Here’s a nightmare scenario. You’re ready to test a circuit with a multimeter in hand. After plugging in the leads, you touch the probes to your wires and wait for a reading. KABOOM! Plastic shrapnel flies through the room as the smell of burnt plastic fills the air. Wisps of grey smoke float past your eyes as you look down at the charred marks on the palms of your hands.
Of course, this is an extreme example, though not unheard of. Dealing with electricity can be dangerous, and which tool you trust to measure those currents is an important decision that can have serious implications. However, don’t let this scare you away! A quality multimeter will give accurate measurements of many types of current without risk of personal injury. We’ve tested a slew of them, and the following reviews cover the ten best digital multimeters available today.
|AstroAIDigital TRMS 6000|
Best Budget Buy
|Extech EX330||1 Year||4.40/5|
|Amprobe AM-510||1 Year||4.35/5|
If you’re looking for one of the best digital multimeters on the market, we have to suggest checking out the AstroAI TRMS 6000. This multimeter features double protection since it’s equipped with two explosion-proof ceramic fuse tubes. Safety being of primary concern, this multimeter is well protected against mishaps and injury. This auto-ranging meter can do a wide range of tests including current, voltage, resistance, capacitance, temperature, and frequency. It also has a built-in multi-function socket for testing capacitors and transistors.
These very useful extra features are part of what makes this multimeter so exceptional. The backlit LCD makes it very easy to see, even in dark areas. The data hold feature will ensure you don’t lose a measurement that you forgot to record. We also thought the hanging magnet and kickstand were some of the most useful extras on this device. That said, the magnet did tend to pick up little metal objects like nails and debris. This device is a great value as is, but when you consider the modest price, it’s pretty hard to beat.
Although the INNOVA 3320 doesn’t offer all the extra functions and fancy features of some of its higher-priced competitors, it does give accurate readings for basic tests at a very attractive price point. However, that wasn’t what led us to believe it’s the best multimeter for the money. What made us appreciate this auto-ranging multimeter was the rugged design. If you’re like us, your multimeter gets tossed in the tool bag to be remembered only next time it’s needed. For such people, the protective rubber guards that surround this little device will come in handy.
This multimeter includes just one set of standard probes, but for the price, it’s hard to complain. With a 10-megohm input impedance, its low price doesn’t hinder its abilities. The only place this tool needs improvement is quality control. Our first one didn’t function. But once we exchanged it for one that did, we were very impressed with this little multimeter.
Fluke is the premier name in professional electrician’s tools. This multimeter is about as good as it gets, but it’s very expensive. Unless using it professionally on a daily basis, most people would do just as well with something that costs a fraction of the price. That said, this is the cream of the crop. To start, this is a true RMS multimeter, allowing for very accurate measurements of non-linear loads. It offers a numerical display or a graphical one, both being very quick to respond. We found this to be an utterly reliable piece of equipment.
For safety, the case is designed with a blast shield, so even if a catastrophic failure should occur, you’re protected from the brunt of the explosion. This also makes it very robust and durable, easily able to survive endless trips in a tool bag, though at this price, you’ll probably never want to just toss it in there. But for that premium price, we were surprised that no case was included. After spending so much on this tool, we’d like it to stay in good condition.
The featured non-contact AC voltage detector built into the Extech EX330 is a very handy function that makes this multimeter worth considering for anyone doing a lot of basic home electrical work. Simply hold the meter near a power source and it will let you know whether it’s live or not! Too bad this feature was unreliable when we tested it. While functioning to some degree, it wasn’t trustworthy enough for us to put our faith in it.
Other features include a host of measurement capabilities such as capacitance, frequency, and temperature. The impact-resistant covering keeps it safe from being dropped or being jostled around with the other tools. We did find that testing resistance was a bit of a headache requiring knob-selection and multiple button pushes. The LED display is easy to read, but it’s also very easy to scratch and not as durable as other models. It’s priced a bit higher than our top pick, and we don’t feel it’s quite as capable or convenient, which is why it’s in the fourth position.
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Another multimeter to offer the non-contact voltage detection, the Amprobe AM-510 also has some other notable abilities. First of all is its ability to meet CAT-IV 600V and CAT-III 1000V standards. This is a very impressive feature, even more so when you consider the modest price that this device is available for. The backlit LCD display also offers bar graph functionality. For the darkest conditions, a built-in flashlight can illuminate your work, and the kickstand can help you position it to do so.
We loved the idea of this multimeter, and if everything had worked as it should, then it would have placed much higher up on this list. In reality, several settings on ours didn’t work and wouldn’t give a reading at all. This may be a quality control issue, or it may be a design flaw. Either way, it was a disappointing experience that held this multimeter back from being one of the best.
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If you’re shopping solely based on price, you’ll probably be attracted to the budget pricing of the BSIDE ZT100 pocket digital multimeter. For the price, we were quite surprised at the quality of the LCD display. Backlit for easy reading, it was very visible in low light conditions.
To conserve batteries, it features an auto shut-down function. To our dismay, this was far more of an annoyance than a helpful function. As soon as you turn on the device, the countdown begins. If you’re working away and measuring your currents, you’re probably not thinking about pressing buttons to keep your device active, because unfortunately, simply making measurements with the probes won’t do it. Making matters worse, when you turn the device back on, it returns to default mode instead of your last setting. This can be a real time waster and very frustrating. Despite the low-price and decent functionality, these major hindrances prevent this multimeter from getting a higher recommendation.
For the low price, we didn’t expect too much from the Mastech MS8268. It turned out to be an adequate performer, though not one of the best. This meter does have some features that may make it suitable for someone new to testing electrical currents. For instance, it’s designed to help you get the right switch setting and probe input combination. If something isn’t right, the incorrect jack will light up red, and a warning sound will also be emitted, letting you know that your settings need adjustment.
The auto shut-off feature on this device can be turned off, sort of. The best you can do is set it for 15 minutes. For most applications, this is probably fine, but when performing extensive testing, this may not be enough. We also noticed that the display takes quite a long time to register changes. This isn’t the end of the world, but it did get frustrating when trying to make many measurements quickly since it slowed us down. This device does have a backlit display, but it’s flawed. The light stays on for less than 10 seconds, which means you won’t give you hands-free functionality in a low-light environment.
Two features excited us about the Klein Tools MM500 auto-ranging multimeter. First, it’s IP-67 rated dust and waterproof. Next, it’s got a CAT-IV safety rating of 600V which is rare for any multimeter, especially for this price. It’s not the cheapest on the market, but for what you get, we thought it was priced fairly. Another thing we appreciated was the 10-foot drop protection, making this a rugged and durable device that you don’t have to worry about.
With such great features, why doesn’t this multimeter rank higher on our list? Simple. It’s not reliable. It gave a zero reading on a live wire, which could potentially be very dangerous. It only happened once, but it was enough to make us worry. We also got several other readings that weren’t quite accurate, giving us more doubts about this device. Despite the rugged build, the lack of reliability or accuracy means that it’s not one of the better models available.
With an impressive feature list usually seen on multimeters many times more expensive, we had doubts about the Tacklife DM01M from the start. It lived up to our expectations. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find more features stuffed into a lower-priced multimeter. For starters, it has a non-contact voltage tester, a backlit LCD display, and a built-in flashlight. It meets safety specifications for 600V CAT-IV and 1,000V CAT-III, which is pretty awesome at this price.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get ours to give any sort of accurate reading. The main reason being that the leads just don’t connect to the inputs properly. They are too loose, experiencing far more play than is acceptable. This makes it pretty much unusable. Truthfully, this is very likely a quality control issue, and everyone may not have the same experience. If it works, this is a great set of features for the price. If it doesn’t work, then it’s pretty expensive for a paperweight.
The TekPower TP9605BT multimeter’s claim to fame is that it’s the first one to connect to your smartphone. If you download the app onto your phone, you can get all sorts of awesome functionality such as… well, not much at all. It was very underwhelming, a complete disappointment. While this isn’t the most expensive unit, it is higher priced than other models with way better functionality. It seems like they’re charging for the smartphone connectivity, which is just a gimmick.
This is one of the only multimeters we tested that did not feature an auto shut-off. If you forget to switch the device off, expect it to be dead the next time you need it. In pictures, we thought it looked pretty rugged. In reality, it feels like cheap plastic and we don’t trust it to hold up to the chaos of a tool bag. Overall, we suggest investing your money in one of the better multimeters that ranks higher on this list. You’ll have a better experience, and you may even spend less!
Now that you know which multimeters we suggest, you may wonder exactly what our comparisons are based on. In this section, we will cover the most important aspects of a digital multimeter that you should keep in mind before making a decision about which one to purchase.
There are two types of electrical current that your multimeter should measure, AC and DC. While most of the multimeters available today will measure both of these, not all of them do.
AC stands for alternating current, and it’s when the electricity is continuously flowing back and forth in both directions. This is the type of current that is present in the electricity powering your home, so electronics that plug-in will all utilize AC current.
DC is direct current that flows continuously in only one direction. You’ll find DC current in all battery-powered electronics.
Most multimeters are going to measure the basic voltage, current, and resistance. These are measured in volts, amps, and ohms, respectively.
When you start getting into the higher-end multimeters, you’re going to start seeing more options for what can be measured. These can include temperature, continuity, capacitance, resistance, and frequency. While you may not need all of these functions, it could still be a good idea to prepare for the future by getting a multimeter with more options than you think you need right now.
Do you know the exact range of the current you’re testing? Often, the answer is no. In such cases, an auto-range multimeter can save you a lot of time and headache trying to determine the exact range to get a precise measurement. With an auto-range meter, you’ll simply select the type of current you’d like to measure, and the device will give you the readout. If using a manual-range meter, you’ll have to go through each one of the individual denominations until you get the most accurate reading. Unless you know exactly the range you’re looking for, most people will find it easier to use an auto-range multimeter. On top of this, the auto-range meters usually include a function that will allow you to measure manually, so there’s no advantage to skipping this feature.
Depending on which model you choose and how many different types of current it can measure, your multimeter will have one or more sets of probes that are appropriate for different applications. Some of them are designed to measure by contact, while others will grip the item you’re trying to measure. Some of the different types of probes include alligator, grabber/hook, SMD tweezer, socket, and temperature.
Some cheaper multimeters have only two ports to connect your probes to. These are the common port and the input. On such devices, the input will be responsible for measuring all of the different types of current. This can be dangerous since the levels of electricity are so different between them. With a model that has only a single input, you must be very careful about your settings. Measuring a current that’s too powerful for where the multimeter is set can result in dangerous experiences, even including the device exploding.
With higher-quality multimeters, there should be separate inputs for different measurements. Generally, one input will be responsible for measuring current, while the other input will handle resistance and voltage. This is much safer than a single-input model since it removes a lot of the chance of major user error.
The price range of digital multimeters varies quite drastically from the cheaper products made overseas to the high-end meters used by professionals. While it may seem like there isn’t much difference between them upon first cursory glance, the reality is quite different. Not only is there a great difference in what these devices can measure, but there is also a pretty notable difference in how safe you’ll be while using them!
It’s a pretty fair assumption that none of us want to get injured while working with electrical current. While some multimeters are available for bargain-barrel prices, you’re better off spending a bit more to ensure that your device doesn’t malfunction and blow-up during use. It sounds scary, but it’s been known to happen with low-quality meters.
On the other hand, you also don’t need to go spending an exorbitant amount on your multimeter. Most professionals agree that the sweet spot should be between $40-$100, depending on which features you’re prioritizing. In this price range, you’ll find quality units with plenty of functionality that are safe enough to be trusted with a wide range of electrical devices and currents.
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Input impedance is essentially a measure of how much impact your multimeter will have on the circuit it is measuring. If your multimeter has a low input impedance, it will measure the circuit in parallel, decreasing the resistance. This will give a faulty reading. Most digital multimeters today have very high input impedance of 1 megohm or even greater. This is high enough not to interfere with the circuit’s performance and give an accurate reading. In general, the more sensitive your electronics are or the more powerful of current your measuring, the higher input impedance you will want to look for.
There are plenty of features available on digital multimeters that aren’t exactly necessary for proper function, but they do a lot to improve the usefulness of a particular device. For instance, a backlit display. Sometimes when measuring electrical currents, you’ll find yourself in a low-light area such as a basement or an attic. In these situations, having a backlit screen on your multimeter can be a lifesaver!
Other features that you may look for in a multimeter include a hanging magnet and kickstand. When you’re holding a probe in each hand, you don’t have a spare hand to hold the meter. A magnet will allow you to go hands-free by attaching it to a wall or tool or anything else nearby. This can even be great when working from your back since you can attach it overhead where you can see it. Similarly, a kickstand will allow you to set the meter on a flat surface where you can easily see it without the risk of knocking it over.
Some meters offer different measurement functions, different probes, multiple inputs, and even graphical displays. While many of these are not necessary for the average user of this tool, you may find them to be very important for your particular use.
If you’re shocked by how much there is to know about digital multimeters, then our reviews and buyer’s guide should help you simplify the decision and arm you with the facts necessary to make the right choice. The AstroAI TRMS 6000 is the one that we recommend the most. Starting with leading safety features like explosion-proof fuses, and moving on to conveniences such as the backlit LCD, hanging magnet, and kickstand, we feel that this device is the best choice overall.
We felt that the INNOVA 3320 was the best budget buy thanks to its durable design and ample functionality. And when you want the best of the best and don’t mind paying for it, the Fluke 117 is a professional multimeter offering true RMS capability, a graphical display, and even blast shield housing. We are confident that any of these three multimeters will serve you well on all of your future projects and jobs.
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Featured Image Credit By: TekPower TP9605BT, amazon
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!