Buying a better wet / dry vac

Do you need the cheapest possible wet / dry vac?  If so, I’m sorry to say that this blog isn’t going to be of much help, unless you need to know that the big box stores and Sears are simply chock full of the most economical models from every manufacturer.  Also if you’re looking for a hand held unit then you likely won’t find much of use here today.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a step up in Wet / Dry features from 5 gallons capacity on up, you would likely have as much trouble as I did getting actual information on what was available.  It took me several long sessions of searching to reach a final conclusion, and I’m as happy as can be with the result (that is, as happy as I can get about a wet / dry vac).

First, I wanted to find a vac that was QUIET.  I previously had a Ridgid vacuum I bought at Lowe’s or Home Depot (I like Ridgid tools in general).  It was one of those cheap models that all the buyers (the evil buyers, remember) put on the shelves.

It was reliable but quite loud and finally walked off or flew off of my boat in Texas during Hurricane Ike.  Time for some shopping!

First I tried reviews.  I found two (you’re guessing I didn’t find them terribly helpful, right?)

You’ve noticed that they’re two years old, but that didn’t bother me too much.  However, neither of them had any solid information on sound levels.  While we’re at it, don’t bother paying Consumer Reports for a membership to get the extra information, there’s precious little useful information not in the public review.  (And if you simply can’t resist giving them your money, be sure to cancel your subscription later before you hear that monthly sucking sound coming from your checking account).

Then I began my struggles with the Shop Vac website.  If you like mazes, you will love the Shop Vac site.  Here’s what it boils down to:

  • There aren’t any decibel ratings, but there are suggestive sound ratings for many of the vacuums, from Quiet to Super Quiet.  Okay!  We’re getting somewhere (right?), if only in a relative sort of way.
  • I visited all the other manufacturers’ sites I could find, and they were unaniminous (pronounce it, I like this spelling) in having even less information than the Shop Vac site.  So I returned to Shop Vac to stay.
  • There is no way on the Shop Vac site to choose all the features you want from all the Series with all the sound ratings.  It’s a good maze. 

When I had found several vacuums that claimed to be some kind of quiet, I began to notice things called "features". 

This is when I got greedy.  Again I dove into the maze, and in the end I found a model that met all my requirements, and only cost me about $170.  While this model has a 10 gallon capacity instead of 5 or 6, and is almost four times what the cheap models at Lowe’s and Home Depot will run you, it’s still less than half of the cost of the super deluxe "professional" wet / dry vacs. 

Here are the notable features of the vac I bought:

  • "Super Quiet" operation.  Yes, the sound level is quite acceptable in spite of the vague marketing speak.
    (Marketers are second on my list of evildoers after the buyers.)
  • "tank drain".  Way good!  No more tipping over 40+ pounds of water to empty the crazy thing out. 
  • A push handle and two big wheels (like a hand truck, but with one small wheel in front).  They call it a "three wheel dolly".

    Another way cool option.  I love it.

  • Thrown in with this I got a stainless steel tank, but don’t kid yourself, the stainless steel is pretty thin.  The first one I ordered arrived bent, ensuring a fun time for my friends at Ace Hardware re-packing the box.  For $170 you can’t expect a stainless steel oil drum. 

With the accessory caddy in place the center of gravity seems to be almost directly over the rear wheels, so this is an easy unit to knock over when empty, but isn’t much of a problem in use, especially once the tank begins to fill up.

The model number for this beauty is one of the things that seems to change with the wind.  In fact I believe that Shop Vac builds up its units for sale out of standard vacuum cannisters packaged with various sets of accessories.  Right now the one I bought is Catalog Number: 962-11-00 in the "Ultra Pro" series.  I don’t think that was the model number when I bought it, and it’s certainly not part of the part number Ace Hardware cooked up for it in their system.  But it’s available for special order, and in fact Ace Hardware seemed well set up for special orders.

If I’ve whetted your interest for a better Wet Dry vac, please consider ordering it from your local hardware store or Sears rather than the big box stores.

However you make your purchase, I’m sure you’ll appreciate having bought a "better" Wet Dry vac.


About Cornan The Iowan

Science and music are my two great loves. The intricate subtlety of nature and of Bach's counterpoint are two of a kind to me.
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