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Tool Test: Compact Utility Vacs

A pro contractor puts four 4- to 5-gallon vacuums models to the test

How the Vacs Stack Up

Photo by Ted Morrison

Small 4- to 5-gallon vacuums are easy to carry and store, but they still have the power to suck up spills, sawdust, and car-floor debris. Contractor Dave Andrews put these four wheel-less models to the test in his own house, now undergoing a gritty gut renovation. Here's how they stacked up.

Dave Andrews, owner of Andrews Custom Building, in Fairfield, Connecticut, has 25 years' experience as a carpenter.

Ridgid Pro Pack WD4522

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $100

Highlight: Includes two 20-inch extension wands for hard-to- reach areas.

My two cents: "The boxy design allows for convenient storage of all accessories. The extension wands allow you to vacuum standing up."

Tool stats: 15½ pounds, 4½-gallon capacity; 5-horsepower motor generates 187 air-watts* (the measure of a vac's sucking power) and 90 dB. Includes 20-foot cord, filter, 7-foot hose, five attachments, lifetime warranty;

*Measured at the end of the hose; air watts of the other three vacs are measured at the motor

Vacmaster VWM510

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $130

Highlight: Power switch is located on the business end of the hose; has the quietest motor.

My two cents: "While the wall-mount held securely, it was tricky to remove the vacuum."

Tool stats: 23½ pounds, 5-gallon capacity; 5-horsepower motor generates 320 air-watts and 78 dB. Includes 20-foot cord, wall bracket, 21-foot hose, noise diffuser, eight attachments, two-year warranty;

Snap-On 93052

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $99

Highlight: Includes a HEPA filter to capture fine particles of dust.

My two cents: "Great suction; the best at picking up dust and chunkier stuff like nails, but its small-diameter hose clogged the most often."

Tool stats: 18 pounds, 4-gallon capacity; 5-horsepower motor generates 220 air-watts and 86 dB. Includes 20-foot cord, 7-foot hose, noise diffuser, three attachments, five-year warranty;

Shop-Vac Heavy-Duty Portable 5872462

Photo by Ted Morrison

Price: $80

Highlight: Disposable vacuum bag keeps the dust contained when emptying the unit.

My two cents: "Solid performer with a hose that locks onto the tank."

Tool stats: 20 pounds, 5-gallon capacity; 5½-horsepower motor generates 345 air-watts and 82 dB. Includes 20-foot cord, wall bracket, filter and filter bag, 7-foot hose, two attachments, five-year warranty;