Tape measures are a common tool for professionals to carry around. Professional licenses in many states, including those for general contractors, electricians, and plumbers, require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in the field with a variety of tools, including tape measures. In addition to being a tool for professionals, a tape measure is also a common household tool; either way, the right type of tape measure can make a big difference in all of the jobs and projects that you work on.
But what tape measure works best for you? There are different kinds of tape measures with different lengths, levels of durability, materials, and more. For example, if you’re taking a lot of measurements on the job, a digital tape measure might be best for you.
Keep reading our tape measure guide to learn which is the best option for you and your job.
Our Picks for the Best Overall Tape Measures of 2021
- Best Overall: Milwaukee Compact Wide Blade Magnetic Tape Measure (25ft)
- Most Comfortable Grip: Stanley FATMAX Tape Measure (35ft)
- Best Value: DeWALT Wide Tape Ruler (25ft)
- Most Sturdy: Komelon USA Monster MagGrip Tape Measure (16ft)
- Best Magnetic Tape Measure: Klein 86225 25 Mag Tape Measure (25ft)
- Best for Smaller Projects: Apex/Cooper Tool Hi-Viz Engineers Tape Measure (12ft)
- Best for Basic At-Home Use: Stanley Powerlock Tape Measure (30ft)
- Best Small Tape Measure: Lufkin Mini High-Viz Keychain Tape Measure (6ft)
- Best Digital Measure: Chevron/SKIL 165 Laser Measure
- Best Metric Tape Measure: Apex/Cooper Tool 3/8×100 Steel Long Tape (100ft)
- Best Steel Tape Measure: Lufkin/Apex/Copper Tool 3/8×50 Long Steel Tape (50ft)
- Best Measure with Black Tape: Apex/Cooper Tool 1-3 16×16 Black Tape (16ft)
Things to Look For
There are certain things to look for when you’re searching for the best tape measure for your profession, such as length, accuracy, recoil, durability, visibility, and weather resistance. The value you place on these qualities will depend highly on what you’re using the tape measure for. For example, somebody who works primarily indoors likely won’t be as concerned with weather-resistance, while a general contractor, someone who works outside a lot, would be.
We’ve taken a look at a number of the best tape measures on the market and assessed their qualities so that you know what to look for when selecting the best of the best. Here are the ideal qualities for each factor that we assessed.
Length, Accuracy, Recoil, Durability, Visibility, Weather/Waterproof
- Length: Anywhere from 15 to 50 feet is the most common length for a standard tape measure; there are some shorter and longer options available as well. The length you need is dependent on the type of jobs that you plan to do.
- Length Accuracy: You may think all tape measures are created equally – but they are not. Some are more accurate than others. When you’re searching for the best tape measure for your job, you’ll find that the most accurate tape measure is one that has been independently tested specifically for accuracy.
- Recoil: You want a tape measure that has a quick and easy-to-use recoil mechanism that won’t become worn or damaged after just a few uses. Many product reviews will have information about recoil.
- Visibility: It’s important to be able to see the numbers on your tape measure from any angle while you’re working. Tape measures with smaller numbers can be hard to read on the job.
- Weather/Waterproof: Having a weather-resistant tape measure will prove to be extremely valuable when you are working in the elements or accidentally leave your tape measure outdoors during inclement weather. Most labor-intensive professions have some outdoor work requirements and, for these projects, you will most definitely want a waterproof tape measure.
A few other qualities to look out for are durability, ergonomic design, and standout. For example, if you’re a roofing contractor, you are going to want a more durable tape measure in case it falls from high heights. Also, a lot of today’s consumers want to support our local manufacturers around the country and prefer their products to be made in the USA. Fortunately, you’ll find quite a few made-in-USA tape measures here in our guide.
Digital Tape Measures vs Standard Tape Measures
In today’s world of ever-changing technology, the digital tape measure (or laser tape measure) is starting to become the more common type of tape measure over the more traditional, standard manually rolled tape measure. However, there may still be reasons why a traditional tape measure is better for you. Those factors include atmospheric conditions and reflective targets.
While standard tape measures are good for professionals who are working on the ground and can move from place to place fairly easily, digital tape measures are good for professionals who are working from heights – like a roofer or electrician. Additionally, while you may think that digital tape measures aren’t as durable as standard tape measures, many of the best digital options are put through fall tests and are built specifically to endure falls from high heights.
Best Overall: Milwaukee Compact Wide Blade Magnetic Tape Measure (25ft)
First up is our overall pick for the best overall tape measure on the market: the Milwaukee Compact Wide Blade Magnetic. This 25-foot standard tape measure is perfect for professional use or personal household use. With easy-to-read measurements, a high-quality magnet that can hold EMT & steel studs, and an impact-resistant frame, this is one of the best all-around tape measures you can find.
Best Digital Measure: Chevron/SKIL 165 Laser Measure
Next up is our choice for the best digital measure: the Chevron/SKIL 165 Laser Measure. Built to withstand dusty and rainy conditions, this digital tape measure is one of the best that you can find on the market. It’s durable, easy to read, and easy to use. You’ll get quick and accurate measurements from up to 165 feet. This is an easy, convenient choice for plumbers, electricians, general contractors, and more.
Most Comfortable Grip: Stanley FATMAX Tape Measure (35ft)
Our choice for the tape measure with the most comfortable grip is the Stanley FATMAX 35-foot tape measure. This durable, long-lasting option is one of the best, most popular tape measures currently on the market. It has a durable coating, can withstand a 50-foot drop, and includes an easy-to-use lock. This is a comfortable choice for a tape measure that will give you accurate measurements every time.
Best Value: DeWALT Wide Tape Ruler (25ft)
The DeWALT Wide Tape Ruler measures up to 25 feet and is a great option for household projects and smaller professional jobs. While it doesn’t have many stand-out features, it’s durable, reliable, and one of the more affordable options for anyone in need of a tape measure.
Most Sturdy: Komelon USA Monster MagGrip Tape Measure (16ft)
The Komelon USA Monster MagGrip is our choice for the most sturdy tape measure on the market. Able to measure up to 16 feet, this is an ideal tape measure for plumbers, drywallers, welders – anyone who works around metal or hard surfaces that might chip, dent, or tear less durable models. The MagGrip’s magnetic tape measure is strong, versatile, and durable enough to get most any job done. For those who need the most durable, sturdy tape measure on the market – this is it.
Best Magnetic Tape Measure: Klein 86225 25 Mag Tape Measure (25ft)
Our choice for the best magnetic tape measure is the Klein 86225 25 Mag – a 25-foot tape measure with strong magnetic hooks. These hooks allow for easy attachment to a conduit and steel studs. If you need a strong magnetic tape measure, look no further than the Klein 86225.
Best for Smaller Projects: Apex/Cooper Tool Hi-Viz Engineers Tape Measure (12ft)
In need of a tape measure that works well for smaller projects? Try the Apex/Cooper Tool Hi-Viz Engineers Tape Measure. This compact tape measure easily fits into most holsters; perfect smaller projects around the house or at work. It also has clear, easy-to-read numbers and a bright orange case that makes it hard to lose!
Best for Basic At-Home Use: Stanley Powerlock Tape Measure (30ft)
The Stanley Powerlock tape measure is our choice for basic at-home use. Measuring up to 30 feet, this durable metal tape measure is designed to endure repeated handling and casual use. You can’t beat the value on this tape measure when it comes to longevity.
Best Small Tape Measure: Lufkin Mini High-Viz Keychain Tape Measure (6ft)
This Lufkin Mini High-Viz Keychain tape measure is the best small tape measure that you’ll find on the market. This little tiny pocket tape measure is covered in an ABS case for increased durability. While it only measures up to six feet, the mix of durability and convenient size means you’ll never be caught without a tape measure at home or on the job site again.
Best Metric Tape Measure: Apex/Cooper Tool 3/8×100 Steel Long Tape (100ft)
The Apex/Cooper Steel Long Tape is great for those who need to take measurements using the metric system. This metric tape measure is versatile and convenient with a handle that tucks in for storage and transport. The nylon coating provides added durability, making for a hardy, long-lasting metric tape measure.
Best Steel Tape Measure: Lufkin/Apex/Copper Tool 3/8×50 Long Steel Tape (50ft)
Our choice for the best steel tape measure is this Lufkin/Apex/Cooper 50ft model. This 50-foot tape measure is encased in a high-impact polystyrene case to withstand drops from tall heights. With easy-to-read markings in black and red and a nylon drum that’s easy to wind up, you’ll find yourself taking measurements more quickly and accurately than ever.
Best Measure With Black Tape: Apex/Cooper Tool 1-3 16×16 Black Tape (16ft)
Some people prefer to use tape measures featuring black tape with green markings in low-light conditions. Our pick for the best tape measure with black tape is the Apex/Cooper 16-foot black tape measure. The matte black nylon blade helps with legibility and also extends the life of the tape measure.
From digital tape measures to standard tape measures, the options we’ve included here will work for all types of projects and jobs, and represent the best, most durable, accurate, and reliable tape measures you can find on the market. Accurate measurements matter — and whether you’re an occasional DIYer or a trained professional on the job site, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than precision.