Tape measures are a staple in everyone’s toolbox from the most seasoned Pro to the greenest DIYer. Ranging in length and price, most cost less than $30. But are all tape measures created equally? Of course not. We’re breaking things down into the categories our Pro team says are most important when they’re looking for the best tape measure.
Editor’s Note: Think you know everything about tapes? Check out our article on how to read a tape measure and we promise you’ll learn something new!
Editor’s Note: This article is part of PTR’s “Best of 2022” series and was originally published on May 17, 2022. There have been no updates to our recommendations… yet. Be on the lookout for our 2023 updates!
Best Tape Measure Overall
Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Nite Eye G2
When we went looking for the best tape measure, we wanted it all: durability, standout, accuracy, visibility, hook grip, ergonomics, and features. While there are several great options, it’s the Crescent Lufkin Shockforce G2 Nighteye that stands out above the rest for us. It’s not the best in every single category, but it does everything well and it has a fantastic blade color for those of us with less-than-ideal vision.
25-Foot Price: $27.98 (L1225B-02)
Best Heavy-Duty Tape Measure
DeWalt Tough Series Tape Measures
There have been some outstanding heavy-duty tape measures to hit the market in the past several years. Milwaukee’s Stud, DeWalt’s XP followed by its Tough Series, Crescent Lufkin’s Shockforce, and others have been pushing the durability expectations to new levels. So which one is the best?
In our opinion, it’s the DeWalt Tough Series tape measures. Solid housing construction combined with a generous layer of overmold to protect it stands up to just about anything we’ve been able to throw at it, including chucking as high as we could and letting it fall to the asphalt. With nothing more than a scratch for our efforts, it’s one tough measure.
25-Foot Price: $28.97 (DWHT36925S)
Best Magnetic Tape Measure
Milwaukee Stud Magnetic Tape Measures
Crescent’s Shockforce and DeWalt Tough Series both have magnetic options we heartily recommend. However, the one we pick up most often in our shop is Milwaukee’s second-generation Stud. It starts with a durable Exo360 nylon blade coating that resists cracking well and houses it in a durable frame. The magnetic hook grips steel surfaces solidly and our team loves the finger stop brake feature both extending and controlling the recoil on the way back in.
25-Foot Price: $30.97 (48-22-9725M)
Best Laser Tape Measure
Skil 65-Foot Laser Measurer with Wheel
There are plenty of great laser distance measures to choose from, but not all of them have a tape measure function. If you want to measure traditionally without having an object to bounce the laser off of, you need a wheel to roll across the surface instead. For that feature, look to Skil’s laser distance measure.
When you need more than just the tape measure function, you can measure in real-time out to 65 feet or calculate area for quick estimates. You get it all with an accuracy of ±1/8-inch.
For a deeper dive into laser distance measures, check out our recommendations here.
Price: $49.99 (ME9821-00)
Best Tape Measure Value
Stanley FatMax Tape Measures
Value is more than just price. It’s what you get for your money and that takes into consideration the whole package: function, durability, readability, standout, and more. Over and over again, we hear from Pros in the field and from our readers that Stanley FatMax is the only tape measure they’ll use. Why? Because it’s accurate, reliable, and affordable.
The classic 25-foot tape measure is still under $20, it’s Made in the USA using global materials, and we believe it’s the best bang for your buck.
25-Foot Price: $16.99 (33-725)
Best Tape Measure From More Brands We Trust
Best HART Tape Measure
HART has an impressive depth to its line of tape measures that includes keychain, standard, and chrome models. Our top choice is the Pro Grade model and it’s available in 16 to 30-foot lengths, though only the 25-foot is available in both magnetic and non-magnetic.
Sporting 11 feet of standout, easy-to-read fraction markings (single-side printing), and greater overmold protection than many tapes we’ve used, it’s also easy on your wallet in the sub-$15 class.
25-Foot Price: $14.35 (HHTMPN25)
Best Klein Tape Measure
Whether you’re an electrician or not, Klein makes some durable tape measures and its magnetic models hold stronger than most. Seriously, we’ve used a Klein tape measure as a magnetic grabber for dropped fasteners and small hand tools in the past. They have just one non-magnetic model (25-foot) while covering 16, 25, and 30-foot lengths along with a 7.5-meter model on the metric side for magnetic options.
Standout is excellent at 13 feet, the magnetic models feature a double hook that offers better top grabbing, and the nylon-coated blade has printing on both sides. Thanks to Klein’s focus on electricians, they also have a conduit bending table and a 3-phase layout guide on the backside of the blade.
25-Foot Price (Magnetic): $26.97 (9225R)
Best Komelon Tape Measure
Komelon tape measures are popular thanks to a price that’s very easy on your wallet. They’re great for around the house and people that tend to lose them often. They also have a Contractor series that’s more appropriate for typical jobsite use and that’s the line we recommend.
It covers 16, 25, and 40-foot lengths, and only the 25-foot is available with a magnetic hook. They have a nylon-coated blade that’s 20% thicker and a stainless steel spring to help them last longer than Komelon’s less expensive tapes.
25-Foot Price: $18.99 (M25LR)
Best Ox Tools Tape Measure
Ox Tools isn’t crazy-deep in the measuring tools category just yet, but we liked what we saw from its Pro Tuff tape measure. Its 13 feet of standout is solid and it felt better in our hands than the bulkier version from a few years back. What really opened our eyes is the improvement in durability for both the housing and the nylon-coated blade.
25-Foot Price: $19.98
Best Ryobi Tape Measure
Ryobi doesn’t do a whole lot in the hand tool department, but they do have a highly affordable 25-foot tape measure. Almost completely surrounded by overmold, it’s a compact model with a smaller blade and a somewhat tame 7-foot standout. Still, for less than $8, you can afford to buy several so there’s one everywhere you might need it.
Price: $7.98 (RTM25)
Best Stabila Tape Measure
Stabila is known for the quality of its levels and that might make its tape measures fly under the radar a bit. Between the BM 100 and the BM 300 lines, we prefer the more durable 300 series. Its strong housing benefits from plenty of overmold. The blade is nylon-coated with printing on both sides and capable of a 10-foot standout. Stabila also adds a unique hook grip on the lower side to help keep it from slipping. It’s available in 16 or 26-foot lengths.
26-Foot Price: $25.00 (30526)
Best Tape Measure Buying Guide
Before you worry about anything else, a tape measure has to be accurate. If it isn’t, nothing else matters. Nearly every name-brand tape measure is solid in this department. The ones that aren’t accurate usually have a bent hook that you can fix on a Lixer tape measure calibrating tool.
Once you know your tape is accurate, durability is the next major concern. Most tape measures are capable of surviving dozens, if not hundreds, of drops onto concrete from workbench height. Drops from greater heights are where we begin to see the difference.
To get the best durability, look for a tape measure with at least four connection points on the housing and plenty of overmold to protect it. Also keep an eye open for at least three rivets holding the hook on, nylon coating over the entire blade, and additional coating over the first foot or so.
The best tape measure length is completely dependent on your needs, but we find a 25-foot tape is the best all-around. If you’re looking for something more compact, go with a 16-foot. Go with a 35-foot if you’re consistently measuring more than 25 feet at a time.
Having a good clip can make or break your tape measure experience. After all, when they’re not in our toolboxes or on a workbench, we usually clip tape measures to our belts. The strength of the clip is part of the equation, a design that slides on and off your belt without too much difficulty is the other.
You can test the clip strength in the store by simply pulling on it while it’s in the package. The ease of sliding on and off is a little trickier, but we find that clips with a flare out at the bottom tend to work the best.
If it’s accurate and it’s tough, you just need to be able to read the markings. In searching for the best tape measure, there are some interesting ways to improve visibility. You can go with bolder markings, reverse contrast, or even buck the trend of traditional black and yellow colors. Everyone’s eyes are different, and fortunately, you can easily see the difference for yourself in the store.
Standout and Throw
Manufacturers love to tout the standout of their tape measures and there are plenty of jobsite jokes that go along with it. For our team, standout is important – up until 9′ or so. As long as the standout gets you beyond the length of sheet material, we’re pretty happy. You can definitely make the argument for 10′ – 16′ lumber that you might work with, but you’re sliding the hook over those longer pieces most of the time.
Closely related, but rarely discussed is tape measure throw. Since the goal is to not have to walk from one end of the material to the other, the farther you can throw the tape’s blade, the better. Many Pros throw it out there, then continue extending the blade across the top of the material until it reaches the end. The downside of throwing the blade is that you often give up standout length because of the action.
Ease it out for better standout or throw it out for quicker work? It’s your call. The best tape measure will have a balance of the standout and throw and our Pros like 8 feet as a minimum standard for both. The more the better, though.
A tape measure absolutely has to hook easily on the top and bottom. The best tape measure will give you solid hooking on the sides and even naturally turn so the edge of the blade is flush on your material. For the most part, the larger the hook the better, but you can overdo it. Too much mass will make the hook flip when you’re trying to grab on the side.
Ergonomics on tape measures are less about the weight and more about how naturally they fit in your hand. Since everyone’s hand is different, there are a lot of different opinions about which size feels the best.
Price and Value
It wasn’t all that long ago that paying more than $20 for a tape measure was a lot. Now, premium tapes can cost $30 or more. You certainly get better durability and features at those higher price points, but it’s up to you to decide what’s worth it.
A magnetic hook helps when you’re doing layout or measurement around steel. But there are also times when you might not want it.
Nylon Blade Coating
Nylon coating on the blade helps reduce the amount of wear that eventually starts rusting and peeling away.
Some of the springs in these tape measures will give your finger a pretty good pinch if you’re not careful.
Dual Side Blade Printing
Printing on both sides of the tape is helpful as you’re working around different scenarios.
Love it or hate it, auto lock mechanisms stop the tape as you extend it rather than forcing you to use the thumb lock.
Bonus Markings and Scales
Some of these tapes give you a little more bang for your buck with additional scales for certain applications.
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Since graduating from discounted box store brands(disposable ones) I have used FatMax 16’ tapes(I’m a commercial insulator primarily) and have found it works extremely well for me. The tapes suffer multiple drops from 8 – 12’ ladders and still work perfectly. I tried the Milwaukee Stud 16’ measure(fits with their power tools I have). I liked the double sided markings, the finger brake and the compact size. But, they are NOT a cold weather tape measure. I have had 2(both replaced on warranty) that the protective covering on the back of the tape at the clip has come unstuck at… Read more »
FatMax Extreme was the best tape ever made. Wish I stocked up on them
Every tape you review has tabs on top of the hook, and while that might seem to be a nice ‘feature’ for framing, they are inconvenient when trimming, and utter garbage for siding as they won’t fit into tighter spaces like built-in window channel or inside corner posts. Guess I’m stuck w/ the Stanley Powerlocks until the rest of the industry decides to once again produce a metal tape w/ a regular plain old fashioned hook.
I’m a 30 plus year carpenter. I’ve tried a number of different tapes over the years. Used Stanley lever locks for years but their quality has seemed to have diminished. Recently tried Milwaukee’s but 2 in a row that I had both had the tape rip from relatively easy use. Junk! Now, by the advice of this site I tried the DEWALT. Seriously disappointed. Lock doesn’t work. Won’t stand up(very annoying). Hook catches everything you don’t want it to but doesn’t seem to catch what you want. WASTE OF MONEY!
Stanley’s 33-599 Max Steel was the highest quality 25′ tape I’ve ever had – excellent ergonomics, the blade steel was more durable, possibly thicker stock, 10′ standout while only 1″ wide, they lasted a long, long time, which is probably why they were discontinued. Too bad that quality takes a back seat to price nowadays. I’d gladly pay more for a tape that lasts and works better – bring that model back and I’ll buy a case of them.