The Best Digital Caliper in 2022

Discover how to choose the best digital calipers that “measure up” to your highest standards.

By James Fitzgerald and Tom Scalisi | Updated Mar 31, 2022 9:53 AM

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Best Digital Caliper

Photo: Tom Scalisi

Calipers have been around for centuries, standing the test of time as one of the most effective and accurate measuring tools around. Even though several types of calipers are available to serve different functions, vernier calipers have proven to be the best general-purpose option for measuring the outside diameter, inside diameter, and depth of various objects. Vernier calipers once were available only in analog versions that showed their measurements on a round dial display, but advancements in technology have led to the latest innovation in caliper design: the digital caliper.

Digital calipers have several advantages over their analog peers that lead to making extremely precise measurements. To take advantage of everything digital calipers have to offer, read on to learn more about how to choose the best digital caliper and check out what we found in our hands-on testing of the following models.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Clockwise Tools DCLR-0605 Electronic Digital Caliper
  2. RUNNER-UP: VINCA DCLA-0605 Electronic Digital Micrometer Caliper
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Adoric Digital Caliper, 0-6″ Calipers Measuring Tool
  4. UPGRADE PICK: iGaging ABSOLUTE ORIGIN 0-8″ Digital Caliper
  5. BEST EASY OPERATION: Neiko 01407A Electronic Digital Caliper
  6. BEST WATER-RESISTANT: iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6″ Display
  7. BEST FOR HARSH CONDITIONS: Mitutoyo 500-752-20, Digimatic Caliper, 0-6″

ALSO TESTED:

Best Digital Caliper

Photo: Tom Scalisi

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Digital Calipers

Digital calipers have several components that go into their overall function and design. They contain inside/outside jaws to measure inside and outside diameters, a depth gauge, an LCD display that shows the measurements on a digital screen, a main scale, and a thumbwheel that moves the jaws up and down the scale.

Each of these components has characteristics that affect its function, so when looking for the best digital calipers for a specific set of needs, understanding these elements and how they work can help shoppers make the best choice.

Material

Digital calipers are made of stainless steel, carbon fiber, or plastic, and each material has its own set of pros and cons. Stainless steel is the material most frequently used on higher-end digital calipers. It’s strong and heavy, and it resists water, dirt, and oil. Stainless steel digital calipers also are usually the most expensive.

Carbon fiber is lightweight with a moderate level of durability. Its tightly woven strands of carbon polymer fibers are just as strong as steel with a fraction of the weight. However, carbon fiber isn’t as corrosion resistant as stainless steel, and it can deteriorate more rapidly if exposed to water, dirt, or UV rays. With a few exceptions, carbon fiber calipers are usually cheaper than stainless steel calipers.

Plastic calipers are often the least expensive and lightest, but they’re the least durable. Plastic digital calipers are rarely used by professionals or serious DIYers.

Finally, composite calipers are a hybrid combination of standard plastic and carbon fiber that offer a middle ground between plastic and carbon fiber in durability and affordability.

Accuracy 

One of the primary benefits of digital calipers is their ability to take highly accurate measurements. A digital caliper can measure in increments as small as 0.01 inches (0.25 mm) or 0.0005 inches (0.0125 mm), depending on the quality of the tool and the operator’s skill level. The electronic components that translate the distance between the inside and outside jaws have the greatest impact on calipers’ level of accuracy. However, certain hardware components also can play a role.

Digital calipers made of polished stainless steel usually provide smoother movement of the measuring jaws. By providing additional grip for the fingers to slide the jaws up and down, a large, textured driving wheel also can help make more refined adjustments. The overall accuracy of a pair of digital calipers depends on a combination of the user’s skill and the unit’s individual features.

Depth Gauge 

When thinking of calipers, two sets of measuring jaws that open and close on the top portion of the scale probably come to mind. The depth gauge, the third tool, is a small rod that extends and retracts from the end of the caliper bar. Use it to measure the depths of holes, cavities, and other recessions.

As useful as they are, the depth gauge can be incredibly fragile in a low-quality pair of calipers. If the depth gauge is important for a specific need, ensure that it’s robust enough to withstand regular use. Stainless steel and carbon fiber usually fit the bill, whereas plastic or composite materials aren’t recommended.

Inside/Outside Jaws 

The most frequently used parts of a set of digital calipers, the inside and outside jaws, measure the inside and outside dimensions of an object. They’re located on opposing sides of the calipers’ main scale, and the outside jaws are larger than the inside jaws. Use the outside jaws to measure the outside diameter of an object and the inside jaws to measure the inside diameter of an object. Just like the depth gauge, the inside and outside jaws move as the thumbwheels turn until the jaws come into contact with the object.

To ensure consistently accurate measurements, the digital calipers should have strong, sturdy inside and outside jaws. Pay special attention to the construction quality of the inside jaws.

Metric Systems

Some users need the measurement to use the Imperial system (inches and feet), while others require the metric system (millimeters and centimeters). One type of measuring system is more common in different parts of the world, but DIYers may encounter both types. For instance, various automakers use parts based on different measurement systems.

Fortunately, almost all digital calipers display measurements in both inches and millimeters. A button on the LCD display typically appears to switch between the two measuring systems. Both systems often are printed on the main scale.

Additional Features 

Along with the essentials discussed above, look for several additional features on a pair of digital calipers, including:

  • Large LCD display screen
  • Reset button, also called the “zero button,” allows the user to reset the display measurement to zero
  • Locking screw locks the inside and outside jaws in place
  • Automatic LCD display shutoff to preserve battery life
  • Data transfer port to upload measurements to specialized software

IP54 Protection Certificate 

Some digital calipers are designed for use in environments unfavorable to electronics, such as machine shops or outdoors. If this is a priority, make sure the digital calipers chosen can withstand these harsh conditions, which is where an IP (or ingress protection) rating comes in. IP testing is a third-party certification process that verifies the environmental resilience of electronic components.

The first number after “IP” represents the item’s level of protection against solids, and the second number represents the tool’s level of moisture resistance. For a digital caliper, the industry standard is IP54. The “5” means it can resist dust, while the “4” means it can resist splashes of water from all directions. If a pair of digital calipers will experience harsh conditions, especially outdoor environments, look for an IP54 protection certificate.

Ease of Use 

Taking detailed measurements can be tedious enough, so most users look for calipers that are easy to use. Fortunately, most of the features that contribute to the accuracy level of a pair of digital calipers also make them easier to use, such as polished stainless steel parts and a large, textured thumbwheel. Many additional features also help make the calipers easier to use, such as a large LCD display and locking screw.

Best Digital Caliper

Photo: Tom Scalisi

Our Top Picks

With all these characteristics in mind, it’s time to make an informed purchase decision. However, trying to put all these factors together can quickly overwhelm the most organized shopper. To help, we performed hands-on testing with all of the following models. Consider the top picks in several categories for the best set of digital calipers.

Best Overall

Best Digital Caliper Clockwise
Photo: amazon.com

With polished stainless steel and a large digital display, the Electronic Digital Caliper from Clockwise Tools takes measurements down to 0.0001 inches. It has large push buttons on the digital display that allow the user to toggle between metric, standard, and fraction measurements.

The Clockwise Tools caliper features stainless steel construction and offers IP54 protection certification to ensure the tool can stand up to moisture and dirt. A data transfer port uploads measurements to a computer. An automatic shutoff kicks in after 5 to 7 minutes of dormancy to preserve battery life. While these calipers don’t come with a calibration certificate, they are precalibrated prior to shipment.

During testing, the large display was the star of the show since it’s very easy to read. Also, sliding the jaws open and grabbing a quick, accurate measurement was simple (thanks in part to that big display). The one thing we didn’t like was the analog rule, as the markings are anything but traditional.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 6 inches/150mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial, metric, fractions
  • Additional features: Data port

Pros

  • Large display is very easy to read
  • Easy to use for grabbing measurements
  • IP54 weather resistance for rougher weather

Cons

  • Analog markings on the rule are a little confusing

Get the Clockwise Tools DCLR-0605 Electronic Digital Caliper on Amazon or at Walmart.

Runner-Up

Best Digital Caliper VINCA
Photo: amazon.com

Anyone hunting for a quality set of calipers might consider the Vinca DCLA-0605 Electronic Digital Micrometer. These 6-inch digital calipers from VINCA are made with polished stainless steel for durability and ease of use. The tool has a 1.5-inch LCD display and can clearly show measurements with an accuracy of up to 0.0001 inches. The user can convert measurements to inches, millimeters, or fractions, and it features a data port for electronic measurement retrieval.

Unfortunately, this pair of calipers doesn’t come with a calibration certificate, but every model is factory calibrated before shipment. They also don’t have IP54 certification, although VINCA offers a one-year warranty and a sturdy storage case for protection.

We found the Vinca to be very easy to read, both as a digital caliper and when using its analog rule. We also felt that the build quality was spot on, and gave this caliper a heavy-duty feel. And while the battery cover did pop off occasionally, we felt this model was priced well.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 6 inches/150mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial, metric, fractions
    Additional features: Data port

Pros

  • Analog rule is very easy to read
  • Durable build quality and materials
  • Well priced for features and build quality

Cons

  • Battery cover pops off occasionally

Get the Vinca DCLA-0605 on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Bang For The Buck

Best Digital Caliper Adoric
Photo: amazon.com

For an affordable option that doesn’t skimp on the accuracy, Adoric’s 6-inch digital caliper is hard to beat. This model provides measurements down to 0.01 of an inch and has a 1.5-inch-wide display. The construction is all plastic, and it provides measurements in imperial or metric units.

To be clear, this caliper’s product description boasts carbon fiber components, but we didn’t find any in the model we tested. However, we did find that the display was very easy to read, and despite being all plastic, the model was easy to use. The battery cover did pop off a few times, but the affordable price point and accuracy make it worth considering as a value-minded pick.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 6 inches/150mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial and metric
  • Additional features: None

Pros

  • Affordable price point
  • Display is easy to read
  • Easy to use despite value pricing

Cons

  • Battery cover pops off
  • Plastic construction (we found no carbon fiber)

Get the Adoric Digital Caliper 0-6″ Calipers Measuring Tool on Amazon.

Upgrade Pick

Best Digital Caliper iGaging
Photo: amazon.com

Any at-home machinist looking to upgrade from their old caliper to a serious tool should check out iGaging Absolute Original 0-8″ Digital Caliper. This model features stainless steel construction, metric and imperial measurements, and measurements down to 0.0001 inch. It also features a data port for electronic data transfer.

This tool features IP54 protection, meaning that it’s less likely to take damage from the elements if used outside of a controlled environment. Also, its larger size allows it to grab measurements on larger parts than the standard caliper.

The iGaging Absolute Origin’s larger proportions was the first thing we noticed during testing, as it can grab measurements from larger objects. Also, we liked that the contrasting marks on the analog rule were easy to read, and its weather resistance adds quite a bit of value, especially when taking the type of outdoor measurements the larger jaws allow. The screen is a little small, but the digits fill it completely for semi-easy reading.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 8 inches/200mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial, metric, fractions
  • Additional features: Cable port

Pros

  • Larger than a traditional digital caliper
  • Contrasting marks on the analog ruler are easy to read
  • Weather resistance adds quite a bit of value

Cons

  • Small screen is a little difficult to read

Get the iGaging Absolute Origin 0-8″ Digital Electronic Caliper on Amazon.

Best Easy Operation

Best Digital Caliper Neiko
Photo: amazon.com

When it comes to grabbing measurements quickly and accurately, Neiko’s 01407A Electronic Digital Caliper is worth a look. This caliper features a knurled set screw and thumbwheel and offers measurements between 0 and 6 inches, or 150mm, in metric, imperial, or fractions. It features a built-in data port for data transfer.

However, it lacks a warranty or IP54 protection certification, and it’s not factory calibrated. Despite these drawbacks, its ease of operation and stout design make it work well for accurate measurements.

We thought the Neiko 01407A Electronic Digital Caliper was especially easy to use during testing. First, we liked that the contrasting rule and digital display were both easy to read (though the digit size for decimals does shrink). Also, the thumbwheel was easy to operate for grabbing quick measurements and swapping between inside jaws, outside jaws, and depth measurements.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 6 inches/150mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial, metric, fractions
  • Additional features: Data port

Pros

  • Easy-to-read contrasting analog rule and digital display
  • Easy to use for a quick measurement
  • Slides smoothly with thumbwheel

Cons

  • Digit size for decimals shrinks

Get the Neiko 01407A Electronic Digital Caliper on Amazon.

Best Water-Resistant

The Best Digital Caliper Option: iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper
Photo: amazon.com

Those who regularly work in wet conditions and need a water-resistant digital caliper will appreciate the iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper. This tool’s IP54 certification ensures it can stand up to water and dirt, and it measures accurately up to 0.0001 inches. It features stainless steel construction and has a 2-inch-wide display with large digits for easy reading. It converts measurements between imperial, metric, and fractions, as well.

We found the EZ-Cal to be extremely easy to use during testing, with its extra-large digital display, contrasting analog rule, and easily operated jaws. On top of the weather resistance, this caliper’s large digital display and stainless steel construction feel sturdy and reliable, and we wouldn’t hesitate to use it in wet conditions.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 6 inches/150mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial, metric, fractions
  • Additional features: None

Pros

  • Extra-large display
  • Analog rule is easy to read
  • IP54 weather resistance for rougher conditions

Cons

  • Just one screw holds the slide in place

Get the iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper on Amazon.

Best For Harsh Conditions

Best Digital Caliper Mitutoyo
Photo: amazon.com

Anyone who might need to measure an object or component in some truly awful conditions should check out Mitutoyo’s 500-722-20 Digimatic Caliper. This model features stainless steel construction and IP67-certified protection to stand up to dirt, grime, dust, water, and even vehicle coolant and antifreeze. It takes measurements down to 0.0001 of an inch and swaps between imperial and metric.

Mitutoyo’s digital calipers offer some of the highest levels of accuracy on the market: up to 0.0005 inch. Moreover, it comes in a sleek protective case for added protection. It’s expensive and offers decimal readouts only, and it lacks a data port for transferring measurements to a computer.

During our test, we immediately felt the difference in build quality and materials that went into this digital caliper compared to the others. It’s a heavy-duty tool, and it weighs 1 pound. We also liked the weather resistance, as we felt totally comfortable measuring hoses on one of our leaky old project cars. Also, it’s hard to argue with the degree of accuracy this model offers.

Product Specs

  • Range: 0 to 6 inches/150mm
  • Measurement styles: Imperial, metric, fractions
  • Additional features: None

Pros

  • Extreme environmental resistance
  • One of the easiest to use
  • Extremely accurate
  • Heavy-duty construction

Cons

  • It is expensive
  • Small screen

Get the Mitutoyo 500-752-20 on Amazon.

Also Tested:

MOOCK 6 inch Digital Micrometer Vernier Caliper

Mook’s 6-inch Digital Micrometer Vernier Caliper was on our list to test, so we gave it a shot. We were intrigued by its stainless steel construction, contrasting marking, and decently large LCD display. We also liked that it could swap between metric, imperial, and fractions.

However, during our test, the Moock’s adjustment action was hit or miss (mostly miss). The thumbwheel wouldn’t engage most of the time, and when it did move, the entire slide felt like it was grinding. Accuracy wasn’t an issue, however.

WEN 10761 Electronic 6.1-Inch Digital Caliper

We continue to give WEN tools a try since the brand truly does offer some diamonds in the rough, especially at affordable prices. We wanted to try the 10761 Electronic 6.1-inch digital caliper for its extra-large display and agreeable price, hoping this would be one of those diamonds.

However, it just turned out rough. First, understand that the display is outstanding. It really is one of the better displays in the test. However, this model would not hold an accurate calibration. Each time we zeroed this model out at its closed position, it would give us another reading, sometimes as much as five-hundredths of an inch. That’s reason enough for us to give this WEN the heave-ho from our list.

Our Verdict

For those who are looking for an all-around capable and durable digital caliper, the Clockwise Tools DCLR-0605 Electronic Digital Caliper features a large display, ease of use, and weather resistance. But for those who’d prefer to save a bit of money, the Adoric Digital Caliper 0-6″ Calipers Measuring Tool comes at an affordable price point, and its display and equally easy-to-use functionality are hard to overlook.

How We Tested the Best Digital Caliper

When we took on the task of assembling a list of these tools, we wanted to ensure we were suggesting only the best digital calipers so shoppers knew what they’d be getting. To make sure that was the case, we performed hands-on testing with all these models.

The first test involved the setup to ensure that all of these models were easy to put together, activate, calibrate, and use. Next, we set out to test their accuracy, checking the thickness of some leather, angle iron, and wood.

In the next test, we checked the depth of several finely machined photography tube extensions we had on hand. Last, we checked the inner dimensions of the same extensions. For tools that could handle the elements, we checked the accuracy on some greasy, dirty fittings under the hood of an old project car.

Last, we compared all of the features that each model had to offer to ensure that they’re worth the investment. With these tests performed, we were able to put together a list of accurate, easy-to-use digital calipers that are sure to deliver.

Tips for Using Digital Calipers

Even with the best digital calipers money can buy, DIYers must know how to properly use the tool. Here are a couple of basic tips.

First, make sure to “zero out”/reset the reading on the LCD display before making a measurement. Once the display reads “0,” begin turning the thumbwheel until the inside or outside jaws make firm contact with the object. Use the outside (lower) jaws to read the outside diameter of an object, and use the inside (upper) jaws for measuring the inside diameter.

To measure the depth of an object, groove, or recession, use the depth gauge. Make sure the bottom of the caliper is perpendicular to the object being measured and slide the thumbwheel until the tip of the depth gauge bottoms out in the object.

A few more tips:

  • Tighten the locking screw after making a measurement to save or transfer it.
  • Regularly check for signs of wear and tear, such as scratches or burrs, on the jaws and scale that could affect the accuracy of a calipers’ measurements.
  • Calibrate calipers once a year, either professionally or with a calibration gauge, to ensure accurate measurements. If the calipers didn’t come with a calibration certificate, calibrate them after the initial purchase.

FAQ

If some questions still linger that weren’t addressed in this guide, consider the following answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Q. How do digital calipers work?

Digital calipers use a digital encoder that displays measurements on a digital interface instead of the rack-and-pinion system that analog calipers display on a round dial.

Q. What are the advantages of digital calipers?

Digital calipers can take highly accurate measurements (to 0.0005 inch) of an object’s inside diameter, outside diameter, and depth. Digital calipers can automatically convert between standard and metric measurement systems, have an easy-to-read digital display, and offer a higher level of accuracy than analog sets.

Q. How do you use digital calipers?

To measure the outside diameter of an object, rest the outside jaws parallel to the sides of the object being measured by adjusting the thumbwheel until the jaws make firm contact with the object; rest the inside jaws parallel to the sides of the object for the inside diameter. Place the base of the caliper perpendicular to the object to measure its depth.