The Best Digital Caliper for Accurate Measurements

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

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Best Digital Caliper

Photo: amazon.com

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 allow them to make extremely precise measurements. To take advantage of everything digital calipers have to offer, read on to discover how to choose the best digital calipers.

  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 WATERPROOF: iGaging IP54 Electronic Digital Caliper 0-6″ Display
  7. BEST FOR HARSH CONDITIONS: Mitutoyo 500-752-20, Digimatic Caliper, 0-6″
Best Digital Caliper

Photo: amazon.com

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 your specific needs, understanding these elements and how they work can help you 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. Digital calipers 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 calipers 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 you think of calipers, you probably picture the two sets of measuring jaws that open and close on the top portion of the scale. 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 low-quality calipers. If the depth gauge is important for your needs, 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, are used to 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 you turn the thumbwheel until the teeth 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 you 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 display measurement to be reset 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 to be used in environments unfavorable to electronics, such as machine shops or outdoors. If this is a priority, make sure the digital calipers you choose 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 your 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.

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. Consider the following 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 makes precise measurements up to 0.001 inches. The large push buttons on the digital display make converting between metric and standard measurements a breeze. Resilient stainless steel is complemented by IP54 protection certification to ensure the tool can stand up to moisture and dirt. A data transfer port uploads measurements to your computer. An automatic shut-off kicks in after 5 to 7 minutes of dormancy to preserve battery life. These calipers don’t come with a calibration certificate, but they’re pre-calibrated prior to shipment.

Runner-Up

Best Digital Caliper VINCA
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These 6-inch digital calipers from VINCA are made with polished stainless steel for durability and ease of use. Equipped with an extra-large LCD display, they can clearly show measurements with an accuracy of up to 0.001 inches. With the push of a button, they instantly convert those measurements between standard and metric. They have a data transfer port for transferring measurements to a computer.

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.

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. The four measuring modes are accurate up to 0.01 inches, and the measurements clearly show on the large LCD display. It converts the measurements into inches or millimeters.

The main disadvantage of this unit is its plastic and carbon fiber composite construction. However, the carbon fiber components make it much more robust than models made purely out of plastic. It also lacks an IP protection certification, so don’t use it in wet, dirty places. Finally, it must be calibrated after purchase.

Upgrade Pick

Best Digital Caliper iGaging
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For the highest quality components and precision, these ABSOLUTE ORIGIN digital calipers from iGaging are a must. Accurate up to 0.001 inch, the unit comes with a calibration certificate that guarantees accuracy right out of the box. Moreover, a sturdy storage case offers an additional layer of protection when not in use. iGaging includes a two-year warranty.

Made of stainless steel and with IP54 protection certification, this tool was built to last. Even the battery will run for two years under normal operating conditions. This pair of calipers is 2 inches longer than the standard 6-inch length, so they can measure larger objects than normally possible.

Best Easy Operation

Best Digital Caliper Neiko
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To make your measurements as easy as possible, Neiko’s 6-inch digital caliper was made with just that in mind. Its grooved thumbwheel grips your fingers to easily adjust the measuring teeth. The extra-large LCD display makes the finely tuned measurements easy to see. From this screen, users can convert the measurements to any system.

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.

Best Waterproof

Best Digital Caliper IP54
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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 0.001 inches. Its stainless steel construction gives it an extra dimension of resilience, and the large digital display makes it especially easy to use. iGaging includes a storage case.

However, it’s not calibrated at the factory, and its fraction display may be difficult to read. Instead of conventional fractions (like ¼ inch) it uses “raw” fractions, such as 32/128. Minor issues aside, this pair of calipers contains a lot of features at an affordable price.

Best For Harsh Conditions

Best Digital Caliper Mitutoyo
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If the highest level of protection is of utmost importance and an IP54 level of protection isn’t enough, this caliper from Mitutoyo provides IP67-certified protection. IP67 means airtight protection against dust, and it can stay protected when completely submerged in up to 1 meter, or 3.28 feet, of water.

Mitutoyo’s digital calipers offer some of the highest levels of accuracy on the market: up to 0.0005 inches. 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.

Tips for Using Digital Calipers

Even with the best digital calipers money can buy, users must know how to properly use the tool. Here are a couple of basic usage 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 your 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 About Your New Digital Calipers

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 inches) 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 a higher level of accuracy.

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; and place the base of the caliper perpendicular to the object to measure its depth.