Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
What are the best multimeters for electronics technicians? What are some of the best multimeters for electronics hobbyists, especially someone looking for a cheap multimeter that lets you test everything you need to measure?
1. DMiotech Smart
The DMiotech Smart is the best multimeter for electronics hobbyist users. It is affordable. It measures AC and DC voltage, resistance, capacitance, continuity, and frequency. It can test diodes and run the bipolar junction transistor test and live line test. And it measures things in true RMS.
This multimeter has a crystal clear LCD display. Flashlight mode lets you read the display or see what you’re doing in low light conditions. The data hold mode can store a value in memory for quick reference. The built-in stand and wrist wraps allow you to test things hands-free. It only weighs a little over one pound.
This cheap multimeter is compatible with a number of cheap test leads. It has better than average resistance from high voltage and RF interference.
This multimeter runs off of 4 AA batteries and comes with the auto-off feature typically only found in more expensive multimeters. Batteries are not included with the multimeter. If the fuse is burned out, it is easy to replace on your own.
This multimeter isn’t perfect. In a noisy environment, it may run down the battery because it registers background noise as an indication it should stay on. It can’t read resistance in continuity mode, though other multimeters can. It can only measure current for fifteen seconds, after which it needs fifteen minutes to “recover”.
This is an excellent budget multimeter for technicians troubleshooting DIY electronics, though not quite good enough for commercial applications like quality control in an electronics assembly factory.
2. Fluke 287
The Fluke 287 multimeter is available as a stand-alone product and in a manufacturer assembled kit that provides everything from software to probe tips to wireless connections to your computer to save the data as you capture it.
If you buy the multimeter by itself, it costs several hundred dollars. If you buy the entire kit, it costs more than a thousand dollars. However, one of the benefits of the Fluke model is that manuals and CAD models are made available by the manufacturer. This is aside from onboard help screens to guide you through adjusting settings. If you want to know if the multimeter sensors will fit through the access ports of the product you’re designing as part of your testability analysis, this is the multimeter for you.
This is the best multimeter for electronics repair since it logs multimeter measurements as long as you want and can test nearly anything. You can set it to log minimums, maximums, averages, or show graphs of key metrics. The 50,000 dot screen lets you see thousands of recorded vents without having to download data to a computer, though that’s an option, too. You could set it up to automatically track measurements for hours while you go do something else. You can set the range automatically or manually. And the multimeter lets you export data to a computer for further analysis or sending to someone else.
This multi-meter offers a multi-lingual interface, making it perfect for teams with a diverse workforce. It connects and communicates with the Fluke app for data analysis. The connectivity and app let you save data by all your techs in a common location.
Fluke offers accessories from a carrying case and items to let you hang it up while you’re working for hands-free testing to replacement problems. The downside is the cost of Fluke branded accessories.
So what are the cons of this multimeter? It is expensive, as are any accessories. The Fluke app wants to access your media and photos and doesn’t work on all Android devices. While Fluke has good technical support for its hardware, it has poor service for its apps. If you want full functionality from the app, you have to pay an extra subscription for it.
3. Amprobe 30XR-A
This multimeter is available with and without various probes. You pay more for temperature and capacitance probes. This multimeter is available with a NIST certificate, though you pay for that certification. NIST calibration ensures high levels of accuracy and may be contractually required for electronics manufacturers or electricians and repair technicians.
The unit has auto-ranging; this is a major time-saving feature. It has basic data collection and presentation; it shows minimum and maximum values and can hold data for a while. It updates automatically several times a second. It shows a low-resolution analog bar graph.
This unit comes with a holster and hanging strap. It is durable and rugged.
The cables it comes with don’t let you change the probe tips. It is compatible with a number of affordable generic probes. The leads that come with the unit cannot be gator-clipped. It warns you when you’ve put the test leads in incorrectly.
It has an automatic power-off to save the battery, though the backlighting is weak. It has a good 10 amp fuse you’ll almost never have to change.
What are the downsides of the Amprobe 30XR-A multimeter? This unit lacks a serial interface. The continuity check is slow. The quality of the fuses is not always up to expected standards. They go out more often than you’d expect.
This is the best multimeter for home use if you need a basic, broadly usable unit.
4. Fluke T5-1000 1000-Volt Continuity USA Electric Tester
The basic model of this multimeter costs just over a hundred dollars. If you buy it with calibration data, it doubles the cost. This premium version comes with NIST-traceable calibration and certification. Yes, you get a calibrated multimeter from Fluke, especially if it is one of the “package” deals.
The Fluke T5-1000 offers very high resolution whether you’re measuring AC or DC voltage. The name for this model comes from the fact that it can test voltage from zero to a thousand volts. It offers OpenJaw measurements.
It beeps to inform you when the circuit has continuity. It is ideal for basic troubleshooting.
It has detachable probe tips, but the probes that come with it are very narrow and versatile. This multimeter is compatible with Fluke clips. Compatible probes are sold separately. It is compatible with the Fluke infrared thermometers, voltage detector kit, and other sensors.
It has an auto-off mode to extend the battery’s life. It comes with two AA batteries. In some regards, the battery life for this multimeter is better than average because it lacks reliable backlighting.
It is quite durable; it is rated to survive a ten-foot (three-meter) fall.
A holster for this multimeter is sold separately. However, it is compact and convenient to carry without a holster. The multimeter itself is light, weighing in at just over a pound.
What are the downsides of this multimeter? The backlight sometimes flickers. It is expensive compared to other multimeters. The capacitance function sometimes fails altogether.
Fluke is one of the best multimeter brands, and if you need a multimeter that can do almost anything and whose manufacturer supports all of its products, this is the right multimeter for you.
5. IDEAL 61-744 600 Amp Clamp-Pro Clamp Meter
This affordable multimeter comes with a carrying case and basic banana robes. It tests continuity, resistance, and polarity.
Clamp multimeters like this are designed primarily to measure the flow of electricity. This clamp multimeter measures up to 600 amps AC. It has a non-contact voltage indicator. It does not have true RMS readings.
It has a low battery indicator and automatically powers off.
It has basic data hold. It only weighs a pound. The unit is quite rugged.
It can manage up to 600 volts. It can clamp over the conductor.
It needs two AAA batteries. It doesn’t come with batteries.
What are the cons of this multimeter? It has a basic two-year warranty. Getting service under the warranty is a challenge. Accuracy is middling at best. The non-contact voltage sensor sometimes gives false positives.
This is not one of the best multimeters electrical testers but is good enough for hobbyists. The power switch sometimes gets stuck in the “on” position. If you need a highly durable multimeter, this is a decent unit for the average DIY electronics builder.
6. Milwaukee 2235-20 400 Amp Clamp Meter
The basic Milwaukee 2235-20 multimeter is a clamp meter rated up to 400 amps. It can be found for around a hundred dollars. The manufacturer offers a bundle including the Milwaukee 2235-20 clamp meter and standard Milwaukee 2216 multimeter.
It offers true-RMS readings in all applications. It automatically ranges and can read down to mV.
It is rated category III 600 volts for user safety. It is rugged enough to survive being dropped from a modest height.
The thin jaw profile (one inch) makes it easy to test wires in panels or bundles. It comes with a single test lead set.
It has a built-in work light. The display itself has a backlight.
It runs off two AAA batteries.
The manufacturer suggests sending this multimeter in annually for calibration. It does not automatically calibrate and isn’t properly calibrated when you receive it.
What are the cons of the Milwaukee 2216 multimeter? While it is easy to use, it typically ships without a manual. You can find a manual for it online at the manufacturer’s website. It has audible indicators, but they aren’t very loud.
This is one of the best multimeters electrical testers, especially in a commercial or industrial setting.
7. Mastech MS8268 Series Digital AC/DC Auto/Manual Range Digital Multimeter
The Mastech MS8268 multimeter has a broad range. It can measure down to µA. It can measure capacitance and frequency. The capacitance range isn’t as wide as the voltage. It comes with a diode tester and transistor gain checker.
It is rated as category II, one thousand volts. The voltage readings are accurate within one percent. Current is plus or minus one to two percent. Resistance readings are accurate plus or minus one and a half percent. Frequency readings are plus or minus two percent. The transistor testing has a 0 to 1000 hFE range. The duty cycle measurements range from 5% to 95%.
It has both auto and manual ranging. The easy to set auto-ranging makes this a good multimeter for beginners since auto-ranging means the knob has fewer positions and doesn’t need to be adjusted and switched as often.
It has a continuity buzzer. It provides a warning if you have the leads plugged in incorrectly, both audible and visual.
It has a data hold, so you can freeze the display. It has a zero relative mode. This sets a relative reference point to measure for the next reading, and you can compare the current reading to a stored one.
It only weighs a pound. It has a backlit display. The unit has auto-shutdown after a period of inactivity. You can turn this feature off if you want.
This multimeter is good for basic electronic troubleshooting.
It comes with three AAA batteries, test leads, transistor gain plug, the tester itself, and manual.
What are the problems with the Mastech MS8268 multimeter? It isn’t commonly available. If the new unit is not well calibrated, it will never read right. Getting service when you have a problem is a challenge.
This is the best value multimeter for those who need to test transistors along with all the other standard multimeter functions. This is the best digital multimeter for the money if accuracy is critical to your application.
8. AstroAI Digital Multimeter, TRMS 6000 Counts Volt Meter
This affordable digital multimeter costs less than $50. This is the best budget multimeter for someone who needs near professional performance.
It has category I measurements, sufficient for testing electronics. The maximum input voltage is 9 volts.
It can run diode tests. It can measure resistance, AC and DC current, AC and DC voltage. It is able to test continuity, inductance, and capacitance. It can do diode tests. It provides true RMS readings. It comes with auto-ranging for fast results. The readout screen has large, easy to read values.
It is good enough for commercial testing, but it isn’t a good choice if accuracy is a necessity. The temperature probe, in particular, is inaccurate. It is enough to tell you if something is seriously overheating but not good enough to tell you if a temperature-sensitive component is out of range.
For example, it has a much larger clamp than the other clamp multimeters on this list. It also has a large backlit screen.
AstroAI offers a three-year basic warranty.
The multimeter runs off a single nine-volt battery. It does not come with a battery.
What are the problems with the AstroAI multimeter? It is not calibrated, and getting it calibrated can be challenging. If the unit is defective or fails shortly after you get it, getting the manufacturer to honor the warranty is a channel. This multimeter is not a good choice for hobbyists because it is not intuitive.
This is the best multimeter for electronics work if you want versatility and affordability, if you understand how to use it.
9. TOUGS M102 Compact True-RMS Digital Multimeter, 6000 Counts
This multimeter is found for less than $50. It can read DC voltage up to a thousand volts with accuracy of half a percent. It reads AC voltage up to 750 volts plus or minus one percent, and it has 550-volt overload protection. It is able to read AC and DC current to ten amps plus or minus one and a half percent. It can read resistance up to 60 mega-ohms; as the resistance goes up, accuracy decreases but is still plus or minus one and a half percent at its worst. It reads capacitance up to 9.9 Mf; at this peak, accuracy is plus or minus five percent.
Unlike many other multimeters on this list, it can read high temperatures up to 1832°F and as low as -4°F. This temperature sensor is what distinguishes the Tougs 102 from the 101 model.
It can run continuity, diode, and frequency tests. And it provides true RMS readings.
It self-calibrates. It has a decent backlight, though it only lasts fifteen seconds. It can hold data.
You can operate it one-handed, since it comes with a stand bracket.
It is safety rated up to 600 volts and is category 3.
The unit comes with a thermocouple, two test leads, 2 AAA batteries, and manual. It is compatible with a wide array of banana plugs and test lead clips.
It is surprisingly light. It weighs less than one pound and can fit in your pocket.
What are the problems with the Tougs 102 multimeter? Its backlight doesn’t last long. It has middling accuracy.
This is the best multimeter under 50 dollars if you want something low maintenance and plug-and-play with everything but Fluke’s hardware. This is the best multimeter for diy electronics if you’re on a budget.
10. Southwire Tools & Equipment 16040T TrueRMS Digital Multimeter
This affordable multimeter offers true RMS readings. This improves its accuracy, though the multimeter’s accuracy is better for AC circuits than DC circuits. The True RMS data is what separates this from the model 16020N multimeter. If you want a color screen for the same design of multimeter, that doubles the price.
It is rugged and durable. It has a 600-volt category III safety rating. This makes it safe for commercial lighting applications.
Unlike many other multimeters, it comes with a Bluetooth interface for viewing, recording, and sharing readings with the Southwire branded app for data analysis. The app is available for free and works on both Android and Apple devices. The app lets you record data over an extended period of time and control the multimeter from a distance. You can also use it to upload photos and notes to add context to the saved data, and it can capture location information via GPS, too. You can also use the app to email the multimeter data to a third party. Note that the same app works with several models of Southwire and Tool multimeters.
The multimeter itself can measure ten functions and identify maximums and minimums. It can measure frequencies, maxing out a 4000 Hertz. Note that it doesn’t have a built-in NCV. It comes with a temperature sensor, but it isn’t very good.
It has a built-in LED flashlight. This is in addition to the backlit screen.
There is a built-in stand in the back to let you read it hands-free. The company sells carry bags, but this isn’t necessary.
The multimeter comes with a single test lead set and two AAA batteries.
What are the problems with the Southwire Tools & Equipment multimeter? Replacing fuses when they burn out is hard. There is often a loose fit for the leads, and that doesn’t get fixed under warranty. The temperature sensor’s low accuracy is notorious. It is neither drop-resistant nor waterproof. It is also almost impossible to calibrate.
This is the best multimeter for electricians and other professionals on a budget. Just don’t drop it. This is also the best multimeter for engineering students since you can painlessly record data electronically and share with anyone you want.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I used my multimeter on the continuity selector switch. Now, it displays for only a few seconds, and then goes off after I put new batteries. What's the solution?
Answer: Continuity means you were testing for current in a circuit. You may have overloaded the multimeter, shorting it out. It may need a fuse replaced, assuming something else isn't burned out.
© 2018 Tamara Wilhite