Digital Multimeters vs Clamp Style Amp Meters

Are you looking for a new electrical multimeter to use at home or work? Maybe you have noticed that some of the electrical measuring devices have a clamp at the top but most don’t. Have you ever wondered why that is? Even though these devices are similar in nature there are some distinct differences between them.

In this article, we will talk a little bit more about clamp style meters and digital multimeters. By the end the time you are done reading it you will know which style meter best fits your electrical measuring needs.

Basic Description and Uses of Digital Multimeters and Clamp Style Meters

different types of multimetersAlthough these two devices look somewhat similar and can do many of the same measurements, there are still some very distinct differences between using a digital multimeter and a using a clamp style amp meter.

Here is a general overview of what each of these electrical measuring devices can do and what their best uses are:

  • Digital Multimeter

In its most basic terms, this is a voltage measuring tool that has some ability to measure electrical currencies too. It does this by taking an analog reading that is converted to a much easier to use digital style readout. Most digital multimeters can take such readings as AC voltage, DC voltage, current, resistance, temperature, frequency, and capacitance.

Typical uses include such things as checking for a break in an electrical line, testing an electrical breaker to see if it’s working and making sure an item that runs on electricity has no power going to it before working on it.

  • Clamp Style Amp Meter

In its most basic terms this is a current measuring tool that is also capable of doing some voltage testing. It too takes analog measurements and converts them into an easy to read digital format. Many of the electrical readings you take with this diagnostic tool have fewer decimal places as those on a digital multimeter. It’s a very useful electrical testing device to see make sure all components of a piece of electrical equipment are working properly.

Common uses for it are doing such electrical measuring tasks as testing a heat gun to see if its heating element is working, making sure an electric pump is working correctly and testing multiple electric lines to see which one is not drawing amperage from an electric source.

Should you own both a digital multimeter and a clamp style amp meter?

There are many times we get asked if it’s best to own both a digital multimeter and a clamp style meter. The answer to that question is both yes and no. It depends on what your intended types of electrical measuring are. This also depends on what you are willing to spend versus the use you will get out of them.

You may not need both if you are just buying your meter for home wire checking or minor electrical measuring at your job. On the other hand, if you take a lot of diagnostic electrical measurements on a regular basis it’s almost certain that you will have use for both of these handy electrical troubleshooting meters.

Cost is a big reason to own both of these electrical measuring devices. Neither of them is very expensive in terms of tool pricing and you can easily own a good version of each style meter for less than $100.

One of the Best Digital Multimeters You Can Buy

INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter

INNOVA 3320 Auto-Ranging Digital Multimeter
This is a hard digital multimeter to beat for the price you pay for it. INNOVA has done a very nice job with its design. With it you can perform such electrical tests as checking DC current, AC/DC voltage, resistance, continuity, transistor and you can even do diode testing with it.

Among its better features are it’s built-in probe storage which eliminates setup time and its quick auto-ranging. It’s made using tough plastic and includes rubber corner guards to protect it from bumps and falls. This digital multimeter even has a built-in 45-degree stand and will shut itself off after a few minutes of not being used.


  • test probes store in the device body
  • Has auto ranging
  • Protective rubber corner guards
  • Only weighs 11.2 ounces
  • Automatic shutoff feature
  • Pop-out hands-free stand


  • No case with your purchase
  • Instructions manual has small print

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A Top of the Line Clamp Style Multimeter

Eventek ET820 Auto-ranging Clamp Style Multimeter

Eventek ET820 Auto-ranging Clamp Style Multimeter
Here is a great clamp style multimeter that you can buy at a very budget-friendly price. Eventek has a good reputation for making electrical testing products that work well and this amp draw measuring clamp meter is no exception. With it, you can measure such things as AC/DC voltage, AC current, continuity, resistance and even do NCV (non-contact voltage) testing.

Its clamping mechanism is easy to put around wires for easy amp draw measuring. The digital display is large so it’s easy to read too. There is also built in auto ranging and a soft, protective carrying case in the package.


  • Conveniently measures amp draw
  • Highly rated product
  • Has auto-ranging capability
  • Built-in live wire detection alarm
  • Backlit LCD display
  • Made out of quality ABS plastic
  • Includes a soft carrying case


  • Display timeout happens quickly
  • The included instruction manual could use improvement

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A Few Final Thoughts on Digital Multimeters and Clamp Style Meters

Most professional technicians and do it yourself type people will undoubtedly have a need at one time or another in their lives to use both these electrical testing devices. For what you get out of them they do not cost that much either. That means that for most people owning them both is not a big expense for how handy they can be. Even more importantly, their value as a means of checking to make sure no electricity is flowing to a product or through a wire before working on them cannot be understated.

We ourselves consider them must have electrical measuring devices for anyone that works on electrical powered devices or electrical wiring.

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