Best Tape Measures for Quick, Accurate Measuring

“Tape measures are your best friend.” You’ve probably heard this saying throughout your life, but never thought too much about why tape measures are preferred over other measuring devices throughout pretty much every branch of the construction industry.

Now that you’re looking for a new tape measure, understanding their full functionality will be crucial to your search for the best tape measure out there. Because it’s such an inexpensive yet commonly used tool, you’ll ideally have more than one in your household (garage, junk drawer in the house, portable toolbox, car, etc.). Here are five excellent tape measures that we recommend.

Our 5 Favorite Tape Measures

ProductTape LengthTape WidthNote
Milwaukee 48-22-712525 ft1 inchBest Overall
Stanley 33-725 FatMax 16, 25, 30, 35, or 40 ft1-1/4 inchContractor Favorite
Stanley 33-425 PowerLock12, 16, 25, 30, or 35 ft1-1/4 inchBest Selling
eTape16 ET16.75-db-RP16 ft3/4 inchEasy Digital Measuring
Komelon SL282516 or 25 ft3/4 or 1 inchBudget Pick

Tape Measure Reviews

#1 – Milwaukee 48-22-7125 Magnetic Tape Measure

This seemingly modest tool packs in quite a few features. Starting with the 25-foot by 1-inch double-sided blade, Milwaukee added to the quality with a slick coat of protective nylon. The 5-point reinforced frame has a wire belt hook and finger stop to protect your finger as the blade retracts. Topping off the list is a magnetic head on the hook.

A large percentage of people who own this tool compare it to those of other top brands, such as Craftsman or the Stanley FatMax below. The relatively strong magnet and ability to read from both sides make this a hit in both professional and DIY circles.

Nylon tape measures have a reputation for being more flimsy, but the 48-22-7125 seems to be an exception as owners report a tape standout of about 9-10 feet. This is well above average and almost on par with the FatMax and its wider blade.

A few users have had issues with the blade becoming brittle or the coating starting to strip off, although this doesn’t seem to be the norm. There have also been a infrequent complaints about the size as the Milwaukee case is a bit larger than some.

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#2 – Stanley 33-725 FatMax Tape Measure

As the primary go-to for many professionals, the FatMax is probably the most accurate and durable measuring tape of its kind on the market.

The 33-725 is a massive 25-foot, 1-1/4 inch wide measuring tape with full stud markings and a best-in-class 11-foot standout. The blade has a sturdy Mylar polyester film and an extra BladeArmor coating for a large portion of the blade.

Recoil is smooth and reliably, thanks to a heat-treated spring. Everything is packed into a tough ABS case that features durable rubber to help withstand harsh work environments.

While the newer FatMax models may not be considered as good as the originals to those who’ve used them since the beginning, the 33-725 is still a favorite according to many contractor and DIY forums. The long standout and high quality hook make difficult measurements a breeze.

On top of this professionals love the large, easy to read markings and high-quality coating that goes above and beyond most expectations.

One of the downsides to dual-coating the blade is that the markings aren’t as sharp as with older models. Some users have also found the locking mechanism to be too stiff. It often requires both hands and the blade will slip if the lock isn’t fully on. This may make it a good choice for environments where the lock button is likely to be bumped, although it isn’t as useful in home settings.

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#3 – Stanley 33-425 PowerLock Measuring Tape

When you want a top-quality tape measure suitable for both home and commercial use, Stanley’s always been the standard. This 25 foot tape measure features a high-impact ABS casing with rubber over mold to withstand the heavy abuse of construction sites.

The Mylar polyester-coated blade is easy to read and provides imperial measurements down to 1/16 inch. Stud markings for both 16 and 19.2 distances allow you to locate studs in both old and modern homes. Best of all, the Powerlock is a lot lighter than the FatMax and has a 7-foot standout, making it perfect for everyday use.

This is an extremely popular model with long-time Stanley enthusiasts. The lock is easy to use and the quality is perfect for the price. While not the strongest model available, it will outlast the competition if used for home or light commercial applications. When you want a tape measure for your kitchen drawer or garage/workshop, it doesn’t get much better than the Powerlock.

Quality control can be a bit of an issue with the Powerlock. This is most noticeable with the occasional batch of blurry markings. The measure itself is still quite usable, but having a quality control inspector on-site to check batches could prevent this issue completely.

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#4 – eTape16 ET16.75-db-RP Digital Tape Measure

An unusual entry for this list, this tape measure actually features an easy-to-read digital display as well as a clearly marked blade. The display can convert between imperial and metric, as well as store data in either a short-term memory hold or two long-term memory slots.

You can take this one on the trail with you and not have to worry, as the case is made of a durable and weather-resistant polycarbonate plastic. A modest 16-foot length makes this tool useful for a wide range of outdoor and sporting tasks, as well as home use.

This model is perfect for when the old sight is going and you don’t want to focus on all those little markings. That said, it’s a great tool for around the house even if you’re eagle-eyed. Owners enjoy being able to convert measurements at the push of a button, and the ability to zero out the display means this tape measure has a potentially unlimited length (measure to 16 feet, zero out the display and keep measuring to get the full length of that extra wide wall).

Being a digital device, the display is prone to over-sensitivity and can thus give inaccurate readings sometimes. You will also need to zero out the display occasionally. The good news is that the blade information will always be accurate, even if you run into an issue with the digital display.

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#5 – Komelon SL2825 Self-Lock Power Tape

Rounding off our list is a 25 foot measuring tape that focuses on simplicity for the perfect junk drawer tool or as a backup. A self-locking mechanism means you won’t have to worry about the blade slipping, while a top-mounted push-release button retracts the blade smoothly.

The blade itself is nylon-coated steel with clear markings and 16 inch stud markers. On the end is a traditional, reinforced hook design. Despite its simplistic design, the blade standout is a satisfying 7.5 feet to make most home measurements a snap. Best of all, the case is rubberized and impact-resistant so you don’t have to worry about the kids breaking it.

When you need a good cheap tape measure for basic tasks, this is the perfect choice. Numbering is large and easy to read although some wish the numbers were a bit smaller. The 25 foot length may be longer than you’ll likely need for around the house (a 16 foot version is also available) but may will prove useful for your workshop.

Another popular feature is the lightweight but sturdy quality of the casing, which is the perfect combo when you have a quick task.

Most complaints about this tape measure revolve around the locking mechanism. It doesn’t prevent the blade from being pulled out further if you slip, and the retraction is fast enough that it could cause injury if you aren’t being careful. Some reports suggest that the mechanism can also wear out over time.

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FAQs

Tape measures get a lot of hype across the board, but you might not understand exactly why. The following questions often come up when shopping for your first (or even third) tape measure.

Why are tape measures better than other devices?

Every device has its own use, but none are as versatile as a tape measure. Here are a few common measuring tools and their limitations:

Calipers

Calipers, both dial calipers and digital calipers, are recommended when precise measurements are needed. Most max out at about 6 inches so you won’t be measuring long distances. They are intended for measuring small objects or inside and outside diameter of something.

Combination Squares

Combination squares usually come in 6, 12, or 24 inch varieties. Extremely versatile, they’re mainly used to ensure integrity of a 90 degree angle, measuring a 45 degree angle, measuring depth, and other short distance measurements. A good combination square is worth its weight in gold when working with wood.

Measuring Stick

Measuring sticks are great for smaller scales and tend to be named for their length, but the largest common stick is only a yardstick. Add to this their inflexibility and you have a tool that’s more detrimental than useful out in the field.

Measuring Tape

While the name is often used interchangeably for tape measures, technically a measuring tape is a loose tape, usually made of fabric. It’s used most often in tailoring and designed to follow curves, making it too flimsy for long, flat surfaces.

Wooden Folding Measure

This is the stiffer companion to a tape measure and one of the most important tools for electricians. While a little more difficult to read, they don’t run the risk of leaving carbon traces like metal measuring devices.

What does the black diamond on a tape measure mean?

Ahh, the mysterious black diamond. This is actually an important marker for chimneys and stud measurement. The spacing is approximately 19.2 inches for each diamond, with 5 diamonds per eight feet.  This is a more traditional stud spacing, although it’s not used as much these days.

In chimney measurements, the black diamond can help to figure stud spacing for a 16 inch chimney brick, which is 17.2 inches.

Why is the hook on the end of a tape measure loose?

It might seem counter-intuitive. but this is actually a design feature and one of the most important parts of a tape measure. The hook has is own thickness which affects your measurements.

To combat this, the hook is fastened to pull out slightly when you measure an outside edge and sit flush when you measure an inside edge. This allows you to get an accurate measurement every time.

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