Best MIG Welder Reviews 2017 – Buying Guide
MIG welding (or GMAW) is one of the easiest types of welding to learn. Depending on the type of welding you’re doing it’s the preferred method for both beginners and professionals alike. It works by feeding a wire from the machine to the gun. All you do is point it at the spot you want to weld and pull the trigger. Easy. The hard part comes when trying to decide on which is the best MIG welder for your needs. It can be daunting. There are a ton of options and features to consider: from price to portability to the thickness of metal it can weld. But we’re here to help.
Below you’ll find reviews of some of the best MIG welders for the money and a handy buying guide to help you figure out which one is right for the type of welding you’ll be doing.
Best MIG Welder: Top 3
Best for the Money – Hobart Handler 140 Wire Welder
The Hobart 500559 Handler 140 is both a great starting point for beginners and a competent MIG welder for seasoned pros. It is easy to use, simple to setup and it’s ready to use right out of the box (although shielding gas is recommended).
The Handler 140 is ideal for all sorts of DIY welding projects. Auto body repair, household tasks and even some light industrial welding is child’s play to this rig. It operates on a standard 115v household current and puts out between 25 and 140 amps with a 20% at 90 amp duty cycle, making it the best MIG and flux-core welder for at home use. Complete with an industrial cast aluminum wire drive system the Hobart Handler 140 is the real deal.
Weighing in at just under 60 lbs, the Handler 140 is a bit heavier than similar models but the convenient handle, 10 ft. MIG gun, 10 ft. power cord and optional cart make it highly portable.
If you’re looking for an affordable quality welder that is forgiving to beginners and capable for professionals the Hobart Handler 140 is the best MIG welder for the money.
Best For Beginner – Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder
There is no question that Lincoln is one of the most trusted brands in the industry and their welders are no exception. The K2185-1 is a solid rig for welding both MIG and flux-core. If you’re a beginner or an occasional hobbyist and don’t want to drop a ton of cash this welder is perfect.
The Lincoln Electric K2185-1 plugs into the standard 115V, 20A outlet and can put out between 35-88A with a 20% at 70A duty cycle, making it the go-to welder for many beginners and hobbyists. For simple home repairs this welder is a cut above the rest. It is compact and light enough to be easily moved around to wherever you need. In addition, the four voltage settings and continuous wire feed speed adjustment allow you to weld mild steel up to 1/8″ thick with precision and accuracy.
The K2185-1 comes with everything you need to start welding today, including a spool of self-shielded flux-cored wire, so you can test out the welder even if you haven’t bought the shielding gas yet.
If you’re in the market for a high-quality welder from a reputable brand like Lincoln Electric and only need it for some light duty work, check out the K2185-1. The combination of affordability, quality, performance and features make this rig a top contender for the best MIG welder for beginners.
Best Portable – Millermatic 211 MIG Welder
Miller is synonymous with quality and reliability, so when it comes to their MIG welders it’s no surprise that they rank among the best. The Millermatic 211 is one that stands above the rest, balancing the fine line between performance and affordability.
This rig is a powerhouse. Capable of an output power of 30 – 230A with a duty cycle of 40% at 150A the Millermatic 211 can weld steel up to 3/8″ thick. Using Millers Multi-voltage plug (MVP), you have the option of using either the common 120V input or a 240V input. With that kind of power you can weld anything from basic DIY home repairs to farm machinery to critical vehicle repairs. Despite its power, it is incredibly lightweight. Weighing only 38 lbs you can take it just about anywhere with ease. Coupled with a cast-aluminum drive system to allow constant feeding for up to 15-foot MIG guns, the 211 is about as portable and dynamic as they get.
The price might be a bit steep especially if you’re just starting out but this best MIG welder is a testament to Millers dedication to making quality products. This will be the only welder you’ll need to buy.
Weight: 80 lbs
Size: L25″ x W16″ x H19″
Power Input: 110V/220V
Power Output: 250A
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 250A
Material Thickness: Up to 3/8″
Warranty: 5 year
Best Multi Process – Everlast PowerMTS 251Si Multi-Process Welder
Are you kidding me? The Everlast PowerMTS 251Si is the first and last welder you’ll ever need to buy. MIG, TIG or stick there is no project too big for this machine. Everlast is an industry leader when it comes to fully featured MTS units and it’s easy to see why.
The feature-packed Everlast PowerMTS 251Si is designed with the serious welder in mind. It includes a new Pulse MIG setting that allows you to make the most out of spray arc welding through higher quality welds and cost savings. This is independently controlled and easy to access via the easy to use front menu. The duty cycle on this machine is above average at 35% at 250 amps so you can spend your time welding instead of waiting. The PowerMTS also has a massive amount of storage space with room to handle up to a 12 inch roll of wire. And despite it being a 3-in-1 welder it is surprisingly portable, weighing in around 80 lbs. Just buy the consumables and this rig is ready to use right out of the box.
While the Everlast PowerMTS isn’t strictly the best MIG welder, if you need a rig that does everything, it is one of the best welders for the money.
Weight: 57 lbs
Size: L19″ x W9.5″ x H16″
Power Input: 120V
Power Output: 140A
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 90A
Material Thickness: Up to 1/4″
Warranty: 5/3/1 year
Best Under $500 – Forney 309 140 Amp MIG Welder
Forney is a lesser known brand in the industry but don’t let that fool you. They’re like a scrappy underdog with a big bite. The Forney 309 is a great choice if you’re looking for a high performance machine with the capability to weld both MIG and flux-core.
With a power output of 140 amps the Forney 309 uses a standard 120V input and is a solid welder for everyday at home repairs. You’ll be able to weld pretty much any materials you have at home including stainless steel, mild steel, cast iron and aluminum up to 1/4″ thick. It has an exceptional duty cycle of 35% @ 90A which beats out most other welders in its class so you can weld for longer periods without having to rest. The aluminum drive system is easily accessible thanks to the massive cabinet it’s housed in and uses both 4″ and 8″ spools. Because of its dual MIG and FC capabilities the Forney 309 is ready to use right of the box thanks to the included spool of flux-core wire. The best part is that Forney offers a $50 rebate for this welder on their website.
Despite being a relatively lesser known brand the Forney 309 is the best MIG welder you’ve never heard of. Whether you need it for minor at-home repairs or use it to create awesome metal sculptures this rig wont disappoint.
Weight: 51 lbs
Size: L20.5″ x W11.25″ x H12.5″
Power Input: 115V
Power Output: 90A
Duty Cycle: 20% @ 90A
Material Thickness: Up to 3/16″ steel
Warranty: 3 year
Best Under $1000 – Millermatic 141 MIG Welder
Miller prides themselves on being an industry leader and the Millermatic 141 MIG welder is no different. Wit exceptional reliability and performance the 141 is the best Miller MIG welder for under $1000.
Featuring their revolutionary Auto-Set feature, the Millermatic 141 is one of the easiest welders to use. You wont have to fiddle around and experiment with different parameters to find the right setting. Simply set the wire diameter and the material thickness and you’re ready to weld. However, if you’re one of those people who loves playing around with things or need to tweak the settings for different materials you can override with manual mode.
The angled all aluminum drive system automatically detects the spool gun so it is easy to set up, providing consistent feeding for a smooth, spatter-free start.
The rig is powered with a standard 120V input so it can be set up pretty much anywhere. The 6.5 foot power cable and 10 foot MIG gun only add to its portability.
With Miller you always know you’re getting a high quality and reliable product. It may cost a bit more but for peace of mind the Millermatic 141 is a solid option.
Weight: 79 lbs
Size: L19.5″ x W10.5″ x H12.5″
Power Input: 115V/230V
Power Output: 210A
Duty Cycle: 30% @ 150A
Material Thickness: Up to 3/8″ steel
Warranty: 5 year
Best Wire Feed – Hobart Handler 210 MVP
If you’re looking for a welder with a bit more power but cant justify the cost of spending thousands on a red or blue, take a look at the Hobart 210 MVP.
The MVP is unique in that it has the option for duel-voltage input – either 115V or 230V – making it the reigning champ for versatility. This can be changed with a simple twist of the wrist, no tools needed. Just plug it in and the Hobart will automatically adjust for the input. Despite its small portable size, the Hobart 210 MVP packs a lot of power. With a 210A max output this rig welds up to 3/8 inch steel with ease, making it suitable for all sorts of welding from construction to personal home use.
The Hobart 2010 MVP offers an aluminum drive system with dual groove drive rolls make it easy to switch to different wire sizes. It features infinite wire control so you can adjust it just right for the perfect weld. The spool hub assembly can hold both 4 inch or 8 inch spools.
If you take price into consideration the Hobart 210 MVP is the best MIG welder in its class for the money. It is powerful, reliable and its small size makes it perfect for moving it around to different jobs.
Weight: 35 lbs
Size: L13.5″ x W7.3″ x H11.5″
Power Input: 110V
Power Output: 130A
Duty Cycle: 15% @ 105A
Material Thickness: Up to 1/16″ steel
Best Gasless Welder – Goplus MIG 130 Flux Core Welder
Cheap doesn’t always mean bad quality. Just take a look at the Goplus MIG 130 flux-cored welder.
For around $100 you get a full flux-cored welding setup, capable of producing some surprisingly solid beads. However, the rig is meant for very light work so look elsewhere if you need to do any heavy-duty welding. The input voltage is the standard 110V so it’ll work with any plug in your home and boasts a duty cycle of 20% at 90A.
It includes everything you need to start welding right away including: the MIG gun, a spool of FC wire, a welding mask (cheap) and a brush.
While it’s not the best welder I’ve ever used, for the price, I was surprised by the quality. If you’ve never touched a welder before or just need to do some small household repairs, the Goplus MIG 130 is the best MIG welder if you’re on a budget.
Weight: 50 lbs
Size: L18″ x W10.15″ x H14″
Power Input: 120V
Power Output: 140A
Duty Cycle: 20% @ 90A
Material Thickness: Up to 3/16″ steel
Warranty: 1 year
Best 110v/ 120v Welder – Lincoln Pro MIG 140 Welder
It should come as no surprise that Lincoln makes some high-quality products. The Lincoln Pro MIG 140 is another rig in a long line of reliable welders.
Capable of welding both MIG and FC, the Lincoln Pro 140 is great for both indoor and outdoor use, making it one of the most versatile welders around. It’s light weight and common 120V input power make it ideal for easy transport to and from jobs. And thanks to the 10 foot gun cable you’ll have complete freedom of movement.
The Pro 140 is easy to setup and use even if you’re a beginner. The simple two knob control allows for adjusting of the voltage and wire speed. Just set it to your specs and fine tune if needed. It also features a fully adjustable drive system to reduce wire tangling and crushing and includes an easy-turn drive tension indicator to optimize for different wire diameters.
If you’re looking for something smaller without skimping on quality, the Lincoln Pro MIG 140 is the best MIG welder in the 110v range.
Weight: 85 lbs
Size: L18″ x W12.5″ x H10.5″
Power Input: 200V/240V
Power Output: 175A
Duty Cycle: 20% @ 175A
Material Thickness: Up to 1/4″ steel
Warranty: 1 year
LOTOS MIG 175 Amp Welder
When it comes to low-cost, high-quality welding products there’s no better name than LOTOS. The LOTOS MIG 175 is a powerful rig that produces solid welds without having to pay for a popular brand name logo.
The LOTOS MIG 175 amp welder comes with everything you need to start welding today, including the mask, a brush, MIG welding wire and Flux Cored welding wire. It connects to your standard 220v wall outlet and can be setup within minutes. While the MIG 175 is a bit hefty, weighing 85 lbs, it can be easily transported using a cart. On the flip side, the extra weight only adds to its durability. With a duty cycle of 20% at 175 amps it leaves some room for improvement but if you aren’t constantly using it on maximum power it’s a solid welder. It comes with an 8 feet 7-inch MIG torch as well as a 10 feet 4-inch long spool gun. The housing is capable of holding both 4 inch and 6 inch standard industrial wire spools.
If you need a quality welder but don’t want to pay the premium price of a brand name the LOTOS MIG 175 is a contender for the best MIG welder for the money. And if you do end up having problems, their customer service is fantastic and will take care of you every step of the way.
How to Choose the Best MIG Welder?
By now you’ve probably decided that MIG welding is the way to go. The next step is choosing which welder to buy.
When it comes to buying a MIG welder, deciding which one is right for you can seem overwhelming at first. What brand should I get? How much power do I need? What features should I look for? How much money should I spend? These are all factors you need to consider. Below you’ll find everything you need to know about buying a MIG welder but if you don’t want to read all the way to the bottom, take a look at this handy video. He sums it up nicely.
Easy to learn – It’s the go-to process for beginner welders. MIG welding uses a consumable wire electrode that is fed from a spool so you just point the gun at the spot you want to weld and pull the trigger. Learning to MIG weld takes just a few hours but to master it you’ll need a bit more time. If you don’t have a lot of time to invest and just want to learn welding as a hobby or for some minor home repairs, this is the way to go.
Produces a uniform weld bead – MIG offers much better weld pool visibility. Coupled with its simplicity and increased control provided by the auto-feeder you’ll get a solid, clean weld every time.
Clean and efficient – Because MIG uses a shielding gas to protect the arc there is very little contamination to the outside elements like oxygen, hydrogen or nitrogen which can cause a variety of problems including holes within the bead and excessive spatter. There is no slag to clean up so time spent chipping and brushing can be spent welding instead.
Versatile – It’s an incredibly versatile process which can be used to weld a variety of metals including aluminum, copper, stainless steel, mild steel, magnesium, nickel and iron. In addition to being the ideal process for at-home projects it’s used in plenty of other industries that depend on strong, clean welds.
Higher productivity – The continuous wire feed allows for much faster welding and because you don’t have to constantly change rods or chip and brush away slag you’ll be able to get much more done in much less time.
Cost – The cost associated with MIG welding is higher than other processes. You must consider the initial cost of the machine as well as consumables like shielding gas, electrodes, replacement tips and nozzles. It can add up quickly.
Depends on environment – MIG is not typically suitable for outdoor welding. Because it relies on shielding gas for a nice clean weld. Any hint of wind will blow the gas away and contaminate the puddle.
Unsuitable for thicker materials – It is best suited for thin metals. If you’re welding thicker material you’ll need multiple passes or even a change of process.
What will you be welding?
You need to consider what type of welding you will be doing. Will you be doing mainly small home repairs like fixing bikes or cars or will you be doing big industrial projects? Below is a chart to help you figure out what amperage you’ll need for common welding tasks.
|Project||Average Metal Thickness||Required Amperage*|
|Auto Body||3/16-inch or less||190 or less|
|Trailer frames and fencing||1/4-inch to 5/16-inch||200-250|
|Farm, ranch and landscape||5/16-inch to 3/8-inch||250-300|
|Bicycles and lawnmowers||1/16-inch||100|
|Boats, cars and motorcycles||1/16-inch to 1/8-inch||100 – 170|
|General to heavy repair||3/16-inch to 1/4-inch||190 – 200|
|Thick structural components||Over 3/8-inch||300 or more|
* These are only rough estimates if you’re welding with steel. Use the calculator for a more accurate number.
What you need to consider:
The first thing you’ll need to look at when buying a MIG welder is the power output so it’s important to know what type of welding you’ll be doing and how often. If you’re just doing small at home projects with thinner metals 100 amps will suffice. Having said that, you never know when you’ll be welding something thicker so it’s better to spend a few extra dollars and get a rig with a maximum 140 amps.
You should also look at the minimum power output. The best MIG welder will have a minimum of around 30 amps which is okay for 18 gauge metal but if you plan to weld extremely thin sheet (22 gauge/ .8mm) look for something with a minimum output of 20 -25.
See the chart above for estimates on common projects.
For a typical 140 amp welder a standard North American 120V outlet will be sufficient enough to power it. If, however, you plan on getting a bigger machine you will likely need to install a more powerful outlet.
This refers to the amount of time within a 10 minute period that you can continuously run the welder without it overheating.
For example: above on the Hobart Handler 140 you’ll see 20% @ 90A. That means you can weld for 2 minutes at 90 amps before you need to rest it for 8 minutes. The lower the amperage the more time you’ll be able to weld without stopping and vise versa.
This is extremely important to keep in mind if you want to keep your welder long term. Some of the best MIG welders have a built in protection system that automatically shuts off after reaching the maximum cycle but you’ll also pay a lot more.
The feed speed is just as important as power. It has to do with the speed at which the wire is fed through the machine to the gun. Too slow and the wire disappears as soon as it touches the metal creating an ugly, uneven and insufficient weld. Too fast and the wire will extend from the gun leaving you will far to much wire and a lot of spatter. The perfect speed will have the wire going just fast enough to give you a constant arc and will make a satisfying sizzle sound.
Cheaper MIG welders will have separate power and feed speed settings so you’ll have to play around on a piece of scrap to get the ideal speed. This takes some practice but once you figure it out it’s easy to do.
The best MIG welder will have an automatic speed setting which adjusts the speed relative to the power. There’s often a manual override in case you need to make some small tweaks.
Portability, Size and Weight
This is really an afterthought compared to the welders performance but if you have limited space available take note of the size and weight. They can range anywhere from around 40 lbs to several hundred pounds depending on the the power and features.
But don’t let the size fool you. Many smaller welders can pack a huge punch. Just take a look at the Millermatic 211: it weighs under 40 lbs and has a power output of 230 amps. Compare that to the Hobart Handler 140 at 57 lbs with an output of 140 amps. It all depends on what kind of welding you will be doing.
If you plan on moving it around regularly, carts are available to make your life a bit easier so you don’t have to strain yourself before you even start to weld. This is especially useful for auto body work and need to move around the car easily.
The best MIG welder will come with built in safety features to protect you from harm so you can keep welding for years to come.
Thermal Overload Protection – This is so you don’t go over the recommended duty cycle limit. If your welder has a duty cycle of 40% at 150A, after 4 minutes the welder will automatically shut off to prevent overheating. Not all welders have this feature but it’s incredibly useful if your mind tends to wander. This feature will protect your investment and increase the life cycle of your machine.
Built-in Contactor – This makes it easier to change position without having to worry about making accidental contact. The contactor keeps the wire electrically cold until you pull the trigger.
Choosing the right type of shielding gas is vital for a high-quality weld. It’s what puts the G in MIG. There are several different types of gas depending on the material you’re welding. The 4 most common are:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – is the cheapest and most common of the MIG welding gases. It can be used in its pure form when welding thicker materials for deep weld penetration but is often mixed with other gases to produce a more stable arc and less spatter.
Oxygen (O2) – is mixed with other gases in small amounts – around 5% or less. It improves weld pool fluidity for better penetration, a nicer weld bead and no undercutting. It’s typically mixed with argon for carbon steel, low alloy steel and stainless steel.
Argon (Ar) – is heavier than air so it protects the weld from the air which would otherwise contaminate it. For a high quality weld in both appearance and strength a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide is recommended. It offers better arc stability, puddle control and less spatter. For non-ferrous metals like titanium, copper, nickel or aluminum 100% argon is used.
Helium (He) – is the least common and most expensive of the gases and is better used for TIG welding. For MIG welding it provides a wide bead with poor penetration. It is always mixed with other gases and is commonly used on non-ferrous metals. If welding with stainless steel it is usually mixed with argon and carbon dioxide.
Some of the best MIG welders offer both MIG and flux-cored options so you can tackle any project with confidence knowing you have the right tools for the job. With flux-cored welding you don’t need addition shielding gas because the gas is embedded in the wire. You’ll pay a bit more for the dual option but for the versatility it offers it’s well worth it.
Buying the best MIG welder is a pretty hefty investment so a solid warranty is key. At the very least you should look for a warranty of 1 year but preferably 3-5 years. Usually any flaws in the welder will become apparent within the first few months but it’s always nice to know that you’re protected in anything goes wrong further down the line. Also keep in mind of the return policy so if it breaks within the first few weeks you can return it hassle-free. Amazon offers a 30 day return policy on all items shipped from their warehouse.
Tips for Choosing the Best MIG Welder
What Will you be Welding? – You should know exactly what kind of work you’ll be doing regularly and then look for a welder with a bit more power than you’d typically need (see chart above.) You’ll feel pretty lousy if you buy a welder that’s under powered and wont give you a proper weld for the task at hand. More power costs a bit more but it’s better than having to buy another one after you realize the one you bought is under powered.
Budget – It’s easy to get carried away with more power and the latest features when choosing a welder but the price quickly adds up. Before you even think about buying a welder you should know how much you’re willing to spend and stick with that budget.
Brand – Besides the 3 best MIG welder brands – Hobart, Lincoln Electric and Miller – there are a few lesser known brands out there that are cheaper and produce outstanding quality welds. Some standouts include: Forney, GoPlus, Lotos, Everlast, AHP and Lotos.
Read Amazon Reviews – Amazon reviews are a tremendous resource for researching the pros and cons of the best MIG welder. You should always look for the welder with the most positive reviews. If it’s rated 4+ stars from hundreds of people it’s going to be a solid machine. But don’t just look at the positives, look at the negative reviews as well to see what are some of the common issues and if you can live with them.
Buy Used – Craigslist and Kijiji are goldmines for people who don’t mind buying used. People upgrade their welders and need to make room for their new rig so they put their old, perfectly good machine up for sale at awesome prices for a quick sale. There are obvious downsides to this like lack of warranty or shady sellers who sell you broken welders. This is the best option if budget is a major concern.