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Published Oct. 14, 2021

Whether you’re in construction, an electrician, or a carpenter, or just want to hang a painting straight on your wall, a tape measure is a necessity for your tool box. A tape measure also known as a flexible ruler used to measure size or distance, is one of the most commonly used tools so the question is, are all tape measures created equal? We’re here to tell you, no, they are not. 

At the baseline, the best tape measures not only take accurate measurements but are also durable, easy to extend and retract, whether it’s a manual or lock lever system, and are easy to read. Additional features such as built-in pencil sharpeners and two-sided printing are the cherries on top. For our selection of the best tape measures, read on. 

How we picked the best tape measures

We considered ten brands and 10 products when picking the best tape measures. We took a few factors into consideration when deciding which devices would make the cut: durability, user-friendliness, and added features. We put durability first on our list because tape measures are often used on construction sites and should last a long time. Most have a heavy-duty rubber coating to protect the device should it drop. Additionally, you want the blade to have a coating or BladeArmor to extend its life. 

We considered user-friendly features such as how easy it was to extend and retract the blade, if there was a lock system, and the type of belt clip attached. Many can get quite floppy when extended past a certain point, so we looked for options that avoided that in our selections. For the belt clip, we selected options that are versatile enough for thick belts, pants pockets, and can be mounted on a wall. 

Lastly, additional features such as built-in notepads and pencil sharpeners, double-printed sides, standard and metric measurement systems, and finger stop were all considered when compiling our list of the best tape measures.

The best tape measures: reviews and recommendations

Best tape measure: BOSCH Blaze GLM 50 C Laser Tape Measure

Laser focus

Track measurements to your phone with this laser tape measure. Bosch

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Why it made the cut: The Bosch Blaze GLM 50 C Laser Tape Measure features Bluetooth capability to transfer and store measurements to a phone or tablet via the Bosch app. 

Specs:

  • Weight: 3.52 ounces
  • Measuring Distance: ⅛ inch to 165 feet 
  • Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.8 x 0.9 inches

Pros:

  • Bluetooth connectivity 
  • Upgraded color display 
  • Pocket size design 

Cons: 

  • Expensive 

If you’re looking for the best laser tape measure, the BOSCH Blaze GLM 50 C is a solid choice. This pick measures 165 feet to within one-eighth of an inch, with extreme accuracy; measuring accuracy is plus or minus to within one-sixteenth of an inch. In addition to measuring real-time length that adjusts as you move closer and farther from the target, and length, the built-in inclinometer measures angles, min max and double indirect. 

With Bluetooth connectivity, you can connect this to your phone or tablet via the Bosch free apps, so you can transfer and store any measurements. The upgraded color display with back lighting helps with visibility in dark areas. Plus, this is small and compact in design so it can be easily carried in a pocket or a toolbelt. 

Best value: Komelon Sm5425 Speedmark Gripper Measuring Tape

Analog option

This no-frills tape measure covers all the basics. Komelon

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Why it made the cut: This budget-friendly measuring tape features fractional graduations printed on the blade making it super easy and quick to read. 

Specs: 

  • Weight: 0.7 pounds 
  • Measuring Distance: 25 feet
  • Dimensions: 6.75 inches x 4.5 inches x 2 inches

Pros

  • Fractional graduations
  • Thick rubber jacket for easy grip
  • Non-glare blade 

Cons 

  • Heavy 

The Komelon Sm5425 Speedmark Gripper Measuring Tape features fractional graduations every one-eighth of an inch as well as a non-glare white blade so you can easily read measurements. While this measuring tape is slightly heavy at 0.7 pounds, it is super durable and impact-resistant with its thick rubber housing and comes at a great price. Plus, the ergonomic design offers a comfortable and secure hold. The clip on the back allows you to attach it to a toolbelt while the square base allows it to sit upright. 

The acrylic blade has smooth extension and retraction but note that it can become less sturdy the longer the distance you’re measuring. The SM5425 measures up to 25 feet. There is a locking function for one-handed measuring that does the trick although the locking button can be a bit stubborn.

Best carpenter tape measure: Fastcap ProCarpenter Standard/Metric Tape Measure

Attention to detail

This tape measure allows for precise measurements and comes with an erasable notepad. Fastcap

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Why it made the cut: The Fastcap ProCarpenter Standard/Metric Tape Measure features metric and standard measurements with markings down to one-sixteenth of an inch and millimeter. 

Specs:

  • Weight: 0.2 pounds 
  • Measuring Distance: 16 feet
  • Dimensions: 

Pros:

  • Standard and metric measurements 
  • Pencil sharpener 
  • Rugged and compact design 

Cons: 

  • Retract mechanism not powerful 

The Fastcap ProCarpenter Standard/Metric Tape Measure has great features that make taking measurements easy for carpenters and non-carpenters alike. With both standard and metric measurements on the tape measure, you won’t have to switch up depending on what you need measurements for. Additionally, measurements are accurate with markings down to one-sixteenth of an inch and millimeter. The dual-locking system allows for the tape to stay in place but some have found the retract mechanism could use some work and that it’s easier to manually push it back in. 

With a built-in pencil sharpener and erasable notepad, you can write down your measurements to remember them. Plus, the high-contrast tape makes taking measurements quick and easy. The heavy-duty belt clip is a huge plus because not only is there a thumb lever to pinch the hook open to attach to thick belts or pants pockets, but it also has two holes so it can be mounted to a wall or workbench. 

Best tape measure for electricians: Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure

Extra protection

This tape measure comes with magnets for on-the-job precision and durable features that are made to withstand falls. Milwaukee

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Why it made the cut: With blade-coating protection, the Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure is built to endure on the job. Plus, its five-point reinforced frame provides protection if dropped. 

Specs:

  • Weight: 0.01 pounds 
  • Measuring Distance: 25 Feet
  • Dimensions: ‎4.75 inches x 2.75 inches x 7 inches

Pros:

  • Nylon blade protection
  • Wire form belt clip
  • Finger stop 

Cons: 

  • Expensive 

The Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure features nylon blade coating protection for up to 10 times longer blade life. Durable rubber bumpers on the outside of the case and a five-point reinforced frame provides impact protection if you drop it. This tape also comes with dual magnets that securely attach to EMT (electric metallic tubing) sticks and steel studs. An innovative feature is the finger stop placed near the hook, which helps to protect your fingers when the blade retracts. It also comes with a belt clip for easy access. 

Measuring out at 25 feet in length and 1.83 inches, this should meet most of any electrician’s needs, although it is rather wide for its size. For easy and quick measurement reading, there is two-side printed and is in one-sixteenth-inch graduations. 

Best construction tape measure: Stanley FATMAX Auto-Lock Tape Measure

Versatile and customizable

This pick comes with an auto-lock feature to preserve measurements and protective features that make it ideal for construction work. Stanley

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Why it made the cut: The durable high-impact case with non-slip rubber and full tape blade coating make the Stanley FATMAX Auto-Lock Tape Measure a great option for any construction site. 

Specs:

  • Weight: 1.2 pounds 
  • Measuring Distance: 16 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet 
  • Dimensions: ‎7.1  x 4.6 x 2.3 inches

Pros:

  • Durable rubber case 
  • BladeArmor coating
  • Large font numbers 

Cons: 

  • Heavy 

The Stanley FATMAX Auto-Lock Tape Measure is offered in three different lengths, 16 feet, 25 feet, and 30 feet, to accommodate your needs on the job or at home. The AutoLock feature and the 14 feet of reach allow you to easily measure lengths and widths if you’re on your own as it automatically holds the blade in place when extended. Plus, the AutoLock provides precision and control during tape blade extension, measurement, and retraction. Should you not want to use the AutoLock, you also have the option of manual mode for speed marking. Reading and taking measurements are easy due to the large size of the number.

The high-impact rubber case prevents any damage should the tool be dropped. Protective full tape blade coating and added BladeArmor at the hook extends the life of the tape against repeated use and abrasion. Finally, the hook can be stored inside of the tape measure when not in use so it doesn’t snag on anything. 

Things to consider when buying a tape measure

Laser v. standard

While you may only need the features of a regular tape measure for your work, laser tape measures offer better accuracy and can measure further distances but can also be recalibrated. They also provide the option of measuring area, volume and even triangular shapes. Small and compact in size and design, laser tape measures are easy to carry around. Additionally, some have Bluetooth connectivity so you can document measurements via an app. While they are more expensive, they do have more advanced features.

Standard or metric measurements

When looking for the best tape measure to add to your toolbox, first decide whether you need your measurements to be in the standard or metric system. There are some that have one or the other, or both, so double check when you make your purchase.

Cost

If you’re on a budget, you should have no problem finding a great tape measure. Most are very affordable. Double check to ensure the tape you select has the features you want whether it’s a rubber casing, a nylon blade, or a lock lever. If you want a laser or digital tape measure, they can get quite expensive.

FAQs

Q: Are there different types of tape measures?

Yes, there are four different types of tape measures: case, long or open-reel tapes, diameter tape and sewing tapes. They are sold in different lengths, depending on your needs, and can be made of flexible cloth, metal or fiberglass ribbon.

Q: How much do tape measures cost?

Tape measures can cost anywhere between $10 and $125, depending on the quality, brand, features, and length.

Q: Are cheap tape measures accurate?

Cheap measuring tapes are unclassified, meaning their accuracy can’t be traced to any known standard. Most professional measuring tapes are Class 2 and the highest level of accuracy available are considered Class 1.

Final thoughts

When sorting out which tape measure to add to your toolbox, first consider the type that will best fit your needs, regular or laser, budget and whether you want one with standard or metric measurements. After that, consider any additional features that will help to make your job easier. Once you do, those pictures will never hang crooked again.

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