MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas welding. It is also referred to as MAG (Metal Active Gas) or GMAW (Metal Arc Welding). It’s one of the most common techniques because it’s easy to learn. MIG welding can be used for beginners at home or professionals for auto body work.
How does MIG Welding Work?
The MIG process forms an electric arc between a wire electrode and the metal. The electric causes the metal to heat and melt together to form one. To prevent contaminants, a shielding gas also feeds through the welding gun. The shielding gas prevents oxidation and nitrogen absorption. Operating the best MIG welder is fairly simple for different skill levels to do a range of projects from home use to auto body work. MIG vs stick welding is significantly much faster and reduces the amount of smoke that generally occurs.
Best Gas for MIG Welding?
The best gas for MIG welding is argon. To penetrate thicker metals and increase fluidity, it’s recommended to add helium. Combining argon and helium can be used on all metal types. Here’s a great table showing the best gas for MIG welding combinations.
Can you MIG Weld Cast Iron?
Welding cast iron is difficult. Some are easier to weld than others because there are different grades of cast iron. Some extremely experienced welders can tell the difference, but most cannot. To MIG weld cast iron you need to ideally heat the part up over 400 degrees. Then use a ball hammer to stamp the bead while it’s still hot. This will reduce shrinkage of the weld.
Mig Welding Tips for Beginners
MIG welding is great for beginners since it’s one of the easiest types of welding to learn. Here are some common techniques, tricks and welding tips for beginners.
- Control your welding torch speed. Moving too fast will make a weak weld. Moving too slow will be sloppy and waste consumables.
- Practice with different materials, consumables, and gas mixtures. You will learn what looks right fairly quickly.
- Keep the welding tip about ½ inch from the puddle
- Angle your MIG gun at about 15 degrees when traveling
- Weld a consistent bead size for strength and aesthetics
- Keep the joint clean so the consumables meld cleanly to the metal
- Push the torch gun away from you when making welds
- Have a proper stance for smooth welds and reduce fatigue on your shoulders, back, and neck
- Watch indicators for consistent gas flow
- Prepare equipment check: electrode polarity, inspect consumables, cables are tight fitting, proper gas flow, and enough slack from the hose and power cord
- Wear proper safety equipment including: MIG welding helmet, close-toes shoes, gloves, and clothes covering all exposed skin
Advantages of MIG Welding vs TIG
Use a MIG welder to weld thicker and larger pieces of aluminum faster. The MIG continuously feeds the wire while the TIG uses long rods and slowly feeds them into the puddle. TIG is best for heat control on thin materials. MIG is used on any metal surface and can weld together material as thin as 26-gauge.
8 Factors When Choosing the Best MIG Welder
- Duty Cycle – how long a MIG welder can operate safely within 10-minute cycles. Welder duty cycle explained and calculated denotes the percentage out of 10 minutes it can run. A MIG welder duty cycle of 30% at 120amps means it can run for 3 minutes and needs to rest for 7 minutes. A duty cycle of 60% at 175amps means it can run for 6 minutes and needs to rest for 4 minutes. It is worth considering a machine that resets itself vs a cheap MIG welder from a big box that will over cycle and burnup. You can buy an expensive MIG welder with 100% duty cycle and around 120amps. As nice as that sounds, most users will be breaking in between for markings or fatigue.
- Amperage – refers to the power. Amperage or amps tells how it welds a particular material. The thicker the material, the greater the amp MIG welder you will need. The general rule of thumb is 1 amp for every 0.001 inch thickness of mild steel. The amperage level setting is just a rule of thumb. You still need to test each machine settings and make appropriate adjustments. Buy the best MIG welder for the price with the greatest amperage. You can see the amp MIG welder chart here.
- Input Voltage – the input voltage will be dependent upon your electrical outlet. A typical welder has either a 110/115/120v input or 220/225/230v. You will also find the best dual-voltage MIG welder in the reviews below.
- Thermal overload protection – will automatically shut down the unit if you exceed the duty cycle. The thermal overload protection function prevents it from overheating and starting fire. As a MIG welder, it’s difficult to know to the minute how long you run the machine vs rest the machine.
- Portability – allows you to bring the unit from one place to another. Finding the best small MIG welder will all you to bring it in tight places or for vertical welding jobs. The average unit weighs about 80 pounds which makes mobility difficult. The small MIG welders are less than 50 pounds. Though the units typically have handles, it is still recommended you consider the best welding cart design for portability.
- Customer service and warranty – is overlooked until it is needed. Though welding machines are durable, it’s still important to offer a good warranty. It’s also helpful when manufactures offer good phone customer support.
- Replacement Parts – is another overlooked factor when purchasing a welding machine. It’s best to buy a machine from a well-known brand and model that will offer replacement parts for many following years.
- Price – is a factor for all budgets. Once you know your needs, you want to buy the best MIG welder for the price. It is not difficult to find a quality unit for under $1000. Even if your budget is half or less, you can find a great welder for under $300 too.
Starter MIG welders can cost around $200. You will be happy to know we reviewed 10 options that cost under $1000. In this price range, you can do anything from DIY to auto body work. Finding a MIG welder in your budget that is powerful, portable, feature rich, and versatile is easy within our MIG welder reviews.
Best MIG Welder Reviews in 2018
#1. Hobart Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder for under $1000 – Best MIG Welder under $1000
The Hobart Handler 210 MVP is the best MIG welder under 1000 dollars. Buying the Hobart brand will come with customer service and reliability from experts to home shop use. It produces high quality and clean welds.[aawp box=”B004USV5UC”]
The dual voltage MIG welder offers either 115v or 230v and fan cooled. It can range between 25 to 210 amps. With the paired power output, you can weld different types of metal from steel to aluminum. The best consumables for this MIG welder for aluminum projects is the Spoolrunner 100, aluminum wire, and argon gas. The Hobart works for welding aluminum since you generally need at least 200 amp for thicker pieces with spray transfer.
The Hobart Handler 210 can cut through 3/8” thick mild steel. Given it’s versality, some consider it the best MIG welder for auto body work to beginner projects. Using the Hobart flux core wire, you can weld without gas. It’s user-friendly with wire-speed control and 7 different voltage settings.
The machine has a maximum welding duty cycle of 30% at 150 amps. Hobart included self-setting thermal overload protection to prevent damage from overheating.
- Easy to setup for a DIY MIG welder
- Quick twist between 115v and 230v power
- Thermal overload protection
- Dual-voltage welder
- 5-year limited warranty
- Parts are ready available
- No spool gun included
- Not as portable at 80 pounds
- Limited long duty cycle
Weight: 87.5 pounds
Duty Cycle: 115v 20% at 90amps or 230v 30% at 150amps
Warranty: 5-year limited warranty
Made-in: China: Assembled in USA
Unit Accessories: 10 ft MIG welding gun, gas solenoid valve, dual-gauge regulator w/gas hose, spool hub for 4 or 8 inch, sample spool, .0.030 inch contact tips, 5 foot power cord for 115v or 230v plugs, guide for thickness gauge, owner’s manual
Customer Reviews: 111+ reviews
#2. Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG Welder 115v – Best MIG Welder under $500
The Hobart 500559 Handler 140 is the best MIG welder under $500. It’s a multipurpose machine that can be for home use, auto body work, or heavier farm machinery. It is not recommended for cast iron, copper, brass, titanium, and magnesium alloys. The unit is built with a cast aluminum wire drive and a heavy work clamp for durability.[aawp box=”B009X43F38″]
In order to weld aluminum, you need to purchase a spool gun and use 100% Argon gas. It is exclusively a MIG welder and cannot do TIG. The Handler 140 will work with flux core wire and without the use of gas.
The Handler 140 is a 115v MIG welder that can be used on a 20 amp circuit around your house. The unit offers a 5-position tapped voltage control setting offering the capability of making a smooth and stable arc.
It’s recommended getting the package with the portable welding cart included. Weighing in at 65 pounds is far from the heaviest welder, but even with a handle it’s not overly portable. The Handler 140 will plug into a standard wall outlet and will also run from a portable generator.
One negative is the short duty cycle. It’s rated duty cycle is 20% at 90amp. The unit can run between 25-140 amps and welds material from 24 gauge to ¼ inch mild steel. It leaves a clean quarter inch bead given it’s only a 115v MIG welder. The Hobart is very versatile for under $500.
- Easy to setup starter welder for a beginner
- Great arc performance with voltage control
- Thermal overload system to protect the unit from surges
- Long cables and cords
- Short duty cycle
- Cooling fan could be noisy
- Advised you purchase the welding rack as a package for portability
Weight: 57 pounds
Duty Cycle: 115v; 25-140 amps, 20% duty cycle at 90 amps
Warranty: 5-year limited warranty
Made-in: China, Assembled in USA
Unit Accessories: 10 foot MIG gun, 10-foot work cable and clamp, 10 foot power cord, dual gauge regulator, 0.030 contact tips, sample 0.030 spool of flux-cored wire, spool adapter, setup guide, owner’s manual
Customer Reviews: 331+ reviews
#3. Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180 – Best 220v MIG Welder Reviewed
The Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180 is the best 220v MIG welder reviewed. It’s capable of welding 3/16 inch thick with MIG and up to ½ inch thick with flux core. The input power is either 208 volts or 230v. Unlike most home shops, you will need a much greater power supply.[aawp box=”B01M17905T”]
It’s power output ranges from 30amps to 180amps. The EasyMig 180 offers a maximum duty cycle of 30% at 130amps for 3/16 inch metal.
The Lincoln 180 weighs about 66 pounds and is recommended you purchase a cart to make it a portable MIG welder. If you don’t have a 220v outlet, you can also use a generator with a maximum of 6900 watts.
The Lincoln 180 MIG welder reviews recommend this entry model as good for beginners. Lincoln offers a 3-year warranty which offers a free replacement or cost of free repair service. For an additional investment, you ca extend the warranty for an additional 5 years.
- Easy to use and setup
- Durable cast aluminum body
- Flux and MIG 220v welder
- Ability to work with a generator for portability
- Heavy unit and likely needs a welding cart
- Limited to 3/16 inch metal
- 180amp maximum power output
Manufacturer: Lincoln Electric
Weight: 85 pounds
Duty Cycle: 208v 30% at 130amps or 230v 30% at 130amps
Warranty: 3-year warranty
Unit Accessories: 100L gun and 10 foot cable w/brass gun connection, 0.025 inch and 0.035 inch contact tips, gasless nozzle for each inner shield welding and MIG, 8 inch diameter spool, gas regulator, 0.025 spool and 0.035 spool, work clamp, and learning DVD.
Customer Reviews: 17+ reviews
#4. Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder – Best 110v MIG Welder
The Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy is the best 110v MIG welder reviewed. It’s capable of doing both flux core and MIG welding for home use.[aawp box=”B000QFNZ74″]
Using gas is optional with this unit, like for stainless steel. You can weld aluminum but will need to purchase aluminum wire. But, you will need flux core wire if you choose to weld gasless.
The Lincoln Electric Handy has a welding duty cycle of 20% at 70amps. Inside the Lincoln MIG welder there is a chart showing you which setting to choose for each metal thickness. It uses 0.035 wire spool.
The lead is 8 feet long from the tip of the torch to the machine. If you need more length for the machine’s power cord, it’s recommended you use a 12 gauge extension cord. It will plug into any household outlet but need to be at least a 20 amp breaker. It runs on a low input voltage of 110v which is compatible on household outlets.
The Lincoln 140 Handy is small and lightweight. It weighs about 46 pounds and is portable.
If you want to bring it to a job site, you will need at least a 1500 watt generator to power the machine.
- Best welder for under $300
- Portable and lightweight
- Cooling fan to prevent overheating
- Only welds up to 1/8 inch mild steel
- 110v MIG welder can only be used on household outlets
- Slower duty cycle
- Intended for home use and not industrial
Manufacturer: Lincoln Electric
Weight: 46 pounds
Duty Cycle: 20% at 70amps
Input Voltage: 115v
Warranty: 1-year warranty on parts and labor
Unit Accessories: cable assembly, clamp and work cable, gun, gas regulator, gas nozzle and hose, wire spool, contact tips, hand shield with filtering lens.
Customer Reviews: 120+ reviews
#5. Lotos MIG140 Wire Welder Flux Core Welder – Best MIG Welder for Home Use
The Lotos 140 is the best MIG welder for home use in our reviews. While it’s not a top of the line machine, it’s a great starter MIG welder for home projects and smaller professional jobs. Weighing in at 54 pounds doesn’t make it the most portable machine for under $500.[aawp box=”B00S8R1ST4″]
The readouts are digital and provide accurate voltage control and wire speed. You can adjust the output from 30amps to 140amps depending on your metal type. The Lotos MIG welder cuts steel from 18 gauge to 3/16 inch. Its duty cycle is 20% at 90 amps. The unit has thermal overload protection which cuts out the system to prevent overheating and increase its lifespan.
The Lotos welder is one of the best multi-process welders that can do MIG, flux core, and aluminum gas shield. It’s capable of working with gas or no gas. If working with solid steel, you’ll need 0.025 to 0.030 inch wire. When using flux core wire, you will use 0.030 to 0.035 inches.
Works with 15amp service but ideally meant for a 20 amp circuit breaker. Though it’s a top home MIG welder meant for a DIY, it performs like comparable industrial machines.
- Multi-process welder – very versatile
- Home MIG welder with industrial performance
- Top welder for the money and great value
- Not as portable at 54 pounds
- Purchase spool gun to weld aluminum
Manufacturer: Lotos Technology
Weight: 54 pounds
Duty Cycle: 20% at 90amps
Input Voltage: 110v
Warranty: 1-year limited parts and labor for defects. 30-day with money back warranty.
Unit Accessories: Gas hose, torch, clamp cable, Argon regulator, contact tips, sample wire,
Customer Reviews: 74+ reviews
#6. Forney Easy Weld 298 – Best Inverter Welder for the Money
The Forney Easy Weld 298 is the best inverter welder for the money we reviewed. It’s a straight forward machine that only offers flux-cored welding. The machine has 120 volt input and 90 amp output.[aawp box=”B016R0FCO0″]
The Forney 298 is capable of welding materials from 16-gauge to 5/16 inch. It can handle 2 pounds of 10 pound spools.
It’s amazingly portable weighing only 7.5 pounds with a built-in carrying handle. We suggest purchasing an extension cord since it comes with only a 6 foot cord. It may be inexpensive and look cheap, but it’s still a durable welder for under $200.
- Best portable MIG welder
- Good for a beginner
- TIG torch is a separate purchase
- DC only
Manufacturer: Forney Easy Weld
Weight: 7.5 pounds
Duty Cycle: 30% at 80 amps
Input Voltage: 120v
Warranty: 6-month form the date of purchase
Unit Accessories: Ground clamp and electrode holder
Customer Reviews: 50+ reviews
#7. Hobart 500554 Handler 190 MIG Welder 230v – Best MIG Welder for the Money
The Hobart 500554 Handler is the best MIG welder for the money in our reviews. It’s wire drive system is made of cast aluminum and weighs 68 pounds. The Handler includes a door chart to help choose the correct settings for the metal and thickness. The 7-position voltage control selector helps create the best arc. The Handler 190 comes with a 10 foot MIG gun, two gauge regulator, and a 5 foot gas hose. It has a thermal overload system which protects the transformer. The system self-resets when it’s triggered.[aawp box=”B005CNOVZU”]
It’s output ranges from 25A to 190A and a good duty cycle of 30% at 130amps. You can only use 230v on the Hobart 500554. If you only have a 115v circuit in your home shop, then it’s suggested you purchase the Hobart 500559 150amp 115v machine. If you want a dual-voltage machine, we’d recommend the Hobart 500553 210 MVP welder that works on 115v or 230v. The Handler 190 is capable of using a generator when working at remote sites. The unit needs a generator with at least 7000 watts to run.
It is a terrific welder for under $1000 that can weld as thin as 24 gauge up to 5/16 inch thick. When using flux core wire, you first need to reverse the polarity. To weld aluminum, you will use 100% Argon with the Hobart 500554. The Hobart MIG welder comes with pre-installed spool gun circuitry. In order to weld mild steel, it’s suggested using a 75% CO2 and 25% Argon mixture.
Since the Hobart MIG welder weighs 68 pounds, we recommend purchasing a wheeled welding cart designed appropriately for your unit. The cart also allows you to store your hose, power cord, and welding consumables.
It’s the best affordable MIG welder for hobby or for non-industrial usage. The Hobart welder is a powerful and reliable machine for the money.
- 7-position voltage control selector and unlimited wire feed speed
- Best MIG welder for the money
- Short circuit protection
- Weighs 68 pounds
- Only usable on 230v electric circuit
- Hobart 190 MIG welder is not cheap
Weight: 68 pounds
Duty Cycle: 30% at 130 amps
Input Voltage: 230v
Warranty: 5-year limited warranty
Made in: China but assembled in USA
Unit Accessories: Spool gun, sample spool of 0.030 flux core wire, two 0.030 contact tips, metal thickness gauge, 10 foot work cable clamp, power cord with plug
Customer Reviews: 23+ reviews
#8. Forney Easy Weld 29901 – Best Cheap MIG Welder
The Forney 29901 125 FC is the best cheap MIG welder in our reviews. We base this on the inexpensive price, good customer service, and it’s small, lightweight, and portable. It’s powerful enough to cut metal thickness from 24 gauge to ¼ inch. It includes a 10 wire speed control knob to make great welds. You can do starter welding projects to light auto body work.[aawp box=”B06ZXYTHF2″]
This DIY MIG welder uses 120 volts for home use and puts out 125amps. It’s easy to setup out of the box for a beginner. Forney also offers good customer service and can answer questions if this is your starter MIG welder.
The Forney 29901 includes some valuable accessories and welding consumables. The package includes a cool camo welding helmet for MIG that’s fireproof and impact resistant. The auto tint headgear and shell weigh only 1 pound which makes it extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear during a long day. They also include black split leather welding gloves with cotton fleece lining for moisture absorption. Forney includes a starter 2 pound spool of flux wire.
The Forney 125 is one of the best portable MIG welders under $400 you will find. Like the included camo welding helmet, the unit is also lightweight at only 35 pounds. It includes a handle on top that helps carry it around your home shop.
- Small, lightweight, and portable
- Great budget welder and includes welding helmet
- Home use only and not industrial projects
- Flux core 0.030 wire only and cannot weld aluminum
- Short wire feeder
Weight: 35 pounds
Input Voltage: 120v
Warranty: 6 months
Made in: China
Unit Accessories: MIG gun, ½ and 5/8 inch welding nozzles, ground clamp, camo welding helmet for MIG, gloves
Customer Reviews: 27+ reviews
#9. Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core – Good MIG Welder for Beginner
The Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Cord is the best MIG welder for beginner. It’s portable, small, lightweight, and does flux core and mild steel up to 1/8 inch thick. After unboxing, you can begin welding with this great starter welder.[aawp box=”B004HL01PW”]
The Handy Core package includes everything to begin immediately. The box includes the MIG welder for home use, sample 1 pound 0.035 flux core wire, clamp, hand shield, contact tips, and chipping hammer and brush.
The Lincoln K2278-1 small sized unit is covered in aluminum and weighs 46 pounds. It uses a standard household 115v electrical circuit. The output range is from 35-88 amps with a duty cycle of 20% at 70amps. The Handy Core is fan cooled to extend life expectancy of the unit.
- Lincoln build quality
- Small, portable, and lightweight
- Uses standard home use 115v electricity
- Gasless only
- Hobby MIG welder only and not heavy auto body work
- Slow duty cycle
Manufacturer: Lincoln Electric
Weight: 46 pounds
Duty Cycle: 20% at 70 amps
Input Voltage: 115v
Warranty: 1-year warranty on parts and labor (90 days on cable and gun)
Made in: Poland
Unit Accessories: welding gun, 10 foot cable and clamp, contact tips, 1 pound of 0.035 flux core wire, welding hand shield with clear glass and #10 filter plate, chipping hammer and brush
Customer Reviews: 16+ reviews
MIG Welder Reviews Comparisons Chart
|Name||Input Voltage||Weight||Made in||View on Amazon|
|Hobart Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder for under $1000||115v||87.5 pounds||China, Assembled in USA||Check Latest Price|
|Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG Welder 115v||115v||57 pounds||China, Assembled in USA||Check Latest Price|
|Lincoln Electric Easy MIG 180||208v||85 pounds||USA||Check Latest Price|
|Hobart Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder for under $1000||110v||33 pounds||USA||Check Latest Price|
|Lincoln Electric K2185-1||115v||46 pounds||USA||Check Latest Price|
|Lotos MIG140 Wire Welder Flux Core Welder||110v||54 pounds||China||Check Latest Price|
Forney Easy Weld 298
|220v||7.5 pounds||China||Check Latest Price|
|Hobart 500554 Handler 190 MIG Welder 230v||230v||68 pounds||China but assembled in USA||Check Latest Price|
|Forney Easy Weld 29901||120v||35 pounds||China||Check Latest Price|
The best MIG welder reviews are dependent on your wants and needs. If you are in the market, you should be able to find a good in the MIG welder reviews comparisons chart.