If you’re unfamiliar with shop vacs, you may be picturing a towering monstrosity of a tool that you just don’t have space for. However, many people don’t realize that tons of smaller shop vacs are suitable for home use. Of course, it’s not always easy to shop for these products online.
Manufacturers are all too happy to tell you everything good about their products, and they’re sometimes known to exaggerate, too. Lost in the confusion are all the downsides, as well as your chances of making a well-informed decision.
We believe that it shouldn’t be that way, which is why we’ve assembled this list of reviews of the best mini shop vacs of 2020. We show you the pros and cons of each model so that you can decide which one is right for you. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, which walks you through everything you need to know about these products before you buy.
|Vacmaster VFB511B 0201 Beast Series|
|Shop-Vac 2030100 1.5-Gallon|
|Stanley SL18123P||9 lbs||4.60/5|
|Armor All 2.5 Gallon AA255||7 lbs||4.35/5|
|VViViD REV Mini||2 lbs||3.90/5|
The Vacmaster VFB511B 0201 Beast Series lives up to its name. This model is a beast of a shop vac, providing up to 102 CFM and up 82.6 inches of water lift, making it great for cleaning up wet and dry messes. It also comes with a long reach. The power cord is 18 feet long, and the included hose adds an additional seven feet, giving you more than 25 feet of reach with this shop vac. It also comes with a lot of accessories, including a car nozzle, crevice tool, extension wand, and filters for dust and water, as well as a noise diffuser.
Despite this great power, it only weighs 13.5 pounds, making it by far one of the lighter shop vacs you can find on the market that still have a good amount of power. The only real knock against this model is that it doesn’t come with any wheels. However, it’s light enough to carry around when empty that you won’t have to strain too much when using this model. Overall, it’s easily the best small shop vac on the market today, and you can get it for a good price, too.
The Shop-Vac 2030100 1.5-Gallon is another great shop vac. It can be mounted on the wall, making it one of the few models at this price point that has that feature. Since you can get it for about half of what you’d pay for our top model, it easily provides the best value for the money on our list. It also only weighs six pounds, which makes it easy to carry around and won’t leave you feeling tired when you get to your destination. It also comes with a hose, though it’s worth pointing out that this model only comes with a four-foot hose, compared to the seven-foot one you would get with our top model.
The biggest problem with this model is that it lacks onboard hose or accessory storage. If you use the included hose, or even upgrade to a longer one, there’s no good way to secure it on the model while in transit, leaving it flopping around. It’s light enough that you could carry it with one hand and hold the hose with the other, but that’s awkward. Still, for the price, it would be hard to find a competing model that worked this well.
The Stanley SL18123P works well, and at the end of the day, that’s the bare minimum you should expect out of your shop vac. This model has very good suction, making it a great choice for cleaning out cars and cleaning up major water spills. It also comes with a three-gallon tank, which is excellent for the price point and allows you to clean for a significant amount of time without stopping to empty out the shop vac. It does come with a four-foot hose, which isn’t that long, but at least you won’t have to buy a hose separately.
However, this model weighs nearly eight pounds. That may not sound like much, but it’s 60 percent more than the previous model, even though this model doesn’t add that much functionality for the price. Of course, that may not be something that bothers you while you use the product, but it’s the sort of thing that costs the model a spot on our list. It also doesn’t have great overall part quality. It is very cheap, so you shouldn’t expect it to last forever. The good news is that you can replace it when it breaks at a low cost.
The Armor All 2.5 Gallon AA255 shop vac is small and cheap enough to be a good choice for cleaning out cars or other simple cleaning tasks. It comes with a 2.5-gallon tank, which is large enough to store a lot of debris or water before having to empty it out. It also comes with a six-foot hose, which isn’t the longest on our list but is longer than those that come with some of the more expensive models. However, that longer hose is offset by the shorter power cord, which is only ten feet long. You’re going to need to be near an electric outlet or have an extension cord handy to use this model effectively.
This model is cheap, which means that the poor quality control is to be expected. This model sometimes randomly turns off. The accessories also have a habit of falling off the hose, which is very inconvenient. Ultimately, this model is underpowered, so it’s not a great choice for serious cleanup jobs. If you’re doing light work, you could be satisfied with this model’s performance, but if you want more out of your small shop vac, you’ll be happier with a different model.
The VViViD REV Mini is designed with car cleaning projects in mind, which is both a blessing and a curse. The most distinctive thing about this model is that it uses at 12-Volt adapter to get its power. That means you can plug it into a cigarette lighter in your car, but it also means that you won’t be able to use a standard power outlet to use it elsewhere in your home. That means the value isn’t all that great relative to the other models on our list, even if the price is overall very low.
The hose is only three feet long, which may be just enough to use in your car, but you’ll find yourself constantly repositioning the base to accommodate the short hose. It also doesn’t have great suction, making it only really useful for the lightest of cleanup duties. If you make a big mess in your car, you may discover that this small shop vac isn’t up to the task, which can lead to a frustrating experience. Overall, this model is dirt-cheap, but most people are going to end up unsatisfied with their purchase and will wish they bought something else, instead.
Our reviews may already have helped you find the model that is right for you. However, we know that it’s a lot of information to process, and it can be hard to make sure that you’re thinking through all the features that you need to consider if you’ve never owned one of these machines before. We cover everything you need to know about shop vacs in this guide, making it a great resource for beginners. Additionally, we talk you through good strategies for finding value, so you can get a great deal when you go to buy.
One of the most important things to consider on your next shop vac is the tank size. While you may not think that this is the top feature to consider when you’re looking for a small shop vac, the fact of the matter is that the tank size has a heavy influence on your experience and on the features that you can get with your shop vac.
The bigger the tank, the bigger the spill you can clean up at once without stopping. This can be useful if you if you’re not cleaning up something that needs to be dumped immediately. The shop vac can work as a storage facility until you’re ready to dispose of its content.
However, a bigger tank results in a heavier unit. It also holds more when full, so it can be harder to move in that state. Many people are surprised by how much water weighs when on the inside of a shop vac, so it’s important to invest in a model you can still move around when full.
You’re not going to get a massive hose with a smaller shop vac, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop looking for value in this area. A longer hose lets you work for longer without repositioning the base, which saves you time and effort. It also gives you the reach you may need to get into tight nooks and crannies, which adds a lot of value to your purchase.
Additionally, the longer the hose, and the longer the power cord, the further you can be from an electrical outlet while working, which could mean that you don’t have to invest in an expensive extension cord.
At the high end in this category, you could expect to get a hose that is at least seven feet long. The average is about four feet, and the smallest have hoses that are only two feet long.
The bigger your shop vac is, the harder it will be to move around. When most people think of shop vacs, they’re thinking of bulbous machines that come with wheels to offset their heavyweight. However, the models on our list forgo wheels. Instead, they’re designed to be lightweight and to have other features that make moving them around far easier.
The most important of these is the carrying handle. While this feature sounds simple, some are made for ergonomic use, which can bring a lot of relief to your hands. Just make sure that you get a model with quality padding on the handle, as poor-quality padding will wear down after just a few uses.
Getting a model that has a way to secure the hose while you walk will keep it from flopping around while you move, which can be annoying, and potentially dangerous if it gets underfoot.
Different people have different needs when it comes to shop vacs, so there’s no one model that’s going to be right for everyone. If you’re looking to make the most of your purchase, you need to make sure that you focus on getting great value for your money.
The best way to do that is to focus on your needs. What kinds of problems do you need your shop vac to solve? Match those problems to the features that can solve them, and then make a list of models that meet those requirements.
Then, choose the cheapest model from that list. It has the features that you need for a satisfying experience, but since you can get it for the lowest price, it’s the best overall model for your money.
The Vacmaster VFB511B 0201 Beast Series is a beast of a small shop vac, and it’s the one you need to get if you want the best. It comes with great suction, a long reach, and a seven-foot hose, making it a great all-around pick. The Shop-Vac 2030100 1.5-Gallon is wall-mountable, lightweight, and can be had for a great price, making it the best overall for the money on our list. The Stanley SL18123P includes a three-gallon tank, a hose, and good suction, but its heavyweight and poor part quality keep it out of the top two. In fourth is the Armor All 2.5 Gallon AA255 which comes with a 2.5-gallon tank, but has a short power cord, and is underpowered, which costs it a few spaces on our list. The VViViD REV Mini is compact and comes with a 12-Volt adapter, but its poor suction and lack of use outside of cars drop it to the bottom of our list.
We hope that our buyer’s guide and reviews have helped you come to really understand small shop vacs. You should now be able to get a model that cleans your messes at a price you can afford.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!