Shop Vac vs Rigid: The Complete Comparison of the Two Vacuums

shop vac vs rigid

If you don’t own a wet/dry vacuum (also known as a shop vac), then you are complicating your own life.

Why do I say that?

It’s simple really. A wet/dry vac is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment you can have around your house.

And in the wet/dry vacuum category, a debate has been raging for a number of years now – Shop-Vac vs. Ridgid. These two are some of the most popular wet/dry brands on the market, and for very good reasons. But which of these two blows the other out of the water? But, I’m getting ahead of myself (and probably ahead of you too).

Let’s first take a step back and define what a shop vac is and look at what makes for a good one.

What is a Wet/Dry Vacuum?

The simple answer is that a wet/dry vacuum is a normal vacuum – on steroids.

This type of vacuum has way more power and brute strength that allows it to pick up basically anything you will find in your home, workshop, or garage.

Wet/dry vacs suck up everything from fine dust to saw dust and beyond as they can even pick up nuts, bolts, nails, and even drain a blocked sink, and that without getting damaged.

This is a very convenient tool that can work in any environment (that’s why you find them featuring at construction sites), and if you are a DIYer, you will find that this is one piece of equipment that will save you a lot of time when it comes to cleaning up after a project.

How Wet/Dry Vacuums Work

I bet you are wondering how these powerful vacuums are able to do what they do without getting damaged. Let me give you a brief non-technical explanation.

A wet-dry vac is made up of three major components: a bucket (or collection chamber), a motor unit, and a hose. One major difference between a normal vacuum and a wet/dry vac is the positioning of the motor. The motor on a wet/dry vac sits atop the collection chamber from where it drives a fan which draws air through the collection chamber and hose.

As air passes into the hose, it increases in speed and creates a powerful vortex. This vortex allows the vac to pick up particles of any size and carries them to the collection chamber. As the air enters the collection chamber, the air slows down due to lower pressure and the particles are released.

The air is then vented out of the chamber through the upper portion of the vacuum.

Because of the power wet/dry vacuums have, many on the market today serve a dual purpose. They utilize the small vent opening on the upper portion of the vac and make it work as a blower, a very strong one at that.

This nifty dual-purpose function also helps in times when your wet/dry vac hose gets clogged with some debris. Simply unplug your hose from the vacuum end and plug it onto the vent (exhaust port). Then place the other end of the hose into the vacuum port and turn on your vacuum. This will force the clog out of the hose into the collection chamber, and back to work you can go.

3 Cool Things You Can Use a Wet/Dry Vac (Besides Vacuuming)

As you shop around for a wet/dry vac, you’ll probably come to a crossroad most wet/dry vac seekers arrive at: Shop-Vac vs. Ridgid, which one to go with.

Before we get to the answer though, I’d like to show you some handy tasks a wet/dry vac can be used for. Because of its versatility, a wet/dry vac can actually do some amazing things you would never imagine a vacuum could do. Let’s look at a few of them.

1. Drain a Flooded Basement (or Any Room)

One of the biggest advantages of shop vacs is their ability to handle water – even in large amounts. This feature comes in handy when your basement, or any other room for that matter, becomes flooded due to a burst pipe.

When this happens, you will be glad to have finally made up your mind in the Shop-Vac vs Ridgid debate, whichever way you go.

Many of the larger wet/dry vacuum models have a drainage port in the collection drum that allows for easier emptying when you are vacuuming in a wet environment. This makes it very easy for you to pump water out of any flooded room in your house.

But to make things even easier (and faster), you can use an accessory pump. This allows you to hook up a hose and pump the collected water outside. All you need to do is remove the drain cap and install your pump accessory. It’s simple plug and play, as it will easily screw onto the drain. You can then attach a garden hose to the pump valve and pump all the water out.

2. Unclog Sink Drains

I know the first thing you run to is a drain snake (or that amazing chemical product that promises wonders when it comes to unclogging kitchen sinks). But what do you do if you don’t have a drain snake?

Well, if you have a wet/dry vac, then you have your solution.

You can easily push out pesky clogging with your Shop-Vac or Ridgid, as these vacs have enough power for the job.

To reduce splashback, you can start off by draining the water in the sink with your wet/dry vac.

Some sinks have a strainer that you will have to remove in order to run the hose into the pipe.

Bonus advantage: You can even retrieve things that have accidentally fallen into the drain using your wet/dry vac. This is only if your item is still in the P-trap.

3. Inflate the Kid’s Inflatable Toys

With a wet/dry vac, you don’t have to inflate the kid’s inflatable toys by giving them CPR (otherwise you’re the one who will need it). Let the wet/dry vac do it for you. It’s easy, fast, and serves you from turning as blue in the face as a Smurf from too much blowing.

How do you do this with your vac?

Simply insert your hose into the vac’s exhaust port. Attach an inflator nozzle onto the hose, stick it into the valve, turn on the vac, and presto! You now have an air pump.

I told you a wet/dry vac is a versatile piece of equipment that you need.

Now that you believe me, we can continue and solve the riddle that brought us on this long rabbit trail – Shop-Vac vs Ridgid, which is the better of the two?

Let’s get to our comparison, shall we?

Shop-Vac Vs. Ridgid - Build Quality

One of the most important factors to look out for when shopping for a shop vac is the build quality.

Remember, you’ll be putting your shop vac through some paces a normal vacuum can’t handle – tough paces. This means your shop vac must be tough, durable, and reliable.

In terms of build quality, pitting the Shop-Vac vs Ridgid is a tough one.

Both these brands are known for making superb vacuums that can tackle anything from fine dust to bolts and nuts, all without getting any internal damage. These vacs are also tough enough to handle those inevitable bumps as you move the vac around the workshop or a construction site.

One thing to note about the construction of shop vacs is that the best shop vacs are those with a hard plastic construction.

Although stainless steel gives a vac greater aesthetic beauty, stainless steel easily gets dented upon high impact and is also prone to rust. High impact plastic construction gives a wet/dry vac greater reliability and durability.

Both Shop-Vac and Ridgid make vacuums in both configurations. And they take great care in ensuring that the best materials are used so as to give you a product that you will be satisfied with.

Bottom line: when it comes to build quality in the Shop-Vac vs Ridgid showdown, both are well built and trump the other competition by far.

To be fair in the next part of our Shop-Vac vs Ridgid showdown, we’ll review these great vacs in two of the most popular vac sizes for DIYers – small vacs and medium-sized ones.

Shop-Vac VS Ridgid – Battle of the Small Vacs

Small wet/dry vacs are those with a capacity of less than 6 gallons. These are vacuums that shine in the home and work very well in the workshop.

Shop-Vac 3940100 3.5-Gallon 3.0-Peak HP Wall Mount Wet/Dry Vacuum
  • WALL MOUNT VACUUM: This wall mountable wet/dry vacuum has a 3.5-gallon tank & a 3 peak horsepower motor. It offers...
  • ACCESSORIES INCLUDED: 18-foot Lock-On hose, 1.25" diameter extension wands, 12-inch nozzle with brush & squeegee, round...
  • GOT DIRT? Shop-Vac's full line of products includes cordless, rechargeable wet dry vacuums, automotive vacuum systems,...

Our Shop-Vac contender in this category is the Shop-Vac3940100 3.5 gallon 3hp vac.

I’ll be honest with you straight off the bat. If you are looking for a wet/dry vac that you can use to clean in the house and in the garage or workshop, this is it.

For starters, this is one of the most powerful vacs in the three-gallon range, with a massive three horsepower engine. Yes, I used the word massive, and that’s because most wet/dry vacs in the three-gallon range come with either one or two horsepower, rarely three.

This little vac gives you a lot of power in a relatively compact body, making it one of the most versatile vacs for DIYers. Besides being easy to maneuver, the Shop-Vac 3940100 comes with a lot of extra attachments that make it reach every nook and cranny in your house or workshop to suck up any spill or debris.

Apart from the longer than usual 18 feet-long hose, this champ of a vac comes with three extension wands, four different nozzles (gulper, crevice, brush, 10” wet/dry), wet and dry cartridge filters, a collection bag/retainer, a tool bag, and a good quality wall mounting bracket. With such an array of accessories, there’ll be no need for you to purchase anything else that you might need to use when vacuuming in any situation. And with a price tag of around $65.00, that’s a very good deal.

RIDGID 3-Gal. Wet/Dry Vac WD3050
  • This refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process includes...

The Ridgid 3 gallon wet dry vac is a compact, lightweight, and easily portable shop vac that is powered to compete with vacs three times its size.

With a 3.5-peak horsepower motor, 10-feet power cord, locking expandable hose, and one-layer standard pleated paper filter, the 3 gallon Ridgid vacuum is equipped to handle most of the tasks you will present it with. Coming with a built-in suction-powered dustpan, cleaning becomes quick and easy. Professional cleaners and DIYers alike will love the performance levels of this vac.

And because the 3-gallon Ridgid vacuum is lightweight (only weighing 9.8lbs), it is easy to maneuver around and even carry to other parts of the house if needed. Ergonomically, it is one of the best vacs on the market, especially with its well-designed carry handle.

The only shortcomings that the Ridgid has when compared to the Shop-Vac are the shorter extension cord and fewer accessories.

When it comes to prices, the Ridgid can be bought for $60.00, saving you $4.86. Coupled with a lifetime warranty, that’s a sweet deal.

Shop-VAC VS Ridgid – The Middle-Weight Division

Mid-weight wet dry vacuums have capacities ranging from six to 14 gallons and are designed to deal with bigger debris and larger quantities of wet materials, both indoors and outdoors.

For DIYers, this is the perfect workshop vac capacity.

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The Ridgid 11 gallon Smart Cart is a wet/dry vacuum designed to deliver very powerful suction and features a large capacity. It also has most unique and easy to use storage and mobility features available in a shop vacuum.

Featuring a powerful 6.5-peak horsepower motor, this is one of Ridgid’s most powerful wet/dry vacuums in its stable. With this powerful vac, you’ll be able to take care of messes faster and more efficiently. The surprise feature you will definitely appreciate on this vac is the low noise levels - surprising for a 6.5-peak horsepower vacuum.

This workstation is pretty impressive, considering the way it has been designed with storage drawers that make it easy for you to store the accessories and some of your tools. And with the huge rear wheels and cart handle, moving your wet/dry vac over rough terrain or up the stairs has never been easier. As for the rear wheels, they lock in place when it’s stationary, so you have no need to fear having a runaway vac to chase after.

Inside the top storage of the Ridgid Smart Cart drawer is an eight-feet professional-grade locking hose engineered to be four times more durable than a standard shop vacuum hose. This rugged construction prevents crimping and collapsing under load, giving you durability unparalleled in wet/dry vacs in this category.

If you have a larger workshop and need the capacity, power, and mobility of the Ridgid Smart Cart, you will have all that and more for a modest price of around $200.00.

And in the opposite corner, our challenger is…

Shop-Vac 8251600 6.5 Peak hp Wet/Dry Vacuum, 16 gallon, Yellow/Black
  • On board hose & tool storage
  • 5 peak hp Svx2 motor technology with longer life & increased performance
  • GOT DIRT? Shop-Vac's full line of products includes cordless, rechargeable wet dry vacuums, automotive vacuum systems,...

Off the bat, this 12-gallon Shop-Vac wet/dry vac isn’t as good looking as its Ridgid counterpart.

But what it lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for in the practicality department.

The Shop-Vac 12 Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Blower Vac is two tools in one as the name suggests – a powerful vac and an equally powerful blower.

The surprise on this unit is the fact that the blower is detachable and comes with a gutter cleaning kit that makes it very easy to clean your gutters – without needing a ladder.

Sporting a 6.5-peak horsepower motor, the Shop-Vac 12 Gallon 6.5 Hardware vac is more than capable of sucking up any debris in its path, or blowing it out the way if that is what you want it to do. Couple that with the 12-gallon capacity and you’ll be well able to finish most tasks without having to run around to empty it. If the size worries you, don’t worry about it as this vac has caster wheels that make it very mobile and easy to maneuver around the workshop.

And as Shop-Vac is well known for, this vac comes with accessories galore that will make all cleanup tasks a breeze.

Despite its size and power, the Shop-Vac 12-Gallon 6.5 Peak HP Wet/Dry Blower Vac comes with a lightweight price tag of around $150.

Shop-Vac VS Ridgid – The Verdict

Well, it’s time to give a verdict.

But as you can see, this is not a clear-cut case.

With the differences in construction and each vac being better suited for particular tasks, each wet/dry vac in our review shines in its own element, while none of them suck in any.

So go ahead, pick one. Whichever one you pick, it will definitely blow you away.

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