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Best Small Shop Vacs 2020 – Reviews & Top Picks

person using Stanley Wet Dry Vacuum

Shop vacs are vital for, well, every shop. The problem is they can take up a lot of space, especially if you’re just a homeowner without much dedicated workshop space. Luckily, smaller shop vacs are available for these small spaces.we

While these shop vacs typically have less power, they can be suitable for some situations. However, it is essential to get one that isn’t too weak, or it may not do the trick for most jobs. There are many factors to keep in mind when choosing a suitable small shop vac. They are not all the same and vary widely in price.

You’ll find our reviews of the top small shop vac below so that you can discover the best shop vac for your situation.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Professional Wet/Dry Vac Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Professional Wet/Dry Vac
  • 5 gallons
  • Strong suction
  • Very storable
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum
  • Very small
  • Blower function
  • On-board storage
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    DeWALT DXV14P Poly Wet/Dry Vac DeWALT DXV14P Poly Wet/Dry Vac
  • 14 gallons
  • Powerful motor
  • Built-in storage
  • Stanley SL18910P-3 Wet Dry Vacuum Stanley SL18910P-3 Wet Dry Vacuum
  • Easy to use
  • 3-gallon capacity
  • 8 pounds
  • TACKLIFE PVC01A Wet/Dry Vacuum TACKLIFE PVC01A Wet/Dry Vacuum
  • Blowing function
  • Powerful motor
  • Durable collection tank
  • The 8 Best Small Shop Vacs – Reviews 2020

    1. Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Professional Wet/Dry Vac – Best Overall

    Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Professional Wet:Dry Vac

    The Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Professional Wet/Dry Vac is tiny. It is only 5 gallons in total. However, it should be big enough for your average homeowner. It won’t take up too much room and is quite stout. Even if you’re low on space, you should be able to store it somewhere quite easily. The hose storage is integrated, which makes it look very tidy when it’s put away. The cord is 18 inches long. This length should be plenty for most people. There is integrated cord storage on the shop vac as well.

    This machine has a high-efficiency motor and is pretty powerful for its size. This motor is handy when cleaning up water due to its superior suction. You can also easily convert it to a blower. While you probably won’t use this feature too much, it’s extremely helpful when you do need it.

    Pros
    • 5 gallons
    • Strong suction
    • Very storable
    • 18”  long cord
    • Converts to blower
    Cons
    • No wheels

    2. Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum – Best Value

    Armor All AA255 Wet:Dry Utility Shop Vacuum

    The Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum is even smaller than the first one we reviewed. It is only 2.5 gallons, which is half the size of most smaller shop vacs. The engine is much less powerful as well. It was one of the weakest that we tested. The cord is 10      feet long, though. This length is a bit longer than some of the other ones we looked at.

    Despite how cheap it is, this shop vac does come with a blower function. It is effortless to switch between blow and suck as well.

    When it comes to storage, this shop vac is about as storable as it comes. There is a cord wrap for the cord. This feature is super useful given how long the cord is. There is on-board hose and accessory storage as well. Because the machine is so small, it easily fits underneath a table or in a closet when you aren’t using it.

    However, the small size does mean you’ll need to empty it more often. If you’re a homeowner who doesn’t plan on using it much, though, this shouldn’t be a significant problem. If you need to save some money, this is the best small shop vac for the money.

    Pros
    • Very small
    • Blower function
    • On-board storage
    Cons
    • Weak motor

    3. DeWALT DXV14P Poly Wet/Dry Vac – Premium Choice

    DeWALT DXV14P Poly Wet:Dry Vac

    This DeWALT DXV14P Poly Wet/Dry Vac is not very small. It is 14 gallons in all, which is quite a bit larger than some of the other options we’ve listed. Because it is so much larger, it is quite a bit more expensive. However, this may be a good option for those who need something a little larger than the other shop vacs we’ve mentioned.

    With 6 horsepower (HP), the engine on this machine is pretty powerful as well. It shouldn’t have a problem sucking up most things, including liquids. The rubberized casters are very durable, and the wheels provide extra durability. There is a storage pack attached to the back for storing accessories. However, this machine isn’t focused on storability. It is quite a bit larger than the others we’ve mentioned.

    A sizable built-in tank drain makes it easy to remove liquids from the machine. We particularly liked this feature, though you likely won’t use it very much if you don’t clean up liquid very much.

    Pros
    • 14 gallons
    • Powerful motor
    • Built-in storage
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Quite large

    See: Best Wet Dry Vacs Under $100


    4. Stanley SL18910P-3 Wet Dry Vacuum

    Stanley SL18910P-3 Wet Dry Vacuum

    The Stanley SL18910P-3 Wet Dry Vacuum is another tiny vacuum. It is only 3 gallons, which is decently small compared to the other options on the market. The small size makes it very easy to store, though you will have to empty it more often. It is easy to use and empty, so you shouldn’t have any problems in that regard. With 3 HP, it can suck up most things, though it may be a bit too weak for some jobs.

    In all, this machine only weighs just a bit over 8 pounds. This should be plenty light enough to move around as you see fit. However, the machine doesn’t come with wheels. However, the handle is decently ergonomic and makes carrying this machine around much more usable.

    The hose is 4 feet long, and the cord is 10 feet long, this provides quite a bit of cleaning reach – more than enough for most workshops. This shop vac includes several accessories as well.

    Pros
    • Easy to use
    • 3-gallon capacity
    • 8 pounds
    Cons
    • A bit loud
    • Cord is a bit shorter than other options

    5. TACKLIFE PVC01A Wet/Dry Vacuum

    TACKLIFE PVC01A Wet:Dry Vacuum

    At 5 gallons, the TACKLIFE PVC01A Wet/Dry Vacuum is about the average size for a smaller shop vac. It has a powerful suction thanks to the 5.5 HP engine. The collection tank is quite durable and is made out of polypropylene. With a 5-foot hose and a 10-foot power cord, this machine has an extensive cleaning range. It also comes with three extension pieces to increase its cleaning range even more.

    Four casters give it extra mobility and allow it to swivel smoothly. Many different accessories come with it, so you can tackle any job the workshop throws at you. The automatic power-off protection prevents the tank from becoming too full, protecting the machine from damage.

    Pros
    • Blowing function
    • Powerful motor
    • Durable collection tank
    Cons
    • No storage system for attachments
    • Small hose

    6. Porter-Cable PCX18301-4B Wet/Dry Vacuum

    Porter-Cable PCX18301-4B Wet:Dry Vacuum

    The Porter-Cable PCX18301-4B Wet/Dry Vacuum is a very stout, compact machine. If you’re worried about storage, this machine can likely fit just about anywhere. It has a large on/off switch that is also water-resistant. You don’t have to worry about it wearing down during hard and dirty work. It has a 4-gallon capacity. This is about in the middle of the range as far as smaller shop vacs go. This capacity should be plenty for most homeowners.

    This machine has a high-performance motor, providing maximum suction. It isn’t necessarily as powerful as other models. However, it should be plenty for most uses. The stainless-steel base prevents tipping while in use. It comes with a quick-lock hose as well, making it very easy to use.

    Casters allow the machine to move very easily and help it swivel in all directions during use.

    With that said, the hose is a bit short. It is missing some attachments as well, though this may not be a problem for everyone.

    Pros
    • Lightweight
    • Powerful motor
    • Mobile
    Cons
    • Short hose
    • Missing some attachments

    7. CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 Wet/Dry Vac

    CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 Wet:Dry Vac

    The CRAFTSMAN CMXEVBE17595 Wet/Dry Vac is designed to be a powerful, heavy-duty machine. However, it is lacking in a few different ways. Firstly, it has a bit of a “toxic” smell. This might not be a big deal, but it isn’t enjoyable to say the least. The stench seems to be created by the heat of the engine, which is troublesome. It is also decently bulky. If you’re concerned about portability, this probably isn’t the best vacuum for you.

    Despite its small size, it isn’t that easy to store or transport.

    The accessories are not high-quality. The car hose can leave small marks on your car’s interior and potentially damage weaker fabrics.

    Pros
    • 16 gallons
    Cons
    • Bulky
    • Toxic smell

    8. Ridgid WD4070 4 Gallon Portable Vacuum

    Ridgid WD4070 4 Gallon Portable Vacuum

    The Ridgid WD4070 4 Gallon Portable Vacuum holds 4 gallons. This is a medium-sized vacuum as far as smaller shop vacs go. It weighs a bit more than most vacuums despite its small size. In total, empty, it weighs 12 pounds. This isn’t heavy by any means, but it is quite a bit heavier than you might expect. It does have a large handle, which makes it easier to move around. However, it is still harder to move around than others.

    The wheels don’t help much. They don’t swivel very well, which makes it decently difficult to transport easily. It also doesn’t move well while you’re using it.

    On top of that, this shop vac is quite expensive. There are many other options of a similar size that are much cheaper (and better). We recommend spending your money on one of the other vacuums on this list instead.

    Pros
    • Works well in cars
    Cons
    • Heavy
    • Doesn’t swivel well
    • Expensive

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    Buyer’s Guide

    When purchasing a shop vac, there are a few different factors you need to keep in mind. This is especially true if you’re looking for a small, storable shop vac. Below, we’ll discuss some of the essential features to look for while you’re shopping.

    Size

    If you’re searching for a small shop vac, in particular, you probably need it to be small for a reason. This may be because you don’t have a lot of space, and therefore don’t have the room for a larger shop vac. You may want a smaller shop vac because you’re looking to spend the least amount of money possible. Smaller shop vacs are usually substantially cheaper than more extensive options.

    Whatever the reason, keep an eye on the size while you’re reviewing each model. “Small” can mean a lot of things. Some people need a very, very small shop vac that holds just over 2 gallons, while others want around a 10-gallon shop vac. It just depends on your situation.

    Cost

    Small shop vacs are decently less expensive than their larger cousins. Usually, when you purchase a shop vac, the amount you pay is going to depend mainly on the size. If you’re on a budget, you can get a smaller shop vac for very cheap. The average homeowner does not need a full-sized shop vac in many cases anyway, so you might as well save some money by choosing a smaller option.

    Your budget is going to depend on your specific circumstance. We included shop vacs at a broad range of prices in our review section, allowing you to choose an item you can afford.

    Cleaning Length

    The cleaning length includes the length of the hose paired with the cord length. Together, this gives you the length away from the wall that a shop vac can reach. Preferably, you want this length to be as long as possible. However, a longer length is usually associated with a higher cost. Furthermore, the smaller the shop vac is, the less far it can reach as well.

    This feature is all about balance. You want a shop vac that can reach whatever it is you’re trying to clean. However, you don’t want to spend a fortune just for a few extra feet of reach, either.

    Storability

    Most people looking for a small shop vac don’t have all the storage space in the world. In these situations, the storability of the shop vac is essential. Size plays a large role in this. Smaller shop vacs are going to take up less space in the closet or under your work table.

    However, features like hose storage, a compartment for accessories, and cord wraps are going to improve the overall storability of the machine as well. Plus, all these features make the shop vac look much nicer after it has been put away – a great addition if the shop vac needs to sit out in plain view.

    Portability

    Most shop vacs have wheels. However, this is not always the case. There were a few we reviewed that didn’t have wheels. But these models were petite and often came with sizable carrying handles instead.

    Whether it is a carrying handle or wheels, shop vacs need to be easy to move around. You probably aren’t going to keep them in one spot. Part of the appeal of shop vacs is their ability to move around. If your shop vac has no wheels and no handle, this is going to be a problem.

    Weight also plays into how portable a shop vac is. This feature is less of a problem if the shop vac has wheels since you probably won’t be carrying it all that much. However, it is going to be substantially more challenging to move a shop vac with a handle around if it weighs a lot.

    woman using TACKLIFE Wet:Dry Vacuum

    FAQs

    We answered a few frequently asked questions about small shop vacs below. Here are some of the questions we receive most often.

    Are small shop vacs quiet?

    Usually, they’re quieter than the large versions. They often have smaller motors, which means they’re typically less loud in general. However, there are still some small shop vacs that are pretty loud, while others can be very quiet. It just depends on the model that you purchase.

    Are small shop vacs strong?

    They are usually plenty powerful for most uses. However, professionals may need a strong shop vac with a strong motor. Smaller shop vacs usually have less power in general, though this is usually fine for their smaller frames.

    How can I make my small shop vac stronger?

    The only way to improve the performance of your shop vac is to change the filters. Dirty filters can bog-down a shop vac, making them substantially less powerful. However, if your shop vac is new, the filters shouldn’t be too dirty just yet and probably won’t affect the overall performance of the machine.

    divider 8

    Conclusion

    While there were quite a few shop vacs on the market we liked, the Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Professional Wet/Dry Vac is the best. It is plenty strong enough for most uses and has a comfortable 5-gallon capacity. It is also effortless to store given its sturdy design.

    The Armor All AA255 Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vacuum is a smaller, cheaper model that we also liked. It is suitable for those on a budget or homeowners who need a very small shop vac. It is effortless to store, as you might imagine since it is so small.

    We hope you found the perfect shop vac for you in our reviews section. If you have any additional questions, our in-depth buyer’s guide should have the answer for you.

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    Featured Image: Stanley Wet Dry Vacuum, Amazon

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