The last ten years have seen incredible strides in the features and details offered on MIG welding machines for $500 or less.
The number of available options and extra goodies increases all the time, making for some tempting offers in this price range.
But is this price point too low to deliver a machine worth having?
Surprisingly, some of the leading names in welding offer feature-packed machines for under $500.
So, don’t give in to temptation yet. There’s a lot of information to sort through before you buy that welder.
Nobody wants to end up with a $500 doorstop. Inexpensive is a relative term. This is still a substantial purchase.
Weld Guru did the hard part for you, wading into the market to retrieve five worthwhile welders.
Any of these will look great in your shop.
Check out what we found and save yourself some grief, and a little cash into the bargain.
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 under $500
Here’s some of the best MIG welders we found for under $500
1. Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder
- Work lead clamp is heavy-duty
- Includes a Miller regulator
- Light 65-pound weight
- 20 percent duty cycle at 90 amps
- Solid aluminum wire feed drive
- Weld 24 gauge sheet to 1/4-inch plate
- True gas MIG or flux core
- 120 volt power plugs in anywhere
- Needs a wrench to adjust spool tension
With the gas shielding of our Premium Pick you can weld aluminum and stainless steel, something flux core alone can’t manage. 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.
The Handler 140 has professional features like a solid aluminum wire feed drive. 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 choose the Hobart Handler 140 as our best pick.
2. LOTOS MIG140 MIG Welder
- Aluminum Wire Feeder
- Manual/semi-auto lets you weld without triggering
- Dual digital displays
- 18 gauge sheet to 3/16-inch plate
- True gas MIG or flux core
- Solid aluminum wire feed drive
- Variable wire feed speed dial
- Loads 4-inch and 8-inch wire spools
- Spool gun ready
- 30 percent duty cycle at 80 amps
- Quite a few reports of wire feed problems
The LOTOS MIG140 is our Value Choice because it offers similar specifications to the Handler 140 at a better price. It has an aluminum wire feed drive and mounts 4-inch and 8-inch spools.
It has a similar duty cycle rating, though LOTOS shows 30 percent at 80 amps and Hobart shows 20 percent at 90 amps. That’s actually a slight advantage for the Hobart.
The LOTOS MIG140 is gas MIG capable and can weld aluminum with an optional spool gun. It features dual digital displays, one for the amperage setting and the other for the wire speed. One neat feature is the 2T/4T switch. The 4T setting can weld without holding the trigger down, useful at lower amps, running long beads on a car body quarter panel or floor pan.
The LOTOS MIG140 comes in second to the Hobart Handler 140 only because the Hobart has a better duty cycle rating, a Miller regulator and it’s American-made with a 3-year warranty versus the 1-year warranty on the Chinese-made LOTOS.
If warranty and country of origin don’t matter, it compares quite favorably to the Premium Pick.
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
- 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 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 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 Weld Guru calls this 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 shop 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 our Best MIG Welders for the Money and Best MIG Welder Under $1000 shootouts.
4. Hobart Handler 100 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 entry-level home shop 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.
5. 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 around the home. 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 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.
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 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 MIG welders under $500, from gas MIG-capable machines bumping against our self-imposed limit, down to entry-level welders good for occasional home 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, the Value Choice LOTOS MIG140 is a tempting machine, with a lot of satisfied users and similar capability to the Hobart Handler 140.
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), Weld Guru recommends the Hobart Handler 140 as its Premium Pick for Best MIG Welder under $500.