Photo: Glenda Taylor
The traditional steel measuring tape has been around since 1829, when James Chesterman patented it. These manual measuring tools provide accurate measurement when the tape is held level, but measuring a long space often requires two workers—one to hold one end of the tape and another to record the measurement. If the tape sags, there will surely be minor differences. Today’s laser measuring devices allow just one person to take measurements, and when used correctly, they can be highly accurate.
Laser tape technology has significantly improved in the past decade, so we were excited to test today’s popular models. We tested basic laser measures that offer a simple distance readout as well as more advanced models that allowed us to store measurements and calculate surface area and volume.
Digital tapes offer a variety of solutions for measuring challenges, and the following models all earned a spot on our lineup of the best digital tape measure options for most users. Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for a digital laser tape measure and discover the pros and cons of the models we tested. Spoiler: Not all the laser measures we tested excelled—find out which ones didn’t make the cut in the “Also Tested” section below.
- BEST OVERALL: Bosch GLM 20 Blaze 65-Foot Laser Measure
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Skil 65-Foot Laser Distance Measurer with Wheel
- UPGRADE PICK: DeWalt DW099S 100-Foot Laser Distance Measurer
- BEST FOR CURVED SURFACES: Dremel Cordless 3-in-1 Digital Laser Measurer
- BEST LONG-DISTANCE: Makita LD050P 164-Foot Laser Distance Measure
Editorâs Note: Weâre in the middle of testing even more of the top digital tape measurers on the market right now. Check back for our honest reactions after getting our hands on best picks.
How We Tested the Best Digital Tape Measures
Before selecting the laser distance measure we wanted to put through their paces, we extensively researched more than 30 digital measuring tools. We looked at reported accuracy, ease of use, power source, durability, and other special features. We also factored in the brand—giving slight preference to nationally respected companies such as Bosch and DeWalt. Still, we didn’t eliminate models made by niche manufacturers if they offered precise measuring and were simple to use.
In actual testing, we set up a short (6-foot) test station and a longer (20-foot) test station, using a professional-quality steel measuring tape and a surveyor’s laser level to ensure our test stations were as close to perfectly level as possible. Each digital laser tape measure was tested on both stations to determine how far off it was (inch-wise). Fortunately, all the tapes on our lineup were within ⅛-inch accuracy at 6 feet and ¼-inch accuracy at 20 feet. While we consider that highly accurate, keep in mind that these laser distance measures must be held straight for the best results—holding one at even a slight angle will change the final measurement.
We also noted how bright the laser measures were and how easy each model was to set up and use. We tried out every feature on each model, including complex calculating functions that figure surface area and volume. We scored each digital measuring tape using a rubric: the better a model performed, the higher the score it received. After testing, we added and averaged each digital tape’s scores and used them to help determine the best category and use for each laser distance measure.
Our Top Picks
The digital laser tape measures in this lineup all excelled in our hands-on tests, but they offer a variety of different features. These measuring tools are not one size fits all; some are better suited for particular uses than others. We found each, however, to be highly accurate and suitable for most DIY, hobby, and construction purposes.
The Bosch GLM 20 Blaze laser distance measure is an excellent example of a simple but highly accurate digital measuring tool. And for many people, that’s all that’s needed.
We liked the ability to measure up to 65 feet at the push of a button. We loaded two AAA batteries (included) in the Bosch and started testing. This no-frills digital tape measure is as simple as it gets—we pushed the button on the front to turn the unit on and then pressed the button again when we were ready to measure.
Like most laser measuring devices, the end of the tool (opposite the laser) must be positioned against the starting point when measuring. We held the end of the unit against one wall, pointed it at the opposite wall, and then pressed the button again. The Bosch emitted a red laser dot that appeared on the opposite wall, indicating the endpoint and giving us the distance reading.
We then tested the Bosch digital tape measure on our 6-foot test station and found it was 1/16 inch off. In the 20-foot test, it was accurate to within ⅛ inch.
This simple digital measuring tool doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it does boast two notable additional features. First, the Bosch GLM 20 Blaze shows measurements in live mode, which means we could walk around and point the laser at any object within 65 feet to get a reading of how far away it was. As we moved around, the digital readout automatically changed to suit.
Secondly, this Bosch model also stores a measurement while taking another. We were able to measure the length of one wall in a room, press the button once to store that number at the top of the LED digital screen, and then measure an adjacent wall. In this way, we could see both the room’s length and width at a glance.
The Bosch GLM 20 Blaze is small enough to carry in a pocket or a tool box, but we wish it came with a protective case. The screen on ours got scratched while we were carrying it in a tool pouch with a few nails.
- Range: 65 feet
- Accuracy: Within ⅛ inch
- Display type: Backlit LED
- Single-button operation is simple to learn and easy to use
- Live distance changes allow users to get immediate readings as they move about
- Simple 1 button operation delivers real-time, accurate measurements within 1/8 of an inch
- No area or volume calculation features; may not suit some user preferences
This digital laser measure doesn’t include a protective case; our test model’s screen got scratched
Get the Bosch digital laser measure at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Loweâs.
There’s no need to spend a lot to get digital accuracy and the ability to calculate surface area. In addition, those looking to measure curved surfaces can do so with Skil’s 65-foot digital measuring tape.
In our 6-foot measuring test, the Skil was accurate within 1/16 inch. In our 20-foot test, it was within ⅛ inch—so highly accurate. The unit offers the ability to calculate surface area, and we found it easy to use and accurate. We measured the width of a room, pressed the main button to hold the number in memory, and then measured the room’s length by repeating the action. After that, by pressing the main button twice in quick succession, the Skil multiplied the two numbers and gave us the room’s surface area. This function would come in handy for builders, real estate agents, or anyone else who needs to calculate surface area on the fly.
We were also able to toggle through metric and imperial measurements using the side on/off button. What’s more, the function that sets this digital tape measure apart from many is the ability to measure curved areas, such as a curved staircase rail or an arched doorway, via a wheel on the bottom corner of the unit. By selecting the wheel function from the side button, we could roll the unit from one point to the next and find the distance. Measuring wheels are relatively new functions on digital tapes, so finding one at this price point was impressive.
- Range: 65 feet
- Accuracy: Within ⅛ inch
- Display type: Backlit LED
- This budget-friendly model provides accurate straight and curved measurements
- The white-on-black backlit digital display is easy to see, even in bright daylight
- Comes with a protective case; can resist drops and wear-and-tear
- Users can calculate the surface area of a square or rectangular space
- Slight learning curve to figure out how to store numbers and calculate surface area
Get the Skil digital laser measure at Amazon, Best Buy, and Acme Tools.
The first thing we noticed when unboxing the DeWalt DW099S digital laser was the distinctive yellow color that’s standard on all DeWalt tools. We’re familiar with the high quality of DeWalt products, so we were interested in seeing how well this digital tool lined up. Overall, we were quite impressed, but there are a few features we feel could be improved.
The tool excelled in our 6-foot and 20-foot measurement tests, coming within 1/16 inch on the former and ⅛ inch on the latter. Then, we took it outside to see if it would measure up to 100 feet, and we backed away from our shop—stopping to take a measurement every few feet. At 82 feet away, we could no longer see the laser dot on the side of the shop, but we continued to get measurements on the LED screen until 94 feet away. That was the farthest measurement we received—not quite 100 feet but in the general area.
The DeWalt DW099S digital tape measure allows users to calculate both the surface area of a square or rectangle and the volume of a cube. This is where the DeWalt shines! We followed a blinking diagram on the LED screen that prompted us to take specific measurements, and then the tool calculated the volume of the area, using the measurements we entered. This is a great feature for anyone who needs to calculate volume in the field.
We were less impressed with DeWalt’s Bluetooth function, however. We downloaded the app, which required creating an account and giving the app access to our smartphone data, but the app doesn’t do anything that can’t be done on the tool itself. We did discover that the DeWalt tape measure will sync with other paid-subscription construction apps, but we opted not to purchase those for our testing. We also would have liked a case to help protect the digital tape measure from scratches in a tool box or tool pouch.
Read our full review: DeWalt DW099S 100-Foot Laser Distance Measurer
- Range: 100 feet
- Accuracy: Within 3/32 of an inch
- Display type: Backlit LED
- This digital measuring tape calculates both surface area and volume
- LED readout (bright white on black) is easy to see
- This DeWalt laser distance measurer is highly accurate for professional or DIY use
- Bluetooth app doesn’t offer functions that are not found on the tool itself
Get the DeWalt laser distance measure at Amazon, Acme Tools, or Toolup.
Dremel is well known for making power rotary tools, so while a laser measure tool seems a little out of its wheelhouse, we’re glad the company came out with it.
The Dremel tape proved to be simple to operate—just one button on the front turns it on and off and takes measurements. The trick is learning how many presses trigger a specific function, but we figured that out in about 15 seconds. It will hold up to two measurements and multiply them to find the surface area.
In both our 6-foot and our 20-foot measuring tests, the Dremel was slightly less than ⅛ inch off, which is pretty good. However, it excels in its wheeled adapter that measures curves.
With the wheel attached, we could accurately measure arched doorways and the rail of our spiral staircase, making this model indispensable for builders and painters who need accurate measurements even when the surface isn’t perfectly flat.
This measure also comes with a tiny flexible tape measure that might be more useful to hobbyists than DIYers, but we found it fascinating. The tape attachment snaps on the top of the tool and houses a 5-foot-long tape. As we pulled the tape out, the Dremel displayed the distance. We couldn’t figure out a good use for it, especially since it’s so short, but it might come in handy at some point. And an included protective case for the tool would have been nice, especially to hold the attachments.
- Range: 65 feet
- Accuracy: Within ⅛ inch
- Display type: Backlit LED
- Included wheeled attachment can be used to measure curved surfaces
- Backlit digital display is bright and clear and very easy to read
- Tool measures length and width and uses the two numbers to calculate surface area
- Tiny tape measure attachment doesn’t seem very useful; may not suit some users’ preferences
- No case included to protect the tape measure or store the attachments
Get the Dremel digital laser measurer at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.
The Makita LD050P boasts the longest measuring distance of all the digital tape measures we tested. After it passed our 6-foot and 20-foot tests, being less than 1/16 inch off on both, we took the tool outdoors and measured as we walked away from the side of our shop. At 164 feet away (the maximum listed distance), we could still see the laser dot on the shop; indeed, it seemed nearly as bright as it did when we were 50 feet away, and we got an accurate reading. The biggest challenge when measuring that distance was keeping the laser dot still—it tended to bob and weave even when we held the tool as still as possible.
In addition to calculating surface area and volume, the Makita outdoor laser measure tape will also calculate the missing side of a triangle if the user enters the measurements of the other two sides (known as a Pythagorean function). We used this feature to calculate the third side of a triangle by entering the distance of the other two sides. It took a few tries, but a flashing diagram on the tool’s screen walked us through taking each measurement, and we finally got it right.
This was the most complex digital tape we tested, and the Pythagorean feature might not be used by most, but overall, we found this to be a highly accurate tool, and we’d rather have the feature and never use it than need it and not have it. The Makita comes with a protective canvas case and loop for carrying it on a belt or tool pouch.
- Range: 164 feet
- Accuracy: Within 5/64 of an inch
- Display type: Backlit LED
- This digital tape calculates surface area, volume, and the missing side of a triangle
- Users can toggle between metric and imperial measurements for added user-friendliness
- The laser dot is bright and clearly carries up to the tool’s maximum 164-foot range
- Learning curve for some of the calculations, specifically calculating the missing side of a triangle
Get the Makita laser distance measure at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Acme Tools.
We had high hopes for the Klein Tools digital tape measure, but ultimately, we had to give up and eliminate it from the testing. The trouble started before we even got it out of its nearly bulletproof plastic packaging that required tin snips to cut it open. Once we got the tool out, we discovered we needed a screwdriver to install the batteries that came with the device.
Finally, with the batteries in and the back screwed back on, we turned on the unit, but instead of seeing recognizable numbers on the LED screen, we saw only a few random lines. Thinking it might be bad batteries, we took those out and installed some brand-new ones we had on hand. Same results. Something was wrong with the LED screen, and it would not display correctly. We tried a few more times but eventually gave up. Maybe we got a lemon, or maybe the tool was damaged somehow in transit, but we had to eliminate it from our testing of the best laser measures. We’d be happy to try again in the future with another Klein Tools model if given the opportunity.
What to Consider When Choosing a Digital Tape Measure
Before selecting a digital tape measure, consider the tool’s intended use, measurement types, accuracy, and ease of use. Most of these laser distance measures are lightweight and compact enough to fit into a pocket or backpack and come with IP45 ratings for waterproof or dustproof constructions. Select picks are also Bluetooth-compatible and come with two-in-one functionality, built-in memories, and automatic shutoff.
While most digital measuring tapes will calculate length in feet with a laser, some options also accurately measure distance in inches and meters with precision. Some digital tape measures include a laser as well as a tape measure for short- and long-distance calculations in inches, feet, and meters.
One other advantage of using some of the laser tape measures available is the ability to measure the area and indirect measurement (Pythagorean theorem) of a room or space. This is particularly useful when working on construction projects where height and/or the total volume of a space needs to be measured.
A hallmark of any good digital measuring tape is accuracy. Whether it is a traditional tape measure or a high-tech laser model, the best digital option will list a degree of accuracy on the packaging or in the manual. As a general rule, look for digital measuring tools with accuracy within ⅛ to 1/16 of an inch for truly dialed-in results.
Unlike traditional measuring tapes, digital measures have backlit digital and LCD screens that display an accurate measurement in inches, feet, or meters. Most laser tape measures have digital displays that are bright enough to see in lit or dark spaces for easy readability both while digital measuring or changing modes. However, some models that are not backlit can be difficult to read in darker settings.
While measuring the height of a wall, the length of a room, or the total area of a space, the last thing a user needs is for the digital tape measure to lose power. Most of these laser tape measures are powered by disposable or lithium-ion batteries, allowing them to last for 1 to 5 hours per battery pack or charge.
Both of these types of digital tape measures usually have automatic shut-off features that are triggered after 30 seconds or up to 3 minutes to conserve battery power and increase runtime.
Connectivity and Storage
Much like laser levels, some digital tape measures are capable of storing and sharing measurements and data between devices. Select products come with a certain amount of storage capacity, storing between five and 20 measurements. Some brands offer a paid subscription for keeping many measurements stored, and some offer storage for an unlimited number of measurements.
For surveyors or builders, select high-tech digital measuring tools that also come with Bluetooth connectivity for sharing measurements to iOS and Android smartphone apps or for saving on tablets and laptops.
If making an informed decision on this handy tool feels like information overload, you’re not alone. Below, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the best digital tape measures. Be sure to check for the info you need here.
Q. How does a digital tape measure work?
A digital tape measure is very similar to a standard tape measure, except with a beam of light instead of metal tape. Once you have the laser in the right location for measuring, turn on the button and a display will illuminate the measurement of length, volume, and/or the indirect measurement of a room.
Q. How accurate is a digital tape measure?
Standard digital tape measures will be accurate within â
to 1/16 of an inch.
Q. How much does a digital tape measure cost?
The average digital tape measure will cost anywhere between $25 to $40, while higher-end models could cost up to $300.
Q. Where can I buy a digital tape measure?
Digital tape measures can be purchased at most home improvement stores including Lowe’s, The Home Depot, and Walmart, or on some online retailers such as Amazon.
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