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MIG (metal inert gas) welding, also known as gas-shielded metal electrode arc welding (GMAW), is often considered the easiest type of welding to learn. However, with the right equipment, MIG welding can not only handle a wide range of thicknesses but can also provide the speed that professionals demand. Using gas-free MIG (a feature of many welders), welding can also be done outdoors.
MIG welding is very popular and there are many different types of equipment available, which can understandably lead to confusion, especially for those buying their first MIG welder. Our comprehensive article explains the technical aspects and we recommend the best MIG welders to solve a range of welding challenges and meet the needs of different users.
Best Overall: Forney Easy Weld 261, 140 FC-i Welder, 120V
Runner-up: Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder
Great Value: Super Deal Pro Commercial MIG 130 AC Flux Core Wire
Upgrade Choice: Hobart 500553 Handler 210 MVP Compact MIG Welder
Best for Beginners: Lincoln Electric 120 Volt Flux Cored Wire Feeder Welder
Best for Professionals: Miller Electric MIG Welder, 120/240VAC, 1 Phase
Best for Multi-Process: Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter Multi-Process Welder
Best for Aluminum: Yeswelder MIG-250 Pro Aluminum MIG Welder, 250Amp
Also consider: Vivohome MIG Welder 130 Flux Core Wire Automatic Feed
As an engineer and amateur automotive enthusiast, the author has hands-on experience in MIG welding. To support this knowledge, Bob Vila Research investigated a variety of the latest products to ensure we have the most up-to-date technical information.
While amperage (A) and duty cycle are the main factors when choosing a MIG welder, we didn't just focus on those factors that provide high performance. For example, we also select more affordable models that may be the best MIG welders for beginners or amateur users.
Long-term reliability is a key issue, so we focus primarily on MIG welders from reputable and well-known manufacturers. However, we are always concerned about cost, so we include more affordable models from lesser-known manufacturers, provided they offer acceptable performance and good value.
Having discussed the various features and technical aspects of MIG welding equipment, it's time to look at some examples. The following represent a variety of categories, each of which has been selected for the best MIG welders for various applications as well as their cost and features.
Trying to choose the best MIG welder can be an almost impossible task. Users have different needs and there are many different types to choose from. We chose the Forney Easy Weld 261 because it is a great all-around welding tool. Its simple construction and extremely light weight, weighing only 19 pounds, make its performance attractive to home welders and professional welders alike.
The Forney uses a common power source. It uses flux-cored wire, so the user only has to select the voltage (which varies widely) and choose the wire feed speed. While the latter offers 10 steps, the manufacturer does not provide actual numbers. For more experienced welders, even the maximum speed may be a bit slow. Speed does not affect weld strength, but it does affect productivity.
A weld made with Forney may not be as neat as one made with gas MIG, and it cannot handle stainless steel or aluminum. Nonetheless, the Forney Easy Weld 261 is competitive for those who regularly weld mild steel indoors or outdoors.
Hobart is among the world's leading welding equipment brands, and the company's Handler line is very popular. the Hobart Handler 140 is its entry-level MIG welder, but it can still weld sheet metal up to ¼ inch long. Unlike gas-free models that can only weld mild steel, it can also weld stainless steel and aluminum.
The Hobart Handler 140 uses a standard 110 volt (V) current. The voltage control has five settings rather than infinite variations. However, users notice the smoothness of the power supply, which allows for extensive control of the weld seam. Its wire feed speed of 40 to 700 inches per minute (IPM) is suitable for welders of all skill levels.
Its duty cycle is not particularly impressive at 20%, and its 5-foot power cord is quite short. Its dual process capability also means that the Hobart Handler 140 costs significantly more than the Forney Easy Weld, despite being competitively priced in its class.
The Super Deal Pro MIG welder has a lot to offer. This no-gas machine plugs into 110V household power weigh 38 pounds, is relatively portable and can weld up to 3/16-inch steel. The welder comes with a roll of flux cored wire and a basic face shield.
This is a low-cost MIG welder, so there are some limitations. There are only four voltage settings marked "max", "min" or "½" and determining the correct output requires trial and error. The wire feed has 10 positions, but no speed indication. The body of the machine is PVC, so while it can work outdoors, it is not built for harsh environments.
The Super Deal Pro is not a difficult MIG welder, but its instructions may not be adequate for beginners. It's probably best suited for those with some experience who want a budget tool for "quick and dirty" repair work.
As mentioned earlier, Hobart welding equipment is known for its quality products, and the Handler 210 adds flexibility. It can run 110V or 220V current and can be used with or without gas. These features, along with its ability to weld ⅜-inch steel and 3/16-inch aluminum, make it ideal for shop and job site use.
The seven-step voltage dial and 40 to 770 IPM wire feed speed provide excellent control. the Hobart Handler 210 delivers consistent power and reduces spatter for smoother welds.
The Hobart Handler 210 weighs 79 pounds, which is quite heavy. It is one of the more expensive models we considered, but for the serious welder, its features and durability may make it a worthwhile investment.
Lincoln Electric is another well-respected brand of welding equipment with MIG welders known for their quality of construction and durability. with consistent performance, a simple setup and easy-to-use flux cores, the Lincoln Electric Wire Feed Welder are one of the best MIG welders for beginners.
This model plugs into a standard 110V household outlet. While the 88A current is moderate, it is sufficient for ⅛-inch steel. The cold start safety feature means that no current will flow through the wire until the trigger is pressed, greatly reducing the possibility of accidental electric shock.
The welder weighs 45 pounds, is very portable, and comes with a roll of flux-cored wire and a face mask. However, the mask is a handheld item that frequent users may wish to upgrade.
There are many very good MIG welder manufacturers around, but none have a better reputation for build quality than Miller Electric. the Miller Electric MIG Welder has many user-friendly features that make it a popular choice for professionals.
This Miller Electric MIG Welder is available with either a gas or flux core using 110V or 220V current. Setup is quick: the user selects gas or non-gas, wire size and metal thickness and is ready to go. It also features Smooth-Start technology, which creates a shield before welding begins and helps achieve very smooth results. Many high-end MIG welders (but not in this price range) offer this feature. Maximum weld seam thickness is ⅜ inch. Despite the rugged construction, the machine weighs only 38 pounds.
Miller Electric MIG welders are undoubtedly expensive for compact MIG welders, but many professionals may consider this to be a price worth paying.
MIG welders are all-around machines, but TIG welding is better suited for high-precision work and visible welds. the stick is a gas-free form that, unlike flux cored, is suited for heavy steel welding, especially outdoors. This versatile Weldpro combines all three welding processes in one portable machine. the MIG option provides both gas and flux cores. A TIG torch is included, which is available at an additional cost to some competitors.
It can run on 110V but will produce full power at 220V, either from a generator or a dedicated outlet. It weighs slightly more than 30 pounds, so it's easy to move around. In MIG mode, it has a maximum thickness of ¼ inch and variable wire feed speeds between 78 and 550 IPM.
Not surprisingly, the Weldpro 200 is not an economical machine; however, it is competitively priced for a welder with a wide range of features.
Welding aluminum is challenging because although the metal is relatively soft, it absorbs heat quickly, which means it is difficult to maintain high temperatures. The powerful Yeswelder MIG-250 Pro provides an effective solution.
It is available in both gas and flux cored modes and can weld an impressive ½ inch of mild steel. Although the manufacturer did not provide exact numbers for welding aluminum, it may be in the ⅜-inch range. In addition, the duty cycle of 60 percent at full power is excellent. However, this model requires 220V power, although it uses inverter technology to minimize energy consumption.
The Yeswelder MIG-250 Pro also offers TIG and stick capabilities, but the TIG torch is extra. It has a wire feed speed of between 79 and 590 IPM. It weighs 34 lbs.
The Lotos MIG175 offers competitive performance at a great value. It can produce a neat 1/4-inch weld on steel or stainless steel and a neat 3/16-inch weld on aluminum. The latter is possible thanks to a dedicated bobbin gun. Usually extra, the spool gun is included in the kit, along with a gas regulator, mask, chisel hammer, wire brush and a roll of MIG welding wire.
The Lotos MIG175 is easy to set up and use, and if it weren't for its 220V power requirements, it might challenge the hobbyist for the title of a best MIG welder. It weighs 85 pounds and is also very heavy. For some professionals, it has enough features to provide tried-and-true durability and value for money. However, the 20% duty cycle can be a bit limiting.
The Vivohome may not be the most versatile MIG welder, but its low cost and simplicity may make it an attractive option for those who prefer to buy tools for occasional use rather than pay a contractor.
It is a flux core MIG, making it capable of welding outdoors and running on a standard 110V power supply. Its controls are basic but simple. It has a maximum weld thickness of 3/16 inch in steel, but cannot weld aluminum.
Weighing only 36 pounds, the Vivohome MIG 130 is portable and, of course, it does not require gas cylinders. While we were somewhat skeptical about its long-term durability, feedback from owners has been mostly positive.
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