The 6 Best Tape Measures of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

We recommend the Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure because it’s accurate and easy to read.

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three brands of tape measure

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Tape measures are an essential tool for homeowners because they offer a reliable and accurate way to measure distances. Without one, getting an exact measurement for your home improvement project would be nearly impossible. 

“A tape measure is one of the most important tools you can have in your home and can keep you from making a lot of purchasing fails,” says Kimberly Greenwell, a home education expert and host of the TV show "My Southern Home." “It will allow you to make sure the sofa fits perfectly against the wall and the dishwasher slides perfectly into the cabinetry. A DIYer who wants to install hardwood floors in their home will need a tape measure to accurately determine the room’s square footage, to calculate the price, and keep them on budget.” 

To come up with this list, we tested 34 tape measures in our Lab and assessed them on ease of use, accuracy, durability, and overall value. We also considered blade length, blade width, blade material, standout, and various features of each model. In addition to Greenwell, we also spoke to Ryan Jantz, co-founder of Proteus Homes, on the key factors you should look out for when choosing a tape measure. 

Our best overall pick is the Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure for its large, bold numbers that won't make you squint and an extended 13-foot standout that’s great at measuring long distances. Additionally, it has hash markings on the top and bottom of the tape, allowing you to measure awkward angles and hard-to-reach areas with ease.

Best Overall Tape Measure

Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure

Irwin Strait-Line IWHT39391S


Who it’s for: People who want a tape measure that has big, bold numbers.

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer a more compact tape measure.

The Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure is our best overall pick because it earned a perfect five-star score during our tests. We appreciate its extra-large numbers and long-reaching 13-foot standout that make it incredibly easy to use, even if you’re working alone. (The standout of a measuring tape is how far it can extend before it bends—this makes measuring convenient, especially if you don’t have anyone else around to help out.) We tested the 16- and 25-foot versions and found that the standout for the latter was slightly less—around 12 feet. 

We think the bright yellow blade and black numbers have a nice contrast, which makes this tape measure very easy to read. Plus, this pick has identical markings on the top and bottom of the blade, so you can easily get the measurements you need—even if you are in an awkward position. 

Overall, this tape measure performed well on all tests. There was no visible or measurable damage after we dropped this tape measure onto a concrete floor, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally losing your grip. (That being said, dropping it from the top of your ladder may not be the best thing for it if you plan to keep it for a long time.) Another thing to keep in mind is that this tape measure is on the bulkier side, so it felt quite snug in our tool belt. Those seeking a compact option would be better off with another pick from our list.

Price at time of publish: $22

Product Details:

  • Blade Length: 16 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet, 35 feet 
  • Blade Width: 1.25 inches
  • Blade Material: Steel
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure Tested

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Best Budget Tape Measure

Milwaukee Compact Tape Measure

Milwaukee Compact Tape Measure

The Home Depot

Who it’s for: People who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a tape measure.

Who it isn’t for: People who need to measure long distances on their own.

Even though it has fewer features than some other tape measures, this one from Milwaukee is still a solid option for most home renovators who don’t want to splurge. It has an average standout of 8 feet, 9 inches, which isn’t anything exceptional, but we think it’s enough for most uses around the house. The 1/8-inch markings are clear and not too cluttered, which helps ensure accuracy while reading the measurements.

During our tests, we found this tape measure to be generally easy to use with one hand, especially thanks to its comfortable grip. But for the 25-foot version, we noticed that the blade lock switch was difficult to deploy with a single hand. Also, it may not be the most tape convenient to carry because the belt clip was stiff and difficult to slide over a belt with one hand. But if you aren’t planning on using this feature anyway, the Milwaukee tape measure is still a solid pick.

All things considered, this tape measure provided accurate inside and outside measurements with a blade that retracts quite smoothly. We recommend it for anyone looking for a durable yet affordable tape measure. But, if you need a longer standout, you may want to look at other models on this list. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Product Details:

  • Blade Length: 12 feet, 16 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet
  • Blade Width: 0.9 inches
  • Blade Material: Steel
  • Weight: 0.63 pounds
Milwaukee Compact Tape Measure Tested

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Easiest-to-Read Tape Measure

DeWalt Tough Series Tape Measure

DeWalt Tough Series DWHT36916S

Home Depot

Who it’s for: People who want a tape measure with easy-to-read markings.

Who it isn’t for: People only use a tape measure occasionally.

For those working on a home renovation, the DeWalt ToughSeries Tape Measure is a good one to have around. This tape measure is distinct because of its bright yellow tape and bold markings on both sides of the blade, which we found to be very easy to read. Although the manufacturer says that this tape measure is tough enough to survive drops up to 100 feet, we carried out our own drop tests (falling between 12 and 15 feet) to check these claims. The results? The DeWalt tape measure proved to be quite durable and only sustained “minor scuffs” in the process. 

This tape measure is precise, though it did slightly miss the mark when taking inside measurements (by 1/64 of an inch, to be exact). Still, we think this difference is so small that it wouldn’t be a problem in most cases. The blade comes with the standard small diamond markings for 19.2-inch truss or joist layouts, so you can smoothly work out where all the studs are located. Just be cautious when reeling it in, as we found the recoil to be pretty powerful.

Overall, the DeWalt is a good buy for frequent use because it’s so easy to read—but for occasional DIYers, it might feel like overkill due to its heavy-duty design.

Price at time of publish: $31

Product Details:

  • Blade Length: 16 feet
  • Blade Width: 1.25 inches
  • Blade Material: Steel
  • Weight: 1.51 pounds
DeWalt ToughSeries Tape Measure

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Best Double-Sided Tape Measure

Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Dual-Sided Tape Measure

Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Dual-Sided Tape Measure


Who it’s for: People who want a tape measure with markings on both sides.

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer a tape measure with a wider blade.

The Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Tape Measure is a dual-sided tape measure that’s been made for toughness, hence the name "Shockforce." This is the tape measure that you need if measurements tend to confuse you. Its blade is yellow with glossy black markings, and it has markings on the bottom of the blade so you can conveniently obtain measurements if you’re in a tight space. The blade has 1/16-inch markings throughout the entire length, but we wish there were measurements in smaller increments (like 1/32 inch) for the first foot.

For both the 16-foot and 25-foot sizes, we were pleasantly surprised that the standout was much longer than we originally thought (11 feet and just over 13 feet, respectively). We also found it to be accurate for outside and inside measurements, which are notoriously difficult to get right. 

All things considered, this double-sided tape measure is a reliable option for homeowners who need something compact and easy to read for smaller projects. 

Price at time of publish: $25

Product Details:

  • Blade Length: 25 feet, 35 feet
  • Blade Width: 1.18 inches
  • Blade Material: Steel
  • Weight: 1.21 pounds
Crescent Lufkin Shockforce Dual-Sided Tape Measure

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Best Auto-Locking Tape Measure

Milwaukee Compact Auto-Lock Tape Measure

Milwaukee Compact Auto Lock Tape Measure

The Home Depot

Who it’s for: People who tend to quickly forget measurements while working. 

Who it isn’t for: People who need a tape measure that’s longer than 25 feet.

When you don’t want to mess around while recording measurements, a tape measure with an auto-lock will come in handy. That’s why we think the Milwaukee Compact Auto-Lock Tape Measure is worth considering. It has an easy-to-reach, spring-loaded thumb button for a lock, rather than a switch. We also like that the button lock made retracting the blade easier to control.

In our tests, we discovered that the numbers on the blade smudged when we pulled it out, and while this can be cleaned off, it would be tedious to do this every time you need to measure something. In terms of accuracy, all measurements were precise. Compared to other tape measures, this model doesn’t have as much rubber overmolding, yet, it still performed well in drop tests with only minor scuffs noticeable. 

Price at time of publish: $18

Product Details:

  • Blade Length: 16 feet, 25 feet
  • Blade Width: 0.5 inches
  • Blade Material: Steel
  • Weight: 0.95 pounds
Milwaukee Compact Auto Lock Tape Measure

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Best Professional Tape Measure

Stanley FatMax Tape Measure

Stanley FatMax FMHT36316S


Who it’s for: People who want a professional-quality tape measure that’s ideal for metal stud framing work.

Who it isn’t for: People who don’t mind having a cheaper model for occasional DIY work.

For a professional-quality option, we recommend the Stanley FatMax Tape Measure. It’s ideal for those who need a measuring tape for regular use, especially anyone working with metal stud framing. The blade comes with a special coating that protects it from damage. Plus, it has one-handed features that let you open and close the lock and clip it to your belt with a single hand. We were quite pleased with how well we were able to grip this tape measure, however, it is worth noting that those with smaller hands may not have the same experience. 

The Stanley FatMax has a decent standout that will suffice for most projects, but it didn’t quite meet its claims. In our tests, we found that the standout was approximately 10 feet, 6 inches for the 16-foot version and 12 feet, 6 inches for the 25-foot version. We really like its smooth recoil, which allows the blade to retract in a controlled manner rather than flop around. But we did encounter some difficulties when we tried to pause recoiling and then start again. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Product Details:

  • Blade Length: 16 feet, 25 feet
  • Blade Width: 1.25 inches
  • Blade Material: Steel
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds
Stanley Fatmax Tape Measure

Real Simple / Henry Wortock

Final Verdict

The Irwin Strait-Line Tape Measure is our top pick for its bold, distinct numbers and long standout that can measure large areas, especially if you are doing it by yourself. If you prefer something more economical, we recommend the Milwaukee Compact Tape Measure. While it has a shorter reach and fewer features, we think it will work well enough for most minor DIY projects.

Our Testing Process

To come up with this list, we acquired 34 tape measures and tested them in our Lab. Whenever possible, we tested the 16- and 25-foot versions of each tape measure. Since accuracy is of utmost importance in a measuring tape, we took both inside and outside measurements in four different increments ranging from 4 to 24 inches. We took note of how easy it was to read each measurement and considered how comfortable it was to use the tape measure with one hand.

To evaluate each tape measure’s standout (how far the blade can extend without bending), we fully extended the blade three times, making sure to hold it at different angles to get the full picture. We noted where it bent each time and compared this to any manufacturer's claims. Next, we tested the recoil and lock functions of each measuring tape by retracting the blade at its maximum length, as well as at 10 feet and 5 feet. Here, we considered whether the recoil felt smooth and clean or hard to control. 

During our tests, we also looked at the belt clip of each tape measure, noting whether it was easy to hang without looking or with one hand. We also tried to fit each tape measure into the dedicated pocket on a tool belt and found that some models were a bit too bulky. 

Finally, we put the tape measures through a series of drop tests. Each model was dropped from the top of a step ladder (around 12 to 15 feet high) onto a concrete floor. Then, we examined for any damage on the body, blade, hook, or belt clip, and noted whether the tape measure was still functional. Once all tests were complete, we looked at the price of each tape measure and considered its performance in our evaluations to determine its overall value.

DeWalt Tape Measure

Real Simple / Dera Burreson

How to Shop for Tape Measures Like a Pro

Blade Length

When shopping for a tape measure, one of the most important things to consider is its blade. “The ‘blade’ is the part of the tape measure that has the measurements on it,” says Jantz. “It is the ‘tape’ in a tape measure.” Different brands offer blades of various lengths, with 25 feet being the most common. However, there are other sizes available such as 16 feet, 35 feet, and even 100 feet. Consider the types of projects you’ll need the tape measure for, and choose a blade length based on that.

Blade Width

Blade width is also important when it comes to getting accurate measurements. Jantz points out that a broader tape measure is easier to read and will provide more standout to users, which means it won’t snap or bend so easily if extended (more on that below). 

Blade Material

There are several blade materials you can opt for, such as fiberglass, steel, and stainless steel. Steel is the most common, and by far the “best all-around material for a tape measure,” according to Greenwell. This is because measuring tapes constructed with steel blades are durable and rust-resistant—even if they come in contact with corrosive chemicals.

That being said, Greenwell believes that a fiberglass tape measure is actually the “most versatile.” She says that fiberglass tape measures are light and flexible, so they’re easy to wind and unwind—plus, they can withstand temperature fluctuations, allowing them to be stored practically anywhere.

Stanley Fatmax 25ft Tape Measure

Real Simple / Dera Burreson


The standout of a tape measure is how far the blade will stretch without bending or collapsing, explains Jantz. For long distances or for measuring high ceilings, it’s always beneficial to use a tape measure that has extended reach. A long standout is also good if you are working solo: “It allows one person to measure longer distances without having to have a second person available to hold the other end of the tape measure,” says Jantz.   

Units of Measurement

Tape measures are available in two different types of units: imperial and metric units. In the United States, imperial units are the most common way of measuring distance, so you’ll commonly see tape measurements divided into feet and inches. Most other countries, however, use the metric system, which measures distance in meters and centimeters.


Depending on the brand, tape measures come with many features that make measurements as precise as possible. For example, some measuring tapes have auto-locking mechanisms that keep the tape from retracting, while others have magnets on the hook that can stick to metal studs. 

There are also differences in terms of blade markings: Some tapes will have fraction marks and others will have line markings instead. You can also find digital tape measures that have built-in lasers, which are good for long distances and for the times you need more accurate measurements.

However, Jantz says “auto-locking and a large standout are usually the most valuable features for most people.”  

More Tape Measures to Consider

Craftsman Pro Reach Tape Measure: This Craftsman tape measure performed well in our tests, has a decent standout length (11 inches), and is compact enough to fit in any standard tool belt pouch. However, we encountered issues when it came to its recoil—it didn’t always retract smoothly.

Milwaukee Compact Magnetic Tape Measure: We liked this tape measure’s distinct markings and the way it displayed fractions using increasing length marks. It also has a magnetic tip that can easily attach to steel studs. However, the blade on this Milwaukee tape measure is quite narrow, which could affect how durable it is over time.

Questions You Might Ask

Are tape measures 100 percent accurate?

Although tape measures are incredibly useful, you won't ever be able to get 100 percent accuracy when using one. However, for most DIY and construction projects, taking the time to measure precisely should get you results that are accurate enough.

What is the easiest tape measure to read?

According to Jantz, the most readable tape measurements are either digital tape measures, which display measurements on a LED screen and can be converted to metric or imperial units, or double-sided tape measures, which feature markings on both sides of the tape. Tape measures with bold markings and larger numbers are much easier on the eyes, so that’s something you should keep in mind when choosing one. 

Lufkin Shockforce Dual Sided 16ft Measuring Tape

Real Simple / Dera Burreson

Take Our Word for It 

This article was written by Nor’adila Hepburn, a contributing writer for Real Simple with two years of experience writing product reviews and home and lifestyle content. To put together this list, we tested 34 tape measures and considered factors such as blade length, width, and material. We also looked at each product’s standout, units of measurement, and features. Nor’adila consulted Ryan Jantz, co-founder of Proteus Homes, and Kimberly Greenwell, a home education expert and host of the TV show "My Southern Home," for tips on what makes a good measuring tape.

What Is Real Simple Selects?

Next to each product on this list, you may have noticed a Real Simple Selects seal of approval. Any product appearing alongside that seal has been vetted by our team—put through tests and graded on its performance to earn a spot on our list. Although we buy most of the products we test, sometimes we do get samples from companies if purchasing a product ourselves isn’t an option. All products go through the same rigorous process, whether they are purchased or sent by the company.

Love our recommendations? Check out more products that have earned the Real Simple Selects, from humidifiers to cordless vacuums. 

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