Okay, let’s just get one thing clear. While this is a general review for the best multimeter under $50 (or thereabouts), it does not represent the best meter. In short, you won’t get a high end device for this kind of money even if you go secondhand. There is no substitute for a properly-rated multimeter for electricians involved in high energy work.
If you run through this site, you’ll see that we promote Fluke a lot, not because we’re making loads of money in doing so (far from it), but because they are still the best. The likes of the Fluke 87V is industry standard for electricians and electronics buffs alike and there are few substitutes for this kind of build quality.
With that out the way, you can still pick up a good device for knocking around the house or garage, and even as a backup on the shop floor. A high end Fluke or Keysight is overkill for handymen looking to test low voltage circuits or batteries, etc. It would of course give you solid results, but you can get away with something cheaper.
Our Top Pick
This is a great little meter and number one on our list for the best multimeters under $50. The Extech EX330 is very well known in the handheld test device world. A solid tool for the money, it is made by a respected US-based firm and appeals to those into electrics and electronics, pros and amateurs alike.
Along with measuring DC and AC voltage and current, together with resistance and capacitance, it has several useful features and modes, such as voltage detection, a temperature input and relative mode. Its current range extends down to micro-amps and it has separate dial positions for micro-amps and milliamps.
While it doesn’t win any awards for super high accuracy, it is accurate enough for most tasks nonetheless – basic DC accuracy ±(1.0%+2). It is also well built, with a very tough case and professionally soldered circuits, while also offering input protection to cope with surges to 6kV (CAT-III 600V).
Another area where the EX330 is praised is its display. It is not a very high resolution (@ 4000 counts) and sadly doesn’t have a backlight either, but has large digits and refreshes quickly.
Usability is good, with a compact body, firm dial selector and rubberized buttons. This is also an auto ranging multimeter, so you don’t need to select individual ranges. You also have the option to switch to manual ranging for faster response times.
Pros: Compact, accurate loads of features, voltage detection, auto/manual ranging, measures temperature, good input protection
Cons: no backlight, sluggish auto range, glass fuses
Bottom Line: Solid, bestselling meter for diagnosing faulty wiring, household electrics and basic electronics. It’s not without its negatives, but you’re never going to get it all for $50. Read full review…
Other contenders that are worth checking out for the best multimeter under $50 bracket…
Popular Chinese firm Uni-Trend puts out functional multimeters, but they were also known for inconsistency and employing under par components/input protection. Thankfully, they’ve cleaned up their act and produced acceptable devices like the UT139C. This is a True RMS meter, which also, like the Extech, has a temperature input and voltage sensor. It boasts a large, 6000-count screen, which is backlit, and measures down to micro-amps and can incorporate a 60A current clamp. Good for most lightweight tasks. Read full review…
Sometimes rebranded as Tekpower, the UT61E is well loved by some and berated by others. While not having great input protection, it offers excellent bang for your buck, with high accuracy and a whopping 4½ digit display. It is also a data logging device, with opto-out connectivity, and has an impressive continuity checker. There are four other meters in the UT61 series, offering slightly different criteria. Good for electronics and hobbyists. Read full review…
Amprobe is one of the best known manufacturers of multimeters and clamp meters. They usually make higher end equipment, but also have cheaper, Chinese-made products in their catalogue. The AM-500 series includes the AM-520 HVAC meter. Good for residential and commercial work, this clean, full-size meter has good accuracy and most of the functionality of pricier devices. Crucially, it has micro-amps for monitoring flame sensors, as well as a temperature input and voltage detection. The display is backlit and has a bar graph, too, and there’s even a flashlight built in. Read full review…
The Amprobe AM-510 is for general purpose work and is cheaper again.
This is the cheapest multimeter in our line-up and is right up there for usability and functions. This US firm produces measuring equipment for the automotive industry. Despite being cheap, it is an auto-ranging meter with a dedicated battery test range. Mostly aimed at automotive tasks, and minus high AC current range, it is best for lower voltage work. The display is large and clear, though is not backlit. Great for working on vehicles and DIY, you can often get a very good deal on Amazon. Read full review…
The MS8268 is okay for the budget end, coming in at around $25. Mastech is another Chinese firm, albeit well established with some decent multimeters. This one is full range and measures micro-amps up to 10A – AC and DC – and is pretty accurate for the price. Also has a nice backlit screen and an LED jack input warning system, but loses out on input protection and is only recommended on lower voltages. Sister meter MS8229 measures temperature, humidity, light and sound. Read full review…
Price disclaimer: This is a general guide, Amazon prices continually fluctuate, so what you expect to see from here for $50 one day may be more or less the next.
Unsurprisingly, many budget multimeters are going to be Chinese made, including those produced by established brands like Amprobe – even Fluke have their cheaper lines made over there. They’re not all bad, however, with Uni-T especially often producing decent quality, user-friendly tools.
One does need to keep an eye on safety and input protection, though, where cheap often means lack of it. With that, we reckon the Extech EX330 is the best digital multimeter under $50 out of this bunch.
See our best multimeters page for more good meters…