A Multimeter Buyers Guide

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A multimeter is a handheld, multi-purpose measuring device for electricity. Just as you’d use scales for weight; a jug for capacity; or a tape measure for distance, a multimeter is used to measure current (amps), voltage (volts) and resistance (ohms).

In terms of accuracy, most multimeters claim to be +/- 2% so you’re guaranteed to get accurate readings quickly and easily meaning detecting an electrical fault on your toaster or hard drive is something you can do yourself at home!

This could potentially save you a fortune on calling out an electrician who’ll charge you an arm and a leg only to tell you there’s a ‘fault’ in the circuit – you could have identified that yourself using a multimeter!!

Best Pick Multimeter

TACKLIFE Multimeter, TRMS 6000 Counts Auto-Ranging Digital Volt Meter with Measuring Voltage, Current, Resistance, Capacitance, Temperature, Continuity, Frequency and Diode, Transistors - DM01M
237 Reviews
TACKLIFE Multimeter, TRMS 6000 Counts Auto-Ranging Digital Volt Meter with Measuring Voltage, Current, Resistance, Capacitance, Temperature, Continuity, Frequency and Diode, Transistors - DM01M
  • 【Full Feature & Easy Operation】- The best full-function multi tester enables to test AC/DC Voltage, AC/DC current, resistance, live line, diode, capacitance, temperature, frequency and beep continuity etc. It projects to sample about 2-3 times/s with max TRMS 6000 counts. Multi-function use can be realized by one rotary switch.
  • 【Larger LCD Backlight & Wider Application】- 3 inches in diameter, larger LCD sreen with backlight and rear light allows you to work freely in the dark. Great supporter for various electric measuring environment, perfectly concerning needs of home and workplace. The tester is not only suitable for beginners, maintenance enthusiasts, but also for professional electricians and technicians.
  • 【NCV, Live Line Test & Temperature Measuring】- Use NCV function to detecting the AC voltage in a Non-Contact way which avoids being any possible electric shock. Live Line Test to identify the null/live line. Temperature measurement allow you to know the temperature of the objects without directly hand touching.
  • 【Safety and Reliable】- This full featured multimeter meets CE, ROHS and en61010-1-2-030 CAT III 1000v CAT IV 600v en61010-2-033 standards. Overload & short-circuit protection cover all ranges, to ensure long-term service life.
  • 【What You Get】- 5.1 x Tacklife DM01M Advanced Digital Multimeter, 1 x Test Leads (Pair), 1 x K-Type Thermocouple, 4 x AA Batteries, 1 x User Manual, 24-Month Warranty, Risk Free Return within 30 Days. (Red/Black Random Delivery: Red ones found in the reviews for reference)

You might still be thinking that such a multifunctional device is intended only for professional use but you couldn’t be more wrong! If you’re a keen do-it-yourselfer, a multimeter will prove to be a relatively inexpensive yet indispensable addition to your DIY toolkit! Whether it’s determining wiring capacity or checking your car battery, a multimeter will obtain the information you need quickly, accurately and safely.

Not only that, but they’re incredibly versatile – measuring current, voltage and resistance are just the basic functions you can expect from a multimeter; there are more sophisticated models available which offer advanced options capable of measuring microamps, decibels, rotations per minute, even temperature and humidity!!

Only got 5 minutes

Analogue Vs Digital

There are two main types of multimeter available: analogue and digital.

Digital: the most popular and readily-available type of multimeter; digital models have a digital screen which displays the desired measurement reading; digital multimeters are regarded as being more accurate and reliable than their predecessor – the needle analogue multimeter – however they can take time to stabilise when obtaining a reading.  

Analogue: the original style of multimeter; analogue models display measurements via a needle (think of your old kitchen scales!). Reading and logging data can be difficult with analogue models but they are preferred by some professionals when working with particularly sensitive measurements.

Multimeter Uses

  • Can detect electrical faults and faulty connections in appliances, circuits, power supplies and wiring systems
  • To debug a circuit
  • To test how well current is travelling through a circuit
  • To determine the level of resistance present within a circuit
  • To check the inductance of coils
  • To measure line voltage, DC and AC current
  • To check the health of your car battery
  • To check a car’s 12V socket
  • To test circuits to check they’re powered at the correct voltage

Regardless of what you’re using your multimeter for, it’s vital that you check the multimeter maximum voltage and current ratings to be sure they’re greater than the voltage range you intend on measuring.

Multimeter models & cost

Model Cost Pros & Cons
PenAround £20 – £30 Compact, pen-shaped low-budget multimeters Handheld
Have a single test probe for non-contact AC voltage detection
Limited functions
Low-priced
Handheld Ranging from around £8 – £150 Most common type of multimeter
Cuboid in shape
Easy to use
Large selection dial
3 ports
Bench or BoxRanging from £220 – £1000+ High-end models
Suitable for professional use
Capacity to test a wide range of circuitry
4+ ports
Large setting selection
Costly
Robust digital/LCD display

Best Budget Multimeter

ULTRICSÂ Digital LCD Multimeter Voltmeter Ammeter OHM AC DC Circuit Checker Tester Buzzer 1000V 10A Probes
  • #1 DIGITAL MULTIMETER: Upgraded 1000V, 10A Probes. DC Voltage Range, AC Voltage, Ampere Check, Diode Check, Battery Check, Transistor HFE Check, Resistance Check, Continuity Check etc.
  • RELIABLE & BEST PERFORMANCE: Ready to use, Test Leads & 9V Battery included, Overload Protection on all ranges, Low Battery Voltage Indication. Double Insulation with a stand for great viewing angle.
  • LARGE LCD BACK LIGHT DISPLAY: Makes the reading clear and visible from different angle, Easy and clearly read the display value in low light and in dark place. Data Hold Function works like a dream.
  • DURABLE & LONG LASTING: Can be hand held or stood using its fold out stand, Removable Thick rubber casing protects Multimeter from splashes & Minor Bumps. Comes with 12 months replacement warranty
  • MULTIPURPOSE DIY TESTING TOOL: Electrical General Multi Measurement device / tool, very useful for Laboratory, Education, Factory, Workshop. Recommended by many professionals / engineers. Buy only original ULTRICS brand for peace of mind.

Multimeter checklist

Regardless of your budget, you need to invest in a multimeter which offers at least the following three fundamental functions:

  • The capability to select voltage ranges
  • Ohm (resistance) measurement
  • The option to switch between AC and DC voltages

Voltage range

Also known as the ‘tolerance range’. It’s important you establish how much current you’ll typically be reading so you’re able to set your multimeter to that range e.g. if you’re testing the 12V socket in your car, you’d need to set your multimeter to the 20V setting. Whatever the expected reading, the multimeter should be set to slightly above that tolerance to allow for any small margins of error.

Resistance measurement

Any decent multimeter should have the option to measure resistance, which is particularly useful when identifying breaks or faults in a circuit; the lower the ohm reading, the less resistance there is present in the circuit.

AC/DC options

Again, any decent multimeter, even budget models, will have the option to select both AC and DC ranges typical of UK electrical goods. When deciding on the best multimeter for you, it’s always worth checking that it has the ranges you need e.g. if you intend on using your multimeter primarily for computers and technology, then investing in a multimeter with a decent DC range is what you’ll need.

Multimeter digital components

The face of a digital multimeter typically includes the following components:

Component Description
DisplayA digital/LCD display on the front of the device where measurement readings can be viewed.
Selection dial/ Rotary switch A large switch or knob, usually located centrally, where the type of measurement/unit of measurement is selected.
PortsAlso referred to as connection points; usually located at the front of the multimeter, where one end of the multimeter’s probes are attached.
Input jacksThe point where the test leads are inserted.
Wires Your multimeter will come with at least two wires – one red and one black; one end of each wire will have a connector which is inserted into the ports.
ProbesOn the other end of each multimeter wire, you will find a probe; there are different types of probe available but the most common is alligator clips or test probes. More sophisticated multimeter models will come with multiple probe types.
ButtonsUsed to select the various functions; button layout and configuration will vary according to brand and model.

Voltage, current and resistance

Voltage, current, and resistance are all measurable quantities relating to the flow of electricity and a multimeter will allow you to obtain readings for any one of these.

Voltage

  • Measured in volts (V)
  • The driving force (electrical pressure) behind the flow of a current
  • How ‘hard’ electricity is being ‘pushed’ through a circuit
  • Also referred to as ‘potential difference’ or ‘electromotive force’

Current

  • Measured in amps (A)
  • How much electricity is flowing through the circuit
  • The higher the current, the more electricity is flowing
  • If the current is low, then it is measured in milli-amps (mA)
  • 1000 mA = 1A

Resistance

  • Measured in ohms  (Ω)
  • How difficult it is for electricity to flow through something
  • The higher the resistance, the more difficult it is for electricity to flow
  • The property of a material that limits current flow
  • Resistance to alternating current is referred to as ‘impedance’

Additional features

All multimeters should have voltage, current and resistance measuring capability otherwise they wouldn’t be worthy of the ‘multi’ in ‘multimeter’!!

If you have a decent budget, you may well be considering a more sophisticated multimeter model – the more you’re willing to spend, the more likely it is you’ll find a multimeter with plenty of ‘extra’ features:

  • Various types of probes included with the multimeter e.g. alligator clips, IC hooks and test probes
  • Autoranging capability – a handy, clever feature which automatically changes the multimeter’s range to the setting that best matches the circuit it’s taking its readings from
  • Temperature probe – allows the user to measure the temperature of electronic devices which can be useful when diagnosing particularly elusive circuit problems
  • Durable, hard-wearing casing, usually rubber, to protect the multimeter from the weather; from water; any sudden impact such as dropping; and any prolonged exposure to extreme cold or heat
  • A high-contrast, backlit LED screen offering bold, clear readings on digital multimeters enables readings to still be obtained in conditions where lighting and visibility conditions are poor
  • An integrated, non-contact AV detector allows the user to obtain accurate AC voltage readings without any physical contact, minimising any potential safety risks
  • A ‘data hold’ and/or ‘maximum value hold’ function gives you the option to store current/voltage/resistance readings for future reference, without the hassle of having to manually record the data elsewhere 
  • Integrated optional kick-stand for quick and easy hands-free operation

Best of the Rest

Sale
AstroAI Digital Multimeter, TRMS 6000 Counts Multimeters Manual and Auto Ranging; Measures Voltage, Current, Resistance, Continuity, Capacitance, Frequency; Tests Diodes, Transistors, Temperature
  • WIDE RANGE of tests for Voltage, Current, Resistance, Continuity, Capacitance, Frequency; Tests Diodes Transistors, Temperature
  • PROFESSIONAL LEVEL features include Auto-Ranging capability, and True RMS for measuring both AC Current and Voltage
  • EASE OF USE: Convenient features like Data Hold, Large LCD Backlit Screen, Auto Shut-off and Hanging Magnet, and Kickstand make taking and recording measurements easier than ever before
  • IDEAL FOR COMMERCIAL settings where it can handle the demands of a long workday, from the durable exterior to the wide range of heavy-duty capabilities
  • Built-in F400mA/600V and F10A/600V explosion-proof ceramic fuse tubes; Double Protection, more secure and reliable; The fuses can protect the multimeter effectively; Overload protection on all ranges. 3 Year Warranty provided by AstroAI
Neoteck Multimeter Pocket Digital Multi Tester Voltmeter Ammeter Ohmmeter AC/DC Voltage Current Resistance Diodes Transistor Audible Continuity with Backlight LCD for Factory and other Social Fields
392 Reviews
Neoteck Multimeter Pocket Digital Multi Tester Voltmeter Ammeter Ohmmeter AC/DC Voltage Current Resistance Diodes Transistor Audible Continuity with Backlight LCD for Factory and other Social Fields
  • Pocket Digital Multimeter 2000 Count Pocket Multimeter, Manual Range, 2PCS 1000V 10A Test Probes Included, Very Useful for Laboratory, Education, Factory, Workshop, Recommended by Many Professionals Engineers
  • Comprehensive Set of Features Features Data Hold, Accurately Measures AC/DC Voltage, DC Current, Resistance, and More. Diode Assembly Test / Transistor P-N Junction test / Transistor hFE Test, Maximum Reading over Time and Continuity Buzzer
  • Large Backlit LCD Display Auto Polarity Display, Easy to Read Large Backlit LCD Display, Back-light Makes a Real Difference in Low Light Areas
  • Nice Protective Orange Shell with Stand Built】The Case with Our Multimeter is Some Kind of Non Slip, Slightly Soft Plastic that will Help with Drop Protection, The Stand Places the Device at a 45 Degree Angle and Makes the Screen Easy to See Hands Free
  • Included 9V Volt Battery】The Compartment Lid at the Back is Secured by One Cross Head Screw, Not Difficult to Remove at All
Sale
Digital Multimeter, Morpilot True RMS 6000 Counts Advanced Multimeter, Measure AC/DC Voltage, AC/DC Current, Resistance, Continuity, Capacitance, Frequency, Diodes, Temperature
  • 【Main Parameters】: Testing AC / DC Voltage and Current, Diode, Resistance, Capacitance, Frequency, Outer Circuit Identification, Duty Cycle, Temperature, True RMS, Acoustic Continuity Test and Live Line with 10 Auto Range, 6000 Counts Display, 3.0 inch large LCD backlight, CAT III 1000V, CAT IV 600V, 2-in-1 manual automatic measure.
  • 【2 in 1 Manual & Auto Range】 our multimeter offers both manual and automatic range selection. Auto range means that you only need to select the type of measurement, because the device can determine the measuring range by itself. The auto-range function is particularly useful if you can not estimate the expected measurement range.
  • 【Large LCD Backlit Display & Overload Protection】 With illuminated 3.0 inch display, you can easily read the value in low light conditions. Switch off the digital multimeter Automatic after 15 minutes of inactivity, ceramic fuse and thermistor protection circuit ensure high safety during the multimeter work.
  • 【MEASURE SAFETY AND EASY TO APPLY】: fast measurement, strong anti-interference ability, high precision, high sensitivities (super sensitive detection of electric field), high resolution (1/5999 = 0.017%), short circuit protection, high voltage protection, overload protection (dual ceramic fuse protection ), low power consumption (automatic shutdown function).
  • 【Wide range of applications】: Checking the house electrics (wiring, sockets, appliances, etc.) Checking the car electronics (battery, alternator, etc.) Checking circuits (electrical models, radios, electronic components, etc.) Use with hobbyists (hobbyists, DIY, etc.) Use with professional users (electricians, electronics, etc.) 2-year warranty from Morpilot. 24 hours customer service

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is the best multimeter to buy?

In order to find the best multimeter, you’ll need to be clear on the voltage range you intend on using it for. The multimeter you choose will need to have a higher voltage/current rating than what you’re intending to measure, otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the multimeter or, worse still, finding yourself on the receiving end of a nasty electric shock!

What do the multimeter symbols mean?

The three most common symbols you’re likely to see on the front of a multimeter are V, A, and Ω. ‘V’ stands for ‘volts’, which is the unit of measurement for voltage; ‘A’ stands for ‘amps’, which is the unit of measurement for current; and ‘Ω’ stands for ‘ohms’, which is used to measure resistance.

What is auto-ranging and manual ranging?

Auto-ranging multimeters automatically select the most appropriate measurement range for the circuit it’s connected to, whereas manual ranging multimeters require you to select the desired measurement range yourself. When using a manual ranging multimeter, it’s always better to go slightly above the typical range, rather than below.

Last update on 2020-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Mike Jones 155 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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