Are you eager to have the suction power of a shop vac wherever and whenever you need it? I hope so because you are now entering our guide to choosing the best portable shop vac. In this guide, you’ll find the top handheld, cordless, and compact wet/dry vacs on the market. Long gone are the days of bulky shop vacs that feel like a ball and chain.
Who are portable shop vacs good for? The answer is anyone, but, the following people may find the most value here:
- RV owners
- Boat owners
- People with limited storage space
- Auto detailing businesses
- Rental property owners
- Small businesses
- Pet parents
Compared to traditional upright vacuums, shop vacs – which are typically wet/dry vacs – are more versatile, more powerful, and easier to maintain. A good shop vac is built to take a beating and suck up almost anything that comes in its way. That means you can easily clean up both wet & dry messes.
Additionally, wet/dry vacs are compatible with a range of attachments to tackle all types of surfaces from hard floors to high-pile carpets. Pet parents will also love the extra suction power for removing pet hair from furniture and other places a traditional upright vacuum can’t get to.
Portable Shop Vac Reviews
Now, let’s get started with our top picks. In the following reviews, you’ll find highlights of each model, plus the pros & cons to consider for each. By the end of the reviews, we’re confident you’ll know which model(s) is the best for your job.
#1) Ridgid WD0319 3-Gallon 18V Cordless Wet/Dry Vac
If top-notch quality and power are what you’re after, then Ridgid is the first place to look. Of all the portable Ridgid shop vacs, we feel model WD0319 is the best cordless shop vac on the market. With an impressive 60 CFM suction power rating, this little beast of a vacuum isn’t too far behind full-size shop vac power.
First, you get both handheld and cordless functionality in a single vacuum. At 7.9 lbs, it’s lightweight, and the top carry handle allows you to bring it with you anywhere, or hold it while you work. Good candidates for this vacuum are contractors, pet parents who want to remove pet hair from furniture, and renters.
The base package includes the vacuum, a dusting brush, car nozzle, expandable locking hose, and a standard filter. Keep in mind, if you don’t currently own a Ridgid cordless power tool, purchasing an 18-volt battery and charger is an added cost. Lastly, this model comes backed by Ridgid’s lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship & materials.
- Excellent suction power for a cordless shop vac at 60 CFM
- Lifetime warranty
- Recommended for auto detailing
- A good choice for boat owners
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- More powerful than comparable DeWalt models
- Does not include a battery and charger (Click Here #ad to check the price at Amazon)
- Not made for long continuous use since it’ll drain the battery
- No onboard storage
#2) Vacmaster Professional Beast Series VFB511B0201 5-Gallon Wet/Dry Vacuum
Of the models in our guide, this one here is the largest portable shop vac with the most power. At 5.5 peak HP, you’re not too far away from the most powerful shop vacs at 6.5 peak HP. Comparatively, this vacuum has a 105 CFM suction rating, which is a good bit more power than the Ridgid model above. The tradeoff is that this model is corded and heavier at 15.63 lbs.
Nevertheless, it’s lighter than a full-size shop vac, and 5-gallon capacity means you’ll be emptying the tank less than the smallest shop vacs in this guide. The base package includes a range of attachments including an extension wand, utility nozzle, car nozzle, crevice tool, and 7′ 1 7/8″ hose. The advantage here is that 1 7/8″ attachments are easy to find if you want to add an attachment for hardwood floors, tiles, or other surfaces later.
Finally, we like that this model includes a noise diffuser for quieter operation. If you plan to use it indoors or for car detailing, you’re less likely to be annoyed by those loud sounds that are typical of shop vacs. Also, contractors will find great value here for tackling tough jobs on the job site.
- The most powerful portable shop vac with a 105 CFM rating
- More capacity than handheld and cordless shop vacs
- No reliance on battery power for cleaning up large messes
- Includes a fine dust cartridge filter for drywall dust and woodworking
- Noise diffuser for quieter operation
- 1 7/8″ hose is compatible with aftermarket attachments and nozzles
- The heaviest model in this guide
- No wheels
- Tall people may need to bend over a bit when using the included extension wand
- Not the best option for home use
#3) DeWalt DCV517B 20V MAX 1/2 Gallon Wet/Dry Portable Vac
Currently, this DeWalt model is the best handheld shop vac on the market. At just 4.5 lbs, it’s nearly the lightest and smallest shop vac in this guide. The first feature we like is the versatility of using it as a handheld vacuum or quickly detaching the onboard hose to gain some reach.
Next, there’s a washable wet/dry HEPA filter that traps 99.97% of particles at .3 microns. A couple of convenience features you’ll like are the large on/off switch for one-handed operation and the sturdy tank latch that makes for easier cleaning plus a more confident operation.
As far as runtime, a 20V DeWalt battery typically provides 25 to 40 minutes of juice per charge, which is longer than the runtime offered by the 18V Ridgid model. Additionally, similar to the Ridgid model, this model by DeWalt does not include a battery. If you don’t already own a DeWalt battery, there’s a full cordless starter kit available with a charger and battery.
- Lighter and smaller than other models in this guide
- Onboard Gore HEPA filter that filters down to .3-micron
- 3-year limited warranty and 90-day money-back guarantee
- Longer runtime per charge than Ridgid at up to 40 minutes
- Convenient removable hose for tight spaces
- Easy to empty and clean
- Replacement filter cost
- 32 CFM is weaker suction than other models in our guide
- Exhaust vents can blow fine dust
#4) Workshop WS0255VA 2.5-Gallon Small Shop Vacuum Cleaner
Workshop is one of our favorite budget shop vac brands, so it only made sense to include their most compact model on our list of top portable vacs. Compared to our first three picks, this model is less powerful than the Vacmaster Beast at 1.75 peak HP, yet it’s more powerful than the DeWalt model above. To give you an idea of how powerful our top pick is, this corded model by Workshop has a 48 CFM rating, while Ridgid’s cordless model is 60 CFM.
Despite that, this is an excellent affordable portable wet/dry vac. At the time of this writing, it’s the most affordable model in this guide. Outside of power, this model gives you more capacity than a handheld unit at 2.5 gallons, and you get more hose to work with for an extended reach.
The base package comes with a 4′ hose, car nozzle, utility nozzle, and a filter bag w/ retaining band. Also, you’ll be glad to hear that this little guy converts into a blower. Lastly, at just 7.48 lbs, it weighs about as much as the Ridgid model.
- Picks up pet hair well
- Lightweight and easy to carry with the large top handle
- Easy to empty and maintain
- More capacity than a handheld unit
- Converts into a blower
- The cord wraps neatly around the handle
- The hose and cord are relatively short
- Weaker suction than the comparable Ridgid model
- The hose holder could be more secure
#5) Milwaukee 0882-20 M18 Lithium-Ion Cordless Compact Shop Vac
Our final pick is the lightest shop vac in this guide at 4.22 lbs. Ideal uses for this model are vacuuming drywall dust, wood/metal shavings, and other debris you typically find on a job site. Similar to the handheld DeWalt model, Milwaukee’s version features a HEPA filter to trap dust while you work.
The rated runtime for this 18V model is 25 to 43 minutes depending on which battery you use. Milwaukee’s XC 5.0 battery offers 25 minutes, while the HIGH DEMAND 9.0 battery offers a full 43 minutes. Regarding suction power, the CFM rating is 40 CFM, which is higher than DeWalt’s 32 CFM rating.
One important consideration is the canister capacity of just 36 oz. While the see-through canister is great for monitoring, it’s also the smallest capacity in this guide. Finally, Milwaukee backs this product with a lengthy 5-year limited warranty. All things considered, this is a better portable shop vac for use on a job site or in a workshop than for home use.
- Up to 43 minutes of runtime with Milwaukee’s HIGH DEMAND battery
- More suction power than DeWalt’s handheld model
- The lightest model in our guide
- Durable and easy-to-clean HEPA filter
- Dumping the canister is easy
- Great for vacuuming sawdust and drywall dust as you work
- No hose
- Limited capacity means more emptying
- Not a wet vac
Since you made it this far, we’re confident that you know how to choose the best portable shop vac for your intended use(s) and the types of vacs available for portable use. If you choose a cordless handheld model, be sure to consider that convenience is the greatest advantage. Cordless models are great, but they’re not intended for large messes. Also, they’re best for use in RVs, on job sites, and in workshops rather than home use.
If you’re a renter or homeowner and want a portable shop vac, then Vacmaster’s Beast and Workshop’s 2.5-gallon model are both great choices. They give you the option to use them around the house and bring them with you whenever you need them. Essentially, they’re miniature versions of full-size shop vacs that won’t take up as much space in your home or apartment.