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Best Torpedo Levels of 2020

By Ryan Baker ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 20, 2020
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Our experts researched the best torpedo levels of 2020 and purchased the top 10 models for rigorous side-by-side testing. Our lineup has an array of tools ideal for different uses and budgets for your home workshop or professional toolbox. There are many levels on the market to choose from but our objective testing can help you find the right level for your needs. All products were rated based on materials, durability, accuracy, extra features, and functionality for various users. It's our goal to provide a thorough explanation of which level is best for you and why. Our review highlights the best products on the market and matches them to specific users and budgets.

1

Best Overall Torpedo Level


Ideal 35-207 6" Electrician Level


Editors' Choice Award
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$46.89
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Solid Aluminum | Number of Unique Vials: 5
Strong Magnet on Grooved Edge
Replaceable Parts
Sturdy Aluminum
Expensive
Small Vials

Made from CNC cut solid aluminum, the Ideal Electrician Level, one of the smallest members of our test group, earns our top overall spot thanks to its versatility and durability. We immediately liked that the packaging includes two extra acrylic vials that are easy to replace with an allen wrench. The conduit thumb screw was very easy to use, and we especially liked that the magnets were embedded on a grooved rail. Its versatility is appealing, boasting five levels: a bull's eye, horizontal, vertical, 30, and 45 degrees. This little level has easy to read bubbles with a slow viscosity our testers preferred over more watery competitors. Although the vials were smaller than others, the color contrast with the aluminum frame and neon-colored liquid made for easy reading, even in low light. Our testers appreciated that the zero mark on the ruler coincided with the edge of the ruler. This allows the user to measure in a corner or against a surface. Though it may seem obvious, only the Ideal and the Milwaukee shared this feature. Most levels had the zero mark set back as much as 1⅝ inch from the edge of the level. The one-handed, grooved, thumb screw mates well onto conduit and piping, holding fast at all angles.

There isn't much to complain about other than the price, but we think it's worth the money with lots of well thought out attributes. If you are an electrician, plumber, or professional of any kind, this is a great product to keep in your back pocket or tool belt.

The integral thumb screw is very easy to operate with one hand.
The integral thumb screw is very easy to operate with one hand.

2

Best Level For Professionals


Milwaukee 7-Inch Billet


Top Pick Award
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$33
List Price
See It

Frame: Solid Aluminum | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Strongest Magnet
Durable
Sturdy Aluminum
Easy to read
Large View Windows Along Both Edges
Small Plumb and 45 Degree Vials

Our testers were impressed with the sturdy aluminum Milwaukee 7 Inch Billet. The easy to read acrylic vials are accurate and bright. The large horizontal vial has large viewing windows along both edges and ΒΌ and β…› over one foot marking for laying pipe. If you plan to work with metal piping or conduit, this level bested all others in magnet strength, capable of holding a five-pound plate at 90 degrees. If you are working in a dynamic environment, you can be assured that this torpedo level will be where you left it. Our testers appreciated that Milwaukee set the zero mark at the edge of the level rather than set an inch or more back from the nose as some competitors do. The ruler is convenient to use in a corner or against a surface. We all have fought cheap levels when the fluid separates into multiple bubbles, which is not a problem with this level. Milwaukee uses a fluid that makes it very difficult to separate the reading bubble into suds. No shaking or slamming the bubbles back together. The acrylic vials are durable, and during the drop test, this level did more damage to the concrete test surface than it received.

It did not rate as high in extra features because the vials are glued in rather than replaceable. Also, the grooved edge is not magnetic. Still, overall this level will give even the most abusive user many years of reliable service.

The strongest magnet we tested  see the proof below.
The strongest magnet we tested, see the proof below.

3

Best Level for the Home Workbench


Craftsman Torpedo 9-Inch


Top Pick Award
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$12.98
(24% off)
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Aluminum with Rubber Ends | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Strong Magnetic Edge
Oversized Magnified Vial
Easy to Read Bubbles
Cheap Rubber Ends

Our favorite feature of the Craftsman level was the magnified horizontal vial that is easy to read. Not only was it the largest vial compared to any other product we tested, the notch in the edge that it sits in allows for 270 degrees of viewing. The neon color of the fluid is easy to read, even in near dark conditions. The magnet held strong among the top group in testing, only failing just before the substantially more expensive competitors.

During our durability test, however, we witnessed the rubber ends loosen. They were easy enough to push back in, but this unnecessary feature would likely disappear in a tool bag or truck over time. Fortunately, this does not affect the accuracy of the product and is merely a design element. The Craftsman will give the home handyman plenty of years of good service.

The Craftsman has the largest vial and is very easy to read.
The Craftsman has the largest vial and is very easy to read.

4

Top Alternative for the Home Workbench


Swanson 9-Inch Magnetic


Top Pick Award
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$10.55
(12% off)
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Aluminum with Plastic | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Aluminum Frame
Grooved Edge and Magnetic Edge
Good Bubble Viscosity
Small Viewing Window on Top

Although there are less expensive options for those on a budget, our testers were inclined to choose the Swanson Torpedo Level as a great choice for the home handy person. The sturdy aluminum frame can take a beating, and the acrylic vials are not prone to shattering. We would have preferred the grove and magnetic edge to be the same, but we can't expect the same perks as the Ideal at this price point. Swanson has made a great no gimmicks product that lives up to their reputation. The Swanson level sports a grooved edge and has the strongest magnets of any level in its price range.

The view window on top is a little small, but the white casing around the vial assists with visibility. Our testers decided that for those not concerned with professional jobs or fancy extras, the Swanson fit the bill.

The Swanson features bright easy to read bubbles.
The Swanson features bright easy to read bubbles.

5

Our Favorite Budget Level


Empire Level EM81.9G


Best Buy Award
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$9.78
(11% off)
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Plastic over Aluminum | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Made in the USA
Durable
Dark Fluid Is Hard to Read
No Ruler

The Empire was the favorite among budget-priced levels. The fluid in the vial had a slow viscosity that returned to a single bubble immediately. The plastic siding proved sturdy under durability testing and showed no cracks or breaks compared to other models in its class. The magnet was strong enough to hold the level inverted, but it did fall with minimal effort.

We found the darker tinted fluid difficult to read in low light working conditions. The small viewing window along the top edge was also difficult to read in low light. All that said, if you just need a level but want an aluminum frame, the Empire will do the job.

Our testers did not prefer the darker yellow fluid with the Empire level.
Our testers did not prefer the darker yellow fluid with the Empire level.

6

Best on a Budget


Johnson 7500M 9"


Best Buy Award
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$3.99
(34% off)
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Plastic | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Made in the USA
Durable
Non-Conductive
Inexpensive
Hard to Read

For those on a tight budget or can't justify spending more than eight dollars on a level, behold the Johnson 7500M. Unlike other products in this review, this product provides durability not from the strength of its materials but the resiliency of the plastic. This level is so lightweight that our durability test had little visible effect.

The darker vials and small view windows make it harder to read, and the magnet strip was less than inspiring when tested inverted. But we enjoyed the bright orange color that was easy to locate in a mess of tools or at a busy worksite. Thanks to its great price, our testers quickly recognized the Johnson the best level for those on a tight budget.

The darker tinted bubbles can make it difficult to read in low light.
The darker tinted bubbles can make it difficult to read in low light.

7

Great Alternative for Plumbers and Electricians


WORKPRO Torpedo


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$14.99
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Solid Aluminum with Some Plastic | Number of Unique Vials: 4
Conduit Attachment
Four Angles Measured
Easy to Read
Not as Durable
Thumb Screw Inhibits Use of Grooved Edge

If you don't want to spend as much as other brands but want some of the great features that come with a professional-grade level, look no further than the Workpro torpedo level. We appreciated the mirrors in the plumb level that provided a view of the bubble through the leading edge. Unfortunately, the plastic housing of the plumb level immediately broke out during durability testing. It was easy to click back into place, but was concerning in a level that otherwise was hewn from solid aluminum. It includes four angles: level, plumb, 30, and 45 degrees. The horizontal vial has viewing windows along both the magnetic and grooved edge.

Again we were disappointed to see a grooved edge not be magnetic. The conduit thumb screw is a little more challenging to operate because of its small circumference and placement along the top spine. This can pose as an impediment to using the full length of the grooved edge as well. The ruler does not start at the edge of the tool as it does in some higher-ranked products. Still, the Workpro is a great level for pipefitters in the industry or the more serious home craftsperson.

The conduit screw holds tight on many sizes of piping.
The conduit screw holds tight on many sizes of piping.

8

Great for Small Projects at Home


AmazonBasics Magnetic Torpedo Level


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$8.39
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Plastic over Aluminum | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Lightweight
Ruler with Metric and Imperial
Easy to Read
Not Very Durable

Need a light accurate level in the kitchen drawer for those house projects such as picture hanging? The AmazonBasics level will do the trick. The imperial and metric ruler along the top edge provides an extra benefit for small projects. Our testers complained that the zero mark is recessed 1⅝ inch back from the edge of the level. Need to measure a photo from a corner? Better grab a tape measure. The AmazonBasics lives up to its name as inexpensive, easy to read, and basic.

For those who seldom need a level and don't abuse it, the AmazonBasics will be an adequate purchase. Its performance in durability testing underwhelmed our testers. The joined hollow plastic frame did not hold up well, immediately cracking along the seam. Beneath the plastic body is a light aluminum frame. The vials are held in the windows by the plastic. If you tend to drop things or are rough on your tools, it may be worth spending a little more on a more durable product.

The AmazonBasic features a strip magnet.
The AmazonBasic features a strip magnet.

9

Best for a Small Tool Chest


Qooltek Laser Level


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$11.88
(52% off)
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Plastic | Number of Unique Vials: 3 + Laser
Multi-Tool Tape Measure Built In
Bright Laser Level
Not Durable
Small Vials
No Magnetic Edge

Trying to save space in a small tool chest or apartment? The Qooltek Laser Pro3 includes an eight-foot tape measure and a six-inch ruler. The laser level was accurate in testing and bright enough to display 30 feet away in a well-lit room. The extra batteries included in the packaging was appreciated as well. The batteries inside the product lasted just over four hours. If you have wall art to hang, especially a collage or multiple pieces on one wall, this level will help you immensely.

Our testers found that the tape brake did not operate consistently after the six-foot mark. Unfortunately, on the first series of the durability test, the plastic casing cracked, a piece of trim broke off, and the horizontal crosshair for the laser stopped functioning. The Qooltek also lacks any sort of magnetic edge. Overall this device is a great choice for those that want to minimize clutter or kill two birds with one stone. Just be careful not to drop it on any hard surfaces.

The batteries lasted over four hours and the packaging included a second set.
The batteries lasted over four hours and the packaging included a second set.

10

Alternative for a Tight Budget


Winnsty Spirit Level 3 Bubble


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$5.99
at Amazon
See It

Frame: Plastic | Number of Unique Vials: 3
Durable
Inexpensive
Hard to Read
Easy to Lose

The smallest level in our test pool, the Winnsty Spirit, gets points for durability. The simple light plastic design withstood our durability test with no breaks or blemishes. It does not fare so well under tension or compression, so maybe don't pack it below your socket wrench and channel locks. The bubbles were quick to rejoin when separated and were accurate.

Notably, the black plastic and diminutive size make it easy to misplace or lose. We lost it several times in testing only to realize it was within arms reach in a shadow or behind another level. The vials are fairly readable for how small they are and contained a slow-moving viscous fluid that our testers preferred. This is a great level for those on a really tight budget and not a lot of space.

These are small vials but we liked the slow viscosity of the fluid.
These are small vials but we liked the slow viscosity of the fluid.

Why You Should Trust Us


Ryan Baker studied fine art and relies on levels and tools to build his own frames and furniture. To pay the bills, he has worked on job sites for new builds, home remodels, and many projects where accuracy, durability, and dependability were paramount in the completion of a quality product. He has the experience and attention to detail necessary to implement simple tests that rank a product's merit in a field inundated with many options.

As a fellow online shopper, he also understands the stress of trying to choose between the plethora of options online. We have compiled an array of tests in accuracy, durability, and ease of use to build rankings to find the best in class for torpedo levels. We also considered materials and extra features in our rankings.

Broken trim and cracked frame on the Qooltek.
Notice some of the broken parts and failures during durability testing.
The Craftsman level with an easy-to-read bubble.

Analysis and Test Results


Levels share several common traits. The most important of those are accuracy, durability, readability, and materials. Other extra features such as a grooved edge or magnetic edge, level angles, rulers, a conduit attachment, or a laser should also be considered when purchasing a level. Our testers used these metrics to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the products in our review. We hope that our scrutiny and testing can help inform your decision to purchase a level. We elaborate on these metrics and how we tested them below.

The Craftsman and the Milwaukee had the largest bubbles. The latter also had useful 1/4 and 1/8 over a foot slope markers.
The Craftsman and the Milwaukee had the largest bubbles. The latter also had useful 1/4 and 1/8 over a foot slope markers.

Accuracy


Outside of a laboratory, it is difficult to test the accuracy of a six to nine-inch torpedo level. For this test, our team used a four foot level on concrete to set up as a control subject and compared each torpedo level on top of the longer level. All ten of our selected levels performed well, and there were no outliers or anomalies.

The top view of the windows shows that some are easier to read from above than others. Also notice the extra Bull's Eye level on the Ideal.
The top view of the windows shows that some are easier to read from above than others. Also notice the extra Bull's Eye level on the Ideal.

Durability


Not all levels are created equal. What materials a manufacturer uses plays greatly into the longevity and durability of a product. If you plan to use a level every day on the job site or maybe once when you move to a new apartment to hang a photo, you will be decisive on how much you are willing to spend and what you expect from a product. Products made from plastics tend to be much cheaper and do not last as long as those made from aluminum. Further, levels made from joined plastic parts were the most inferior to standing up to abuse. That being said, two categories go hand in hand: materials and durability.

Pesky double bubble.
The Johnson model is light enough that it didn't suffer any notable damage in our durability tests.

Throughout our testing, we found that the most durable products were all-aluminum, such as the Ideal Electrician Level and the Milwaukee 7-inch Billet. To test durability, we performed a drop test from an eight-foot step ladder onto level concrete, orienting each product with the broad or viewing edge toward the ground horizontally. Our goal was to test the durability and vulnerability of the vials. No vials broke during our testing, but we did witness failures in frames and trim features. The saving grace of the cheaper plastic levels such as the Winnsty Spirit and the Johnson was their relatively low weight and were therefore undamaged.

Note the differences in fluid color and brightness.
Note the differences in fluid color and brightness.

Bubble Readability and Viscosity


The real trait of note in this test was the viscosity of the fluid in the vial. Comparing vials side by side in a 'bubble race test,' we discovered the Winnsty Spirit had the slowest bubble movement and a tiny viewing window on the top spine. The Qooltek Laser Level Pro had the fastest bubble, but the added feature of a laser helped to offset that drawback. All the levels tested had yellow-tinted high visibility vials, but the Craftsman scored points for being the easiest to read with its magnified horizontal level that is twice as large as the Ideal. Our testers also appreciated the mirrors the Workpro had on the plumb level to read along the top spine.

Three of the stronger magnets and most durable designs on display upside down.
Three of the stronger magnets and most durable designs on display upside down.

Magnet Test


Nine out of ten of the products tested had magnets along one spine. The Qooltek could not compete as it lacked this useful feature. All of the magnetic levels were test upside down on metal venting and tapped with two fingers. While subjective, this was meant to imitate bumping or jostling in a typical work environment.

The strongest magnets picked up a five pound plate.
The strongest magnets picked up a five pound plate.

Most levels were knocked away easily with a tap from two fingers. The Craftsman and Workpro took four fingers to knock off, and the Ideal held strong against a push taking second place. Coming in as the strongest, the Milwaukee, able to pick up and hold a five-pound weight at a 90-degree angle.

The grooved magnetic edge of the Ideal level is in the foreground. The large viewing window on the Milwaukee is just behind it.
The grooved magnetic edge of the Ideal level is in the foreground. The large viewing window on the Milwaukee is just behind it.

Extra Features


Most levels are just that: a tool meant to describe if a surface is flat, vertical, or laying correctly at a common angle. Most levels utilize a bubble suspended in fluid or a laser. Some products offer a little extra such as a ruler along one spine, a screw to secure to pipe or conduit, magnets to hold it in place, replaceable parts, or even a tape measure. Some are probably adept hammers as well in a pinch, though we don't recommend that. Extra features can be helpful, but a level should do its primary job well first.

The Qooltek model includes a handy tape measure.
Two models with bubble vials to use at differents angles.

Conclusion


In this comprehensive review, we strived to cover products across the spectrum of budgets and user needs. Not one torpedo level is right for every person. Our experts put hours of research to bring you the best torpedo levels of 2020. We are confident one of these tools will find its way into your toolbox.

Ready to go to work.
Ready to go to work.

Ryan Baker