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Voltmeter vs Multimeter: Which is Right for Your Needs?

person using multimeter

If you have any experience with electrical work, you have most likely used both a voltmeter and a multimeter in your career. But for the layperson who doesn’t know which is which, it can be a little confusing. Both of them read volts. Both use a similar electromagnetic current exchange system to determine the amount of voltage. But that is where their similarities end.

To determine whether or not you need a voltmeter or a multimeter, the work you do will answer the question for you. Voltmeters only do one job, whereas multimeters wear several hats. Allow us to elaborate below.

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Voltmeter

The voltmeter is simply a meter for measuring voltage, either with a needle or a digital readout. A volt is a numerical unit displaying the difference in potential being measured between two nodes of current. These meters show the results of that difference. The currents can be alternating or direct. Most voltmeters can read both.

Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter plugged

A very fine wire coil inside the voltmeter is suspended in an electromagnetic field, and, after connecting leads to the device to be checked, it tells the current flow. During the flow, the coil begins to spin, triggering the needle on the analog models. Digital models don’t use a coil, and work a little differently, but are more accurate.

These are best to use for simple applications, such as testing the voltage on a socket, or if checking a breaker box before swapping out a circuit blade. They are direct, and there is no miscommunication with the readout. If it says “zero” on the dial, you are unpowered. If it says anything else, you have current. Simple and safe.

Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Safe
  • Analog and digital
Cons
  • Only one feature

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Multimeter

A handy tool for the journeyman electrician, the multimeter is a comprehensive tool for anyone who needs to know more than just the voltage of a device or circuit. A multimeter measures volts, but also measures units of resistance and currents, ohms, and amps. Just a twist of the center dial, and you are measuring a different stream.

multimeter
Image: Pixabay

The best units go beyond those simple needs and can also gauge temperature, humidity, frequency, induction, and even acidity, making them very versatile. They are very accurate and can measure a wide band, which in volts is from 200mV to 2,000V.

Analog multimeters are sometimes called “VOMs,” which is short for Voltage-Ohms-Amperes. Newer, digital models are often abbreviated “DMM” for, you guessed it, Digital Multimeter. Because the different measurements require different internal resistors to get accurate measurements, they sometimes have different external ports to which you must connect the test wires, so that you can get an accurate reading.

The lower-end models with limited functions have two main leads, but the more expensive units covering the spectrum of electrical needs have many ports for the leads to plug in to and have different internal resistors that measure the different currents.

Pros
  • Multifunctional
  • Digital and analog
  • Very accurate
Cons
  • Often expensive


Choosing Based on Need

You have considered buying a voltmeter or multimeter, so why? What is your immediate need for such a thing? Do you want to know if an outlet or light fixture in your home has juice, or are you planning on rewiring an entire room? Do you have a long-term need or just a few simple household chores that it will make simpler and safer?

Another question worth considering is if you had either in your hand, would you know how to use it? It is a lot to ponder, but if you intend to add one of these to your toolbox, you already have most of these answers in your head. Now it comes down to specifics. Digital or analog? And how much do you want to spend?

Here are some facts to help you decide:

Voltmeter
  • Used mostly for household purposes
  • Inexpensive
  • Plugin or lead
  • Requires limited training to understand
  • Safe to use
  • Generally for shorter-term use
  • Digital and analog similarly priced
Multimeter
  • Used for many purposes across multiple professions
  • Can be expensive for models with lots of features
  • Leads only, with multiple ports for advanced features
  • Requires some knowledge of higher electrical concepts to understand
  • Safe to use
  • An investment if using it in your work life long-term
  • Digital is much more expensive than analog

One of the significant upsides of both is that they draw power from the source that you are measuring, so batteries aren’t often required, but occasionally, the digital multimeters do require them to save information if needed.

Our Top Picks

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Voltmeter Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter
  • Large readout
  • User friendly
  • US plug
  • Our Favorite Multimeter UYIGAO Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000 UYIGAO Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000
  • Backlit digital display
  • Lots of features
  • Display freeze function
  • Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter

    Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter

    We looked through many interesting digital and analog voltmeters and chose the Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter. It is extremely simple to use. Just plug it into any socket, and it gives you an accurate digital readout in large, clear numbers.

    Pros
    • Large readout
    • User friendly
    • US plug
    Cons
    • Not entirely accurate

    UYIGAO Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000

    UYIGAO Digital Multimeter

    For our top choice in multimeters (and the journeymen in the audience will love this), we chose the UYIGAO Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000. This excellent tool can do it all. It accurately measures almost anything and shows on a 3-inch digital backlit display. And it comes with a hold function, allowing you to freeze the reading for transcription if needed.

    Pros
    • Backlit digital display
    • Lots of features
    • Display freeze function
    Cons
    • Experienced electricians only

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    Conclusion

    For our top picks, we chose the best voltmeter on the market, the Eversame Flat US Plug AC 80-300V LCD Digital Voltmeter. We think for your volt reading needs, it will work perfectly, and anyone can use it. As far as professionals, we think the UYIGAO Digital Multimeter TRMS 6000 is just what you have been looking for in a multimeter. It has no flaws, save being a little expensive.

    We hope this has helped you better grasp the difference between a voltmeter and a multimeter. They aren’t all that tough to comprehend when you break them down to the need they are intended to satisfy.


    Featured Image: Pixabay

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