Rain gauges are a helpful tool for any avid gardener or landscaper, as they allow you to keep track of recent rainfall. This is becoming more important, and not only for gardeners. “If you are someone who lives in an area that is prone to flooding, a rain gauge can help you identify the early signs of flooding and allow you to take action," says Ray Brosnan, landscaping expert and co-founder of Brosnan Property Solutions. "Your rain gauge can tell you if there’s an unusually high amount of rainfall over a short period of time, giving you that window of opportunity to take action and prevent any damage.”
While evaluating the best rain gauges, we looked at factors such as the design, display type, ease of use, and accuracy. We also spoke with an expert to add insight.
Here are the best rain gauges for your yard.
Headwind Consumer Products Jumbo EZRead Rain Gauge
Can be mounted to most surfaces
Includes debris guard
If you’re looking for a basic, easy-to-read rain gauge, the Headwind Jumbo EZRead Rain Gauge is affordable and well-designed. This model is a standard-style gauge, meaning it’s essentially just a large graduated cylinder with measurement marks. But its oversized form makes it incredibly easy to read. In fact, you can see how much water is in it from up to 50 feet away (according to the manufacturer), thanks to its large markings and red visibility float, which rises to the top of the water level. It can measure up to 5 inches of rainfall, and it comes with a mounting bracket you can attach to a fence, post, or other wooden surfaces.
The Headwind Rain Gauge is quite large, measuring 26 inches tall, and its debris guard on the top prevents leaves and other items from getting into the tube. The product is made from weatherproof materials that can stand up to wind, precipitation, and heat. Some users find the interior of the tube tricky to clean, as small particles can accumulate inside over time. But overall, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more reasonably priced, easy-to-use rain gauge.
Price at time of publish: $27
Type: Standard | Material: Plastic | Collection Capacity: 5 inches | Display: Manual
AcuRite 5 in. Easy-Read Magnifying Rain Gauge
Multiple installation options
Plastic becomes discolored over time
It doesn’t get more budget-friendly than the AcuRite Rain Gauge, which costs less than $10. This acrylic gauge can hold up to 5 inches of water, and its white markings on a blue background make its large display easy to read. It’s a great choice for precise measurements, as it’s marked with 0.1-inch increments. As rain fills the tube, the numbers are magnified 35 percent, making it easier to see from a distance.
You can install this rain gauge in a couple of ways: Stake its pointy base into the ground, or mount it to a wall or fence via its keyhole hangers. While the material is designed to be weather-resistant, it may not last for quite as long as other options. We have noted that the acrylic eventually becomes discolored or faded from sun exposure.
Price at time of publish: $8
Type: Standard | Material: Acrylic | Collection Capacity: 5 inches | Display: Manual
WeatherFlow Tempest Weather System
Collects additional data
Works with voice commands
If you want to collect more than just rain measurements—and are willing to spend a little more for the latest technology—the WeatherFlow Tempest Weather System is an all-in-one solution that you can monitor right from your smartphone. This weather system is designed to be mounted to a 1-inch pole (not included) or other flat base, and its built-in solar panel eliminates the need for batteries or another power source. Not only is the Tempest 100 percent wireless but it also measures a wide range of data points, including temperature, humidity, dew point, wind speed and direction, wind chill, UV index, and more.
This smart weather system has built-in Wi-Fi, so it sends all the data it collects to your smartphone. It can transmit up to 1,000 feet, allowing you to mount it on your roof or in the yard, and can sync up with digital assistants such as Alexa and Google Home. You also can use it to create smart-device schedules based on the weather such as adjusting your irrigation system according to the rain levels, or changing your thermostat in response to temperature fluctuations.
Price at time of publish: $329
Type: Haptic rain sensor | Material: Not listed | Collection Capacity: Unlimited | Display: Smartphone
Stratus Precision Rain Gauge with Mounting Bracket
Extremely precise measurements
Measures snow, hail, or sleet
Tedious to measure large rainfall
The Stratus Precision Rain Gauge is one of the most precise manual models available today. Crafted from UV-resistant polycarbonate and built to U.S. National Weather Service rain gauge standards, it provides rain accumulation measurements to 0.01 of an inch. The gauge can hold up to 11 inches of water—significantly more than most other standard rain gauges—and its “quick connect” bracket makes it easy to mount in your yard.
The 4-inch-diameter funnel captures rainfall, and the water is held in the inner measurement tube. If more than 1 inch of rain falls, the water spills into the larger outer container. But the exterior compartment doesn’t have measurement markings, so you have to pour the water back into the smaller tube to measure it. For this reason, it can be a bit tedious to use. However, this design also allows you to measure snow, sleet, or hail, as you can simply remove the inner tube and use the outer container to capture the precipitation.
Price at time of publish: $50
Type: Standard | Material: UV-resistant polycarbonate | Collection Capacity: 11 inches | Display: Manual
ECOWITT WH5360B Wireless Rain Gauge
Built-in rain alarm
Displays historical data
Doesn’t measure outdoor temperature
The digital display on the ECOWITT Wireless Rain Gauge makes it easy to keep track of your local rainfall—without even going outside. The gauge's self-emptying design measures precipitation, then transmits the data to the wireless display, which you can mount inside your home. You can locate the two components, which run on AA batteries (not included), up to 328 feet apart in an open field (according to the manufacturer).
This rain gauge measures precipitation levels down to 0.01 of an inch, and it transmits the latest data every 49 seconds. On the interior display, you can see how much it’s rained in the last day, week, month, or year. You even can set a rain alarm that lets you know when the first raindrop falls. The display also measures the temperature and humidity levels inside your home, but we'd prefer that it measure the outdoor temperature instead.
Price at time of publish: $70
Type: Tipping bucket | Material: Not listed | Collection Capacity: Not listed | Display: Digital
Netatmo Rain Gauge
Sends data to your smartphone
Custom rain alerts
Works with Alexa and IFTTT
Requires Netatmo Weather Station
Mounting bracket not included
The Netatmo Rain Gauge is a smart device that sends precipitation data right to your phone. However, it requires the main Netatmo Weather Station (not included), which significantly increases the overall cost. The wireless rain gauge, made from UV-resistant plastic, has a self-emptying design that requires minimal maintenance for operation. You can place the gauge up to 330 feet from the main weather station, and once set up, it sends real-time rain data right to your smartphone.
You can program this smart device to alert you when it starts raining, and it stores data history, so you can see rainfall levels over the past weeks or months. Its battery should last up to a year before needing replacement. Depending on where you mount the gauge, you may need to purchase the manufacturer's compatible bracket (sold separately).
Price at time of publish: $80
Type: Tipping bucket | Material: UV-resistant plastic | Collection Capacity: Not listed | Display: Digital
AcuRite Wireless Digital Rain Gauge
Custom rain alerts
Short wireless range
One of the downsides of standard rain gauges is you need to empty them after each storm. If you tend to let this detail slide, upgrade to the AcuRite Wireless Digital Rain Gauge, which has a self-emptying design. This battery-powered gauge uses tipping buckets to measure rainfall, allowing it to simply dump out any collected water. The rain collection module pairs with a digital display you can place inside your home. The two components need to be within 100 feet of each other to communicate.
This gauge’s display features oversized text that’s easy to read, even from a distance, and it displays rainfall totals from the current rain event, past 24 hours, past 7 days, or a time frame you can customize. You can set alarms that let you know when it starts raining or if there’s risk of flooding. The rain collector transmits data to the display every 60 seconds, providing near real-time measurements.
Price at time of publish: $43
Type: Tipping bucket | Material: Plastic | Collection Capacity: 99.99 inches | Display: Digital
Catherine Murphy Praying Mantis Rain Gauge
Handmade in the USA
Tube must be removed for precise measurement
This handmade Praying Mantis model from artist Catherine Murphy is as attractive as it is functional. Crafted from copper wire and sheet metal, the rain gauge resembles a quirky praying mantis, and the insect holds up a plastic tube that collects rain. It can hold up to 6 inches of water, and comes on a 36-inch stake that makes it easy to mount in your garden or yard.
The metal rain gauge likely develops a rustic patina, adding to its charm. However, it holds the collection tube at an angle, so remove it from the frame and hold it level if you want to get a precise measurement. To that end, the cylinder has markings every 0.1 inch, allowing you to get extremely accurate rainfall totals.
Price at time of publish: $89
Type: Standard | Material: Metal | Collection Capacity: 6 inches | Display: Manual
Best Weather Station
Ambient Weather WS-2902 WiFi Smart Weather Station
Multiple weather measurements
Performs poorly in snow
The Ambient Weather Smart Weather Station measures a wide range of data, giving you a more comprehensive picture of your local weather conditions. Thanks to its multiple components, the station measures wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, and rainfall, plus UV and solar radiation. On its LCD digital display, you can monitor all its readouts, and you also can sync it up to your smartphone, providing real-time updates and sharing its data with the world's largest personal weather station network.
This weather station automatically empties out the water it collects, and it has a built-in solar panel for power (though it does use AA batteries as a backup). You can mount the entire station on top of a metal pole, on your roof, or in your yard. But a heads-up for those living in colder climates: Large amounts of snow can render the unit useless, as the precipitation weighs down the wind vane and covers the solar panel.
Price at time of publish: $190
Type: Tipping bucket | Material: Plastic | Collection Capacity: 394 inches | Display: Digital
The Headwind Consumer Products Jumbo EZRead Rain Gauge (view at Amazon) is our top pick for everyday use. You can read this affordable model's extra-large display from up to 50 feet away, and features such as a debris guard and visibility float make it easy to use. If you’re looking for a digital model, consider the ECOWITT WH5360B Wireless Rain Gauge (view at Amazon), which automatically empties out any water and transmits its data to a digital display inside your home.
What to Look For in a Rain Gauge
As you shop for a rain gauge, you are likely to encounter a few common types, including standard, weighing, and tipping bucket designs. “Standard gauges work by catching rainfall through a funnel and collecting it into a measuring tube,” explains Ray Brosnan, landscaping expert and co-founder of Brosnan Property Solutions. “Weighing gauges are extremely accurate, as they measure the intensity of the rainfall by using a weighing mechanism, but they are more traditionally used by climatologists rather than gardeners. Tipping bucket systems are considered the best for measuring rainfall intensity and the amount of rainfall.”
Rain gauges either have a manual display, which you need to read yourself, or a digital display that automatically shows data. Most commonly, standard rain gauges employ manual displays, while tipping bucket gauges often use digital displays. Digital displays are easier and more convenient to use, but generally, manual displays lower the product price and work just fine for most gardeners.
Certain rain gauges more accurately measure rainfall than others. For homeowners, tipping bucket systems are often the most accurate, and some display rain totals down to 0.01 of an inch. Standard gauges are less accurate and may only offer 0.25 or 0.1-inch increments. If you’re just buying a rain gauge to inform your yard or garden watering habits, a precise level of accuracy might not be extremely important, but those who want extremely precise measurements may want to consider more high-tech models.
Standard rain gauges likely include mounting brackets that attach to a pole or fence. However, you may need to install more complex rain gauges and weather stations on top of a pole or even your roof, making the process more difficult.
Why do you need a rain gauge?
“From a landscaping/gardening perspective, rain gauges are useful, as they can inform your watering schedules and prevent you from either over- or under-watering your plants,” explains Brosnan. Even if you're not a gardener, a rain gauge can alert you to other conditions such as impending drought, which can signal the need to conserve how you use water; or flooding.
What’s the best place to mount a rain gauge?
“Location-wise, an open space clear of obstructions and obstacles is best,” Brosnan says. “You’ll want to place the gauge in a relatively high location and ensure it is level. Five to six feet above ground is the best spot to place the gauge, so we’d recommend placing the device on top of a fencing post or small flat-roofed shed.” If you have a standard model, place it somewhere that’s easy to access for reading and emptying.
What’s the best way to read a rain gauge?
Digital display rain gauges show readings on a screen. For a standard rain gauge, stand at eye level with the gauge and note the marking that's closest to the water level.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance writer and product tester for The Spruce. While researching rain gauges, she spoke with Ray Brosnan, landscaping expert and co-founder of Brosnan Property Solutions, for insights on the benefits of these tools and what to look for when shopping for one. As she evaluated different products, she looked at factors such as the style, capacity, design, installation requirements, and features of each product.