The Best Levels for Consistently Accurate Results

We help you level the playing field on these accuracy-oriented tools and square away the best levels for any project on your to-do list.

By Tom Scalisi | Updated Sep 8, 2020 12:12 PM

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The Best Levels Option


In almost any home renovation, achieving the best results requires some type of level. Whether you’re trying to hang cabinets or determine how sloped the floor is, having the best level on hand is key to a successful project.

Some projects won’t work well if they’re out of level or plumb (the vertical term for level). For instance: Hanging a new door in a rough opening. If the door jamb isn’t plumb, the door won’t shut correctly, or at all in some cases. Consider building a DIY workbench: If it’s not level, screws and tools may roll off the sides—a real nuisance and hindrance to your workflow.

Whether you’re building a deck, trimming table legs, or painting stripes on an accent wall, starting with a level reference is the only way to achieve consistent and accurate results. There’s a perfect tool for each of these scenarios, and this guide will help you choose the best level for your project.

Our Top Picks

Levels come in a lot of different varieties. From small pocket or torpedo levels to 6-footers, there’s a level for your project. Generally speaking, you want to choose the right length level for your project needs. With this in mind, here are our top picks.

The Best Levels Option: CRAFTSMAN Level, 48-Inch


BEST OVERALL: CRAFTSMAN 48-inch Box Beam Level

When it comes to a level for all-around purposes, you can’t beat a 4-footer. This 48-inch level from CRAFTSMAN has all of the features you need in a quality level: Sturdy construction, easy-to-read vials, and lightweight. The built-in grips are especially handy for hanging in your shop or carrying to your project. The plastic end caps help to reduce shock as well, should this level ever fall. The aluminum construction is sturdy, so you don’t need to worry about clamping it to use as a saw guide or straight edge. Overall, there are no complaints about this level. It’ll serve for any project, from hanging doors to framing to finishing work. One improvement some might prefer is a built-in magnet, but this level’s performance doesn’t suffer without one.

The Best Levels Option: 3M Johnson Level & Tool 1402-0900 9" Torpedo Level


BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: 3M Johnson 9″ Torpedo Level

If you’re the home decor type, the 3M Johnson 9″ Torpedo Level is a great choice. Its compact size and low price mean you don’t have to look after it much, making it ideal for a toolbox or kitchen junk drawer. You can level picture frames, hang shelves, or check any other home decor project for level. It features three vials so you can check for level, plumb, and 45-degree angles without issue. It has a V-groove edge to rest on pipes, but it can sit on clothing or curtain rods. The bright orange color makes it easy to find, no matter how cluttered that junk drawer gets.

This level is all about value, so complaining about what it’s lacking doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t have a magnet, but including a magnet would likely bump the price up slightly and out of the value range.

The Best Levels Option: Stabila 78496 Type 196 Heavy-Duty Complete Kit


UPGRADE PICK: Stabila Heavy Duty Complete 6 Level Kit

Don’t let the Stabila kit’s professional appearance (and price tag) intimidate you. These levels are easy to use and offer a ton of value. In this kit, you get six levels; 78-inch, 48-inch, 32-inch, 24-inch, and 16-inch, as well as a 10-inch torpedo. With this kit, you’ll have the exact level you need for any job from decks to doors to picture hanging. These highly-engineered levels are incredibly accurate, regardless of orientation (vials up or down). As you’d expect from a high-end set of levels, these have shock-absorbing caps to protect your investment if they should ever fall. They also come in a handy carrying case for keeping everything together.

Not everyone needs a set like this. It truly is an upgrade situation. If you’re okay with fewer levels or a little less accuracy, you can go with a far less expensive set.

The Best Levels Option: IRWIN Level, Magnetic, I-beam, 24-Inch (1801091)


BEST 24-INCH: IRWIN 24″ Magnetic I-Beam Level

Sometimes a manufacturer comes up with something that just makes sense, and that’s what IRWIN has done with this 24-inch level. Two of the vials are preset for level and plumb, while the third rotates to show you either the angle you’re looking for or how your workpiece is out of level. This aluminum level includes a magnet and V-groove for leveling pipes—great for plumbing projects, especially when used with the rotating vial.

This is an I-beam style level instead of a box, which means its body is I-shaped. The I-beam design is fine for general leveling uses, but it can be challenging to clamp if you’re using it as a straight edge.

The Best Levels Option: Swanson SVB720 72-Inch Savage Professional Level


BEST 72-INCH: Swanson 72-Inch Savage Professional Level

The most common use for a 72-inch level is plumbing door jambs, both in new construction and renovations. In projects where a finished floor is already in place, you want to protect it as much as possible. Swanson’s gel end caps do just that by keeping a soft surface between this aluminum level and the finished floor. They also provide excellent shock absorption, maintaining the level’s accuracy for a long time. It features three vials for quick reference and a V-groove for sitting on curtain or closet rods and pipes. Another nice feature is that this level has two- and four-degree markings for tradespeople who need to keep an eye on drainage.

If this level could do with one improvement, it would be a more substantial or magnified center vial. At 72-inches, there’s plenty of room for a little more material around the vial. Otherwise, this is an excellent level.

The Best Levels Option: CRAFTSMAN Torpedo Level, 9-Inch (CMHT82390)


BEST POCKET-SIZED: CRAFTSMAN Torpedo Level, 9-Inch (CMHT82390)

Since our best overall level was a CRAFTSMAN, it makes sense that another level from that line should make our list. This 9-inch torpedo level has the same high-end build quality as the 48-inch model. The aluminum body makes this torpedo stable and robust, while the over-molded end caps absorb shock if dropped, which torpedo levels often are. It has three vials for finding level, plumb, and 45-degree angles. Possibly the best feature of all is the magnified center vial, which makes it easier to read. That’s a great feature on a small level, as they can be difficult to use unless you’re very close.

This level is a little “chunky.” The aluminum construction allows it to be a little larger than most hard plastic pocket levels while still being lightweight, but the bulky size might be an issue for some.

The Best Levels Option: Goldblatt 3-piece Torpedo Spirit Level Set


ALSO CONSIDER: Goldblatt 3-piece Torpedo Spirit Level Set

This set from Goldblatt has everything the average DIYer will ever need, without the upgraded price tag. You’ll get a 48-inch, 24-inch, and 9-inch torpedo level in this kit—all box-style and featuring aluminum construction. Each has three vials, and the 48-inch and 24-inch levels both have shock-resistant end caps and hand grips. The torpedo contains a level, plumb, and 45-degree window, a built-in magnet, and an integrated light that runs on two AAA batteries.

The only problem with this kit is that the 48- and 24-inch levels don’t have 45-degree vials. Not all levels do (the more expensive Stabilas don’t, for example), so it’s not necessarily expected. It might be an improvement, particularly for the 24-inch level.