Whether you’re a professional contractor or a dedicated DIYer, having an accurate and efficient way to measure distances is a must. The old standby, the tape measure, has served us well for basic needs. But for truly stepping up your measuring game, it’s time to get your hands on the wonder of laser technology.
Laser distance meters are fast becoming an indispensable tool for anyone who deals with distances on a regular basis. These handy little devices send out a laser beam to your target, calculate the distance by timing how long it takes for the reflection to return, and display it on a digital screen accurate to within millimeters. It may sound complex, but today’s models are simple enough for anyone to master. Just point, click, and get precise measurements almost instantly.
While tapes and rulers are fine for smaller everyday jobs, laser distance meters offer unbeatable speed and accuracy over longer distances, from 20 feet out to over 500 feet depending on the model. They’re ideal for larger scale measuring tasks like:
- Surveying property lines
- Mapping out floorplans and room dimensions
- Estimating materials needed for remodeling or construction
- Laying out tile, flooring or carpeting
- Measuring exterior spaces like decks, yards, and landscaping
Whether you just need to measure across the room or across your whole house exterior, a laser distance meter will save you an incredible amount of time and effort compared to using manual measuring tools.
In this article, we’ll highlight the top 5 laser distance meters to consider, discuss what features to look for when choosing the right one for your needs, and answer some common FAQs about how laser distance meters work and their advantages over traditional measuring tapes and rulers.
Top Laser Distance Meters for Home and Work
There are numerous options out there when shopping for a laser distance meter, ranging widely in price, maximum range, and features. We’ve compiled our picks for the top 5 models covering a range of needs and budgets.
1. Bosch GLM50C
The Bosch GLM50C is our top choice as the best laser distance meter for most basic home DIY uses. It provides an ideal balance of performance, features, and price.
With a range of up to 165 feet and accuracy of plus or minus 1/16 inch, it’s powerful enough for most household measuring tasks like furniture placement, room layouts, flooring estimates, and more. The Bosch GLM50C has simple one-button operation – just point, click, and read the large illuminated display.
It’s designed to be portable and durable, with IP54 dust and splash resistance. At around $100, it provides tremendous value without breaking the bank. For your basic home measurement needs, the Bosch GLM50C is a great first laser distance meter.
2. Fluke 414D
Step up to the Fluke 414D if you’re a contractors or construction professionals needing maximum range, durability and precision. This laser distance meter is made for everyday life on the jobsite.
The Fluke can measure distances up to 200 feet with accuracy of plus/minus 1/25 inch – sufficient for even the most demanding measurements. The overmolded housing withstands drops up to 3 meters and is IP54 sealed against dust and water.
The highly visible display includes Min/Max tracking, digital targeting, and indirect Pythagoras measurements for height and width. It’s the workhorse laser meter trusted by the pros. At around $250, it’s a worthwhile investment for frequent commercial use.
3. Leica DISTO D810
For the best mix of features and performance, check out the Leica DISTO D810. Leica is renowned for their optics, and this laser distance meter lives up to the name – accurately measuring from 2 inches up to 500 feet with a precision of 1/32 inch.
The Leica D810 makes taking measurements easy with the pointfinder camera providing real-time digital targeting. The color display, backlight, and viewfinder make it usable even in bright sunlight.
With built-in tilt sensors and automatic horizontal distance mode, it ensures accurate measurements even when positioning isn’t perfect. At around $300, it’s on the pricier side but worth it for the advanced features and accuracy.
4. Tacklife HD60
For DIYers looking for extra range without the high price, the Tacklife HD60 is a great budget choice. It can measure distances up to 200 feet with an accuracy of plus/minus 1/16 inch. While not as feature-packed and durable as the Fluke, it still offers excellent performance.
The HD60 has a continuous measurement mode that constantly updates the distance as you move, great for tracking or comparing measurements. It also includes basic area and volume calculations which come in handy for flooring, tiling, and carpeting jobs.
While the LCD display is decently sized and backlit, it lacks a targeting viewfinder which can make positioning tricky in bright light. Still, for only $70, it packs a lot of range and capability.
If you just need a compact laser distance meter for quick measurements around the house or jobsite, check out the DZL182.
It’s incredibly lightweight at just 3.2 ounces and can fit in your pocket, but still measures distances up to 60 meters with 2 millimeter accuracy. The simple one-button operation and basic LCD display is easy for anyone to use.
While the maximum range and lack of advanced features limit professional use, its budget price around $25 makes it ideal for homeowners or as a backup meter. Sometimes compact, cheap, and simple is all you need.
Key Factors When Choosing a Laser Distance Meter
With so many options available, it can be tricky deciding which laser distance meter is right for your particular needs. Here are some key factors to consider before buying:
Intended Use and Frequency of Use
First, think about your most common measuring tasks and where you plan to use it. If you only occasionally need to measure across the room or yard, a basic inexpensive model like the DZL182 will suffice. Frequent professional use day-in and day-out warrants investing in something more heavy-duty like the Fluke. Match the features and performance to your typical requirements.
Maximum Measurement Range
Laser distance meters vary greatly in their maximum measurement range, from as little as 20-30 meters for pocket models to over 500 meters for professional grade devices. Consider the farthest distance you need to measure and add some buffer. Anything under 100 meters will handle most household project needs. Professionals may need 200+ meters for surveying property lines or buildings.
Accuracy and Precision
For professional construction work, look for instruments with 1/32 inch, 1/25 inch, or even 1/64 inch accuracy at the max range. For home DIY use, 1/8 inch or 1/16 inch precision is sufficient. Just make sure accuracy at the max range meets your needs.
Ease of Use
Look for features that make taking measurements easy and intuitive, especially if you need quick single-person operation. Digital or optical viewfinders, tilt and angle sensors, and reference points help achieve proper targeting and positioning. This compensates for small user errors. Higher end models also offer more flexibility in positioning.
Durability and Protection
Important for everyday professional use, look for a durable housing that can withstand 2-3 meter drops. Larger professional models typically offer better impact protection. Most consumer models only have basic water resistance. Replaceable end caps protect the lenses from scratches.
Most laser distance meters can provide thousands of measurements from a single set of batteries. Power saving features like auto shutoff help. Units with rechargeable batteries offer longer overall life but increase cost. Easy to find replacement batteries for most models.
Connectivity and Data Tracking
Options like Bluetooth allow syncing measurements with smartphones or tablets for recording and tracking data, useful for professionals. Check mobile app compatibility. Other connectivity options include USB and memory card slots.
Standard warranties are 1-2 years for consumer models and 3+ years for professional models, indicating manufacturer faith in longevity. Consider replacement costs and expected lifespan for your needs. Extended warranties are available.
Laser distance meters range from $20 basic mini-models to $700 for specialty long-range professional units. Determine how often you’ll use it and the must-have features versus wants. For occasional home use, $50-100 is reasonable. Frequent professional use may warrant $200+. Set a budget and look for the best match of range, accuracy and features.
FAQs About Laser Distance Meters
Laser distance meters are relatively simple to use, but it helps to understand exactly how they work and their advantages over tapes and rulers. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
What are some typical use cases for laser distance meters?
Laser distance meters really shine for larger scale measurements like entire house layouts, floorplans, calculating total square footage, measuring exterior distances to trees/buildings, estimating material needs for remodeling and construction projects, laying out tile or flooring, measuring property lines, and construction site layouts.
How accurate are laser distance meter measurements compared to tape measures?
The best laser distance meters match or even exceed the accuracy of typical tape measures which degrade over distance. Laser meters maintain 1/32 inch, 1/16 inch, or better precision up to 100+ feet. However, they can struggle measuring reflective, transparent, or curved surfaces that scatter the beam.
What factors affect the accuracy and precision of laser distance meter measurements?
- Reflectivity, color, and texture of the target surface
- Angle of incidence – oblique angles reduce accuracy
- User hand stability
- Ambient temperature extremes
- Precision of the laser sensor and calibration
- Issues with built-in tilt sensor if present
- Low battery charge
- Dirt or obstructions on laser emitter or sensor
- Vibration and tripod use
- Exceeding specified accuracy limit at long distances
What precautions should I take when using a laser distance meter?
Never look directly into the laser emitter or direct it at anyone’s eyes. Use proper hand support techniques to avoid unintentional sweeping motion across eyes. Avoid activating near reflective surfaces that could bounce the beam. Check for potential eye hazards before measuring and explain risks to bystanders.
How long does the battery last in most laser distance meters?
Most basic models can make 3,000-5,000 measurements per set of batteries under normal conditions. More advanced meters with power saving features like auto shutoff can reach up to 10,000 measurements or more. Factors like display brightness, Bluetooth connectivity, extreme cold can impact battery life.
Can you use laser distance meters in the rain or other wet conditions?
Most basic home consumer models cannot. Look for IP54 or IP65 ingress protection ratings that indicate resistance to dust and water. Some higher end professional models can work in light rain and mist but not when fully submerged in water. It’s best to keep them dry when possible.
After decades of tapes and handheld rulers, entering the world of laser distance meters almost feels like stepping into the future. Their space-age technology makes quick work of distance measurements while delivering incredible accuracy.
While tapes and basic measurement tools still have their place for small everyday tasks, laser distance meters vastly improve productivity and precision for nearly any larger project involving distances up to several hundred feet. Whether mapping out rooms, surveying your property, or estimating a major construction job, letting the laser measurement genie out of the bottle will save you loads of time and effort.
Your biggest challenge is simply choosing the right model for your needs and budget. Once you get the hang of these modern marvels, you’ll never look back at tapes the same way again. So treat yourself and your toolbox to the newest essential piece of gear – the laser distance meter. Your next measuring task will seem almost magical!