After using dozens of laser rangefinders from different brands, it became apparent that some key features were different. The first laser rangefinder I actually owned was a Bosch GLM15, which I still use. Laser ranging has become more common since I have that tool. They also feature new technologies and features. Not everyone needs all these bells and whistles, though. I'll help you figure out which laser rangefinder is best for you.
We have some specific recommendations, but we'll also walk you through which features are important and what to look for when you're shopping.
The most accurate laser distance meter
Leica DISTO D2
Most laser range finders are accurate to 1/8 inch at 30 feet. For basic estimates, this works fine. The Leica DISTO D2 achieves 1/16 inch accuracy at an altitude of 328 feet! You'll pay more for this more accurate laser measurement, but if you want the most accurate laser rangefinder, the Leica D2 is our top choice. It allows measurements from edges, corners and displays and has 10 measurement memory. It also connects with iOS and Google Play apps via Bluetooth. We've seen it online for as low as $155.
The Best Laser Rangefinders for Outdoor Use
Bosch Blaze GLM 50 CX 165ft Laser Meter
The Bosch Blaze GLM 50 CX tops our list of the best outdoor laser rangefinders. First, its inverted color LCD screen produces large, vibrant numbers that we can see even in direct sunlight. With most LDMs you get tiny numbers that we have a hard time reading outside. The display on the Bosch GLM 50 C is filled with distance measurements in feet and inches.
Of course, most laser distance measurements work best when estimated indoors. However, when you do need to take measurements outside, we like the functionality of this tool. It includes Bluetooth connectivity and can be used with the Bosch MeasureOn app to evaluate photos. It covers the basics such as real-time length, length, area, volume, and indirect measurements. You also get a built-in inclinometer for finding angles. In terms of runtime, the $149 Blaze GLM 50 CX can take up to 10,000 measurements on a set of AAA batteries.
The Best Laser Distance Meters for DIY Enthusiasts
DeWalt DW055PL Pocket Atomic Laser Meter
The DeWalt DW055PL Atomic is a 55 foot pocket laser rangefinder. No frills. No fancy controls. There is only one button. It measures up to 55 feet and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. This means no need to use AAA batteries. Just plug it into the miniUSB charger every once in a while and you'll be able to take another few thousand measurements. It also comes with a wrist strap.
For around $39.99, you can probably find laser rangefinders cheaper, but here are our picks for the best laser rangefinders for DIYers and the home. It can help you estimate carpet and tile, or measure paint for walls, without breaking the bank.
The best laser rangefinder for the money
Skil ME9821-00 Laser Distance Meter
We are impressed with the array of features of the Skil ME9821-00 65-Foot Laser Rangefinder. It brings practical measurement solutions for DIY enthusiasts and even entry-level professionals. In terms of price, ease of use, and accuracy, the Skil ME9821-00 stands out. Among the many "copycat" products, this is a compelling choice.
We also cannot fail to mention the simplicity and innovation of wheel measurement. For surface measurements, the Skil laser rangefinder has a wheel measurement mode. You can drag the wheels on the bottom of the device back and forth across surfaces to get accurate measurements. If you change direction while dragging, it just subtracts the distance from the current measurement.
At under $50, this tool is the best laser rangefinder for the money. It provides an inexpensive and convenient alternative to always having to pull out a tape measure. Need more range? Skil offers a 100-foot model for about $20 more.
Milwaukee 150ft Laser Rangefinder
When it comes to Pro features, we look for a combination of accuracy, durability and functionality. The Milwaukee 150ft Laser Rangefinder is the perfect combination of every rangefinder. The laser is built around standard tool plastic with a protective overmold on each of the four sides. This should protect it in most drop situations.
For most indoor jobs where a laser rangefinder is a useful tool, the 150-foot Milwaukee Laser Rangefinder finds a nice middle ground between range, accuracy, and feature set while keeping the price tag around $105. The Side Shot button and angle measurement lever are nice additions to the standard measurements, and Milwaukee keeps the interface from being overly complicated.
The best laser rangefinders for long distances
Bosch Blaze GLM400CL
We've found that documentation is key a lot of the time. Pairing the phone with the LDM can solve these problems. However, for longer range applications, you typically place the laser so far away that you can no longer easily track it. For this, you might consider integrating a zoom camera directly into the tool. The Bosch Blaze GLM400CL does this with an adjustable zoom camera that helps you find the laser spot in bright conditions.
With a measuring distance of up to 400 feet, the Bosch Blaze lets you take measurements, take measurements, and then transfer measurement documentation directly to your smartphone or tablet. It uses Bluetooth to connect to its MeasureOn app. This outdoor laser gauge meets all the basic requirements and adds a built-in inclinometer to help determine pitch angle. It even confirms when the tool is level for free-hand use.
A backlit color LCD display, toughened screen glass, and the ability to view the last 50 measurements on the tool round it out. It also stores up to 600 images. You can get more range from Leica, but for $299, this is our pick for the best long-range laser rangefinder.
- Leica DISTO S910 (0.05 accuracy up to 300m) – $1540
How far does a laser rangefinder measure?
The first question you need to ask is: How far do you typically need to measure? Do you work mostly indoors or outdoors (in the sun)? Are you mainly concerned with residential or commercial projects?
Using laser measurements outdoors: Remember that laser measurements can also work outdoors. Even though you may not be able to see the laser, it is accurate if it is within the range of its use. You do need to make sure you're hitting the right target though! (see "What is a Digital Viewfinder" section below)
If you work residentially, a range of 50 feet is usually adequate for your indoor measurement needs. If you're evaluating fencing or other outdoor products, you may want to use tools that can withstand longer distances.
Commercial applications often require greater distance measurements, so longer-range tools make sense. The farther a laser rangefinder can measure, the more power the laser and sensor will need.
Calling: Consider the longest measurement you'll need laser distance measurement for. Get a model that can be extended a bit.
How much memory or storage do I need?
A basic laser rangefinder does not have any memory storage. The best it will give you is the ability to keep measurements. Others may give you storage for as many as 200 measurements or more. Determine how comfortable you are with recording measurements on a notebook or mobile phone. If you're a good note-taker or don't want to trust technology, memory probably isn't a big deal. On the other hand, storing these graphics directly in the tool may speed up the workflow.
Make a decision: This is a judgmental decision. I like laser gauges with at least 50 data storage points so I can measure data volumes throughout the house. However, I still record them in a notebook.
Best Screen Types for Laser Ranging
The two main types of screens you'll find are LCD and LED. LEDs are brighter and easier to read. This really helps in bright sunlight. Many LCD monitors have a backlight, which helps in low-light conditions, but can be difficult to read in direct sunlight. "Inverting" the colors also helps, because white text on a dark background is easier to read in sunlight than black text on white.
Phone calls: Both screens work just fine, but if we had a choice, we'd prefer the LED and inverted screen options.
Need a color LCD screen?
We continue to see new products with full-color LCD displays. So far this has not proven to be very useful. However, there are specific situations where a full-color screen might be helpful. In particular, models with built-in cameras can provide more impressive documentation of estimates at the end of the job. Still, other models can be used as long-range rangefinders, helping you find that spot that could be hundreds of yards away.
Can laser ranging give you real-time measurements?
Usually, yes. Real-time measurement gives you instant feedback as you move the laser, rather than waiting for you to press the "measure" button. It enables you to find the exact distance from the wall or ceiling so you can make a mark before punching the hole. No one on our Pro team is interested in a laser rangefinder without this feature.
Make the Call: In our opinion, the real-time measurement function is a must-have function.
Does it support addition/subtraction?
Addition and subtraction are handy functions when you need to combine two lengths that cannot be measured at once. They are also helpful when you need to exclude some measurements. It also works in conjunction with distance, area, and volume. If you're doing an estimate on paint, here's an easy way to remove areas of your garage door and other large non-paintable areas as you go.
Make the Call: You'll find this feature on all rangefinders except the most basic laser rangefinder, and it's especially useful for area calculations.
Can it calculate area and volume?
If your laser measurement has addition and subtraction, it will most likely also have area, volume and indirect measurements (see below). This simply allows you to take double (area) or triple (volume) measurements and get the results automatically. We consider this an essential feature when estimating paint, drywall, flooring, airflow, and more.
Make a decision: In addition to making basic measurements, the area and volume functions are most useful. You might want to use this on your laser rangefinder.
Can you make indirect measurements (using the Pythagorean theorem)?
Indirect measurements are closely related to the area and volume functions. The difference is that you measure directly to the base of the material (the side of the right triangle) and from the same point to the top of the material (the hypotenuse) to get the height which cannot be measured directly.
Make the Call: This isn't a make-or-break feature for most of our team, but you might get it in terms of area and volume. It's actually a pretty cool feature if you ever find yourself needing it. Advanced versions of this also integrate angle measurement. This allows you to measure different heights at a distance – even off the ground.
Would a wireless connection (bluetooth) help?
If you're estimating and bidding, getting data from your tools is almost as important as getting it. If you're tech-savvy, Bluetooth connectivity can help you transfer data from the laser rangefinder to your phone, tablet, or computer.
There may also be an app that works with it. Some apps even let you superimpose measurements on pictures or drawings of your work. When putting together bids or offers, this allows you to present a visual to your client and bring an extra level of professionalism to your proposal.
Make a decision: Adding this layer of technology requires a learning curve. Those who learn to use it can save a lot of time and produce more data-rich recommendations and estimates. While Bluetooth is helpful when it comes to laser measurements, it's not an industry standard, so it all depends on your comfort level if you want to.
What is a digital viewfinder and what does it do?
A digital viewfinder is most helpful for long-range laser ranging, where it can be difficult to see where the laser dot falls. When you're measuring distances closer to 400 feet, a few degrees off can make a big difference in your results.
Call: You can only see the red laser so far before you need to bounce it off the target card and possibly need a second person to help. Digital viewfinders are great for longer range outdoor applications.
Should I buy a mannequin with a camera?
Some laser rangefinders add a camera to their digital viewfinder. This makes it easier to generate photos with measurement stops. This works with a bluetooth connection to transfer the results into the app. This feature is found on high-end laser gauges, and it doesn't come cheap.
Other systems with camera integration function as rangefinders. These help you "zoom in" on distant objects you're trying to hit with that little red click.
Your Choice: This is most helpful for business sites, where there are lots of techniques to get information quickly. But using a technique like this as a residential contractor will definitely set you apart.
Li-ion rechargeable battery or battery as power source?
Many laser rangefinders use AAA or AA batteries as their power source, although some have integrated lithium-ion batteries. Standard alkaline batteries are relatively cheap and easy to find. A rechargeable battery makes sense for some of the larger, more powerful models, and saves you from having to carry around a spare…as long as you remember to charge it!
Phone calls: No really bad calls here. Alkaline batteries will keep your initial cost down, while lithium-ion batteries are more convenient. I like Li-Ion, but most of our laser rangefinders are alkaline.
How much should I pay? What is a good price?
How much you are willing to spend is another first consideration. Laser measurements can cost as little as $20. Commercial units may run over $1,000. The latter will provide longer range. They can also connect to a laptop and provide the ability to estimate roofs, import data into CAD files, and more.
You want to find a laser range finder that does everything you need and stays within your budget. Any bonus feature you can get for the same price is a bonus!
Ever looked at a "review" site, but you can't tell if they actually tested the tools, or if they were just "recommending" Amazon bestsellers?
That's not us. We only recommend things we actually use, even if we don't earn a commission from them. It's all about providing you with sound recommendations and our honest opinions on each product.
We've been covering tools, writing reviews and reporting industry news for the construction, automotive and lawn care industries since 2008. Our professional reviewers work in these industries and have the skills and experience to understand whether a tool can perform well in these fields.
Every year, we introduce and review more than 350 individual products. Our teams will use hundreds of other tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.
We consult with innovators in tool technology and design to gain a broader understanding of where and how these products work.
We work with more than two dozen specialty contractors across the U.S. who review products for us on real job sites and consult with us on testing methods, categories, and weightings.
This year we're offering our readers over 750 new pieces of content, including objective reviews of tools and products, completely free of charge.
The end result is information you can trust because we collectively draw on editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience every time we pick up and test a tool.