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Why Do We Use Total Station Instead of Auto Level?

Blog Total Station Instead of Auto Level

Total stations and auto levels are two kinds of survey equipment. While each one is durable and high-quality, they do differ and are best suited for certain tasks. Here’s a guide to help you learn about both instruments and determine which one is right for your job.

blog total station instead of auto level

Total Station

A total station contains a distance meter and a theodolite, both of which are electronic. A distance meter uses a laser to measure distance, and a theodolite has a telescope that moves and measures angles in the vertical and horizontal planes. Thanks to its electronic data collector and microprocessor, the total station can also calculate and store the following information:

  • Height and location of specific points
  • Slope between a point and the total station
  • Averages of distances and angles


For additional analysis, you can download the measurements to your computer.


blog total station instead of auto level

Auto Level

An auto level is a piece of equipment that determines the height of points, which must lie within the same horizontal plane. Inside an auto level, you’ll find an internal compensator mechanism, an optical device that sways back and forth. You don’t have to make the base exactly level because this mechanism eliminates discrepancies when positioned near the plane. Since auto levels are self-levelling, they are easy to use. To set one up, simply insert the tripod into the ground and secure the level on the tripod. Make sure the compensator mechanism is in the middle of the vial, and fine-tune the recital. Finally, calibrate the lens so you have a clear view of the point you’re focusing on.

Uses of Each Instrument

Choosing a total station or an auto level depends on hat kind of work you’re doing. If you have zero coordinates or one coordinate, or you have two points, then a total station will work best. Resectioning, finding area, control and detail surveying, missing line measurement and remote distance measurement are examples of tasks a total station can accomplish. Because auto levels are self-levelling, they are ideal for land surveys and use on properties that aren’t even and have varying heights, such as rough land and construction sites. Keep in mind, though, that they only calculate measurements in the horizontal plane, not angles or measurements in the vertical plane (You’ll want to use a total station to collect that data.).

Watch our videos to learn more about Auto Levels

Shop With EngineerSupply

EngineerSupply has been the premier online retailer for architecture, construction and engineering equipment for 20 years. Whether you need a total station, an auto level or both, we promise we’ll have it for you at an unbeatable price. Visit our website or call 800-491-8907 to shop our large selection of survey equipment today.
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