How to buy the best bathroom scales
By Patrick Gallagher
We explain the three main types of scales, and their pros and cons, to guide you through picking the best bathroom scales for you.
Though there are hundreds of bathroom scales available in all different shapes and sizes, they broadly fit into three main types: traditional mechanical scales, electronic or digital scales and body fat analyser scales.
While mechanical and digital scales give you a basic reading of your weight, body fat scales give you more information about your body composition. Deciding what type is the best bathroom scale for you largely comes down to how much you want to know about your weight and body.
Read on for more on the different types or you can skip straight to our full bathroom scales reviews to find out the top models that we recommend.
Body fat scales
Price range: £15 to £200
As well as measuring your weight, body fat scales are designed to display your body fat percentage, to help you differentiate between fat loss and weight loss. And as well as body fat, some also give you further readings such as your bone density, body water percentage and BMI. You'll need to enter some vital statistics, such as your height and gender, for the most accurate body measurements.
To measure body fat, the body fat scales send a very small electric current around your body. The current moves more slowly through fat and quicker through muscle, so the speed in which the current passes through your body enables the scale to calculate your body fat and muscle density, displayed as percentages.
Because of the electrical current, you shouldn't use a body fat analyser if you have a pacemaker or other internal medical devices or if you're pregnant. They're not recommended for use for children under the age of 10, either.
You can spend anything from around £15 to £200 on a set of body analyser scales. More expensive models tend to offer more of a full package in terms of the number of measurements it gives, which include a visceral fat content, total body water percentage and muscle mass. You can also find body fat scales with other nifty features designed to make it easier to use, such as models with detachable screens.
You'll also probably have to pay a little more if you want a 'smart' body fat analyser - that is, one you can connect to your smartphone or tablet and monitor your progress from there. Smart body fat analysers are also not recommended for those with a pacemaker.
Head to our guide on smart bathroom scales explained to find out whether it’s a technology you want to invest in.
Pros: Body fat analysers give you much more detail about your body composition than mechanical or digital scales, and you can find some pretty cheap ones. Typical body fat analyser scales have a memory function, and you can even buy ones with smart functionality - this should allow you to easily keep up to date with your progress.
Cons: Because of the way they work, they can't be used by everyone - especially those with internal medical devices and pregnant people. More feature-packed body fat analysers are pricey.
Price range: £10 to £50
Like mechanical scales, digital bathroom scales come in a lot of different styles but are mainly designed to just measure your weight. Unlike mechanical scales, however, you shouldn't need to squint your eyes to work out your weight from the dial - the weight is displayed on an electronic screen in either imperial or metric measurements, depending on which you choose.
Some digital scales offer extra features, such as user memory - after a certain number of people have stored their data, the scales are designed to recognise the user and then monitor the difference in weight between each reading for each person.
The typical price of a set of digital scales ranges between around £10 and £50, with the price difference generally related to extra features of functions that you might find handy or a bigger display to read your weight more clearly.
Pros: Easy to read, lots of choice of styles and prices, good for those who want to take quick weight measurements, some can show fractions or decimal points of pounds or kilos for a more precise reading.
Cons: Like mechanical scales, most electronic versions can't tell you about your body fat, body water or BMI, battery needs replacing every now and then.
Price range: £5 to £40
Mechanical bathroom scales are designed to do the simple job of measuring your weight, and they don't tend to come with any extra bells or whistles. The dial display typically shows your weight in both imperial (stones and pounds) and metric (kilograms) measurements at the same time.
Most mechanical bathroom scales cost between £5 and £40, but it's possible to spend more. Pricier mechanical scales are more likely to be made of stronger material, such as steel rather than plastic, and have a more stylish design.
Pros: Mechanical scales can be dirt cheap, most let you see your weight in both imperial and metric measurements at the same time, there's no battery to replace.
Cons: Some mechanical scales can be hard to read if the markings are small or close together and you'll have to check that the scale is set to zero before you get on each time to make sure you get an accurate reading. Mechanical scales won't tell you your BMI, body fat composition or store your readings, so look elsewhere if you want this extra functionality.
Which are the best bathroom scales?
Our reviews cover electronic scales with body fat analysers as they're much more complicated than your typical mechanical or digital scales. They can also be much more expensive, so our expert lab test reviews reveal whether you need to spend more for the best results.