HomeTips & GuidesVoltage Tester vs. Multimeter: Differences Between a Voltage Tester and Multimeter

Voltage Tester vs. Multimeter: Differences Between a Voltage Tester and Multimeter

Voltage tester vs. multimeter– which one do you use for basic DIY voltage measurements? 

Often people refer to the two components interchangeably. But are they similar, or do they have some profound differences in makeup and operation mode? 

We invite you to join us in this discussion as we analyze their fundamental similarities, differences, and specific applications. Let us get started. 

Table of Contents

What Is a Voltage Tester?

A voltage tester is an electronic device responsible for detecting the presence or absence of voltage in a circuit. 

Hence, it’s a simplistic device that will not tell the amount of voltage flowing but rather just its presence. 

Also, it barely tests for current presence and only works for AC voltage circuits. 

Hence, it is inapplicable in testing in battery-powered devices. 

The other common name for a voltage tester is a non-contact voltage detector because it doesn’t require to be part of the circuit for detection. 

You just need to place it at a point in the circuit, and it’ll provide an indicator of whether or not there’s current. 

Types of Voltage Testers

Non-Contact Voltage Tester

As per its name, this device allows you to safely test for voltage presence in electrical components with high voltage. 

All you need to do is place it on the device and check if it lights up when there’s a voltage. 

Hence, you will never come into contact with the dangerous electrical part. But it doesn’t reveal the voltage quantity. 

Neon Voltage Tester

A Neon Voltage Tester. 

A Neon Voltage Tester. 

It derives its name from the neon light indicator, which lights up where a voltage passes. 

The device has two probes (+ve and -ve) that you place on the electrical circuits to detect the presence of voltage. 

Again, this tester simply tells if there’s voltage, but it doesn’t quantify it. 

Solenoid Voltage Tester

It is an advanced voltage tester different from those we’ve covered earlier. It is renowned for its polarity and voltage detection capabilities.

 It also guarantees user convenience because it doesn’t need batteries. 

Multimeter

Finally, it’s also reasonable to regard a multimeter as a voltage detector since it’s useful for voltage detection in various systems. 

For instance, when testing for voltage in auto systems lighting, you can use a multimeter as a voltage tester. 

Pros And Cons Of Voltage Tester

A Voltage Tester. 

A Voltage Tester. 

Advantages of a Voltage Tester

  • It’s a simple tool that requires no unique skill set to operate and is very effective in unearthing electrical shorts
  • Also, it’s a low-cost device that is very useful in detecting whether there’s efficient power flow in a device/electrical circuit. 

Disadvantages of A Voltage Tester

  • The device doesn’t provide the current flow or quantify the voltage amount. Also, for those that give a voltage reading, there are remarkable inaccuracies when the voltage is below the 12 volts threshold. 
  • A voltage tester is inefficient/inaccurate in detecting low voltages. Hence, they are inapplicable in testing voltage in devices like fluorescent tubes. 
  • You cannot use a voltage tester to tell complex wiring issues because it is not specific in its diagnostics. Such a task requires the use of a multimeter. 
  • Fourthly, you risk getting an electric shock when using a voltage tester, especially when dealing with high-voltage circuits. Hence, it’s imperative to exercise caution as the device doesn’t guarantee full safety from such accidents. 
  • The device is prone to damage if there’s an electric surge. Also, excess heat or moisture exposure can affect a voltage tester’s functioning. 

How To Use a Voltage Tester?

An electrician using a voltage tester. 

An electrician using a voltage tester. 

It is pretty simple to use a voltage tester, as we’ll highlight in a few simple steps. 

  • First, place the prongs of the tester on the circuit you would like to test and check the indicator. 
  • Most voltage testers will have an LED on the indicator part, which lights up when there’s voltage. So if it goes on, a voltage passes through the device. If it doesn’t light up, then there’s no current. 
  • After making the measurement, disconnect the voltage tester and store it in a dry place for future use. 

What Is a Multimeter?

A Multimeter. 

A Multimeter. 

It’s a sophisticated voltage tester with other functionalities, such as reading the actual voltage, inductance, current, and capacitance. 

Some multimeters can even read the temperature. 

Unlike the simple voltage tester we covered earlier, a multimeter will measure AC and DC current. 

Other additional features you’d expect in multimeters include the following: 

  • Auto-ranging capability
  • Diode testing
  • Analog displays
  • Transistor testing 
  • Data logging capabilities
  • Continuity testing 

Types of Multimeters

An electrician using a Multimeter. 

An electrician using a Multimeter. 

There are two primary kinds of multimeters: 

Analog Multimeter (VOM)

They are the conventional multimeter types, and although their popularity is low, they can function without batteries. 

It makes analog multimeters worthwhile because they will always give an accurate reading and are not affected by battery depletion like digital ones. 

Digital Multimeter (DDM)

They are more advanced than VOM multimeters. They feature additional capabilities such as high-precision standard sine and non-sine wave measurements. 

Another upside is that they provide a digital display which means you can obtain a reading in decimal points. 

Pros And Cons Of Multimeter

A Digital clamp meter electric tester multimeter. 

A Digital clamp meter electric tester multimeter. 

Advantages of Multimeter

  • The primary upside of using a multimeter is its capacity to make multiple measurements, including voltage, resistance, and capacitance. 
  • Also, a multimeter guarantees precision and is more suitable for circuit measurements.
  • In addition, unlike a voltage tester that only detects voltage presence, the multimeter provides more measurements. You can measure even voltage, current, and resistance.  

Disadvantages of Multimeter

  • The multimeter is pricier than the average voltage tester. 
  • Also, since they have additional functionalities, the device requires more probes and other accessories. 
  • The device may only be user-friendly to an individual with prior experience with its application. 
  • Finally, compared to a voltage detector, this device is bulkier and thus takes more space in storage and transportation. 

How To Use Multimeters?

Using a multimeter. 

Using a multimeter. 

The multimeter has a variety of functions. It can measure capacitance, resistance, voltage, and current. 

Hence, the initial step before using it is to set it up on the parameter you’re measuring. 

Also important is to place the black probe on the ground, although this is unnecessary for some multimeters. 

Finally, the red probe goes to the component whose measurements you take. 

Measuring Voltage

Set your multimeter to voltage mode and tune it to the highest DC voltage range. 

Next, place the red probe on the device whose voltage you’re testing and read the value on the screen. 

Measuring Current

Here, you will have to reverse the setup we have had above. Thus, you should tune the multimeter to the lowest DC amps range. 

Now lay the red probe on the circuit you’re reading and check out the value displayed on the screen. 

Measuring Resistance

Here’s a necessary precaution before embarking on a resistance measurement: Ensure you haven’t connected your leads to any device. 

Next, set the multimeter to the highest ohms range, connect the probes to the circuit, and read the resistance. 

Multimeter and Voltage Tester: The Similarities

What are some of the apparent similarities between these devices? Let’s look at a few of them below. 

  • First, the obvious similarity is that they both test the voltage. 
  • Also, both require electricity to function, and they are small handheld components. 

Voltage Tester Vs. Multimeter: What’s The Difference?

Testing a 9v battery cell with a digital multimeter tool. 

Testing a 9v battery cell with a digital multimeter tool. 

The two devices also feature some profound differences that include the following: 

Design

A multimeter is more sophisticated in design and features additional parts like a switch, range resistors, and even buttons. 

On the flip side, a voltage tester is just plain in design. 

Function

A multimeter provides you with the option of testing for the presence of voltage and also quantifying it. 

But in contrast, the voltage tester just indicates if there’s an apparent voltage on the test circuit. 

Moreover, some of the sophisticated multimeters offer more as they enable measurements of other parameters like 

  • Inductance
  • Temperature 
  • Resistance
  • Current
  • Relative humidity

Voltage Range

Finally, the voltage range of the voltage tester is up to 2000 volts or even more. For the multimeter, this limit is between 200mV and 2000V.

Voltage Tester vs. Multimeter: Do I Need a Multimeter or Voltage Tester?

A multimeter. 

A multimeter. 

The choice will depend on the kind of application that you have in question. 

For simple voltage detections, a voltage tester should carry the day. 

But choose a multimeter if you’re looking for a device that will quantify the voltage and give values of other parameters. 

Summary

We have demystified the differences between a multimeter and a voltage tester. 

This guide helps you pick the right tool when setting up your electronic circuits. It is also handy in diagnosing connection issues in devices. 

Our parting shot is that you should use a voltage tester for simple voltage presence or absence measurements. 

But the multimeter will come in handy to know the amount of voltage, current, and resistance in your circuit. 

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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