A Buying Guide for Used Multimeters on eBay

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A Buying Guide for Used Multimeters on eBay

Multimeters are electrical testing devices that are able to combine the features typically found on several different instruments into one device. They are ideal for electricians or DIY enthusiasts who are interested in carrying around less equipment. In the past, most of those who tested electrical current routinely had to have AC and DC voltmeters, an ammeter, and an ohmmeter. Now, the industry standard is one meter that performs all of these functions. Most of the differences in pricing for multimeters are due to their range of uses and features, and not due to their accuracy.

Buying a used multimeter has always been challenging because, until recently, it was very difficult to find a wide enough array of choices. eBay has changed all of that and now provides a single source for hundreds of used multimeters at low prices. Clever electricians are also turning to eBay for many of the same reasons.

Before buying used multimeters, it is helpful to understand the different types available and which is the most appropriate for the specialised needs of the user and frequency of use. The market for used multimeters on eBay is very strong as there have only been superficial modifications in recent years.

Types of Used Multimeters

The two primary types of multimeters are analogue and digital. Like most other equipment, the growth of digital is all but eliminating the analogue versions. However, there are quite a few analogue multimeters available by simply entering the term into the search field on any eBay page. There is still demand for analogue meters amongst those who have always used them and simply do not want to change.

Used Analogue Multimeters

Analogue multimeters are often referred to as VOMs as they were designed to perform the functions of a voltage meter, ohmmeter, and milliammeter. The abbreviation AMM for analogue multimeter is also used.

Advantages of Used Analogue Multimeters

The advantage of AMMs is that the analogue reading makes it easier to discern trends as the values change. Watching the swing of the needle provides a better view on those changes, much in the same way that many people prefer a needle speedometer in a car to a digital display.

Disadvantages of Used Analogue Multimeters

The disadvantages of analogue meters far outweigh the advantages. All analogue products are much more expensive to produce and purchase. They are also less accurate, which becomes more pronounced as the meter battery slowly discharges. Typically, analogue meters are only accurate to plus or minus three percent, while digital versions are incorrect to less than half of one per cent.

Other problems inherent with analogue multimeters include limitations due to the width of the scale pointer, effects from vibration, and vertical or horizontal positioning variances. It is easy to miscount the markings between printed numbers on the scale. The use of analogue meters necessarily involves other mathematical calculations performed by most digital units. Finally, most analogue multimeters are limited to measuring volts, ohms, and amps, while digital meters can do far more for a lower price. One of the only places to find a good selection of used and vintage analogue meters is eBay.

Used Digital Multimeters

Digital multimeters are usually designated as DMMs or DVOMs. As time reduces the number of professionals who are trained to use analogue meters, digital meters have become dominant.

Advantages of Used Digital Multimeters

Unlike analogue versions, digital meters are essentially invisible to the circuit and do not disrupt the flow of current, due to much higher input impedance. This applies to even the lowest priced digital model. A good DMM not only provides information about whether or not the circuit is functioning, it also provides details that are beyond the abilities of any analogue model. A better one is able to measure capacitance, test diodes, measure temperatures, and count frequency.

The better DMMs that can be calibrated also offer a sturdier exterior, the probes are sharper and silicon insulated, and the mode dials are more responsive and durable. These are not necessarily make or break features, but for those who use their multimeters frequently, they do have advantages. Another useful aspect of DMMs is the ability to display enough digits for detailed readings. While the technician is only getting a general idea from an analogue display, digital readouts can be incredibly precise, assuming proper calibration.

Disadvantages of Used Digital Multimeters

There are also professionals who prefer to view a traditional needle against a scale and are convinced that the ability to watch the rate of progression is useful. For this reason, digital multimeters do not satisfy the requirements of all users.

Features of Used Multimeters

Professional electricians rely heavily on their multimeters. Their meters are as important to them as a hammer is to a carpenter. As quality is important, they must have accurate readings at a moment's notice and the construction has to be able to withstand constant use. They generally carry more than one, which has a couple of advantages. Firstly, they always have a backup meter in the event that one is misplaced or malfunctioning. Secondly, having two provides assurance that the reading is accurate and that neither is in need of calibration. Some multimeters can be calibrated and others cannot. Both types are available on eBay for a wide range of prices.

Used Handheld vs. Bench Multimeters

When searching eBay for used multimeters, bear in mind that although changes in the testing functionality of meters have been reasonably stable in the last few years, the quality of the components in both bench and handheld models has risen significantly. The current inexpensive handheld models rival the top bench meters from the past, both analogue and digital. However, new top-of-the-range multimeters are still of the bench variety.

Used Calibratable Multimeters

When shopping on eBay for used multimeters, there is a strong likelihood that they may require recalibration. The price for recalibration can vary considerably, so it makes sense to get some recommendations from others who have had this service previously and factor that process into the total cost. If the seller guarantees the accuracy of the multimeter, check the returns policy and consider the delivery costs if the meter should there be a need to return it for any reason.

The less expensive multimeters cannot be calibrated. Essentially, they are useless once they become inaccurate. On the other hand, these disposable meters offer the advantage of a very low price. Some provide a respectable service and cost less than the price of recalibration. For the buyer who does not need to use a meter daily, these can be a good option.

Prominent Characteristics of Multimeters

The table below compares some of the most prominent characteristics of analogue and digital multimeters. These include accuracy, rate of change, response time, durability, and radio frequency interference.

Feature of Multimeter

Analogue Characteristics

Digital Characteristics



Most inexpensive models are superior to the best analogue models

Rate of change

Needle movement is easy to interpret

Rapid number changes difficult to assess

Response time


Can be sluggish as each digital change is displayed


More fragile, easily damaged if dropped

Less likely to be affected by movement

Radio frequency interference

Less likely

More susceptible

All things considered, the best value for nearly any testing function is with a digital multimeter, simply because the benefits of accuracy exceed any analogue advantages.

Buying Used Multimeters on eBay

The easiest way to find used multimeters on eBay is to use the search feature provided on every page of the website. If you start at the eBay home page, try entering a phrase such as used digital multimeters into the search field. This takes you to a page with many products to choose from in all price ranges. You may choose to specify a particular brand or define some of the functions to get a more precise result. For some additional help with searching the website, read eBay's search tips.

Bundling Purchases on eBay

Anyone who has used eBay in the past knows the value of buying more than one item from the same seller. It is a great way to save both time and money. You only need to browse a specific product range, and the seller may adjust the delivery fees so that they are not incurred on each item.


In modern times, it is difficult to justify the manufacture of any electrical measurement device that is not multifaceted. Since a good quality multimeter that can be calibrated is now accessible so inexpensively from eBay, it makes sense to search for a single device. There are many good used models available, so with a little bit of time spent learning about the different features, such as calibration, accuracy, and response time, buyers are able to choose the right multimeter for the appropriate frequency of use. Anyone looking to add or replace a multimeter has more than enough choices.

More often, professionals and DIY enthusiasts are turning to eBay for every tool that they need. eBay has an excellent selection of used multimeters. The prices are low as competition is high. There is also the convenience of shopping from home, or wherever you are, using a computer or smartphone. This saves time and money.

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