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What is the Best Multimeter for DIYers and Pros

What do professional electricians and serious DIYers have in common? Both groups of people should absolutely have a multimeter on hand!  

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These devices measure things that other tools cannot: current, voltage, resistance…you get the picture. They can be used for testing electrical outlets, discovering electrical issues, and more.

But with this incredible ability comes a great deal of complexity—many new multimeter purchasers feel overwhelmed with the number of options available and all the different features out there.

To give you a hand, we’ve compiled this multimeter buying guide to clue you in on what a multimeter is and how to find the best one for your needs—we’ve also outlined our personal favorites for your convenience.

Top Picks

Best For: CAT III and CAT IV Use – Klein Tools Auto Ranging Multimeter

This is the multimeter that has it all, from True-RMS to a simple yet hardy design—not to mention its CAT III and CAT IV ratings!

Best For: Analog Display – Tekpower Analog Multimeter With Back Light and Transistor Checking Dock

Old-school charm and convenient modernity wed in this multimeter from Tekpower; you can look forward to analog-style readings as well as a backlit screen and streamlined design.

Best For: Lifetime Warranty – Greenlee Dmm, 600V Ac/Dc, 10A Elec Test Instruments

This autoranging multimeter from Greenlee is rated for CAT III safety (600V to 1000V) and boasts an array of user-friendly features—and an incredible lifetime warranty!

Best For: Affordability – AstroAI Digital Multimeter with Ohm Volt Amp and Diode Voltage Tester Meter Continuity Test

This multimeter from AstroAI is super-affordable, ideal for beginners or DIYers, and doesn’t skimp on features—a great choice if you’re on a tight budget.

What is a Multimeter?

Okay, let’s be real: “Multimeter” is a very vague name. Multi…what exactly does that entail?

To give you some background, electricians used to require several different measurement tools: one for voltage, another for resistance, and so on. The multimeter was created to give electricians a single tool capable of measuring a variety of units. This invention has not only allowed electricians to save money and toolbox space, but it’s also made their jobs more streamlined.  

As mentioned, the multimeter is capable of measuring such units as voltage, resistance, and current (basic units) as well as temperature, capacitance, and frequency (advanced units). Multimeters feature two wire probes—one red and one black—to measure positive and negative readings, respectively. Some units also feature accessory capabilities, making them even more versatile.

Today, the use of multimeters has extended well beyond the confines of professional electrical work and the device has fallen into the hands of many a savvy DIYer.

Whichever category you fall into, there are certain factors you’ll need to keep in mind before making your multimeter purchase…

How to Choose One

Multimeters are complex devices, and as such, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before shopping around. To give you a head start, we’ve outlined the most important factors below.  

Type

There are a few different ways one could categorize multimeters by ‘type.’ We’ll discuss this in more detail later in the article. For now, just keep in mind these four basic categorizations:

  • Category
  • Design
  • Analog vs. Digital
  • Basic vs. Advanced

Intended Use

Because there are so many different types of multimeters on the market, the best way to narrow down which one you need is to determine your intended use.

Will you be using it every day for professional measurement tasks, or will you be using it for the occasional around-the-house electrical fix? What types of measurements will you be taking most often?

Your answers to these questions will indicate which type you should opt for—and how much you can expect to spend on your new multimeter.

What it Measures

Basic multimeters can usually measure:

  • volts.
  • current.
  • resistance.

In addition to these, advanced multimeters can usually measure:

  • temperature.
  • capacitance.
  • frequency.

If you only need the device for occasional use or small projects, you can opt for a basic multimeter to save some money. But if you’re an electrician, you’ll want to splurge a little and get a more advanced model.

Accuracy

Accuracy refers to how accurate the measurement readings are. Most experienced multimeter users recommend an accuracy rating of at least ±2%, though a higher accuracy rating is ideal (especially if you’re a professional electrician).

Accessory Capabilities

The average multimeter comes with two wires (red/positive and black/negative) for taking readings. However, there are also some more advanced units that include additional accessories such as alligator clips, a magnetic case, or additional probes/sensors.

These add-ons can be extremely useful for the professional, but unless you’ll be using your multimeter for complex tasks, you can probably get away with just a basic model.

Budget

Even if you pinpoint the multimeter of your dreams, it won’t do you any good if you can’t afford it! Just like with any tool purchase, before shopping, determine how much you’re able and willing to spend on your new multimeter and then filter through the best options in your price range.

Different Types of Multimeters

As promised, here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of multimeters.

Category (CAT)

Multimeters are broadly classified into four categories, based on the unit’s intended use:

  • CAT I tools are used for electronic devices and equipment.
  • CAT II tools are used for single-phase AC loads (such as those of appliances).
  • CAT III tools are used for three-phrase distribution (like that of distribution circuits).
  • CAT IV tools are used for the main supply source (such as electrical meters).

Essentially, these category ratings determine what safety standards the multimeter must meet.

Design

There are three main multimeter design types: fluke, autoranging, and clamp.

  • Fluke multimeters are perhaps the most popular. This type is used for calibration purposes, and basic models measure voltage and resistance.
  • Autoranging multimeters are ideal for beginners, amateurs, and those who have never owned a multimeter before—basically, anyone who doesn’t need an advanced professional tool. This type is easy to use because it gives you readings on only the unit you’re trying to measure!
  • Clamp multimeters are best for professional use, and they measure electrical current (amps, volts, etc.).

Analog vs. Digital

This refers to which type of screen and display method the multimeter uses.

  • Analog multimeters are the traditional design, and are today much less expensive than their digital counterparts. They use a needle point to display the measurement, which is sometimes easier to read and a bit more accurate.
  • Digital multimeters are the newer design, and are usually more expensive than analog models. Rather than using a needle point, digital multimeters display readings on an LCD screen. Though these are a bit harder to read in bright lighting, you can find backlit models that counteract this negative feature.

Basic vs. Advanced

The main difference between basic and advanced multimeters is in which units they’re capable of measuring.

A basic unit will typically be able to measure three different units: voltage, resistance, and current. More advanced models will be able to measure those three units, in addition to temperature, capacitance, and frequency.

The Best Multimeter Tools

With your newfound multimeter knowledge, you’re well-equipped to make the perfect purchase for your toolbox! To give you some ideas and inspiration, we’ve rounded up our top multimeter picks—feel free to skim through and bookmark your favorites!

Klein Tools MM500 Auto Ranging Multimeter

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You could say that the Auto Ranging Multimeter from Klein Tools has it all: accurate True-RMS measurements, a durable IP67 construction, drop protection, and perhaps the most straightforward design of any other product on our list. It’s tough, it’s accurate, and it’s simple enough for anyone to use. That said, this multimeter is rated for CAT III and CAT IV (to 600V), making it ideal for the professional electrician. Take a look at this device for yourself—we have a feeling you’ll be smitten!

Pros

  • Measures variety of units
  • True-RMS
  • IP67 rating
  • Durable construction
  • Drop protection
  • Autoranging
  • Straightforward design

Cons

  • Not good for use with DC

Tekpower TP8260L Analog Multimeter

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You can tell right away that this analog multimeter from Tekpower is ready for some serious business. It may look old-school, but underneath its more traditional housing you’ll find a range of practical—and modern—features (take, for example, its backlit display and built-in stand). As far as measurements go, this multimeter can handle a number of units and its transistor tester can gauge both PNP and NPN. You’ll also appreciate its simple operation (you just need to utilize a large knob and a couple of buttons) as well as its 1-year warranty. If you’re looking for an analog-style multimeter that incorporates plenty of modern features, you’ve just found it!

Pros

  • PNP and NPN transistor tester
  • Measures variety of units
  • Backlit screen
  • Built-in stand
  • Zero adjustment
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Slow to give reading
  • Some reports of faulty units

Greenlee – Dmm, 600V Ac/Dc

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While this autoranging multimeter from Greenlee is a bit on the expensive side of the spectrum, its enhanced features and user-friendly design more than make up for it! This device is rated for CAT III safety (600V to 1000V), has a durable construction, features a large backlit display, and boasts a useful “hold” feature. When you throw in its lifetime warranty, this is really a deal you’ll kick yourself for missing out on!

Pros

  • Autoranging
  • Measures variety of units
  • Large backlit display
  • Data hold feature
  • Durable construction
  • Simple design
  • Lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Slow to power on
  • Leads are not high-quality

AstroAI Digital Multimeter with Ohm Volt Amp and Diode

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If value for money is what you’re after, then look no further than this digital multimeter from AstroAI. This is the kind of device that makes you do a doubletake and ask yourself, “That costs how much?”  This multimeter has many of the same features as the other units on our list—versatility, an easy-to-read display, a durable construction, and even a data hold function—at a steal of a price. While it’s not ideal for everyday professional use, this is the perfect multimeter for amateur electrical workers, school projects, or avid DIYers. It also comes with a 1-year warranty (and awesome customer support) to give you that extra peace of mind.

Pros

  • Measures variety of units
  • Large backlit display
  • Data hold feature
  • Overload protection
  • Drop protection
  • Built-in kickstand
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Not great for AC measurements
  • Not designed for long-term use

Frequently Asked Questions

Any time electricity is involved, fear and intimidation are natural responses. To help you better prepare for using your new multimeter—and to quell any fears you might have—we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about this device.

Is a multimeter dangerous?

As long as the manufacturer has tested the device for safety—and as long as you use the device properly and with care—multimeters are generally safe to use.

Two key factors to consider regarding the multimeter’s safety are its CAT rating and intended use. A CAT I multimeter is perfectly safe for tasks that fall within that category, but would be extremely dangerous to use for a CAT IV-type task, for example.

There are also a couple of steps you can take to make the process even safer:

  • Read the instructions and any warnings before using the multimeter.
  • Make sure not to touch the bare metal ends while using the device.

How much does a multimeter cost?

You can find multimeters in a variety of price ranges, with the most basic models starting at around $10 and advanced professional models running upwards of $200. That said, you should expect to spend anywhere from $30 to $100 for a quality model that will stand up to casual or moderate use.

Which multimeter is best?

Simply put, the best multimeter is the one that best meets your needs. This means that it:

  • can measure the units you need it to.
  • is suited for the type of measuring tasks you’ll perform.
  • offers enough accuracy for your intended use.
  • falls within your budget.

Keep these factors in mind as you peruse our picks for the best multimeters!

Conclusion

A multimeter is a pretty sophisticated tool, but we hope you’re no longer feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. With the insight you’ve gleaned from this article, you should have the knowledge and confidence needed to make the best multimeter purchase for you and your needs!