Welding is a dangerous trade but also an exciting one. Having the power to melt, bend, and basically shape metal however you want to is not something everyone gets to do. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned vet, working with thinner sheets of metal calls for one specific category of welders – MIG (metal inert gas) welders.
These machines are fast and easy to use and do quite a decent finishing job too. Sure, not all MIG welders are created equal which is why you might want to look for the best MIG welder that fits your project before you think of making that first purchase.
The way I look at things is simple. I have a few key features that I always try to find and analyze before I form an opinion. Take a look at my favorite MIG welders and see which one is speaking your language.
10 Versatile MIG Welders for Your DIY Projects
- 10 Versatile MIG Welders for Your DIY Projects
- MIG Welding and FCAW Welding
- Price is King
- Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals
The Hobart 500559 is designed to handle thin materials. If you’re looking to weld steel, stainless steel, aluminum sheets, or components that are not thicker than 0.25”, you’re getting a good deal. This is a powerful tool with good durability that’s capable of being used in an industrial capacity too, as long as you don’t exceed the recommended material thickness.
Though welding demands a certain level of skill, this MIG welding machine can be a first-buy for beginners. It has a decent level of versatility and it comes in a complete kit. It has a built-in gas valve, a long power cord, 8” spool adapter, dual gauge regulator hose, replacement contact tips, and a spool of flux-cored wire.
Not only does it come with everything you’ll need for auto repairs or general work around the hose, it also lets you adjust the arc. The 500559 has a 5-position tapped voltage selector. But probably one of the best features of this Hobart is the automatic shut-off, also called thermal overload protection.
Professionals may know when it’s time to stop but beginners not so much. I know I wish I had such a safety feature the first time I picked up a welder. If you’re looking for a 115V welder that can handle various tasks around the house or allow you to work on some art in your spare time, this one is a solid choice.
The Forney Easy Weld 29901 is a flux-cored or FCAW arc welder. What piqued my interest in this model was its ease of use and superiority when it came to welding in windy conditions. This relatively affordable MIG welder is not just a good solution for home improvement but also for construction and contractor work.
Just like most MIG welders, the 29901 FCAW welder can be used on metal plates and sheets as thin as 26-gauge. But it’s the superior speed and portability of the 29901 that gives it a slight edge over many of its competitors.
The tool weighs less than 33lbs which is really great if you’re moving from one job site to another. It’s also impact-resistant and comes with a fireproof shell which also adds great value to a portable welder.
What’s also nice to see is the pair of welding gloves that come with it. The gloves feature extensions that protect around the wrist and part of the forearm.
If you’re looking for something that welds 3/8-inch mild steel in a single pass, the Hobart Handler 210 MVP won’t disappoint. Due to the high-quality arc performance and minimal spatter, the Handler 210 MVP can be used for menial home maintenance in addition to boat and auto body repair, as well as construction.
The Handler 210 MVP is a truly high-end welder. It handles both MIG and FCAW welding applications and it’s one of the few welders with 210A output that come in a portable case. It has a good duty cycle rating, though depending on what voltage you supply it with, that will change.
There is a total of seven voltage positions for the 230V receptacles and four settings for the 115V. The duty cycle is 20% only when used at 115V. The percentage drops to 30 when operating at 230V.
Make no mistake, this model is on the expensive side, which you may expect from a respected American industrial equipment maker like Hobart. If you don’t have a lot of welding to do or have a need to take on complex projects, this one may be overkill for you. But, if you do decide its features are in your wheelhouse, then the next step should be to get a wheeled cart to carry it around from job site to job site. The welder weighs 79lbs so it’s not easy to carry around.
4. Lotos MIG140
I find the Lotos MIG140 to be quite a balanced MIG welder in terms of ruggedness and pricing. It’s also powerful enough to handle small professional jobs. That being said, the welder excels at auto body repair, art projects, and generic home maintenance.
The output is adjustable between 30A and 140A which means you can use it on a wide range of metals, though no thicker than 0.25”. The MIG140 also offers a duty cycle of 20% at 90A, which is not exactly amazing but good enough for a midrange, affordable welder.
Using the MIG140 is very easy thanks to its simple user interface. A very nice feature is that the MIG140 can be adjusted to work as a flux-core welder. The one downside is that for those applications you’ll have to buy your own gas cylinder as only the gas hose is included in the package.
Thermal overload protection is of course built-in. This keeps you safe while also increases the lifespan of the device. However, because of the superior build quality, there’s rarely a need to stop welding for longer than it takes you to change the wire spool.
The Lincoln K2185-1 may not be the most powerful MIG welder but it sure compensates for it in other areas. It’s one of the easiest to move around not just because of its design but also because of its light weight of just 26lbs.
It also does gas welding as well, though you’ll have to get a gas cylinder. This feature is not perfectly implemented as there isn’t a gas gauge. Another minor drawback is the limited wire spool capacity. It tops out at 3lbs as opposed to many similarly priced models that hold up to 10lbs.
However, you must not forget that you’re getting a very well-built product with an extended life expectancy. Lincoln is among the most recognized and appreciated brands when it comes to welders, so you know the build quality is spot-on.
The cold contactor safety feature was also something I particularly enjoyed seeing. And you should too if you’re not a professional welder just yet. Now, in terms of raw power, the K2185-1 doesn’t weld steel thicker than 1/8”. But that’s good enough for most household and art projects, and the few auto body repairs that you can work on them yourself and save a few bucks.
At just 35lbs, the Goplus MIG 130 is one of the most affordable and portable MIG welders. If you mostly work with thin steel then the minimal spatter and the ability to use both single-pass and multi-pass wire spools is very important.
Is it small? – Yes. But I can’t help but compare its specs with everything else that’s on the market. It’s an entry-level MIG welder that works at 110V input voltage and comes with a 72” cord and four adjustable heat settings. At this price, you can expect it to be foreign made, but you’re getting a lot of value.
What adds even more value to this model is the fact that it works with most generators. This means you’re no longer range limited by outlets. And the top handle makes it easy to pick up and move from one location to another.
Still want even more? – How about a welding brush, welding wire, and welding mask. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find so many accessories and a balanced MIG welder in the same price range.
Dual voltage inputs for 120V and 230V and a maximum output of 210A. This makes the Lincoln Power MIG one of the most sought-after MIG welders on the market. It’s not cheap by any means but it oozes premium performance for both small and professional projects. Looking to weld 5/16” gauge steel? – No problem.
To an amateur welder, the Power MIG 210 may seem a bit overwhelming. However, it’s not that difficult to use. It comes with a very detailed chart on the back panel as well as a large color display which offers a setup guide.
The Lincoln model K3963-1 handles MIG and FCAW welding projects. It comes with a replacement screen shield, a few sample wire spools, a gas gauge, gas hose, and gas regulator. It also features built-in overheating protection.
As far as the duty cycle, the K3963-1 can output up to 200A at 25%. But what makes this even better is the fact that it can be adapted to work as a TIG welder too and it can also be used with an aluminum wire feeding spool gun.
After going through so many welders, I felt it necessary to include the best option that I’ve come across for entry-level projects. I don’t know what kind of a name is Super Deal but it has put together a competent MIG welder for beginners. At the very attractive price, it gives you everything you need to start learning or get started on some pet projects.
I found this welder to be more than ok when working with sheet metal and other thin materials. A 16-gauge sheet metal is not an issue. Welding 3/8” aluminum sheet? – Not the best experience but still very doable.
In terms of sheer output power, you can’t expect too much from this gadget. However, the welding current can be adjusted between 50 and 120A. Do keep in mind however that this comes with a duty cycle of roughly 10% at 105A, which goes up to 35% at 60A.
If you’re uncertain about feeding wires, you shouldn’t worry too much. The welder accommodates .023” and .035” steel and carbon steel wires. It also works with .030” and .035” flux-cored wires. Last but not least, I really appreciated the machine’s compact design. Though it weighs over 30lbs, it’s still quite easy to transport and it doesn’t take up much room in the workshop.
If you’re looking for gas welding and gasless flux-cored welding in one unit, I may have found the solution. The Longevity Migweld 140 is a powerful little unit that works off of any standard 110V outlet. It has enough juice to weld up to 3/8” mild steel which is no small feat for a MIG welder that’s not considered professional-grade.
Some sample wiring is part of the package. It’s not of amazing quality but good enough for you to do some tests and get used to how the Migweld 140 feels. This shouldn’t take too long since its lightweight design makes it very maneuverable, even if you’re just a hobbyist.
In terms of quality and reliability, I’ll be the first to admit – Longevity is a little-known manufacturer. However, there’s nothing bad I can say about the build quality since everything looks and feels solid.
In terms of pricing, the Migweld 140 doesn’t have the best price to performance ratio. However, what it does have is a 5-year warranty on parts and labor which is amazing considering what most manufacturers offer for machines that run at such heat as MIG welders.
This is one of the most serious MIG welders I’ve ever come across and it’s also the most powerful and versatile. The arc performs flawlessly whether you’re doing spatter work or a cleanup job.
The Ironman 230 also comes with wheels, two large ones (non-pneumatic) in the back and two casters in front, which are certainly required for this near 200lb MIG welder. As far as welding power goes, you’ll have a hard time finding a better option in this price range that’s both easy to use by amateurs and adheres to the high expectations of professionals.
The Ironman 203 by Hobart welds sheet metal of up to 0.5” thick in a single pass. And it makes it look easy too. The voltage control has 12 settings which should give you total control over the arc and allow you to switch from grunt work to finesse work with ease.
This unit works really well with aluminum too, especially if you use the DP-3545-20 spool gun from Hobart. Unfortunately, that’s not included in the price of the Ironman 230 but it is an attachment worth looking into if you want more project variety.
With a maximum output of 250A, superior voltage control, a solid build, and a wheel kit, it’s almost hard to remember that this unit is not for every pocket.
MIG Welding and FCAW Welding
As you may have noticed, there are many MIG welders that can handle FCAW welding. But what exactly is the difference between them?
MIG welding involves using a wire electrode on a spool which is fed automatically at a set speed. MIG welding is generally very clean. That’s because the arc melts the wire while joining it with the base. This creates a strong and clean weld.
FCAW welding stands for flux-cored arc welding. The wire is similarly fed but it doesn’t rely on the inert gas to protect the arc. The flux-cored wire is what acts as a shield and prevents contamination and improves the speed of the welding process.
Do you absolutely need an FCAW-compatible MIG welder? – Not always. But it doesn’t hurt if you have to do a lot of work outside. A self-shielding wire would work better in windy and dusty environments.
Price is King
I know it’s somewhat disappointing, but it is what it is. Most of the time, the more you pay on a MIG welder the better it is. Expensive welders go through much thicker steel in a single pass and they generally make less spatter on the arc.
They also come with a variety of safety features and offer more control over the arc (multiple voltage settings). This may be something that amateurs won’t be able to appreciate upfront, but it’s still paying for. It’s not hard to learn how things work and you’ll be glad to have the flexibility once you get it.
Long-Term vs. Short-Term Goals
MIG welders aren’t the most precise welders. But they are the easiest to learn on and they have a very high welding speed. The degree of control that you can exercise on the arc and the weld is very good, especially if you’re not an expert just yet.
But are they the best welders for all tasks? – Of course not. You may need FCAW welding to penetrate thicker sections of metal or TIG welding if you want the most polished results.
As long as you’re sure about the projects that you’re about to tackle, this little guide should be more than enough to point you in the right direction. Art work, auto body repairs, minor home improvement projects, and anything that doesn’t involve very thick steel – these are all activities that call for a MIG welder.
Maybe one with FCAW compatibility too, to get the best of both worlds. While MIG welders that have TIG compatibility are not amazing when used as a TIG welder, MIG and FCAW welding techniques blend well in a single unit for they share the same principle.
Can You Feel the Heat?
MIG welders are awesome for learning how to weld. It’s true that the best MIG welders won’t exactly come cheap, but most models have great durability which makes them perfect beginner to semi-professional tools.
And, if you can get some safety accessories in the package, you know you’re getting a good deal.
A hardcore woodworking and welding enthusiast, Russ is the editor-in-chief of TAH. In his spare time, Russ loves watching sports, and (binge) watching Netflix.