A multimeter is a necessity in our line of work. Any multimeter is better than not having one, but here are some of my favorite picks for me and for students that range in price from $20 to $50. Each one is a compromise between cost and performance. Choose what works for your budget. The best by far is a Fluke, but at $300 plus, we can’t afford them, let your future employer pay for those.
You really can’t go wrong spending money on a multimeter. Even if you have one, it’s worth it to have two (measuring voltage and current at the same time. I probably have a dozen laying around the house and car not including the Flukes I use at work.
My top brands for affordability, quality and durability are Extech and Amprobe. There are plenty of other quality brands, but these two consistently produce great units at a good price. I have also included some of the cheaper oversees versions that seem to have enough quality, I would stay away from anything under $20. At the very least you need to have one good quality multimeter, and for $20 you can easily find something that will last you a lifetime.
There are 2 main types of multimeters. Auto-ranging and Non-Autoranging. Without autoranging you have to manually select the range of values you want to measure, which can get frustrating when you are first starting out.
$57 – Extech EX330 – Auto-ranging Mini (All-Around Winner)
$24 – Extech MN35 – Digital Mini (Budget Winner) Not Autoranging
$23 – Crenova MS8233D – Autoranging
Here is a low cost oversees option that has auto-ranging. I have limited experience with this one, but it’s autoranging and $23. I have purchased this one and will be testing it for the $100 workbench challenge.
$40 – Amprobe AM-510 – Auto-ranging
$100 – Amprobe AM-570 Industrial Autoranging w/ TrueRMS
I’m putting this one here because it’s my most accurate multimeter on my electronics workbench at home and it’s what I use when I’m not at work using a more expensive and calibrated unit. I’m not advocating to spend $100 on a multimeter. $23 gets you a very nice one. But if anyone is curious what I use as my main at home, this is it.
Keep in mind, I’m just trying to save headaches and wasted money, at the end of the day, it’s your choice…
Multimeters that I wouldn’t Buy
Anything under $20 and things that look like these:
A B C
Why? you might ask. Exhibit A costs $5-$10 from harbor freight and there are many that are the exact same circuit selling for $10 to $15 on ebay/amazon. The wires in the test leads are like 3 strands of the finest (and by finest I mean small diameter) copper I’ve ever seen, they break easily, the # of digits is barely adequate for even rough estimates and overall it’s mainly just a waste of money that you will end up wanting to replace later anyways. And let’s say you want one of these anyways (like for having a 2nd multimeter which I fully endorse), you can get them for free, just search for the harbor freight coupon online. There is nothing wrong with a cheap multimeter, it’s just that you want at least one good one and for $20 you can get a great multimeter. Ok, next… Exhibit B has functions on it that don’t even make sense to me, I’ve never seen some of these functions on any multimeter EVER…. and exhibit C breaks when you look at it the wrong way. I will admit that Exhibit C is a step up from A but it’s not a bargain for the price. I don’t care what the amazon reviews say. Look… if you are saving money with PDF books, you can afford a decent $20 budget multimeter that will last you a lifetime, of which I have listed several good options above. Even if you graduate and decide to change careers, a good multimeter can test batteries and verify that you have power in your house….