Best Budget Welders: Zachary Drumm’s Favorite, Low-Cost Tools
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You have undoubtedly walked past the cheap welders at Harbor Freight and wondered if they were any good.
This is a list of the best cheap welders designed to help you get into the craft while protecting your wallet. Whether you are wanting to learn how to weld, or need to repair something around the house, these welder reviews will help you choose a welder that you won’t be frustrated with.
Some of the budget welders are imported by no-name manufacturers in China and are of extremely low quality, there is a surprising amount of brand-name welders with good warranties that are great for any budget range.
Here are some of my favorites. I even make sure to include some welders that are under $100.
- Best Budget Welders: Zachary Drumm’s Favorite, Low-Cost Tools
- The 8 Best Cheap Welders
- 1. PrimeWeld – Best Cheap TIG Welder
- 2. Forney Easy Weld 140 MP – Best Affordable MIG Welder
- 3. Jegs Flux Core – Best Cheap Gasless Welder
- 4. YesWELDER – Best Cheap Stick Welder
- 5. Lotos MIG 175 – Cheapest Way to Weld Aluminum
- 6. Forney 261 – Cheapest High-Quality Gasless Welder
- 7. Hobart 500559 Handler 140
- 8. Loto TIG200AC – Cheapest AC TIG
- Buying Guide
The 8 Best Cheap Welders
1. PrimeWeld – Best Cheap TIG Welder
TIG welders are great for working with thinner materials and for welding aluminum. It’s difficult to find a good TIG welder when shopping on a tight budget. This welder is a DC-only welder, where the AC/DC TIG welders offer the ability to do more metal types. Ideally, you would do aluminum welding with AC TIG, but this little machine can hack it with some adjustments.
TIG welders also require a more determined learner to master them. You must feed the filler wire in with one hand while melting the metal and doing the welding with your other. It’s a task that is mastered by welders of all ages, you just have to be patient with yourself while you learn it.
This 200 amp TIG machine is capable of welding steel materials that are up to .20 inches thick. If you were able to do multiple passes, you could weld a little thicker. This makes it one of the strongest welders on my list.
What I love about this PrimeWeld tool is that it is a combo unit that also offers plasma cutting. You just connect it to an air supply and you can easily cut metal up to 1/2-inches thick with the same tool.
Finally, it also comes with a stick welder. If you ever need to weld rusted material or to braze cast iron back together, this is a handy feature to have.
This one tool does it all. And it is backed by a 3 year, limited warranty.
2. Forney Easy Weld 140 MP – Best Affordable MIG Welder
I think most of the bloggers are unanimous on this. Forney is an American-based company that has been in the welder business for a long time. They make some calculated changes in their entry-level models, such as using plastic pieces in low-wear areas. This can save you a lot of money on your first welder without sacrificing support and quality.
This is a MIG welder. MIG welders have an automatic wire feed that makes them extremely easy to use. You just load your welding wire, adjust the wire feed speed control and amperage and connect it to a bottle of inert gas and start welding.
If that is too complicated, you can always run this as a flux welding machine. This allows you to weld without using inert gas.
One of the nice features is that this little welder can handle thicker wire up to .035 inches in diameter. This is handy when you are working on thicker materials.
As with the PrimeWeld above, this one gives you the option of multiple welding processes. You can purchase he added TIG welding kit, for DC Tig Welding. Or, it also works as a stick welder.
Since this is a 140 amp welder, you are going to limit to steel and stainless steel up to about 1/4-inches thick. It also runs on both a 110v and a 220v power supply, which means you can run it on any household circuit.
Most of my readers, this welder is more than enough.
3. Jegs Flux Core – Best Cheap Gasless Welder
As you’ve figured out by now, TIG and MIG welding processes need a supply of inert shielding gas to protect the weld from contaminants in the air that would corrupt the weld and cause porosity and cracking.
Shielding gas can be purchased from any local welding supply store, and it is relatively inexpensive. However, for the casual welder, it adds a level of complexity that most folks want to avoid.
Flux Core Welders are the answer to this. With Flux core, the wire has an extra chemical added that provides a cleaning and shielding mechanism. As the wire melts, it burns off the flux as well, which helps to shield the weld.
With these machines, you simply add the wire and plug the machine in. It’s extremely easy. Often, the weld is a little messier than a standard MIG weld bead, but you get the advantage that flux can be used on metals that aren’t perfectly prepped.
There are a lot of super-cheap Chinese-made machines in this category that offers no after-sale support. For this list, I wanted an affordable welding machine that also has a company that stands behind it.
This JEGS machine checks off all of the boxes. It runs on a 110v circuit, making it compatible for any standard American hose outlet. It holds a larger 4″ spool of wire, which means you can save money in buying the bigger spools of wire.
Using it is simple. You have a wire feed speed selector and a min/max amperage selector.
There are two possible downsides with this model. The first is that, at 100 amps, it is only rated for about 1/8-inch steel. The other thing is that it has a low, 10% duty cycle. This means that it needs to rest for 9 out of 10 minutes. If you are running longer beads, you will need to pause frequently to keep it from overheating.
4. YesWELDER – Best Cheap Stick Welder
A cheap ARC welder is an excellent choice. The consumables for it are cheap, it’s easy to use, and you can do countless steel repairs.
I wanted a welder under $100 for this list. There are some out there, but none that cheap that also has a good warranty. In my opinion, this is the cheapest welder that also has a good warranty and that is backed by a reliable company.
This machine uses IGBT inverter technology. This technology creates a more stable arc that is easy to get started. It also provides automatic compensation for voltage fluctuation. This protection system also helps protect against overloading and overheating.
To use this welder, you just plug it in, add a welding rod, connect the ground clamp and get started. It is a 110v/220v dual voltage machine.
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5. Lotos MIG 175 – Cheapest Way to Weld Aluminum
When welding aluminum, you basically have two options: TIG, or MIG with a spool gun. (I have an entire article on welding aluminum)
Aluminum welding wire is much thinner and gets gummed up inside the machine if you try to feed it through a normal MIG torch. With a spool gun, it has a shorter tube that it needs to thread through and doesn’t get jammed up.
If you purchase a high-end welder, you can add a spool gun (additional cost) and then use the same machine to handle aluminum welding.
This Lotos comes with the necessary equipment for welding aluminum as well as your normal steel and stainless steel welding. You’ll need to swap out the torches and the inert gas you are using, but this machine does it all.
It can handle steels up to 1/4-inch thick and aluminum up to 3/16-inch thick.
The one “downside” with this machine is that it requires a 220v power supply. This is needed to prevent overheating and to provide a better duty cycle. of 205 when operating a full 175 amps.
Even better, this machine comes with a 1-year warranty.
Now, if you are going to be doing a ton of welding (such as an auto body shop), I would recommend upgrading to my personal favorite, the Hobart 500554001 which comes with more power, a spool gun and is backed by a better brand.
But for the home DIY person or for occasional use where you can let the welder rest frequently, this LOTOS is an excellent choice, with a solid track record.
6. Forney 261 – Cheapest High-Quality Gasless Welder
The Forney that I talk about above has the advantage of being a multi-process welder. It can do MIG, some DC TIG and Flux core welding.
If you only want gasless welding, but also want to invest a little more money into purchasing a quality machine, this Forney 261 fits the bill.
This welder uses small rolls of .30 or .35 flux core wire. It also is very easy to control in that it only has two knobs. You simply adjust the wire speed and the amperage, and you are ready to go.
While this little welder only weighs 19 pounds but can handle metals up to 1/4-inches thick. It also offers an ample duty cycle of 30% at 90 amps.
The reason to buy this machine instead of the JEGS is that you will likely get a tiny bit more durability as well as very consistent performance. This means that as a beginner, you are going to love how easy it is to start and complete welds.
This one is also great for thinner metals and will work with metal down to 24 gauges thick.
7. Hobart 500559 Handler 140
My fans will know that I can’t talk about welders without mentioning the Hobart Handler 140. This little 140 amp welder is a heavy hitter when it comes to durability.
There are a lot of mechanic shops that rely on this tool for doing all of their weldings.
It’s hard to argue that this is an affordable machine. You’ll definitely pay more than for some of these others. However, if you plan on doing a lot of welding, it makes sense to go with a model that has a 5-year warranty.
This little tool comes with everything you need including the torch, ground clamp and even a small roll of wire. It only needs a 115v power source, making it suitable for use on a household circuit.
The all-metal wire feeder helps to ensure a more consistent wire feed. And there are nice touches, such as the electrode only going hot once the trigger is pulled. Most of the cheap MIG welders keep the electrode charged at all times which can lead to accidents.
At 140 amps, it will easily handle steel welding jobs from 24 gauge up to 1/4-inch thick. It also has voltage settings that let you better customize the shape of the welding heat.
There are a lot of high-end features on this model that help you deliver a better-finished product.
8. Loto TIG200AC – Cheapest AC TIG
This isn’t a cheap welder in the traditional sense. But if you want a full-feature TIG welder, this one deserves close consideration.
What sets this welder apart from the other ones on this list is how it offers both AC Tig and DCEP tig. It also has the connections for SMAW/stick arc welding.
You see, there are a lot of cheap TIG machines on the market. Most of those are DC-only, which means that they cannot be used for aluminum work.
With this machine, it offers you an AC current that you can use for welding. This allows you to weld aluminum since the sine wave bounced back and forth between a welding action and cleaning action. The square wave inverter provides excellent control over the performance and lets you get that perfect “stacked dimes” appearance that you want when working with TIG.
This one comes with the foot pedal, the TIG torch, and the connections for using inert gas.
The Pabst cooling system helps deliver stable performance without overheating.
This is a dual voltage welder that can use both 110v and 220v power inputs. When plugged into 220 volts, you can get a 60% duty cycle that lets you make longer welds without stopping.
This is a surprisingly heavy-duty welder, but you only get a one year warranty. If you need warranty help, you will need to pay shipping costs to send the entire tool back.
As with most Lotos branded products, I am a huge fan of them for use by a hobbyist or a student but would hesitate to use it as a primary welder in a fabrication shop.
There are a few different welding processes to choose from. Here are the four main ones:
MIG Welders – These wire-fed welders are some of the easiest to use. With very little practice, you can get a near-perfect weld on steel. If you purchase a spool gun, you can also weld on aluminum with these welders.
Gasless Welders – These welders are nearly identical to the MIG units above, with the exception that they do not require an inert gas to protect the weld. Instead, it uses a different wire called “flux core” that contains the needed gasses in a solid that melts during the welding process. As a bonus, the MIG welders can generally run flux core wire, but not vice-versa.
TIG Welders – This process also requires an inert shielding gas. It uses a solid rod of filler material that you melt into the weld with one hand as you work with the Tig torch in the other hand and run a foot pedal. Once you master this technique, you are able to weld all manner of stainless steel, aluminum, and manganese. It also lets you weld extremely thin metals.
Stick Welders – Finally, stick welders bring up the last type. These arc welders are one of the older processes and use a stick of consumable filler material that melts as it welds. These are great for occasional jobs as well as for fixing cast iron and for repairing dirty metals.
Most of these welders will work on 110v power, and many of them are dual voltage and will allow you to also plug into a 220v power source in those situations where you need more power for thicker metals.
Sometimes the 220v power supply will allow you to operate at a higher duty cycle with fewer breaks.
The entire reason you are reading this is to get a cheap welder. However, our recommendation is to spend a little more to get a MIG or Flux welder. However, if you simply must get the job done, a stick welder is going to be the cheapest option.
I also recommend buying durability over features. A multi-process welder that breaks is of less use than a high-end single-process welder that lasts a lifetime. More expensive welders tend to have better customer support and a more reliable warranty.