Are you going to buy a used car? Wait a moment! You need this tool before going further, a paint thickness gauge.
As the name suggests, it’s a measuring tool that functions to measure the paint thickness of a particular surface. Because this tool is commonly used to inspect a used car, we will discuss the paint gauges that are intended mostly for car panel surfaces only.
A paint thickness gauge can tell you several things about the car: repair, repainting, accidents, etc. Appraise the overall condition, dominate the negotiation, and get the best price by revealing the car history.
However, selecting the best paint thickness gauge should be budget-minded. Since the price varies, picking a thousand dollar one is not a wise choice for a single time of use. The thing comes different when running a car dealer business that handles several purchases a day, you need the cutting-edge one.
In this section, we enlist the 10 best paint thickness gauges that come from the different price ranges.
Top 10 Best Paint Thickness Gauge 2020
Update [18th of June, 2020]: We’ve updated the list. Some have been replaced such as Eray SR-100 and Carfidant MilPro because they are no longer available on the market as our inspection.
1. Eray SR-A770G Paint Thickness Gauge – [Best Overall the Functionality & Price]
Eray SR-A770G is the overall best paint thickness gauge that we recommend. It posses all the important functionalities that a paint thickness gauge should have. Along with its price, this one should pull over your attention. Further, the data/reading is also transferrable and storable.
It can measure the thickness of a variety of coating whether the base is magnetic or non-magnetic metal. Unlike the entry-level coating thickness gauges which seem to be designed for the car paint only. This one is usable for other purposes as well.
- Range: 0-2000µm
It has a decent wide measuring range, from 0 to 2000µm. This range is sufficient. Most importantly, Eray SR-A770’s reading is consistent.
On the screen, there are some data displayed: average, min, max, thickness, base material, number of reading, and battery level. All the important parameters of car paint measurement are easily seen at a glance. Moreover, you could nicely set the alarm to be on whenever the reading reaches a certain number. The reading is available in mm, µm, and mil. Nicely, it comes in two colors: gray (Eray SR-A770) and green.
Another thing that makes it contrast is its two measuring modes: single and continuous. The continuous mode doesn’t need time delay to display the reading. While the single-mode asks you to perform the reading one by one. You can quickly scan the surface you want. This one is important for fast inspection.
- Consistent reading
- Continuous mode for fast car paint inspection
- Measuring data is transferrable
- The screen displays all the critical readings
- Comes with calibration kit
- Fine to use on steel and aluminum
- The screen is pretty small
2. VVV-Group CM-206FN Paint Thickness Gauge – [Great Resolution]
If you are looking for an alternative to Eray SR-A770G, you could pick VVV-Group CM-206FN. It provides great resolution, even better than Eray. The price is friendly for the budget. However, there are a few drawbacks you have to know.
Like the standard paint thickness gauge, this one has fulfilled the criteria of being able to detect magnetic and non-magnetic material base in a single probe and display it on the screen.
One thing that really stands out of this PTG is its resolution. This one provides it up to 0.001 mils resolution. However, you have to know that the resolution decreases as the thickness of the surface gets thicker.
Feel an enjoyable inspection due to its speed reading. It doesn’t need to take too long to take a single reading. Though fast, you need to wait for the audible tone sounds to take the reading. No continuous reading feature is available. In addition, it’s able to measure the coatings despite the surface is convex.
- Range: 0 to 1350 μm / 0 to 53.2 mils
- Resolution: 0.001 mils
On the screen, you could vividly see the reading. There is also the average readings can be seen. The unit reading displayed on the screen is also convertible in three different units: micron, mm, and mil.
It comes with two rectangle calibration metals: aluminum and iron, a small carrying pouch, and manual instruction. The calibration instruction will be seen clearly in the manual. In the case of calibrating, you could only calibrate the zero reading because no calibration films included.
Don’t get confused about choosing between CM-206FN, CM-208FN, and CM-288FN. The 208 has more functionalities especially on display we can see some more statistical readings such as the lowest reading, the highest reading, and the average, which is more preferred for precision measurement. While the 288 has an extra standard deviation value on the LCD and the construction is more ergonomics.
- Great resolution
- More affordable than Eray SR-A770G
- Two readings of measurement displayed on the screen
3. Elpidan E-2000 – [Budget Paint Thickness Gauge]
So far, Elpidan E2000 is the best budget paint thickness gauge that we see on the market. If you are looking for a decent paint gauge with a lower cost (relatively middle price range), then this can be your choice. This one is suitable to use for detailing and used-car purchasing.
It’s designed to able to work with either a ferrous or non-ferrous (aluminum) base. Even, the system will automatically detect the base as you could see displayed on the screen. So, you don’t need to switch the probe anymore. The screen display is excellently bright and wide which allows you to easily read the measurement result. For the price range of this gauge, the screen is really amazing.
For accuracy, it comes with a calibration kit. According to the description, its measuring range is 0 to 1500 µm (59mil) with 0.1 μm resolution. Its acceptable accuracy is ±(3%+2um) which is actually good. And if we observe the customer rating, they seem happy to use this. But, make sure you calibrate it periodically using the calibration kit.
If you think a continuous mode of scanning is unnecessary for your case, this paint gauge is highly recommended. The reading is large and easy to read. It’s also readable at night due to the backlight. This model comes in two different color options: black and white. Pick your preference.
- Best for the budget
- Reliable, good accuracy
- Large, bright, and clear display
- Quick, designed for ferrous and non-ferrous base
- No max and min thickness reading although continuous mode available
4. Allosun EM2271 – Simplest Paint Thickness Gauge
There are only two buttons: test (to measure the thickness) and unit (to change the unit reading). Simply install the battery, hit the test button, and then put the probe into the surface. Make sure to perpendicularly put the probe into the surface because it impacts the accuracy.
This stuff is actually smaller. You might not even imagine that size (about 7 x 4 x 2 cm). So, it’s a nice tiny compact gadget that will fit in your pocket and your budget as well.
- Range: 0 – 2mm / 0 – 80mil
- Resolution: 0.1mm / 1mil
- Size: 7 x 4 x 2 cm
It runs by battery power, a typical watch battery CR2032 3 Volt. While the range measurement is from 0.0-2.0mm (0-80 mil) with resolution 0.1 mm.
It’s manufactured to measure the thickness of non-magnetic coating such as paint, enamel, plastic, epoxy, etc. The base material must be iron or steel or aluminum. That said, it will not work for the wood base.
Things that we don’t like from this paint thickness tester is its accuracy. However, it actually works. It can easily interfere with the temperature and relative humidity of the environment. Instead of working by guessing, this gauge is way better than nothing. So, if you are going to use it for inspecting a used car, give it a try.
- Easy to carry around, portable, small size.
- Affordable and digital
- Easy to use
- You should concern about its accuracy.
5. VVV-Group 3003 – Magnetic Paint Thickness Gauge
The magnet will stick into and give the reading based on the sticking strength.
If you put the magnetic ball of this gauge onto your car panel, you’ll see it will be tightly sticking into. Then, if the coating is thick, the ball will easily detach when pulled. Whereas, if the sticking is strong, the spring will stretch further. The spring system inside the body functions to hold the ball.
The color where the farthest stretch stops will show the thickness and the property of the coating.
- Black. The thickness ranges from 520 – 750 µm. Surfaces after filling and lacquering.
- Red. The thickness ranges from 300 – 520 µm. Surfaces after tinsmith repairs.
- Orange. The thickness ranges from 200 – 300 µm. After lacquer repairs.
- Green. The thickness ranges from 100 – 200 µm. For original lacquers.
- Blue. The thickness ranges from 0 – 70 µm. Thin lacquer coat.
Other things make it stand out are no power needed and its pen-shaped design. It’s actually totally a mechanical tool. Moreover, its design allows you to measure at a hard-to-reach, small, and curved area in which the usual flat-probe paint thickness cannot do.
However, it’s not applicable to use for coating with an aluminum base. So, for car paint inspection, it will work for some of them. Nowadays, more and more car panels are made of aluminum. Since that, make sure you know when to use this one.
- Works well to measure hard-to-reach surface
- Simple to use
- No need for batteries
- It doesn’t work with an aluminum base
6. Elpidan E7000 – Advanced Screen Display + Complete Data
Imagine that you could easily read the entire statistics of the thickness measurement in a single glance over the screen. You can do that surely by using this Elpidan E7000. The display is completely informative and interactive, shows the data in the shape of statistics, graphic bar, data browsing view, and trend chart.
There are several data displayed on the screen: base material, number of reading, thickness, max, min, average, the difference value of the last reading (Dif), high limit, low limit, standard deviation (Sdev), and coefficient of variation (CV%).
In addition to the screen display, whatever the position, the screen will rotate automatically to adjust your vision. Another benefit of using Elpidan E7000 is that you could charge the battery through the USB charging port. It’s powered by an AAA battery.
It’s designed to measure in the range of 0 to 1500um. Keep in mind that it works only for a thickness of more than 0.5mm.
- Highly advanced screen display
- Complete data displayed
- The batteries are rechargeable
- Rotational screen
- Standard measuring range
7. Nicety CM8801-FN Paint Thickness Gauge
It provides a dual metal-recognizing feature in a single probe. Therefore, whether the substrate is iron/steel or aluminum, it has no problem with it. In addition, it will automatically display the substrate material on the LCD.
There are no complicated buttons. However, it takes a bit longer about 2 seconds to measure. You need to stick the probe properly, wait until it emits a sound and the result can be seen. Don’t drag the probe when you move into another spot.
- Range: 0-1250 micron / 0-50 mil
- Resolution: 1 micron / 0.1 mil
The calibration process is really simple, easy, and customizable. You can set zero at any thickness point you want. Also, you can set a certain reading on any point you want.
Furthermore, it’s possible to access the last 10 readings by pressing the MEM button, and turn backward and forward by pressing the “+” and “-” button.
It comes with a nice carrying case, two calibration metals (steel and aluminum), four different pieces of calibration films, and an instruction manual.
8. Carsys DPM-816 Paint Thickness Gauge – Ergonomic & Accurate
The Carsys DPM-816 is another paint thickness gauge that you have to consider. It looks ergonomic and simple to use. More importantly, it comes with a nice resolution (0.01 mm) and a good thickness range.
Manufactured in Russia, you might want to give it a try. It’s simple but you need to read the manual before using it because one button can serve several functions; a different duration of pushing may give a different function.
One button can serve several functions:
- Resolution: 0.1 mil / 1 um / 0.01 mm
- Range: 0-3000µm
- Size: 4.1 x 1.7 x 1.2 inch
This is your friend to accompany inspecting in cold winter. It’s okay to use under extreme temperatures. The lowest permissible temperature use is -13°F/-25°C. While the highest temperature is 104°F/40°C.
It comes with a set of calibration kits: two plates of aluminum and steel and two calibration films of 1000µm and 700µm. So, there are two points available to calibrate.
What you can do with this gauge? Actually many things. There, you can turn on/off the backlight, activate the automatic shutdown, selectable 3 operating modes (A, M, P), change the unit reading, calibrating, 2 point calibration, 6 point calibration. This gauge seems designed for those who have been familiar with calibration.
- Continuous mode
- Small screen
9. Extech CG204 Paint Thickness Gauge
Like the standard paint thickness gauge, it’s been designed to detect ferrous and non-ferrous base material automatically. So, this is good to measure the paint thickness of a car.
On the display, you could actually access the information such as the number of readings, average readings, max and min reading, and standard deviation. Surely, this functionality can be activated when you turn on the “continuous” mode. You could select the “single” mode to measure one by one reading. Each reading is taken, you’ll hear a tone.
- Range: 0-1250 μm / 0-49 mils
However, this might confuse you at first. Learn the manual to master the buttons and functions thoroughly. That said, the screen can’t display all the data. This is the drawback.
Besides that, the two working modes help you to perform a set of measurements and save the readings and statistical data on the built-in memory. The direct mode is to save the data despite it’s off. While the group mode is to save the data under certain calibration.
Another great thing is the transferrable data. Connect your Extech CG204 to a computer through the given USB cable to transfer the data. It comes with a CD that contains the software to interface the computer to paint gauge.
- Continuous mode
- Data can be transferred to a computer
- Small screen
- Only certain data can be displayed
10. Elcometer 311-B – Superior Paint Thickness Measurer
Elcometer 311 Model B is absolutely a fast-reading, sophisticated, and high-end paint thickness measure.
Feel a quick reading! It can handle up to 60 readings in a minute. That means one second per reading. In addition, no need to calibrate at the first arrival. Just get it out of the box and ready to use.
The display is very informative. There you could know how many times you have taken the readings, the lowest paint thickness is, the average thickness is, and interestingly the Elcometer Index Value. It’s an outstanding feature that lets you know the overall condition appraised by this smart tool. The greater the value, the more possible it has had undergone repair.
Moreover, no need to change the probe to measure the paint with the steel or aluminum base. This Elcometer 311 B is designed to automatically easily measure the paint no matter the base is steel or aluminum. The display expressly tells you what the material base is.
Furthermore, feel an enjoyable measurement outdoor. This one is exceptional because it has met the IP64 rating qualification that will protect it from water ingress and dust. No worry about work whether on dusty sites or on a rainy day. It’s clearly designed for professionals. In addition, it benefits to maintain accuracy because water and dust can interfere with the system of measurement.
- Large screen
- Fast reading
What is Paint Thickness Gauge?
It’s a tool that measures the thickness of paint without destructing it. As you know that this sort of coating is very thin and there is only one side that appears, we need a special tool to do the job.
The term paint is still general and wide. It could be the paint of the pipe, bridge, engine, etc. One scope area that usually employs this instrument is the paint of vehicle panels. This measuring tool is very important for a vehicle to uncover the hidden condition beyond its beautiful look.
The way we use a paint thickness gauge is easy. Just stick the probe into the car panel and the thickness reading will be displayed on the screen. The difficult part may happen during the calibration. You may not be familiar with it.
It works based on these three working principles: magnetic induction, eddy current, and ultrasonic [Source]. However, the ultrasonic gauge is commonly used for superior precision in which further results can be analyzed in more detail. In the case of vehicle thickness, since they use steel and aluminum as the base, the applying of magnetic induction and eddy current are highly decent.
If a paint thickness gauge is able to measure the paint on both magnetic (iron, steel, stainless steel, alloy, etc) and non-magnetic metal (aluminum, brass, zinc, etc), then it probably applies both magnetic induction and eddy current principle in a single probe. This may give you the flexibility of use regardless of what the base is.
Main Factors to Figure Out
Here are some highly important factors that you need to figure out in the case of buying a paint thickness gauge:
1. Measurement Range
The thickness tester must pose the common measuring range of paint thickness, at least 0-750µm (0 – .75mm). There are usually about 0.1-0.17 mm for the combination of painting primer, base, and clear coat.
2. Versatile Base Detection
Since most vehicles nowadays use steel and aluminum as the panel basis, the gauge must be usable on both of those bases. Steel is considered as the magnetic metal, while aluminum as the non-magnetic metal.
If you need to measure fast, then select the paint gauge whose a continuous reading feature. While the individual reading, in contrast, requires you to measure one by one in which each measurement is usually separated by a tone.
How could you tell that the paint thickness gives a wrong reading? The best practice for that is by using the calibration kit. Some products tend to have a significant error due to the environment temperature and humidity. If you focus on accuracy, look up to the error tolerance and temperature and humidity limit.
5. Easy to Use
The size dimensions, buttons, comes with user manual come into play in terms of how easy it is to use. The build and construction have to be comfortable with the handheld. Moreover, it’s not too big so that it can measure most of the spots.
This kind of gauge needs frequent calibration. If possible, purchase that comes with a set of calibration metals and films. It will help you make some control of the accuracy of the gauge. You also don’t to buy it separately and save money.
Preparing yourself with the best paint thickness gauge before buying a car is highly encouraged. This tool will be reliable to inspect the condition of the car for you. Most importantly, you can avoid losing thousands of dollars.
From the top 10 options above, which one is actually worth buying? Simply, we recommend Eray SR-A770 (both the grey and green color) to be the best paint thickness gauge. It comes with great accuracy, decent informative screen display, continuous reading mode, transferrable data, wider measuring range (0-2000µm), storable data, etc. Even though its price is pretty expensive, it worths your money.