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Shop vacs aren’t just for use in workshops. These machines are powerful, and smaller versions can be useful for cleaning cars and home garages. A recent Popular Mechanics ranking shows some of the best small shop vacs on the market. Here are a few that should be on your radar.

Yellow shop vacs on a shelf in a store
Shop vacs | Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

To choose the best small shop vacs for cars, reviewers at Popular Mechanics timed multiple vacuums as they sucked up two pounds of topsoil, two pounds of sawdust, and one gallon of water. They then considered several other performance traits, such as how comfortable the vacuum was to hold, how long the cord was, and how loud the machine was.

Reviewers also tested one cordless option. They did not subject it to the same speed tests but did use it as a conveniently portable dust collector.

The top-rated Ridgid WD5500 shop vac

The Ridgid WD5500 retails for $99 at Home Depot. Popular Mechanics determined this to be the best overall option due to its speed and power. This shop vac sucked up a gallon of water in just 2.2 seconds, making it significantly faster than any other option. The Ridgid WD5500 also comes with an excellent accessory kit and a cord length of 10 feet. However, it’s somewhat top-heavy.

The versatile Vacmaster VHB 305M

The Vacmaster VHB 305M comes in at $59.99 on Amazon. It features a four-wheel caddy and a wall-mounting bracket that Popular Mechanics praises for its excellent design. This shop vac’s wheels make it easy to move around, and its six-foot hose makes it particularly well-suited to vacuuming those hard-to-reach spots within your car. It also has a 15-foot cord.

The cordless and corded DeWalt DCB205CK

The DeWalt DCB205CK is one of the more expensive options on this list, priced at $159 through Platt. However, it is also the only shop vac option that works both cordless and corded. So its power cord is slightly shorter, at just eight feet. This shop vac runs on the same battery as other DeWalt products, making it a good option for folks who have cordless power tools from this brand.

Reviewers also say this model has the best air filter of any of the shop vacs tested, as you can use the same filter for both wet and dry applications.

The quiet Armor All AA255

The Armor All AA255 costs approximately $51 on Amazon as of this writing. It is quiet and comes with an accessory called the Deluxe Car Nozzle. Although Popular Mechanics notes the word “deluxe” might be “overstating things a bit,” this accessory functions well to clean ribbed floor mats and carpeting within cars. This shop vac features a Velcro band for the power cord, making it easier to stay organized. 

The power cord is 10 feet long but does get stiff in colder weather. Because of this, reviewers suggest keeping this shop vac in your home rather than in the garage, especially in the winter.

The fully cordless Snapper 1688061

The most expensive option on this list is the Snapper 1688061, which costs $299 through Home Depot. Popular Mechanics found this shop vac could run for about 20 minutes on one charge, giving enough time to vacuum most cars quickly. It also charges decently quickly — 15 minutes on the charger provides approximately 15 minutes of vacuuming time. 

Whether you’re cleaning up after your kids or looking to spruce up your car, a small shop vac makes it significantly easier to keep your vehicle spic and span. One of these high-quality options will get the job done.


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