I don’t do enough in my garage to have piles of sawdust surrounding me, but leaves, dirt, and other debris seem to find their way into my workspace. I was sweeping it out every other day before realizing a small shop vac would make my job much more manageable.
Having a shop vac for your work area is crucial to keep your space clean. Many shop vacs are so bulky that it’s hard to find room for them with your other tools and technology. Even if you take advantage of overhead storage, you might still feel like a shop vac clutters your space.
The best small shop vac has almost as much cleaning power as a larger model but takes up less space. They have hose attachments that help you clean up various messes you’ll encounter in your workspace.
Not all mini shop vacuums will do the trick. This list of the five best small shop vacs will help you find a powerful yet compact vacuum to help you out in your shop.
VacMaster Professional Beast – Best Overall
I own the VacMaster Beast, and the first thing I’ll say is that they definitely got the name right!
It’s deceptively small and light-weight, but still has the highest horsepower motor of any small shop–vac on this list. It’s the perfect size for people who want something small enough to carry to different parts of your house, or around your car. But the 5.5 HP motor is strong enough to easily pick up chunks of grass from your garage floor, or small dog hair from your car.
Although I don’t use it for this, it also converts to a blower. That makes it a nice backup to a dedicated leaf-blower when you need to clean up your driveway or sidewalk.
The compact design of the VacMaster Beast stows away nicely. There are no wheels to pull it around during use, but it’s so lightweight that it’s no problem to lift it.
That may seem like a negative point to some people, but personally, I love knowing that the VacMaster is going to stay where I left it. Many of my old shop vacs would move around my garage floor while I was using it, bumping into my car and damaging the paint.
There are brackets around the body of the vacuum to store the hose so it won’t get in the way. If I had one complaint on the VacMaster Beast, it would be these brackets. The hose wraps around the top of the cannister when not in use, but the brackets don’t seem to ever hold it securely.
The cord stretches to 18 feet, which is plenty long enough, but storing both the cord and the hose on the brackets never seems to work for me.
Speaking of the hose, it extends to seven feet, for a combined reach of 25 feet away from your outlet. That’s more than enough to cover the size of a typical two-car garage. total.
Of course it comes with a selection of various accessories, like an extension wand, car nozzle, crevice tool, and foam filter for wet spills.
With an 11 amp, 5.5 HP motor, this is the strongest mini shop vac I could find, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s small, compact and packs a lot of power. Still, the built-in noise diffuser doesn’t burst your eardrums like a lot of other sho vacs.
I highly recommend the VacMaster Beast.
- 5 Gallon Polypropylene Tank
- 5. 5 Peak HP High Efficiency Motor
- Integrated Hose Storage
- 18' Cord with Cord Storage
- Easily Converts to Blower
RIDGID 50313- Runner-Up
Coming in at a VERY close second is the RIGID 50313\4000RV.
Professional automotive detailers love RIDGID vacuums, so it’s no surprise that this was one of the top-two small shop vacs. they make one of the best small shop vacs as well.
In the end, the RIGID 50313 fell just short of the VacMaster Beast because it had a slightly less powerful motor, and thus a little less suction power.
Don’t let that be a deal-breaker though. The RIDGID 50313 is a solid mini shop vac, and easily outperforms almost everything else on the market.
The motor is proportionally smaller since it has a smaller capacity, but it’s still powerful. The 9 amp, 5 HP motor gives it incredible suction, but slightly under the VacMaster. Like other shop vacs, you can reverse the settings and use it as a blower.
I love the wheel-less design, although I can appreciate that’s a personal preference. It’s lightweight enough to carry easily from place to place, and there’s also a handle on the lid, to make it easier.
There’s a 20 feet long power code that wraps around the handle when it’s not in use. The hose itself adds eight feet to your reach, which is still long enough to get arond a standard to-car garage easily.
It’s worth mentioning that you’ll see this vacuum listed with two different model numbers, depending on where you look. However, the RIDGID 4000RV and 50313 are the same unit. (Official product page for reference)
The RIDGID 50313 is a durable, versatile, professional-quality shop vac. That means you’re going to pay more for it than others on this list. If you opt for the kit which includes the automotive detailing accessory pack (a must-have, IMO), then you’re looking at a $20 premium to the VacMaster Beast.
The RIDGID 50313 is an amazing small shop vacuum, but it doesn’t quite earn top honors.
- Powerful 5.0 Peak Horsepower.
- Polypropylene Drum Construction
- Latches securely fasten the lid to the drum for a better seal.
- Large handle design increases comfort when carrying the unit.
- 20’ Power Cord.
- Easily Converts to Blower
- Professional Locking 1-7/8” x 8’ Hose
If you like the RIDGID 50313, but just wish it had wheels…then the WD4070 might just be what you’re looking for.
It has the same 5HP motor, 4 gallon capacity, eight foot hose, and 20 foot power cord of it’s sibling, but it offers a bit expandability. It has more hose extenders, and a different nozzle to attach when you’re cleaning larger spaces.
With the additional wheels, the WD4070 is heavier than the 50313, weighing in at 12 pounds. The large handle on top allows you to guide it around your shop as you clean. It has attachments that help you clean crevices and in your car.
Similar to the 50313, you can reverse the system and use it as a blower, too.
You can pull this small shop vac along behind you as you’re cleaning. RIDGID’s signature Tug-A-Long locking hose keeps the vacuum functioning even as you’re on the move. When you’re done, you can tuck the accessories into the built-in bin on the back of the vacuum.
The fine dust filter keeps smaller dust particles from lingering in the air and irritating your throat and lungs. RIDGID has a Qwik Lock fastening system to keep the filter in place. With this convenience, you don’t have to worry about dislodging the filter when you empty the bucket.
The WD4070 is part of RIDGID’s general purpose line of wet\dry vacuums, while the 50313 is part of their professional lineup. That means that the 50313 is built to be more durable, with higher-quality components like a longer duty-cycle motor.
If you’re trying to decide between the choice between the WD4070 and the 50313, it really comes down to two questions: price and usage.
If you’re not going to be using the vacuum very often, and you can get it significantly cheaper, then go with the WD4070. However, if the prices are close, the 50313 is the better long-term value.
- 5.0 Peak HP motor
- Lightweight vac with large carry handle for extreme portability
- 1-7/8" diameter locking hose won’t pull loose during use
- 20' power cord
- Converts to blower
If you’re looking for an official Shop-Vac brand vacuum, then you can’t go wrong with the 5989300.
The Shop-Vac 5989300 has a heavy–duty, stainless steel body. Everything we’ve seen so far have plastic buckets, which are durable, lightweight, and affordable.
The stainless steel tank is not only eye-catching, but it’s also very sturdy. If your stuff seems to acquire dents, and scratches frequently, then this is definitely the small shop vac to go with. It’s light enough that you can either pull it along on its wheels or carry it using the side or top handles.
The Shop-Vac 5989300 has a five-gallon capacity. That’s equal to the VacMaster, and larger than both RIDGID vacuums. Similarly, it has 4.5 horsepower, which is good enough for most jobs, but not as powerful as a few others on the list. With the attachments and HEPA filters, this model is ideal for cleaning both fine dust and large debris.
For attachments, the Shop-Vac comes with a host of extension wands, a wet-dry nozzle, a gulper nozzle, and a crevice tool. Like the others on this list, you can even reverse the settings to use the vac as a blower.
All the accessories tuck away on the vacuum itself so you can store it in a compact space.
Unfortunately, the reach of the Shop-Vac 5989300 isn’t anywhere near the others on the list. The hose itself is seven feet long, and the power cord is only six feet. To get the most out of this vacuum, you’ll need to use it in small spaces or have plenty of outlets handy.
Stanley is one of the largest tool companies in the world, owning brands such as Black & Decker, DeWALT, Craftsman and Porter Cable. The Stanley SL18115 small shop vac is compact yet powerful, making it an ideal mini shop vacuum to have on hand.
The vacuum has a five-gallon capacity, so you can clean up a lot of messes before emptying the canister. It can clean up both wet and dry debris and has various attachments for specific jobs. It even has a wide, flat head so you can use it inside your house like a traditional vacuum, though this is a lot more powerful!
Like the others on this list, the Stanley SL18115 also converts to a blower.
At the base are four swivel wheels, with accessory storage above each wheel. That keeps them out of the way while you’re moving it, but always handy when you need them. The power cord is ten feet long, giving you a reasonable amount of cleaning reach, but the vacuum hose only gives you another five feet.
Stanley includes a disposable dust collection bag and two reusable filters with this shop vac. The foam filter soaks up wet spills while the other grabs dust and small particles. Because you can wash the filters, you don’t have to constantly replace them to get the best suction. You can also use the vacuum without a dust collection bag, as long as you clean the interior after use.
All-in-all, the Stanley SL18115 is a great budget option, when you want a steel-tank small shop vac, but don’t want to break the bank.
The previous five options are the best small shop vacs that I’ve tried. If nothing on the list seems to fit your needs, think about features you want for your use. Everything outlined in this buyer’s guide will help you pick the perfect mini shop vacuum for your workspace.
The ideal capacity for your small shop vac depends on what you’ll use it for. Since the size is a priority here, you won’t get the same capacity as larger, less mobile options. Capacity doesn’t only apply to how much debris the vacuum can take in but also how it stores it before you empty it.
The shop vacs on this list are small capacity, which manufacturers define as up to six gallons. I only chose shop vacs with four- and five-gallon capacities because they’re large enough to hold a lot of debris between cleanings. Yet, at that size, they’re still portable and compact enough to store in a small or cluttered garage.
If you’re looking for a mini shop vacuum, then portability is key. You don’t want something bulky, even if you don’t intend to take the small shop vac out of your workspace. Size isn’t the only consideration for portability. You also want to consider if the unit is lightweight, has wheels, and allows you to tuck the hose out of the way for easy transport.
All the shop vacs on this list are lightweight and portable. A few have wheels, so you can pull them along as you clean. They also all have space on the unit itself to store the accessories. This is key when it comes to portability. You don’t want to have to stop vacuuming to go get an extension wand or specific nozzle—you want them handy at all times.
Filtration is essential when searching for a wet/dry shop vac. The dry filters need to catch dust and small particles, so they don’t get back into the air you’re breathing. The wet filters need to soak up the water and other spills and keep them contained in the bucket.
A foam pre-filter traps the larger particles, so they don’t clog the inner filters, but you don’t need to leave these in when you’re cleaning up wet messes. The user’s manual will tell you if you should remove the filter or not.
Some shop vacs, like the Stanley SL18115, include reusable filters. These are not only environmentally friendly but also save you money in the long run. Plus, you don’t have to worry about ever running out of filters. Wash them periodically, and you’re always prepared to clean up your workspace.
The cleaning reach includes both the hose length and the power cord length. This total tells you how far you can travel while the shop vac is still plugged into the outlet.
The longest hoses on this list are the two options from RIDGID, both with eight-foot hoses. The Vacmaster and Shop-Vac have seven-foot hoses. The Stanley only offers five feet, but for some shops, that’s enough.
Keep in mind that many mini shop vacuums on this list come with extension wands. These add a couple of extra feet to your hose reach. Even adding a specific nozzle to the end of the hose will help you stretch further and can help you get in corners and crevices.
Since small shop vacs are so portable, you want a cord that gives you adequate reach. Longer cords mean you can clean up more efficiently. You don’t have to keep starting and stopping, utilizing different outlets in your workspace. Using a surge protector in your garage can give you a bit more reach, but your shop vac should also have a decent cord length.
Cord storage is also important to consider for your small shop vac. Most have space to wrap the cord around the handle or off to the side so you can store it. A practical design like this will protect your cord from wear and tear around the shop.
The longest power cords on this list top out at 20 feet. If you need something longer, you can use an extension cord. The manufacturer will recommend a cord or voltage if the standard won’t properly power the vacuum, so check the user’s manual for details.
Having different hose extensions and nozzles makes cleanup a breeze. Extension wands give you a longer reach which helps when cleaning hard-to-reach places. Specific nozzles will help you focus your cleaning on smaller areas, like corners and crevices.
Conversely, some nozzles give you a wider range of suction, more like a traditional inside vacuum. That helps you clean up messes much quicker than with pointed nozzles. Shop vacs with car nozzle attachments are a benefit because you can easily clean your car while you’re cleaning the rest of the garage. Some attachments will even help you clean gutters.
You want to choose a shop vac that includes these accessories and provides an efficient way of storing them. When you stick the extensions on the side of the shop vac, it’s easy for them to snag on something in your workspace and fall out.
As with any shop tool, price is a big part of your consideration. You don’t want to blow your budget on something more powerful than you need, but you also don’t want to buy something cheap that will break after one use.
Price is a crucial consideration when compiling this list. A small shop vac will already cost less than a larger one, but that doesn’t mean they work well. Each mini shop vacuum on this list offers good value for the price.