Are you looking to purchase a used car? If so, you should look at getting yourself a coating gauge thickness tool. As the name suggests, a coating or paint thickness gauge measures the thickness of a coating on the surface of a car.
While you can do a good job of assessing the quality and condition of a car’s finish from visual inspection alone, properly measuring the thickness of the paint on a car can tell you a lot of information about its history and condition. Body problems and rust are some of the most important issues to identify if you are looking to purchase a used car.
If you read our comprehensive car buyer’s guides, you’ll know that we place a lot of emphasis on assessing the quality and condition of a car’s paintwork before purchase.
If you are serious about doing the best possible assessment of a car’s paint finish, then a paint thickness gauge (sometimes known as a coating gauge tool) is a worthy investment.
There are loads of different coating gauge thickness tools out there, but which one is the best and what one should you buy?
In this buyer’s guide we have rounded up eight of the best paint thickness testing tools that you can purchase. We hope you find this information helpful!
As this is a long guide, you might like to jump in and use the table of contents below to make navigating this page easier and faster.
The Best Paint Thickness Gauges You Can Buy
Let’s dive in and take a look at the top products. Following this, we have some answers to frequently-asked questions about coating thickness tools and how you can use them.
April 2022 update: Due to supply chain issues, some of these products aren’t so easily available to purchase at the moment. We are currently exploring new options to recommend to you (as it’s hard to determine when/if stock will become available again in the near future). Please bear with us while we work this out. If you have any recommended products for us to put into the list, then feel free to leave a comment or email email@example.com
1: ERAY Paint Coating Thickness Gauge
If you are looking for one of the best coating gauge thickness tools you can’t go far wrong with ERAY’s Paint Thickness Gauge. The measuring range of this gauge is 0 to 2000um(78.7mils) and it comes with an easy read LCD screen.
ERAY’s gauge has 4 profile groups with a total of 80 readings per group. Each group can have its own alarm settings, special limits and even its own calibration. If you decide to save your data, the gauge can store 320 readings before it needs to be cleared. The data stored in the gauge can then be transferred to a PC for analysis. ERAY’s software is compatible with Windows SVR 2000/2003/2008 and Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10(32&64 Bits).
One great feature we love on this gauge is that you can set an upper and lower limit. When you cross these limits, an alarm will be displayed on the LCD screen. This gauge will be perfect for those who want to check for rust, repairs or other bodywork problems on used cars.
The ERAY Paint Coating Thickness Gauge is one of the most popular and well-reviewed LCD screen coating gauge thickness tools on the market. It also comes with an excellent 24-month free replacement guarantee.
- Accurate measuring range from 0 to 2000um(78.7mils)
- Easy read LCD screen
- Upper and lower limit alarm system
- 24-month replacement guarantee
- Brand: ERAY
- Weight: 90g (3.2 ounces)
- Item number: SR-A770
2: VVV-Group Magnetic Coating Thickness Gauge
If you are looking for a cheap coating thickness gauge tool this one from VVV-Group is an excellent option. It uses a magnetic tip and a simple colour scale along the length of the device to give you accurate measurements of a coating.
The great thing about VVV-Group’s thickness gauge is that it is extremely convenient for curved surfaces and hard to reach places. It is also water resistant and can be used on dirty vehicles. This makes it a perfect low-cost solution for checking accident damage, repairs and rust areas during an inspection of a car.
VVV-Group’s Magnetic Coating Thickness Gauge is also incredibly small and lightweight, which means you can easily fit it in a pocket or small bag.
This coating gauge thickness tool is one of the most popular ones available for cars and it has a whole load of five-star reviews. If you are looking for an inexpensive gauge, then this one should be high up your list.
- Magnetic tip that can be used on curved surfaces or in hard-to-reach areas
- Lightweight and small
- Can be used on wet or dirty vehicles
- Fantastic price
- Brand: VVV-Group
- Weight: 5g (0.3 ounces)
- Item Number: 3003
3: CARSYS DPM-816 Coating Thickness Gauge for Cars
Another excellent option for those looking for a paint thickness gauge for car inspections is from CARSYS. The DPM–816 is highly accurate with a sensor (made in Russia) that has a measuring range up to 137 mils, a resolution up to 0.001 mils, and an accuracy up to 1%+0,04 mils.
CARSYS’ paint thickness gauge is a little bit more sophisticated than the one from VVV-Group we listed above. It features a wide and informative LCD screen that shows only the necessary information and three large buttons for navigating the menu. CARSYS claims that the DPM-816 is so simple to use “that even a child can figure it out”.
The device features five different modes that can be used for a wide range of uses:
- A – Auto – perfect for checking the thickness of the paint or a coating on a car’s body.
- M – Manufacturing – higher resolution setting that is perfect for thick coatings. Great for factories, paint shops and workshops.
- P – Program – used for custom calibration at 6 points. For special cases where the default calibration is not suitable.
- Fe – Magnetic induction method
nFe – Eddy current method
The DPM-816 can measure the thickness of coatings on concave, curved, smooth and thin surfaces, so it will be perfect for your car inspection needs. You can also measure in single or continuous modes so you can either choose a point to check or compare multiple sections of a vehicle.
If you are looking for a device to work in all weather conditions, the DPM-816 is about as hardy as they come. It can work in temperatures ranging from -13 to 104 F (-25 to 40 С).
- Simple design with LCD screen and three large buttons
- Five different modes, including auto for car inspections
- Works in temperatures ranging from -13 to 104 F (-25 to 40 С)
- Measuring range from 0 – 137 mils
- Brand: CARSYS
- Weight: 50g (1.76 ounces)
- Item Number: DPM-816 PRO
4: VVV-Group Industrial-818 Professional Digital Coating Thickness Gauge
If you are looking for the best of the best, you can’t go far wrong with VVV-Group’s Industrial-818 Professional Digital Coating Thickness Gauge. This incredibly high precession coating thickness gauge has a resolution of 0.001 mils, making it more than adequate for car inspections.
It has a measuring range of 0-197 mils (0-5 mm) for magnetic metal surfaces and 0-118 mils (0-3mm) for non-magnetic metal surfaces. The digital LCD screen displays the readings clearing and the user-interface is simple to use with 3 measurement units; mils, um, and mm.
In the package you will receive one Industrial-818 Coating Thickness Gauge, a calibration set for aluminium and iron plate, calibration foil set 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000-4 pc, shockproof case for carrying and storage, 3 AAA batteries and a manual.
If you inspect a lot of vehicles or are planning to use a coating thickness gauge a lot, this professional device may be worth your investment.
- Industrial grade professional digital coating thickness gauge
- Resolution of 0.001 mils
- measuring range of 0-197 mils (0-5 mm) for magnetic metal surfaces and 0-118 mils (0-3mm) for non-magnetic metal surfaces
- User-friendly interface and digital LCD screen
- Shockproof case
- Brand: VVV-Group
- Shipping Weight: 1kg (2.2 pounds)
- Item Number: Industrial-818
5: Elpidan E7000 Paint Thickness Gauge
The Elpidan E7000 Paint Thickness Gauge is ideal for car inspections. It is equipped with a large 2.3-inch high-definition HD colour-screen that displays all the necessary information and auto rotates when the device’s orientation is changed.
Unlike many other coating thickness gauges, Elpidan’s one uses rechargeable batteries that can be charged via the USB port or charging port located on the top of the device. This means you don’t have to worry about purchasing throwaway AA or AAA batteries.
The E7000 can accurately measure the thickness of a coating on smooth, rough, thin and curved surfaces, so it will be perfect for car inspections. A high and low reading limit can be set to set off an alarm when the coating thickness goes above or below these limits.
With a durable and efficient construction, the E7000 features a number of modes and it can store up to 1,500 readings, more than enough for even the most thorough car inspection. Elpidan’s device measures up to 1500um (59mil) and can take 60-plus readings a minute. The data can then be viewed in three ways, statistic view, trend graph and bar graph.
Elpidan’s E7000 comes highly recommended and reviewed and it can measure the thickness of non-magnetic coating on magnetic metal substrates and non-conductive coatings on all non-ferrous metals.
- Large 2.3-inch high-definition HD colour-screen that auto-rotates
- Rechargeable via USB or supplied charger
- Perfect for measuring the thickness of a coating on smooth, rough, thin and curved surfaces
- Can take 60-plus readings a minute
- Upper and lower limit alarm
- Brand: Elpidan
- Item Weight: 100g (3.53 ounces)
- Item Number: 30098
You can get this paint thickness gauge on Amazon.com here or you can learn more from the manufacturer website, which has some very helpful information on it.
6: ALLOSUN EM2271 Digital Paint Thickness Meter
If you are looking for quite possibly the cheapest digital thickness gauge that works, you should check out ALLOSUN’s Digital Paint Thickness Meter. While it isn’t as accurate or as flash as some of the other gauges on this list, it will be perfect for those looking for an occasional use coating thickness gauge.
The EM2271 can be used to non-destructively measure the paint thickness of a car with an accuracy of 0.1mm. It has a measuring range of 0.0 to 2.0 mm (0 – 80 mil) and readings are displayed on a simple LCD screen in either mm or MIL. Power comes from one lithium metal battery (included) and the size is 12.5 x 6.6 x 3.0 cm (4.9 x 2.6 x 1.2 inches).
- Accuracy of 0.1 mm
- Measuring range from of 0.0 to 2.0 mm (0 – 80 mil)
- Readings are displayed on a simple LCD screen in either mm or MIL
- One of the lowest cost digital thickness gauges available
- Brand: ALLOSUN
- Weight: 59g (2.08 ounces)
- Item Number: EM2271
7: VVV-Group CM-208FN Paint Thickness Gauge
Once again, VVV-Group have made its way onto this list with another great coating thickness gauge. Compared to the other two options we have already listed, the CM-208FN Digital Coating Thickness Gauge can be seen as the midrange option.
The CM-208FN is perfect for steel and aluminium surfaces and features an accurate measuring resolution of 0.001 mils. This makes it more than adequate for car inspections and could save you from buying a lemon.
The measuring range is 0 to 78 mils (0 to 2000 μm) with an accuracy of ± (3% of readings + 2 μm) or ± (3% of readings + 0.078mils). Calibration is easy and the device quickly takes measurements, so you can rapidly measure all the panels of a vehicle you are inspecting.
Unlike some other gauges, the CM-208FN can be used in a range of temperature and weather conditions. It also features an easy-to-read LCD display that shows measurements in um, mm and mil.
In the box you will get one CM-208FN coating thickness gauge, aluminium and iron substrate, five standard foils, two AAA batteries, a USB cable, software, toolbox, and a user manual.
- Accurate resolution of 0.001 mils
- Measuring range is 0 to 78 mils (0 to 2000 μm)
- LCD screen that displays in um, mm and mil
- Weather and heat resistant for use in all weather conditions
- Brand: VVV-Group
- Shipping Weight: 544g (1.2 pounds)
- Item Number: CM-208FN
8: Elpidan E2000 Paint Thickness Gauge for Cars
Elpidan’s E7000 thickness gauge we listed earlier in this article is fantastic, but if you are looking for something at a slightly lower price point, the E2000 is another excellent option. It comes equipped with a WIEDE 2.2-inch high-definition LCD (45 x 35 mm) screen that displays in both metric and imperial units.
The measuring range of the E2000 is 0 to 1500um (59mil) with a resolution of 0.01 mil (0.1um). Elpidan claims that the accuracy of the device is ±(3%+2um) / ±(3%+0.08mil), which means it should be more than accurate enough for car inspections.
The E2000 can operate in temperatures ranging from 0 – 40 degrees Celsius and is powered by two AAA 1.5V batteries. It features an ergonomic design with large buttons, so it can easily be used with gloves.
Elpidan’s device has a number of different modes including an automatic mode that is perfect for car inspections. It can measure the thickness of paint or coatings on curved, rough, thin or smooth surfaces.
The E2000 is extremely well reviewed and we definitely recommend that you check it out if you are looking for a well-priced digital thickness gauge for car inspections.
- WIEDE 2.2-inch high-definition LCD (45 x 35 mm)
- Measuring range of 0 to 1500um (59mil)
- Resolution of 0.01 mil (0.1um)
- Can operate in temperatures ranging from 0 – 40 degrees Celsius
- Brand: Elpidan
- Item Weight: 100g (3.53 ounces)
- Item Number: E2000
Car Coating/Paint Thickness Gauge Buying Guide & Information
A coating thickness gauge is an incredibly useful tool for car inspections. Being able to measure the thickness of the paint on a car can help you determine if it has been in an accident, suffered from rust or had some other issue. Purchasing a paint thickness gauge could save you money and time when inspecting a vehicle.
What Is a Paint Thickness Gauge?
A paint or coating thickness gauge is a tool that measures the thickness of a coating without damaging it. Car paint and coatings are very thin and there is only one side on display, so you need a special tool to measure them.
The way we use a thickness gauge is easy. Simply stick the probe onto a panel of a vehicle and the thickness will be displayed on the screen or along the scale. The most difficult part about using a coating thickness gauge is usually calibrating them.
Coating/paint thickness gauges usually work on three principles:
- Magnetic induction – Perfect for car use
- Eddy Current – Perfect for car use
- Ultrasonic – Usually used on higher priced gauges and where superior precision is needed.
If a thickness gauge is able to measure the paint on both magnetic (iron, steel, steel alloys, etc.) and non-magnetic metals (aluminium, zinc, brass, etc.), then it applies both magnetic induction and eddy current methods. These sort of coating thickness gauges give you the ability to inspect a wider variety of vehicles.
Why Is a Coating Thickness Gauge So Important?
Measuring the thickness of the paint is often overlooked when going for an inspection of a vehicle. We all check how the engine is running, what the suspension is like and how the brakes work but checking the thickness of the paint can tell you a lot about a car. Here are some reasons why you should use a coating thickness gauge:
To check for past accident damage – Accident damage is a major issue on cars. Many owners or sellers will try to hide the fact that their vehicle has been in an accident or will try and downplay the severity of the accident. A paint thickness gauge will be able to show you any discrepancies in the thickness of a car’s paint or coating. This means that you can check if the vehicle has been resprayed or repaired at any point.
To check for rust or rust repairs – This sort of ties in with the above but is equally as important. Rust is a major issue on cars. If you find an area where the paint is a different thickness or where the gauge doesn’t work at all, it may indicate past or present rust problems. Rust or bodged rust repairs can be a death sentence for vehicles, so use a coating thickness gauge.
To show the owner or seller you mean business – If you show up to an inspection with all the right tools a seller will probably be a bit more forthcoming with information. They may not want to be caught out lying about problems with the car. Bringing a coating gauge thickness tool along to an inspection shows that you mean business and are prepared to thoroughly check the vehicle.
To save you money – While we can’t guarantee that a paint thickness gauge will save you money, it can save you from buying a lemon. As we wrote above, accident and rust problems can be a major issue and can be the death sentence for a car. A coating thickness gauge could save you from buying a lemon, saving you money down the line.
How Do I Check the Thickness of the Paint with a Coating Thickness Gauge?
Checking the thickness of the paint on a car with a coating thickness gauge is easy. For most gauges, you simply have to touch the end of the probe onto the surface of a car’s panel. It will then give you a reading of what the thickness of the coating on the panel is.
Once you have taken one reading you can move around the vehicle to check other spots. Some thickness gauges have the ability to store readings so you can compare them at a later date. Other, more simple gauges may only be able to show or store one reading. If this is the case, we recommend that you bring a piece of paper to write down the readings you take or note them down in your phone.
If you notice any large discrepancies in a panel or over the whole car it may be a sign that the vehicle has had some repair work down. Thoroughly check these areas to see if you can find any signs of a respray or repair.
Most coating thickness gauges require some sort of calibration periodically to make sure they are working correctly. The method for calibrating a device will depend on the manufacturer and model, but generally a substrate/calibration block (aluminium, iron, etc.) is supplied with the gauge to do it. You measure the block or substrate and compare it to the manufacture’s specifications.
Can I Use a Coating Thickness Gauge When a Car is Wet or Dirty?
In a word yes, but it does depend on the model you purchase. Some coating thickness gauges will work perfectly fine when a vehicle is wet and/or dirty, while others will not. You need to check the manufacturer’s specifications and gauge’s features before purchase.
Can I Use a Coating Thickness Gauge When It Is Cold or Hot?
Again yes, you can use a paint thickness gauge at various different temperature levels. Manufacturers tend to specify what temperature range their product can operate in. Most will work from around 0 degrees Celsius all the way to around 40 degrees, but some will have a bigger range while others will have a smaller range.
Most car inspections are usually not done when the temperature is below 0 or above 40, so you will find that most of the gauges included in this list are more than adequate.
What to Look Out for When Buying a Paint Thickness Gauge?
While paint thickness gauges may seem pretty straightforward, there are lots of things to consider when purchasing one. Here are some things to watch out for:
Resolution – Higher resolutions (or lower if you look at it another way) are better. Something with a 0.001 mil resolution is better than one with a 0.01 mil resolution.
Measuring Range & Accuracy – The measuring range is the minimum and maximum thickness that a gauge can measure. A greater measuring range is usually better, but it also needs to be accurate. A large measuring range that is not accurate is no use. The accuracy of a device is usually displayed as something like this ±(3%+1um). A higher accuracy is better, and the accuracy may change depending on the material that the coating is attached to.
Units – The units that are displayed on the scale or display. These are usually um, mm and mil.
Speed – A fast coating thickness gauge can speed up an inspection a lot. If you can do 50 or 60 readings a minute you will be able to cover the whole car much quicker than if you have to wait after each reading.
Type of Materials – The materials that the gauge can be used on, typically steel and aluminium. One that does both will allow you to check more vehicles.
Weight & Size – A large and heavy device can be annoying to carry during an inspection. If you can fit a gauge in your pocket or in a small bag you are much more likely to bring it along.
Display – This is largely going to depend on the gauge you purchase, and some won’t even have a display (just a scale on the side). We prefer uncluttered, easy-to-read displays that only give you the information you need at the time. Additionally, LCD displays are going to be much easier to read in the dark than physical scales.
Battery & Power – Some paint thickness gauges use AAA batteries, while others use rechargeable ones (some don’t even need a battery as well). We prefer rechargeable devices that can be charged up with a USB cable. Everyone has a USB cable, so you don’t have to rush out and buy batteries if the device runs out of power.
Conclusion – The Best Paint Thickness Gauges For Inspecting Cars
For most buyers, a visual inspection of a car’s paint finish will be sufficient.
Over time you will get better and better at visually-assessing the finish of a car’s paintwork, both from a distance and up close. This is a skill well worth learning so you can find the best possible car for your money, and also spot obvious accident damage, repairs etc.
However, if you want to have the best possible insight into the quality of the paintwork on a prospective purchase (or you want to assess the work that has been completed on a car you already own) then it’s well worth investing in a paint thickness tool.
This will allow you to get a “scientific” assessment of the quality of your car’s paint.
In this buyer’s guide we looked at eight of the best paint thickness gauges that you can buy online for a reasonable price.
Compared to a lot of other types of auto tools, coating thickness gauges are actually rather pricey. However, we hope you found something worth considering here.