By Jayden Mark
A MIG welder is probably the best for beginners. For many DIY metalworkers, a MIG welder is also the top choice. The ease with which one can use a MIG welder, along with great versatility as to the type of welding you can do, are some reasons why these machines are so popular. There is also very little skill involved, making MIG welding quick and easy to learn.
We have included a great variety of options for this review of the top MIG welders. Most can be seen as good MIG welders for home use. Generally speaking, they should be the top choice for beginners. As always, price is an important factor.
A home shop may not require the very best, most expensive MIG welder. For this reason, we’ve included options that can be considered the best MIG welder for the price. Others can be seen as the best all around MIG welder.
Whatever your requirements may be, I’m sure the you’ll find a MIG welder that speaks to you in this review. I’ll conclude with a buyer’s guide that should prove to be a valuable resource for beginners and seasoned metal workers alike.
1. Forney Easy Weld 261, 140 Flux Core MIG Welder
Yet another affordable, light-duty MIG welder for DIY home use. The Forney Easy Weld 140 FC-I has a little more power than the portable MIG welders reviewed this far. It is a delightfully easy machine to use, making it perfect for the beginner.
Infinite controls for both voltage and wire speed, make the Forney Easy Weld really simple to use. Even with little experience using a MIG welder, you’ll up and running in no time.
This is a 120V 140A MIG welder, giving just enough power to handle up to ¼” steel. Though I’d think that this would leave you with a limited duty cycle. No specs are provided for duty cycle, I’m just going by my experience of light-duty MIG welders of this class.
This looks like a fairly robust machine with a good ground clamp and welding gun. There are no connections for a gas bottle, meaning only flux core wire can be used. The spool can accommodate 2, and 10 pound wire rolls. Access to the wire spool is by means of a large door at the side of the welder, keeping things easy and hassle-free. A large, comfortable carrying handle, along with a delightfully low weight of only 19-pounds, make the little Forney exceptionally portable. It measures 16.75” X 8.125” X 12”.
The thing that really stands out when comparing the Forney Easy Weld to the other DIY MIG welders in this review, is the ease of operation. This makes it the ideal machine for beginners. The price is great, and quality is also of a high standard. Certainly, one of the best light-duty MIG welders, with a few extra amps to boot.
YesWelder MIG/Stick/TIG Multi-Process Welder MIG-205DS -3 in 1 Welding Machine
2. Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG Welder 115V
If you’re looking for a cheap 140A MIG welder, the Hobart (500559) handler may leave you a little breathless. It costs more than double what you’d pay for the Forney Easy Weld (reviewed above). Even when comparing the Hobart Handler to the more robust Lincoln Electric K2185-1, the Hobart is still the more expensive option. So, before I review this welder, we need to view this machine in context.
This is an industrial grade MIG welder, it is built to last and work hard on a daily basis. When comparing it to the professional grade Lincoln (K2697-1), a similar high-quality professional 140A MIG welder, the price is quite similar. Unlike all the other small MIG welders reviewed so far, this one is designed for more than occasional weekend welding. Professionals, and more industrious DIY metalworkers, will appreciate this.
When you look at the weight spec, you can immediately see that this is a more a robust MIG welder. At 57-pounds (without accessories), this is no lightweight. This may not be the best for portability, but certainly indicates a lot more high-grade metal has been used in its construction. This bodes well for those who want a hard-working MIG welder. When you take a look at the brass fittings, gas pipes with dual gauges, and all the other components, it’s plain to see why this not a cheap welder. Quality of this standard is worth paying for. Down to the high-grade cast aluminum wire drive system, everything smacks of durable hard-wearing design and build.
The inclusion of the gas kit means you have the option for inert gas, or flux core wire welding. The 200A ground clamp is both tough and provides a better current for easier, smoother welding. The pipes and cords are also longer than the standard 8-feet. So, the 10’ range is another advantage.
Controls are as easy as it gets. A dial with 5 positions for tapped voltage control, gives you a good range from 25 – 140A. This allows you to weld mild steel plate up to ¼”. Though, like just about any 115V MIG welder with this output, don’t expect a high duty cycle at maximum output – 20% duty cycle @ 90A (19V). Wire feed is precise and smooth, a wonderfully calibrated wire feed dial (10% – 100%), gives you a range of 40 – 100 IPM under load.
Whether you intend welding brass, aluminum, cast iron, titanium, you name it, the Hobart Handler is certainly up to the task. This Ohio based company is committed to providing industrial welding equipment of the highest standard. Their 5-year warranty, along with superb customer care, is a true testament to this.
3. Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter Multi Process Welder
The Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter Multi Process Welder is in a completely different class to all the others in this review. The most obvious difference is the higher rated power of 200A, giving it much improved capabilities for thicker material of any metal type. The IGBT inverter makes a massive difference, improving the weight to power ratio by a lot and providing great automated functions.
There are many other advantages to buying this welder, justifying the higher price. It is the most expensive welder in this review, but it is way more advanced and has a lot more power. The multi process aspect to the Weldpro is something to be admired. It does every type of welding. Its not just a MIG stick welder, but also has a Tungsten tip for TIG welding. This gives you the perfect welder for every type of metal, even thin delicate welding. Being an inverter welder, duty cycles are a substantially better than the others in this review.
It can supply up to 200A using a 230V power supply, but can also run on standard 115V household power, at the lower input voltage, output is limited to 120A. The MIG duty cycle is 30% @ 200A. When comparing the duty cycle to the 100 – 140A welders reviewed this far, you should expect around 60% (or more) for a duty cycle at 100A. This welder is way more efficient than any of the others. To top it all off, the Weldpro weighs only 30.4 pounds. A 200A welder that weighs less than most 140A welders, and has about 3 times the duty cycle, that’s the beauty of an inverter welder. Wonderful technology.
Another advantage to using an inverter welder is the incredibly stable current, providing smooth easy welds. Transistors and capacitors, controlled by an onboard computer, not only reduce the load on the transformer, but give you a constant power rate. Being a computerized system, you have truly infinite control over amperage, making for the most accurate settings, that never fluctuate.
For beginners, there can be no easier welder to learn. You have a setting to automatically adjust the voltage and wire speed as you work. If you prefer, you can set the voltage and wire feed yourself, this will be more accurate. Doing this is easy, with a voltage dial and touch button electronic controls for all other functions. It has digital displays for feed rate and amperage. The kit also includes inert gas pipes, regulator, and pressure gauge. Automatic overload protection, with display, means there’s no chance of anything going wrong.
If you can’t decide between a stick, MIG, or TIG welder, this one does it all. It has the power for some heavy-duty welding and the all the great advantages of an inverter. I don’t place too much value on automation, it always tends to be more of a ballpark setting, doing it yourself is more reliable. However, for basic, beginner welding, this can be a great advantage. When all is said and done, this is a particularly great multi-function welder. Yes, it’s quite expensive, but the advantages are all too evident. You’re getting a lot for your money.
4. Goplus MIG 130 Welder
We kick off this MIG welder review with one of the best cheap MIG welders. It may not be the most powerful and is not really a heavy-duty welder. Instead, the Goplus MIG 130 is a pleasantly affordable, and very capable, MIG welder for home use. This would be the best, inexpensive MIG welder for beginners. It is uncomplicated and, best of all, one of cheapest MIG welders for sale today. That’s if you exclude the cheap junk, that I really don’t consider worth buying. The Goplus MIG 130 is a top contender, it can be seen as the best MIG welder for the price.
For such a cheap welder, I’m quite impressed with the over all quality. The Goplus is made from durable stainless steel and seems to be quite a competent little machine for occasional, light-duty work. With a maximum rating of 130A, it has its limitations. I’ve read some reviews, stating this welder can handle ¼ steel. I’m highly doubtful of this and wouldn’t recommend anything more than 8-gauge plate steel. No duty cycle is specified for the Goplus 130, which is not surprising for light-duty welder intended for home use. I’d expect this to be quite low, a MIG welder in this class is not built for heavy-duty work, a duty cycle of less than 50% @ 130A should be expected.
Control functions are logical and easy to follow. It has 2 power buttons, providing 4 settings for output. A high-low setting on one side, next to it, a level of either 1 or 2. You don’t have the option for precise amp settings. Though, I would think for the home user, or beginner, this setup is simpler and perfectly adequate. A dial controls your wire feed rate and is calibrated from 1 – 10, giving you excellent speed control. A warning light informs you when the welder is overheating.
Although common on cheaper, home use MIG welders, I don’t like the fact that the wire is energized from the moment you switch the power on. This can easily lead to accidental contact. A trigger control to activate the welding action is obviously better. The trigger on the Goplus welding gun only activates the wire feed, power to wire is always active.
They’ve thrown in a few extras, like a welding mask and wire brush, that doubles as a chipping hammer. Though, in my opinion, these items belong in the trash. I don’t recommend using a cheap, inferior quality welding mask. Go out and buy a quality welding helmet for your safety, it’s worth it.
As for portability, the Goplus MIG welder is certainly a pleasure, weighing only 35-pounds. Dimensions are 13.4” X 7.3” X 11.4” and they’ve included a nifty storage compartment, with a solid metal latch for your accessories. There are no gas attachments, so the Goplus 130 can only be used with flux core wire.
Personally, I prefer a more heavy-duty welder and would not recommend the Goplus to anyone intending to do a lot of welding on a regular basis. For the home user, who occasionally needs to do some repairs and the odd small metal work project, you may not see the need to spend a lot on a heavy-duty MIG welder. If this sounds like you, you really can’t beat the low-cost value for money that the Goplus 130 has to offer.
5. Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder
The Lincoln brand is associated with heavy-duty, industrial quality welders. While the Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG welder certainly holds true to the Lincoln philosophy of US made quality, this model is intended as a lightweight, portable MIG welder for home use. It cannot, fully compare with the high-end, more expensive Lincoln MIG welders. In the context of light-duty welders, the Lincoln (K2185-1) Handy MIG welder, is likely one of the very best.
Considering that it costs a fair bit more than the extraordinarily cheaper Goplus 130, and has a lower power rating, one would expect this one to offer more in the build quality department. I trust the Lincoln brand to deliver on their high-quality promise and all indications are that this model does exactly that.
With a maximum power output of 83A and a rated 20% duty cycle @ 70A, this is not a heavy-duty welder. In all fairness, this was never the intention. The Lincoln Handy MIG Welder is a superbly robust little welder for home repairs and light-duty metal projects. You shouldn’t expect to weld thicker than 1/8” mild steel and, when using this welder for this thickness, expect to stop frequently to let the machine cool down.
The Lincoln Handy MIG has similar control functions to most home MIG welders, two switches offer 4 power settings and it has an infinite wire speed control dial, along with a heat warning light. The welding gun is of a suitably high standard, something you’d expect from Lincoln. The kit includes gas pipes, giving you option for flux core, or inert gas welding. These too, are of a high quality standard. The extras include a welding helmet and wire brush chipping hammer combo. While the welding helmet is not top quality, it is perfectly acceptable and should be fine for the occasional welding job.
The aim here is for a portable welder for home use and I feel they have accomplished this superbly. The little Lincoln weighs a mere 26-pounds and measures 18” X 10.3” X 16.8”. Sure, this is far from being the most powerful MIG welder. For it’s intended purpose, the Lincoln Hady MIG welder is a wonderful machine, with commendable build quality. I’d be prepared to pay a little extra for Lincoln quality assurance any day of the week. This would be my first choice when looking for a portable welder for light repair jobs.
6. Lotos 140 Amp MIG Wire Welder
The Lotos 140A MIG welder provides a fantastic balance of price vs quality. Perhaps not quite in the same league as the high-end Lincoln and Hobart welders, it can still compete with the more industrial-grade MIG welders. Costing around 100 bucks less than its more renowned competitors, the Lotos is a wonderful MIG welder for the price. If I had to classify this machine, I’d call it a high-end DIY MIG welder, or an entry level professional MIG welder. Sort of in a class of its own.
So, you’re paying a little more than you would for a cheap MIG welder for home use, quite a bit less than an expensive industrial MIG welder. For this middle of the road price, you’re getting a lot of quality components, like a very reliable aluminum wire feeder. The cheap machines often use plastic. It has a great brass ground cable connector and, in general, all the brass fittings are above average. This model also includes a gas kit, with a single (argon) regulator and pressure gauge.
The controls for both wire feed and voltage are infinite dials, so it’s dead easy to set the Lotos for all types of welding. To make things even easier, they’ve fitted digital displays for both voltage and wire feed rate, there’s absolutely no guess work when setting up the machine. With a maximum 140A power rating, it can handle up to ¼” mild steel and fares quite well on aluminum, though an aluminum welding gun is not included. No duty cycle is provided, you should expect it to be roughly the same as the other 140A MIG welders in this review.
The weight of 54-pounds gives us an idea of the type heavy-duty quality you’re getting. It weighs roughly the same as the formidable Hobart Handler. When looking at the weight of a welder, we can expect the heavier machines to have a more robust transformer (that’s where most of the weight is concentrated). A heavy MIG welder is not the best for portability but is a good sign when looking at durability. A heavy transformer can take a lot more punishment over the years.
The Lotos 140A MIG welder offers a superb option for the home user looking for a higher quality machine. Likewise, it is a more affordable option for the professional, who expects a more durable machine. If the price tag of the really high-end MIG welders seems a little too steep for you, this would be the next best option, without much compromise.
7. PRIMEWELD MIG140 140 Amp MIG Wire Welder
The Primeweld MIG140 is probably the closest competitor to the Lotos 140A MIG welder. This model doesn’t have the digital display for voltage and wire feed, but I really don’t see this as a deal breaker. The 3-year warranty (vs 1-year for the Lotos) does give me more peace of mind. They’ve included a cheap welding mask and wire brush / chipping hammer combo, like so many others. But this is not something I attach much value to either.
The Primeweld is a good quality 140A MIG welder. I would say that this machine, like the Lotos, is a crossover high-end home use, entry level professional MIG welder. It has an argon inert gas kit and quality pipes, along with high-grade brass fittings. Only the shipping weight is given (110-pounds). I can’t say exactly how much this welder weighs, but the packaging can’t be too heavy, so I expect this to be a pretty heavy machine. A good sign if you’re looking for a high-quality robust transformer.
Controls are on a par with any of the best 140A MIG welders. Two dials offer great control over voltage (10 positions) and 10 wire feed settings (10% - 100%). It has a sturdy carrying handle, which is great for a heavier welder and has a tough casing. Like so many, this MIG welder is great for aluminum welding, but the aluminum spool gun is not included, you have to buy this separately.
Choosing between the Primeweld MIG140 and the Lotos equivalent may not be too easy. They are similarly priced and are closely matched in every aspect of their design and features. Perhaps, the longer 3-year warranty may make this one more appealing.
MIG Welder Buying Guide
If you still can’t decide which of the MIG welders in this review is going to be the best one for you, this buying guide might help. Knowing what to look for is important before hauling out your hard-earned cash.
Why Buy a MIG Welder?
If you’re wondering whether a MIG welder is really the one for you, let’s clarify this by looking at why most home users choose a MIG welder over any other type.
The first, and most obvious advantage to using a MIG welder is the ease of operation. Your welding electrode is a spool of wire that is fed into the welding gun by an electric motor. You can set the speed at which the wire is fed into the gun, as well as the welding power. So, a MIG welder is easy to set up and use.
Like a stick welder, a MIG welder melts metal into the weld and uses an inert shielding gas. This makes it much easier to use than a TIG welder and allows you to join metal of different types. Though beginners should remember that welding two metals, that are dissimilar, is not easy and takes some experience.
All modern MIG welders can accommodate wire spools with a flux core. This flux core generates the inert shielding gas when heated, meaning that you don’t need gas bottles, regulators and the complications of manually adjusting your shielding gas. Some models have the option of using a gas tank. These have gas pipes, regulators, and pressure gauges. Though, for most DIY welders, even most professionals, flux core wire is easier and more convenient.
What to Look For in a MIG Welder
Here are the most important aspects to consider when choosing the best MIG welder for your needs.
The AMPs produced by your MIG welder determines what thickness material you’re able to weld. Obviously more power offers the greatest versatility. Small home welders, around 140A, can handle mild steel up a ¼”, some may even battle accomplishing this. Harder, denser metals, like brass, need even more amps for the same thickness.
One thing to keep in mind is that most MIG welders producing upward of 200A require a 240V power supply. They can often use dual voltage (120V or 240V), but when using the lower 120V power supply, you won’t have the same output. You seldom get more than 140A from a 120V welder.
A welder can only function for a certain length of time before it generates too much heat and has to cool down. This is represented by the welder’s duty cycle. Basically, this tells you how long you can work for, and how long the welder needs to cool before you can continue working.
A duty cycle is indicated as a percentage over a 10-minute cycle at a rated amperage. If you see a MIG welder duty cycle spec of 20% @ 100A, this means that you can weld for 2-minutes with the power set at 100A, it will then take 8-minutes to cool before you commence welding.
There are two main controls to take note of when comparing MIG welders. You have a voltage or amperage setting. This sets the power with which you’ll be welding. Some of the more basic MIG welders will have a switch or switches, providing simple high and low settings. This limits the control you have and may be problematic when greater control is needed, like when welding aluminum or particularly thin metal plates. The more power settings you have, the better your versatility for welding metal of different types and thicknesses.
The second control to look at the is the feed rate. This is the speed that the wire is fed to the welding gun, measured in Inches per Minute (IPM). Though it is seldom indicated as such, usually a percentage or simple 1 – 10 speed setting. You match the feed rate to the speed at which you’ll be welding.
Ground Clamp and Welding Gun
The trigger control welding gun needs to be durable and it’s always a good idea to look for quality brass fittings. This gives you an indication of the what the overall quality is.
Ground clamps are rated by AMPS, though this spec is seldom provided. You can look at the size, material and thickness of the ground clamp to assess its quality. Ground clamps are more important than many realize. Obviously, a high amperage ground clamp, made of thick metal, is going to last longer. Though, more importantly, your ground clamp determines the current conductivity. A good ground clamp, in good condition, is going to make things easier and produce a better weld. It is easy to fit an aftermarket ground clamp if the one on your welder is not up to standard.
Inverter vs Transformer MIG Welder
All welders use a transformer. Traditional welders, however, use only a transformer with fixed pot settings for voltage / amperage.
An Internal Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) inverter uses capacitors and transistors that reduce the size of the transformer that is needed, thereby reducing the weight of the welder. Though there are more important reasons to consider an inverter welder.
Inverter welders have a computerized management system that make them more efficient and effective. Improved efficiency means lower electricity bills and better duty cycles. An inverter welder will usually allow you to work for much longer before the welder reaches critical temperature and it will cool down much quicker.
You also have perfect, infinite, power control. You can set the power requirement precisely for the type of metal and thickness of material. Furthermore, the current is constantly monitored by the computer, keeping it totally stable. This results in cleaner, neater welds, with little chance of burning.
Inverter welders are more expensive than traditional welders that only use a transformer. Though the benefits are numerous.