Are cheap multimeters any good? How accurate are they?

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Who doesn’t like saving money? This is especially true with power tools, where saving money on an unsexy multimeter so you can splurge on a powerful pancake air compressor or something similar. But it’s never good to be too cheap.

If you’re looking to purchase a multimeter, check out our awesome guide today.

Are inexpensive multimeters any good? How accurate are they?

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Cheap multimeters are actually pretty decent at some jobs, as long as they don’t require a high level of accuracy or you’re not testing high voltage. They are made of lower quality components and will break down quicker from wear and tear.

Cheap equals poor quality

Like most things, you get what you pay for. Cheap multimeters have poor quality components. The dial selector is usually the first thing that breaks. Next, the wires of the probes get detached from the device. Sometimes a cheap multimeter doesn’t even last six months depending on how you’re using it. Sometimes you can tell a multimer is of poor quality by just picking it up. It just feels fragile and seems like one drop away from breaking.

Expensive ones on the other hand can see a great deal of abuse. This is because they are industrial-strength and made for high-stress conditions like construction sites.

Your way around this could be to simply buy the multimeters in bulk. This can be a good thrifty idea if they’re on sale and you know they are of somewhat decent quality.

Lower accuracy and precision

This might be a big drawback to a more inexpensive option. You’ll need to make a sacrifice in quality when it comes to accuracy. Cheap multimeters will only have 4 decimal points while more expensive options will have 5. Additionally, the more expensive options are almost always more accurate (closer to the real value of voltage) than cheap multimeters.


What’s very important to know is that cheap multimeters suffer a safety issue. They can’t be used in high volt situations. If it’s a 5KV line, don’t use a cheap multimeter! If it’s just personal electronics, you should be fine.

If you accidentally use a lower voltage range or ohms setting to measure voltage, the device might blow up.

Environmental Waste

It’s not great for the environment if you’re tossing a multimeter in the trash every six months. That’s a lot of wasted plastic and electronics, not to mention gas to drive to the hardware store to buy more. Critics call that the “throwaway society”, where people just buy things that are made in China, not paying attention to quality and polluting the planet.

One strategy

Quite simply, cheap multimeters are simple tools that are for hobbyists. They simply aren’t lab-quality but they do have their uses. Why not keep both? The cheap one can be used for elementary tests and the expensive one when you need high accuracy.
Sometimes it’s smart to save money buying the cheap version. With multimeters, it’s really up to the buyer. There are serious drawbacks in safety, accuracy, and quality compared to more expensive versions.

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