MIG and flux core wire-feed welders have completely revolutionized small-scale welding over the last couple of decades.
Whether it’s hobbyists needing inexpensive welders for DIY projects or professionals that deal with sheet metal on a daily basis, the modern MIG delivers an amazing impact on productivity.
With the huge influx of Chinese and other foreign-built products on the market, prices are hovering at all-time lows.
The biggest problem might actually be narrowing the huge selection down to the right machine at the right price.
A professional welder needs quality and reliability above all else, while a DIY guy at home might be most concerned over the actual price of putting a MIG in the garage.
Weld Guru took a look at six welders, from professional-grade units to inexpensive machines suitable for home welding.
See what we found with some of the most popular MIG choices going today.
In a Rush?
Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...
Best MIG Welders for the Money with Reviews
Here's a list of some of the best MIG Welders we found on the market
1. Millermatic 211 MIG Welder
- MIG/flux core wire-feed
- Input 120 and 240 volts
- Material thickness 24 gauge to 3/8 inch
- Wire size 0. 023 In. to 0. 035 inch
- Flux core 0. 030 In. to 0. 045 inch
- Light weight
- 120 and 240 AC powered
- Runs quietly
- Welds heavier materials easily
- Very low amperage for light gauge sheet
- Some owners feel the grounding clamp is too cheap
- Some units have a defective wire feed spool
The MIllermatic 211 is a professional MIG welding machine with a 3-year warranty. It’s able to run from 110 or 240 inputs. When connected to the 240 side, it features a 40 percent duty cycle at 150 amps. On household 110, it delivers a 20 percent duty cycle at 115 amps.
That 115 amps will let you weld material around 1/8-inch thick, so for the home DIY enthusiast with no 220-volt receptacle, the Millermatic 211 will let you get a lot done, though it comes at a real cost.
Its real market is professionals needing portability. Rolling it around to reach different parts of a car body would be an example. Bringing it to the job site for HVAC professionals installing ductwork or repairing furnaces is another.
Considering it can weld up to 3/8-inch thick steel or aluminum, it’s also portable enough to move around on a steel construction site for details like stairs and railings. It also features a solid metal wire drive.
With professional power, dual-input versatility, Miller customer service and true MIG capability, the Miller magic 211 is the Weld Guru Professional’s Choice for Best MIG.
2. Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder
- Welds 24 gauge sheet up to 1/4 in mild steel
- Operates off 120V
- output: 25–140 amps
- 20% duty cycle @ 90 Amps
- MIG or flux core
- Industrial-grade aluminum drive
- Heavy duty clamp
- Lightweight at 65 pounds
- Regulator is Miller branded
- Adjustment for wire spool taes a wrench
- Inconsistent quality with occasional disconnected wires
Hobart’s 140 Handler is a bit of a hybrid between pro-level performance and homeowner convenience. The 140-amp rating is enough to weld up to 1/4-inch steel. This machine works both as a flux core welder and as a MIG.
The duty cycle is 20 percent at 90 amps. That’s enough power to do most jobs you’ll ever tackle in a home shop setting, but for professionals working on heavy stuff like trailer frames or pipe fencing, it’s just not going to be enough.
For other professional work like auto body or welding brackets, mountings and the like, this machine can run off a 4000-watt generator. It’s small enough to carry into a home for HVAC repair and the 110/115/120 input means you could use a small generator or the household receptacle to do the work.
The solid aluminum wire drive accommodates either 4 or 8-inch spools and it’s selectable between multiple gauges of wire. The Hobart Handler 140 is backed by a 3-year warranty and its professional features and true MIG capability make it the Weld Guru Pro Value Pick in this roundup.
3. Forney Easy Weld 140 FC-i
- Lightweight at 19 pounds
- Includes 8' arc gun, 8' ground clamp
- Welds up to 1/4-inch plate
- Will hold 10 pound wire spools
- 20-amp to 15-amp adapter
- Infinitely adjustable voltage and wire feed
- Welds 24-gauge up to 1/4″
- Users like the built-in fan at this price
- 30 percent duty cycle
- Gasless flux-core welding only
- Can’t run hard wire with this machine
The “FC-i” in the name means “Flux Core inverter.” Inverter technology is lighter than traditional transformers used in most welders, meaning this welder delivers 140 amps even though it only weighs 19 pounds. The Forney 140 FC-i is aimed squarely at the home welder.
The one thing this welder doesn’t offer is true MIG capability. Flux core wire doesn’t deliver the same clean, indestructible level of welding as a gas-shielded arc. It provides shielding by evaporating flux. For the average home welder, the difference is minor.
However, if you need to weld aluminum or stainless steel, flux core wire isn’t up to it and you’ll need to find a MIG-capable machine.
The 140-amp rating is about as hot as you can get without stepping up to 220 volts. That’s enough to weld 1/4-inch steel. The duty rating on this machine is 30 percent at 90 amps, pretty astounding on a machine in this price range.
There’s probably not a machine in this class that has more satisfied customers, a big reason it’s the Weld Guru Weekend Warrior selection for Best MIG.
4. Lincoln Pro MIG 180 MIG Welder
- Heavy duty wire drive
- Brass-to-brass gun connection enhances conductivity
- Fully adjustable drive system
- Wide 30-180 amp welding output range
- 30 percent duty cycle at 130 amps
- Durable cast aluminum wire feed drive
- Includes gasless and MIG nozzles
- Diamond Core makes the arc more forgiving
- 10-foot power cable
- Only runs on 240-volt input
This is a professional MIG welder with brass-to-brass connections, solid metal wire drive and a 240 volt input. Every feature is professional quality. The case is much thicker metal than the Chinese machines, the circuit board is enclosed and it uses stainless steel hinges. These details matter when you put food on the table with your welder.
With a welding range between 30 and 180 amps, the Pro MIG 180 can weld on everything from thin sheetmetal on a car grille all the way up to frame modifications on the same vehicle, including metal up to ½-inch thick. At 130 amps, the duty cycle is 30 percent, making it unlikely you’d ever reach the point for most jobs where the automatic thermal shutoff kicks in.
The Pro MIG 180 comes with a Harris regulator and the gun has a 10-foot connection. Lincoln has an arc-starting technology that’s almost completely spatter-free, giving you time to dial in just the right settings for the task at hand. Lincoln includes both gasless and MIG nozzles, backing the Pro MIG 180 with a 3-year warranty.
5. Everlast Powermig 200 MIG Welder
- Digital inverter for low spatter
- Arc force control adjusts arc characteristics
- MIG, wire feed and stick welding
- Dual digital displays
- MIG weld up to 7/16" in a single pass
- Preflow and Postflow for quality start and stop
- dual voltage 120/240
- Comes with a gas regulator
- burn back control puts wire at right length for restart
- Only welds in DC mode
The Everlast Powermig 200 offers dual voltage inputs and weighs only 35 pounds due to inverter technology. It’s not only MIG-capable, you can also use it for stick and flux core welding.
When your machine can stick weld and connect gas at the same time, all you need to buy is a connector block and you gain TIG ability too, although Everlast doesn’t say so.
The Powermig 200 features a burn back control, automatically adjusting the wire length at restart. 200 amps can weld ⅜-inch steel in a single pass. Dual digital displays and a low-spatter arc control system are nice features in this price range.
Preflow and Postflow improves weld quality, reducing porosity by starting the gas shield before the arc begins and cutting the gas off after the arc stops. The burn back control feature resets the length of the wire feed before you strike another arc.
Everlast includes a gas regulator with this rig and backs it with a 3-year warranty. With stick capability and the ability to use it on either household or industrial power, this is quite a bit of welder for the money.
6. Hobart Ironman 230 MIG Welder
- 30-250 amps
- Optimized arc for less spatter
- Welds 24 gauge to 1/2 inch
- Twelve-tap voltage control
- Made in the U.S.A.
- 5-year warranty
- Simple control knobs easy to use with gloves.
- Will take a 44LB spool of wire
- Can be finely tuned for different materials
- 6-foot power cord is too short
- Reports of voltage knob breaking
The Hobart Ironman 230 delivers a wide range of power from 30 to 250 amps in a heavy-duty American made chassis. Hobart equips the Ironman series with its “soft arc” technology for an easier striking, more spatter-free arc.
This is a full-sized platform, offering a 15-foot gun connection and able to load a 44-pound spool of wire. Hobart backs the Ironman 230 with a five-year warranty.
The power regulator has 12 notch settings for easy feel when setting the power level with gloves. This power regulator knob seems to be a problem for some users who have reported issues with the knob rotating freely and not changing the power setting.
This may be a problem with the packaging not protecting the machine while shipping. Hobart has these machines made by Miller, so customer service shouldn’t be a problem, considering the substantial warranty.
Other users don’t like the short six-foot power cord, but 230 amps is a lot of juice and a shorter cord is one way to keep the heat down. This is a nice industrial grade welder with some great features in a good price range.
MIG Welder Buying Guide
This might be the “golden age” of MIG welding. Here are the items that need to be on your checklist when you go shopping.
The duty cycle is the amount of time the welder can run continuously before needing to cool down. It’s expressed as the percentage of 10 minutes the machine can run. So a 20 percent duty cycle at 90 amps would mean that when you’re welding at a 90 amp rating, you can go continuously for 2 minutes before the welder needs to cool off for 8 minutes. That means if your 140-amp welder is rated for 20 percent at 90 amps, it’s probably only able to weld for less than a minute at the full 140 amps.
How Much Power Do You Need?
This is the single factor that affects the cost of a MIG machine the most. Newer 120 volt machines are able to run up to 140 amps, good enough for ⅜-inch steel. However, at that rating, the duty cycle will be fairly short. That’s not a big concern for home hobbyists and weekend warriors, but it will really put a cramp in your style if you’re doing production welding.
Dual-voltage machines are now beginning to provide a lot of control, at least on the 240 side, but unless you’re buying big-name stuff that can get pricey, it’s likely the 120 side won’t provide the same quality of welds.
Does Your Job Require MIG or is Flux-Core Enough?
Although this class of welders is referred to generically as MIG welders, the technical definition is “wire feed”, meaning they use a motor-driven spool to feed wire into the weld puddle. MIG means “Metal-Inert Gas” and refers to a flow of inert gas that shields the metal wire as it is consumed and melts into the puddle.
If the machine isn’t able to connect and regulate a flow of inert gas like argon or carbon dioxide, it’s technically not a MIG welder. An example in this review is the Forney Easy Weld 140 FC-i, which doesn’t have gas shielding capability.
This is a flux-core wire feed machine. The wire that’s used in these machines has welding flux embedded in the core. When it hits the arc, the metal melts and the flux is released as vapor, providing a shielding gas.
This was originally designed as a way to deal with windy conditions defeating the gas shield of a MIG torch. It’s not as clean as true MIG welding but usually, the difference is minor, especially in a home workshop setting. However, with aluminum or stainless steel, the weld won’t be correctly joined without true gas shielding and a quiet setting. Flux core won’t be enough for these projects.
Summing It Up
In this roundup, the machine that meets the most professional requirements at the most reasonable price for industrial-grade welding is the Millermatic 211. It doesn’t have every bell and whistle, but it’s made for rugged work and should last for years if not decades. With the Miller reputation for customer service behind it, the Millermatic 211 is our Professional’s Choice for Best MIG.