What about a NASCAR race? Would you want the cheapest car available? Probably not, because you could not compete with the folks driving real professional grade cars. No matter how good your driving skills are, you won’t even qualify if you are driving a Yugo.
You should take the same attitude when choosing your tools for any trade, especially HVACR. For a trades person, your tools are your lifeline. Poor tools limit your ability to work and can be dangerous. For example, when using a volt meter, your hands are holding the leads through which the electricity is flowing. The only thing keeping you from being shocked is the insulation quality of the leads. You do not want to be using a meter that has not been tested by an independent agency for safety. For HVACR work, the meter should have a safety category rating of at least III and that rating should be verified by an independent agency. Further, a meter designed expressly for HVAC will offer features not found on the bargain meter, such as capacitance or microamp testing. The “Yugo” meter won’t allow you to check the flame rod circuit, hampering your ability to do your job.
Yes, the professional grade HVACR specific meter will cost more – but your life depends upon the quality of that meter. I prefer to purchase tools from wholesalers that specialize in HVACR because the people there know more about the products that they sell. Many of the employees at an AC Wholesaler have actually used those tools. AC Wholesalers also tend to carry better quality products than the discount stores. Further, HVACR wholesalers generally don’t stock anything that is dangerous to use. If you want people to take you seriously, don’t show up with a bunch of tools from “Surplus Universe.”