The Best Multimeters for DIYers and Pros
Want to test your home's wiring or repair an electric appliance? Get shopping tips as well as our top tool recommendations for both at-home do-it-yourselfers and pros.
From testing batteries to determining the amount of voltage in an electrical circuit, the multimeter is a standard diagnostic tool often found in electricians’ tool kits. But multimeters also come in handy for DIYers who want to test their home’s wiring or repair electrical appliances. They’re also practical for hobbyists—folks who like to tinker with electronic circuits in the building of things like pedometers, motors, and humidity sensors.
Prior to the development of multimeters (also called multitesters), individual meters were used to test circuits for voltage (voltmeter), resistance (ohmmeter), and current (ammeter). Today’s multimeters combine those testing capabilities into a single tool, letting you perform a variety of electrical tests with one device.
A wide variety of multimeters are available, designed for both basic and advanced circuit testing and geared toward different projects and/or specialties. While a DIYer can usually get by with a no-frills tool, electricians and HVAC pros will benefit from some of the advanced options found on professional models. Read on to learn what to look for and to find out why we recommend the favorites listed below:
- BEST ALL AROUND: Klein Tools MM500 Auto Ranging Multimeter
- BEST VALUE: Tekpower TP8260L Analog Multimeter
- BEST FOR ELECTRONICS: Greenlee DM-45 Multimeter
- BEST FOR AUTOS: Fluke 88 V/A KIT Automotive Multimeter Combo Kit
- BEST FOR PROS: Fluke 87V/E2 Industrial Electrician Combo Kit
Basic and Advanced Functions
For greatest versatility, make sure the multimeter you buy is capable of testing both types of electrical current, alternating current (AC)—the electricity that flows through the outlets in your home—and direct current (DC), the electricity found in batteries. Additionally, in order to qualify as a multimeter, the tool must perform at least two of the following three basic electrical tests:
- Current: The electricity’s rate of flow
- Voltage: The difference in electric current between two given points
- Resistance: How much the material carrying the energy, such as wires, resists electrical flow
In addition to testing voltage, resistance, and current, advanced digital multimeters often come with the ability to test the following:
- Capacitance: The ability to store an electrical charge
- Temperature: The physical warmth of the circuit (often in both Fahrenheit and Celsius)
- Frequency: The rate of electrical occurrence (measured in hertz)
Analog Versus Dial Display
The classic analog multimeter features a dial with a needle (like the old-time speedometer on a car), and for some, this type of readout is easier to see, especially in bright sunlight when numbers on a digital display can be difficult to decipher. You won’t find a large selection of analog meters anymore, but they’re typically inexpensive, ranging from $10 to $70, and they can perform the three basic circuit tests; they don’t have the capability to perform more advanced testing.
Most multimeters on the market today are digital, and they’re a bit pricier, ranging from $20 to $500, or even more, based on quality and precision. Some digital multimeters come with a backlit screen that makes the display easier to see in bright light, and some include an auto shut-off feature that turns the meter off after a few minutes of nonuse.
Figuring out the approximate range of the electrical current you’re testing with a manual range multimeter can be a time-consuming process. If you want to test resistance, for example, you must first estimate the approximate ohms (Ω) of the current by turning the dial to a specific ohms range, then keep clicking manually until the multimeter gives you a readout. A multimeter with an auto-range function (available only on digital models) will save you time, since all you have to do is select the type of test you want to perform (voltage, resistance, or current). The meter will then automatically detect the correct range by scanning through all the range options until it matches the right range to the circuit, and a readout appears immediately.
Probes and Accessories
Most multimeters include a set of standard red and black probes for performing basic tests, others come with additional alligator clips for attaching the probes to wires or battery terminals. A magnetic case or sling is a handy accessory that allows the user to attach the multimeters to something metal, such as a cabinet or the undercarriage of a car, letting you see the readout and still have both hands free for testing. These clips, probes, and cases are also available at hardware and home improvement stores.
Our Top Picks
1. BEST ALL AROUND: Klein Tools MM500 Auto Ranging Multimeter
If you know enough about electrical wiring to work on large appliances, such as electric stoves and refrigerators, or if you have the skills to install or repair the wiring in your home, trailer, or RV, consider adding the Klein Tools MM500 Multimeter to your tool kit. This digital multimeter, which runs on two AAA batteries (not included), comes with auto-ranging capability and a backlit display and tests AC/DC voltage, resistance, and current. Probes, however, are not included.
2. BEST VALUE: Tekpower TP8260L Analog Multimeter
If you prefer reading an analog dial, the Tekpower Analog Multimeter boasts a backlight for easy reading in low-light situations. The meter operates on two AA batteries (not included) and will run up to 10 continuous hours before needing a battery change. The Tekpower tests both AC and DC for voltage, current, and resistance, and it comes with standard probes. In a nutshell, it’s easy to use and accurate in testing such things as portable tools, appliances, and electrical outlets.
3. BEST FOR ELECTRONICS: Greenlee DM-45 Multimeter
Perfect for testing circuit board resisters and diodes, the Greenlee DM-45 Multimeter is top choice for electronics hobbyists and computer repair technicians. The digital multimeter features auto-ranging capability so you won’t have to guess at the current you’re testing and it comes with standard black and red probes. The Greenlee operates on a 9-volt battery (included) and tests AC/DC voltage, resistance, and current, in addition to capacitance and temperature.
4. BEST FOR AUTOS: Fluke 88 V/A KIT Automotive Multimeter Combo Kit
For the mechanic who needs precision results when testing the likes of fuel injectors and hybrid engines, the Fluke 88 V/A KIT Automotive Multimeter Combo Kit is just the ticket. Designed with the mechanic in mind, this professional digital multimeter features auto-ranging capability and comes with silicone-coated probes that, due to silicone’s greater insulation value, deliver more accurate readings in very hot and very cold environments. It operates on a 9-volt battery (included) and also provides alligator clips, a magnetic hanging kit, a temperature probe, and a carrying case. This high-end multimeter tests both AC and DC voltage, current, and resistance, in addition to measuring temperature and capacitance.
5. BEST FOR PROS: Fluke 87V/E2 Industrial Electrician Combo Kit
For on-the-job dependability and superior accuracy, it’s tough to beat the Fluke 87V/E2 combo kit. It tests voltage, resistance, and current on AC and DC circuits, and it features an audible warning if a probe is inserted into the wrong jack. It also tests capacitance, temperature, and frequency, and it features a large backlit display for easy reading. This auto-ranging meter is designed to give the precise results necessary for professionals such as electricians and HVAC technicians. It operates on a 9-volt battery (included), and it comes with heavy-duty test probes, a carry strap, and a magnetic hanger.