The 9 Best Tape Measures of 2022, According to Our Testing

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9 Best Tape Measures of 2022

Irwin / Lowe's

The key to a successful DIY project is taking careful measurements, so finding a reliable tape measure is essential.

There are plenty of features to think about when shopping for a tape measure, but one of the most important factors to consider is how well you can see your measurements. 

“Get a tape measure that’s easy for you to read,” says Danielle Guerrero, a DIY blogger for her website Our Nest on Powell. “For beginners, that’s probably the best thing to look for in a tape measure.” 

No matter what your next project is, these tape measures have the features you need for precise measuring. We put 34 tape measures to the test in our lab and evaluated them on their ease of use, accuracy, performance, and durability.

We chose the Irwin Strait-Line as our top pick for its durable case, controlled retraction, long standout, and easy-to-read markings.  

Here are the best tape measures, backed by our testing.

Best Overall: Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure

4.9
Irwin Strait-Line IWHT39391S

Lowe's

Why You Should Get It: This tape measure features identical markings on the back side of the blade, making it effortless to read in any position. 

Keep in Mind: It’s a bit bulky, so it might be a tight fit for a tool belt pouch.

The Irwin Strait-Line tape measure is our top pick for the best tape measure. It earned a perfect score during testing across all categories, including performance, durability, accuracy, and value.

The bright yellow blade features large numbers and double-sided markings. The tape measure has stud markings that are conveniently placed every 16 inches. This 16-foot tape measure is also available in a 25-foot option for longer measurements. 

Our testers found that the case was comfortable to grip, and the lock could be engaged or released with just their thumbs. They also noted that they could control the speed of the blade as it fed out and retracted, which prevented the blade from whipping around wildly.

During testing, it had an impressive standout of more than 13 feet, meaning it extended 13 feet from the case before drooping or bending. After dropping it on concrete in our testing lab, our testers found it didn’t have any visible damage. The brand also claims the tape measure can survive up to an 80-foot drop. 

The only drawback to this tape measure is that it was a bit too bulky to fit in a tool belt. However, our testers could easily use the belt clip to attach it to their belts instead.

Price at time of publish: $20

Product Details:

  • Length: 16 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 13 feet and 3 inches
  • Autolock: No

Best Budget: Komelon Self-Lock Evolution L4825HV

4.5
Komelon Self-Lock Evolution L4825HV

Lowe's

Why You Should Get It: The back of the tape blade includes an information scale for simple conversions from inches to decimals. 

Keep in Mind: The tape blade is a little flimsy, making for a lower standout measurement. 

For the best budget tape measure, this tool from Komelon is an affordable buy if you only need a tape measure occasionally. During testing, this tape measure earned perfect scores for its durability and accuracy.

The tape measure features a nylon-coated blade with a bright color for high visibility. It also features double-sided printing on the blade with nail sizes and decimal equivalents for quick conversions. Coupled with a dual-ended hook, the double-sided blade is versatile for all kinds of measuring and conversions. 

Our testers noted that the recoil was smooth and quick, and the auto-lock feature made one-handed measurements effortless. Testers found both inside and outside measurements to be precisely accurate with this tape measure. 

The tape measure held up impressively after our drop test—it had no scratches or damage after being dropped three times from a 12-foot ladder. However, testers said the body of the tape measure was somewhat long, making it more difficult to fit into a tool belt. 

Although testers felt the tape blade was somewhat flimsy, this tape measure surpassed its advertised standout length by 7 inches during testing. Because of its durability, accuracy, and affordability, this is the best tape measure for those looking for an inexpensive option.

Price at time of publish: $9

Product Details:

  • Length: 25 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 7 feet 7 inches
  • Autolock: Yes

Best Splurge: Stanley FatMax FMHT36316S

4.7
Stanley FatMax FMHT36316S

Stanley

Why You Should Get It: Its durability and smooth recoil are ideal for professional or everyday use.

Keep in Mind: If you stop it during a recoil, it may have difficulty returning to its case without the assistance

The Stanley FatMax is a quality investment, especially for professionals who need a tape measure that stands up to the rigor of everyday use. The fully coated blade adds to the durability and extends the life of the tape measure. After our drop test, the tape measure worked perfectly, suffering only minor dings and scratches to the case. 

Our tester found both inside and outside measurements to be precise, and the tape is very easy to read. Its bright yellow blade contrasts against black markings and large font, so testers didn’t have to struggle to see their measurements. 

The tape recoil was smooth and steady, retracting in a controlled straight line rather than wildly flopping around like many other tapes. However, it had difficulty recoiling when the tester stopped it during a long or full-length recoil. 

With more than 10 feet of standout, testers were able to take many measurements on their own without waiting for someone to hold the tape. However, it fell short of its 13-foot standout claim, only reaching an average of 10 feet and 6 inches before it bent during testing. 

The body of the tape measure is comfortable to grip and handle, and the wide case might be preferable for users with large hands. It clips easily onto a tool belt or pocket with only one hand. And if you don’t like the belt clip, it removes easily without the need to unscrew it. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Product Details:

  • Length: 16 feet
  • Markings: Imperial 
  • Standout: 10 feet 6 inches
  • Autolock: No

Best Small: Milwaukee Compact 48-22-6616

4.7
Milwaukee Compact 48-22-6616

Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: The rubber-coated body and small size make it comfortable and convenient for quick measurements. 

Keep in Mind: The belt clip is overly stiff and difficult to use one-handed.

For those looking for a compact measuring tape, this Milwaukee tool is the best option. The rubber-coated body makes it comfortable to hold and grip, and the blade lock can be easily operated with one hand. 

The 16-foot tape measure has clear blade markings every eighth of an inch, so it is accurate without being too cluttered. The tape blade even features a fractional scale to make reading and converting your measurements even simpler. Our tester found all measurements to be accurate, even when adding the length of the tape’s body to an inside measurement. 

This tape measure doesn’t compromise on durability despite its small size. Although our drop test caused minor cosmetic damage, the tape measure’s performance was unaffected due to its reinforced frame. Wear-resistant nylon also protects the blade and offers greater durability and longevity. The blade also retracted carefully without an aggressive recoil. It had a standout of 8 feet and 10 inches, which is 10 inches more than advertised. 

Our testers did find that the belt clip required a little effort to use and was stiff to slide over a belt one-handed. However, we recommend the Milwaukee Compact because of its modest price, portability, and comfort.

Price at time of publish: $14

Product Details:

  • Length: 16 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 8 feet 10 inches
  • Autolock: No

Best Magnetic: Milwaukee Compact Magnetic 48-22-0316

4.6
Milwaukee Compact Magnetic 48-22-0316

Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: It features a magnetic tip that holds the tape measure in place while you measure. 

Keep in Mind: The belt clip is very difficult to operate.

The Milwaukee Compact Magnetic tape measure is the best if you prefer a magnetic option. Its compact body and rubber over a mold made it comfortable for our testers to grip during testing, and the tape measure features an anti-tear coating that protects the first 6 inches of the blade from damage. 

The fraction increments of this tape measure are easily distinguishable on its yellow tape blade. The tape measure also has markings on the bottom of the blade so the measurements can be read from any angle. 

Testers said the magnetic tip held firmly to a steel stud for nearly 14 feet, making it easy to measure across long distances. However, its standout measurement was only 9 feet and 3 inches during testing, falling short of the 12-foot standout it claims.

The lock could be operated with only one hand, but testers thought the wire belt clip was extremely difficult to use. The bottom of the tape measure features an opening behind the blade hook that allowed our testers to control the recoil speed with their finger. However, the thin and narrow width of the blade caused it to still whip around as it recoiled. 

This tape measure was relatively durable, suffering only minor scuffs on the body after being dropped three times. With the magnetic tip and compact size, this tape measure is an affordable option for any DIY project

Price at time of publish: $20

Product Details:

  • Length: 16 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 9 feet 3 inches
  • Autolock: No

Best Heavy Duty: DEWALT Tough Series Tape Measure

4.8
DeWalt Tough Series DWHT36916S

Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: Its rugged design can hold up to consistent use.  

Keep in Mind: The large size may be cumbersome for people with smaller hands.

This sturdy 16-foot model from DeWalt is the best tape measure for people who are tough on their tools. It features a blade coating on the first 6 inches of the tape that protects it from ripping or tearing, and the tape blade is thick and resistant to bending or breaking.

The body is covered with a rubber material that makes it comfortable to hold and cushions the tape from damage. This tape measure was unphased by our drop test, with testers describing it as “rugged and well-made.” 

The increment markings are large, bold, and easy to read against the high-visibility yellow tape. A double-sided print with identical markings on the top and bottom of the blade makes for clear overhead measurements. 

Our testers noted that the belt clip slips on a pocket or belt smoothly, and the lock can be used with just one hand. It had a strong recoil without whipping around aggressively. This tape measure also has a removable hook magnet that is useful for working with metal. 

While it claims to have a standout of 16 feet (the full length of the blade), testing showed a much lower standout measurement of 12 feet and 2 inches. Despite a slightly higher price tag, this DeWalt tape measure is durable and well-made, making it the best heavy-duty measuring tape.

Price at time of publish: $24

Product Details:

  • Length: 16 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 12 feet 2 inches
  • Autolock: No

Best Double-Sided: Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Dual-Sided Tape Measure

4.7
Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Dual-Sided L1125

Walmart

Why You Should Get It: It has an impressive standout that makes it perfect for solo measuring. 

Keep in Mind: It can get caught on the retraction when it is fully extended.

The Crescent Lufkin Shockforce stood out among the best tape measures for its easy-to-read double-sided tape. The back of the tape features vertical markings to accommodate difficult overhead measurements. Our testers found they could read the tape from any angle, and it locked easily in place with a 360-degree end hook. 

This tape measure also had the highest standout during testing. Testers found it had an impressive standout of 13 feet and 5 inches.

Testers said they could lock and unlock the tape with only one hand, and the clip attached to a belt or pocket with minimal effort. However, the body of the tape measure is on the large side and may be too bulky to fit in the pocket of a tool belt. 

The nylon-coated blade extends the durability of the tape measure and reduces glare. During testing, the blade had a smooth recoil that was effortless to control. However, when it was fully extended, it stopped in the middle and needed to be restarted to finish retracting.

After our drop test, the tape measure had no visible damage, and the tape functioned the same after each drop.  

Price at time of publish: $25

Product Details:

  • Length: 25 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 13 feet 5 inches
  • Autolock: No

Best Auto-Locking: Milwaukee Compact Autolock 48-22-6816

4.6
Milwaukee Compact Autolock 48-22-6816

Home Depot

Why You Should Get It: The auto-lock feature makes one-handed measurements quick and painless. 

Keep in Mind: The tape is a bit flimsy, so it’s not the best for long-distance measurements.

Many of the best tape measures feature an auto-lock that makes one-handed measuring much easier. The auto-lock feature on the Milwaukee Compact Autolock tape measure conveniently locks the blade into place for quick measuring. The tape measure also features a wear-resistant nylon blade coating and a reinforced frame. 

The 16-foot tape measure had an average standout of 9 feet and 7 seven inches during testing, surpassing the advertised 9 feet of standout. However, testers felt that the tape was a bit flimsy, making it difficult for measuring at a distance. 

The first foot of the tape is marked with a fractional scale so testers could easily see their exact measurements. However, they noted the body was a slightly awkward length that made for tricky math for inside measurements. 

Testers said the belt clip was somewhat stiff but still workable. The recoil was smooth and easy to control using the retraction button. 

The over-molding is minimal on this model, but it still protected the tape measure from damage after we dropped it on concrete. After three drops, it suffered minor scuffs to the body and over-molding, but its performance was unaffected. 

Price at time of publish: $13

Product Details:

  • Length: 16 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 9 feet 7 inches 
  • Autolock: Yes

Easiest to Use: Stanley FatMax Classic 25-Foot Tape Measure 33-725

4.8
Stanley Fatmax 33-725

Amazon

Why You Should Get It: Large font numbers and distinct blade markings make it simple to read. 

Keep in Mind: The recoil is slower than average and might get stuck at long lengths.

This Stanley Fatmax tape measure features large font numbers and blade markings that are easy to read against its yellow tape. Our testers felt it was uncomplicated to distinguish between each increment so measurements are more accurate. 

Testers said the tape measure was comfortable to grip and handle, and the lock could be easily engaged or released just using their thumb. It clipped easily onto a belt one-handed; however, its larger size made it a tight fit for a tool belt pocket or pouch.

The body is 3 ⅛ inches long, which is not ideal for measuring inside distances with the body into a corner. With a heat-treated spring, this tape measure had a reliable (although slow) recoil. It can also struggle to recoil fully when it is stopped during a long or full-length recoil. 

The durable rubber case and tape blade coating protect the tape measure from wear and tear. It held up well to our drop test, showing no visible signs of damage from the concrete. Overall, this tape measure is a good value for its accuracy and ease of use. 

Price at time of publish: $21

Product Details:

  • Length: 25 feet
  • Markings: Imperial
  • Standout: 9 feet 11 inches
  • Autolock: No

The Bottom Line

After testing 34 tape measures in our lab, we chose the Irwin Strait-Line IWHT39391S as the best overall tape measure for its long standout, durability, and easy-to-read markings. 

Our Testing Process

Our team of experts spent an entire day testing 34 different tape measures in our lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Our testers closely examined each tape measure to determine the accuracy of the measurements. They also tested the standout of each blade, or how far the blade can extend from the case without bending.

Each tape measure was retracted to evaluate the spring loading and recoil of the blade. Finally, the tape measures were dropped from the top of a 12-foot ladder onto a concrete floor to see if they would break or crack. We collected insights from our testers about the ease of use, performance, accuracy, and durability of each tape measure before selecting the best tape measures for your money. 

What to Know About Tape Measures Before Shopping

Length

The most common length for a tape measure is 25 feet, which is enough for most household projects. Guerrero prefers working with a 25-foot tape measure for DIY projects. “If I’m doing a room that’s long, I like to be able to just have the one tape measure to do the measurements,” Guerrero says.

Markings 

All tape measures have markings to indicate each length increment. Tape measures can use imperial or metric measuring units, or both. Imperial units (inches and feet) are standard in the United States, while metric units (millimeters and centimeters) are used in most other countries. Some tape measures have increments marked with only a line, while others will list the fraction number for each increment.

Standout

A standout is a distance the tape measure’s blade can extend from the case before it bends or sags. A longer standout is best because the blade can measure across longer distances without needing to be held up or supported.

A tape measure’s standout should be at least 7 to 8 feet, but further is even better. However, standouts can be impacted by the angle at which you hold the tape measure. “Even the best tape measure, if you’re at an awkward angle, it will still kind of bend,” Guerrero says.  

Autolock

Many tape measures have a sliding mechanism that locks and unlocks the tape. Other tape measures feature an auto-lock, which automatically locks the tape in place when it is pulled out. Autolocking tape measures are convenient for use with only one hand since the tape stays in place until the button is pressed to retract it. 

Other Tape Measures We Tested

Crescent Lufkin Control L1016C-02

The Crescent Lufkin Control L1016C-02 had a decent standout measurement of more than 10 feet during testing, but testers found it uncomfortable and difficult to use. It also lacked durability and became deformed after our drop test, affecting its accuracy on certain measurements.

Master Force Force Blade MF82425

While the Master Force Force Blade MF82425 was readable and fairly accurate, it showed signs of wear and tear after only one day of testing in our lab. It was prone to kinking and bending much more than other tape measures we tested. Overall, we chose not to include it on the list because it lacked durability.

Stanley Leverlock 30-812

We decided the Stanley Leverlock 30-812 wasn’t worth purchasing because it broke during testing. The tape was pulled completely out of its case after extending it, and the tape could not be pushed back in. Most tape measures have a warning toward the end of the tape’s length to prevent it from being extended too far, but this tape measure did not indicate the blade end. Additionally, the tape measure had a mediocre standout measurement of only 5 feet and 9 inches.

Your Questions, Answered

What is the easiest tape measure to read?

Tape measures with standard scales rather than metric scales are easiest to read. Tape measures that list the number of each fractional increment (like ¼ or ⅛) are usually easier to read than tape measures that only have lines to mark each increment.

Markings on both sides of the tape will be easier to read than markings on only one side. Look for high contrast between the color of the tape blade and the markings on the tape. 

What tape measure has the longest standout?

The standout is the distance a tape measure can extend from the case before it bends. The longer standout is better because you can measure longer distances without needing to hold up the tape. The tape measure with the longest standout in this list is the Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Dual-Sided L1125, which had a standout of 13 feet and 5 inches during our tests.  

How much do tape measures cost?

Tape measures are generally inexpensive, even for higher-end models. Tape measures can range from just a few dollars to around $50, and most cost less than $20. The median price of the tape measures we tested was $19. The cost of all tape measures we tested ranged from $4 to $37. 

Who We Are

Molly Blanco is an editorial apprentice for Dotdash Meredith. For this article, she thoroughly researched the best tape measures and important features to consider when purchasing a tape measure, then compared her research to testing insights gathered from our lab tests in Des Moines, Iowa. 

What Is BHG Recommends?

Next to all of the products on this list, you may have noticed our BHG Recommends seal of approval. Products that earn the seal have been put through rigorous testing to make sure they're worth a spot in your home. We buy most of the products we test ourselves, but occasionally we are provided samples by companies if buying isn't an option. In these cases, we use the same testing criteria we use to test the purchased products and we let you know that we got it for free to remain as transparent as possible about our picks. 

Looking for more products that have earned our BHG Recommends seal of approval? Check out our picks for everything from picnic blankets to humidifiers. 

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