MIG welders are a staple in the manufacturing industry. They are much easier and faster to use than stick welders, and, while they don’t offer the ornate beadwork of TIG welding, the bonds they create are strong and practical.
Most farms that I have worked on had both a stick and a TIG welder. We used the heck out of both of them. When we weren’t working on farm equipment, the kids were using the MIG to craft their own creations. These were the ones that farm kids around the country have learned to weld with. That might tell you something about their ease of use.
MIG – or metal inert gas – welders use a flow of inert gas like argon or helium to protect the weld. They are occasionally called gas metal arc welding or GMAW. The speed at which you can work is legendary.
Here are 10 of the most common (metal inert gas) MIG welder reviews to make shopping easier for you.
The Best MIG Wire Welders
Hobart 500559 Handler 140
While the Hobart TIG model doesn’t get much love, this one has almost a cult following online. It is the first model purchased by many home-owners, and its flexibility and ease-of-use make it a pure joy to work with.
It might just be the best MIG welder for beginners. You find stories of people buying other welders (such as the Lincoln 140 Pro, and then exchanging it for the Hobart Handler 140 [Spitting and Popping Welds?])
This powerful little tool is going to handle up to 1/4-inch thick metal with ease and runs off of a 110v household current, so you can use it pretty much anywhere for maximum portability.
I do wish that the Duty Cycle was higher. I rarely use my equipment, but when I do, I push it to the max. The 20% duty cycle at 90 amps is a little low for my taste, but for the beginner, it is more than enough.
With the Hobart, you get a handy setup guide so that even a beginner can get up and running right away. You’ll find that they try to limit the added features to make it as easy as possible to get to work.
Sure, we have cheaper welders on our list. But if you want one that you can pull out of the box, not finagle with, and that is designed to last and deliver consistency every time you use it, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option, especially for light-duty auto bodywork.
Made right here in the USA, Hobart prides themselves on their simple, tough design.
Hobart 500536001 IronMan 230
Here’s a heavy-duty welder that is going to cause some sticker shock, so bear with me. (After all, this isn’t the best “cheap” welder guide). I want to make sure to have a couple of systems on this list with a high duty cycle and the capacity to be a real money-maker in a world where time is money.
Everything you love about the Hobart 140 is included in their Ironman model.
The IronMan is a little bigger machine that is designed for the shop environment. It comes on a rolling cart and is even shipped on a small wooden pallet. You’ll find that a cordless drill makes it easier to unpack this one.
As with the other systems on this list, all of the equipment comes with this model. The MIG torch that comes with this one is a little bit bigger than the one that comes with the smaller Hobart models.
The spool gun for the Hobart Ironman 230 is another feature that sets this one apart. This model includes the spool gun, which can save you a significant amount. If you think you will be doing some aluminum work, this one is a no-brainer.
The gas tank connects right to the back of the welder so that its wheels easily around the shop to wherever you are working.
The infinite wire speed and thermal overload protection mean that you have ultimate control to adjust it to your taste while knowing that the machine will protect itself from overheating if you ever get pushing on it too hard.
The all-aluminum reversible drive roll allows you to run multiple thicknesses without additional parts. Just flip the drive roll around to match the thickness of the wire you are working with.
Honestly, I think this is one of the top contenders on the market. For the hobby machinist, it is a powerful, unlimited tool. For the professional shop, this one is designed to print money.
Something to consider is that many of the cheapest models out there will only last 3-4 years of light-duty use.
This Ironman (and the Millermatic below) is the type of machine that you hope to see your grandchildren fighting over after you die.
You pay more upfront and then reap that value back over the years.
Millermatic 252 Welder
Ok, so one more high-end, heavy-duty welder, but one that offers more portability. The Millermatic is going to be way above what most of my readers are shopping for. It is still a mid-level welder from a power standpoint, but it offers more features and precision than a lot of the competition.
The high duty cycle is what sets this one apart as a professional machine. It is ready for showtime in a high-production shop. And, with 250 amps of power, you can easily do 3/8-inch steel on a single pass.
This one uses a modern inverter design, which helps make it lighter. You’re looking at about 38 pounds so you can easily carry it in one hand.
The wire drive system is made from cast aluminum, which prevents binding and drive issues that can lead to splatter. A lot of the cheaper models on our list only offer plastic wire drives.
This drive also works quite well on standard wire or the thicker flux core wire. It can hold an entire 10-pound spool of wire so you can take advantage of that bulk pricing on bigger wire spools.
It also has a slow start on the initial weld. The delayed start means that it waits to feed the wire at full speed until it detects that an arc has started. That extra time helps you get a better start and more control from beginning to end.
This is a dual voltage machine. You can run it on 110v current, or use the quick connect conductor to put the 230v plug tip in and run it at full power. It’s a no-tools switch. It’s a 60% duty cycle at 150 amps, which is better than most of the others on this list.
The auto-set feature is what sets this tool apart. It takes a lot of the guesswork out. You set it for the type of metal you are working on. There are two steel settings, a stainless steel setting, an aluminum setting (spool gun sold separately), and a flux-cored setting.
Then you choose your wire size and adjust the voltage control based on material thickness. A little blue light glows steadily to identify that you are at a good ratio to begin welding, and it automatically sets the wire feed speed to the optimal pace for a good puddle and solid bead.
With this welder, you are paying more for quality. That translates into years of professional use without spending a lot of time reworking your material due to inconsistent performance. If you plan on making a single dollar off of your work, I think this one deserves top consideration.
Weldpro MIG 200
Here I go with brand preferences again. The Weldpro is the best welder for most of my readers.
As with most of the machines on this list, the Weldpro 200 is a dual-voltage model that can handle either the 110v household circuit or the 230v circuit. If you are using this larger power source, you can comfortably weld up to 1/4-inch steel.
The fun thing about the Weldpro is that it can also be used as a TIG welder for your thin metals and detail work. I probably wouldn’t choose this if that is your primary need, but as a multi-process machine that handles MIG, TIG, and stick welding, it empowers the person who works with a lot of different materials to do it all.
This one is a good farm welder. It’s lightweight and can be carried from job to job. It does surprisingly good with less-than-perfect metal. Minimal metal cleaning can be done, and you can still get a decent weld out of it for MIG work.
This one takes a larger spool than the 155 does and has the synergetic speed selection that matches the wire speed to the voltage setting, which makes it much easier for you to get the right speed.
The fact that this one is compatible with a spool gun for aluminum work makes it a darling in my eyes.
This one can also do flux core welding. I like to minimize flux core work, but this one can do it.
For most of my readers, I’m going to push you to the Hobart. But this is an excellent backup model or entry-level model that is budget-friendly. The 2-year warranty makes this one a top pick.
The Forney is another close-runner to the Weldpro. I love the Weldpro because I was first introduced to their stuff through some of their helpful youtube videos online — they do a good job putting the beginner welder first and helping their customer.
But the Forney is similar in that it is a Mig welding machine, a Stick welder, and a DC TIG welder. So you get that multi-tool aspect.
This is one of the few 110v-only welders on the market and is designed to run off of a generator with at least a 4,500-watt rating. You can use it both at and on the back of the farm truck.
Even with only a 110v power source, this little guy can handle steel up to 1/4″ thick, which allows it to punch well above its class.
If you are going to do gas welding (recommended), you need to purchase the gas line and regulator separately. It also doesn’t have compatibility with a spool gun, so it won’t be good as an aluminum welder.
With only a one-year warranty, it certainly isn’t the heavy-hitter that some of these tools are. However, it is a strong contender.
Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180
I know that everyone touts the EasyMig 140, but I’m going with the 180 for this list. In my opinion, if I was only buying a 140 amp MIG welder, I’d go with the Hobart. This one offers that little extra power for those times that you need it.
This one offers a decent duty cycle of 30% at 130 amps. That’s going to get the job done without too much lost time.
As with the Millermatic, this one has room for a 10-pound spool of wire, or you can use the adapter to take it down to 1-pound.
The kit comes with everything you need, including the gun, gas hose, regulator, work cable, and grounding clamp.
This is going to be easy for the beginner and is one of the better flux-cored welders out there, in my opinion. Sure, you can get flux-core dedicated machines for a lot less, but the added investment in this one can help deliver a better experience.
Where I am concerned about Lincoln is in the consistency of their MIG tools and the decreased spatter. It seems to stem from a wire feeding issue. The problem must be limited — a search on 12/2/2019 only shows that 40 people a month search for a solution to the problem on Google (as estimated by Keywords Everywhere), but we’d love to hear more from the manufacturer on how they have addressed that issue.
Lincoln is a well-known brand that has lead the industry for years. If I am reading their warranty [Click here] correctly, this tool comes with a 12-month limited warranty, similar to the Forney above.
Lotos knows exactly who their target market is. They know that you are a DIY individual who dreams of being the next Tony Stark. Accordingly, they take their transformer power and pack as much technology into one machine as they possibly can.
Similar to the higher-end models, this one offers an aluminum wire feeder to ensure a good grip on the wire and steady delivery as you are working. At 175 amperage, it is not as strong as some of the tools on here and can only weld 3/16″ in thickness.
However, where it makes up for that is also comes with a spool gun for working on aluminum metal. So you get that added flexibility of being able to weld aluminum, or work with flux-cored or work with gas shielded.
The duty cycle of 30% at 135 amp is perfect for those of us working around the home garage.
This one also has a 1-year warranty.
The Reboot MIG140 has been a popular model for awhile. They do have a MIG150 model, but I’m a big fan of this slightly larger MIG175 model.
At 175 amps, you get enough power to handle some slightly thicker material. You are also buying yourself a higher duty cycle of 60% at 170 amp and 100% at 120 amp. This is basically unheard of.
You get a lot of welding modes with this model. You have Gas and Gasless MIG, the MMA (Manual Metal Arc, and stick are all available. Whether you need to work on stainless or cold-rolled steel, this one will do the job.
You can also use it as a lift TIG unit if you buy the TIG cord. It does need a regulator and a gas line if you are going to be using it with shielding gas.
While the high duty rating means that it is better protected against the overzealous novice, the plastic automatic wire feed means that it is probably still best-suited for the DIY welder.
MIG Buying guide
Information is power, and if you do a little “light reading” now, you can avoid common mistakes that new buyers make when purchasing their first welding machine.
A MIG is an excellent choice for a first welder. It is highly affordable, and it handles most of the metalwork that you might need to do.
Additionally, the metal filler is typically auto-feed, making accurate, one-handed operation something that is easy to do.
Flux Core Vs. Gas
Some of the welders on our list are flux core. This means that the wire is shielded, and the inner core does the welding work.
While this work, it creates a lot of slag that later has to be removed.
A gas welder requires you to purchase inert gas refills constantly. However, the finished work is much cleaner, and you spend less time in post-production cleaning up the joint.
It comes down to the amount of power a welder can put out. The bigger, commercial welders require more electricity and are simply too expensive for the homeowner. What we are focused on is that sweet spot where you get a lot of power out of 110-volt or 220-volt outlets.
The amperage is the amount of heat that your machine can produce, and you’ll need a higher amperage setting for thicker metal.
In my opinion, the duty cycle is one of the most important measurements to consider when shopping. The duty cycle tells you how long the welder can be “on” before it needs to take a break and cool off.
If you are slaving away on thick metals at maximum amperage, you are going to need a high duty cycle.
However, for the home hobbyist, a low duty cycle of 20% might be fine. After all, who cares if you need to wait 8 minutes for every 2 minutes that you weld? You are doing this as a hobby!
If you exceed the duty cycle, you will likely blow a fuse on the unit.
110 Volt Vs. 220 Volt
Most of us have 110-volt outlets in our garage. (Or we are working at a Jobsite with limited electricity).
The ability to work off of 110-volt power is very attractive.
The downside is that you are limited to working on thinner metals for shorter duty cycles. While you might be able to weld mild steel that is 1/4-inch thick, you’d end up doing several passes and using some advanced welding techniques to get a decent hold on 1/2-inch steel.
Most of the ones on this list offer dual voltage. You will likely find that you can’t wait to wire in a 220v circuit so you can unlock the full capacity of your welder.
Should You Get A Spool Gun?
A spool gun allows you to weld aluminum. You’ll likely want to choose a welder that allows you to add a spool gun so that if you ever need to weld aluminum, it can become an option.
Is This Brand A Good Welder?
There are some well-known brands like Miller and Lincoln. Some of the lesser-known brands such as Lotos and Forney are quickly making a name for themself.
One of the best things you can do is to look at the warranty and then call the customer service line. Do you get a representative who knows how the warranty process works? That right there will tell you more about a company than reading a hundred reviews ever will.
In this list, I’ll go over some of the current models for sale online. Hopefully, I can cut hours off of your research and years of regret out of your shop.
Is MIG Or TIG Welding Easier?
The consensus is that MIG welding is easier for a beginner to pick up. You also have the advantage that MIG machines can handle thicker steel and can complete welds faster. TIG welding is handy for aluminum, copper, and magnesium work, but can also do steelwork, just more slowly.
What Gas does a MIG Welder Use?
Argon is the most common shielding gas. This protects the weld from impure compounds in the air and lets you create a shiny bead. It is quite affordable and works with almost all welding types.
Another common option is the helium/carbon dioxide mixture. Helium offers better conductivity, and carbon dioxide deepens the weld.
Carbon dioxide can also be used at 100% or mixed in with Argon.
Why Is My MIG Welder Spitting?
Your welder should make that lovely “bacon-sizzle sound when you are working. The bead should apply smoothly, and there should be no issues with it popping and sputtering. Splatter should also be minimal.
If your welder is popping and spitting, there could be a few key reasons. Check each of these areas to get to the bottom of the issue.
1. The Gas Tank Is Empty
You need a good supply of shielding gas to protect your work. Most argon tanks can run quite low on the PSI gauge without effecting the weld. You should be able to push the gauge down close to empty. Some folks refill at 100 PSI to make sure that the weld is never effected.
2. There Is A Leak In Your MIG Gun or Line
This is more common on cheaper equipment than it is on professional-level parts, but it can happen anywhere. If something loosens, the argon will seep out of an o-ring leak or anywhere else that it can and not make it to the tip. Using some soapy water on the line will help you identify bubbles where it is leaking (don’t get the tip wet).
3. The Surface Isn’t Clean
You need a clean surface for the ground clamp so that the electricity flows well. Are you welding on a clean surface? Does the clamp have a clean place that it is attached to? Getting good connectivity can lead to better welds.
4. Increase the Voltage
The voltage control needs to be set properly in relation to the wire speed. I’ll probably do an entire article on this at some point, but the rule of thumb is that for each .001″ of thickness, you’ll want 1 amp of power. So a 1/4″ thick piece of steel would suggest 250 amps of power. The recommended wire thickness for 75-250 amps is .045. Then you set the voltage so that it gives you a sufficiently wide bead without being too wide. Finally, set your wire speed based on the thickness of the wire. For the .045 thickness, you’ll need 1 inch per amp per minute. So, in our example above, you’ll want 250 inches per minute of wire speed.
Got it? As I said, I’ll do an article on it soon. In the meantime, Miller has a really good piece. [MIG Welding: Setting the Correct Parameters]
5. The Wire Isn’t Feeding Properly
The wire should flow out steadily. If the brake is set too tightly, you’ll have wire feed issues, and it can cause the splatter and popping. Check the drive roller alignment inside the machine to make sure it is riding correctly and not binding.
6. The Welder Is Sub-par
There are so many little solenoid valves and parts inside of a welder. They all need to work together perfectly to deliver a good bead. Even with the big brand names, more and more of their manufacturing is being done by subcontractors. If you are dealing with these problems on a new welder and you’ve checked the four areas above, you may be fighting a manufacturer’s defect.
Can Cast Iron Be MIG Welded?
It is recommended to use a stick welder with the proper cast iron rod. However, if you use a gas-shielded MIG welder, you won’t get as tight of a finished weld. If you are going to try to put a piece of cast iron back together, you’ll need to work slowly. Tack weld one short spot and let it cool completely. Then do another.
After you have it tack welded together, switch to a brazing wire and finish off with the lower-temperature braze for a stronger hold.
Or get one of the systems on my list that allow you also to do stick welding.