By Jayden Mark
I’m sure most will agree that a MIG flux core welder is the best way to go. These are the easiest welder to use and, with the correct flux core wire, you can weld just about any metal with ease. These are the best welders for beginners and are also very popular in auto body shops.
Due to their popularity, there are plenty of options for the MIG welder buyer. This means we have quite a large, and varied selection of MIG welders chosen for this review. Being this spoilt for choice, can make your decision quite complicated. It isn’t all that easy to decide which is the best MIG welder amongst so many great offerings. To help with this, I’ll provide a flux core welder buying guide following the review.
Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welders use a spool of wire as a conductive electrode and filler metal. The wire is fed at a constant rate, using an electric drive motor, so there is little skill required when operating a MIG welder.
The shielding gas can be supplied from a gas tank, which also requires a gas regulator and pipe. Using a flux core wire is much simpler, the flux in the wire releases the required shielding gas, eliminating the need for extra components and settings.
We have a huge selection of MIG flux core welders lined up for this review. These range from high-end machines, from brands like Lincoln, to more affordable MIG welder for the home shop.
1. Goplus MIG 130 Welder Flux Core Wire Automatic Feed Welding Machine
Affordability is the name of the game here. I’d rate the Goplus MIG 130 as one of the best beginner, or entry level 105A MIG welders. Even though you’re not spending much, this is a very accomplished little welder, provided you’re not doing daily, heavy-duty welding.
Like any welder in this class, I don’t rate the ground clamp or welding torch too highly. These are clearly made for occasional repair jobs and hobbyist weekend metalworkers. With that said, it is certainly worth the price. The robust stainless steel body is quite exceptional for such a cheap welder.
Functions are made easy, perfect for the beginner welder. Amperage is set by means of 2 switches, providing 4 settings – low 1, low 2, high 1, or high 2. Unlike professional machines with accurate infinite amperage dials, the Goplus only offers approximate output current. This is okay for less experienced welders and is certainly much easier to master. Wire speed is managed, using a dial with 1 – 10 speed settings which is great.
The kit includes a welding mask and wire brush, that also functions as a chipping hammer. These are great to get started with. But I’d recommend buying a quality self-darkening welding helmet. This is a great machine for a home shop, it uses conventional 120V power, but it’s best to use a 20A outlet, 15A could trip at high loads. Carrying the Goplus around is easy enough, it weighs only 35-pounds.
If you only use a MIG welder occasionally, you probably won’t see much sense in paying hundreds of dollars for a top-rated brand. While the Goplus MIG 130 isn’t the very cheapest, it is really affordable. The balance between reasonable quality vs low price is perfect. Buying cheap can often be a waste of money, cheap junk often ends up in the trash all too soon. This can’t be said for this Goplus welder. For light-duty welding, it should serve you well for a long time.
2. Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core
Lincoln manufacture some of the best welders for the professional. Though, they are also great at bringing us high-end quality products for the beginner and DIY enthusiasts. The Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core is one such model. It is more expensive than cheap entry-level machines, but nowhere nearly as expensive as professional grade Lincoln welders. The result is a high-quality machine for light-duty welding.
Designed as a portable, take anywhere, plug and play flux core welder, this is by no means a powerful machine. The Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core has a rated output of 35-88 Amps. You won’t get very deep penetration with this little machine, limited really to mild steel (18 gauge to ⅛”).
As to be expected from a high-end brand, the welding torch and ground clamp are good quality items and should last for quite some time. With beginner welders in mind, this is not a complicated flux core welder to use. It has an on/off switch and high/low, 1-2 power setting switches. Much like any small MIG welder, this gives you 4 AMP setting by using different combinations. Wire feed is controlled by using a dial knob. A nice advantage, especially for the beginner, is the cold wire current. It only becomes hot (or live) when you engage the trigger on the torch. This prevents accidental arcing when lining up your electrode.
The low amperage means that you can plug the Lincoln into any 120V socket without fear of tripping the circuit. It’s small, with a delightfully low weight of only 45 LBS. Deserving of the name “Handy”, this is most certainly a portable MIG flux core welder.
Undisputed Lincoln quality, at a very affordable price, is what makes this one of the top-rated flux core welders. Ideal for beginners, it is also a very handy little portable welder for contractors and farmers who want to perform quick, easy welding repairs where a big MIG welder may not be all that convenient.
3. ZENY MIG130 Gas-Less Flux Core Wire Automatic Feed Welder
The Zeny MIG130 seems to be almost ridiculously cheap. Though, this is one of the few MIG flux core welders under $100 that I feel is worth recommending. At this price, you’re obviously getting a light-duty machine intended for occasional use.
I like the quality of the welding torch. It’s not at all industrial grade, but far better than I’d expect on a welder this cheap. The ground clamp can only be described as cheap, you’ll probably be replacing it quite soon. Which isn’t such a bad thing, cheap ground clamps are common; but are easy to replace with better quality items which don’t cost a lot.
The control panel is nicely recessed into the steel enclosure, providing a good measure of protection from knocks when transporting the welder. Dials and switches compare to most in this class. Two power switches give you a 4 amperage settings up to 60A, so it’s only rated for thinner metal, preferably mild steel. Wire feed is controlled by a conventional knob.
For one of the cheapest DIY flux core welders, the Zeny MG130 deserves some recognition. It can compare well to MIG welders that cost considerably more, with a decent level of quality.
4. Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC Flux Core Welder
The Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC stands out as being one of the few cheaper flux core welders that can handle thicker metal; and is one of the easiest machines for beginners to start using. The Forney Easy Weld flux core welder also displays a higher level of quality, compared to many in this class, when looking at the torch and ground clamp.
You can plug the Forney Easy Weld into a standard 120V outlet and still have a good deal of power at your disposal. With a maximum output of 125A, you’ll have better success welding thicker pieces up to about ¼”. User functions are about as easy as it gets. You have a selector switch for sheet metal or thin plate, an on/off switch, and a wire feed speed dial. There’s nothing confusing or complicated about this welder.
The Forney Easy Weld isn’t too heavy, for its size, weighing 51-pounds. It has a wonderful handle which allows you to neatly wrap the cords for storage and transportation. A wide opening door at the back makes replacing the wire spool very convenient.
The Forney Easy Weld 299 125FC is a great DIY welder with heaps more power than the average entry-level DC MIG flux core welder. I like the general quality, in the context of an affordable home shop machine.
5. SUNGOLDPOWER MIG 150A Welder Flux Core
I’m pleasantly surprised to see an affordable 150A MIG flux core welder that’s worth buying. The Sungoldpower MIG 150A costs about as much as many 60A machines, making it great value for money. A good buy for a home shop, if you want to weld a greater variety of metal types and thicker material.
The stainless steel body is tough enough, defying the low price tag. As is to be expected, the torch and ground clamp are not heavy-duty, and the plastic wire spool mechanism is also something that is common to cheaper machines. It is, after all a DIY welder, not an expensive professional-grade machine.
Controls are the same basic switches that you’d expect to find on MIG welder of this class. Two power switches offer the standard high-low, 1-2 configurations, along with a speed dial for the wire feed system. I prefer the top mounted wire spool to the usual side door. This makes installing and removing the spool as easy as possible.
The Sungoldpower welder uses a 120V supply, which is great for the garage, yet delivers 80 – 150A output current. You will need at least 20A power supply to make use of the higher power output. This gives you a greater capability, allowing for flux core wire 0.003” – 0.35”. Despite the extra power, it is surprisingly lightweight – 39.5-pounds.
This is about as powerful as it gets for a 120V, DIY flux core welder. For a more powerful machine, the price is irresistible, making this a very popular DIY or beginner flux core welder.
6. Weldpro 90 AMP FLUX WIRE WELDER
I think the 90A capacity of the Weldpro flux core welder is ideal for most home and auto body welding needs. You’re not paying for than what you need. Instead, you’re getting an above average light-duty welder that will work fine using normal household (115V) power, with a recommended input amperage of 20A.
Although very affordable, the Weldpro portable flux core welder offers a pretty high quality standard. The copper ground clamp is perfectly matched to the light-duty nature of this little machine, as is the welding torch. This welder has a solid feel about it and is really great for beginners, with easy to use functions.
Switch the Weldpro on and select either high or low output, depending on whether you’re welding thin plate or sheet metal. It’s as simple as all that. Wire feed is controlled using a dial, marked from 1 – 10.
The solid construction and lightweight design make this the perfect portable MIG flux core welder for most welding jobs. Bottom line, a great little MIG welder, offering outstanding value for money.
7. ARKSEN MIG-130 Welding Machine Gas Less Flux Core Wire DIY Home Welder
This is another example of good DC flux core welder, with above average capabilities, and a very reasonable price tag. With up to 120A (20VDC) output, this little machine allows you to weld thicker material than many in this price range. It comes with a bunch of extras to get you started.
Everything is pretty much what I’d expect from light-duty welder at this price. The plus factor being a higher capacity than many others in this class. It has the normal, light-duty ground clamp and a pretty good torch for this size machine.
Power settings a quite easy and allows the user to select 4 Amp settings by means of two switches. A standard dial controls the wire speed. All this is housed in a pretty robust steel enclosure, at a very good weight of 36.8-pounds.
Above average performance, at a very average price amounts to good value for money. If you require more power from your home flux core welder, the Arksen MIG-130 is going to be one of the best options.
8. VIVOHOME Portable Flux Core Wire No Gas MIG 130 Welder
The VIVOHOME flux core welder looks almost identical to the Arksen MIG-130 that I’ve just reviewed. I can’t help thinking that they come from the same factory, I’m pretty sure they do. There is a price difference, with the VIVOHOME model being around 40 bucks cheaper. So, by all accounts, this one should be better value for money, it even includes the same extras – welding mask, wire brush/ chipping hammer combo, and a spool of wire.
Specs are identical for the two welders. This one also has two power switches for amp output combinations up to 120A 20VDC and a 1 -10 speed control dial for the wire feed. There is a slightly different weight spec for this model (37.1 LBS). Though the difference can’t be noticed in any way.
I can’t speak for either of these brands, both VIVOHOME and Arksen are lesser known household welders, and seem to be on a par. Perhaps Arksen offer better after sales service to justify their higher price, though there’s no evidence of this. Unless you have a particular affinity for either brand, I’d say that the VIVOHMOME 120A flux core welder is the better deal, compared to the Arksen alternative. It seems to be the same machine at a better price.
MIG Flux Core Welder Buying Guide
Buying your first welder can be a little scary at first. Is a cheap welder going to hold up to the work you intend doing? Will a more expensive machine simply be a waste of money? There so many different welders, with very different specifications. It’s likely that you have your head set on buying a MIG welder. These are the most popular, especially for the home user.
Though there’s still a lot questions remaining. The most obvious being whether you actually need connections for a gas tank.
Why Buy a Flux Core Welder?
MIG welders use inert gas to protect the weld from contaminants. This ensures a strong bond and a cleaner finish. The gas can be supplied from a gas tank, using a pipe and a regulator valve. This is quite complicated to set up and use. In addition to this, the extra fittings for the gas push up the cost.
For most, if not all, MIG welding jobs, flux core wire is more convenient and easier to use. The flux inside the wire generates the inert gas needed to protect the weld, eliminating the need for gas bottles and the necessary fittings. If you’re not going to be using gas bottles, there’s no need to pay extra for this option.
This is why flux core welders are the best choice for a home shop. Basically, a flux core welder is the same as any other MIG welder. They just don’t have connections for an external gas supply.
Being the cheapest MIG welder, flux core welders are generally aimed at the home user who doesn’t weld on a daily basis. They will have a spec level more in line with light-duty applications. This usually means a lower duty cycle, seldom more than 20% – 30%. Because these welders are not aimed at the professional metalworker, you won’t often find the duty cycle specified.
What to Look For in a Flux Core Welder
Deciding which is the best flux core welder for you isn’t too complicated. They are all fairly basic and have similar, often identical, features.
You will normally have quite limited power settings. In many cases this will be high or low. Some offer an additional 1 -2 power switch, which gives you 2 more options for your amp output. Though for basic DIY jobs, using a flux core welder, two power settings are fine.
They all have a wire feed dial. This determines at what speed the electrode wire is fed into the welding gun. You match your wire speed according to the speed at which you weld. Using a higher amperage, usually requires more speed as the metal will burn easier at a high power setting.
Ease of Use
Portable home flux core welders are designed with simple, easy to use functions. Your welding torch has a trigger switch, and this may be something you want to look at in some detail. You want a trigger that is comfortable to use. This trigger activates the wire feed and you hold it continuously as you work.
Better flux core welders use the trigger to activate the arc as well as wire feed. This makes your life easier. For most flux core welders, the electrode is hot from the moment you switch the machine on. This increases the risk of an accidental arc. When you’re preparing to start, or put the welding torch down, a hot electrode can easily arc unintentionally. If the arc is only possible when you activate the trigger switch, this cannot happen.
You will be changing the wire spool fairly regularly. So, you want this to be accessible and uncomplicated. Not all spools are the same size. You’ll need to check what size spool you’re using to make sure it will fit the machine.
Most DIY flux core welders are fitted with plastic wire spool drive mechanisms. While metal construction is better, it can be an unnecessary expense for the occasional user. Most of all, you want a smooth wire feed, with a good measure of speed control.