For those of us that like to take our home’s health into our own hands, owning, and using, a digital multimeter is a must. These devices are one of the best tools to have on hand for DIY projects, and can ultimately save you money in the long run by diagnosing different electrical issues in your home.
What is a Multimeter?
For those readers that aren’t familiar with the term, a multimeter is a device that measures electricity. It performs different readings to measure the voltage, current, and resistance from different items in your home. More specifically, a digital multimeter measures two electrical values, and is a staple in any electrician’s tool box.
Having a multimeter in your house is a great way to take the ability of diagnosing electrical issues with ease, and even repair the problems yourself! While the thought of going near anything electrical can cause panic in some home owners and DIYers, using a multimeter gives the user peace of mind by eliminating guesswork from the scariest parts of working with electrical components.
Which Multimeter Should I Get?
As you can see from the list below, there are several different options that will serve your needs when shopping for the best digital multimeter. If you are a hobbyist, or someone that will not be utilizing the multimeter on a professional level, a less expensive option is a great place to start.
Most multimeters come complete with probes and easy to read displays. The functionality doesn’t vary much from unit to unit; the differences lie with the features that each multimeter possesses.
A professional electrician will need to ensure that the multimeter they choose holds a number of different functions. Multimeters with extensive functionality can exceed over $400/$500 per unit, so it is incredibly important to do your research and decide which multimeter will be the best for your needs.
The Fluke 87-V Digital Multimeter is the preferred choice of professional electricians, or those that are using their multimeters on a regular basis for home improvements, or automotive repairs. The Fluke 87-V has two features that make it desirable to professionals.
- The Fluke 87-V can measure as high as 10A and 20A for 30 seconds.
- The input jacks will beep and glow red if you input them incorrectly into their intended places. While experienced electricians won’t have an issue with this, newer electricians find this feature pretty helpful.
The beeping and red lights can become a little disruptive during jobs that don’t necessarily require where the input poles are placed, but if you can overlook this small issues, you’ll have an amazing digital multimeter on your hands!
Professionals that don’t need tons of bells and whistles (or flashing lights and beeps) can also consider the Fluke 117 Electricians True RMS Multimeter. It’s pricey, like it’s 87-V brother, so hobbyists may not want to consider this as a viable beginner multimeter.
The great thing about the Fluke 117 is that the unit can be switched from auto settings to manual if needed, and the LED screen is fantastic, something that is incredibly important during any job. You want to be able to easily read your results without glare or blind spots on the display.
The Fluke 117 is also small enough to be incredibly simple to hold with one hand, and offers accurate measurements of nonlinear loads.
While we’re discussing the Fluke brand, their 116 HVAC is highly specialized, and should not be purchased without research. Trust us, we’re trying to save you money! This multimeter has a built in thermometer, for HVAC applications, and microamps, which makes the cost a little more bearable.
If you do need a multimeter that will measure above 1 Amp, the Fluke 116 may not be the best option for you, but all others can feel free to try it out! Just like the Fluke 117, the digital display is great, and the 116 has a LoZ system to prevent false readings.
Professionals and Mid-level Hobbyists
If you aren’t looking for a bare bones multimeter, the following may be up your alley.
The Fluke 115 offers a compact design, and one of the few Fluke products that can be considered for mid-level to professionals. It’s over $100, but the features that are included make this unit worth a little extra money.
- Auto ranging system that can be changed from auto to manual, depending on your need or preference.
- RMS system provides accuracy for non-linear loads.
- Only goes as high as 10 Amps, which is why it may not be the best option for a professional electrician, but is great for those starting out.
- Holster is included as well as 9 volt battery.
The best thing about the Fluke 115 is that it will provide an alert to newer electricians if the incorrect amperage or voltage meter is set, and will not give you a zero reading as most multimeters will do.
If you are looking for a multimeter that will work for auto mechanics, look no further than the INNOVA 3340. This digital multimeter is great for those that want to diagnose a car battery, faulty car wiring, or any other electrical need that may happen in your automobile.
It includes an RMP clamp and thermometer probe, allowing the user to ensure that nothing is overheating. It will measure up to 10 mega ohms. This multimeter is specifically for mechanics, but can be utilized in other forms as well, just be aware that it is not as sensitive to smaller electronics as other multimeters on this list, but for the price, it may serve you well.
Entry Level, Home Owners, and Amateur Electricians
Here are several different options for the best digital multimeter for those of our readers that don’t call themselves professional electricians. These multimeters that follow are on the lower price ranges, which also means that the features may lessen as we continue through the list.
Don’t let that be a deterrent for purchasing these multimeters! While the price tag is low, and features aren’t as robust, the need for all of the features that professionals require aren’t as necessary for those that are just starting out in the electrical field.
Let’s start with the Mastech MS8229. This baby does a ton of things, but none of them to perfection. It holds several features, but only goes up to 400m and 1000v. That’s why this is perfect for the beginner electrician! You don’t need anything higher than what this multimeter will offer. It will also be useful to the auto mechanic who needs to make sure probes are working properly.
One thing of note – the Mastech MS8229 does include a built in humidity and sound level meter, which is a pretty great feature for the starting electrician.
The Extech EX330 Autoranging Mini Multimeter is small, but don’t let that stop you from buying it! This multi meter packs a punch in its small package. It can measure up to 10 Amps and 10000V, and has the ability to switch from auto to manual if you prefer to go old school.
You will also get a K probe with your Extech EX330, that will test your engine temperature and your air conditioning read out, if you decide to use this for auto repairs! Overall, for the cost, this is a great little machine
Finally, we’ll talk about the Craftsman 11. This guy is the least expensive digital multimeter on this list, and has a great list of features. It includes a voltage detector, built in flash light, k sensor for temperature readings, AND is perfect for a newer electrician or new auto mechanic.
Features, Pros, Cons, and Prices
Let’s dive into some of the best digital multimeters for personal, and professional, home use.
Extech Instruments EX330 Multimeter
- Built in non-contact AC voltage detector.
- Measures AC/DC voltage and current, resistance, frequency, duty cycle, and temperature.
- CAT III – 600 UL listed.
- Type K temperature probe included.
- Rubber holster included.
- Ability to test a multitude of features like current, capacitance, frequency, continuity, diode, duty cycle, resistance, and voltage.
- Tilt stand.
- Readout can be set to three different settings: max hold/data hold/relative.
- Runs on two triple A batteries.
- Auto range is incredibly slow on resistance.
- Known to provide inaccurate readings when batteries are dropping.
- LCD lighting becomes invisible in certain lights.
- Will provide several readings before settling on one that could potentially be correct, but not accurate 100% of the time.
Cost: Mid-range. Under $50 in most cases.
Fluke 88 V/A KIT Automotive Multimeter
- Measures AC/DC voltage, AC/DC current, resistance, capacitance, frequency, and temperature.
- Manual and auto-ranging modes.
- RPM measurements with inductive pickup.
- Built-in thermometer.
- Performs millisecond pulse width measurements for fuel injectors.
- Millisecond pulse width measurements for fuel injectors.
- Safety rated for Category III to 1000V and Category IV to 600V. Resistance, continuity and diode test.
- Great for automotive works.
- Can handle spikes up to 8,000 volts.
- Lifetime warranty.
- Great for professionals and amateurs alike.
- Easy to read display reduces potential issues.
- Can be a little hard to read on occasions.
- Large unit, but okay for mechanics.
Cost: High – you’re looking at over $400.
Mastech MS8268 Digital Multimeter
- AC/DC 1000V/10a 200Khz 200Uf - 40Mohm relative measurement hfe diode check continuity.
- LED/sound warning when incorrect banana jacks are used relative to function switch setting.
- Auto and manual ranging with relative measurement (all ranges except frequency).
- All range fused (resettable) with 1 year warranty.
- Auto power off (could be disabled) & blue.
- LED back-lit lcd display.
- Great for professionals and hobbyists.
- Great quality for the price.
- Glowing light if cables are not plugged properly into the jacks
- Not very reliable after a year or so of use.
- Several different limitations can could potentially cause issues if not utilized properly.
Cost: Mid Range, perfect for hobbyist that won’t use this regularly.
Fluke 117 Electricians Multimeter
- Features true rms for measuring non-linear loads accurately.
- Measures 10A.
- Non-contact voltage detection.
- AutoVolt automatic ac/dc selection.
- LoZ prevents false readings.
- Fits in one hand thanks to agronomical design.
- Great LED backlight.
- Can be used with magnetic hanger for hands free.
- No holster included.
- Display can be a little hard to catch at the right angle without practice.
Cost: Mid to high range.
Fluke 115 Compact Multimeter
- Compact design, but doesn’t skimp on power.
- True RMS voltage displayed with 600 count resolution.
- Safe in CAT III 600V environments.
- 10A AC/DC current.
- Compact design.
- Holster included.
- Probe tips are not well made.
Cost: Mid to high range.
Choosing Your Best Digital Multimeter
As evidenced from the list above and the different options that we provided you earlier in this article, choosing a multimeter can be a fun, and exciting purchase. Before investing hundreds of dollars in a digital multimeter that will not meet your needs, or be more of a machine that you actually require, do your research.
Consider the following questions and bullet points:
- What are you using this multimeter for?
- What are the results that you hope to get from this meter?
- Will you be using the multimeter in home and in a car?
- Are you looking for longevity in a meter?
- What features are must haves for you when looking at a multimeter?
- Are you looking for a specific brand?
- Do you plan on using the multimeter for professional grade electrician jobs?
- Are you ready to spend hundreds of dollars on a machine that you may not use more than once or twice a year?
While it may not seem like a large investment to some, choosing the right multimeter ensures that you will be successful in your electrician needs. Don’t buy too much product for your first multimeter – just remember that you can upgrade at any time when you need it!
Tell us if we forgot any multimeters in our list, or what you think of the multimeters that you’ve purchased!