Rain gauges allow people to measure rain without having to go outside. Knowing how much rainfall the region gets every day, week, month, or season enables you to know whether to water your garden or prepare for bad weather. Finding the correct rain gauge for your needs may seem daunting at first. If you want to get started right away, here are our picks for the best rain gauges.
We’ve selected eight different rain gauges. Our first four recommendations offer the most accurate precipitation measurements. If you’re looking for a rain gauge at a more affordable price, the last four are some of the best-reviewed by owners on Amazon. They might not have the precise readings of the more expensive models but still works well for general applications.
In This Guide:
- The Best Rain Gauges
- The Best Budget Rain Gauges
- How to Choose the Best Rain Gauge
- Analog Rain Gauges
- Digital Rain Gauges
- How does a rain gauge work?
- What size should a rain gauge be?
- Where is the best place for a rain gauge?
- What is the best way to mount a rain gauge?
- How often should I check my rain gauge?
- How do I clean a rain gauge?
- Final Thoughts
The Best Rain Gauges
If you're serious about accuracy in measuring rainfall, you can't get any better than this rain gauge. Built to National Weather Service and CoCoRAHS standards, it can measure up to 11" of rain.
Digital gauges are very popular; however, you’ll never get the precise measurements that you will with an analog rain gauge, especially the Stratus Precision Rain Gauge. Made of UV-resistant polycarbonate plastic, the Stratus can measure up to 11″ of rain (1″ in the inner tube and up to 10″ in the outer cylinder.
You’ll get precise rainfall readings to .01″, and the rain gauge is built to National Weather Service standards. If you’re planning to join a rainfall reporting network like CoCoRAHS, this is the preferred rain gauge to use.
The rain gauge comes with a mounting bracket that you can place on a post and easily slide the Stratus on and off the bracket to measure rainfall and clean the gauge. While it’s as expensive as some digital rain gauges, you’ll be able to measure both rain and snow; something digital gauges cannot do.
The WS-5000 is Ambient Weather's top-of-the-line weather station, and it shows. Accuracy is on par with the Davis Vantage Pro2, and smart home connectivity a new sonic anemometer make this our top pick.
- Great full-color console
- An impressive list of optional sensors
- Smart home connectivity
- Improved barometer and rainfall accuracy (from WS-2902 series)
- Cumbersome console setup
- Some sensors had to be reset to connect to console
While the Ambient Weather WS-5000 weather station isn’t just a rain gauge, we include it here because it is the top-of-the-line Ambient weather station and arguably one of the best on the market right now.
The “smart” features of the WS-5000 are what make it so great: for example, thanks to IFTTT connectivity, you could set a rainfall alert to trigger your smart sprinkler system to shut off. Rainfall is measured to .01″, and an extra-large funnel ensures more accurate rainfall readings than most other weather stations on the market.
But rainfall isn’t the only thing the WS-5000 can measure: the station measures indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, with optional sensors for lightning detection, air quality, and more.
We suggest you look at a weather station first instead of purchasing a digital rain gauge if you have the money for it.
- Includes rain gauge, and indoor temperature and humidity sensor in console
- Tracks rain rate, rain event, rainfall total of 1h/24h, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly record; 24 monthly rain history
If you think the Ecowitt WH5360B looks a lot like the instrumentation from the Ambient Weather WS-5000, you’re correct. Ecowitt licensed its stations to Ambient Weather here in the US, but you can still purchase a few weather instruments that Ambient Weather doesn’t sell here in the states from Amazon.
The WH5360B includes only the rain gauge from the WS-5000, with a 300-foot wireless transmission range to a console that includes a temperature and humidity sensor. This is displayed on the included console, along with rain rate, daily rainfall (weekly, monthly, and yearly), a graphical display — and the support for metric measurements for those outside the US.
A rainfall alarm alerts you to events that exceed a set rate or amount, with flood watch alarms when rainfall may cause flooding conditions.
It is much cheaper to buy than the WS-5000 — so if you want the accuracy of the WS-5000 but don’t need all the bells and whistles of a weather station, the Ecowitt WH5360B is a good choice.
- Low-cost accurate digital rain gauge
- Tracks rain rate and 24 hour and weekly rainfall
We think the AcuRite Digital Rain Gauge is a great budget option for those just interested in an accurate rain gauge without breaking the bank. It’s regularly on sale on Amazon and is one of the best-reviewed as well.
The AcuRite’s large LCD display updates every 16 seconds. It can display totals for the current rainfall event, last 24 hours, previous seven days, and two customizable periods which you can cycle through using the buttons on the console. Owners can set alerts to trigger when a high rain rate occurs or when the potential exists for flood conditions.
Unlike some other options, this electronic rain gauge can’t connect to the internet to share your data. It is only stored on the console. That’s a letdown, but it’s also why this particular model is so much cheaper than the others.
Editors Note: Our first four suggestions are intended for those looking for more accurate measurements. The next four below are much cheaper and better if you’re looking for a budget rain gauge. However, we strongly recommend you not use these in situations where accuracy is needed.
The Best Budget Rain Gauges
- Top selling rain gauge
- Easy to read measurements, even from a distance
- Post or stake mounted
If you’ve walked around Walmart or Home Depot, chances are you’ve seen the AcuRite 5″ Capacity Easy-Read Rain Gauge. It’s a popular budget rain gauge that provides relatively accurate readings. It’s made of durable plastic that can withstand harsh weather conditions. And most importantly, you don’t have to get soaked to read it in the middle of a torrential downpour to read it!
The numbers on the back of the gauge are magnified by about a third thanks to the half-circle shape of the front. An integrated hang hole allows you to hang it from a post, but you can also place it on the ground using the included stake.
While we haven’t purchased this gauge ourselves, we know of people who have. While it’s not a precision rain gauge like the Stratus, it is cheap and gets the job done.
- Unique "waterfall" design
- Mounts easily to porch railings or staked to the ground
- Floater inside makes it easy to read from a distance
The La Cross Waterfall Rain Gauge is interesting. It is built to be hung over your deck railing or fence, with large numbers on the front and a floating marker to make the rain gauge easier to read at a distance. Rainfall is collected from the top, falling into the gauge itself (thus the waterfall name).
The gauge can be slid off the mounting bracket, and as one of the larger models on our list, can measure up to 6″ of rain.
If you’re looking for a way to mount a rain gauge on your patio, this is probably your best bet. Just keep in mind that you will have some splashback from your railings into the gauge, especially in heavy rain, which might skew your measurements a bit high.
- Australian made
- 6" capacity
- Measures in US and Metric
If you don’t mind getting a little wet, and would like more accuracy than either of the two options above, the Australian-made OutdoorHome 6″ Rain Gauge is a good buy. As a bonus, measurement markings are in both US and metric measurements (our other budget recommendations are all in the US system, unfortunately — sorry international readers!)
This rain gauge is made of heavy-duty plastic material, which won’t turn yellow or crack with age. You should be able to get several years of use out of this gauge without an issue.
- 26" tall, can be read from 50 feet away
- Funnel includes a debris filter
- 5" capacity
Some yards will be tough to find a spot close by to the house that isn’t blocked in some way that could affect the accuracy of your readings. Well, the Headwind Jumbo EZRead Rain Gauge is perfect for this.
Measuring in at a massive 26-inches tall, this extra-large rain gauge can be read from over 50 feet away (that’s not a typo). A red float moves up the inside of the gauge to indicate water level, and it has a maximum capacity of five inches. An included mounting bracket can be attached to a fence post or porch railing.
We’re big fans of the Jumbo EZRead rain gauge’s debris guard to keep it from clogging. While you’ll still need to make sure none of that captured debris accumulates which could prevent the funnel from draining, that is something you should do with any gauge, and it’s easy to remove to clean.
How to Choose the Best Rain Gauge
Rain gauges are very important tools used by farmers to measure rainfall. There are many different types of rain gauges available, but there are some things you should know before purchasing.
Rain gauges should measure rainfall accurately. They should also be easy to use and maintain. You need to consider how much money you want to spend, as well as whether or not you’ll be using the device often.
Rain gauges should be placed 2-5 feet off of the ground on the side or fence posts. Placing them above the post ensures that rain hitting the post doesn’t splash back into the gauge. A level should be used to ensure that the mouth of the gauge is level.
Be sure to position the gauge away from obstructions that could block precipitation like tall buildings or trees. Ideally, place it in an area at a double distance away from the height of the nearest obstacle. No worries if you can’t do this, just put the gauge in the most open area of your property for best results!
Rain gauges are used to measure rainfall accurately. For more information on installing and using a rain gauge, please read our article about how to use a rain gauge to measure rainfall at your house.
Rain gauges should be accurate because they are used to measure rainfall accurately. A gauge’s size affects how much water it can hold. The more open a gauge is, the more water it can hold. Official measurements are taken to the next hundredth of an inch, while most people use a tenth of an inch. Gauge markings also affect accuracy. Cheap gauges may be marked to the tenth degree, but official measurements are taken to a hundredth degree.
Construction and Durability
The cheapest models are usually the shortest-lasting ones. However, if you’re willing to spend more money, then you’ll be rewarded with a longer-lasting gauge.
Rain gauges should be purchased with a minimum capacity of 4 inches. A digital model may offer unlimited capacity, however, a professional analog gauge such as the Stratus Precision has a maximum capacity of 11 inches.
Ease of Use
Rain gauges are much easier to use than analog ones. But you still need to know how to operate them properly.
Analog Rain Gauges
Rain gauges are the traditional devices used to measure rainfall. They funnel water into a graduated cylinder. These gauges are usually placed in front of houses or other buildings to collect data. They are also used in scientific applications. The rain gauge above is designed to official standards for measuring rainfall. In heavy rainfall, you may need to take several readings a day.
Digital Rain Gauges
Digital rain gauges work by funneling rain into buckets. Once the buckets reach a certain level, they tip over and release the contents. Rain gauges use this method.
Rainfall rates should be measured accurately, but the buckets may overflow before filling up if there is heavy rainfall. This could cause inaccurate measurements.
How does a rain gauge work?
Rain gauges measure rainfall by measuring how much water falls onto a surface. An analog model requires manual recording and dumping of water. A digital model automatically records and transmits data to an indoor unit.
What size should a rain gauge be?
A garden hose should be about 5-6 inches long. If you live in an area with lots of rain, then a longer hose is better. For farmers, a longer hose is better because it collects more water.
Where is the best place for a rain gauge?
A rain gauge should be placed 5 feet above the ground and away from obstructions. The best place to measure rainfall is on a flat surface.
What is the best way to mount a rain gauge?
Rain gauges come with mounting hardware, for which you’ll also need screws. Using the provided mounting bracket, you can mount them on fence posts, patio rails, or other elevated spots. Some models include spikes for securing them directly into the ground.
How often should I check my rain gauge?
Analog gauges are more accurate than digital ones. They also require manual checking. Wireless gauges are easier to use and maintain.
How do I clean a rain gauge?
Rain gauges should be cleaned gently with soap. Don’t use harsh chemicals. Read the manufacturers’ instructions before cleaning.
A rain gauge is an easy-to-use device that measures precipitation. Gardeners use them to know how much water their plants need, while weather enthusiasts use them to predict when and how heavy rains might occur.
Our Rain Gauge Recommendation: We recommend the Stratus Precision Rain Gauge because it provides the most accurate results.
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