Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Shop-Vac 9633400 12-Gallon at Amazon
"For extra tough messes."
Runner Up, Best Overall: Ridgid 50348 1400RV 14-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum at Amazon
"One of the largest shop vacs available on the market."
Best Budget: Shop-Vac 5986100 Eight-Gallon at Amazon
"As a starter vacuum ... the price is hard to beat."
Runner Up, Best Budget Shop Vac: Craftsman 12004 Six-Gallon at Amazon
"This vacuum is powerful enough to keep around for small projects."
Best Six-Gallon Shop Vac: Vacmaster Stainless Steel at Amazon
"The perfect option if storage space is a premium."
Best Eight-Gallon Shop Vac: Stanley Pro Stainless Steel at Amazon
"Capable of handling common messes around the home without many storage issues."
Best 10-Gallon: Shop-Vac 5873410 at Amazon
"Ideal for small industrial and commercial applications in addition to home use."
Best 16-Gallon Shop Vac: Emerson WS1600VA at Amazon
"Professionals will appreciate the large storage capacity and plethora of attachments."
01 of 08
Best Overall: Shop-Vac 9633400 12-Gallon
A good shop vac should be able to suck up a wide variety of things such as spills, debris, even snow. For the absolute best choice, you can only go with the namesake brand: the Shop-Vac 9633400. This shop vac is on the larger side for extra tough messes or bigger rooms you may need to tackle. Twelve gallons will give you plenty of space to suck things up before having to empty it. The 6.5 HP motor is also powerful enough to handle many different types of debris and messes you may encounter while using this option.
The accessories with this option include a large eight-inch utility nozzle, crevice tool for hard-to-reach spots and several different filters to keep small things from damaging the insides. In addition to the vacuum, you can reverse the motor to turn the shop vac into a leaf blower for outside use. The hose is eight-feet long for extra reach around normal sized rooms.
02 of 08
Runner Up, Best Overall: Ridgid 50348 1400RV Wet/Dry Vacuum with Cart, 14-Gallon
Need something on the larger side for even bigger messes and rooms? The Rigid 14 gal. 6.0-Peak HP is one of the largest shop vacs available on the market. Despite the size, the unit is easy to maneuver around with four caster wheels, a top handle and a seven foot-hose. The exterior is constructed of high impact plastic for extra protection. On the inside, a six-horsepower motor is powerful enough for common messes around the home and garage.
The vacuum’s filter system is designed to suck up fine particles such as dry wall dust. The three layer filter is easy to replace and will help remove dangerous dust from spaces after large projects or disasters. Accessory wise, this option comes with several different nozzles to use in hard-to-reach spots like cars or on liquids. It also comes with a three-year warranty.
03 of 08
Best Budget: Shop-Vac 5986100 Eight-Gallon
A budget shop vac will usually come with the bare minimum in terms of performance and accessories to get basic jobs done. The Shop-Vac 5986100 is made with the same quality of construction that more expensive Shop-Vac units have. With an eight-gallon tank and five-horsepower motor, it’s on the lighter end in terms of performance. As a starter vacuum, however, the price is hard to beat.
The main tank is made of stainless steel for extra durability other budget vacuums don’t have. Included attachments include two standard nozzles and extension nozzles. The easy roll casters rotate 360 degrees, so you can pull the unit in any direction as you work.
04 of 08
Runner Up, Best Budget Shop Vac: Craftsman 12004 Six-Gallon
Some expensive shop vac options aren’t suited for smaller spaces or projects. Since it’s pointless to spend more on something that will be overkill for your needs, save some money with a smaller vacuum. The Craftsman 12004 Six-Gallon shop vac comes with a three-horsepower motor for small spaces and jobs. While you may not clean up an entire garage in one go, this vacuum is powerful enough to keep around for small projects or single room/apartment cleaning tasks.
A seven-foot hose and ten-foot power cord will give you a 17-foot reach while using this vacuum. Take it outdoors and reverse the motor to activate the lawn blowing function for areas like the patio, yard or driveway. The motor is capable enough to even handle heavier materials such as dirt and wood scraps.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Best Six-Gallon Shop Vac: Vacmaster Stainless Steel
A six-gallon shop vac is small enough to almost be considered portable. Despite the small size, this type of tank is still convenient for taking care of small to medium messes without having to empty it. The Vacmaster Stainless Steel vacuum is the perfect option if storage space is a premium. The smaller size of the vacuum also makes it easy to store in places such as small apartments, offices, and the garage.
For the size and price, this vacuum is more durable than comparable options. The stainless steel construction is weather-resistant. The lid is reinforced with heavy duty tank clips to prevent air from leaking. Moving the vacuum is also meant to be comfortable with a contoured control handle and sturdy, all-direction casters.
06 of 08
Best Eight-Gallon Shop Vac: Stanley Pro Stainless Steel
Increasing the size of the storage tank on a shop vac will allow you to work longer without having to empty it. The Stanley Pro Stainless Steel sits in the middle of small and large shop vac options with an eight gallon tank. Eight gallons is common for most shop vacuums capable of handling common messes around the home without many storage issues. Better still, the 6.5-horsepower motor can tackle larger, heavier materials you may encounter around the house or garage.
The air filters on this vacuum are good if you expect to find harmful molds, mildew and bacteria in the dust you need to clean up. Like other shop vacs, this one can handle both dry and wet matter, so you can reach for it the next time you encounter a large spill. A secondary, portable one-gallon vacuum is included as well for smaller messes or harder-to-reach areas.
07 of 08
Best 10-Gallon: Shop-Vac 5873410
A ten-gallon shop vac is the point you begin to enter the “heavy duty” space of these vacuums. Ten gallons will give you plenty of storage to keep on cleaning, making it ideal for small industrial and commercial applications in addition to home use. The Shop-Vac 5873410 is one of the brand’s flagship models, representing both the build quality and capability many people know Shop-Vac for. The standard 6.5-horsepower motor is capable of surviving the abuse of professional applications or giving you all the power you need at home.
The combination of a 20-foot power cord and 12-foot hose will give you unparalleled reach while working around any room or space. Despite the large size and powerful motor, the unit is quiet enough to be used in crowded spaces or in apartments with neighbors.
08 of 08
Best 16-Gallon Shop Vac: Emerson WS1600VA
To maximize the amount of cleaning you can do with a shop vac, nothing beats the massive 16-gallon tank. At this size, the Emerson WS1600VA is the most logical choice if your cleaning needs go beyond typical home use. Professionals will appreciate the large storage capacity and plethora of attachments that make this vacuum versatile around the shop or worksite. To survive the extra level of abuse professional settings can dish, this vacuum cleaner is made of a durable copolymer drum to resist cracking and dents from impacts.
For accessories, the vacuum comes with a standard set of utility, car, wet and extension nozzles. The on-board filter system features Emerson’s Qwik Lock fastening design to make switching filters quick and simple. For wet applications, a built-in auto shutoff float mechanism will prevent you from sucking up too much to the point of overflowing the unit.
Products Tested by The Spruce
How We Tested
Our reviewers spent five hours testing a top-rated shop vac. To get the most comprehensive results, they tried out the different attachments and used it to clean a variety of areas in their homes. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this shop vac, from power and effectiveness to size. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Shop Vac
Capacity Shop vacs come in small (2-6 gallons), medium (6-14 gallons), and high capacity (14-18 gallons). The medium capacity will suit most needs — it’s sufficient for most indoor and outdoor cleaning tasks homeowners face.
Air power Air power, or air-watts, refers to the suction power of your shop vac. A higher air power is important if you plan to vacuum heavier objects like nuts and bolts.
Tank In addition to size, you’ll be faced with another choice: plastic or stainless steel tank. Plastic tanks are lighter and less prone to dents, but stainless steel tanks are easier to clean and more durable in the long run.
Test Results: Shop-Vac 9633400 12-Gallon Wet or Dry Vacuum (Best Overall)
What We Like
Easy to maneuver
What We Don't Like
Doesn’t include foam sleeve for wet pickup
Our testers found this shop vac to be effective, useful, and a good value. “I think it is a bargain for the price,” one reviewer raved. Although figuring out “almost a comical amount of accessories” and how to fit them in the holder was confusing, according to one of our testers, he really enjoyed the detachable blower: “I liked being able to blow and suck up the leaves in my yard with one unit.” On the flipside, one of our reviewers said it would be nice if the foam sleeve for wet pickups came included instead of having to purchase it separately. But the general conclusion? “Just overall a very good vacuum that gets the job done,” one tester declared.