
 
  • 12-feet long cord
 
  • Excellent suction power for messy job sites
 

Final Thoughts: Looking for something that’s fast, powerful and can be used effortlessly as a blower? Look no further. The Vacmaster is one of the best options that you have.

small-shop-vacThe 2036000 is one of Shop-Vac’s smallest, entry-level wet and dry vacuums for small shops and homes.

This pocket-sized powerhouse can give a lot of higher priced and bulkier machines a run for its money with its suction power. It is compact enough to be carried around, comes with a collapsible handle and an 8-foot cord.

You can carry it to the car, use it around the home or even wall-mount it when you are using it within a room or a small working space.

Beats the regular home vacuum any day and eliminates the need to drag out the full-sized shop vac from your garage for tasks that need that extra suction.

It is not overly loud either, which is a much sought after feature while selecting vacuums for cars and homes. It has a 2.5-gallon storage tank and is powered by a 2.5 Peak HP motor that delivers a lot of juice for a machine this size.

It features a dedicated blower port on the rear that can convert this into a useful blower. It’s not as powerful as the Vacmaster or the Worx. But at the size and this price point, the Shop-Vac 2036000 is unbeatable.

A great accessory kit that’s upgradable

The 2036000 also features a very useful accessory kit including an extension hose, a gulper nozzle, and a crevice tool.

If you are looking for more reach, then there’s a 6-feet extension available for purchase. There’s a reusable disc filter and a foam sleeve to be used for sucking liquids.

Pros Cons
  • Compact and portable
  • The cord is fairly short and you might want to consider buying the upgraded one sooner or later
  • Collapsible handle
 
  • 8-foot cord
 
  • Extension handle, two nozzles and reusable filters
 
  • Dedicated blower port on the rear
 

Final Thoughts: Don’t let the size of the Shop-Vac 2036000 fool you. This is one powerful vacuum that’s easy to store, carry and use. Did we forget to mention that its one of the cheapest shop vacs that you can buy?

craftsman-shop-vacThe Craftsman 12004 is a midsized shop vac with some serious suction power behind it.

Its 6-gallon tank makes it easier to store than a pro shop vac. But it makes up for the lack of power in an upright vacuum.

This is perfect for a shop, job site or apartment use.

It is powered by a 3 peak HP motor, which isn’t the most powerful one in this list of the best shop vacs. But it more than suffices to pick up metals, debris, screws, sawdust, drywall plaster and liquids that you may be dealing with every day.

The 360-degree caster wheels on the base are the best that we’ve seen. The installation prevents the wheels from getting detached while the vacuum is operational and it can easily glide over bumpy surfaces.

The 12004 also features a top handle for conveniently lifting the vacuum rather. The fact that weighs a very manageable 12.4 pounds when empty makes this easier.

It has a long 10-foot power cord and a 7-foot hose which give you 17-feet of reach. Club that with the two additional extension wands and you can easily cover the entire workspace without the need for detaching it.

The fastest liquid cleaner

The Craftsman 12004 scores way above the rest when it comes to cleaning liquids and spills. The vacuum averaged about two and a half gallons of water per second, which is phenomenal.

Also thrown in are a bunch of extra accessories and an onboard storage rack.

You can convert this into a blower. But unfortunately, you cannot remove the main motor from the housing like the Worx or the Vacmaster. So, you’d have to drag this around if you wish to use it as a mower.

Pros Cons
  • Mid-sized dry/wet vacuum
  • The loudest vacuum on this list
  • 17-feet reach with two additional extension wands
  • No dedicated drain port
  • Multiple accessories with onboard storage
 
  • Lightweight at 12.8 pounds
 
  • 10-foot cord
 
  • Excellent suction power
 
  • Fastest liquid cleaner on this list
 
  • Lightweight at 12.8 pounds
 

Final Thoughts: A few design-flaws and a few minor niggles apart, the Craftsman 12004 is a very useful dry/wet vacuum that can give you 17-feet reach in your shop or home. It is powerful enough to tackle most tasks that you throw at it, can be converted into a blower and costs half of what you’d pay for a similar vacuum.