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Most of us want to keep tabs on our weight even if we aren’t fitness nuts or actively dieting. We dutifully step on the scale every morning, wincing when we see the cost of that extra slice of chocolate cake the previous night.
For most people, the number on the bathroom scale is the easiest way to keep tabs on their overall health. To help with your decision, we purchased several models for our team of experts to test, and conducted our own research. We’ve used our findings to provide a guide to help you determine which bathroom scale is right for you, and how to make the most of it.
Because many of today’s bathroom scales can read much more than weight, it’s important to understand what options are available and which will be the most important to you. Refer to our product matrix at the top of the page for a short list of our favorites and where you can buy them, and read the guide below for more in-depth information to help make a confident purchase.
Type of Bathroom Scale (Analog vs. Digital)
Analog scales – the kind you grew up with – use levers, springs, and a rack and pinion to turn the display dial. They are inexpensive but can easily give inconsistent readings if they are moved often.
The digital, battery-operated scales used today authoritatively display numbers with precision. Many can measure to the half or quarter pound.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Fitbit Aria Smart Scale
Good Scale for Fitbit Users
The Fitbit Aria Smart Scale is an ideal way to coordinate overall health and activity tracking for Fitbit users. Using local Wi-Fi, it syncs with your home network. It tracks weight, BMI, lean mass, and body fat percentage. All your info can be viewed through the Fitbit app on easy to read charts and graphs. Large families or groups will like that it can store information for up to eight users and keeps information private. This is truly a great scale for Fitbit users who are looking to integrate all of their health monitoring in one place.
Accuracy is the most important factor, but the true measure of a bathroom scale is whether it’s “accurate enough.”
We had an inspector from the state of Arizona Department of Weights and Measures test each scale, and compare the results to a Mettler Toledo state “official scale.” An individual who weighed 108.6 on the Mettler weighed 109.0 on the Withings, 109.3 on the Fitbit, 108.8 on the EatSmart, 108.2 on the Etekcity, 108.0 on the Weight Gurus scale.
That’s right: a different result on every scale even when the scales were carefully placed on the same tile floor. But, they are all within a pound, which means they are pretty accurate and consistent.
Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian, nutrition communications consultant, and writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life through drama-free, healthy eating. Through her writing, consulting, public speaking and counseling, she works with individuals, food companies, healthcare companies, and the media to help make delicious, nourishing food approachable and enjoyable.
Keeping an eye on your BMI allows you to identify the amount of fat versus muscle on your body. “Without tracking actual body fat, the consumer has no idea where their weight loss is coming from,” says Jim Cipriani, a personal trainer. “Just as ‘all calories are not created equal,’ all body weight is not created equal. Losing lean muscle weight is not good at all. With that, the resting metabolic rate drops making further weight loss harder... and, in fact, the ability to regain fat weight easier.”
“Keep in mind that the BMI measurements included in consumer bathroom scales only calculate for body fat in the legs and buttocks region,” says Dr. Barry Sears, president of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation. “To get a true indication of overall body fat, you need to also look at the body fat in the midsection and the arms.”
Even though fitness club scales are more likely to include those more complex measurements, bathroom scales still offer a valuable way to track body fat.
Excess body fat is a more powerful predictor of future illness than is excess body weight. What matters most are trends, in both weight and BMI. If you want to evaluate whether your diet is working, the bathroom scale shows if you lost weight or gained muscle mass.
You’re going to want to look at the scale first thing in the morning before you’ve had a cup of coffee. It’s probably dark and you’re just coming to. To solve these potential readability issues, many modern scales have backlit displays with large numbers and these are the easiest to read. All scales on our list are backlit, so you can see the display for your pre-dawn weigh-in.
Scales that turn on when you step onto them take the fuss out of weighing yourself. It makes an early morning weigh-in that much easier. All scales we tested turn on at step up. You’ll have to wait a few moments with scales that measure BMI while they do an analysis.
Your weight can vary by as much as 4-6 pounds throughout the day. For best results, weigh yourself before eating, between 6-8am, and preferably without any added weight on (clothes, shoes, etc.)
Many older scales claimed (relative) accuracy up to 300 pounds. But new designs and technology can now handle even more. Several of the scales we tested can take up to 400 pounds.
The weight supported also affects physical dimensions. A wider platform is easier to stand on, especially for users who have larger feet or mobility issues. All of our chosen scales are 12 to 13 inches wide and are unlikely to present a problem.
Note, though, that few scales work on carpet, and they all need a level surface in order to achieve accurate results. If your bathroom is carpeted, either find a block of wood or tile to place the scale on top of or look into a scale that includes separate carpet feet.
Clean your scale with a damp cloth, but take care not to expose it too much liquid (water or any other cleaning agent) as it can harm its components - especially if it’s an electronic scale.
Perhaps the best reason to invest in a more expensive bathroom scale is the opportunity to save your data to mobile and web applications, which makes it easy to track trends. If you’re trying to get healthy, it can be heartening to see the trajectory of your weight and BMI over time.
But the data collection gets even more useful when it’s used in conjunction with other applications or shared with health professionals. If you use a Withings’ blood-pressure monitor and also buy its bathroom scale, for instance, you can see if there is a relationship between your weight and your blood pressure readings.
Fitbit’s software logs all sorts of data, such as the daily number of steps, heart rate, and the number of steps climbed. Their app also allows you to manually enter all the food you eat, which can help you see how different foods affect your health.
Depending on the scale, data can be shared with other software, too, such as Runkeeper or MyFitnessPal. On an iPhone, the mobile apps can be set to communicate with the Apple Health app, which makes it possible (if not precisely easy) to provide a doctor with exercise data, including weight and BMI.
There are other additional features that are not as important but you should still be kept in mind.
Ease of use. Some scales can be tricky to use – even the most basic of features. If you’re not the most tech-savvy person, a scale that simply tracks weight might be the best choice.
Scales that can store information for multiple users. Keeping track of everyone’s information on one device can be handy.
Connecting to Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. If you plan to sync your information from the scale to an app, check to see if the scale uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Some scales can use both while others can only use one – or neither.
A reliable bathroom scale can be found for under $25. In fact, two of our choices come in around $20. If all you want is a scale that gives you consistent weight results, you’ll be able to find an electronic scale in this price range.
Our best of the best pick, the Weight Guru, falls in this price range. These bathroom scales have a few more features like measuring BMI, data collection and storage, and syncing with mobile apps. Syncing with apps may not be as easy as some higher priced models.
These scales integrate with apps either through Bluetooth or wirelessly. They track impressive amounts of data and can be used to track several users at once, a great feature for families. Bathroom scales in this range are usually integrated with other fitness equipment of the same brand. Information can be stored and shared with physicians.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Etekcity Digital Body Weight Scale
Quick, Readable Results
The Etekcity Digital Body Weight Scale gives a quick reading as soon your feet hit the platform. A sleek, black top made of tempered glass makes it look good, too. It can measure weights up to 400 pounds, putting it near the top for maximum weight. Though the display isn’t as large as some others, it’s bright enough to be seen from across the room. Bleary morning eyes aren’t going to have trouble reading the numbers. This simple scale is easy to use for those who want a quick read of their weight.
Q. I need to lose a lot of weight. What features are critical for me?
A. A lot depends on where you are starting out in your weight loss journey. First, check the maximum weight measured on the scale to be sure it will give you accurate readings at your starting weight. You’ll also need to consider the width of the platform. A 12 to 13 in. platform should be enough to provide a stable surface no matter your weight.
Q. Can any scale tell me progress vs. weight? I’d rather not focus on my weight but whether or not I’m progressing towards my goal.
A. There are a few bathroom scales out there that can be set to display how much weight you’ve gained or lost, not your actual weight. Another alternative would be to buy a scale that syncs to an app that displays your information on a graph. You won’t have to pay attention to the actual numbers unless you want to.
Q. I have mobility issues. What scale is best for me?
A. Mobility issues make getting on and off the scale difficult. You’ll want to look for a scale with a wide platform that’s at least 12 in. wide. A platform of that size will remain steady while you are getting on the scale. Also check the height of the scale. Scales range from .9 in. to almost 2 in. high. It will be easier to step onto a scale that’s closer to the ground.
Q. I have impaired vision. Can a scale tell me my weight?
A. Yes, there are scales that give an audible reading – especially helpful for the visually impaired.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.