Best Stick Welders under $500 of 2020 – Reviews and Top Picks

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As a welding pro, there’s nothing as important as stick welding skill

Every other electric welding skill depends on arc welding knowledge and experience.

Because of this, you have to have a good stick welding machine to keep your skills sharp.

That can be hard to do unless you’re able to find a solid machine you can afford.

So we’ve put five stick welders that are great for daily work while keeping you sharp.

In a Rush?

Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...

Pro Pick
Lincoln AC225
 A classic "tombstone" arc welder that gets the job done and lasts forever, this basic design has been proven to last for decades. The AC225 puts the word "heavy" into the term "heavy duty" in a serious way.
Pro Value
Hobart Stickmate 160i
Although made in China, this machine carries Hobart's 5-year warranty, delivering quality welds. The Hobart Stickmate 160i is a lightweight inverter based stick arc welder featuring dual input 120 and 240 volt power.
Budget Pick
Amico ARC140
Amico's ARC140 has an LCD display, 10-foot leads, 120 volt convenience, ability to weld 1/4-inch steel and lightweight inverter power. This amazing little machine packs all these features into an incredible price range.

Best Stick Welders Under $500

We looked everywhere to find you five great stick welders for less than 500 bucks.

1. Lincoln AC225 Stick Welder

Lincoln AC225 Stick Welder
  • Classic “tombstone” arc welder
  • All time best selling Lincoln welder
  • AC stick welder
  • 40 to 225 amp output
  • 240 volt power

Pros

  • 16-gauge sheet up to 1/4-inch steel
  • Lincoln Smooth Arc technology
  • 10-foot ground clamp cable
  • 15-foot electrode cable
  • Certified to ISO 9001 standard

Cons

  • It’s very heavy
  • Lacks features of more modern designs

Overview

The Lincoln AC225 is a legendary and durable welder. It holds the distinction as Lincoln’s greatest selling welder of all time. There are Lincoln AC225 stick welders from the 1970s still pulling all-day duty every day in fabrication shops across the country. Lincoln backs the AC225 with a 3-year warranty.

AC welding takes a little more skill to master than DC does, and transformer power sources weigh a lot more than inverter machines. Old-fashioned transformer technology is the main reason these machines last so long. Compared to circuit boards, semiconductors and digital processing chips, there’s not a lot to go wrong with a big chunk of copper wrapped in wire.

Durability and classic style are great, but how does the AC225 weld? There’s a reason this welder is often mentioned as the best one ever built. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but this old tombstone will weld just about anything you put in front of it. The Lincoln AC225 comes with Lincoln’s Smooth Arc technology for easy starts and automatic arc maintenance while you’re burning.


2. Hobart Stickmate 160i Arc Welder

Hobart Stickmate 160i Arc Welder
  • Dual input 120 volts or 240 volts
  • Output current 160 amps
  • DC stick welder
  • 5-year warranty
  • Hot start technology

Pros

  • Weighs under 20 pounds
  • Welds 1/4-inch steel plate
  • Infinite amp settings control
  • 20-160 amps output current
  • Shoulder strap included

Cons

  • This is one Hobart not made in America

Overview

Hobart welders are known and respected for industrial quality construction that’s rugged and durable. The Hobart Stickmate 160i keeps this tradition going, with great reviews of its performance by owners. Most buyers looking for an American brand expect it to be made in America,.

This welder is made and inspected to Hobart specifications, but it’s manufactured in China, which means it can’t meet the requirements of the Made In USA certification required for many government jobs.

Unlike most Chinese welders, however, the Hobart Stickmate 160i benefits from the nationwide network of Hobart dealers and service centers. So if you don’t need the Made In USA certification, this welder appears to be up to Hobart’s tough standards, based on its 5-year warranty.

The Stickmate 160i weighs less than twenty pounds, light enough to move around with the included shoulder strap. It can run on 120 volt or 240 volt power and weld 3/8-inch steel. With an infinitely adjustable dial for the current settings that can make adjustments in 1 amp increments, the Hobart Stickmate 160i arc welder features Hobart’s Hot Start technology.


3. Amico ARC140 Stick Welder

Amico ARC140 Stick Welder
  • LCD display
  • IGBT inverter power
  • 140 amps output
  • Welds up to 1/4-inch steel
  • Weighs only 9 pounds

Pros

  • 10 foot cord on electrode and work ground
  • Arc control corrects voltage fluctuation
  • Can run on a 3500 watt generator
  • Wide 20 to 140 amp range
  • Current adjustment in 20 amp steps

Cons

  • Inconsistent quality control

Overview

The Amico ARC140 is an inexpensive and lightweight arc welder that offers an LCD digital display. This is a DC stick welding machine with a wide 20 amp to 140 amp output range. There’s an easily adjustable current control on the front panel that’s incremented in 20 amp steps.

The inverter power makes for a very lightweight machine that only weighs 9 pounds. The Amico ARC140 arc welder comes with two 3/32-inch 7018 electrodes and two 1/8-inch rods. It ships with a 10-foot electrode clamp and a 10-foot grounding clamp. 10 feet lets you put this welder just about any place you want, especially considering the 120 volt power supply can be plugged in anyplace.

There are some reports of quality problems with this machine, which isn’t exactly unexpected given the price range. However, users who’ve had problems with the stick welder itself have had no issues with exchanges or refunds.

Amico designed the ARC140 stick welder to compensate for fluctuations in voltage, which is a thoughtful feature that helps lengthen the service life of this welder.


4. Primeweld CT520D Multiprocess Arc Welder

Primeweld CT520D Multiprocess Arc Welder
  • Stick welder with TIG and plasma cutter
  • 60 percent duty cycle
  • 1-year warranty
  • 200 amp stick and TIG
  • Dual 120/240 volts input

Pros

  • 50 amp plasma cutter
  • Cuts 1/2-inch steel
  • Easy adjustability
  • 13-foot welding lead
  • Easy arc starting

Cons

  • TIG control pedal not included

Overview

The PrimeWeld CT520D is a 200 amp DC stick welder that also features a DC TIG welder and a 50 amp plasma cutter in the same machine. With a DC amperage range from 10 to 200 amps, the CT520D is able to weld sheet metal as thin as 24 gauge and up to 1/4-inch thick steel plate. The plasma cutter can go through 1/2-inch thick steel with a cutting range from 10 to 50 amps.

The electrode clamp for the arc welding sticks has a 13-foot cable and so does the TIG torch. The plasma torch connection is also 13 feet. The PrimeWeld CT520D uses a drag torch technique to start the plasma arc. The dual input voltage allows the convenience of connecting to household current while also bringing the power, versatility and fine control of 240 volt input to the table.

While some users don’t like the fact that this multi-process arc welder doesn’t ship with a TIG control pedal, it does receive very high marks from owners for its stick welding performance and Primeweld is famous for outstanding customer service.


5. Forney 180 ST Stick Welder

Forney 180 ST Stick Welder
  • Lightweight at 14 pounds
  • Highly portable
  • DC stick and DC TIG
  • 5-year warranty
  • IGBT inverter power

Pros

  • Dual purpose arc welder with TIG ability
  • High frequency lift arc
  • 10-180 amp current adjustment
  • Includes regulator and accessory case
  • Welds from 18-gauge sheet to 1/2-inch steel

Cons

  • Can’t connect a TIG foot pedal

Overview

The Forney Easy Weld 180 ST is a lightweight 14 pound dual purpose stick welder. This is a DC arc welder with TIG capability included. It runs on 120 or 240 volts input, delivering 10 to 180 amps of DC current. It accommodates generator power, tolerant of “dirty power” frequency fluctuations that often make it hard for welders to work on standard generator power.

This is a powerful machine that can run single pass welds on 1/2-inch steel and also provide fine TIG quality on sheet metal as thin as 18 gauge steel. That’s fine enough to weld on auto body sheet metal with a stick welder. If you do want to use the TIG side of the machine, it doesn’t ship with a TIG torch or a gas regulator, so those items would need to be purchased separately. This particular machine doesn’t accept a TIG foot control pedal.

The stick welding side gets great reviews for smooth and easy-starting arc welding. The Forney Easy Weld 180 ST maintains Forney’s high standards of industrial quality build and comes with a 5-year warranty.


Buyer’s Guide

Because stick welders have a much simpler design than other welding machines, they are much more durable and rugged than other types of welders. This makes them suitable for primitive field conditions and for situations where cost is a factor.

As the most basic type of welding skill, it’s easy to master arc welding at the beginner level, though like most types of welding, there’s always a new trick to learn.

However, if you don’t currently have welding skills, stick welding is the fastest type to learn and you can be immediately productive, making repairs and fabricating parts effectively within a few days’ worth of practice.

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a stick welder, and because of the simplicity of design, you can find a lot of machine for less than $500.

What Kind of Work Are You Doing?

Like many tools and especially with technology-based machinery like arc welders, the single biggest factor in your decision should be finding the most appropriate solution to the work at hand.

If you have a need to weld sheet metal, you need a machine that’s able to provide low amperage levels or you’ll blow through the metal. In this case you need to find something that can reach down to 10 amps to run smaller-diameter rods or go with a multi-process machine that offers MIG or TIG capability in addition to stick. In this buying guide, the Primeweld CT520D provides TIG capability and a 10 amp lower limit.

At the other extreme, if you expect to be welding on trailer frames, truck suspension, backhoe buckets or farm tractor implements, you’re going to need a lot of juice to get the kind of penetration you need to weld steel that’s as much as ¼ to ½ inch thick. That’s going to take at least 140 amps and more is even better.

Where Are You Welding At?

Depending on where you plan to use a welder, you may need to consider the power source and whether your leads or power connection are long enough to reach your work. On a construction site or in a fabrication shop, there are a lot of impact hazards like falling tools, being kicked or bouncing around on carts and in truck beds.

One consideration in this case is the power levels. On a commercial site, you need a machine that can use 240 volt input power, so it needs to at least accept dual 120 volt/240 volt connections or just accept a straight 240 volt power source.

Another issue is going to be the durability of the welder.

Is it rugged enough to take a beating and keep working? It may also need to be made in the USA to meet certification standards for certain government contracts.

What Kind of Extras Can You Get

Because stick welders are fairly simple and inherently inexpensive, it’s possible to get machines that offer features like extra welding processes like TIG, MIG or plasma in addition to straight arc welding.

You should also take into account the accessory equipment you’ll need to buy so you can use the welder, like leads, clamps, chipping hammers, welding helmet and similar items that will get you to the finish line. Some welders include a lot of this kind of equipment in the price and that should be taken into account when comparing the final bill.

The Last Word

We’ve chosen the Lincoln AC225 stick welder for our Pro Pick in this guide, because it’s built a stellar reputation over decades on the job. There are examples of this arc welder on the job right now from the 1970s, still doing daily duty in the workplace. This is an extremely rugged design that’s proven itself on countless sites and in countless situations. As long as you’re not needing any specialty welding, this thing will handle just about any job you put in front of it.

The classic “tombstone” is still the best choice when it comes to getting the work done with a stick welder. The price is hard to beat when measured against the longevity of this machine, too.

About Michael Bailey

I've been racing and restoring cars, fabricating rat rods and gadgets, and repairing machinery on my Painted Desert farm for more than 35 years. Nothing gets me more worked up than a nice old tractor or a beat-up pickup truck.

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