For well under $200, a consumer-grade wet dry vac will provide plenty of suction power, and unlike the pro models, will come with a full set of accessories included. The main drawbacks with a budget-priced shop vacuum are a lot of noise and some dust in the exhaust. Medium-sized, or 14- to 16-gallon, Ridgid shop vacuums earn more recommendations than any other in this price range, partly because they carry a lifetime warranty. A few Craftsman and Shop-Vac models also get positive reviews; Craftsman vacs are made by Ridgid.
The 14-gallon Ridgid WD1450 (*Est. $135) is the size most experts consider the sweet spot for wet dry vacs, neither too big nor too small. The Ridgid WD1450 lacks the sensors and tall handle featured on the pricier 16-gallon Ridgid Pro WD1851 (*Est. $160), but its 28-inch height allows it to be stored under most workbenches. It gets mixed reviewer feedback for exhaust dust. Some owners also say dust leaks from the WD1450's lid, which doesn't fit tightly enough. That said, most owners posting user reviews to HomeDepot.com say the Ridgid WD1450 is reasonably quiet and powerful, and it performs better than other wet dry vacs they've tried. Many owners also say they appreciate the WD1450's onboard attachment storage, 2.5-inch hose diameter and 20-foot long power cord.
The 16-gallon Craftsman 17066 (*Est. $120) is the top-rated model among owners reviewing wet dry vacs at Sears.com, and it performs well in Popular Mechanics' wet and dry pick-up speed test. It comes with a detachable handheld leaf blower and a plethora of accessories. The most frequent complaint from Sears.com users concerns the detachable leaf blower's impeller, or "blower wheel"; they say it breaks easily. Some users also complain that the Craftsman 17066's lid is less than secure, allowing some dust leakage. On the whole, however, owners say they are very satisfied with the Craftsman 17066; about 120 Sears.com users rate this wet dry vacuum an overall 4.5 out of 5 stars. Two other affordable Craftsman shop vacuums receive favorable attention from several reviewers: the 16-gallon Craftsman 17661 (*Est. $90) and the 20-gallon Craftsman 17762 (*Est. $110). Though Ridgid makes Craftsman's wet dry vacs, the Craftsman models come with a one-year warranty rather than Ridgid's typical lifetime warranties.
Reviewers also praise several affordable Shop-Vac models that come equipped with water pumps or built-in drains. One such model is the 16-gallon Shop-Vac 934-16-11 (*Est. $120), which has a respectable overall average rating of 3.91 out of 5 stars from Lowes.com users. Like any pump-equipped wet dry vac, it can get clogged by debris in the water, but owners find the pump feature to be a huge convenience in emergencies. If you think you'll be vacuuming much liquid, the Shop-Vac brand pump models are worth considering.