The tape measure is the most frequently used tool for most people around the home and on the job site. It’s definitely important to have the best tape measure for your needs and avoid the frustration of buying the wrong tool that doesn’t get the job done. Buy a top-rated tape measure and you’ll have a durable tool that’ll live in your garage or workshop for years. Below, you’ll find our in-house tested top picks and a valuable buying guide so you can be confident in making the right purchase.
Choosing the best tape measure for you
Picking the best tape measure for your needs can be simplified by focusing on several important factors discussed in more depth below.
1. Decide the measurement scale
First, pick the measurement scale that matches other hand tools and power tools in your shop. There’s no sense in using multiple measurement scales and doing unnecessary math to convert measurements between imperial and metric. We mainly tested standard SAE tape measures with inch and foot markings. But most models we tested also offer the same models with metric system tape markings.
2. Choose the right length
We only considered 25-foot tape measures in our research, even though many of the models tested offer the same tape measures in different lengths. A 25-foot tape is the right length for most needs, both for around the home and on the job site. Not only is a 25-foot tape measure long enough to span the distances you’ll come across around the home, but the casings for 25-foot models are better for one-handed use than longer, bigger tape measures.
The best tape measures for woodworkers typically offer a shorter length since you typically measure small distances. In these scenarios, a 16-foot or shorter length may be best for woodworking.
Tape measures longer than 25 feet can be useful to measure across long expanses, but their ergonomics and ease of one-handed use often suffer.
3. Auto lock vs. sliding lock
Ask a tradesman whether they prefer a sliding lock or auto-lock tape measure, and you’ll likely get an emphatic answer taking one side or the other. But we think both types have their pros and cons, which is why we aimed to include tape measures on this list that offer both a slide lock and auto-locking version.
Auto-locking tape measures don’t require you to slide the lock into place to set the tape in place. Just pull out the tape, measure, and then hit the auto-locking mechanism to retract the tape. This can be helpful for one-handed use, but there tends to be some added resistance when extending the tape measure.
A sliding lock tape measure can still be great for one-handed use. Where these models shine is efficiency. Latch the tape measure onto your tool belt around hip height, pull out the tape to make a measurement, and let the blade retract itself while still sitting on your hip. Only a self-retracting blade enables this efficiency level to move from measuring to the next step in your workflow, keeping your hands free and not missing a beat.
4. Selecting the right blade and hook style
Several of the best tape measures have markings on both the blade’s topside and underside. Including markings on both sides adds versatility, both in the ability to make measurements in different orientations and to include more measurement scales on a single blade.
Added versatility can also be found by selecting the right hook style that works for you. All tape measures will have a bottom hook with a small slot to attach to a nail or screw head. But some models include a hook that protrudes above the blade on top and/or with wings to each side. These features can be helpful when needing to latch the hook onto the edge of a workpiece and in different orientations. We also think it’s smart to consider buying a tape measure with a magnetic hook.
DIY Gear Reviews’ best tape measures
- Best overall: Milwaukee 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure
- Alternate top pick: Craftsman Pro Reach 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure
- Durability pick: Stanley Powerlock 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure
- Self-retraction pick: Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure
- Construction pick: Klein Tools 25-Foot Magnetic Double Hook Tape Measure
- Easy one-handed use
- Smooth locking mechanism
- Easy to read markings
- Includes a finger brake
- Casing durability
- Stiff belt clip
- Magnet on the top hook protrudes too much
Bottom line: The Milwaukee 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure nails the few features that matter most and sprinkles in some additional useful perks. Most importantly, the ergonomics are great for one-handed use, the sliding lock mechanism is buttery smooth, and the casing and blade are rugged enough for long-lasting use. Including a finger brake and the added versatility of a magnetic hook round out the stacked feature set.
- Long blade standout
- Compact for one-handed use
- Smooth sliding lock
- Overall durability
- Weak blade self-retraction
- Tang lacks versatility
Bottom line: The Craftsman Pro Reach 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure has versatility and durability, all at a competitive price. The compact casing and smooth sliding lock mechanism are great for one-handed use. The blade standout is the longest of the models we tested at 14 feet. The blade’s self-retraction strength could be more powerful. But we’re willing to overlook average performance in this category because the tape measure is good enough for most situations and it shines in other critical areas, such as having the most durable blade of the models we tested.
- Smooth locking mechanism
- Blade and housing durability
- Chrome ABS housing can be slippery
- Hook isn’t versatile and is easily damaged
Bottom line: While the other best tape measures on this list include several added bells and whistles, the Stanley Powerlock 25-Foot Tape Measure packs in only the essentials. That focus on simplicity is one reason why the Stanley Powerlock 25-Foot Tape Measure is so popular among DIY weekend warriors and professionals alike. In our testing, we found it has great casing and blade durability and one of the smoothest sliding locks.
- Strong self-retraction
- Smooth sliding lock
- Great ergonomics
- Includes a finger brake
- Poor blade durability
Bottom line: The Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure blew away the competition specifically with its best-in-class self-retraction mechanism. The tape measure also shines with its grippy ergonomics, hook versatility, and long standout. While the blade’s durability was weak in our testing, it is durable enough for most uses. It’s just not the podium winner in the durability category.
Bottom line: We think the Klein Tools Magnetic Double Hook Tape Measure is the best construction tape measure we’ve come across. The build quality stands out even among our top picks. Durability shouldn’t be a concern, knowing that the casing can take a beating and that the blade durability excelled in our testing. The Klein Tools Magnetic Double Hook Tape Measure includes a blade with standard SAE markings on the top side, a conduit bending table, and a three-phase layout guide on the underside.
Comparing standout, hook styles, and sliding locks
|Model||Standout (ft.)||Hook Style||Sliding Lock|
|Milwaukee Magnetic||9||Magnetic top and bottom with wings||Great|
|Craftsman Pro Reach||14||Bottom hook with a magnet||Great|
|Stanley Powerlock||10||Bottom hook||Great|
|Crescent Lufkin Command Control||12||Top and bottom with wings||Good|
|Klein Tools Magnetic Double Hook||13||Magnetic top and bottom with wings||Great|
The Craftsman Pro Reach 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure and the Klein Tools Magnetic Double Hook Tape Measure had the longest standout of the models we tested at 14 feet and 13 feet, respectively.
Hook style can come down to personal preference, but we have a slight preference for the versatility offered with models that have a top and bottom hook with wings plus a magnet. These combined design aspects allow you to measure in different orientations. However, the hook, also called the tang, should not be so big that it inadvertently gets in the way.
The Klein Tools Magnetic Double Hook Tape Measure and the Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure have some of the best-designed hooks that match the features we covet. Both are sturdy, versatile, and not too big.
A buttery-smooth sliding lock is a critical performance feature for easy, one-handed use. All picks on this list had great sliding lock performance (on a scale of poor, good, and great) with the exception of the Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure. While the Crescent Lufkin blade can be locked in place with one hand, it wasn’t as easy to set as our other picks.
Comparing self-retraction, blade durability, and warranties
|Craftsman Pro Reach||Good||Great||Lifetime|
|Crescent Lufkin Command Control||Great||Poor||Lifetime|
|Klein Tools Magnetic Double Hook||Good||Good||Lifetime|
The Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure is your best choice if you want a tape measure with great self-retracting tape. It has the most powerful retraction of the models we tested. We didn’t encounter any measuring scenario where hand assistance was needed to reel the tape.
The Craftsman Pro Reach 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure and the Milwaukee 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure shined in our abrasion tests. We wrapped a large dowel in 150-grit sandpaper for this test and rubbed the blade for several seconds. Both models only experienced surface scratches.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure performed at the bottom of the pack for the models we tested. While we do believe the blade will be durable enough for regular use, our tests led to scratches penetrating beyond the blade’s coating down to removing the paint itself.
MORE >> If you want to see firsthand how each pick fared in the abrasion tests, check out the full review for each tape measure. Those in-depth product reviews include a video for each model’s blade durability performance. Review links are next to each pick at the top of this page.
All models that landed a spot on our list of the best tape measures have lifetime warranties against manufacturer’s defects and flaws in craftsmanship. None of the models offer broader warranties that cover user damage and general wear and tear, such as dropping the tape measure or rust.
What features do the best tape measures offer?
While we tested the best tape measures across 16 different data points, these factors all fell into several critical categories that should be front and center when choosing a tape measure: ergonomics, durability, and value.
Our top picks all offer great ergonomics with a focus on ease of one-handed use. A compact housing is easy to seat in your hand. A smooth sliding lock mechanism also makes it a cinch to set and retract the blade with one hand while keeping the other free. The Craftsman 25-Foot Pro Reach Magnetic Tape Measure and the Milwaukee 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure both excelled with their ergonomics.
A tape measure’s durability is critical for long-lasting use. The best tape measures have durable casings that can withstand consistent drops, blades that won’t wear out, and self-retraction mechanisms that are powerful and long-lasting.
The Klein Tools 25-Foot Magnetic Double Hook Tape Measure excels with its casing durability. It also packs in a highly durable blade, as does the Craftsman Pro Reach 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure. We found that the Crescent Lufkin 25-Foot Command Control Tape Measure outshines all picks on this list for powerful self-retraction.
Most tape measures won’t break the bank. You can find a great tape measure for around $20 to $25 and a good one for under $20. Most importantly, the best tape measures that made our cut are competitively priced and offer a well-rounded suite of features and durability compared to the other models in their price range.
How we tested the picks
We began our research by searching user reviews for well-known and less popular brands at several online retailers. That early research led to us shortlisting more than a dozen models to review in more depth before purchasing for in-house testing. Tape measures that we considered overpriced for the features offered, or ones that didn’t offer great potential build quality, were cut. We were then left with the selected models we purchased and tested in-house.
In-house testing involved reviewing the tape measures feature sets, their ergonomics, accuracy, and cost. We paid special attention to several critical items, such as the ease of one-handed use, casing and blade durability, good self-retraction, and a smooth sliding lock. In total, the tape measures were assessed across 16 factors. The performance in each category determined our overall editorial ratings and the sub-ratings for durability, features offered, and value.
Tape measures that didn’t make the cut
Throughout our testing, we were on the fence about deciding if the Stanley Fat Max 25-Foot Tape Measure (read review) should make the cut. Ultimately, it is a suitable tape measure for use around the home, but other models on this list performed better, particularly with stronger self-retraction and more versatility. The Stanley Fat Max 25-Foot Tape Measure is also the same price as many of our picks, which is why we think other models are best.
We purchased the Komelon 25-Foot MagGrip Pro Tape Measure (read review) to see if it could be a great budget pick. But the tape measure underperforms in some critical areas, including the sliding lock is difficult to set and unlock without using two hands.
The DeWALT 25-Foot XP Tape Measure (read review) performed poorly with poor self-retraction and a sliding look that quickly malfunctioned with the two models we tested. Add in the fact that it’s one of the more expensive tape measures on the market, and it’s an easy call for us not to recommend this model.
The Ryobi 25-Foot Tape Measure (read review) has great ergonomics and is lightweight, but that is due to its lower build quality. The tape measure’s sliding lock mechanism wasn’t as smooth as we had hoped. Accordingly, the price and features tradeoff isn’t balanced enough, and you can get a longer-lasting tape measure for only $10 more than this model costs.
The Stanley Leverlock 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure has a great auto-locking mechanism and good ergonomics. But its blade durability performed worse than many of our picks.
Our research and testing found that Milwaukee, Craftsman, Stanley, Klein Tools, and Crescent Tools are the best tape measure brands. All offer tape measures that are durable, feature-packed, and include lifetime warranties.
The most common tape measures are 25 feet long. A 25-foot tape measure is a right length for most people around the home and on the job site. A 25-foot tape measure is long enough to span the most common distances measured. The casings for 25-foot models are also great for one-handed use.
The Craftsman Pro Reach 25-Foot Magnetic Tape Measure has a long standout of 14 feet in our tests. This is the longest standout of the models we tested.