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Top 5 Strongest Shop Vacs with Highest CFM – (2022 Guide)

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Which shop vac has the most suction? This is the very question we’re going to answer for you today. Let’s begin the article with a quick lesson. Have you noticed that most manufacturers only list horsepower or peak HP? That’s because they tend to skip over the most accurate measurement of suction power.

The Importance of CFM

CFM or cubic feet per minute gives you the clearest idea of suction strength. What exactly does it mean? Well, the easiest way to view it is to see it as the movement of air. The higher the CFM the faster the movement of air.

In this case, CFM measures cubic feet of air. For example, if your shop vac has a CFM rating of 100, it has the ability to move 100 cubic feet of air per minute. Now, compare this to a vacuum with an 80 CFM rating that can only move 80 cubic feet of air per minute.

Do you see why the 100 CFM vacuum has more powerful suction power since it’s able to move more air in less time? For this reason, we’ll focus on the CFM rating of each shop vac in this guide to move from strongest to least strong.

Additional – less common – methods of measuring suction power are air watts and water lift. Compared to CFM, these methods are more confusing and unnecessary when there’s a CFM rating.

For suction power, CFM is more important than horsepower or amps because it measures actual air movement. A vacuum with high horsepower may have more parts, e.g. filters, that restrict airflow which lowers suction power.

Strongest Shop Vacs Reviewed

Now that you have an idea of how we created our guide, let’s go over our top picks. In each review, you’ll find highlights of each model, plus the pros & cons to consider for each.

#1) Craftsman CMXEVBE17595 16-Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Vac – 177 CFM

Coming in at an impressive 177 CFM, Craftsman’s model CMXEVBE17595 is the highest suction shop vacuum in our guide. The 6.5 peak HP 12-amp motor is one of the most powerful you’ll find in a wet/dry vac. Next, the 7′ hose measures 2.5″ in diameter to avoid clogging issues and to suck up just about anything that gets in its way.

You’ll have no problem using this vacuum as a yard vacuum, in your garage, for auto detailing, and even inside your home anytime you need some extra power. Additionally, this shop vac is ideal for commercial purposes, including for home renovations, construction, and cleaning up after a flood (but let’s hope that never happens).

On top of suction power, you also have to option to quickly convert it into a blower to clean your garage, deck, or driveway in a hurry. Once you finish the job, the large drain makes it easy to separate wet waste from dry. Lastly, the massive 16-gallon tank ensures you don’t have to worry about emptying it while you work. Overall, Craftsman is the current leader in the strongest wet-dry vac category.

Pros

  • The highest CFM shop vac in this guide
  • Wet/dry capability with blower function
  • More affordable than competing models at the time of this writing
  • Rolls easily without tipping
  • There’s a convenient hose clip for mounting the hose when not in use
  • Automatically shuts down when the floater detects the tank is full
  • 3-year limited warranty

Cons

  • It’s large, be sure to consider the dimensions
  • Too powerful for some carpet types
  • Not made with the highest quality components, which is reflected in the price

#2) Ridgid WD1851 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac With Cart – 172 CFM

If you’re looking for the highest quality and most powerful shop vac, Ridgid’s WD1851 model is the best overall choice in this guide. Compared to the Craftsman above, you get more durable components that’ll stand the test of time, large rear wheels, a transport handle, more attachments, and nearly the same CFM at 172 CFM.

In reality, you probably won’t even notice the difference in CFM, but we ranked each model according to the CFM rating by the manufacturer. Outside of power and durability, what else makes this model special? Two key features are Ridgid’s VF5000 fine-dust filter that’s perfect for capturing drywall dust, and the onboard muffler for quieter operation.

Comparatively, this model by Ridgid is better for use on job sites and surely for all commercial purposes. For residential use, it still shines, though, for some, it may be more vacuum than you need.

Pros

  • Rugged construction including a 2-piece drum for use on job sites
  • Patented Scroll Noise Reduction for quieter operation
  • Push handle and large rear wheels for easily bringing the unit anywhere, including upstairs
  • Comes with a quick-release accessory storage bag
  • Onboard dust filter to capture drywall dust and other fine materials
  • Long 20′ power cord for covering large areas
  • All attachments are locking

Cons

  • Does not include Ridgid’s auto detailing attachments
  • Ridgid recommends switching filters depending on what you’re cleaning
  • Hose and cord storage could be better
  • Highest upfront cost at the time of this writing

#3) Workshop WS1600VA 16-Gallon High-Capacity Wet Dry Vacuum – 169 CFM

Not far behind Craftsman and Ridgid is this beast of a shop vac by Workshop. Comparatively, this model is more in the same price range as Craftsman than Ridgid at the time of this writing. As far as motor power, this model also matches Craftsman and Ridgid at 6.5 peak horsepower, which is currently the highest HP shop vac readily available for purchase.

After power, you get a basic set of attachments including 2 wands, a car nozzle, a utility nozzle, and a wet nozzle. Additionally, this unit rolls smoothly on its four casters. Regarding filtration, there are several compatible filter types available and sold by Workshop, including its Fine Dust Filter (WS22200F), HEPA Media Filter (WS23200F), and Wet Application Filter (WS24200F).

A couple of missing features when compared o Ridgid’s model are no muffler and no fine dust filter included. Instead, Workshop includes one of its Standard Filters (WS21200F). All things considered, this model is very similar to what Craftsman has to offer, and the decision between the two really comes down to your preference.

Pros

  • More comparable in price to Craftsman than Ridgid
  • Powerful yet lightweight
  • Good blower function
  • Removing and replacing filters for cleaning is easy
  • The attachments fit snugly, and the hose’s swivel action makes for easy cleaning & maneuvering
  • Made with durable materials that can handle a beating
  • Vacuums up water and other liquids with ease

Cons

  • Not a good choice for fine dust with the included filter (Click Here #ad for a good solution at Amazon)
  • No large rear wheels or transport handle
  • No muffler = louder operation

#4) Vacmaster Professional Beast Series VJH1612PF0201 16-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac – 150 CFM

According to Vacmaster, its Beast series vacuum provides “best-in-class” suction power, though, according to our findings, it comes in at number 4. Nevertheless, this is easily one of the most powerful wet dry vacs on the market with a 150 CFM rating and 400 air watts of power.

One note that we do want to point out is that Vacmaster tests air watts and CFM according to ASTM’s standard at the end of the included hose. We appreciate this level of transparency since other manufacturers don’t disclose whether they test at the end of the hose or at the vac’s opening.

Outside of power, you’ll find that most of the features on this vacuum are very similar to Craftsman and Workshop models. You get a basic set of attachments, a 7′ hose, a 20′ power cord, a rugged polypropylene tank, and four casters. A couple of final considerations are that this model does include a fine dust filter, and it converts to a blower.

Pros

  • Air watts and CFM measured in accordance with ASTM
  • Includes a high-efficiency fine dust filter
  • Convenient large dust-sealed power switch
  • Flat-top design for holding tools and hardware while you work
  • Quickly converts to a blower by using the onboard blower port
  • Features an exhaust muffler for quieter operation

Cons

  • The attachments don’t lock in as well as competing models
  • The crevice tool is on the larger side
  • Overall component quality isn’t on par with Ridgid

#5) Ridgid RT1600 16-Gallon NXT Wet/Dry Vac with Detachable Blower – 139 CFM

The second Ridgid model in our guide is not quite as beefy as the first, but it does cost less, and you may find that it’s better for home use than the first. The powerful 12A 6.5 peak HP motor provides suction power up to 139 CFM which is still a lot higher than most other brands offer.

A couple of reasons you may want to choose this model over the comparable Workshop vac above are the onboard sound reduction technology and trademark Qwik Lock filter fastening system. Since one of the more common complaints about the Workshop model is how loud it is, this model is quieter and gives you the convenience of the quickest filter changes.

Outside of those features, the RT1600 features 360º casters, a rugged 2-piece polypropylene drum, and last but not least, a fully detachable blower. In our opinion, the sound reduction tech and detachable blower are this model’s greatest selling points, particularly for home use.

Pros

  • The detachable blower is the best you’ll find in a high CFM shop vac
  • Features Ridgid’s trademark noise reduction tech for quieter performance
  • More affordable than Ridgid model WD1851
  • Our top pick for residential use
  • Fairly lightweight and easy to maneuver on the casters
  • Easy assembly out of the box
  • Nifty attachment storage configuration

Cons

  • Hose storage could be better
  • Does not include the fine dust filter like model WD1851

Bottom Line

When choosing the strongest shop vac for residential or commercial uses, it’s wise to consider how much you plan to use it. Also, always consider what you plan to use it for. Overall, Ridgid’s WD1851 is the highest quality and most powerful shop vac in this guide, but will you get your money’s worth? If you plan to use your shop vac at least a few times a week and want it to hold up for years, then the answer is yes.

On the other hand, if you only plan to use your shop vac occasionally to clean your car or for other lighter-duty jobs, then Craftsman’s wet/dry vac is the first place to look because it gives you the most suction power for the money. Other than that, Vacmaster and Workshop brands are both good alternatives to Craftsman.

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