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As with many modern technological advances, we’re now able to get all kinds of information with the touch of a button. Even thermometers, which once took several minutes in order to get a true reading, have gone digital, making it so much easier to get an accurate, readable temperature.

If you haven’t upgraded your mercury thermometer, now is the time to swap out this bathroom cabinet staple for a modern version.

But with so many types of thermometers on the market, how do you choose the right one? Good question!

We’ve selected one thermometer of every type to highlight key features and things you should consider before choosing yours.

We all have our preferences. The best thermometer for you isn’t necessarily the best for someone else. For purposes of this article, we’re paying special attention to:

  • Design: We looked for thermometers that don’t complicate things when you’re looking for clarity. It should be intuitive and easy to use.
  • Speed: You or someone you love is sick. You want to know if there’s a fever, and you want to know now so you can take the next steps.
  • Readability: You shouldn’t have to turn on a spotlight or squint hard to read a thermometer.
  • Accuracy: What’s the point if you can’t trust the reading?

The sellers of these products weren’t given a heads-up about this article, and they neither asked nor paid for inclusion in this article.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $20
  • $$ = $20–$50
  • $$$ = above $50

Prices may change, so check for current prices.

Our use of the word “best”

All thermometers count as medical devices and therefore must pass certain federal standards.

So really, no thermometer brand should be “more accurate” than another, though a brand may have more or less consumer trust.

But people tend to prefer the features of some thermometers over others. And some types are known to be the most precise in general.

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The first thing to consider is how you’re going to use it. Some thermometers are geared toward infants or children, while others are better for adults.

Then decide if you prefer oral, ear, forehead, or no contact. If you tend to get a buildup of earwax, for example, an ear thermometer probably isn’t a good choice. Many thermometers have multiple uses.

You should avoid glass thermometers, which can break, and mercury thermometers, which are dangerous.

Here are some other things to consider when choosing a thermometer.


The purpose of a thermometer is to gauge body temperature. Anything else is a bonus and paying more won’t necessarily buy accuracy. The most accurate thermometers are first rectal, then oral. Generally, the farther you get outside the body, the less sensitive your reading will be.

Fever strips and pacifier thermometers are known to be inaccurate, so choose digital over these options.

Ease of use

Can you get your thermometer out and get a reading within a few minutes? Is it easy to operate or does it require too many steps?

If it looks too complicated or awkward, it probably is.


Look for things that matter to you:

  • Do you need a big, easy-to-read display?
  • Would a flexible tip be better for your kids?
  • Do you want a loud beep or the option to turn it off?
  • Would it be useful to have lots of memory?

Choose one that checks off your must-haves.

Most digital thermometers have the option to switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius, but make sure it has your preferred method.


Thermometers loaded with extras can be helpful, but you may not need anything fancy. You can find many simple digital thermometers that do the job for under $20.

If you want oral and rectal use options, you can buy two and still pay less than you would for some fancier models.

If you want some of those bonus features, you can expect to pay more. Check for a warranty or money-back guarantee.


Look at product reviews, especially if you’re interested inexpensive models. If possible, check out multiple sites.

Every product will have some negative reviews, so look for consistency. If many reviewers point out a particular pro or con, it’s worth mulling it over.

Who can use a digital thermometer?

Digital thermometers can be used by adults, children, and newborns.

Where can you use a digital thermometer?

Most digital thermometers can be used orally under the tongue (for adults and children over 4), rectally (for babies and children under 3), or axillary (under the armpit). The last method is not typically as accurate as the first two methods.

What are the different types of digital thermometers?

Regular digital thermometers use heat sensors in the mouth, rectum, or armpit to record the temperature. Digital ear thermometers use an infrared ray to measure temperature within the ear canal.

Temporal artery (or forehead) thermometers use an infrared scanner to measure the temperature of the temporal artery in the forehead. Digital pacifier thermometers are also available for infants.

Is it OK to use a mercury thermometer?

No, experts do not recommend using mercury thermometers because of the risk of poison.

Digital thermometers are the most accurate way to measure body temperature. There are many types, including oral, rectal, and forehead, plus many that are multifunctional.

Once you decide on the type of thermometer you want, you can think about design, extra features, and price.

Checking for fever is one way to gauge health and an important thing to know when you call a doctor. Having a working thermometer and a few extra batteries on hand can give you a little extra peace of mind.