The 10 Best Tape Measures

Updated September 26, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

10 Best Tape Measures
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. As the old saying goes, "Measure twice, cut once." So make sure all of your measurements are accurate with one of these tape measures. We've included the standard type you are familiar with along with some more modern electronic and digital options in price ranges to suit both home DIY-ers and professional contractors who demand greater durability. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best tape measure on Amazon.

10. Kutir 25 Foot

The Kutir 25 Foot has a sturdy locking switch for easy retraction control and a longer blade life. It features precise markings in both imperial and metric units, with distinct indicators at every foot, 16 inches, and 10 centimeters.
  • impact resistant rubberized case
  • dual magnet end hook
  • flexes when extended past 5 feet
Brand Kutir
Model KUTIR 56-7525
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

9. FastCap PSSR25

The FastCap PSSR25 accommodates left- or right-handed users by having readable measurements on both sides of its blade. It has a built-in belt clip and an erasable notepad on the side of its impact-resistant rubberized body for keeping track of your readings.
  • easy to read fraction markings
  • built-in pencil sharpener
  • doesn't have feet indicators
Brand Fastcap
Model PSSR25
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. QuickDraw DIY

The QuickDraw DIY is a rugged 25-foot option that features a built-in graphite wheel for marking surfaces as you work. Its integrated, easy to reload design and precise accuracy mean you can feel comfortable leaving the contractor pencils at home.
  • markings for 32nds of an inch
  • thick blade doesn't bend easily
  • uses up graphite quite quickly
Brand QuickDraw
Model IBQD25F-1
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. HandyMate Digital

The HandyMate Digital has a large, clear LCD for quick and easy readings at a glance. It can store up to eight measurements, switches easily between US and metric systems at the touch of a button, and includes a powerful battery that should last for up to a year.
  • quality carbon steel construction
  • backed by a lifetime guarantee
  • sensor is inaccurate when dusty
Brand HandyMate
Model pending
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

6. Stanley Fat Max

The Stanley Fat Max is part of a line of heavy-duty professional-level tools, and its entire length is coated with a Mylar polyester film for increased durability. It features 16 and 19.2 inch stud center markings for help on framing jobs.
  • first six feet are double reinforced
  • long-lasting heat-treated spring
  • much heavier than similar models
Brand Stanley
Model 33-730
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. Lufkin Hi-Viz Quickread

The Lufkin Hi-Viz Quickread has a compact case designed to fit comfortably in your hand, making it perfect for use around the house. Its graduations are printed in convenient fraction and decimal equivalents, and the entire blade has clear coat protection for durability.
  • reinforced dual-riveted end hook
  • vertical markings for easy readings
  • blade tends to dent easily
Brand Apex Tool Group
Model QRL625MP
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Milwaukee General Contractor

Suitable for professional use, the Milwaukee General Contractor has a flat and slim blade that sits flush with the objects you're measuring for improved accuracy. It can extend to 9 feet before bending, and has a rugged metal tip that'll hold secure to just about any edge.
  • nylon coated blade for durability
  • sturdy wire form belt clip
  • wide base for stability
Brand Milwaukee
Model 48-22-5525
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. eTape 16BT

The eTape 16BT is the original digital model that now comes with Bluetooth technology and the handy eSmart mobile app for Android and iOS devices. It automatically sends measurements to your smartphone and keeps track of them in a convenient spreadsheet.
  • built in lcd for use without a phone
  • includes a long-lasting cr2 battery
  • weather-resistant polycarbonate case
Brand eTape16
Model ETBT16.75-DB-RP
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Komelon SL2825 Self Lock

As its name suggests, the Komelon SL2825 Self Lock automatically holds its nylon-coated blade in place at whatever distance it's pulled from its impact-resistant rubberized housing. A press of its retract button sends its length shooting smoothly back into storage.
  • rubber heel for stability
  • comfortable for left-handed use
  • backed by a 1-year warranty
Brand Komelon
Model SL2825
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Stanley Powerlock

A great balance of price and sturdiness, the Stanley Powerlock is available in lengths from 12 to 36 feet and comes in a high-impact chrome ABS plastic housing. True to its name, it promises a secure lock that won't slide over time like many models.
  • weighs less than a pound
  • in-line stud center markings
  • blade is mylar-coated for durability
Brand Stanley
Model 33-425
Weight 14.1 ounces
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

The Timeless, Ubiquitous Measuring Device

Why do you think so many people still ride bicycles? They’ve been around for about 200 years. We ditched the horse-drawn carriage long ago, and we now have easy access to cars, scooters, trains, cabs, and Uber, none of which require us to exert much energy. Heck, I even saw a guy in a suit commuting to work on an electric skateboard earlier this week. So what gives?

I’ll tell you what: bicycles are simple, functional, and familiar. And there’s something rewarding about the physical nature of riding one.

Tape measures feel much the same way. Why try out some complex gadget when the item you have does a fine job as it is? Sure, you can parade around with a new-fangled laser measure, but if you’re someone who values practicality and efficiency, you can’t go wrong with this classic measuring tool.

Of course, the tape measure is only as effective as the person who uses it. Before you buy one, make sure you know how to correctly read measurements (yes, that includes fractions). If you plan to make highly detailed markings, you should also probably invest in a quality pencil with a fine tip. And keep in mind, when your work depends on precise measurements, what at first may appear to be a trivial mistake can end up ruining an entire job.

Speaking of the job — more specifically, the treatment of tools on a job site — tape measures tend to take a beating. They get tossed to the ground, covered in debris, and exposed to the elements. To combat this, make sure its case is robust, relatively thick, and resistant to corrosion. The same goes for the blade. It frequently encounters grit, dirt, sawdust, and liquids, and it rubs at the point of entry every time it slides in or out. A solid protective coating helps extend the life of the blade.

How To Choose The Right Tool

People often take tape measures for granted, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. No matter the tradesman — carpenter, electrician, plumber — they use the tape measure as much as any device in their tool kit.

When selecting a tape measure, accuracy is obviously important, but you should focus on other qualities as well: size, style, the quality of the locking lever, and the design of the tang (the metal hook on the end of the tape). Be wary of models that are dolled up with extra, unnecessary features; with this tool, simplicity is king.

In terms of accuracy, tape measures fall into one of four categories: Class I, Class II, Class III, and unclassified. Class I includes the most precise models on the market, while unclassified models are suitable for rough estimations at best. If you’re a nuclear engineer, go with a Class I tape measure, no questions asked; if you’re a woodworker, you’ll probably get by with a Class II or III.

Large, heavy tape measures can withstand bumps and bruises better than lightweight models, and their blades can usually extend farther without bending, as well. Conversely, more compact tape measures are easier to transport and handle, which makes them ideal for jobs that require agility and flexibility.

As with any tool, its design style will dictate how you utilize it. Hard tape measures, typically made with steel, are the most common and the most durable option. If you regularly measure long distances, this type is a no-brainer, as soft tape measures are designed to cover much shorter distances. Before you make a snap judgment, though, consider the drawbacks. Hard tape measures can basically only measure in a straight line, and the metal hook that clicks back in at high speeds poses a greater injury risk.

Not only do soft tape measures minimize the chance of injury, they’re ideal for measuring in hard-to-access areas, as they’re easy to bend and manipulate. This flexibility allows you to retrieve measurements on round or cylindrical areas, as well.

Your tape measure will either have a conventional blade lock (which requires manual lock engagement) or an auto lock (which doesn’t). Give both styles a shot, and try to find a model with the locking mechanism you prefer.

Most people assume the tang (or hook) is virtually the same for every tape measure, but that assumption is far from accurate. High-quality tangs should only hook onto objects you want them to hook onto. Multi-directional tangs allow you to hook items above, below, and to the side of your tape. Extremely large tangs are usually unwieldy and often catch where they shouldn't, and magnetic tangs frequently attract shavings, filings, and debris. You should avoid both if you don't need them.

A Brief History Of The Tape Measure

As you can imagine, people have been measuring things for centuries. The Ancient Romans, for example, marked strips of leather and used them as a sort of antiquated ruler. Somewhat surprisingly, the tape measure didn’t make an appearance in the United States until 1868, when a man named Alvin J. Fellows filed a patent for it in New Haven, Connecticut.

Because this crude tool was expensive (and rather ineffective), it never did come close to replacing wooden rulers. It did, however, serve as a model for today’s locking steel tape measures. In 1922, a man named Hiram H. Farrand received a patent for his version of the device, and with the help of The Brown Company, he began manufacturing and selling tape measures. Shortly thereafter, carpenters across the country began adopting Farrand’s design, which is quite similar to the models you find in the modern era.

Today, many tapes sold in the United States feature small black diamond markings every 19.2 inches to denote equal spacing for joists, which is a standard interval for studs in construction. This is unique to models designed in the United States. Historically, American tape measures have been created using only the imperial system, but that's slowly changing as manufacturers are increasingly incorporating the metric system into their designs.

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Last updated on September 26, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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