Best MIG Welder for the Money 2018 – Reviews & Top Picks
A MIG welder is a popular welding tool. With it, you can join materials such as metals and thermoplastics. Specifically, MIG welders allow you to use electricity to melt and then join materials together. It’s a great introductory welding tool because it’s relatively quick and easy to learn how to use. Nevertheless, you should always take the proper safety precautions when using an MIG welder.
If you’re unsure as to which MIG welder is for you, rest assured that we’ve got you covered! We’ve compiled a list of MIG welder reviews which inform you of all the important features as well as those all-important pros and cons. But don’t stop there! If you read on, you’ll then discover our buying guide with a lot of tips and tricks for buying a great MIG welder.
5 Best MIG Welders 2018
MIG Welder Reviews
1. Hobart 500553 Handler – Our Top Pick
Our top pick in the world of MIG welders is, without doubt, the Hobart 500553 Handler. It provides a lot of flexibility in that it has a multi-voltage plug. As such, you can use 115V or 230V input power with ease and no tools are required which is a big time saver. All you have to do is change the plug and it’s done! We think that this is a great quality product and we love that it is actually designed and manufactured in the USA. It provides 210 amps of power and allows you to weld 24 gauge up to 3/8-inch mild steel.
Versatility is offered with the 7 output voltage settings and dual-groove quick change drive roll. It’s also a plus that the unit is fairly compact and lightweight. If you’re unsure about spending this much money on a MIG welder, you can rest easy knowing that this product comes with a 3-year limited warranty. There’s a reason that this product gets so many great reviews online and that’s because it’s a quality product that can help you do some high-quality welding. One thing to consider is that larger, more expensive units do have longer duty cycles than this product.
To conclude, this in our opinion the best MIG welder for home use. It also does really well as a heavy-duty welder for the workplace.
- Different voltage options provide flexibility
- Designed and manufactured in the USA
- Fairly compact and lightweight product
- Quite a low duty cycle compared to more professional products
2. Lincoln Electric K2698-1 – The Runner-Up
If the Hobart 500553 Handler is beyond your budget, you should seriously consider the Lincoln Electric K2698-1. For us, this is a close runner-up because of the tremendous value it offers. The fact that you can use this MIG welder for gas-free flux core welding or gas-shielded MIG welding makes it fairly versatile. This also eliminates the need to have two separate tools for these two tasks. It’s great to use on metals such as mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. It has a number of very useful features such as the fully adjustable drive system which reduces problems such as wire tangle and crushing.
Despite the small size of this MIG welder in comparison to industrial units, it will surely surprise you with the power it offers. 180 amp output and 230 volts should be more than enough for most people’s applications. It’s a very well made product with a cast aluminum body. This has rigid drive aids which help with the alignment of the wire. The product weighs 85 lbs and has a handle for added portability. It should be noted that while this is a great product for lighter welding tasks, the specs just aren’t good enough for heavy-duty work.
- Versatile since it can do gas-free flux core welding and gas-shielded MIG welding
- The fully adjustable drive system is very convenient
- Solid build of cast aluminum means this product is very rugged
- Not suitable for more heavy-duty welding work
3. Forney Easy Weld 299 – Best MIG Welder for the Money
At such a low a price, the Forney Easy Weld 299 is clearly the best MIG welder for the money. As such, it makes it a great choice for beginners who are looking to do light-duty welding work. Advertised as a plug and play unit, it works without a gas setup and has an amperage of 125 amp. The 120-volt unit welds 24 gauge up to 1/4-inch. If you understand its limitations, you should be very pleased with what it has to offer. It offers good performance on a variety of metals, some of which may be heavy.
In general, the Forney Easy Weld 299 is easy to use and this is especially the case thanks to the light weight of the product. At 41.9 lbs, it’s half the weight of the Lincoln Electric we reviewed above. This makes it not only easy to use but also very portable in comparison. Therefore we recommend this for beginners who are wanting to do a range of jobs such as DIY and car maintenance, for example. Aside from the fact that this MIG welder is not ideal for working on thicker metals, the wire feeder and workpiece ground wires are on the short side.
- For the features offered, this is a very affordable product
- It’s very easy to use making it ideal for beginners
- The lightweight design means it’s very portable
- Only suitable for light-duty applications
- Wire feeder and workpiece ground wires are quite short
4. Lotos MIG140 – Great for Beginners
The Lotos MIG140 is another great MIG welder for beginners. It has a number of great features that make it very convenient to use. First of all, let us start by saying how reliable and durable this MIG welder is. The overall user experience is enhanced by the aluminum wire feeder which provides a great deal of stability. Also, the transformer technology used is known to be durable and can be connected to an existing 110V wall outlet. In terms of the welding output, the Lotos MIG140 is suitable for various metal materials including stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum.
Some of the other features of note include a 2T/4T switch which makes welding over longer periods of time much more comfortable. Also, the precision full-adjustment drive system with a digital display reduces the chances of wire becoming tangled or crushed. Features such as this make the Lotos MIG140 very user-friendly and great for novices. Do be aware that this product only comes with a 1-year limited warranty which one year less than the minimum we’d recommend. Though this isn’t as advanced as some other MIG welders, it’s nevertheless a great product if your welding needs are simple.
- Setup is quick and it’s a very easy to use
- Features such as the 2T/FT switch make it very user-friendly
- Fairly lightweight and portable compared to other products on the market
- Only comes with a 1-year limited warranty
- Fairly basic unit in comparison to pricier products
5. Goplus MIG 130 – A Budget Option
It’s always nice to have more than one budget option to consider. For this reason, take a look at the Goplus MIG 130. A max output of 110V means that there’s enough power for light-duty welding but fusing thicker metals is out of the question. One of the main advantages of having an MIG welder such as this is that it’s lightweight (35 lbs) and compact. This makes it ideal for smaller workshops where space is more limited. It may not have an abundance of exciting features, but it does have those that are necessary. A 12-inch handle makes working with this product much more convenient, for example.
We like that this budget MIG welder is easy to use. There are 4 temperature settings which are clearly labeled from lowest to highest. It also comes with everything you need including the machine, gun, wire, brush, and mask. At what is already a very competitive price, this really adds to the great value of the product. As you’d expect from a cheaper MIG welder, the construction isn’t of the highest quality and the welding shield is made from plastic. So this is something to keep in mind if you opt for this product.
- Compact and lightweight for easy transportation and storage
- Comes with everything you need from machine and gun to wire and mask
- Easy to use with clear instructions
- Lacks the power to do anything other than light-duty welding
- Fairly cheap plastic construction isn’t the most durable
We’ve provided you with a brief introduction and some in-depth reviews of the best MIG welders on the market. Now it’s time for us to explain a little more about MIG welding, the various types and some of the advantages. We’ll then take a look at some of the features to look for when buying a MIG welder.
What is MIG welding?
As we mentioned earlier, MIG welding involves the use of electricity to melt and join materials together. We’ll now go into this in a little more depth.
MIG welding typically involves the continuous feeding of an electrode or spool of steel wire. This passes through the machine from the line to the contact tip of the gun. Let’s not forget that power is also needed in order to heat the wire and then melt it. Inert gas (ie a gas that won’t mix with other substances) such as helium and argon is emitted by the gun and this serves to protect the weld from the atmospheric gases oxygen and hydrogen. The result is that the weld produced is much neater.
Generally considered to be quite simple to do, MIG welding allows you to weld almost any type of metal including carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. It is not the best type when it comes to weld quality but the fact that it’s easy, fast and cost-efficient make it very popular indeed. The quality produced is more than good enough for most manufacturing needs. Overall, it’s a great welding type to consider and there are plenty of advantages for us to explore next!
What are the advantages of MIG welding?
So as we touched upon in the previous section, there are a few advantages to opting for this particular type of welding.
Clean: When you do MIG welding, welds produced tend to be clean with very little smoke. This means that high-quality work is easier to achieve.
Cheap: Because most MIG welders are powered by electricity, they’re not too expensive. There’s also the option to use gas with some products.
Fast: MIG welding is fast for a couple of reasons. First, there’s no need to constantly change rods or remove slag. Secondly, the wire is continuously fed. This saves a lot of time.
Easy: You can learn to MIG weld in just a few hours. It’s essentially pointing and shooting and in complete contrast to TIG welding which is more complicated.
Versatile: The fact that you can use MIG welding on a wide range of metals and alloys is a big plus. What’s more, you can operate in different ways such as semi and full automatic.
Does MIG welding have any disadvantages?
Unfortunately, MIG welding does have some disadvantages that you should be aware of:
Limited positions: One of the main disadvantages of MIG welding is that it cannot be done in vertical or overhead positions. This is because the welding puddle is very fluid.
Wind sensitivity: MIG welding is sensitive to the wind which interferes with the shielding gas. This negatively impacts the quality of the weld. As such, this type of weld is not for outdoors.
Lacks penetration: While perfectly suitable for thinner metals, MIG welding typically lacks the penetration required for thicker metals. This means that the weld produced is less solid.
Which features should I look for in an MIG welder?
Now that you know some of the main advantages of MIG welding, we can now explore the main features to consider as you make your choice.
- Input Power
Most good MIG welders offer dual voltage which allows you greater flexibility when working. Naturally, the greater the voltage a welder has, the greater power it can provide. As you’ll have seen in our reviews above, most MIG welders run on 110V or 220V. If you’re only working on smaller home projects, 110V will be more than enough. But for welding thicker sheets of metal then opt for one of the best 220v MIG welders to be on the safe side.
- Material Thickness
Linked to the input power is metal thickness. When you’re welding, you’ll probably want to weld different metals of varying thickness. Most modern MIG welders now have different settings that allow you to control the power required. Digital displays help in that they show you how much power you’re using at any particular time. Try to look at what is the minimum and maximum material thickness a product can handle before you buy.
Portability is something that may or may not be important to you. It really depends on where you use your MIG welder and what you use it for. If it’s for a small home workshop then maybe this isn’t essential. But if you’re using it for your business on different sites then portability becomes more of a factor. Make sure you check the size and weight of the MIG welder you’re planning on buying. Most products have handles for convenient carrying.
Most MIG welders come with a torch. These should be strong enough to endure some wear and tear, otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself seeking a replacement. If it’s a built-in torch then you’ll have to seek the replacement from the manufacturer which might be pricey. Some torches are permanently live when the TIG welder is in use. If this doesn’t appeal to you, try to look for an alternative product.
- Thermal Overload Protection
Thermal or heat overload protection is a very useful safety feature to have. Despite this, not all MIG welders have this. Basically, if the machine gets too hot the thermal overload protection shuts it down. This not only saves your MIG welder from breaking down, it also prevents any accidents such as it catching on fire, for example. We really recommend you opt for a product that has this feature if you value your safety!
- Duty Cycle
The duty cycle of your MIG welder is the percentage of 5 or 10 minutes that your welder can operate before overheating. An example is a 60% duty cycle of 100 amps for 10 minutes. This means that the MIG welder is capable of running for 6 minutes at 100 amps before needing a 4-minute break. Duty cycle tends to be markedly improved when a unit has a good cooling fan. If you’re concerned about this, opt for a welder with a higher duty cycle.
- Safety Equipment
Because of the temperatures involved in welding, safety equipment is a must. Some of the things you will need include a welding helmet, safety glasses or goggles, welding gloves (typically made of leather) and long trouser legs and sleeves to protect your arms and legs. With regard to clothing, be careful about which material you choose. Some products include safety equipment such as goggles but most of this will need to be purchased separately.
- Welding Mask
As briefly mentioned in the previous point, a welding mask/helmet is of vital importance to your welding safety. While some MIG welders come with a handheld mask, these are fairly useless. It’s far better to buy one that fits your whole head. These are available to suit all budgets and many have very useful features. The best welding masks offer very impressive visibility and are light and comfortable to wear. If you’re looking for a welding helmet, we highly recommend that you check out our top 5 welding helmet picks. We frequently update the buying guide as new models come out.
There are a surprising number of features available in today’s MIG welders and these are well worth taking into account. MIG welders are available from so many brands at so many price points. By taking into account everything from input power to portability to warranty, we’re confident that you can find a great product to match your MIG welding needs.
We have seen MIG welding technology advance a great deal over the years, resulting in some great quality products today. Our reviews of MIG welders and buying guide should help you in reaching a decision, saving you time and effort. We wish you all the best as you decide which MIG welder to purchase!
- 5 Best MIG Welders 2018
- MIG Welder Reviews
- Buying Guide