The Best Clamp Meters Under 50 Dollars — Buyers Guide, Review, and Comparison
Clamp Meter Under $50 Comparison Table
|Check Price at Amazon Review AstroAI DT201D Review AstroAI DT201D Review|
|Check Price at Amazon KAIWEETS HT206D Review KAIWEETS HT206D Review|
|Check Price at Amazon Klein Tools CL120 Review Klein Tools CL120 Review|
|Check Price at Amazon Review BSIDE ACM91 Review BSIDE ACM91 Review|
|Check Price at Amazon Extech MA440 Review Extech MA440 Review|
Best Clamp Meters Under 50 Dollars Buying Guide
While budget units, the best examples offer comparable features, precision, and applications to their high-end counterparts — but at a cost that will appeal to the casual home user, keen DIYer, and light project contractor.
That said, it’s crucial that despite the wallet-friendly price point, your chosen clamp multimeter is suitable for your projects — in robustness, safety rating, and electrical current and voltage levels.
Consider this your 101 to budget clamp meters — giving you all the information you need to select the ideal low-cost electrical tester.
Why Choose a Budget Clamp Multi-Meter?
If you’re of a similar age as me, you can remember when home computers were the cost of a small family car. Today, you can get your hands on a laptop or netbook at a similar price to a decent night out on the town.
And the same applies to clamping meters. Automation, increased efficiency in microchips, and mass-produced PCBs (printed circuit boards) mean that the cost of these digital units has dramatically fallen — with many affordable models now including capabilities that were once the domain of high-end machines.
Of course, the Latin adage of caveat emptor applies. Sadly, there are some shady cheap clamp meters on the market — dubious imports with questionable safety. Meaning that it’s crucial to be discriminating when selecting your clamp multimeter. That said, all of my personally chosen picks above have been chosen with versatility, reliability, precision, and above all safety, in mind.
However, remember that due to their low-cost nature — even the most generous of manufacturers aren’t going to give you the world for just a few dollars. You’re not going to find an industrial-grade CAT IV machine for sub-$50, nor contractor-specific features such as micro-amp flame testing or wireless communication.
But, you will be able to get your hands on seriously flexible machines that boast CAT III certification, True RMS, non-contact voltage detectors, and temperature testing.
So, if you need a non-hazardous and home/light project-capable clamp meter, use my below buying guide to the ultimate in affordable clamp meters.
How to Choose the Best for the Money Clamp Meter
Here are the factors I believe are crucial when picking out the perfect clamp meter.
CAT Safety Rating
In my opinion, the primary factor to consider in clamp multimeter purchasing.
Briefly, CAT certifications determine the energy loads that your machine can cope with — and naturally, this needs to reflect the type of jobs you plan on completing with your testing tool.
Clamp meters are rated from CAT I to CAT IV, although as mentioned earlier, you’re not going to find a pro-grade CAT IV tester under $50. Here are what the certifications mean:
CAT I — Portable, handheld electronics like cell phones, internet routers, and tablets.
CAT II — Mains-wired machines such as kettles and drills.
CAT III — Three-phase circuitry, for example, a factory power rig.
CAT IV — High-energy loads, such as transformer boxes and overhead wires.
(If you would like more information on CAT ratings, check out my CAT Safety Rating 101).
When choosing your clamp meter, ensure that the CAT certification rating is suitable for your circuit type. And remember, while you can use a CAT III tool on CAT I & II electricals, you cannot use a CAT I machine on II and III circuits — well, unless you want an unpleasant shock or want to see your machine explode in your hand.
My top pick in budget clamping meters, the AstroAI DT201D, boasts an impressive CAT III (600-volt) rating.
Using a detachable thermoprobe, these heat investigative machines permit you to scrutinize temperature levels in PCBs, microchips, automotive engines, heat exchangers, and air-conditioning units.
For HVACR pros and enthusiasts, together with gasoline heads, this feature is invaluable. Although for many home users looking for a multimeter simply to test batteries and circuit continuity, it will be overkill.
Should a temperature testing feature be essential for your hobby or jobs — always examine the heat range capability, to ensure it can cope with your project’s demands. The AstroAI DT201D, for example, can check heat levels up to an astounding 2000 degrees Fahrenheit — the BSIDE ACM91 to just 932 degrees.
TRMS (True Root Mean Square) is the mark of a seriously accurate clamp meter.
Delivering greater precision than standard RMS units — by investigating wave fluctuations instead of purely peak readings — they allow you to scrutinize electrical systems thoroughly.
Sure, for some users, this level of exactitude is pointless. If you’re planning on using your clamp meter to simply test power cells — minute discrepancies in voltage and current are mostly irrelevant.
However, if your jobs include dealing with resistors, capacitors, and PCB troubleshooting — it’s crucial. My favorite budget machine, the AstroAI DT201D, includes TRMS.
If you’re interested in learning more about TRMS, and why it may be important for your electrical projects, check out my What Do TRMS and RMS Mean? article.
My advice is this — always go for a clamp meter with auto-ranging, unless you want to make your DIY projects ridiculously overcomplicated.
This technology — included on units such as the Klein Tools CL120 — automatically chooses the optimum display range to deliver your electrical testing readings — in tens, hundredths, or thousandths. This means you don’t need pro-level knowledge of resistor band ratings or capacitor sizes to use the unit.
And while crucial for the casual user and multi clampmeter newbie — it’s equally beneficial for the contractor. With no requirement to waste time and effort manually switching between settings — you can crack on with your job more efficiently.
Non-Contact Voltage (NCV) Detector
Do you want to die? I’m guessing not, so go for a budget clamp multimeter with a non-contact voltage (NCV) detector.
Live wires can be dangerous. But, how do you know if a wire is carrying current without touching the wire itself? (that is, touching with your clamp meter, not your fingers or tongue).
An NCV system, featured on units such as the KAIWEETS HT206D, alerts you both audibly and visually when live electricals are detected — without making contact with the wires or components. Just place the jaws near your area of interest, and the machine will emit a beep and illuminate an LED if there is current.
For novice and DIY operatives, this is a crucial safety feature, where a lack of knowledge of electricals could be life-threatening. Furthermore, time-pressed and stressed trade contractors will welcome this function, providing reassuring belt-and-braces shielding.
Some budget clamping machines incorporate one or more memory features — permitting you to recall recent readings and negating the need to make a separate note with pen and paper for later scrutiny.
These can include:
- Memory hold — stores your most recent test.
- Maximum — retrieves the peak reading of your last data.
- Minimum —displays the lowest reading of your most recent test.
Battery Saving and Management
You seriously don’t want your clamp meter to fail unexpectedly mid-project. If this occurs, you could be surrounded by a plethora of exposed wires and/or components — with no way of knowing whether they’re alive or dead.
For the novice or inexperienced circuit tester, this can be both a worrying and dangerous scenario. Therefore, I suggest it’s worthwhile investing in a machine that has battery saving and management features — reducing the risk of cell depletion deactivating your clamping meter.
Some machines, like the Extech MA440, boast auto-shutoff — powering down the unit if left idle for a predetermined period and helping to elongate battery life. Other units, such as the AstroAI DT201D, feature a low-battery alert — warning you should energy levels become low.
Once you’ve considered all the above — finally, I’d examine what comes included with your purchase. Not only will this ensure you have everything you need to use the machine straight after unboxing — but it can also be a more affordable way of obtaining accessories, as opposed to making separate purchases.
Additions to look for include:
- Testing leads.
- Testing probes.
- Probe protector tips.
- Thermoprobe — for temperature testing units.
- Carrying pouch.
- Belt clip.
- Rear-mounted magnet.
Getting your hands on a decent clamp multi-meter doesn’t require you to hammer your bank balance.
With a number of units available below $50, you can own a flexible, robust, and hazard-free testing tool that incorporates many of the capabilities of premium-end models.
When selecting your clamping meter — ensure that it’s usable in your most common project forms and your personal requirements. Initially, guarantee that the CAT rating meets the energy loads of your testing jobs. Then, consider factors such as TRMS, auto-ranging, temperature detection, and memory recall.
Sure, these price-friendly machines will not be suitable for everyone. While they may satisfy even demanding home users — trade pros needing contractor-level functionality such as CAT IV certification, micro-amp scrutiny, and VFD (variable frequency drive) motor investigation will need to spend a little more.
But, should you be a light contractor or serious DIYer — I genuinely recommend considering one of the best clamp meters under 50 dollars.
Cheap and Affordable Clamp Meters FAQs
Q: What Is the Best Value Clamp Meter?
With TRMS, a CAT III safety rating, and temperature testing — I suggest that the best value for money clamp meter is the AstroAI DT201D.
Q: Are Budget Clamp Meters Any Good?
Yes! However, choose wisely. Check that the low-priced machine is suitable for your job types — look for premium functions such as TRMS, non-contact voltage, auto-ranging, and temperature testing.
Q: Can I Buy a CAT IV Clamp Meter for Under $50?
No. The maximum CAT certification for a sub-$50 machine is CAT III. However, if you need a budget CAT IV machine, check out my picks of the best units under $100 — which includes the high-energy ready testers.