The last ten years have seen incredible strides in the features and details on budget MIG welders for $500 or less.
The number of available options and extra goodies increases all the time, making for some tempting offers in this low-cost price range.
Surprisingly, some of the leading names in welding offer feature-packed machines for under $500.
We’ve done the hard part for you, wading into the market to retrieve six worthwhile cheap MIG welders.
A quick comparison
Eastwood MIG 180
Dual 120/240-volt power
Excellent quality - Metal drive motor
Runs on IGBT Inverter technology
Hobart Handler 140
Most popular model at this price
Excellent reviews from users
Slightly more than $500
Forney Easy 140 FC-I MIG
Excellent intro model
Incredible value for money
Very popular & highly reviewed
Titanium MIG 140
Spool gun ready
Hobart Handler 100
Excellent no-frills model
Ease to use for rookies
Compact, portable, lightweight
Plugs into household 115V
Best Budget MIG Welders for under $500
Here’s some of the cheapest MIG welders we found for under $500
1. Eastwood 180 AMP MIG Welder
- MIG & flux core processes
- Dual 120/240 volt input
- All-metal wire drive
- 2T/4T trigger lock
- 30-180 amps output
- 24-gauge sheet to 5/16-inch steel
- Upgraded Metal drive motor for smooth operation
- Runs on IGBT Inverter technology
- Includes regulator
- Tweco-style MIG gun
- Optional spool gun if needed
- Leads are only 10 feet long
- 120 amps instead of 140 on 120v power
The Eastwood MIG 180 MIG Welder is a new release by Eastwood, upgraded from its former MIG 175 model designation. This is a dual-power machine, able to run on either 120 volts or 240-volt power. On 120 power it hits 120 amps. If 1/4-inch thick capability is enough for your needs, Eastwood also offers a 120v-only version, the Eastwood MIG 140, itself an upgraded version of the MIG 135.
When running under 240-volt power, the Eastwood MIG 180 MIG Welder puts out 180 amps of power, good enough to weld 5/16-inch thick steel. On either power source this machine gets down to 30 amps, fine enough control for 24-gauge sheet metal. It’s got an all-metal wire drive and mounts both 2-pound and 10-pound spools.
The Eastwood MIG 180 MIG Welder uses a Tweco-compatible MIG gun, meaning consumable parts are easy to find. Some owners wish the leads were longer, but are otherwise pleased. It’s equipped with a 2T/4T trigger lock, comes with a regulator and it can weld aluminum if you purchase the optional spool gun. Eastwood offers a MIG 180 package that bundles the spool gun at a discount price.
This wins as our favorite as you’ll be hard-pressed to find a quality MIG welder that has dual voltage input at this price range.
2. Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder
- Miller regulator included
- Lightweight 65 pounds
- 25 amps to 140 amps
- 20 percent duty cycle at 90 amps
- Heavy duty work clamp
- Convenient 120 volt input
- 24-gauge sheet metal to 1/4-inch steel
- Generator ready
- Gas MIG and flux core
- Solid metal wire drive
- Wrench needed to adjust wire tension
- Inconsistent packing, many dents reported
Even though it is slightly over $500, we couldn’t leave this out. The Hobart Handler 140 is one of the most popular models and our favorite at this price range. With the gas shielding, you can weld aluminum and stainless steel – something flux core alone can’t manage.
The 140 amps lets you weld steel up to ¼-inch thick. However, the duty cycle on this welder is only 20 percent at 90 amps, so you couldn’t weld continuously for more than a minute at full power. If you need to do hitches, suspension components or roll cages, you should look at 240-volt welders.
For a budget model, the Handler 140 has professional features like a solid aluminum wire feed drive and is a great alternative to the Lincoln 140. It also mounts 4-inch and 8-inch spools, letting you mount up to 15 pounds of wire. Dual sizes are great because you might want to get the machine on top of a boat and that’s a lot easier with a 4-inch spool weighing 5 pounds than it is with an 8-inch spool.
The 3-year warranty and Hobart’s industrial build quality led us to include the Hobart Handler 140 as a budget pick (nearly) under $500.
3. Forney Easy Weld 140 FC-i MIG Welder
- Welds 24-gauge sheet to 1/4-inch plate
- 20-amp to 15-amp adapter
- 30 percent duty cycle at 90 amps
- Built-in live fan
- 8-foot arc gun and work clamp
- Holds 10 pound spools
- Weighs only 19 pounds
- Infinite adjustment on voltage and feed
- Convenient 120-volt power
- This machine won't run hard wire
- Flux core welding only
Although it isn’t as well-known as brands like Lincoln and Miller, Forney is a cheaper brand that has been building welders in the USA since the Great Depression. With the Easy Weld 140 FC-i, Forney went with inverter technology and stayed with flux core welding without a gas MIG ability to keep the weight down to 19 pounds.
Even though this budget MIG machine is so light, it still features a live fan for component cooling and sports a 30 percent duty cycle at 90 amps. That’s better than the top two picks in this roundup.
That’s the main reason we call this cheap MIG welder our amazing find. 140 amps is enough for welding ¼-inch plate and it’s sensitive enough for 24-gauge sheet, pretty nice for a 120-volt home welder.
If there’s a machine at this price with a bigger number of happy owners, we haven’t seen one. That’s why we chose the Forney Easy Weld 140 FC-i as the Weekend Warrior selection in both other shootouts.
4. Titanium MIG 140 Welder
- All-metal drive
- Variable inductance tuning
- Lightweight 24 pounds
- Digital Displays
- 30-140 amps output
- Includes regulator
- Duty cycle 30 percent-90 amps
- CSA Certified
- Thermal overload protection
- Tool-free wire change
- Gun hose is stiff
- Cheap ground clamp
The Titanium MIG 140 Welding Machine is a mid-range machine able to weld up to 1/4-inch steel using gas MIG and flux core processes. The lower limit of 30 amps gets down to 24-gauge sheet metal. It features digital displays and includes a regulator. This machine is rated at a 30 percent duty cycle at 90 amps and it’s CSA Certified.
It’s a convenient welder, weighing just 24 pounds and ready to weld anyplace you can plug into standard 120-volt household current. If you’re dealing with a breeze or don’t have shielding gas, the flux core process will get the job done well. One nice feature on a welder in this price range is the inductance control, which lets you control the rate of heat rise when you’re in contact with the weld puddle.
The Titanium MIG 140 Welding Machine gets high ratings from owners for smooth performance, though some feel the connector hose is a little too stiff for easy manipulation. Another issue is the grounding clamp is on the cheap side, but inexpensive to replace with something nicer. This machine is spool gun ready, so for a little extra you’re able to weld aluminum from 16-gauge sheet to 3/16-inch thick plate.
5. Hobart Handler 100 Cheap MIG Welder
- Weld up to 3/16-inch steel
- Wire is electrically “cold” until triggered
- Positive feed with adjustable tension
- Feeds both .030 and .035 flux core wires
- 30 to 100 amp output range
- Easy access when threading new wire
- 120 volt input lets you weld anywhere
- Uses standard Hobart and Miller consumables
- 60 percent duty cycle at 45 amps
- Temperature indicator light
- Not gas MIG capable
For an cheap entry-level home shop MIG welder, the Hobart Handler 100 offers some outstanding features. It comes with Hobart’s 5-year warranty on the transformer. This welder’s not intended for heavy work, welding a maximum thickness of 3/16-inch plate.
The wire drive fits both 4-inch and 8-inch spools. This little machine offers a range from 30 to 100 amps. The 3/16-inch maximum would let you repair things like gate hinges and the 24-gauge sheet metal capability would handle auto body metal like doors, floor pans and rear panels or garden wagons and wheelbarrows.
That would be around 45 amps, where the Handler 100 features a 60 percent duty cycle. The ability to enjoy 6 straight minutes of continuous welding time could get you a long way with an automobile floor pan, repairing a rain gutter, fixing holes in the bottom of garbage cans and such.
It should be understood that a welder this inexpensive and low-powered is a flux core wire feed welder only, with no gas MIG capability. The Handler 100 runs standard Hobart / Miller consumables, meaning parts and service are readily available.
6. Lincoln K2278-1 MIG Welder
- 35-88 amps output.
- Welds up to 1/8-inch steel.
- Plugs into household 115V, 20 amp outlet.
- Wire is electrically “cold” until triggered
- Easy to set even for novice users
- One year warranty
- All leads factory pre-connected
- Some users feel the grounding clamp is cheaply made
Like the Hobart Handler 100, the Lincoln K2278-1 Handy Core welder is an entry-level flux core welder for light-duty repairs. The current rating runs from 35 to 88 amps, which will get you down to 18 gauge sheet metal, which is thick but not unreasonable. You’ll be able to repair shovels, kid’s wagons and mailboxes, for instance.
At the other end of the scale, 88 amps can get you a single pass weld on ⅛-inch steel plate. That’s enough juice to repair door and gate hinges, fix lighter weight box steel like that found on garden furniture and let you repair brackets on appliances.
Lincoln includes a gun and cable assembly, work lead, work clamp and power cable pre-attached at the factory, saving beginning welders a little aggravation setting up the machine. The welder includes a spool of flux core wire, a hand-held welding mask and a chipping hammer with a brush.
The K2278-1 Handy Core is offered with a 1-year warranty on parts and labor. Lincoln is known for rugged construction and this little welder is no exception.
Under $500 MIG Buying Guide
Even in this inexpensive price range, it can be overwhelming to wade through all the choices. Here’s what you’re looking for.
When you’re looking at cheap MIG machines under $500, most of the 240 volt machines are pushing the quality envelope and aren’t likely to last.
Realistically, you’re looking at 120 volt welders in this price range, unless you’re really bumping up against the 500 dollar ceiling. Even then, if it’s not a recognized name (Lincoln, Miller, Hobart, Forney, Century) or a major tool brand, you’re better off biding your time and saving more money to buy a 240 welder.
With that out of the way, your main limitation on the output for 120 volt power is around 140 amps. That’s just a limitation imposed by physics and there’s not going to be a way around that until there’s a major technology breakthrough. This limit has been around since the 1940s, so don’t expect this to change anytime soon.
Related read: Best 110v MIG Welders
What’s the Duty Cycle?
Duty cycle is expressed as the percentage of 10 minutes the machine can run before it needs to cool down.
A 20 percent duty cycle means when you’re welding at the amperage that says 20 percent, you can go continuously for 2 minutes before the welder will overheat.
At a higher amperage, the duty cycle will shorten considerably. Check with the manufacturer to find out at what amperage the machine will run continuously.
You Might Need Gas
If you don’t need gas MIG capability to weld aluminum or stainless steel, you can choose a flux-core-only machine and look for extra features, longer warranty or choose a name brand over a generic welder for peace of mind and easy-to-find parts and service.
There are actually quite a few budget machines in this class that do offer gas MIG ability, so consider carefully before you decide. You can run flux core on a MIG-capable machine and then add gas later if you need to, but you can’t add gas MIG to a flux core-only welder.
The Decision is Yours
This selection covers a full range of budget MIG welders under $500, from gas MIG-capable machines bumping against our self-imposed limit, down to entry-level welders good for occasional DIY repair work.
We believe you should always buy the best and most capable tool you can afford, at whatever price level you set.
In this roundup, we selected the Eastwood MIG 180 as our Best MIG Under 500.00 for its dual-voltage capabilities, advanced features and high value for the price, especially the discounted bundle package with an included spool gun.
Harbor Freight’s Titanium MIG 140 also deserves serious consideration, with an all-metal drive, inductance tuning, optional spool gun and CSA Certification.
Because the Handler 140 can weld capably on thinner sheet metal, offers a better warranty and duty cycle, and because it’s made in the USA (better quality and higher parts availability), it’s no wonder the Hobart Handler 140 is a favorite choice, low-cost MIG Welder.