MIG Welder Reviews: The Best MIG Welder for the Money
MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welders work by feeding wire through a weld gun. An arc is formed which melts the metal, allowing the two pieces to fuse together; the weld is protected by using a tank of shielding gas. Many people agree that MIG welding is the easiest type of welding to learn, so it’s a great starting point for many newbies to the welding scene. As a result, if you’re willing to invest in the best MIG welder for the money, you can get your hands on a really professional machine which is durable and robust enough to last for years, growing with you and your experience.
Featuring both digital and manual controls, thermal overload systems to help you weld safely, loads of versatility and much more, below you’ll find our top picks and best MIG welder reviews from some of the biggest names in the industry. If you’re still unsure of what to look for, we’ve even included a handy buyer’s guide to help you on your way.
Hobart Handler 140
LONGEVITY Migweld 140
Lincoln Electric K2185-1
|Reviewer Comments||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
|Ease of use||4.3||4.1||4.2||4.0||4.4|
|Value For Money||4.8||4.2||4.3||4.1||4|
|Material thickness||24 ga. to 1/4"||Up to 3/16"||Up to 3/16"||24 ga. to 1/8"||24 ga. to 3/8"|
|Duty cycle||20% @ 90A||20% @ 90A||20% @ 60A||20% @ 70A||20% @ 240A|
|Weight||57 lbs||54 lbs||43 lbs||49 lbs||38 lbs|
|Wheel mounted||Optional cart||Optional cart|
|Spool gun||Not compatible||Optional||Tweco style gun included|
|Ease of use|
|AutoSet||Automatic wire speed|
|User manual||Downloadable PDF manual|
|Value For Money|
|Warranty||Hobart 5/3/1 Industrial Warranty||5 year from manufacturer/ 1 year from Amazon||5/3/1 Warranty||1 year||3 years|
The Best MIG Welder Reviews
The top performers in our review are the Hobart Handler 140 Wire Welder, the Gold Award winner; the LONGEVITY Migweld 140 Amp Welder, the Silver Award winner; and the Forney 304 MIG Welder, the Bronze Award winner.
#1 Best Overall – Hobart 500559 Handler Wire WelderFor our top pick, we’ve chosen the Hobart 500559 Handler as the best MIG welder for the money. This is one of Hobart’s most popular welders and offers great value for money over more expensive machines. We loved the fact that you don’t need any extra equipment to get started with MIG welding – everything is included in the box. The machine itself is great quality, sturdy and highly durable, featuring a robust aluminium drive system which isn’t anywhere near as flimsy as cheaper plastic models. There’s a control which allows you to choose from five different voltages, which doesn’t offer unlimited potential but does provide a steady arc the vast majority of the time. It’s suitable for beginner and hobby jobs, autobody work and even slightly heavier projects (which is above and beyond many other similar welders in this price range) so it’s pretty versatile – by hooking it up to argon gas and switching to aluminium wire this machine can even be used to weld aluminium. Small and relatively lightweight, it runs off standard 115 V household current so it’s portable enough to take your welding pretty much anywhere.
It isn’t a downside as such, but this machine isn’t compatible with a spool gun, so don’t be alarmed when you don’t see one in the box – and don’t rush out to buy one straight away. However, you will need to buy solid wire and gas tanks, as these are sold separately. The wire feed is slightly disappointing as it has a tendency to jam at first, but using heavier spools and keeping the feed line straight helps no end. That said, once you do get started properly, try to avoid switching between flux core welding and using a shielding gas too often, as doing so requires some fiddly tinkering. Having five set voltage positions takes away some of the control from the welder and the leads could do with being a little longer, but otherwise this is a great quality machine which delivers great results.
#2 Best Value – LONGEVITY Migweld 140 Amp WelderEverything about the LONGEVITY Migweld is easy: it’s easy to set up, use, move around, and spare parts are easy to source and replace. As a result, we think it’s just about the best MIG welder for beginner welders as you don’t need to go through a complicated setup before you begin. Instead, just plug it in and get started right away – it operates on standard 110 V power and already has the power plug fitted. You’ll want to get hold of your own wire as soon as possible (remembering that the welder is suitable for both MIG and flux core processes) but it does come with a sample spool to try out. For beginners and hobbyists this welder is great value as it comes with variable adjustment knobs to give you greater control over your work, giving more expensive models a run for their money. We particularly loved the fact that the cable is really long so you can weld without having to keep moving the machine – even though it is compact and light enough to be portable, too!
A spool gun isn’t included in the box, but you can purchase one as an optional extra. Unfortunately, the wire feed on this machine jams intermittently which can prove to be really frustrating and time consuming. Just as frustrating is the fact that some of the elements of this machine aren’t the most durable, so don’t expect them to last for very long, especially if you do a lot of welding outdoors in the blazing sun. You might find that some parts start to warp if they’re left out in super hot weather for too long.
#3 Top Contender – Forney 304 MIG WelderThe Forney 304 MIG Welder is a fantastic little start out machine which gives you all the basics that you need in a compact, lightweight shell. It comes with a sample of MIG wire already installed, so you’re ready to weld as soon as you take it out the box. The drive assembly only works one way and the correct wire speed is set automatically, both of which mean that the whole machine is really easy to use every time. You can plug it into any 120 V power source, the wire feed is one of the smoothest we’ve tested, and there is an inbuilt thermal overload system to keep you safe. By no means is this a tough, rugged, heavy duty welding machine – we think it’s best suited to light hobby work and thin automotive sheet metal. One small little bonus is that a basic hood is included in the price, but it will leave you welding one-handed so you should always aim to upgrade to a more protective welding helmet as soon as possible.
We couldn’t find any real faults with this welder – merely limitations. It can be used for TIG and stick welding, but you’ll have to purchase the extra equipment separately. Furthermore, it works wonders on light projects, but it simply doesn’t have the power or penetration for anything more. This makes it great for beginners, but if you intend to advance your welding career you might find yourself looking for a superior machine sooner rather than later. Lastly, although you can adjust the wire feed speed, there are only two different power settings (labelled ‘maximum’ and ‘minimum’), which limits its versatility as a welding machine.
MIG Welder Buyer’s Guide
Once you’ve established that MIG welding is the right process for you, buying the welder is the interesting part! These machines usually give fast welding speeds, super clean welds and fantastic arc control, so it’s no surprise that they’re often the starting point for many novice welders. MIG welding equipment is usually suitable for flux cored welding, too, which saves you money as you don’t have to pay out for several machines. Internationally famous names such as Miller, Hobart and Lincoln Electric lead the pack, but beyond the brand name, here are some other features to look out for…
You’ll need to make sure your MIG welder has a suitable number of amps for the material you’re welding. In general, thinner materials need fewer amps, while thicker metals need more amps.
The manufacturers’ specifications should tell you the maximum and minimum values for each machine. Once you’ve identified the materials you’re likely to be using, you’ll know whether a machine will be suitable or not.
As a general rule, you can expect that welders with a minimum of 30 amps are suitable for automotive work. Thicker metals measuring 4-5 mm are more likely to need a much higher amperage, reaching 150 amps or more. Miller has created a handy calculator which you can use as a starting point, but it is always important to check the specifications of each machine in order to get the best MIG welder for the money.
AutoSet is a great feature most commonly found on the best MIG welders for beginners, which will make your life a lot easier. Instead of fine tuning all the settings yourself, with AutoSet you have to input a few basic measurements (such as material thickness and wire diameter) and the machine does all the rest. This takes all the guesswork and trial and error out of welding, giving you perfect results from day one. Not every top-of-the-range MIG welder comes with this feature, but if you don’t have the time, patience or experience to adjust everything yourself then it’s definitely something to go out of your way to find.
In the potentially dangerous environment of a welding workshop, safety should be your highest priority. There are numerous safety features which the best MIG welders should come fitted with, so be wary of anything which leaves it all up to you.
Welding can be hot work, so welders can reach high temperatures. The last thing you want is for the temperature to get so hot that it becomes dangerous to you or starts a fire, so look for a machine that has an inbuilt thermal overload system. In these cases, the machine will sense when it gets too hot and will cut out. You’ll have to wait a few minutes for it to cool down before you can use the welder again, but at least you’ll be safe.
Other things to look out for
They’re not very common these days, but you should avoid permanently live torches at all costs. If the torch is always live then it can cause arc eye whenever it touches something rather than when you want it to, which is really dangerous. If you do stumble across one then it’s probably been made by a low quality, low budget manufacturer so you should be avoiding it anyway, but manufacturers don’t always mention that their torches are live, so be sure to check.
It won’t affect the quality of the welder itself, but you should pay attention to what’s included in the box. Most high end welders come with most necessary equipment, regulators and other accessories, but they may not always come with spool guns and sample wire. Add these to the welding helmets, protective clothing and other equipment which you’ll need, and your costs may rise considerably, so make sure you factor these into your budget. You might find that suddenly your budget doesn’t stretch to quite as high quality a welding machine as you’d hoped!
All welders need some sort of power source in order to work. Some require batteries (although these aren’t usually durable or long-lasting enough for serious use), some need a reliable power source such as household current, and some can be hooked up to a generator. Check the specifics of each welder, and make sure that the power source you intend to use is appropriate for the welder’s voltage.
This guide should be enough to get you started with finding the best MIG welder for the money, but if you refer back to these tips then you should find that your MIG welder lasts you long into your welding career.
MIG welding requires a lot of adjustment to set the right parameters for your job, but most of the best MIG welders are so versatile and accommodating that no matter which one you buy, you can’t go far wrong. Look for as wide a range of settings and features as possible – particularly from one of the top welding brands – and you’re in for a great welding experience.