Best Digital Calipers

Updated June 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

25 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
132 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best digital calipers

Last Updated June 2019

When people think of measurements, the ubiquitous tape measure is often the first product that comes to mind. While a tape measure is an excellent tool, and indispensable to the construction trades, it’s only precise down to 1/32 inch. Even then, there’s room for small errors, as reading a tape measure requires you to precisely line up the measuring line with the point you’re measuring to.

Unlike a tape measure, a caliper is a precision tool designed to measure objects down to a thousandth of an inch or one hundredth of a millimeter. This makes calipers the ideal tool for scientific and engineering applications or anything requiring extremely precise measurements.

There are a number of different kinds of calipers, such as a vernier or dial caliper, but one of the most common is a digital caliper. This style is popular due to its ease of use and the precision a digital readout affords.

To learn more about the benefits of digital calipers, read on. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our recommended models.

While digital calipers are faster, easier to use, and more error-free, they are not as robust as vernier calipers due to their electronic components. Be careful to protect them from chemicals and the elements.

Key considerations

Construction

The single biggest thing to consider when shopping for a digital caliper is the construction. As a precision tool, the caliper should be made of materials that are durable, rigid, and precise. When you’re trying to measure down to a thousandth of an inch, you want your caliper to be rigid enough that no errors are introduced due to any give or flexibility in the tool itself. For best results, choose a caliper that’s made of high-grade stainless steel. [If you’re in need of additional measuring tools, check out our reviews on laser measures and tape measures.]

Thumbwheel

Digital calipers use a thumbwheel to open and close the jaws. However, you can also open and close them manually. It’s important to make sure the thumbwheel produces smooth movement along the scale. If the thumbwheel halts, catches, or moves in a choppy manner, you risk getting an imprecise measurement.

Span

Another thing to consider is the span of a digital caliper. Calipers come in different sizes to fit and measure a variety of objects, so it’s important to consider the size of what you need to measure before you buy.

LCD display

Since the LCD display is what differentiates a digital caliper from a vernier or dial caliper, it’s important to choose one with a large, easy-to-read screen and well-defined numbers.

EXPERT TIP

The inside (smaller) set of jaws can be used to measure the inside dimensions of an object.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Water-resistant

If you plan on using your caliper outside or in wet conditions, a digital caliper with a water-resistant LCD screen can be a make-or-break feature. Some are also resistant to dust, dirt, oil, insects, and anything else that can throw off your reading a bit.

Dual measurement

For the most versatile usage, be sure to look for a caliper that has both imperial and metric measurement. This is usually controlled by a button on the LCD display that lets you toggle back and forth.

Carbide-tipped measuring face

For a digital caliper to give accurate results, the object you’re measuring needs to rest flat against its two measuring surfaces. High-end calipers sometimes offer carbide-tipped measuring faces to prolong the perfect smoothness of the face. This ensures you’ll get the most accurate measurements every time for years to come.

Magnetic-free calipers

If you plan on using your caliper for work with sensitive electronics, it’s a good idea to look for one advertised as magnetic-free.

Differential measurement

Another important feature to look for is the ability to take differential measurements. This is done by zeroing the digital display to a point on the scale where you have taken a measurement, then measuring the difference from that point.

Some digital calipers have advanced onsite sensor (AOS) electromagnetic inductive sensors to help protect against dirt, moisture, and oil.

Digital caliper prices

For a seemingly simple tool, you may be surprised at how much the price can vary from one caliper to another. Some are as cheap as a few dollars, while high-end units are hundreds of dollars.

Inexpensive: For under $25, you’ll find entry-level calipers that may be good for some tasks but are generally not suitable for precision work. They will have non-carbide tips, basic LCD displays, and no water-resistance.

Mid-range: Calipers priced between $25 and $100 are a significant step up in terms of quality and features. These models include hardened stainless steel, smooth sliding action, and water-resistance.

Expensive: Once you cross the $100 mark, digital calipers are exceptionally precise tools, well suited for almost any task. These models include LCD displays that convert between inches, millimeters, and fractions. Many of these models also include the ability to set the zero at any point on the scale.

EXPERT TIP

If you don’t use your caliper often, remove the battery before storing it to prolong its life.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Make sure the jaws are clean and free from any dust or debris, otherwise you won’t get an accurate reading.
  • Slide the jaws closed and zero the caliper before taking a measurement, otherwise any measurements will be inaccurate.
  • Once you have an item between the jaws, keep steady pressure on the thumbwheel when taking your measurement to make sure you get an accurate reading.

Other products we considered

In addition to the products we reviewed, the RCBS Electronic Digital Caliper is a solid choice. Designed with hunters/reloaders in mind, it’s made from hardened stainless steel and, with the press of a button, switches between inches and millimeters. We also like Gyros’ DIGI-SCIENCE Accumatic Pro, which is made from hardened stainless steel, has a high-resolution LCD display, and easily switches between inches and millimeters.

Most calipers have a depth gauge at the end of the slide. As you move the lower jaw, the depth gauge extends. This is an effective way to measure depths or the difference in height between two surfaces.

FAQ

Q. Are digital calipers as good as dial or vernier calipers?
A.
Yes, a high-quality digital caliper can be just as precise as a dial or vernier caliper.

Q. How long will a digital caliper’s battery last?
A.
A year or more is not uncommon, but it depends on the manufacturer and the type of battery they include.

Q.  My caliper has a “reading hold” button. What is that for?
A.
Some high-end calipers have the ability to take a second measurement without re-zeroing the caliper. Once you take your first measurement, press the button and take the second measurement. The caliper will then calculate the difference.

The team that worked on this review
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Kailey
    Kailey
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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