What Are The Best Multimeters Under $50? (2020 Guide)
Your venerable multimeter is your companion in the workshop or garage, helping you to understand where you’ll get shocked and where is safe to touch, not to mention where your customer’s vehicle or set of electronics are experiencing malfunctions.
Picking one multimeter out of the crowd is difficult, however. If you aren’t familiar with all of the features that can be packed into a multimeter, purchasing a new one can be intimidating, especially when you set eyes on the $200-plus price tags which some command.
In this article, we’ll round up and discuss a smattering of the best multimeters under $50 on the market so that you’ll know which multimeters will leave you with an accurate measurement and which will make you wish that you’d purchased a more intuitive device.
- Multimeter Reviews
- #1 Pick – AstroAI Digital Multimeter with Ohm Volt Amp and Diode Voltage Tester Meter
- #2 Pick – INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
- #3 Pick – Neoteck Auto Ranging Digital Multimeter
- #4 Pick – Crenova MS8233D Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
- #5 Pick – Klein Tools 69149 Electrical Test Kit with Multimeter
- #6 Pick – AstroAI Digital Multimeter, TRMS 6000
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Which features should I look for in a multimeter?
- How do I use a multimeter safely?
- What features do more expensive multimeters have?
- What multimeters are best for inexperienced people?
- Wrapping Up
#1 Pick – AstroAI Digital Multimeter with Ohm Volt Amp and Diode Voltage Tester Meter
This AstroAI Digital Multimeter is a basic multimeter which will meet the vast majority of your measurement needs without breaking the bank.
- Samples twice per second
- 1-year warranty
- Backlit screen
- No gripping surface
With this multimeter, you’ll get a handful of great features which will make your life easier when you’re measuring voltages in the shop. Specifically, there’s a built-in kickstand so you can perch the multimeter on the floor or a workbench, so you don’t need to keep picking it up.
The only issue with this multimeter is that the form factor of the unit is not equipped with any gripping surfaces. So, if you are prone to having butterfingers, you may flub the device through your fingers accidentally.
But, because this multimeter has a relatively low-tech LCD display, it can survive a drop or two.
#2 Pick – INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
The Innova Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter brings a lot of powerful features and great ease-of-use capabilities into your hand in a convenient package.
- Durable drop-resistant bumpers
- Large display
- Auto-ranging functionality
- Poor instruction set
The Innova’s features are great for anyone who wants to use a multimeter to repair vehicles or things around the house. Thanks to this device’s auto ranging features, you won’t need to fiddle with the multimeter to get it to switch from reading AC or DC voltage.
You should be an experience multimeter user before picking up this unit, however. The instruction set isn’t very good, but if you’ve used multimeters in the past you won’t have any issues.
You’ll be able to use this multimeter for a long time thanks to its rubber bumpers which protect it from accidental drops.
#3 Pick – Neoteck Auto Ranging Digital Multimeter
The Neoteck Auto Ranging Digital Multimeter is a great multimeter at a bargain because it has multiple types of probes as well as an intuitive interface.
- Has clamp probes and jack probes
- Backlit LED display for working in dark environments
- Provides audio cues for continuity
- Automatic powering off can occur too quickly
The Neoteck multimeter can help you to probe many different current sources without needing to purchase any additional probes, which is a big bonus in the bargain multimeter market.
You should ensure that you make a measurement or change a setting on the Neoteck multimeter fairly frequently while you’re using it in a session.
The unit’s automatic turn-off function is great for people who are absent minded, but it may shut itself off when you still need to make another measurement if you don’t perform activities which tell it that you aren’t idle.
#4 Pick – Crenova MS8233D Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
The Crenova Auto Ranging Digital Multimeter is an ergonomically friendly and easy to use multimeter which can store data upon your request.
- Double fuse
- Tough exterior
- Easy to grip
- Kickstand leaves display at an awkward angle
This multimeter’s double-fused construction means that it’s unlikely to get shorted when you’re trying to use it. Likewise, when you’re in the dark, the backlight on the display will help you to see your measurements. So, when you’re measuring at three ticks per second, you’ll be in good shape.
The kickstand is the weakness of the multimeter. Rather than setting the multimeter at a 90 degree angle so that you can view it from eye level regardless of your position, the kickstand sets the multimeter at a 60 degree angle which makes it awkward to view from most angles.
#5 Pick – Klein Tools 69149 Electrical Test Kit with Multimeter
The Klein Tools Multimeter is an easy solution for people who are new to measuring electrical currents.
- Many audio cues
- Easy-charge plug
- Display is low-quality
The strength of the Klein multimeter is that it is easy for newcomers to use because it has a combination of lights and sounds to guide you in the right direction when it comes to taking measurements effectively and safely.
This multimeter is also easy to charge, and it comes with a tool which is perfect for fixing the outlets around your house. But, the display on the Klein multimeter isn’t perfect.
When you conduct a measurement, sometimes the display leaves the ghost of the old measurement, making it hard to read. Taking another measurement fixes the issue handily, so it isn’t a dealbreaker by any means.
#6 Pick – AstroAI Digital Multimeter, TRMS 6000
The AstroAI Digital Multimeter is a heavy-duty multimeter which packs high-end features into an inexpensive package.
- Convenient hanging magnet
- Easy-grip rubber sleeve
- May be too large for some people to hold with one hand
This multimeter has three different sets of probes right out of the box, and it also has sheaths which you can use to keep the probes clean, ensuring that they don’t go bad before they’ve seen their fair share of use.
You’ll also find that this multimeter is filled to the brim with features like a hanging magnet, kickstand, and measurement saving space. These features have a cost, however: the multimeter is a bit large to hold with one hand, and people with small hands may have issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which features should I look for in a multimeter?
There are many features which you’ll need to consider before purchasing a multimeter,
- Quality probes
- Data hold
- Dual fuses
Auto-ranging is the feature which allows your multimeter to automatically calibrate the context of each measurement you take. So, if you don’t have auto-ranging, you’ll need to be pushing the ranging buttons on the multimeter before your measurement will be understandable.
Auto-ranging isn’t a feature that you can’t live without. But, it’s a huge convenience that you should place a considerable amount of emphasis on. Especially if you’re new to using multimeters, auto-ranging will make your life a lot easier.
For professionals, there’s no other choice.
The probes on your multimeter are essential for taking measurements. They need to stay clean, be long enough to reach crevices, and be very clearly labeled for your safety.
Probes come in a few flavors, but the two most common are clamp probes and pin probes. You’ll need a pair of pin probes with every multimeter, but having a set of clamp probes is a nice extra too.
It’s critical that you avoid all multimeters with probes that are not clearly labeled with red and black coloration on the correct probe.
One quality of life feature which may be more helpful for some people than others is the ability to store information from one measurement and reference it again after taking another measurement.
Data hold means that you won’t need to take another measurement if you forget what your first measurement said. For forgetful people, it’s indispensable. But, for people who don’t take multiple measurements in series, there’s nothing that data hold will provide you.
The backlight on the display of your multimeter is critical because it helps you to see the display when the lighting conditions are less than perfect. Most multimeters use LCD screens, which are especially sensitive to subpar lighting conditions.
A little shade in the wrong part of the shop might make the display hard to read, especially if you’re underneath a vehicle trying to measure something. A backlight ensures that you won’t be squinting and fumbling, so it’s important to have.
Most multimeters have at least one internal fuses to protect the device from high currents or improper configuration of the multimeter. The best multimeters have two or even three fuses which ensures the device is protected against everything you can throw at it.
Fuses are easy to reset, so there’s no disadvantage to having more. Furthermore, cheap fuses may break, and quality fuses last multiple flip throughs.
The ergonomics of multimeters include kickstands, gripping surfaces, and the effectiveness of the interface.
The gripping surfaces of the multimeter itself are not a major concern, however the more you plan on using your multimeter with one hand the more emphasis you should place on an easy-grip surface and a multimeter that fits comfortably in your hand.
More advanced multimeters are harder for handheld use, but nearly all of the basic multimeters will fit into your hand without a hassle.
The gripping surfaces of the probes are the most important part of your multimeter. You’ll be spending a lot of time delicately handling the probes and ensuring that they’re touching the components that you need to measure.
For clamp probes, you’ll need to consider how difficult the clamps are to attach to a source you want to measure. You’ll also need to pay careful attention to the clamps to ensure that they do not slip off. Poor quality probes can slip at inopportune times and ruin your measurements.
Your safety will also be in the hands of the probes and their ergonomic protections which surround the metal portion of the probe’s pin or clamp. You shouldn’t skimp on the ergonomics of your probes.
This also means that probes with replaceable grips or tips can be a big asset. These features will make the probes more comfortable for you to use and also more effective at taking measurements.
Kickstands are a critical feature because they help you to position the unit where you can see it easily. But, you’ll probably still be using your multimeter by holding it in your hand.
So, you’ll need a multimeter that fits comfortably in your hand and which doesn’t slip out.
Equally important is the interface of the multimeter. Most multimeters have a standardized interface which is intuitive to people who know which features they need to use.
But, for people who don’t know entirely what they’re doing with their multimeter, a well-labeled interface can make all the difference.
How long should I expect my multimeter to last before needing replacement?
Most multimeters will last for as long as their battery can retain charge. Batteries can last for many hundreds of charge cycles, so you could be using the multimeter for many years even when you use it heavily.
The electronic components in the multimeter don’t break or go bad over time, even with heavy use, so long as you don’t flip the fuses over and over as a result of measuring items with too-high current.
But, the more you blow the fuses on your multimeter, the sooner you may need to replace them. Careful use can make your multimeter last until the battery can’t hold a charge any more.
You can also replace multimeter fuses when they break after being flipped an extensive number of times, though it may be more difficult than simply purchasing a new inexpensive unit.
How do I use a multimeter safely?
There are a few principles which will help you to stay safe while using your multimeter, including:
- Use best electronics practices
- Don’t position the probes such that current can cross your body
- Ensure the fuses are ready to blow
Each of these items is a huge topic within itself, but the basics are easy to pick up.
Best electronics practices include turning off relevant power supplies before taking a measurement, paying attention to the heat and current resistance of the components you’re working with, being mindful of smoke, and taking care to keep the unit grounded.
Don’t touch the probes to any current source such that an active current could run from one of your arms through your chest and down your other arm to complete the circuit. You should already know other basic electronics safety information before picking up a multimeter.
If all else fails, the fuse will protect you by shorting the circuit rather than letting current pass through your body. So, it’s important to keep the fuses in good working order.
What features do more expensive multimeters have?
The most expensive multimeters have advanced features like extended memory saving, graphical charting of current and voltage information, and many other features which approximate those of an oscilloscope.
These features aren’t anything that most people would need, and in fact many of them may be more suited for designing and fabricating circuits than for troubleshooting issues with vehicles or homes.
But, if you’re interested in learning more about the way that electricity works, a more advanced multimeter can be a great learning tool because they can show you charts of current, voltage, resistance, and other characteristics.
Ultimately, these features add a lot of bulk to the multimeter, however. They also tend to cut into a multimeter battery life without necessarily making it more accurate or better at performing basic tasks than less expensive devices.
So, more advanced multimeters are often larger in addition to being more expensive. This means that advanced multimeters trade portability and usability for more features that most people don’t need.
What multimeters are best for inexperienced people?
There aren’t any specific multimeters which are better for inexperienced people or for professionals beyond their general ease of use and instruction set.
Multimeters are not necessarily easy to use if you aren’t familiar with the functions which they perform. However, once you’ve used one multimeter, you can probably figure out the interfaces of other multimeters.
In general, multimeters which have visual or audio cues beyond what is displayed on the screen tend to be a bit easier to understand for newcomers — at least, if they take the time to look up what the sound, light, or symbol means.
For many inexperienced people, these additional bells and whistles are annoyances which don’t contribute anything, however. Play it by ear based on your preferences.
Of course, if you seek out an advanced multimeter with a huge array of features, you may find that you are in over your head as a newcomer to electronics.
That ties up our review of the best multimeters under $50 on the market. We hope that you enjoyed learning about what makes a good multimeter and which multimeters are the best for your needs.
When it’s time to make a decision, remember that more expensive multimeters aren’t necessarily any better than the inexpensive ones that we’ve shown you today. Unless you need specific rarely-useful functions, most multimeters will do the trick.