Surveying sees year-over-year job growth that exceeds the average job market. And it’s really no surprise.

As humans build, we need to understand the physical landscape around us. After all, we can’t build roads, buildings, etc., without knowing what exactly we’re building on.

But picking up your own toolset to start out surveying isn’t easy. Even if you’re a trained professional, knowing what surveying equipment to choose can make or break your job.

Getting the wrong equipment for a job means getting inaccurate measurements, and essentially not surveying anything at all.

So to help you pick out the best surveying equipment for your landscape, we’re bringing you our tips for buying and renting equipment.

Level Rods

Level rods help surveyors gauge the level of a plane, making them crucial to understanding the basics of a job site.

Rods are frequently made of three types of materials; wood, fiberglass, and aluminum. With each type having its benefits and drawbacks.

When choosing the best equipment for your job, make sure you know what to look for. Aluminum rods can swell or contract in hot or cold weather, causing false readings.

Likewise, wooden rods can expand and contract in humid and wet conditions. Always make sure your job site is dry before choosing wood.

Fiberglass makes a good option for those working in wet, hot, or cold climates. The material doesn’t expand or contract.

When looking to rent this equipment, always make sure your rod is straight. The slightest bend will cause a leveling error.


Tripods are the surveyor’s bread and butter. They’re used to take measurements using levels, theodolite, and more. Without a sturdy tripod, none of your measurements will read accurately.

Like levels, tripods are commonly made of aluminum, wood, or fiberglass. And also like levels, they’re susceptible to the environment.

Aluminum tripod legs can expand and contract, and likewise with wood. Uneven legs just a fraction of a centimeter off can skew every reading.

Just like when level shopping, choose a tripod material based on the environments you’ll commonly work in.

Laser Levels

Laser levels are the hand-level’s more sophisticated sibling. They’re commonly used to take large measurements when surveying larger areas of land.

They’re also useful for establishing a known reference point when dealing with things like elevation.

The beams themselves are self-leveling and don’t take much effort once you know how to operate them.

When you’re choosing a used laser level, keep two things in mind. First, make sure the level turns off and remeasure if it’s bumped.

Next, ensure the level itself reads correctly. Measure something that’s already surveyed to make sure the level indicates accurate measurements.


Theodolites measure specific vertical and horizontal angles within a predetermined space. The measurements get taken and the results appear on the device’s screen.

Again, test this device by measuring a space with known measurements. This ensures the theodolite’s calibration is accurate.

When renting theodolites, it’s also important to inspect the screen. With a cracked screen you won’t see readings accurately.

Guessing between numbers is not smart or safe when surveying.

Also, take note of the machine’s physical condition. Poor exterior maintenance is indicative of poor interior condition.


Planimeters measure the area of an arbitrary two-dimensional shape. Essentially, when you need to know the area of a specific piece of land, you map it and then use a planimeter.

The planimeter measures the scaled drawing’s area and tells you how much space an abstract piece of land takes up.

While not used all that often, planimeters are excellent for measuring old maps of local properties that might otherwise have changed over time.

When looking to rent or buy a planimeter, make sure the arms aren’t bent or warped in any way. Also, you’ll want the mechanics of the arms to move smoothly.

Measuring Wheel

Measuring wheels count distance by rolling a wheel along and counting the number of revolutions. The circumference of the wheel determines how much distance it measures per rotation.

Wheels work best for smooth surfaces like roads or sidewalks but can work on the flat ground as well. Just remember that bumps can skew results.

When looking to rent or buy a wheel, make sure what you’re purchasing is perfectly circular. Irregularities in the wheel will ruin any hope for accuracy.


GPS in surveying uses the global positioning world network of satellites to pinpoint certain locations and then measures the distance, direction, and height difference between those locations.

You don’t need to see either point for the GPS to work, making it extremely useful for taking measurements outside the field.

Singular points of longitude, latitude, and elevation are readily available the world over. Before even heading into the field, you can have a good idea of what you’re surveying.

Renting or buying a quality GPS, like the AGS Trimble GPS, comes down to a simple device checkup.

Pick a known point and program the GPS to find that point. If it does, the unit works. If it doesn’t you’ll need a different unit.

Choose The Surveying Equipment for the Job

Modern surveying is a profession that dates back all the way to the 1700s. Surveyors have been choosing the right tools for years, using trial and error along the way.

Luckily for us, we have those hundreds of years of experience to fall back on. When picking our surveying equipment, we know what to look for.

With our modern equipment, we’re able to determine what’s best for what job, and what might cause issues.

Though even the most difficult jobs become much easier when using GPS technology.

If you’re in the market for surveying equipment, remember our handy guide. Choosing the wrong tools for your job is easy and ruins every measurement you take.

However, with the right deal on the right tools, your professional or at-home surveying will go smoothly.

Getting the lay of the land is crucial to building, and building to progress. From backyard projects to skyscrapers, using the right tools makes all the difference.

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