clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

5 Best Tape Measures of 2023 (Tested and Ranked)

An accurate tape measure is essential for many home projects. The This Old House Reviews Team tested the top tape measures on the market to help you choose the best option for your needs.

tape measure extended on a wood plank on the ground Workshop Media

In This Review: Our Testing Experience | Komelon Self-Lock Power Tape | Craftsman Self-Lock Tape Measure | Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure | Stanley FatMax Tape Rule | eTape16 Digital Tape Measure | Buying Guide | Tips for Using a Tape Measure | FAQ | How We Tested

Tape measures are a necessity in every basic tool kit. They can measure the size of a room and provide you with the center point on a wall to hang a picture. As technology becomes more advanced, so do tape measures. You can now buy a standard tape measure with a blade you read manually or a digital one that takes measurements for you. To decide which type of tape measure is best for your needs, we researched and tested the top tape measures to find the best product.

Our Testing Experience

Our team has been reviewing products, conducting testing, and creating resources for homeowners for over six years. We take pride in our testing process, which we carefully customize to produce the most helpful information for homeowners.

For tape measures, we examined the following factors:

  • User experience: We evaluated each tape measure for the comfortability of the ergonomic grip, feed action of the blade, readability of the numbers and distance indicators, and user-friendliness of the locking mechanism.
  • Length and blade standout: We considered the maximum distance each product could measure. We then tested the maximum distance each tape measure blade could extend (or “stand out”) before folding.
  • Fundamental features: We evaluated each tape measure for the quality and feel of the blade, sturdiness and flexibility of the belt clip, reliability and stability of the metal hook (or tang), and design of the lock button.
  • Additional features: During testing, we considered optional features and how they affected the tape measure’s functionality. We looked at whether the blade was self-locking or manual-locking and how easy it was to read the indicators. We also considered if it offered imperial and metric units of measurement or just imperial units and if it was electronic.
  • Price and warranty: Most tape measures cost between $10 and $50. In this guide, we tried to include a high-quality, warranty-backed option for every budget.

Overall, our top picks for best tape measure are the Komelon Self-Lock Power Tape for everyday use and the Stanley FatMax Tape Rule for heavy-duty use. We recommend the Craftsman Self-Lock Tape Measure if you need to make exact measurements.

Top 5 Tape Measures


Best Value: Komelon SL2825 Self-Lock Power Tape

User Experience: 5/5 | Length and Blade Standout: 2/5 | Fundamental Features: 5/5 | Additional Features: 2/5 | Price and Warranty: 4/5

Komelon Self-Lock Power Tape isolated on a white background

Komelon Self-Lock Power Tape

  • $10

Prices taken at time of publishing.

At an affordable price, this highly effective tape measure rated the highest possible score in our tests for grip and locking. Its locking mechanism is easy to pull back without needing to move your finger out of the way. It features a sturdy clip and can measure up to 25 feet.

Courtesy Amazon

Our Testing Experience

We found this tape measure to be one of the most effective during our tests. It scored highly in standout, as the blade automatically stayed in place once it was pulled out without snapping back. The recoiling button was simple and user-friendly, and it felt comfortable in our hands. While the device required some coaxing to reel the blade back in, it was overall highly efficient. The tape measure featured a high-quality clip. We docked points for its lack of metric measurements and because it didn’t extend as far as some other tape measures.

In fact, one of our testers liked this tape measure so much that they bought it for their own tool collection at home.

Pros and Cons

✔ Auto-locks, meaning it locks without the user having to push the lever down
✔ Features an easy-to-use recoiling button in a user-friendly position
✔ Has a comfortable grip and a rubberized case

✘ Extends less far than some heavy-duty tape measures
✘ Does not have metric measurements or fractions

What Customers Are Saying

Positive customer reviews noted that this product produced accurate measurements and was easy to read. Many stated that it was well-made, especially considering its affordable price. Negative customer reviews said the measurements were not specific enough, and others said the locking mechanism jammed.


Best for Exact Measurements: Craftsman Self-Lock Tape Measure

User Experience: 5/5 | Length and Blade Standout: 2/5 | Fundamental Features: 3/5 | Additional Features: 2/5 | Price and Warranty: 5/5

Craftsman CMHT37216S Tape Measure isolated on a white background

Craftsman Self-Lock Tape Measure

  • $13

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This tape measure has an excellent self-locking feature and extends up to 25 feet. It has easy-to-read measurements and is particularly effective at measuring long distances. It also includes fractions printed on the line, allowing you to get exact measurements.

Courtesy Amazon

Our Testing Experience

This 25-foot Craftsman tape measure performed well in most of our tests. It self-locked immediately after being pulled out, a standout feature that not every tape measure had. It also has smooth and intuitive reel-in action and is particularly effective for measuring long distances thanks to its easy-to-read and precise measurements.

Pros and Cons

✔ Lists fractions for specific measurements
✔ Features a self-locking feature that keeps the blade in place
✔ Has its locking mechanism located away from the measurer to avoid accidents

✘ Has a clip that feels flimsy and small
✘ Isn’t ideal for short distances

What Customers Are Saying

Positive reviews said the tape measure was easy to read and provided good value. Other reviews highlighted its locking mechanism and its specific measurements. However, negative reviews criticized this model for not being sturdy enough and for its heaviness.


Best Magnetic: Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure

User Experience: 5/5 | Length and Blade Standout: 4/5 | Fundamental Features: 4/5 | Additional Features: 1/5 | Price and Warranty: 3/5

Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure isolated on a white background

Milwaukee Magnetic Tape Measure

  • $43

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This tape measure is impressive due to its long readout, smooth locking mechanism, and useful magnetic hook design. It features a convenient finger stop that ensures you won’t get hit when the line recedes. It also has a sturdy and durable clip.

Courtesy Amazon

Our Testing Experience

This tape measure stood out during our tests for its magnetic hook, long extension, and excellent grip. Our testers liked its finger stop, which helped them avoid accidents while operating the device. However, its lack of an auto-lock feature was disappointing. The belt clip also received a low score.

Pros and Cons

✔ Is heavy-duty and drop resistant
✔ Has a magnetic design that allows for more convenient measuring
✔ Features a useful finger stop

✘ Has a difficult-to-open clip
✘ Doesn’t automatically lock

What Customers Are Saying

Customers who liked this tape measure commented on its large, easy-to-read numbers, durable design, and magnetism. However, those who were let down by this product said that the packaging was particularly difficult to remove, and others said it folded too easily.


Best Heavy-Duty: Stanley FatMax Tape Rule

User Experience: 3/5 | Length and Blade Standout: 4/5 | Fundamental Features: 3/5 | Additional Features: 1/5 | Price and Warranty: 3/5

Stanley FatMax Tape Rule isolated on a white background

Stanley FatMax Tape Rule

  • $28

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This tape measure extends up to 35 feet and is great for heavy-duty actions and long distances, such as when working in a construction job site. It received high marks for its intuitive clip design and its large numbers that are easy to read even from a distance.

Courtesy Amazon

Our Testing Experience

The heavy-duty Stanley FatMax tape measure stood out for its ability to extend up to 35 feet, more than any other tape measure we tested. It self-locks once you extend it far enough, making it ideal for long distances. It had one of the best clips, which was sturdy and dexterous for tool belts. However, we found the locking mechanism inconvenient and difficult to push down.

Pros and Cons

✔ Extends up to 35 feet
✔ Self-locks when fully extended
✔ Has a sturdy, compact clip

✘ Isn’t good for measuring short distances
✘ Has a difficult-to-use locking mechanism

What Customers Are Saying

Customers who were happy with this product said it was easy to read, long-lasting, and durable in tough conditions. However, others found it difficult to handle during retraction. Others found the tape flimsy.


Best Digital Display: eTape16 Digital Tape Measure

User Experience: 2/5 | Length and Blade Standout: 3/5 | Fundamental Features: 2/5 | Additional Features: 2/5 | Price and Warranty: 1/5

eTape16 Digital Tape Measure isolated on a white background

eTape16 Digital Tape Measure

  • $40

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This tape measure had the best display of any tape measure we tested, showing exact measurements on an easy-to-see digital screen that updated instantly as you moved the device in or out. It also allows you to swap between imperial and metric measurements.

Courtesy Amazon

Our Testing Experience

This tape measure is great for those who want the convenience of seeing measurements of various increments digitally displayed without having to look at the tape manually. This product features both inches and centimeters; it was the only measure we reviewed that had metric measurements. However, we found the locking mechanism inefficient and challenging to use, and the clip was overly small and tight.

Pros and Cons

✔ Has a digital display so you can easily see the measurements
✔ Can measure both imperial and metric systems
✔ Features side buttons to switch between measurement units and memorize specific measurements

✘ Has a difficult-to-use locking mechanism
✘ Can’t measure long distances

What Customers Are Saying

Satisfied customers said this digital tape measure was easy to read and accurate. Many noted its durable build. However, negative reviews said that the digital display failed after a short period of time and that the blade couldn’t be pulled out quickly without causing glitches on the display.


Buying Guide for Tape Measures

In addition to choosing between a standard and digital tape measure, take the following tape measure features into account before making a purchase.

Blade Length

Most blades range in length from six to 100 feet. Before purchasing a tape measure, consider what tasks you’ll need it for to ensure you pick one that has a long enough reach.

Blade Width

Blades are typically between 0.25 and 1.25 inches in width. The wider the blade, the further you’ll be able to extend it unsupported before it curves.

Measurement System

Depending on the measurement system you prefer to use, you’ll want a measuring tool that measures in centimeters or inches. You can find double-sided tape measures that have a measurement system on each side or digital models that can switch between systems.

Durability

Your tape measure’s blade should be coated in nylon to protect it from normal wear and tear. The case should be rubberized to prevent the plastic body from cracking if it’s dropped.


Tips for Using a Tape Measure

Using a tape measure may seem simple, but there are some important tips and tricks to keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the most accurate readings. Here are some things to remember the next time you use a tape measure.

  • When measuring, try to keep the tape measure as straight as possible to ensure you get an accurate reading.
  • If you own more than one tape measure and are trying to find the exact center point of a piece of wood or other material, pull one tape measure across from one side and one from the other side. Find the point at which the measurements match to determine the true center.
  • You can use a tape measure like a ruler to draw straight lines. Simply hook the tab onto a table ledge and lock the tape into the desired length of your line. From there, use a pencil to draw along the edge of the tape.
  • If you are a solo DIYer and don’t have an extra set of hands available, you can use the small hole in the front of a hook table on most tape measures called a nail notch to hook onto a nail or screw. This will keep it in place so you can pull from the other side and get a measurement.
  • When you’re done using the tape measure, don’t let it slam back into the housing at full speed. Instead, place your finger on the bottom of the tape below the housing to act as a buffer. Or, if your tape measure offers speed control when recoiling, reel it in as slowly as possible.
  • To ensure you never lose your tape measure, you can perform a small DIY project to connect it to a magnetic surface. For more information on how to do this, check out the video below from This Old House’s Tom Silva.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tape Measures

What is a brake or lock on a tape measure?

A brake is a button on a tape measure that you can hold down to keep the blade extended. A lock is a similar feature, except the blade remains extended without you having to keep your finger on a button. Some tape measures are self-locking.

What does the hook on a tape measure do?

The end hook on a tape measure allows you to anchor the end of the blade on a seam or edge. This is helpful if you’re measuring something without assistance. Some hooks are magnetic, allowing you to keep the tip in place by attaching it to metal.

How long does my tape measure need to be if I only use it for occasional household tasks?

If you only use your tape measure to hang the occasional picture frame, you likely only need a 16-foot blade.


Who This Guide Is For

If you’re a first-time DIYer working on a woodworking project, a seasoned contractor, or somewhere in between, a tape measure will be an essential component of your toolkit. Our Reviews Team tested a variety of tape measures, including a heavy-duty construction tape measure, a tape measure with a digital readout, and a couple of all-purpose tape measures.


How We Selected Tape Measures

To provide our readers with the best product recommendations possible, we rely on several key sources of information to help guide our selection process.

Initial research: Our research process began by generating a list of tape measures with a significant number of verified-buyer reviews and an average customer review rating of 4–5 stars. We looked at positive and negative reviews alike, focusing on information from both satisfied and critical buyers.

We also took into account how durable each product type should be to serve its intended purpose for several years or more. Finally, we used that information to help us evaluate whether each manufacturer’s warranty coverage was adequate and trustworthy.

Expert insights: Through our years of experience, we’ve learned that listening to what others have to say is key to building accurate, well-rounded articles. To complement our in-house expertise, our team looked at reviews and videos from trusted publications and independent testers, spoke with subject matter experts, and drew insights from reader contributions.

Final product selection: We then began fine-tuning our list by replacing older models with the latest versions and eliminating any discontinued models. From there, we pared the list down further by comparing each model’s feature-set and selecting the best-in-class options for a variety of buyers, budgets, and scenarios.


Our Testing Process

Our reviews team rigorously tested each tape measure in the final lineup you see here. At the end of the day, our goal is to recommend products that provide our readers with the best overall user experience in a fair, balanced, and transparent way.

During testing, we evaluated each item for the following:

  • User-friendliness
  • Overall performance
  • Bonus features and components
  • Areas for improvement and potential deal-breakers

Why You Can Trust Us

This Old House has empowered homeowners and DIY-ers for more than four decades with top-notch home improvement advice in the form of television programs, print media, and digital content.

The This Old House Reviews Team focuses on creating in-depth product and service review content. To date, we’ve published over 1,600 reviews on products in the home space, from doorbell cameras and dining room decor to circular saws and snow blowers.

Once we conclude the research and testing phases, we craft a comprehensive, user-friendly article of recommended products and additional information to help our readers make the right purchase.

Questions or Comments?

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.