I buy 2 or 3 cheap meters at a time, they are always getting used, dropped,wet, etc..., having a spare is a must. I am currently using a $50 craftsman and have no problems with it. Astime goes on you will find what you like.
I would not go with a cheap meter from a do it yourself store. Your back up needs to be just as reliable as the one you use. And I also would not buy a meter off of flea bay because there is a safety concern. Would you buy a used rock climbing rope? Would you buy a used hazmat suit? You don't know how it was used. I would not buy into the big name brands. I would go with a Uei 389 phoenix2. It does everything that the other ones can do and more. And I am still a fluke fan.
I have had my Fieldpeice HS36 for 6 years now, which is the same length of time I have been in HVAC. You know why I haven't had to replace it because I am careful with my tools. If you have had to replace a 200 dollar meter more then twice in a 4 year period that is just straight poor care and use of your equipment. I use my meter daily. I even use it on weekends.
I don't really buy a backup meter. When I see a new meter I'm happier with, the old one becomes the backup. The cycle repeats. Though my HS36 has been in the bag for 6 years or so now.
I guess that's not possible when you're new. But just throwing that in there. My old Fluke meter has been in the "extras" bag on my truck for a long time, unused. I should probably check to see if it even works anymore LOL.
I started with and still regularly use an SC56. It's treated me very well. I also have two Flukes and until recently a second Fieldpiece (SC76) that I just sold to a co-worker.
That said, I wish I hadn't started with a brand new meter. I wish I had started by buying something used and more disposable on ebay and saving some $$$.
Had a SC 76 then upgraded to the SC 77. Used that for years then bought a SC 56 which has been used daily since they first came out. Gave the 76 away and keep the 77 in the truck for a back up. Bottom line is fieldpiece makes good meters at a reasonable price.
Uei 379 Phoenix 2
I wouldn't buy the UEi again and read others have similar issues with the Klein versions so its not just me. My next meter will be a Fluke and I should have bought it as my first. Besides probably sill having a working meter I could trust today the money I've dumped over the years on good enough meters that claim to do everything I could have had a Fluke collection going by now.
I had trouble with my UEI phoenix, sent it back and got a new one. 1 month later same problems. They don't seem very rugged.
Have you guys looked at the new fluke cnx 3000 wireless stuff? Pricey as expected, but looks nice.