Models in bikinis are sexy. Tape measures are not. Now that the obvious is out of the way we can move past the unglamorous nature of the tool and get straight to the basics. Tape measures are vital in any shop, garage, construction company, and home. The old adage "Measure twice and cut once" is wisdom from someone who ended up cutting a bunch of times and couldn't make right what he had just screwed up. For an auto enthusiast, accurate measurements are critical when building frames, cutting chassis tubing, measuring wheel offsets, adjusting air suspension heights, ordering shocks, determining driveshaft lengths, buying bolts, and the list goes on.
Tape measures suffer from three primary areas of breakage: the internal recoil spring gives up, the actual blade cracks and breaks, or the tension lock no longer works. During our testing of six popular 25-foot tape measures, we evaluated each of these concerns, as well as visibility, construction, features, standout length (the length you can extend the blade before it kinks), and end hook design. We also considered the value, warranty, and ergonomics of each tape measure. Once the testing had concluded, we had a definitive winner. Read on to see how the competition fared.
For those of us who use a tape measure primarily in the garage, it's worth noting that none of the tape measures evaluated had metric markings. As each auto manufacturer has switched to metric hardware, we were disappointed that the manufacturers of tape measures haven't embraced the metric system (even if it were only on the backside of the blade).
1. Husky 25-Foot Tape Measure
Ranking highest in this comparison, the Husky tape measure consistently placed near the top of every test category. Feature rich, the Husky makes the most out of its magnetic dual hook, belt clip, and solid ergonomics. A measured standout length of nearly 11 feet was a full foot and a half more than advertised, and it comes with a lifetime warranty. Large, easy-to-read numbers (on both sides) and a coated blade made the Husky an easy First Place choice.
2. Komelon Monster MagGrip 25-Foot
$12.26 (amazon.com) komelonusa.com
When a company specializes in one area, the consumer rightfully expects big things from that brand's products. Komelon focuses their efforts on all types of measuring products, and in our testing, the Monster MagGrip performed well in every test except the standout test, where it was stable to a mere 7 feet. Large numbers (again on both sides), a magnetic dual hook, and positive locking mechanism helped secure a podium finish for the Komelon. The nylon-coated blade did get a little kinked during testing, but for less than $13.00, it's a good value and solid performer.
3. Irwin Strait-Line 25-Foot
$37.46 (amazon.com) irwin.com
Topping the price list at more than $37.00, the Irwin Strait-Line featured thumb and forefinger locks, a clever marking scribe under the edge of the tape measure, and an Optic White dual-sided blade for improved visibility. It also performed well in the standout test (9 feet, 10 inches), was comfortable in our hands, and had the best blade locking mechanism. Unfortunately, the Irwin suffered from not having one of the better end hooks (single-sided and no magnet), wasn't the easiest to read, and did not have a long warranty. For such a hefty price, there are better tape measures available and you'd have plenty of money left over for lunch.
4. Stanley Fat Max Blade Armor 25-Foot
Most of us probably have a Stanley tape measure in our toolboxes. The Fat Max line is their 1¼-inch-wide blade and once you add Blade Armor and Mylar to it, you have an extra-strong blade that won the standout test by extending to more than 11 feet before kinking. What it lacked compared to its competition was a dual-sided blade, top and bottom magnetic hook, and a forefinger lock. It's not popping with features, but the Stanley is made in USA.
5. Kobalt Stainless Steel 25-Foot
For those of you working outside, the Kobalt tape measure is made from stainless steel, features both a thumb and forefinger lock, and it had the most legible blade numbers in this test. However, its Power Blade did prove weaker than its competitors and kinked in several spots. Also, the case was the largest of the group, and we found it to be the least comfortable in our hands.
6. Pittsburgh QuickFind 25-Foot
By far the budget leader, the $3.99 Pittsburgh, was the only tape measure to include the fractional sizes clearly printed on the blade markings. This immediately shot it to the top of the leader board, but the sizing was only on the top side, it had a basic hook, and the lock mechanism strength was not comparable to the others. It did prove comfortable in our hands, came with a convenient wrist strap, and for less than $4.00, you can easily keep one in every toolbox you own.