Best Multimeters in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide, Reviews and Comparison
Multimeter Categories You Can Choose From
Multimeters Under $100
Delivering more capabilities than budget multimeters, these digital testers include more specific functions — such as diode and capacitance measurement. More for the electronic enthusiast rather than the casual user — they can be recalibrated, therefore providing years of use.
Best Multimeters Under $50
Excellent for your home toolbox or cupboard, these price-friendly multimeters are ideal for general household use or the casual DIYer. They can tackle anything from checking battery charge through to identifying short circuits.
Best Automotive Multimeters
While a solid $100 multimeter will test many vehicle electronics, they’re insufficient for pure petrol-heads. Targeted toward the serious automotive enthusiast, these units feature car-specific functions, such as measuring timing and dwell signals.
HVAC Multimeter Reviews
Aimed at heating, ventilation, and air-con engineers, these multimeters deliver functions that the general user will not require. Typically, they measure within one-tenth of an ohm, one-hundredth of an amp, and possess a 600-volt rating.
Backed by over 70 years of experience in the manufacture of diagnostic equipment, this USA-based company offers a complete array of multimeters — from budget-friendly models through to specialized industrial measurement tools.
2021 Winning Multimeters From Each Category
|Check Price at AmazonKlein Tools MM600 Review Klein Tools MM600 Review|
|Check Price at AmazonAmprobe PK-110 Review Amprobe PK-110 Review|
|Check Price at AmazonFluke 115 Review Fluke 115 Review|
|Check Price at AmazonFluke 87-V Review Fluke 87-V Review|
Best Multimeter from Each Category
Best Multimeter Under $100
Our Rating: 4.6
Robustness is at the heart of this unit, with a rubberized outer shell providing reassuring durability to withstand those accidental knocks — the manufacturer stating it can endure a 6.6-foot drop — invaluable for the hardcore or frequent user.
Impressively versatile, this machine can measure temperature, frequency, capacitance, and test resistance to 10 amperes. Furthermore, it boasts a low-battery indicator and an easily accessible fuse and battery compartment — permitting rapid replacement and reducing downtime.
And, if that wasn’t enough, this multimeter arrives complete with a carry case, clips, testing leads, pouch, test leads, and batteries.
Our Rating: 4.3
If you’re a hobbyist who needs a decent multimeter for occasional voltage and current tests, we recommend the Amprobe PK-110 kit. Although it’s not really suitable for professionals, due to the lack of some functions, it’s great for DIYers because of its versatility and ease of use.
The thing that makes the Amprobe PK-110 different from other units on the list is the fact that this is a kit rather than a single unit. The set includes an AM-420 multimeter, VP1000B non-contact voltage stick, and ST102B socket tester. All three of these components are equally useful in various situations. The only minor shortcoming is that it can only measure voltages up to 250V.
Best Automotive Multimeter
Our Rating: 4.8
Automotive units are similar to regular devices, but with a few slight differences. The biggest difference is the voltage range. While standard multimeters are usually for high voltages (110V+), the automotive types cover 6-24 volts. One of the best automotive units you can find is the Fluke 115.
The first thing you’ll notice is the design. It’s compact, lightweight, and easy to use. Those three factors make this particular product attractive from the start. It has a large display, which doesn’t lose contrast at different angles. The LED backlight ensures crystal-clear test results, so that you can see what you’re doing, even in dimly-lit areas.
One of the best points about the Fluke 115 is its portability. Due to its compactness, it’s suitable for field work and rough conditions. It can be used both by DIY enthusiasts and professionals, thanks to its versatility, precision, and accuracy.
Our Rating: 4.7
The Fluke 87-V multimeter has everything you’ll ever need for conducting tests and troubleshooting HVAC applications. Fluke is a reputable US company, known to care about the design and accuracy of its products, and this device is a great example.
One thing you’ll notice right away is the price. Although many people expect high-end multimeters to be quite expensive, it isn’t necessarily the case. For example, this unit comes with an affordable price tag, yet it offers most of the features you might need during tests and diagnosis.
It can measure up to 10A and 20A up to 30 seconds, without an issue. The True RMS function offers accurate data every time, and other functions, such as the data hold feature, will ease the use of this already simple product.
Select a Type of Multimeter For Reviews and Comparisons
A digital multimeter (DMM) is a tool used by technicians in the electrical industry, to measure different values, such as current, resistance, and voltage. These units replaced needle-based analog meters and brought a whole new aspect of accuracy and precision to testing. The DMMs are more reliable and have more impedance.
Digital multimeters combine multiple testing features in one device. While you would need numerous single-task meters if you want to, for example, test voltage and resistance on a product, you can use a single digital meter to check these measurements.
These devices often include advanced features for technicians who need specialized instruments. The front side of a digital meter has four components — display, buttons for selecting various functions, dial (or rotary switch) for determining the measurement values (amps, ohms, volts), and input jacks for the test leads.
The leads are two insulated wires that plug into the unit and serve as a conductor from the object being tested to the meter. The red wire is for positive, and the black is for negative.
The term “resolution” has nothing to do with the number of pixels, in this instance! It describes the sensitivity of a particular device. By knowing a meter’s resolution, a technician can determine whether it’s possible to detect a small change in the signal.
For example, if a device has a resolution of 5mV on the 20V range, it means you’ll be able to detect a change of 5mV while reading 1V. If you find it hard to comprehend the concept of resolution, think of it as the multimeter’s sensitivity.
Modern DMMs have grown and evolved significantly, regarding sensitivity and precision, since they were launched on the market several decades ago. As the demand for accuracy grows, it makes much more sense to use a digital meter instead of an analog one.
Most of the modern DMMs provide a lot of versatility. For example, you can set the range either manually or automatically — it’s up to you. The auto-ranging feature saves a lot of time and hassle because you don’t have to know the actual range yourself — the unit does that for you.
Although digital multimeters are slowly taking over the market, analog devices are still very relevant and useful for a few reasons. The first difference between these two types is the way they deliver readings. The analog multimeters have a needle that swings across the calibrated scale, whereas the digital model has an LED display.
One of the advantages of analog multimeters is that they deliver the results much quicker than digital ones. The lack of delay particularly helps electricians who are checking the continuity of several wires at once. Those who want to measure transitory voltage will also appreciate the instantaneous readings.
Also, analog devices don’t break down as often as their digital counterparts. Due to the lack of sensitive electronics (mainly LED display components), analog multimeters offer durability and — most importantly — consistency and precision.
Even if you purchase the most expensive product on the market, if it doesn’t deliver accurate and precise data, it’s not much use. Hence, many users still favor analog over digital.
Because an analog meter has a needle and coil to represent its readings, it can be very sensitive and delicate to vibrational shocks. So, whereas digital meters can take a few bumps and hits, analog ones are quite sensitive to vibrations, which can lead to either them going out of calibration or completely damaging the coil and the needle. However, you can alleviate the issue by protecting the device in a plastic or rubber casing, although it’s just a preventive measure and doesn’t guarantee absolute resistance and immunity to physical damage.
As far as the readability goes, the digital multimeters are far simpler. The display on an analog meter consists of a variety of scales with different values. If you don’t know the proper way to read the values, it will be difficult to use the meter. With digital meters, it’s quite easy, as you get a number displayed as well as the measurement units. The lack of decimals is also a common problem for analog units. It can be quite challenging to determine the below-zero values on an analog device.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Best Multimeter
One of the most important factors of these devices is the resolution. It detects the smallest change in the input signal, which causes a change in the output signal. The resolution of a DMM is expressed by the number of digits it’s able to display. Most units on the market are either 3.5 or 4.5-digit meters, with the range of 1999 to 19999. The resolution is sometimes specified as “count.”
Whether you’re an amateur or professional, you’re going to need a device with a good resolution, to tackle some of the more sensitive projects. The wider the range, the better the resolution — it’s that simple. For example, a 3.5-digit meter has three digits which displays values from 0 to 9, and one figure that can show either 1 or 0
Aim For High Accuracy
The accuracy is the maximum allowed error limit within one reading. It is usually expressed as “±” which represents the percentage of the reading plus the number of the least significant digit (LSD). This figure represents errors caused due to offset noise, various tolerances, and more. For example, if you have a 4.5 DMM with an accuracy of ± (0.1%+1)) and you measure a 12V output, the unit is expected to show a range between 11880V and 12120V. When you take the LSD into consideration, the last digit of these numbers can fluctuate by ±1.
Needless to say, a unit with high accuracy tends to offer more precise readings. However, you’re not obligated to buy the most accurate one. People often use this approach and purchase the one with the highest accuracy, even though they might not need it. It leads to paying more for a product with features you simply don’t need.
Check out the True RMS
True RMS handles measuring alternating current (AC) or AC voltage. Although it may seem like a complicated formula, it’s pretty simple. It measures the equivalent direct current (DC) value of an AC signal. In simpler words, it evaluates the effectiveness of any AC wave signal. An average responding unit uses mathematical formulas to precisely measure sinusoidal waves. Although it can measure non-sinusoidal waves, it lacks precision.
However, a sophisticated unit can deliver accurate measures of both sinusoidal and non-sinusoidal waves. An average attempt to measure waves that are distorted can be up to 40% low and 10% high in the calculations. The necessity for True RMS grew rapidly in recent years because more and more electrical devices use short signal pulses. For example, computers and HVAC devices use short pulses.
Pay Attention to Input Impedance
The input impedance is of particular importance for sensitive electronics and control circuits, because the DMM has little to no impact on circuit performance if it features good input impedance. Luckily, most digital multimeters feature high input impedance, which is often greater than one mega-ohm.
The older generation of analog meters has a very low input of around 10 kilo-ohms, which can affect and damage sensitive electronics and circuits. While older analog meters are still useful, they should only be used to test circuits where the low impedance won’t have a negative impact.
However, you can’t afford to take risks with expensive, high-tech stuff, such as computers, phones, and other gadgets. Therefore, it’s advised that you use a unit with high impedance to prevent any possible issues and circuit breakdowns
Multimeter Basics – Everything You Need to Know
Many people consider these units complicated and too complex to handle. However, don’t let the fancy knobs and buttons fool you, it’s a pretty simple device. Once you use it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. All you have to know is to take care of your safety, and that’s it. The basic definition of a multimeter is straightforward — it’s a tool that combines multiple features, such as a voltmeter, ohmmeter, and ammeter.
The Terminology – AC and DC
AC stands for alternating current. It works on the principle where an electrical charge changes direction periodically, around 60 times per second. It is the current that is delivered to your household and makes your lights shine brightly.
DC stands for direct current, in which electricity travels in only one direction. This type of current is mainly used in devices that run on batteries. For example, the electronics in your car run on DC, because of the car battery.
A multimeter can measure both DC and AC currents.
The Symbols on a Multimeter
There are many types of multimeters on the market nowadays — the price can range from $10 to several hundred dollars. However, to keep things simple, we’ll pay attention to the most basic ones out there.
Most of the meters you’re going to be using have three primary sections:
- AC measurement
The voltage section is used for measuring the electric’s potential difference, and in most units, it ranges from 200 millivolts to 600 volts.
Ohms are used for measuring the resistance of electricity. Also, the higher the reading, the more resistance a cord has, which means it’s harder for the electricity to flow through it.
The third symbol is for AC. This section goes from 200 milliamps to 600 volts.
Two leads are included with every unit, a black (negative) and red (positive.)
Multimeter Advanced Features
As we said, there are many different digital multimeters on the market at the moment, and many of them are pretty basic. However, there are also some with advanced features.
If you’re an amateur, you probably won’t need these features much. In fact, it’s always a better idea to avoid purchasing something just because it’s more expensive or has more features, especially if you don’t know how to use them or you simply don’t need that many.
Advanced multimeters can also measure capacitance, frequency, temperature, and pressure. When buying a device, you need to consider the functions and measurements you need, not only in the present but also in the future.
More advanced features, that may only be found in high-end meters, can include a graphical display to show AC measurements in real time. This feature can be used for identifying irregularities in the wave signal.
A data log function may also be found in modern multimeters. This allows you to monitor and store the measured data over a longer amount of time.
Some units may also include a Low Pass Filter which is used for troubleshooting motor drives. This filter will block unwanted voltages above 1 kilohertz when measuring frequency or AC voltage.
The low impedance mode prevents ghost voltages from being measured, which allows more accurate measurements and precise readings.
Last, but not least, some advanced meters may include an offset compensation feature (Smart Ohm) which also offers better accuracy under certain conditions. This feature tests resistance with two different currents applied, to determine if there are any offset voltages in the input circuit.
If you need any of these features, check out our full range of product reviews and find a meter that will suit your exact requirements.
With multimeters, the most important thing you need to do is remember that you’re dealing with electricity and that every minor error can be fatal. Many people neglect the dangers because they think it’s safe due to low voltages or small amounts of amps.
However, even if you’re a long-time professional, it’s always wise to take precautionary measures before dealing with electricity.
The things you can do:
- Discharge the circuit before connecting a multimeter
- Don’t apply power while measuring resistance
- Make sure your meter is set on AC mode before you start measuring AC current
- Pay attention to polarity when handling DC
- When you’re done using it, switch the device off, if there’s an OFF button. If there is no button, set the meter to the highest AC voltage
All of these steps are necessary precautionary measures, so remember to use them every time you’re dealing with electricity — they could save your life.
Do not touch an open circuit with bare hands, regardless of voltage values. It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe if it’s low voltage, because amps play a massive part as well. If both values are low (amps and volts,) then it might be considered non-fatal, but it’s still not safe.
If you want a better insight into a particular device, feel free to read our product reviews. They are all comprehensively written and will be particularly useful for people who never had contact with these units. Many of the best multimeters we have chosen are affordable, and we think every household should own at least one.