The only laser distance measurer available in San Diego is the Stanley Fat Max. I got one for about ~$100. It claims to be accurate to ~1/4" with a range of ~100'.
There are some problems with bright sunlight, but then ol sol is pretty stiff competition. I don't see how that friend could claim to have wasted his money.
The important thing is the engine and the Stanley's, like many others, is made by Leica in Switzerland. [I point that out just to agitate those "Buy American" folks. ] The Hilti and other brands are more accurate, cost more and have various bells and whistles that you may or may not need.
In any event, this is good for estimating. I'm not sure if it would work for measuring conduit to the nearest 1/32" which I use for cutting conduit.
These are an ideal solution for the problem of measuring over impossible obstacles such as a girl's locker room.
I've been studying surveying and they have these laser devices [EDM] which are accurate to millimeters over several miles.
I buy lots of laser plumbs for layout, but have yet to buy a "laser tape". My personal experience is not all laser tools are created equal, and the Stanley line of products are bottom of the barrel, with Dewalt about mid range, and PLS near the top. I am talking side by side comparisons, the Stanley lasers are about half as bright, take twice as long to level.
The Dewalt laser plumbs are about $90, come with a case and seem to last a while, so its hard to justify buying a PLS or a Hilti that does the same thing for 3 times as much. I also have a Dewalt line level, that is ok but my PLS line levels are a lot brighter.
I am thinking about trying the Stanley "Laser Tape" as a cheap estimating tool if its good to the nearest foot it would be good enough for an estimate.