Multimeters are handy tools usually used by electricians, auto mechanics and people in similar lines of work. However, even if you’re not one of those people, these machines can prove to be incredibly helpful when the need arises.
Multimeters are diagnostic tools that you can use to tell what might be wrong with a malfunctioning electric appliance. With them, you can easily find a fault in a circuit so you can fix it. On top of that, it doesn’t take a lot of knowledge to be able to operate one of them, and they don’t cost a lot. Because of this, they are useful for hobbyist and people working on home improvement projects.
So, even if you’re a regular joe, you might get a lot of use out of a best multimeter. Here are just some of the benefits this handy tool can bring to your household.
Why Buying a Multimeter?
Some people might think that getting a multimeter might be unnecessary if they’re not a professional electrician, but they would be wrong. A device like this can be immensely useful in day-to-day life, even if you might not use it daily.
First, let’s go over what exactly a multimeter does and how it works. This tool is meant to measure various electrical values in a machine or electric circuits, such as the voltage, the strength of the current and the resistance.
These are expressed in volts, amps, and ohms, respectively. The multimeter usually has a screen which displays the value being measured, a knob to change which value you want it to measure and two probes which should be plugged into the circuit or device you want to diagnose.
They will typically have a black probe and a red probe; the first plugged into the COM port and the other into the mAVΩ port on an electric device. After attaching them it is simply a matter of switching the dial to the right setting and reading out the result – you can probably find all the information about which setting does what in the manual.
There are plenty of uses for a multimeter around the house or if you’re working on specific DIY projects. For example, you can use it to check if a household appliance is running properly and identify where the fault is if it is malfunctioning. Is a light bulb in your lamp burn out, or is it the lamp that’s broken?
You can also test if an electrical outlet is working properly or if it will be able to power a machine you recently bought and that might adhere to different power standards. It can be used to test batteries and check if they are still operational – this goes for almost any type of battery as well, from an AA to car battery.
It can even be used on the go, if your car or truck refuses to start – you can check where the problem is and maybe fix it when you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Overall, there are many different uses for a multimeter, and you might find yourself using it on a regular basis when you get it, even though you didn’t think much of it at first.
While multimeters are useful tools in theory, in practice some of them are bad or borderline useless, and you can’t escape that fact. There are a lot of products out there and sifting through all the bad to find the good can be time-consuming – so, we did it for you.
Our experts tested an enormous amount of different products to determine which ones are the best and why. Here we will showcase our selection of the three best multimeters while also offering some of our opinions and the opinions of other users and covering what makes a good multimeter in the first place. With all this info, you can’t go wrong, so let’s get started.
Meet the Best Multimeters
The Good: Durable, safe, comfortable to use and portable while being supremely accurate.
The Bad: The LCD screen is not backlit, and the ohms measurements are off.
The Bottom Line: Overall, this is quite a quality tool, though it has one huge flaw. However, the whole package is quite a quality machine, and because of that, we believe it is worth getting despite the flaws.
The Good: It’s a cheap and supremely easy to use multimeter.
The Bad: Not that accurate and cheaply constructed with low safety standards and limited use.
The Bottom Line: For the price, this might be a decent multimeter for some people, but despite some good qualities it has it is just too limited and too poorly made to be recommendable.
The Good: Incredibly accurate, quite portable and easy to use.
The Bad: Poorly made and prone to fail in a matter of months while not being incredibly safe.
The Bottom Line: It does offer great accuracy at a low initial cost, but the largest issue is that it might not last you for long, not even a few months if you put it to heavy use. It also lacks in the safety department.
Once you check out this helpful summary, you should also go on to read the rest of the article for more info.
All of the Factors Considered
Getting the right multimeter might be difficult if you’re not an experienced electrician. There’s a lot to consider, a lot of aspects which might not be immediately obvious. If you’re only an amateur, you might want to consider sifting through this list – our experts made it after testing dozens of multimeters, and it should inform you about the most important things you should consider when buying one of these tools. Take a look.
Probably the most important feature of a multimeter is how accurate it is when measuring the values it is supposed to measure. If it is not accurate enough it might as well be useless. Moreover, an inaccurate multimeter can put you in danger since you might misjudge how safe a circuit is. The more precise work you want to do with it, the more accurate it needs to be.
Of course, for home uses you don’t need a massively versatile multimeter, but you should still try to strive for something that has adequate adjustability and the options you need.
Accuracy can also differ when measuring DC power sources versus measuring AC power sources, so that is also something you should consider before purchasing.
This might not be immediately obvious, but size is incredibly important for a multimeter. The reason for this is that you might not always be testing currents in an ideal environment.
You might have to get into tight spaces or stand on a ladder holding the multimeter with only one hand. If it is too large, you might be unable to use it properly in some situations, or it might even lead to safety issues.
You should try and get a relatively small and light multimeter that can fit comfortably in your hand, something you won’t have trouble holding for longer periods of time and that won’t slip from your grasp. This will ensure that you will be able to use it in any situation without issues.
Since you’ll be working with electricity when using a multimeter, you ought to be sure that a stray jolt won’t seriously hurt you, or worse. To that end getting a multimeter that guarantees your safety is a must. Luckily, most of them have useful safety rating which can help you determine how good they are in that regard.
CAT I meters are usually good only on weaker circuits, something up to 20-25 volts of power. CAT II is good for circuits under 100 amps and is suitable for circuits of approximately 100 to 250 volts.
CAT III units can be used on almost anything, short of the main breaker. CAT IV meters are the safest, and they can be plugged directly into a transformer without issues.
There are also various safety features that multimeters can have, like a fuse to cut-out if the amperage gets too high. This might save you from a fatal jolt of electricity.
In short, getting a safe enough multimeter is a must.
Durability in a multimeter is more about safety than it is about how long it will last. Since you will be dabbling with electric circuits, some of them most likely incredibly strong, a poorly made multimeter might spell disaster.
If you pick a unit that is not well made and properly insulated you could end up with a life-threatening amount of electricity flowing through your body.
For example, you should look for a model that has probes insulated by silicon. Lower-quality models will usually be insulated with PVC, which is less reliable and safe.
Better quality models might also have sharper probes, allowing for a better and more stable connection as opposed to some of the cheaper units.
Ease of Use
Most multimeters aren’t especially hard to use, and with a little practice and knowledge, almost anyone can use them. However, some are easier to get the hang of than others, and that mostly comes down to their design. How clearly indicated the settings are on the knob? How much info is displayed on the screen and is it easy to parse with one quick look? You get the idea.
The design of the housing itself also plays a part, since if the multimeter sits awkwardly in your hand and it is difficult to hold it might be more difficult to use in some situations, like when you’re up on a ladder or crawling on the ground. Try to get a feel for how comfortable it is to hold before buying one.
That’s the gist of it. Now let’s look at how our top products measure up.
In-Depth Reviews of 3 Multimeters
In almost every sense this is quite an accurate unit, having a basic DC accuracy of 0.5%, making it one of the most accurate units we used. However, it fails at accurately measuring resistance, which is the biggest problem it has.
Supremely Compact and Sturdy
This is quite a small unit, easy to hold in one hand as it weighs only 160 grams. Despite that, it is quite durable and will withstand some heavy abuse. Even dropping it from 10 feet didn’t crack it, which is impressive.
Safer than Most
This multimeter boasts a CAT III rating and is safe at currents up to 600 volts, which is more than you can say for most meters of this size. It can be used in professional-grade jobs with no problem.
Easy to Use in some Ways
Overall, this is a portable unit that will fit well in your hand and is easy to use with a clear design that won’t confuse anyone. The only issue is the LCD screen which is not backlit so it might be difficult to read in the sun or in the dark.
Who Should Buy This Product
This multimeter is great for people who want a sturdy and robust unit that will be able to give them accurate measurements. It most certainly won’t get broken, and it is comfortable to hold so you won’t drop it in the first place. It’s also quite small and portable.
What to Watch Out For
If you want to use this to test resistance reliably, you’re out of luck. It doesn’t work well on testing ohms, and it will give wildly differing results if you measure the same circuit multiple times. It is not reliable in this regard, which is the biggest black mark on the unit. The LCD screen is also not backlit, meaning that you will have trouble seeing the numbers in dark or sunny areas.
When it comes down to it, this is quite a quality multimeter that is supremely robust, safe, durable and portable, while being accurate in most of its measurements. That’s where the problems come in, as the ohms measurement is almost useless and that’s a huge black mark on it. Still, we believe the rest of its benefits outweigh that, and it is still worth purchasing.
Dubious Accuracy, Low Range
It is a decently accurate unit, but nothing special and we wouldn’t recommend it for uses where you need great accuracy. It also can’t measure a wide range of voltage or amperage.
Not Safe Enough
The only prominent safety feature of this unit is the overload protection, but that’s it. It seems to have a CAT I, 600V rating as far as safety goes, putting it on the lower end in this regard.
It’s one of the lightest and smallest multimeters out there at only around 80 grams in weight. It fits in your hand quite easily, and it can be carried in a pocket with no problems whatsoever.
This is not a durable unit, and it is mostly constructed out of poor plastic that won’t last for a long time. It also smells quite a bit, which makes it a bit uncomfortable to use for a long time.
Easy to Hold and Read out
It is a small unit, simple to hold with one hand and even has a kickstand for that. It has a nice simple design that is easy to get a hold of. It also has a backlit screen, allowing you to work in various conditions without a problem. The values it reads out can also be held on the screen with a button so you can write them down at your leisure. It’s great in this regard.
Who Should Buy This Product
If you want a multimeter that is affordable and incredibly easy to use, you’re in luck because this one exists and it is exactly what you have been looking for. It comes at a supremely low price, and it has a host of comfort features that make it one of the most user-friendly multimeters on the market right now.
What to Watch Out For
It’s cheaply made, and the plastic used for its construction does not hold up to much abuse. It also smells a lot, especially during use, making it difficult to use for a long time without nose plugs. Its safety is also subpar, partly due to how poorly made it is, and it is not incredibly accurate.
This is a product that has some incredible highs and horrible lows. It is probably one of the most user-friendly multimeters out there at the moment, and it is also one of the most portable. It’s also one of the lousiest when it comes to performance, durability, and safety. Because of this, it is difficult to recommend without a huge caveat.
It has quite an impressive accuracy for a unit this cheap, and it can do some work you wouldn’t otherwise consider. It’s around 99%, putting it in the higher echelons when it comes to this.
Not Incredibly Safe
The low durability of this unit combined with the fact that it is rated at only CAT II when it comes to safety and has no prominent safety features make it rather unsafe. It is far below average when it comes to this.
This is not a durable meter at all, and it will fail in a matter of months. The casing isn’t great as well, and it seems easy to crack. The stand is easily breakable, and the screen gets scratched quickly. It’s just poorly made.
Compact and Easy to Use
It’s quite a small unit that weighs only 1.2 pounds and is easy to hold. The strap makes sure you won’t drop it, and the stand allows you to use it hands-free if you wish. The controls are easy to read, and the screen is even easier to read out. The only issue is that the display is not backlit, but the size of it makes up for that.
Who Should Buy This Product
This one is best suited for users who want an incredibly accurate yet small and compact multimeter at a low cost. It is one of the cheapest out there yet it offers the accuracy of some professional-grade tools. In addition to that, it is incredibly easy to use, and even beginners can get the hang of using it with no problems.
What to Watch Out For
The worst part about this one is that it won’t last for a long time. On the outside it is flimsy, but that’s not the biggest issue. The insides seem to be suspect, and it starts failing after a few months of use. Its safety features are also lacking, which is just another problem on the pile.
The great accuracy of this unit combined with its low cost and the ease of use seems to make it a home run. Upon closer scrutiny, though, you can easily notice the issues it has with safety as well as durability. Even at this low cost, it is difficult to recommend a unit like this that will probably fail in a few months.
The Best Pick – Fluke 101 Digital Multimeter
There are a lot of products you can choose, and it is difficult to say which one is the best. While you can rule out most of them as bad or average, there are a few that will stand out. Picking just one of them to put on a pedestal can be difficult. We experienced this when testing the products, but in the end, we made our choice. It might not be to the liking of everyone, but the Fluke 101 Digital Multimeter is our best pick. This is just the best value for your money, as this unit offers reliable and accurate measurements while being sufficiently compact and incredibly durable. It has one major flaw, yes, but that is not enough to bring it down. In the end, only people who have the need to measure ohms should avoid it – for everyone else, it should fit quite well. Because of that, it is our best pick.
To be the best product doesn’t just mean to excel in an area or to be flawless – it means more than that for us. It means that it is the product we are most likely to recommend as the best value for your money, and our best pick this time is just that. You might agree or not agree, but we stand by that. We hope you found this article helpful tough, and that the information contained here will help you get a good multimeter for yourself. Either way, we would appreciate you sharing the article if you liked it. Until next time, have a good day.