5 Best Shop Vacs of 2018: Spills, Dust, and Dirt NO Problem.

Aug 22, 2018 | Reviews

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.

Top 5 Shop Vaccums

NamePeak HorsepowerCapacity 

Craftsman

6.5 HP

16 Gallon

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Shop-Vac

3 HP

3.5 Gallon

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Vacmaster

5 HP

12 Gallon

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Shop-Vac

2.5 HP

2.5 Gallon

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Craftsman

3 HP

6 Gallon

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Craftsman

Peak Horsepower

6.5 HP

Capacity

16 Gallon

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Shop-Vac

Peak Horsepower

3 HP

Capacity

3.5 Gallon

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Vacmaster

Peak Horsepower

5 HP

Capacity

12 Gallon

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Shop-Vac

Peak Horsepower

2.5 HP

Capacity

2.5 Gallon

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Craftsman

Peak Horsepower

3 HP

Capacity

6 Gallon

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1. Best Overall

Craftsman XSP Wet/Dry Vac

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The 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 job site 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.

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 for frequently used tools like power drills or screwdrivers.

Pros and cons

  • Relatively cheap.
  • Automatic chain lubrication system.
  • 3/8″ pitch safety chain brake system.
  • Not a ton of clearance between the top handle and the chain brake.

2. Best Value

Shop-Vac Wet/Dry Vacuum

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The 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 for 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-foot hose that lets you move about freely. In addition to this, the package includes a boatload of attachments that extend the reach even more.

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

One of the best things about 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.

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.

Pros and cons

  • True budget option.
  • Push-button oiler.
  • Comes fully assembled.
  • Has been reported to leak.

3. Best for Low Maintenance

Vacmaster Shop Vac

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We 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 problem. You can easily pull this around using the hose itself.

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 job site fast, there’s no better choice. The 5 peak HP motor generates a whopping 210mph wind speed. Enough said.

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 and cons

  • Self-sharpening
  • Large chainsaw bar.
  • Some have reported issues with the chain falling off easily.

4. Best on a Budget

Shop-Vac Wet and Dry Vacuum

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This is one of Shop-Vac’s smaller, 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 their 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.

The shop-vac 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 as well.

Pros and cons

  • Tool-free chain tensioning system
  • Automatic oil and self-lubricating mechanism.
  • 18 Inch low-kickback bar.
  • Instructions are lackluster.

5. Best on a Budget

Craftsman Shop Vac

Our Rating

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The Craftsman 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 on this list, 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 vacuum also features a top handle for convenient lifting. The fact that it 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 gives 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 Craftsman 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.

Pros and cons

  • Great on a budget
  • Auto-oiler
  • Clear oil tank
  • Hard to read the bar oil measurements. It also goes through bar oil quickly.

Shop Vacuum Features to Consider

Shop vacs are the most popular option when it comes to dirt, grime, liquid, and dust removal. They work better than traditional vacuums and definitely cost less than professional options. With that said, there are a lot of brands and options out there and knowing what to look for can be tough. The following features are items to pay attention to when breaking down your options.

Suction Power

This metric will often be rated in Peak Horsepower or PHP. In this list, we saw the PHP range from 2.5 to 6.5. This range is what you should expect from these vacuums. You might think that this is a rather large number, but these vacuums pick up metal, heavy debris, and liquids. If you need a shop vacuum for dust and small particles then a 2.5 HP motor is more than enough. If you work in a shop or job site and you need to pick up screws, nails, debris, and liquids then 5 HP+ is for you.

Tank Size

The tank is where the debris is going to end up. Similar to regular vacuums you will have a reservoir where things are temporarily stored. Shop vacs are rather awkward to store because their tanks are large. In this list, we featured 2.5 – 16 Gallon tanks. If you need a shop vac for your vehicle then a 2.5-gallon tank is more than enough. If you work in a shop then having 10+ gallons is likely necessary.

Attachments and Blowers

Several of the options listed above come with attachements for a variety of uses. If you only need the hose then skip options that include them. Most shop vacs are now able to double as blowers. If you have leaves built up in your gutters or need to clear sawdust from your work area, then this may come in handy.

Conclusion

All of these vacuums will work well for the home or job site. When it comes to picking the right one consider the features above when making your decision. If you need a small shop vac for your home or vehicle to pick up light debris, then the 2.5 HP Shop-Vac above will work perfectly. However, if you need an all-around solid shop vac for every occasion then our overall pick, the Craftsman XSP is a perfect choice.

John McDonald

Chainsaw Expert for Electricchainsawexpert.com

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