Nobody likes cleaning up messes, but we all have to do it at some point. And when we do have to deal with a dirty place, we want to do it quickly and easily.
Shop vacs are specialized vacuums that will partly reduce the workload for you provided that you use the right machine for the right mess.
So, in this article, we will discuss how to choose the best small shop vacs.
Here are the best small shop vacs you can buy in 2020:
- Best for Car: Armor All, AA255
- Best for Quick Cleanups: Vacmaster, VP205
- Tough & Dependable: Shop-Vac 5895200
- Best for Pet Owner: Stanley 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum
- Best for Heavy-Duty: Vacmaster VFB511B0201
|5 Best Small Shop Vacs|
Best for Car
|Armor All, AA255|
Best for Quick Cleanups
Tough & Dependable
Best for Pet Owner
|Stanley 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum|
Best for Heavy-Duty
Best for Car: Armor All, AA255
- Powerful - a 2 peak HP motor
- Allow for cleaning even the tightest corners in a car – come with five hose accessories
- Compact and lightweight - weighing 7 pounds and measured by 10.6 x 14.2 x 14.4 inches
- Require plugging into a standard outlet - Not have a car adapter
- Power cord is short
Built with a 2 peak HP motor, a 2.5-gallon tank, and including so many attachments, the Armor All AA255 can clean out a car with ease. It’s powerful enough to suck the water out of the car seat or remove pet hair thoroughly.
A big compliment for its powerful suction.
It comes with 5 hose accessories for whatever mess comes your way and also has a blower motor to blow the vents out.
The unit is also very lightweight and compact – weighing 7 pounds and measured by 10.6 x 14.2 x 14.4 inches. Can't beat the price.
|Armor All, AA255 Specifications|
2 Peak HP
Power Cord Length
five hose accessories; a 2 peak HP motor; 7 pounds of weight; measured by 10.6 x 14.2 x 14.4 inches
If you’re looking into buying a smaller handheld vacuum, the Armor All AA255 is a must-have.
Best for Quick Cleanups: Vacmaster, VP205
- Portable with good suction – measured by 12 x 15 x 30 inches and feature a 2 Peak HP motor
- Take very little space - on-board accessory storage design
- Great maneuverability – feature 4 slots at the bottom to add wheeled coaster
- The hose is stiff and short
The Vacmaster VP205 is our favorite choice for quick cleanups - like dirt, water, sand, etc. - because it’s very portable with good suction. And, the 2.5-gallon tank is enough for such tasks.
It also comes with a set of nice attachments for you to detail your cleaning tasks as well.
Work way better than the wall-mounted battery-operated "quick vacuums" while the onboard accessory storage design makes it easier to keep everything neatly and securely in place. Therefore, this shop vac takes very little space.
With this unit, you can quickly suck up ash out of a grill, clean small animal cages, do quick cleans of a car, for garage and automotive use.
Love that it can vacuum up spills in the house, too.
|Vacmaster, VP205 Specifications|
2 Peak HP
Power Cord Length
on-board accessory storage design; feature a wheel kit
The Vacmaster VP205 is one of the lightest-weight shop vacs we tested, and this model did a great job in doing quick, small cleanups.
Tough & Dependable: Shop-Vac 5895200
- Durable and trusted – made from high-quality materials, by Shop-Vac Corporation, and backed by a 3-year warranty
- Versatile and handy – various practical attachments & long power cord
- Maneuverable – lightweight and compact design & good wheels
- Need better cord and hose management.
Don’t let this small, cute design fool you!
It is made by Shop-Vac Corporation - the renowned world leader in this industry, while the unit itself is constructed from high-quality materials and also backed by a 3-year warranty. Even the bags for this vac are durable, too.
The suction packs a punch and same with the included attachments. We find this model comes in handy when using the cup brush to clean the occasional dust webs.
Those tasks around basement workshop area like clean up metal shavings, sawdust, or upstairs in a living area are also handled phenomenally well. It is compact and lightweight enough to hold during the use, and the attached wheels roll smoothly to easily pull around.
|Shop-Vac 5895200 Specifications|
Power Cord Length
made from high-quality materials, by Shop-Vac Corporation, and backed by a 3-year warranty; long power cord
For those who are looking for a tough and dependable shop vac for whether cleaning tasks around your basement workshop or in the living area, we recommend giving this model a look.
Best for Pet Owner: Stanley 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum
- Super-powerful – a 4 peak HP motor
- Require less cleaning of the trash inside – a 4-gallon tank
- The tubes onboard work only in one direction
We bet any pet owner is going to love this Stanley shop vac so well because it is super-powerful and has a super-large tank capacity regardless of the modest look.
It features a 4 peak HP motor and a 4-gallon tank while the 1-1/4"x5’ hose is very flexible to easily clean out pet cages. For pet hair, dust, food, litter, and even spills, this shop vac is powerful and functional enough to clean them up effortlessly.
The extra accessories are also various, including a crevice nozzle, a floor nozzle, and three extension wand.
We like that it is on wheels and rolls pretty easy.
|Stanley 4 Gallon Wet Dry Vacuum Specifications|
4 Peak HP
Power Cord Length
a 4 peak HP motor; a 4-gallon tank
This powerful shop vac has all the features that every pet owner needs, such as ultra-powerful suction, large hose, and huge tank capacity for simple cleaning up trash inside.
Best for Heavy-Duty: Vacmaster VFB511B0201
- Unbeatably powerful performance – feature a 5.5 HP motor
- Very quiet to use - the exhaust muffler
- Not top heavy and falling over all the time
- A bit pricey
- Not ideal for carpeting
Out of a bunch, this model is the most powerful model with the largest tank capacity so it’s undoubtedly the most ideal option for heavy-duty cleaning tasks.
Its suction power is extraordinarily strong. Dirt and dust obviously, but also paper towels, nitrile gloves, wood shavings, hair, one way or another it’s getting swallowed.
For souped-up convenience while in use, it is equipped with an ultra-long 18-foot power cord and an integrated hose storage. It is also able to convert to a blower as well.
Our testers were extremely impressed with how quiet it was despite such powerful performance, all thanks to the exhaust muffler. Overall, “beast” is a fitting name for this vacuum.
|Vacmaster VFB511B0201 Specifications|
Power Cord Length
feature a 5.5 HP motor; an exhaust muffler
We feel the Vacmaster VFB511B0201 is best suited to heavy-duty cleaning tasks due to its exceptionally powerful suction yet quiet performance.
How To Choose The Best Small Shop Vac?
This factor depends on what you often clean using the small shop vac. If you often perform low-density cleanup, you won’t need much suction power. Meanwhile, if you usually deal with a high density, potentially wet cleanup, you should look for greater suction power. When browsing through different products, pay attention to sealer pressure, CFM, and Air Power (AP).
To be able to pick the right tank capacity, you need to know very well how much you will have to suck with the small shop vac.
If the messes you have to clean up include sawdust or wood shavings, the tank will be full more quickly and you should buy a large tank. On the other hand, if the mess is dustier consistency, it’s safe to opt for smaller tank capacity.
One of the best things about small shop vacs is their portability. But due to the portability, it’s important to pick the perfect product with the right maneuverability for you. You should balance this factor with tank capacity.
For example, you have found the tank big enough for your job, but is such capacity too heavy for you to move around? If yes, you should opt for a smaller tank. After all, you will be the one carrying the shop vac around, choose carefully.
Like other specifications, the filtration system is crucial too. If you apply the wrong filter for a cleanup job, you will run into trouble. The following are some type of tasks and the suitable filter accordingly:
For tasks with large low-density debris, you can choose general household filters.
For moderate density debris, you should opt for medium filtration or finer levels.
For small/fine debris, we suggest you go with a fine filtration level.
For wet debris, you need a foam sleeve.
Which Brands Make The Best Small Shop Vac?
Established in 1953, this is a leading brand in the shop vac market, which includes shop vacs. Shop-Vac has a section dedicated to small shop vacs on its website, in which you can choose from a variety of shop vacs with tank capacity ranging from 1 to 5 gallons. Remember to also check the cord length for each small shop vac.
Vacmaster is another popular brand in the shop vac industry. Like Shop-Vac, it offers wet/dry vacuums at various tank capacities from 2.5 gallons to 16 gallons. There are different designs too, like with wheels and no wheels so you can pick the perfect small shop vac for you.
The third best shop vac brand we want to introduce to you is STANLEY. Founded in 1843, this long-lasting brand has been serving both households and professional contractors.
It offers shop vacs at a capacity of 2 gallons up to 16 gallons. One good thing is most shop vacs of this brand come with wheels so you won’t have trouble moving them around.
Are shop vacs more powerful?
Yes, they are.
The reason is they have a more powerful suction force with bigger, tougher hoses to suck in larger, sharper pieces of debris.
What size shop vac do I need?
The size of a shop vac is closely related to its tank capacity. As we’re discussing small shop vacs, we suggest choosing one with a 2- to 6-gallon tank.
How many CFM is a shop vac?
The indicator CFM depends on the power of the shop vac. For example, the medium size shop vac at 6.5 horsepower can generate 185 CFM of airflow.
How much does a small shop vac cost?
8 years or so.
Choosing a perfect shop vac to use at your place is not that hard if you know exactly what you want.
How much power do you want? How large do you want the tank to be? What filtration system will you use the most? And how much weight can you carry? If you can answer these four questions, you have already picked the right shop vac.