Whether you are going to buy a used car or perform car paint correction, a paint thickness gauge will help you measure the car coating thickness accurately which further help you make a well-informed decision.
As the name suggests, it’s a measuring instrument/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 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 9 best paint thickness gauges that come from the different price ranges.
Top 9 Best Paint Thickness Gauge Reviews in 2023
1. Eray Mil Thickness Gauge [Best Overall Functionality & Price]
Eray thicknes gauge 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’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 and green (this one).
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. RDINSCOS TC100 – [Best Budget Paint Thickness Gauge]
Want to get the best possible paint thickness gauge but don’t want to spend a lot of money because you just use it only once for buying a used car? This RDINSCOS TC100 meter is what you want, backed up with 3-year warranty.
The measuring range is 10 – 1500 µm. It can automatically detect the base whether ferrous or non-ferrous (aluminum) and display the reading instantly. So, you don’t need to change the reading mode anymore.
To check the accuracy of this device, you can inspect it with the calibration kit that comes with it. The kit contains: iron substrate, aluminum substrate, and coating films.
- Best for the budget
- Easy to use
- Large, bright, and clear display
- Designed for ferrous and non-ferrous base
- No continuous reading
4. Allosun EM2271 – Simplest Paint Thickness Gauge
Allosun EM2271 is an entry-level digital paint thickness gauge. Using it is very straightforward. The price is affordable. For infrequent use, this one is good to go.
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
Another simple one is this VVV-Group 3003 paint thickness gauge. This one is unique. It works using the magnet and a spring inside the system.
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. Nicety CM8801-FN Paint Thickness Gauge
Nicety CM-8801-FN is another digital paint gauge that you could consider before making a purchase. The overall score of this paint gauge is decent to use for measuring vehicle paint thickness.
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.
7. Carsys DPM-816 Pro Paint Thickness Gauge – Ergonomic, High Resolution, Good Measuring Range, and Continuous Mode
The Carsys DPM-816 is another best paint thickness gauge that looks ergonomic and simple to use. Besides, it has a great resolution (0.01 mils) and a good measuring range (118 mils / 3000 µm). More importantly, it also provides the continuous checking mode that lets you measure the paint thickness easier and faster.
Manufactured in Russia, it’s a simple device 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: 0.01 mil
- Range: 0-118mils (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 for the reading 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
8. Extech CG204 Paint Thickness Gauge
Even though it looks a bit dated and the display is small, never underestimate its capability. It has a complete of features you might not think of.
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
9. Elcometer 311-B 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]. The ultrasonic-based paint thickness gauge is intentionally used for the non-metal base such as plastic. They are also expensive. In the case of vehicle thickness, since they use steel and aluminum as the base, the application of magnetic induction and eddy current are highly decent. These models are relatively cheaper.
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.
How To Use A Paint Thickness Gauge
Let us present a Youtube video from Car Craft Auto Detailing that shows how to perform the accuracy checking using the calibration kit and how to use the car paint thickness gauge.
Main Factors to Figure Out Buying Paint Thickness Gauge
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. According to the Car Craft Auto Detailing, most new cars are about 4-6 mil or 100-150 microns. Your cars may be different in thickness. So, make sure the measuring range of your car paint thickness gauge covers this range.
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’s temperature and humidity. If you focus on accuracy, look up to the error tolerance and temperature and humidity limit.
5. Easy to Use
Some models come with fewer buttons, but those buttons serve many functions. This may be confusing for the first time using it. A single click sends function A, while double 2 sends function B. You’ll need to read the manual. On the other hand, other products are intuitive to use with more buttons. Another thing you may need to check is its ergonomic body dimension.
Like many measuring instruments, a paint thickness meter needs a way to check its accuracy which is calibration. Some models come with a calibration kit, while some don’t. This is the thickness standard. Before using the gauge to measure paint surface thickness, measure those standards. Then check whether the reading is matching with the standard thickness or not. If the reading and the thickness are the same, it’s accurate. The best practice for paint thickness gauge calibration is to send your gauge to the calibration lab.
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 9 options above, which one is actually worth buying? Simply, we recommend Eray (both the grey and green color) thickness gauge 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 is worth your money.