Best Tape Measures: Get Precise and Easy-to-Read Measurements
Measure twice and cut once with these dependable and high-quality tape measures
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
BY Scott Roepel / LAST UPDATED ON May 25, 2021
A tape measure is a tool that everyone should have in their homes. You could eyeball the length of an item, but knowing its exact measurements will save you time and money. The tool makes hanging frames, posters, and paintings much simpler and cutting or trimming clothes a breeze. Check out these excellent tape measures that will help you get the job done.
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Tape Measures
- Versatile. Tape measures are ideal for all kinds of applications. They can be used for commercial purposes as well as for home projects. Whether you want to find trusses on the roof or hang a picture in your room, a tape measure will help you get the job done.
- Easy to use. Another great thing about this hand tool type is that it allows you to take measurements with ease. A tape measure is a compact and easily maneuverable tool. You get to transport it in your pocket and measure around corners and curves.
- Durable. The tool is also built to last. It's sturdy and durable, which means you can use it for both light and challenging projects. You don't even need to use batteries or other power sources. Due to its simplicity, a tape measure is likely to last for a long time.
Types of Tape Measures
Cased Tape Measures
These are the most popular tape measures on the market. They feature a versatile design and therefore, prove to be ideal for all kinds of applications. Cased tape measures accommodate the blade on a rubber or metal holder. The blade is actually a measuring strip made of metal or fiberglass. It wraps around the holder and retracts into the housing, which means the tool is compact and easy to use. Most people opt for this type because they get to use it everywhere, from home to construction sites.
Long or Open-Reel Tape Measures
Long tape measures got their name because they extend from 25 to 500 feet in length. They are primarily used by engineers, contractors, and builders. Because of their impressive length, long tape measures are ideal for demanding projects that need more versatility.
The open-reel name for these tape measures comes from the design of the case. These tools have a hand crank you need to use for retracting the measuring strip.
Diameter Tape Measures
Diameter tape measures are very similar to a cased type, but they feature a more flexible blade. The strip is made of cloth or soft metal that wraps around pipes and other circular objects with ease. That makes diameter tape measures ideal for calculating the circumference and diameter of different objects. Additionally, this tape measure type comes in different lengths and proves to be quite versatile.
Milwaukee was founded back in 1924, and its headquarters are located in Brookfield, Wis. It all started with the production of basic hand tools such as pliers, hand saws, and drills. Today, Milwaukee is a widely popular company that offers a wide range of power tools, instruments, and accessories. When it comes to tape measures, the Milwaukee Stud Tape Measure is one of the best options available on the market.
Craftsman is a trusted brand among both professionals and handypersons. We are talking about a company that offers hand and power tools, outdoor equipment, workwear, accessories, and much more. It was founded in 1927 and has remained one of the first choices on the market ever since. CRAFTSMAN Tape Measure made it to our list as one of the most reliable and efficient options at the moment.
Tape Measures Pricing
- Under $10: Inexpensive tape measures mostly extend up to 16 feet. They might lack some extra features such as automatic locks but are highly accurate and efficient. They are ideal for home purposes and light projects.
- $10-$45: For some extra cash, you can get tape measures that extend up to 100 feet. These also offer robust and more durable casings for commercial use.
Not all tape measures are the same. Some are large and wide, and others are rather compact and narrow. Which one would work best for you mostly depends on your personal needs and preferences. Most amateurs opt for small tape measures because they are easy to operate and are highly portable. Large tools, on the other hand, are ideal for commercial purposes. They can withstand heavy abuse and ensure more durability.
When choosing a tape measure, it's important to consider the hook type. Some tools have small end hooks that hook over an object and allow for reading the measurements from above. They are mostly inexpensive alternatives to pricey tools with multi-directional end hooks. These versatile tape measures allow you to hook the tape onto objects above and below as well as to the side of an object. If you're working alone, you might want to consider adding some extra cash for multi-directional end hooks. They make life easier.
It might seem that all tape measures offer the same level of accuracy, but that's not the case. Most cheap models found in local hardware stores are not even tested for accuracy. To avoid getting an inaccurate tool, look for the class specification. Tools that are not tested for accuracy will have a label ‘unclassified’ on the housing or the box. Tested tape measures fall into three categories, with Class III offering the lowest level of accuracy and Class I ensuring the best accuracy you can get.
If you want to get a reliable and durable tool, it's also crucial to consider the blade material. Most tape measures offer steel blades. They are strong, durable, and budget-friendly, which makes them a perfect option for handypersons. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is pricier and softer but proves to be ideal for working in demanding weather conditions. Lastly, fiberglass is used for blades on long tape measures designed for commercial purposes. The material is flexible and durable at the same time, offering resistance to all kinds of threats.
Therefore, pick the blade type that is suitable for your particular application. You don't have to opt for the most robust and durable blade if you're not working in challenging conditions.
- Case Design. The case design is another thing you might want to consider when buying tape measures. Closed cases are highly protected against dirt, water, and other outside threats. They are usually rather compact too. Open-reel tapes are exposed to the elements but more robust and ideal for muddy environments. That's because the measuring strip is made of easy-to-clean materials.
- Locking Mechanism. Although most newly designed tape measures feature locking mechanisms, don't forget to double-check each particular model. This feature is super useful because it prevents the blade from retracting to the case. There are two main types of locks: the conventional one that allows for locking the blade manually and the auto-lock one that automatically grips the blade at all lengths.
Best Tape Measures Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Have a pen and paper nearby when using a tape measure. While you may be able to remember a single measurement, multiple measurements can get confusing and you will want to make sure everything is correct.
- It may be easier to have a second person to help measure something that is too long for you to reach. While the hook at the end of the tape is helpful, it may not be able to attach to everything.
- You can use the built-in locking mechanism to hold the tape measure in place while you inspect its length. Locking it allows you to make a mark more easily without worrying about it retracting.
Q: Why is the tape measure tape curved?
A: Its concave design helps it maintain and hold its shape when extended. Without it, the tape would just fall straight to the ground.
Q: How long is a standard tape measure?
A: Most tape measures expand up to 25 feet in length. If you need to measure further than that, you can find industrial ones with more tape.
Q: I can barely read the numbers on the tape. What do I do?
A: If you have a difficult time reading numbers and letters, you can find tape measures with wider tape. Typically, the tape will be between one and two inches wide.
For convenience and extra functions to help you measure, consider the eTape Digital Electronic Tape Measure.
Or check out the Komelon Speed Mark Gripper Acrylic Coated Steel Blade Measuring Tape for a sturdy and easy-to-grasp tape measure at a cheaper price.