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

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

ULTRICS Digital Multimeter, Voltmeter Ammeter Ohmmeter Circuit Checker with Backlight LCD Test Leads, Portable Multi Tester Measures OHM AC DC Voltage Current Resistance Continuity Diodes Transistor
8,584 Reviews
ULTRICS Digital Multimeter, Voltmeter Ammeter Ohmmeter Circuit Checker with Backlight LCD Test Leads, Portable Multi Tester Measures OHM AC DC Voltage Current Resistance Continuity Diodes Transistor
  • 【MULTIPURPOSE USE】 Compact digital multimeter ideal for commercial and home use. Works as a voltmeter, ammeter, ohmmeter testing continuity, AC/ DC voltage, diode, transistor HFE, car battery tester
  • 【RELIABLE PERFORMANCE】 This digital multi tester includes test leads and 9V battery, overcharge protection on all ranges, low battery indicator. Double insulation with a stand for good viewing angle
  • 【LCD BACKLIT DISPLAY】 Professional multimeter tester's display is visible from different angles, making value easily readable in low light and dark places. Data hold function makes measuring easier
  • 【DIY TESTING TOOL】 This mini multi measurement device or tool is useful in the laboratory, education, workshop, factory. Recommended by professionals/ engineers. The safe device of upgraded 1000V 10A probes
  • 【DURABLE AND SAFE】 Can be handheld or used with a fold-out stand, a thick rubber case protects the multimeter from splashes, minor bumps. Comes with 12 month warranty and world-class customer service

Last update on 2022-06-26 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

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
12,368 Reviews
AstroAI Digital Multimeter, TRMS 6000 Counts Multimeters Manual and Auto Ranging; Measures Voltage, Current, Resistance, Continuity, Capacitance, Frequency; Tests Diodes, Transistors, Temperature
  • WIDE APPLICATIONS: Wide range of tests for Voltage, Current, Resistance, Continuity, Capacitance, Frequency; Tests Diodes Transistors, Temperature
  • PROFESSIONAL MULTIMETER: Features include True RMS for measuring both AC Current and Voltage, and Auto-Ranging capability, used as ampere meter, voltage tester, car battery tester, circuit tester
  • 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
  • SAFETY FIRST: 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 Years provided by AstroAI

Last update on 2022-06-19 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

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
1,510 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

Last update on 2022-06-26 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

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.

About Mike Jones 193 Articles
I have been a keen DIY enthusiast for over 15 years, I’m constantly tinkering in my garage, taking things apart and building things. Along the way, I seem to have acquired a bit of a tool collection, as you do. The issue I found was that the information online when it comes to finding out what you need to know when buying new tools was somewhat limited. I didn’t necessarily need to know which tool to buy, but more what was important when making that buying decision. Also, a bit like a child in a sweet shop when I see new tools and things I can do with them I find it hard to resist. I started this blog back in 2017 to try and put together some buying guides, not really reviews but more what you may want to know before going and deciding on a new tool. I’m also a keen gardener and if there is a tool or gadget that helps me in the garden I’m going to let you know. I hope these musings and buyers guides are of use to you in some way. All the best, Mike.

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