Best Portable Shop Vac – Reviews & Complete Buyer’s Guide

Best Portable Shop Vac

When it comes to cleaning your home, you probably have a vacuum cleaner that makes the process relatively easy and straightforward. However, a standard upright isn't going to get the job done when you have to clean other areas, such as the garage or your vehicle.

That’s why today I’ll be showing you the best portable shop vacs. These handy devices enable you to get the most cleaning power in a compact package, which can be helpful when you’re trying to keep your spaces neat and tidy.

To help you on your search for a high-quality machine, I will not only showcase some of the top models on the market, but I will help you navigate through the crucial elements that will make your vacuum work best for you.

Comparison of Portable Shop Vac

Name

Size

Weight

Warranty

Price

3 gallon

11.6 lbs

3-Year

2 gallon

11.1 lbs

3-Year

4 gallon

14.7 lbs

Lifetime

3 gallon

12.35 lbs

5-Year

2.5 gallon

6.9 lbs

5-Year

Recommended Best Portable Shop Vac Reviews

1. RIDGID Wet Dry Vacuums VAC3000 Portable

When you’re looking for a portable vacuum that has power and performance, I really like what Ridgid has to offer. This brand is well-known for producing some of the best vacuum cleaners on the market, and this one is a testament to that level of quality. 

Although the Vac3000 is not at the top of the heap concerning power and suction, it’s perfect for those odd jobs that need cleaning.One feature that I like that we’ll see come up a few times on this list is the built-in dustpan.

This is a small crevice on the bottom of the vacuum that lets you sweep your dirt and debris without having to use the hose. This one feature makes the Vac3000 (and any other portable shop vac) much more efficient.

As with most shop vacuums, the Vac3000 can work on both wet and dry messes. It comes with a filter for dust and allergen, which helps when you’re trying to keep everything from spitting back out into the air. Although you do have to remove the filter when cleaning up liquid spills (don’t forget), it snaps into place, making the whole process much more straightforward.

Other features that I like about this vacuum is the seven-foot collapsible hose, the large, comfortable carrying handle, and the fact that it weighs just over 10 pounds. Also, like all Ridgid products, this vacuum comes with a limited lifetime guarantee, which is incredible to have.

Pros

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    Powerful 700-watt motor
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    Wet/dry capable
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    Easy carry handle
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    Built-in suction dustpan
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    Seven-foot collapsible hose
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    Onboard storage for accessories
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    Qwik-lock filter
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    Lightweight design is 11 pounds
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    Three-gallon capacity
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    10-foot power cord
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    Slim profile for easy storage
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    Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Does not have a blower function
  • Limited accessories
  • Bag cannot fully inflate due to compact size

2. DEWALT DCV581H 18/20-Volt MAX Cordless

As far as power tools are concerned, DeWalt is probably one of the top manufacturers in the world. No matter what kind of device you buy, you can be sure that it will be built with quality and reliability in mind. That being said, vacuums are not necessarily the company’s forte, but they have produced a decent portable shop vac nonetheless.

What’s unique about this model is that it is battery capable. Unfortunately, the battery and the charger don’t come with it, but if you choose to buy them separately, then you can get a lot of expanded use out of this vacuum. Thus, if you think that you’ll have to reach into tight spaces and you don’t want a cord getting in your way, the battery is a worthwhile investment.

The other thing I like about this vacuum is the filter. First, it is HEPA rated to remove almost all dust and allergens from the air. Second, because it is washable and reusable, you don’t have to take it out when cleaning liquid spills. Also, this means that you don’t have to pay to replace it as often as you would with a disposable model.

Overall, this vacuum is decent and will work well for small jobs and odds and ends. I don’t necessarily recommend it for professional-level cleaning, but it will make keeping your car clean much easier and more efficient. Also, it comes with a remarkable three-year warranty, which is always nice to have.

Pros

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    Two-gallon size
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    Cordless model can be plugged in as well
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    Crush-resistant five-foot hose
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    HEPA-rated filter
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    Wet/dry capability
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    Crevice tool and wide attachment provided
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    Easy carry handle
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    Washable and reusable filter
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    Onboard storage for hose and tools
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    Weighs just 11 pounds
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    Three-year limited warranty

Cons

  • Battery and charger sold separately
  • Limited suction when on battery power

3. RIDGID Wet Dry Vacuums VAC4000 Portable

If you liked what the Vac3000 had to offer, then you will love the next step up. Whereas the older version was perfect for small jobs, the Vac4000 is powerful enough to be a professional grade shop vacuum.

Coupled with Ridgid’s attention to detail and the company’s incredible lifetime warranty, this is one of my favorite portable vacuums on the market today. When comparing this unit on performance, it’s easy to see where it stands out. 

First, it uses a five-horsepower motor to clean up both wet and dry messes. Second, it has a four-gallon capacity, which enables you to clean more in less time. Overall, you will be impressed by the amount of suction and power that you get with this unit.

The only area where the Vac4000 kind of falters is in the accessories. You only get one detail brush, and it doesn’t come with any other cool features (such as a built-in dustpan). Still, the fact that it packs a punch and weighs less than 15 pounds is more than enough for me.

Pros

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    Powerful five-horsepower motor
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    Four-gallon capacity
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    Wet/dry capability
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    Wide-mouth hose avoids clogs
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    20-foot power cord for maneuvering
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    Slim design for easy storage
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    Comfortable carrying handle
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    Detail brush included
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    Quik-lock filter
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    Weighs less than 15 pounds
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    Bagless design
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    Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Filter only works on dry material
  • Not designed for large liquid messes

4. WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS0301VA Portable

Like Ridgid, this is another high-quality brand that makes some of the top portable shop vacs on the market. When comparing the two models that are on this list, the WS0301VA is the larger and more robust of the two, so choose this unit if you’re looking for more power and performance.

What I also like about this particular model is that it’s designed for detailing and cleaning cars. That means that you get extra accessories to help you reach into every nook and cranny that you find. 

Unlike the other vacuums on this list, the WS0301VA comes with four different attachments, each one designed for a unique purpose. From a detail brush to an extension wand, you get everything you need. Best of all, it has onboard storage for everything.

Another reason to get this model is that it has the built-in dustpan. I really enjoy this feature because it makes cleaning the floor so much faster and more efficient. Rather than moving the hose around, you can just sweep everything into a pile and then push it into the vacuum. This allows you to work without stooping or bending too much.

The final component that is awesome for this vacuum is the bleeder valve. This enables you to adjust the suction as you see fit, which can come in handy at all times. All of this coupled with a five-year warranty makes this a clear contender.

Pros

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    Powerful 3.5 peak horsepower
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    Three-gallon capacity
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    Wet/dry capability
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    Four attachments included
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    Large carry handle
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    Slim profile for easy storage
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    Built-in suction dustpan
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    Durable construction
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    Expandable seven-foot hose
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    Bleeder valve helps control suction
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    Weighs only 12 pounds
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    10-foot power cord
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    Five-year limited warranty

Cons

  • Can be noisy
  • Dustpan doesn’t always work for larger debris

5. WORKSHOP Wet Dry Vac WS0250VA Compact

Our final model has heavy emphasis on the portable part of the equation. Whereas we’ve seen units that were a more compact version of the full-size vacuum, this one is designed to be as maneuverable and lightweight as possible.

Looking at the specs, you can quickly see how it differs from the others that I’ve shown you. The motor operates at just 1.75 horsepower, and it comes with a minimal 2.5-gallon capacity. Nonetheless, it still has the same reliability and versatility that you would expect from Workshop.

This vacuum comes with a four-foot hose, a 10-foot power cord, and two attachments. There is onboard storage for everything, and it has a wide bottom for stability when not in use. The carrying handle is extra large for comfort, and it can convert to a blower for convenience

Finally, it comes with Workshop’s patented five-year limited warranty.

Pros

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    1.75 peak horsepower motor
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    2.5-gallon capacity
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    Wet/dry capability
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    Large carrying handle
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    10-foot power cord
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    Wide bottom design for stability
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    Two attachments provided
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    Four-foot hose
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    Onboard storage for tools
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    Filter bag provided
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    Converts to a blower
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    Weighs less than 10 pounds
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    Five-year limited warranty

Cons

  • Not as powerful as other models
  • Not ideal for all liquid spills

How to Choose the Right Portable Shop Vac

Size

Because we're looking for a portable shop vacuum, that means that you don't want to choose a model that is too bulky or heavy. Size does matter when picking out the right machine for your needs, so there are a couple of things to look at when determining the proper weight.

First, pay attention to the number of gallons that the vacuum has. I recommend no more than three or four, as that is perfect for carrying, even when full. Wheels are a necessary part of any vacuum if it's going to be more than four gallons, so be sure that it comes with them if that's the case.

Secondly, look at the overall weight. What’s important to remember here is that the vacuum will become a lot heavier when it’s full of dirt and debris, so assume that it will probably double in weight (at least). Thus, even if it seems lightweight when you’re holding it, it can be a lot heavier afterward.

Finally, you should also look at the shape of the vacuum to see how well it will store when not in use. If the vacuum is too bulky or cumbersome, then it may be more trouble than it’s worth.

Wet/Dry Capable

Messes happen in all shapes and sizes, so you want to be prepared for whatever happens. For this reason, you want to get a portable shop vac that can remove both liquids and solids with ease. Since you never know what could spill inside your car or your workshop, you don’t want to be limited in how you can clean it up.

Even though the vacuum will say if it’s wet/dry capable, some models are better at it than others. For example, if the filter provided doesn’t work well for liquids then you could wind up with a big mess if you’re not careful.

Also, having a drainage spout on the bottom is a necessary feature so that you can get all of the water (or whatever liquid it is) out easily without having to dump it from the top. That being said, portable shop vacs are easier to clean out than full-size models, but it can still be handy to have the drain plug instead.

Accessories

Because you don't want to have to clean every surface with just a hose, having a set of attachments will make the process easier and more efficient. Unfortunately, some shop vacs won’t come with anything (beyond the standard vacuum head), meaning that you won’t be able to get into cracks and crevices.

When picking out the right model, think about what kind of cleaning you’re going to do the most. This will help you choose the best accessories to get the job done. Usually, I will recommend at least a crevice tool, a detail brush, and an extension wand. These components will expand your cleaning potential and allow you to get into every nook and cranny.

If you’re getting a portable shop vac for your car, then you want something that has even more accessories so that you can reach into every corner of your vehicle with ease.

The other thing to consider with these models is whether or not there is onboard storage. Because the point of these vacuums is convenience, you have to make sure that the accessories aren’t going to be more of a hassle than anything.

Motor

One crucial element to keep in mind is that portable shop vacs are not going to be as powerful as their full-size counterparts. Because of their diminished stature, you have to pay more attention to the motor and how much suction you get. Overall, these kinds of cleaners are meant for smaller jobs, so don’t assume that you can clean your whole garage with it in a single pass.

When looking at the motor, pay attention to the amount of horsepower and/or the wattage. As you can imagine, the higher the number, the better it is. However, a high-performance motor will cost more, so you have to take that into account.

Agility

Along with the portability of these vacuums, you also want to be sure that they can efficiently maneuver. You don’t want to be limited in how far you can reach, particularly when you’re plugged in. Here are the three primary components to pay attention to when looking at the agility of a shop vacuum.

  • Hose: if this piece is too long or not flexible enough, it will drastically reduce the amount of suction you get. Typically, four to seven feet is perfect as that will enable you to reach farther without diminishing the suction.
  • Power Cord: although you can increase the vacuum’s range with extension cords, it helps to have an extra long power cord on the device already.
  • Battery-Operated: although it's not common, some units can operate with a battery instead of a plug. However, be aware that batteries are not as capable as plugging into an outlet. If possible, choose a model that can do both so that you get more agility without sacrificing performance.

Final Verdict

When it comes to finding the right portable shop vac, I really like what the Ridgid Vac4000 has to offer. Compared to the other models, it provides more power, more versatility, and more performance. When it comes to an overall exceptional vacuum, the Vac4000 outshines the competition.

However, if you’re looking for something that works well in a variety of situations, then the Workshop WS0301VA is another excellent choice. I like that it comes with extra tools to get the most out of your cleaning session, along with a built-in dustpan for making the job even easier.

John C.
 

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