Which digital calipers are best?

When it comes to construction, whether you’re building something professionally or working on a personal project, having precise measurements is crucial — being off by as little as a quarter-inch can throw off the entire design. Tape measures are good, but they rely on manual interpretation, which is rife with opportunities for human error. Digital calipers remove this possibility and give precise, minute measurements. 

If you’re looking for quality digital calipers, Neiko Digital Caliper is a great option. It can give measurements down to millimeters and feature a bright LCD display.

What to know before you buy digital calipers

Material

Digital calipers can be made from a variety of materials, though plastic and stainless steel are the most common.

  • Plastic is good enough for occasional use but isn’t suited to long-term or professional use. It has the tendency to bend over time, making the calipers no longer accurate. It can be shockingly cheap, however.
  • Stainless steel is the best, with high-grade stainless steel being the best of the best. It doesn’t bend, and it’s resistant to water and rust, so it can last for years. However, it can cost multiple times more than other models.

Span

Otherwise known as size, span relates to the longest measurement calipers can give. Most calipers can measure up to 6 inches, though 8- and 12-inch models are also common. There are also 24-inch models, but these are rare and expensive.

Measurement system

Most digital calipers give their measurements in imperial and metric. Imperial measurements can be given as a decimal or a fraction, or both, while metric measurements typically go down to millimeters at the smallest. Double-check before purchasing that your prospective calipers give readings in your preferred system.

What to look for in quality digital calipers

Thumbwheel

The thumbwheel is responsible for moving the jaws of the calipers along the body, and as such, it’s important to have a thumbwheel with smooth action. If it’s choppy, halting or catches on something, your reading may no longer be precise.

Display

Most digital calipers use LCD displays with various brightness levels and sizes. The brighter and larger the display, the easier it will be for you to read. Keep in mind that LCD displays can be hard to read in sunlight if the display isn’t bright enough. You still need some light, as few (if any) displays are backlit.

Differential measurement

Some digital calipers are able to take differential measurements by being zeroed out at the distance of the first measurement and then taking a new reading of the change in distance.

How much you can expect to spend on digital calipers

Digital calipers cost $25-$100. Some are available for less than $25, but they aren’t as precise. Others cost more than $100, though these are only meant for professionals.

Digital calipers FAQ

What’s the difference between digital, dial and vernier calipers?

A. All three types of calipers have their pros and cons, and while they perform the same task, i.e., take a precise measurement, how they do so is different.

  • Digital calipers use a complex series of electrical components to obtain a precise reading, which is typically displayable in your choice of metric or imperial. They’re the most susceptible to damage, including drops and other hard impacts, but they’re the easiest and fastest to use.
  • Dial calipers are mechanical, making them more susceptible to hard impacts but strong against water. They only display in metric or imperial, never both, and the reading is displayed on its dial (hence the name), which can be difficult to read to untrained users.
  • Vernier calipers are also mechanical, but they use fewer parts, making them harder to permanently damage from hard impacts. They take the longest to get a reading and don’t relay that information to as many decimal places, though they often relay it in both metric and imperial.

How long will the battery last on my digital calipers?

A. This depends on the calipers, the battery and how often you use it. Most last for at least a year, but heavy power-consuming calipers with weak batteries used regularly may only last a few months.

What are the best digital calipers to buy?

Top digital caliper

Neiko Digital Calipers

Neiko Digital Caliper

What you need to know: This model is precise and available in several sizes.

What you’ll love: It comes in 6-, 8- and 12-inch sizes and it has several bundles that package in additional tools. It takes measurements in inches, fractions and millimeters and displays them clearly with a bright LCD display. Its stainless steel construction is durable and the black is coloration is low-profile.

What you should consider: Some users found the jaws to occasionally hitch when being slid. Others found the jaws would sometimes not sit flush together.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top digital caliper for the money

Vinca DCLA-0605 Digital Calipers

Vinca DCLA-0605 Digital Caliper

What you need to know: This caliper are precise and affordably priced.

What you’ll love: It comes in 6-, 8- and 12-inch sizes, plus a massive 24-inch size. It’s ready to go right out of the box — no calibration is needed, and the battery is installed. It’s bundled with an extra battery and a hard plastic carrying case.

What you should consider: The fraction reading only displays in 1/128-inch readings, which can be frustrating for some. The LCD isn’t backlit, so it may be hard to read.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Mitutoyo Advanced Onsite Sensor Digital Calipers

Mitutoyo Advanced Onsite Sensor Digital Caliper

What you need to know: This model is the best for professionals.

What you’ll love: It measures up to 6 inches and uses a large, crisp LCD display to relate the measurements in inches or millimeters. It uses an electromagnetic inductive sensor to resist dirt, water and oil. It includes a protective case and a battery.

What you should consider: It’s expensive — too expensive for those who won’t make regular use of it. There were rare reports of customers receiving fake, non-Mitutoyo calipers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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