Doctors have claimed time and again that regularly weighing yourself can keep the pounds from creeping up on you. That means you'll want a cheap bathroom scale that gives you the cold, hard, unvarnished facts and does so consistently. Upmarket models are priced in the $50-plus range and can easily hit the triple digits; a professional digital scale like you'd find at the doctor's office -- the 599KL Waist-High Digital Scale, with a 600-pound capacity, for example -- costs more than $400. You can buy a cheap mechanical scale for as little as $9 and a cheap digital scale for less than $30.
Cheap Scales Buying Guide
Conair, EatSmart, Health o Meter, Taylor, Tanita, Seca Scales, Soehlne, and Newline are some of the popular producers of bathroom scales. Some weight-loss companies, such as Weight Watchers, also make a buck or two off bathroom scales that bear their own moniker. There are two types of scales on the market today: digital and analog. Many of the newfangled, high-tech versions are more than weight machines. Some can assess your body fat percentage and give you the news through voice activation, and many display your weight in pounds or kilograms. There's no arguing with these digital bathroom scales -- they give a precise number, usually down to tenths of a pound. But if fudging a bit is more your style, you might prefer the standard mechanical bathroom scale with a pointer that rests on a tiny marker (and sometimes wavers back and forth between two) and can be adjusted to give you a closer approximation of the results you want.
For most consumers, though, the most important factor in choosing a bathroom scale is accuracy, followed by consistency and durability. Experts from Mayo Clinic say digital bathroom scales have a better track record for giving the proper weight and for longevity compared to the mechanical scales designed for home use. Moreover, digital scales measure in smaller increments than mechanical scales and the readout, displayed in digits, is much easier to see.
For all these reasons and because the difference in price between cheap mechanical and digital scales is relatively small, we include only the latter on our list of picks, although we do mention a couple of cheap mechanical scales in the discussion that follows. Our research indicates that the EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale (starting at $29) and the Elite Home ESC-9008X (starting at $22) are the best cheap scales, and the Taylor Precision 7329B Lithium Electronic Scale (starting at $13) qualifies as the runner up. We found that the Taylor LED Superbrite Scale (starting at $18) doesn't cut it; users gripe about inaccurate readings and other performance issues.
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Weight Scales, Digital Bathroom Scales
Digital Bathroom Scales.Digital weight scales are far more likely to give you the right weight and withstand normal wear and tear than their mechanical counterparts. With the aid of electronics, digital bathroom scales measure weight in small increments, usually 0.2 pounds, rather than the one-pound units found on most cheap mechanical scales. The best cheap digital weight scales also incorporate a step on/step off technology: step on and the cheap digital weight scale powers up, displays the magic number, and then powers down when you step off. The display is usually easy to read from a standing position (all of our top picks feature at least a 1" display) so you don't need to squint to see tiny digits and thin lines, as you do with a cheap mechanical scale.The best cheap bathroom scales we found are all digital. We like the EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale w/ Extra Large Backlit 3.5" Display and "Step-On" Technology (starting at $29) and the Taylor Precision 7329B Lithium Electronic Scale (starting at $13), both of which max out at 330 pounds, noted in 0.2-pound increments; the former gives the results in a 3.5-inch display and the latter in a 1-inch display. The Elite Home ESC-9008X (starting at $22) is another good investment. This one handles weights up to 400 pounds; we couldn't find specs for the weight increments or display size. The Weight Watchers WW11D (starting at $22) and the Taylor LED Superbrite Scale (starting at $18), by contrast, display weight in half-pound increments, measure weights up to 330 pounds, and feature 1.3" displays.
Nearly all cheap digital bathroom scales draw their juice from batteries. The weight scales we researched use either AAA, 9-volt, or lithium batteries. Alternatively, you can step up the eco-friendly ladder to a model like the solar-powered Tanita Solar Digital Scale HS-302 (starting at $69), which takes you off the battery grid entirely but doesn't completely win over users who note the challenges of getting the right amount of light (from a bulb or the sun) to fire up the scale.
Mechanical Scales.Cheap mechanical scales are simple devices that track weight by using small springs. The readout is usually denoted in five- or ten-pound increments with small lines setting off the pounds in between. If you don't like what you're seeing, you can alter the weight report up or down by moving the dial on the scale forward or backward. Mechanical scales aren't particularly accurate or sturdy because they don't give finely calibrated results and all the tiny springs and inner components can be easily jarred out of whack. But they are cheap.Our reservations about mechanical scales, particularly the cheap variety, reflect these shortcomings. The two we researched -- the Sunbeam SAB602-05 and the Taylor 2004-4014 (both starting at $9) -- disappoint consumers. The Sunbeam SAB602-05 boasts a decent-size display, but actually determining your weight is a chore with this cheap mechanical scale. Weights are marked off in units of 20, which means you have to count the little lines to determine the bottom line, as one user points out on Amazon. The Taylor 2004-4014, say other reviews on Amazon, is just plan inaccurate and doesn't even start at zero. For a few more dollars, you can get a cheap digital scale that outperforms the mechanical models.
Bathroom Scale Design.Increasingly, digital scales present with sleek, slender designs that make them an attractive bathroom fixture. The platform on weight scales may be formed from stainless steel, chrome, glass, or plastic. The EatSmart ESBS-01 and Elite Home ESC-9008X incorporate tempered glass, and the Taylor 7329 showcases a textured black mat against a silver-like platform. Cheap bathroom scales typically weigh less than 6 pounds with a footprint measuring about 12 inches square.
Bathroom Scale Frills.Just as other gadgets have advanced with the times, so, too, have bathroom scales. All the cheap bathrooms scales on our list feature automatic on/off, so there's no waiting for the device to power up and no wasting battery life. The Elite Home ESC-9008X features a low-battery indicator, as do the Taylor Precision 7329B and Taylor LED Superbrite models. The EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale reports weight in pounds, kilos, and stones (a unit of weight used by the British that's equivalent to 14 pounds). The Elite Home ESC-9008X remembers your previous weight and clearly indicates how much has been gained or lost. The Weight Watchers WW11D boasts a built-in handle so you can carry the 3-pound scale with you, wherever.Some digital weight scales up the electronic ante. Want to transmit to, and store your data on, a smartphone or home computer? Try the Wi-Fi enabled Withings Body Scale (starting at $159) or the Elite Home ESC-910 (starting at $27). How about using the scale to measure other physical facts? Models like the Tanita BF-683W (starting at $80) send electrical pulses through your body to gauge your body fat. Others, like the Ozeri Touch Digital Bath Scale (starting at $43) calculate hydration levels and muscle and bone mass in addition to weight and body fat. (This particular model tracks results for up to eight users.) Note, though, that many experts, including doctors and Consumer Reports, and users alike question the veracity of these measurements -- and thus the value inherent in these "extras."
Best Scale, Bathroom Scale Reviews
We've all been there: You know you've gained or lost weight by the way your clothes fit, but what the scale tells you just doesn't make sense. The obvious solution to this quandary is a scale that's accurate. And that, reviewers say, is the most important performance criterion in seeking out the best scale available on a budget. Bathroom scale reviews also indicate that users care about the visual display on the scale as well as its durability. Even if a cheap scale delivers as promised, if it isn't durable, you may find your well-intentioned efforts evaporating as quickly as those unmonitored pounds add up. For our list of best scales, we chose models that earn positive ratings from users, although bathroom scale reviews reveal that some individual units are less reliable than the overall assessment.
Bathroom Scale Accuracy.There's no point to a scale that reports false information, be it over- or understating your weight, even if the truth sometimes hurts. Indeed, we read numerous bathroom scale reviews that jokingly berate our choices for best cheap bathroom scales for accurately displaying the poundage, right down to two tenths of a pound.The EatSmart Precision Digital Scale is one model that garners hundreds of stellar reviews on Amazon, where users commend its accuracy and consistency. They note that getting on and off the scale several times in a row keeps giving the same weight -- even if you shift your standing position; a few report that the displayed weight of a household pet matched results from the vet's office. Still, some reviews of the EatSmart model grouse about erroneous and wildly varying weight measurements from minute to minute or day to day; one user tells of testing the EatSmart scale by picking up paperback after paperback while standing on it, then discarding the books one by one, with either no change or nonsensical changes to the displayed weight.
Another praiseworthy model, according to bathroom scale reviews, is the Elite Home ESC-9008X. Users posting on the Target site note that displayed weights agree with the scale in the doctor's office and the weight-loss tracking feature is strong motivation to stay on the straight and narrow.
Experience with the Taylor 7329 Electronic Lithium Scale is mixed, although mostly positive. The bulk of bathroom scale reviews posted at Walmart say the Taylor 7329 gives accurate data on a consistent basis. One user, however, asserts that the surface on which the scale sits affects the results and another claims that different units of the same model give slightly different weights for the same person.
The Taylor LED Superbrite disappoints in the accuracy arena. Its lack of consistent and accurate results is the number one gripe in bathroom scale reviews on the Target site. Several users say you need to get on and off the scale twice to get a true reading, and others report results that vary up to 20 pounds when weights are taken in close succession.