There are many different types of multimeters on the market and it can often be very difficult to determine which one is best for you. The biggest challenge can often be knowing why the prices can often be drastically different from as low as $20 to up to $500. The question becomes why would you spend so much on a multimeter if the cheaper one says it can do all of the same things?
To sum it up into a few words really, it’s all about life expectancy, safety, and accuracy.
When looking at cheap multimeters that can range from $15-50 USD, you will get a multimeter which will still do the job for most simple tasks.
Durability: The biggest drawback to a cheap multimeter is going to be the durability. You can expect them to last a year or so, but don’t expect this to be a piece of equipment that will last much more than that. Additionally, they typically will not be able to absorb the impact of being dropped which often happens in rough work environments.
Fuses and shock resistant: Cheaper multimeters are typically made with only one small inexpensive fuse which is mostly inadequate for handling unexpected arc flashes and accidental shorts. While doing common tasks this may not be an issue, but in unknown electrical situations when this happens on a cheaper multimeter it can often ruin the device.
Display: The display on a digital multimeter can often be a big factor when purchasing one. Cheaper models in normal light situations will often be readable, however, they mostly do not come with a backlight for in low-light situations. When that happens, you need to get an additional light source or flashlight. Additionally, on many of the cheaper LCD screens, you cannot see the readout from certain angles.
Battery Access: Many times, cheaper multimeters require you to completely disassemble the multimeter to open the casing in order to replace the batteries. This isn’t completely bad, but each time you do it the screws wear down and dust/dirt can get inside the multimeter which can cause it long-term damage.
Longevity: You can expect a more expensive multimeter to be built with more of a rounded corner which helps to reduce and absorb the impact of bumps and accidental drops. They often are built with both a hard-resilient plastic as well as a rubber molding around the side which gives it an even better resistance to accidents.
Screen Resolution: The resolution of most high-end multimeters is clear and crisp and automatically detect low-light situations to turn on the bright backlight. These are made to ensure even when working under a car or in a dark room when there is no light source you still can read the screen without the need for additional light sources. They also often have additional notifications on it illustrating if it’s ohms, ac, dc, volts, amps, etc.
Battery/fuse Compartment: The more expensive multimeters have a simple latch that opens to access both the batteries and fuses so they can easily be removed and replaced without affecting the rest of the multimeter.
Accuracy: Most more high-end multimeters come with True RMS technology which helps to eliminate any interference when making measurements. True RMS is a requirement when working with computer electronics and other highly sensitive equipment in which exact accuracy is needed.
Which one should you buy?
No matter who you ask, they will always tell you that the best brand of multimeters by far is the Fluke brand. They have the #1 best multimeters on the market for durability, safety, and accuracy although they always come at a price.
When do you look to buy a multimeter, start with determining what do you need it for?
- Cheaper: If you a hobbyist or DIY home/vehicle owner, then it’s best to go with a cheaper multimeter as you will not need the high-end capabilities that the expensive ones have.
- Expensive: On the flip side, if you work at an automotive shop or are a professional electrician then you should ensure to purchase a more expensive high-end multimeter which will provide you with the long-term lifetime and accuracy you need to provide your customers with excellent service.
Suggested types of multimeters
Here are a few of our suggestions for the best multimeters both expensive and inexpensive types.
- Innova 3320: This Innova branded multimeter is one of the best on the market at an affordable rate. It’s compact, precise and versatile for most automotive needs. It includes functions like auto shut-off capability, large display, and a wide range of measurements of both AC and DC. Read more on Amazon.com
- Mastech MS8229: This affordable multimeter has quite a few great functions for most of home and automotive needs including measuring up to milliamps and microamps. It also has both auto and manual ranging capabilities and can measure capacitance and frequency. Check this model on Amazon.com
- Fluke 117: This Fluke multimeter is truly the best on the market including their well known True RMS technology which provides you with the most precise measurements. It also allows for both AC, DC, ohms, capacitance, continuity, and voltage measurement. The casing is as well very sturdy and ensures a long-life for this device. See more pictures on Amazon.com
- Fluke 87-V Digital: This is the ideal multimeter desired by most professional electricians. It has guaranteed long-term durability, accuracy, and functionality. Not only does it do most normal measurements, it can also measure temperatures with a built-in thermometer. With both auto and manual ranging capabilities it’s good for all situations that may come up. Find out more on Amazon.com here!
Whichever multimeter you choose, make sure to keep in mind what you need it for first. If you’re in a professional business, make sure to go with a more expensive well-known brand. Otherwise, stick with a more affordable one for most home uses.