Written By Car Bibles Staff
Published Dec. 11, 2018

Could there possibly be a tool that is quite as useful but at the same time underrated as the humble tape measure? It’s not as loud as a power drill, it’s not as high tech as a laser guided table saw and it doesn’t come with multiple interchangeable parts like a multi-tool or a socket set and wrench set.

A tape measure is small, it is unassuming – and yet it can one of the most useful tools in your armory! For a relatively small investment you can have a tool that will last years and years, helping you with countless projects and tasks. In this guide we are going to help you to find a tape measure that will be a loyal and effective tool for you for a long time to come.

The Best Tape Measure

As the old saying goes, if it’s not broke then don’t fix it! That is very clearly the mantra that Staney are working to in the design of this product. The Powerlock is a model of Stanley tape measure that first hit the market way back in 1963, and has had very little, if any, amendments to the design ever since.

But, take a look at the built in features here, and it’s easy to see why they don’t need to make any changes. To start with we have a high quality chrome coated ABS case. It is in the iconic Stanley Powerlock shape, and provides a superb degree of high impact protection to the inner workings of the tool. The measuring tape itself is made of Mylar polyester for the ideal blend of flexibility with toughness.

The tape is backed up with a heat-treated spring to provide a longer lifespan from this key component. Finally the tape is crowned by a corrosion resistant Tru-Zero hook for accurate measurements.

All in all this is a high quality, if very simple, design.

Key Features
  • 25 Foot Tape
  • 1-1/4 Inch Tape Width
  • High Impact Chrome Case 
Specification
  • Brand Stanley
  • Model 33-425
  • Weight 11.2 ounces
PROS

Traditional, Time Honored Design

Simple and Easy to Use 

Attractive and Protective Case

CONS

No Added Extras

Next up we have this product from Kutir. Whilst it may on the surface seem quite a simple design, it is actually packing quite a number of high quality design points.

Lets start with the outer case. It looks quite plain, but it actually a decent if somewhat basic plastic case. It does however feature a rubberized material coating. This not only makes the tool quite comfortable to hold, it will really help to protect the inner workings of the tool itself from any sudden shocks like a drop from height.

The measuring tape itself also boasts a number of very impressive features. For one thing it can remain rigid without any support for up to seven feet. That helps to make it easier to use when you are working alone and may not have someone to hold the other end of the tape.

Speaking of the other end, the metal hook on the tape tip has been supplemented with magnetic attachments. Again, this will help you use this tool on your own. The tape has been printed on both sides too, a very useful feature we don’t see as often as we would like.

You get all that for less than 10 bucks too, very good value for money. If there were one small complaint to make, it would be the fact the rubberized outer casing really smells strongly of rubber! Hopefully that will fade over time, but initially it can be a little unpleasant. 

Key Features
  • 25 Foot Measuring Blade
  • Rubberized External Material to Case
  • Magnetic Hook
Specification
  • Brand Kutir
  • Model KUTIR 56-7525
  • Weight 14.1 ounces
PROS

Easy to Read, Double Sided Tape Blade

Measuring Tape is Rigid Up To 7 Feet

Handy Magnetic Hook

CONS

Strong Smell of Rubber 

The third tape measure to make the list today is this entry from Komelon. On the surface, it is another very simple design, and it also has a nice low price. But is there a little more going on beneath the surface than you may see at first glance?

Well, the answer to that is a yes. To give credit where it is due Komelon have clearly taken a look at other tape designs, and had a think about possible improvements and upgrades. They have settled on the measuring blade itself as being worthy of a redesign.

What you will no doubt notice straight away is the fact it is white rather than the standard yellow. Komelon claim this is to reduce glare on the tape, making it easier to read. The tape itself is steel with an acrylic coating. A pretty standard construction there then, but one that should be nice and hardwearing.

The tape measure body is encased in rubber. Again, this protects the inner workings whilst also making the tool comfortable in the hand. It is very small, weighing in at around 8 ounces. That weight, combined with the rubber coating, makes for a tool that is pretty ergonomic.

It’s worth pointing out that only inch markings are clearly labeled. There are metric measurement lines, but they not marked with numbers or other indicators. If you like to work in meters and centimeters there are better metric tape measures out there for you. 

Key Features
  • Rubber Coating to Body
  • White Blade
  • 1 Inch Measuring Blade
Specification
  • Brand Komelon
  • Model SM5425
  • Weight 2.08 pounds
PROS

Small & Easy to Hold

Glare Free White Tape

Low Price 

CONS

Poorly Marked Metric Measurements on Tape 

It should come as no surprise to see that a Milwaukee tape measure has made the list! Milwukee do of course have a well-earned reputation for producing high quality electrical tools. But they also produce a lot of support tools too, including, drum roll, tape measures!

So what does that famous red branding and lighting bolt mean when it comes to tape measures? In short it means quality and a very solid construction. That starts with the case itself. Whilst it is a simple but hardwearing plastic construction, it boasts a 5-Point reinforced frame. That makes for a tool that is extremely tough and hardwearing.

The measuring blade itself follows the same template as the case. It is a very simple blade, although very clearly marked with Imperial measurements. But it is 1.83 inches wide, giving it more width than many other models on the market. This simple decision makes for a measuring blade that is nice and easy to read.

This model is a magnetic tape measure too, so no springs to worry about here. That does make this tool a little heavier than many others, but could also extend the lifespan of the product.

You will want that long lifespan too. This is a simple but very well built measuring tape. That high quality construction (and Milwaukee branding) does come with a price though, and this is one of the more expensive tools on our list today.

Key Features
  • 25 ft x 1.83 Inch Blade
  • Reinforced Frame in Casing
  • Retraction Finger Protection
Specification
  • Brand Milwaukee
  • Model 48-22-7125
  • Weight 0.16 ounces
PROS

Measuring Blade is Nice and Wide

Milwaukee Build Quality

Solid & Simple Design

CONS

Expensive 

We have a very interesting design for you next. At the complete opposite end of spectrum from the Stanley Powerlock, which hasn’t changed in over 50 years, this tool represents a very innovative and cutting edge design.

That innovation is all down to the inclusion of a built in graphite-marking tool. What is a graphite-marking tool? Don’t worry, it’s just a pencil! But the fact it has been built into the case of the tool means that it is very easy to make accurate markings. You don’t have to fumble around holding the tape measure in one hand, searching your pockets for that pencil you were sure you just saw five seconds ago. Now you use the tape measure itself to make the marking line.

Most tape measures are of course highly accurate, at least in terms of their markings, and errors are more likely to be made by us, the users. And we usually make these errors when trying to make out pencil lines on whatever we are measuring. By making that whole process easier, it could be argued that this tool makes a good case for being one of the most accurate tape measures you could get.

We should point out that this tool does come with a premium price tag, and is in fact one of the most expensive on the list. That though is the price you have to pay for true innovation of course.

Key Features
  • Built In Graphite Marker
  • Nylon Coated Measuring Blade
  • 25 Foot Blade
Specification
  • Brand QuickDraw
  • Model IBQD25F-1
  • Weight 1.1 Lbs
PROS

Easy to Make Accurate Measurements

Easy to Mark Measurement Lines

Interesting & Innovative Design

CONS

Not Cheap!

Needs Graphite Refills

As you will no doubt have noticed, so far in our list we have mainly been looking at tape measures that come with a 25ft length. This is, as we will discuss below, basically the accepted standard for the length of the measuring blade.

But CarBible, we assume some of you may ask, I need to measure stuff that’s 27 feet long! Heck, sometimes I even need to measure 30 feet. What am I supposed to do?

Well, never say that we don’t listen to you all out there!

If, for whatever reason, you think that 25 feet of tape is not going to give you the measuring capacity you need then take a look at this product from Magnelex. It is bringing a whole 33ft of measuring power here, about the most you are going to find on the market. You also get, as an added bonus, both metric and imperial measurements marked out on the tape.

Aside from the length and dual markings, this is in truth a pretty basic tape. The hook on the end of the tape is distinctively average, and you may find it slipping off as often as it manages to grip an edge.

But if you want the extra length of a 33ft blade, this is a solid if unspectacular offering.

Key Features
  • 33 Foot Long Measuring Blade
  • Inch & Metric Scale
  • Fabric Hand Loop
Specification
  • Brand Magnelex
  • Model MG-TM33
  • Weight 15.2 Ounces
PROS

Extra Long Measuring Blade

Both Metric & Imperial Measurements

Smooth Internal Workings

CONS

Blade is a Little Thin

Blade End Hook is Average at Best 

This is a really cool little tool, huh? If you were wondering how such a simple tool as a tape measure could be re-designed and re-engineered for the 21st century then take a good look at this offering from eTape.

The thing is though this design does not represent innovation for innovations sake. No, eTape have looked at the traditional style of tape measure, and wondered what improvements on form and function a digital screen could bring to the table. The answer is quite a lot actually.

For one thing the digital screen allows for incredibly accurate measurements. Is this the most accurate tape measure on the market? We would not be surprised in the least if that was the case. You also though can still use the measuring blade in the traditional way, as it is clearly marked out with Imperial measurement lines.

Another cool thing about the screen is that you can switch back and forth between Metric and Imperial measurements. You can also re-zero measurements at any time without having to retract the measuring blade. Simply press the zero button on the case and you can measure again. That, to us at least, is really cool.

The tool itself is also nice and rugged and weather resistant. It’s probably not as tough as a simpler tape measure design though, so do treat it a little more gently. It is also right at the premium end of the price tag, and is the most expensive tape measure on the list today.

It’s also really cool though!

Key Features
  • Digital Display
  • Built in Memory Functions
  • Imperial & Metric Options
Specification
  • Brand eTape
  • Model ET16.75-DB-RP
  • Weight 9.8 Ounces
PROS

Extremely Accurate 

Easy to Read

Can Re-Zero During Measurement

CONS

Very Expensive

Will Need Replacement Batteries Eventually 

Stanley is back to make their second entry on the list. This model is the famous Stanley Fatmax tape measure. How does it stack up against its older brother the PowerLock though?

One (potential) improvement is the fact it is that much bigger than the Powerlock. That means that you could end up with a product that is easier to use in certain circumstances. For example, a lot of the extra size is due to the fact the tape blade itself is nice and thick. That makes it easy to read, but also allows it to extend further unsupported without collapsing.

The case is not chrome coated, but instead is made of ABS plastic with a rubberized exterior. So it certainly doesn’t look as good as the Powerlock, but it is rugged and easy to hold. The measuring blade itself is constructed of Mylar Polyester film. Again, this is nice and tough for an elongated lifespan.

We were also very impressed to see that the first 3 feet of the tape blade has been treated with a BladeArmor coating. This is an industrial grade thermoplastic coating, of the same type employed on Black Hawk helicopter blades. That is really going to help to extend the useful lifespan of the product, especially as it is the first sections of the tape measure blade that get the most use and abuse.

Key Features
  • Reinforced Blade (First 3 Feet Only)
  • Mylar Polyester Blade
  • Long Life Heat Treated Spring
Specification
  • Brand Stanley
  • Model 33-725
  • Weight 1.25 Pounds
PROS

Great Update to a Classic Design

Very Tough Measuring Blade

Made in the USA

CONS

Not as Tough as a Classic PowerLock 

Another returning manufacturer, this time it is Komelon that have come back with a second entry. Just like their first model we looked at, this model also seems, on the surface at least, to be quite simple. But look a little deeper and you have a very interesting feature built into this tool.

Whilst the majority of tape measures are designed to retract automatically, this device is the opposite. So that button on the top is not there to lock the measuring blade. No, instead, as you pull out the blade it automatically locks. The button is actually the release mechanism and once pressed, allows the measuring blade to retract into the tool body.

That is actually pretty cool if you think about it, and it certainly impressed us. It does take a little time to get used to, as you are used to pressing that button to lock not to retract the measuring blade! Still, we like to see some innovation being deployed in the tools we review so well done Komelon.

Aside from that stand out feature, there’s not too much else to get excited about here. The measuring blade is a tad on the thin side, making the measurements look a little bunched and hard to read. The case is rubberized so it feels great and adds protection. The price tag is surprisingly low too, so that’s good to see.

All in all an innovative little tool that is well designed and built.

Key Features
  • Self Locking Mechanism
  • Nylon Coated Blade
  • Rubberized Case
Specification
  • Brand Komelon
  • Model SL2825
  • Weight 15.2 Ounces
PROS

Useful Locking Mechanism

Straightforward and Easy to Use

Good Value for Money

CONS

Measuring Blade & Markings Are a Little Small

We’ll finish up our list with this model from Lufkin. Whether it is the best tape measure on the market is up for debate, but it certainly has the best name. Ladies and Gentlemen, say hello to the Lufkin Black Widow.

How cool is that, huh?

They haven’t just pulled that name out of the air either. It is a reference to the dark coloring that has been employed on the measuring tape. This black matte finish is designed to cut down on glare in high light situations. The markings are printed in a vibrant green which, when set against the dark background, make them easier to see in low light conditions too.

That is a pretty cool design feature, which means that the measuring blade should be easy to read in a wide range of high and low light ranges. In addition to the well-designed blade the end hook is also very well effective and should do a good job of gripping edges for easier measurements.

The measuring blade is nice and wide but is also a little thin. That does mean that you may end up with creasing on the measuring blade over time.

Key Features
  • Double Sided Measuring Blade
  • Matte Finish
  • Extra Wide Blade
Specification
  • Brand Lufkin
  • Model L1025B
  • Weight 15.7 Ounces
PROS

Really Easy to Read Markings

Works Well in Bright and Dim Light

End Hook is Well Designed 

CONS

Measuring Blade is Thin

Best Tape Measure Buying Guide & FAQ

In our buying guide, we’ll take you through the features that you should keep an eye out for when picking out the best tape measure for you. After that, we’ll take a look at how best to use your new tool and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about this extremely useful product.

Things to Consider When Buying The Tape Measure

  • Case

The case is a very important part of the tape measure. It needs to be comfortable in your hand whilst also protecting the potentially delicate inner workings of the tool. Look for comfortable and ergonomic designs that employ materials like rubber and/or ABS plastic for protection.

  • Spring

If the tool is spring loaded (which it probably is) than a heat-treated spring can be a good feature to look for. This added level of processing makes for a spring that is tougher and longer lasting.

  • Tape Length

As you will have seen, the vast majority of tapes are 25ft in length. If you need a longer tape though, they are out there!

  • Tape Width

The minimum width of tape will be around 1 inch and they can be up to 2 inches in width, sometimes more. The wider the tape, the clearer the markings will be and the easier they will be to read.

Why 25-Foot Tapes?

Almost all the tape measures that are on our list boast a 25-foot length of measuring blade. That is also broadly reflective of the market as a whole, where almost all these tools have a 25-foot length as standard.

25-foot simply seems to provide the best middle ground between a useful length of measuring surface set against the desire to keep this a small, handheld tool. Anything less than 25-foot, and you don’t have a tool that is suitable for the majority of tasks.

Longer than 25 feet and the tape roll inside is getting heavier and bigger, making the tape measure less ergonomic and comfortable to use.

Best Tape Measure FAQ:

Q: How do I read a tape measure?

Reading the tape measure is of course one of the most important skills to pick up when using these tools. Thankfully, it is very easy to do. The hook end is point 0. From there backwards the markings will increase as the tools base itself is moved away from the tip. On the other hand, you can also select a point on the blade and measure from that point.

Q: Why are tape measures loose at the end?

Many people wonder about this, and many people even try to repair the hook on the end of the blade to stop it moving. Unfortunately this is not a good idea and should not be done. Why? Because it is supposed to be loose at the end! It wiggles on its rivets to make up for the space the hook takes up, depending on how the tape measure is being used. So if the tape is being pushed against something, then the width of the hook is included in the measurement. If the hook is placed over the edge of an item for an outside measurement, the hook will wriggle back on it’s rivet. The tiny gap this creates is the same as the width of the hook. Tl;dr – the tape measure is supposed to be a little loose to help with accurate measurements so don’t try to fix it!

Q: Why is a tape measure curved?

The concave design of the tape measure blade helps it to remain rigid when unsupported. Related Posts: Best Magnetic Tool Holders and Best Magnetic Wristbands

Our Top Pick 

When it came time to select the best tape measure to make our list, we decided to go for the Stanley 33-245 Powerlock. After all, as we pointed out in the review of this product above, this design originated way back in 1963. In the intervening 50 years plus since then Stanley have not had to change the design at all.

They have not had to change it because it remains as popular a tape measure as any other in the market. In fact, since this model is very much the template for modern tape measure design, you could almost say that other manufacturers are simply playing catch up to Stanley – and none have quite managed to catch them yet!

Sources:

  1. Tape Measure – howstuffworks
  2. How to Read a Measuring Tape – wikiHow

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