Wet/Dry Shop Vacuums
As we look around the wet/dry vacuum sector, the Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac settles in as the Best Small Capacity Vacuum in our opinion.
Overall Score 3.7 Pro Review
For our recent Best Wet/Dry Vac Buying Guide, we took a look at 13 of the most popular and newest models of shop vacuums available (or, in this case, available soon). We looked at small, medium, and larger capacity models to see which vacuums had the best performance, power, fit and finish, feature sets, and value in their class. For what we consider the best small capacity shop vacuum on the market right now, take a look at the Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac.
4-Gallon Canister: This smaller size canister makes the vacuum highly portable, and perfect for lighter-duty work. This model can pull triple duty between the house, your vehicles, and the shop, and carrying it between them is no problem, given the size. I’d like to see the handle flip 90° to make carrying it more natural.
Two Oversized Wheels & Two Rotating Casters: This seems like an interesting choice for a model this size. You’d think Shop-Vac would’ve gone with four casters like most of their competition. However, they opted for 2 larger wheels in the back. The upside is that the larger wheels will roll over objects like extension cords and small debris that casters like to stick on. You lose the tighter turning radius as a trade-off.
Accessories & Storage: The Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac comes with a pretty robust accessory set, and it all stores away in dedicated spots on the body of the vacuum. Even though everything has a place, things get pretty crowded on such a small design.
Hose Management: This model comes with a 7′ hose, which is an adequate length. Without any hose management help, you’ll end up just wrapping the hose around and sticking the end in where you can to hold it. It takes some extra effort, but storing the hose inside the canister is the way to go and also helps constrain the chaotic look of the accessories.
Cord Storage: For the vacs that have cord management, the two most popular methods are a cord wrap on the handle or side/back. Shop-Vac’s side-mounted cord wrap handles the 18′ of cord very well, but it covers the latch. You’ll want to be sure and empty the canister before wrapping the cord.
Included in Kit
- 2 extension wands
- Wet/dry nozzle
- Crevice tool
- Gulper nozzle
- Round brush
- Onboard tool storage
The Shop-Vac ESS Series pairs the 5.5 Hp motor with the company’s proprietary SVX2 motor technology. While there aren’t a ton of details available on SVX2, Shop-Vac claims that it gives the motor mower power and a longer life.
The Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac can generate 78 CFM and 70″ of water lift. For the size, that’s a very respectable balance of the two. In our testing, this model pulls 2.04 pounds – pretty light compared to the entire group.
Even in its class of small capacity vacs, it’s low. DeWalt is in just about the same place while Ridgid and Vacmaster give you twice the pull force. Keep in mind, that’s a measurement that tells us more about its water lift strength than its CFM.
Price and Value
The Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac should have a retail price close to $80 when it releases as a rolling change to the current model in Lowe’s. It’s on par with other vacuums in the size class. However, Ridgid’s 6-gallon model comes in under $50 if you’re looking for something less expensive.
As we look around the wet/dry vacuum sector, the Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac settles in as the Best Small Capacity Vacuum in our opinion. It balances performance well with a broad set of accessories for its size class. While it’s not the cheapest, you get a better overall quality and feature set in a vacuum that’s at perfectly comfortable cleaning up in your shop, truck, or home.
Shop-Vac 4-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac Features & Specs
- Model: Shop-Vac ESSSQ550 (rolling model change hitting store shelves soon)
- Motor: 5.5 HP
- Canister Size: 4-Gallon
- Hose Diameter: 1-1/4″
- Hose Length: 7′
- CFM: 78
- Water Lift: 70″
- Cord Length: 18′
- Lock-On Hose
- Blower Feature
- Warranty: 5 years limited
- Expected Price: $79.98