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Best Magnetic Tape Measure Shootout!


Who makes the best magnetic tape measure? Great question. When it comes to tape measures, we’ve looked at traditional models before. What’s becoming more popular in almost every sector are magnetic tape measures. They combine the functionality of traditional measure with the same level of accuracy on the blade. Then they add the ability to stick to any ferrous material which adds a huge measure of convenience around those materials. As a bonus, the magnets are typically strong enough to double the tape as a magnetic pick up tool, which several companies openly list in their features. Finding the best magnetic tape measure in a shootout seemed, in our minds, the next logical thing to do.

We brought in 6 magnetic tape measures from Hart, Klein, Lufkin, Malco, Milwaukee, and Stanley at the 25′ length. There are certainly other sizes out there that we could have chosen from. However, 25 is a popular length for a magnetic tape measure, but it tends to have some added frustration. We want to see if having a magnet will lead to being able to use the entire length of the tape without having to have a second pair of hands to help you out.

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Adjusting the Best Magnetic Tape Measure for Accuracy

One of the biggest issues in creating a magnetic tape measure tang is accuracy. How are you supposed to keep the measurement accurate when you are now measuring from the opposite side of the hook? Even though it is a very small width in most cases, most of the companies that we are looking at are very concerned about the accuracy of their tapes. If you’re going to declare the best magnetic tape measure, it needs to be accurate. For our evaluation, we used a Lixer Master Gage Block.

lixer tool master gage block

Another way to deal with the issues is simply to have a known amount that you need to subtract from your measurement to compensate. Grabbing on the outside of the tang adds the thickness of it to your total measurement, so that needs to be deducted. Malco requires you to subtract 1/16″ and Lufkin requires a 1/8″ deduction. Curiously, I couldn’t find any instruction on Klein’s magnetic tape measure, but I measured it to be a 1/8″ deduction. It’s important to know that you only need to do the subtraction when you’re using the magnetic side of the tang. For normal hook use, simply measure as you always have.

Look, Ma, No Math!

I don’t know too many people out there that enjoy subtracting fractions. For those, there is another way to compensate for using the outside of the tang. Hart, Milwaukee, and Stanley have all designed their hooks to be mathematics free (and there was much rejoicing!). To do this, the magnet and hook are separate pieces. The tang itself pulls out slightly for an accurate measurement when being used traditionally. When using the magnetic end, the attraction of the magnet pushes the tang in flush. This way, no matter which way you use the magnetic tape measure, you get an accurate measurement.

Stand Out Reconsidered

You can’t talk about the best magnetic tape measure without addressing standout. This is true even when the focus is on magnetic tapes. I looked at the standout distance of all 6 tapes like any good evaluation would. However, what I was really interested in was whether the magnets were strong enough to hold onto the full 25′ distance. I was hoping that they would all be able to meet that requirement.

Horizontal Standout Length

  •  Stanley Fat Max: 10’6″
  • Hart: 9’0″
  • Milwaukee: 8’10”
  • Malco: 7’8″
  • Lufkin: 7’3″
  • Klein: 7’1″

Stanley Fat Max Standout

I’m going to go on record as saying that I think horizontal standout length is one of the more useless tests you can do. Yes, everyone wants to know who’s got the best. However, there’s so much bow in the tape at that point that the measurement itself is statistically invalid. There is one good reason for the standout: if you need to hook the end of the material without being able to reach it. Having said all that, is anyone really surprised that the Stanley Fat Max won?

Magnetic Horizontal Standout Length (Painted Steel)

  • Klein: 25′ +
  • Malco: 25′ +
  • Stanley: 25′
  • Lufkin: 22’9″
  • Hart: 19’0″
  • Milwaukee: 18’4″

Klein Max Standout

Again, this is more of a bragging rights kind of measurement than anything substantial. The ability to standout using the magnet(s) is more than a measure of magnet strength. It’s also a function of how much weight there is on the blade. I noticed that the blades from Milwaukee and Stanley were significantly heavier than the others. Klein’s magnets were clearly the strongest of the group. The two square rare earth magnets held strong enough for me to eliminate all but an inch or two of droop in the blade.

One thing that surprised me was how much less unsupported standout the Hart and Milwaukee tape measures had. Remember the fantastic non-subtraction tang that I mentioned earlier on those two? At first, I thought I was looking at an issue with the strength of the magnets. As it turns out, it’s actually that style of tang that seems to let them down before the others.

Impressive Holding Power

To their credit, every one of the magnetic tape measures was able to get a full 25 foot run on non-painted, thick gauge steel. The obvious difference in the holding strength of those magnets is what led me to see what they would do on a painted surface since those conditions lend themselves to a weaker hold.

All of the magnetic tape measures tested were easily able to stretch to their 25′ length when supported horizontally. All of them were also able to support their own weight vertically and could reach a full magnetic 25′ vertical standout.

At the End of the Line

Aside from containing a magnet and acting as a hook, the tang at the each of these magnetic tapes has the ability to limit or enhance its versatility. Klein, Milwaukee, and Stanley (sort of) are all double hook designs. This means that in non-ferrous applications, they can hook from either the top or bottom.

Milwaukee’s tang was the most substantial and versatile of the entire group. I was able to hook the end of my material on 8 separate spots on the tang: top, bottom, both sides, and all 4 corners. Very impressive! I had 4 connection points with Klein’s at the top, bottom, and bottom two corners. Stanley offered three solid points on the bottom of the tang and two very sketchy ones on the top. If the magnet wasn’t in the way, it likely would have given me better top hooking points.

Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure

For the single hook tape measures, only Malco’s had anything over and above the basics worth mentioning. Their design is wider than the blade, meaning that you’ve got solid points to hook on the left, right, and bottom two corners as well as the basic bottom hook.

For my money, I really want to have a good left and right connection in case I’m reaching and can’t see the top of the tape in a natural position. However, for the double printed blades, I expect to have a solid connection when I flip the tape over so that I can actually read the reverse side. This is especially true when there is additional information, like blueprint scales or cabinetry markings on the down side. Hart was the only double printed blade that didn’t offer a double hook design.

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Other Notable Features Worth Considering

The best magnetic tape measure doesn’t need to be fancy. Still, some extra features are nice to have. Others are simply hype. Once in a while, you get a feature that really pops out at you and makes you take notice. Here are some of those that I found.

Hart and Milwaukee each use a wire belt clip that I liked a lot more than the standard ones. I felt like they were less threatening to damage my belt yet were able to hold stronger. You’ll notice the blade printing is also very similar, almost identical in fact, in these two magnetic tape measures. With both companies living under the TTI (Techtronic Industries) umbrella, there’s clearly some shared design ideas here.

Magnetic Tape Measure Belt Clips

Klein has very clearly marked and very easy to read fractions every 1/8″ on their tape measure. This takes the guesswork or counting individual marks out of the equation.

Klein Magnetic Tape Measure

Lufkin bucks the trend in tape measures by offering 1/32″ marks on their tape as opposed to the 1/16″ of the others.

Lufkin Magnetic Tape Measure

Milwaukee has a dual magnet system in place, but not two on the end of the tang. Their second magnet is on the bottom of the blade. This helps keep the magnetic tape measure holding well on round ferrous materials like steel pipe.

Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure

Conclusions

When it comes to finding the best magnetic tape measure, accuracy is still key. That leaves Hart, Milwaukee, and Stanley a notch above the other from the start due to their ability to rationalize inside vs. outside tang measurements with no math to do or fractions to memorize. Holding ability is the reason that we started looking at magnetic tape measures to begin with. Klein runs away with the strongest hold with Malco and Stanley at least within sight of them.

Klein Magnetic Tape Measure

Functionally, Milwaukee gives me the greatest number of solid connection points on the tang, which is enhanced by the second magnet. Klein also does a nice job with making their tang versatile as well. I really like the fact that I have a blade brake on the Hart and Milwaukee models. While Hart’s brake button is well positioned, I actually liked the finger stop of Milwaukee’s a little better. I felt like I had more control and it’s positioned to keep the edge of the blade from running against your finger. When it comes down to it, the best magnetic tape measure is going to be easy to manipulate.

Ergonomics Matter

Ergonomically, I didn’t really hate any of the models. All of them made it possible to use any of the functions one handed without a problem. Klein’s blade lock was the easiest to use both locking and unlocking without feeling like I had to overreach with my thumb to make it work. Everyone’s hand is going to be a different size, and mine are on the smaller side. Malco’s more compact design fit the best in my hand with Klein being a close second.

Malco Grip

Durability is definitely a consideration for several of these tapes. The best magnetic tape measure will have rubber overmolding for protection. Indeed, this helped out most of the models. Several also had nylon coated blades while the Stanley Fat Max has a combination of coatings. Milwaukee boasts a 5 point reinforced frame. All of them have a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. While several are in the mix, I came away feeling the best about Milwaukee when it came to durability.

Magnetic Tape Measure

The Best Magnetic Tape Measures – Tool by Tool

Hart 25′ Tape Measure with Blade Brake

Hart Magnetic Tape Measure

  • Model: HTM25
  • Double Sided Print
  • Blade Brake
  • Architectural Scale: 1/8″ and 1/4″ Scale
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Price: $13
  • Available Spring 2015

The Hart magnetic tape measures aren’t out yet, but will be soon. The combination of features, some of which are shared with its distant cousin from Milwaukee, and price are tough to beat. It would benefit from a stronger magnet and a double hook tang to make better use of both printed sides. At just $13, Hart is our value winner.

Klein 25′ Magnetic Tape Measure

Klein Magnetic Tape Measure

  • Model: 93225
  • Double Sided Print
  • Rubber Overmold
  • Nylon Coated Blade
  • Price: $20.99
  • Lifetime Warranty

There’s a lot of good things to say about Klein’s magnetic tape measure. Printed fractions and the strongest magnets are the most obvious highlights. I’d like to see Klein add a solution that will eliminate having to subtract 1/8″ on the magnetic measurements to give it a shot at the top spot. This is my runner up of the overall favorites.

Malco 25′ Magnetic Tip Tape Measure

Malco Magnetic Tape Measure

  • Model: T425M
  • Single Sided Print
  • Nylon Coated Blade
  • Rubber Overmold
  • Price: $18.33
  • Lifetime Warranty

Malco puts together a nice tape that keeps it in the mid range of both features and price. There is enough rubber overmold around it to protect the tape and enhance the grip. This is a solid choice for the pro that is looking for durability over features to keep the price down.

Milwaukee 25′ Magnetic Tape Measure

Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure

  • Model: 48-22-5125A
  • Included Free 16′ Model
  • Double Sided Print
  • Architectural Scale: 1/8″ and 1/4″ Scales
  • Finger Blade Stop
  • Dual Magnets
  • Price: $24.97
  • Lifetime Warranty

Milwaukee just about has it all when it comes to features. The only thing I would really like to see here is either a second or stronger magnet in the tang. The combination of features, durability, and the fact that it comes with its 16′ younger brother makes this my favorite of the bunch. As long as The Home Depot is still carrying that two pack, this will be the one I tell my friends to go pick up. Heck, even after they’re out of those, I’ll still be telling my friends to get this one.

Lufkin 25′ Hi-Viz Magnetic End Hook Tape Measure

Lufkin Magnetic Tape Measure

  • Model: L725MAG
  • Single Sided Print
  • 1/32″ Markings
  • Hi-Viz Orange
  • Rubber Overmolded Grip
  • Price: $9.97
  • Lifetime Warranty

If you’re looking for the best magnetic tape measure at a bargain price, this is it. You’ll receive a bonus in that this is the only tape of the group to offer 1/32″ markings. It’s also Hi-Vis orange, so you’re not likely to lose it on the jobsite.

Stanley Fat Max 25′ Magnetic Tape Measure

Stanley Fat Max Magnetic Tape Measure

  • Model: FMHT33865
  • Single Sided Print
  • Blade Armor Coated Blade
  • Mylar Polyester Coated Blade
  • Rubber Overmold
  • 1-1/4″ Blade Width
  • Price: $22.97
  • Lifetime Warranty

The Stanley Fat Max is a perennial winner of tape measure comparisons for good reason. It’s an all around solid, durable tape measure. It’s two pronged attack on durability with both Blade Armor and Mylar coatings on the blade help it a lot. The extra 1/4″ width of the blade gives it more standout ability than any of it’s competition. I’d like to see them add keep up with Milwaukee by printing the bottom of the blade and making the tang more substantial. There’s really isn’t anything to complain about when it comes to the features that it already has.

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12 Comments on "Best Magnetic Tape Measure Shootout!"

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Mike
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I bought one of the Milwaukees when they first came out and liked it a lot, though it was heavy enough to be annoying wearing it all day. Unfortunately, the tape broke after a few months when the side of the extra-wide tang got snagged on something when I was measuring in a tight space. $25 up in smoke. Oh, well. BTW, the Malco seems to be identical to the old model Klein I bought maybe 15 years ago. It’s a really good tape measure.

Clint DeBoer
Admin

Good feedback. Did you check if they’d replace it for you? You never know. I like the Klein tapes, too (I’ll have to check out Malco).

Mark Earnheart
Guest

If you look at the third from the left and I think that’s the one

Mark Earnheart
Guest

None of them tapes can measage up sure to the FatMax 11 foot bend anyone that knows a tape measure knows what I’m talking about and for those who don’t that means you can extend your tape at 11 feet before it bends

Deron Monroe
Guest

Is there a warning about getting a rare earth magnet near your cell phone?

Don Davis
Guest

I like the 18″ markings on the Klein model

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