There are quite a few reasons why you might want to install a rain gauge to monitor the rainfall in your backyard. Perhaps you’re a gardener, and you need to ensure your plants are getting enough water for optimal growth. If you’ve got a sprinkler system, you can prevent overwatering to save money on your bill. Or, if you have an interest in monitoring the weather, then a rain gauge is a must-have instrument in your weather-watching toolkit.
Rain gauges are suitable for gardening and weather enthusiasts alike. They will provide you with an easy way to monitor weather conditions around your home or farm.
There are many options to choose from, but they’re not all built to a high standard.
Be sure to purchase an accurate rain gauge with a durable construction that can withstand harsh weather conditions. To help you, we’ve combed through the market to find the best rain gauge overall.
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Best Rain Gauge Reviews
1. Most Accurate: Stratus Precision Rain Gauge
Generally, we don’t recommend “analog” devices on Weather Station Advisor, as their digital counterparts have become as accurate and arguably more convenient. However, if precision is vital to you, then the Stratus Precision Rain Gauge is your best bet.
Built to the National Weather Service specifications, the Stratus is exceptionally accurate. It is the rain gauge of choice for official weather observers in the United States.
The inside cylinder measures the first inch of rainfall to the hundredth of an inch, and the outer cylinder can hold volumes over one inch up to 11 inches for later measurement. The Stratus also comes with a mounting bracket, so you can easily install the unit on a fence post or panel.
While this rain gauge requires a bit of preparation to use correctly and obtain accurate measurements, you will not get this level of accuracy from even the best digital models.
What we recommend for those that desire both accuracy and convenience is to purchase this gauge in conjunction with one of the digital rain gauges below. This way, you can still have the convenience of remote monitoring but you will also have the accuracy of a calibrated analog rain gauge.
2. Best Overall: Ambient Weather WS-2902C WiFi Smart Weather Station
The Ambient Weather WS-2902C isn’t just a rain gauge but a complete home weather station. Why are we recommending a weather station in a rain gauge buying guide? Well, we believe that you’ll get more value out of a fully-featured home weather station rather than a basic rain gauge—especially if you’re about to pay up for a digital wireless rain gauge.
The WS-2902C is accurate, it’s consistently performed highly in our testing, and it has an extensive feature list that impresses even the most passionate weather enthusiasts.
Like most home weather stations, the WS-2902C offers these basic functions:
- Rainfall Measurement
- Indoor/Outdoor Temperature & Humidity
- Barometric Pressure
- Wind Speed and Direction
- Date & Time
- High & Low Temperatures
But that’s not all. The WS-2902C provides more advanced functionality as well, including:
- UV & Solar Radiation
- Dew Point
- Heat Index
- Wind Chill
- High & Low Readings for All Parameters
- Alerts for All Parameters
- Smart Home Integration
- Remote Monitoring and Reporting
- Additional Sensor Support
While more expensive than your standard wireless rain gauge, we feel the WS-2902C is worth it because it provides a full home monitoring experience, and that is why we think it’s the best overall option.
Ambient Weather has produced quality weather stations for years. Based on our own experience and the reviews of the WS-2902C by other owners, this latest model is also a high-quality station. If you’d like to see our review and comparison of the WS-2902C against other models on the market, please read our home weather station guide.
The rain gauge in the WS-2902C uses a tipping bucket mechanism, precisely calibrated so that it provides accurate precipitation measurements to within 10% of the actual rainfall. While that might seem like a lot, the measurement error will be less than a tenth of an inch in most rainstorms.
Internet Connectivity and Smart Home Integration
WiFi connectivity allows you to connect to the Ambient Weather Network, where you can view your data remotely from your smartphone and receive alerts. Smart home integration within the WS-2902C allows you to connect it to other devices within your home or ask for current conditions via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
Some will find the WS-2902C’s IFTTT support very useful. If you have a home sprinkler system, you could have rainfall data from the WS-2902C trigger your sprinklers to turn off when a certain amount of rain hits your garden, saving you money on your water bill. But other data can trigger your smart lights, blinds, and more. The possibilities are endless.
3. Best Wireless Rain Gauge: ECOWITT WH5360B High Precision Wireless Digital Rain Gauge
We recommend the WS-2902C overall if you’re going the digital route. However, if you don’t need a weather station’s extra features and only want to measure rainfall, then the ECOWITT WH5360B high precision wireless rain gauge is a great alternative.
With accuracy to within 5% of actual rainfall, the ECOWITT is slightly more accurate than the WS-2902C. You’ll be able to place the self emptying rain gauge anywhere within about 300 feet of the console. However, the WH5360B is not internet-connected, meaning all rainfall data is stored locally on the console, and you won’t be able to view it on your phone.
That said, the console itself can store up to two years of rain records and display information on maximum rain rate, hourly and last 24-hour rainfall, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly precipitation records, and more. The console also displays information on indoor temperature and humidity.
You can set customizable alerts to have the WH5360B sound an alarm when rain rate, rain event, indoor temperature, and humidity exceed preset levels, so you know when dangerous flood conditions are present or when to turn off the sprinklers. We think the self-emptying WH5360B is one of the best rain gauges for gardeners and farmers who want accurate measurements but don’t need a fully-featured weather station.
4. Best Budget Option: AcuRite 00850A2 5-Inch Easy-Read Rain Gauge
If you’re looking for a cheap way to monitor rainfall from a distance and can accept some inaccuracy, the best budget option out there is the AcuRite 00850A2 5-Inch Easy-Read.
This gauge can measure up to five inches of rain at a time, and as rain falls, the shape of the rain gauge causes the water to magnify the printed measurement lines on the back of the unit by about 35%. The magnification allows you to read how much rain has fallen at a distance.
However, the lower price does bring about some disadvantages. While measurements in smaller rain events won’t be affected as much, heavier rainstorms will have a greater error. If you live in a wetter area, those errors can add up over time.
But as long as that’s not a significant issue, then AcuRite’s Easy-Read gauge is worthy of consideration for those on a super tight budget.
5. Best for Metric Measurements: OutdoorHome 6” Rain Gauge
Weather Station Advisor readers come from around the world, so we’d be remiss not to include a metric rain gauge in our list. Here, we recommend the heavy duty OutdoorHome 6” Rain Gauge. It has the same conical design as AcuRite’s model above. However, it can measure an additional inch, and the imperial and metric scale is printed on the front of the gauge.
For those of us in wetter climates, the OutdoorHome 6” Rain Gauge might make more sense since you won’t need to empty it quite as much. While the conical design does introduce some error into your readings, it’s not enough for us to shy away from recommending it.
Another reason we recommend the OutdoorHome unit is for the high-quality weather-resistant plastic used to make it. It will not crack or discolor due to heat, cold, or sunlight, and long-term owners report years of use without replacing it. It’s also easy to install as it comes with a mounting bracket and screws.
We recommended AcuRite previously in this list, but the company deserves a second mention for its self emptying wireless rain gauge. If you found the ECOWITT a bit expensive, this might be a good alternative. Like the ECOWITT, it stores rainfall data, but in a slightly different way.
“Event Mode” is useful to monitor specific rainfall events, whether they be a brief 10-minute rain shower or a two-day deluge. The event ends after eight hours of no rainfall detection. The console stores the last seven in its memory along with time and date. “1 Day Mode” stores daily rainfall for the past seven days, and “Week Mode” totals weekly rainfall for the past seven weeks. Finally, A/B mode allows you to recall total rainfall, which you can clear at any time.
The AcuRite 00899 wireless rain gauge also has a neat “Flood Watch Alarm” that monitors rainfall rates that could lead to flooding. If you live near a river or stream, this feature could be handy.
We had the opportunity to test the Netatmo Rain Gauge almost five years ago when the company first released it as part of one of the first “smart” personal weather stations on the market.
Netatmo is a French company, so the unit itself is calibrated to measure to a tenth of a millimeter—which is about 0.004”. You’ll need to round up or down to the nearest hundredth of an inch to get your measurement. We found the Netatmo rain gauge to be generally accurate during our tests. Although, in heavier rainstorms, it tended to measure more rain than had fallen.
Still, these totals fell within the 10% margin we consider acceptable for digital rain gauges. The Netatmo device shines with its smart home capabilities, offering access via IFTTT or the Amazon Alexa digital assistant.
If AcuRite’s Easy Read Rain Gauge isn’t large enough for you to read at a distance, then Taylor’s Jumbo Jr. 20” Easy Read is a great alternative solution. At 20 inches tall, it is visible from up to 50 feet away.
A red ball inside the tube floats on top of the water, allowing you to see how much rain has fallen quickly. The funnel includes a filter to prevent debris from clogging the inner tube, and the included stake secures the gauge to the ground.
A word of caution: your measurements will not be as precise as other options on this list. But if you’re willing to trade that off for being able to read it at a considerable distance (and stay much drier as a result), we’d recommend considering The Jumbo Jr. Easy Read.
The La Crosse 705-109 waterfall gauge is similar to the above recommendations, and it’s a decent low-priced alternative that you can attach to your deck. We’d recommend placing it on the included stake to prevent “splash back” from your deck railing that will hurt your accuracy by overmeasuring rainfall.
Large numbers are printed on the front of the La Crosse gauge in .1” increments, and a floating piece of red plastic allows you to take a quick measurement from a distance. The rain gauge can measure up to six inches of rain, and the whole unit slides out of the mount for easy cleaning.
We’d recommend looking at other options first, as this gauge’s accuracy is probably its weakest point. But the option to attach it to a deck or wall makes it useful in certain situations where you might not have a clear area to place a stake.
How to Choose the Best Rain Gauge
Let’s take a look at the factors you need to consider and the features you should look for when buying a rain gauge so you end up with the best model for your specific needs.
Types of Rain Gauges
There are two types of rain gauges.
Digital Rain Gauges:
Digital rain gauges do not require you to be at the rain gauge itself to take a measurement. The most common mechanism for digital rain gauges is a “tipping bucket” construction. The gauge funnels rain onto small cups that tip back and forth once a specific weight of water is obtained, usually equivalent to 0.01 inches.
You’ll get accurate readings, but as the rain rate increases, the tipping buckets fill quickly, and in some cases, they may not be able to keep up. Also, in light rainfall, they may fill up too slowly and under measure.
Analog Rain Gauges:
Analog rain gauges are the traditional rain gauges that funnel water into a graduated and calibrated cylinder. Using an analog gauge is the official method to measure rainfall, and models like the Stratus Precision above are designed to official standards for use in scientific applications. The Stratus can even be used to measure snowfall.
You’ll need to be in front of the rain gauge to take a reading, and in heavy rainfall, you’ll need to take several measurements a day. They’re far less convenient—but far more accurate.
A gauge’s construction affects the accuracy of the gauge itself. You’ll want the rain gauge opening to be at least four inches in diameter—this is why you see the large funnels on the top of many gauges.
The way a gauge is marked will affect your accuracy as well. Many cheap analog rain gauges are marked to the tenth of an inch, whereas official measurements are taken to the nearest hundredth of an inch. Learning to measure correctly with your specific rain gauge also affects accuracy.
Even the best rain gauges won’t be able to overcome a lousy install, meaning your readings will be inaccurate if you don’t place the unit in an optimal position. For the best results, use a model with a mounting bracket and install the gauge 2-5 feet off the ground on the side of a fence post or pole. You’ll also want the gauge’s mouth to be above the pole or post you mount it on. Placing the opening above the post prevents rain that hits the post from splashing back into the gauge itself. Use a level to ensure the mouth of the gauge itself is level.
Be sure to position the unit away from obstructions that can block precipitation like tall buildings and trees. Ideally, place the gauge in an area at a distance twice as far away as the height of the nearest obstruction (e.g., set the gauge 20 feet away from 10-foot tall trees). No worries if you can’t do this, just put it in the most open area on your property for best results.
For more information on installing and measuring rainfall correctly, please read our article on how to use a rain gauge to measure rainfall at your home.
Construction and Durability
As a general rule, the cheaper the model, the shorter its usable life. Gauges are made of plastic—cheaper forms of plastic discolor in sunlight over time and can become brittle due to hot and cold extremes. We strongly recommend purchasing the best model you can afford to get the most accurate results and the longest usable life.
Measuring capacity will vary among analog rain gauges, but we recommend that you purchase one with at least a four-inch capacity to prevent missing rainfall in extreme events. One of the benefits of a digital model is an unlimited measuring capacity. However, a professional analog gauge like the Stratus Precision, has an 11” capacity—which you’ll likely never exceed during its useable life.
Ease of Use
From an ease-of-use perspective, a digital rain gauge is far more convenient. You’ll never have to go outside to take a measurement, they’re easy to read and easy to maintain. However, even the Stratus isn’t challenging to use—it just requires a bit more time to learn the procedure.
For gardeners and weather enthusiasts alike, a rain gauge is an essential tool to have. With the digital models and smart home connectivity, the data you obtain can be used to optimize your smart sprinkler system or alert you ahead of time to protect property if your neighborhood is prone to flash flooding.
One of the best rain gauges overall and our top recommendation for the most accurate results is the Stratus Precision rain gauge. If you’re looking for a digital rain gauge’s convenience and internet connectivity, we recommend the Ambient Weather WS-2902C weather station. The WS-2902C offers more value for money than a wireless rain gauge with its smart home connectivity and an extensive list of instruments that provide a complete view of the weather conditions.
Happy weather watching!