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7 Best Stick Welders (Arc Welders) – 2023 Reviews

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best stick welders

Most people who start welding will begin by using a basic stick welder. These machines are often easier to set up and use than MIG or Flux Core machines and can often do some basic TIG welding.

When trying to find a good stick welder, finding one that fits your needs and budget can be difficult. 

While it’s not been practically possible to test every stick welder on the market, I have used a range of different ones ranging from top-end brands like Miller and ESAB, all the way down to cheap Chinese ones.

In short, there are a lot of commonalities between high-end machines and cheap ones, and like most things in life, you get what you pay for.

From this experience, I have compiled a list of seven stick welders at different price points so you can find one that will suit your needs.

A Quick Look At The Top Stick Welders

  • Best all-round stick welder: ESAB Rogue ES 180I PROIf you’re looking for a high-quality brand with accurate amperage output and the smoothest arc then look no further.
  • Best budget stick welder: YESWELDER ARC 205AThis is a popular choice among DIYers if you’re looking for a cheap stick welder to do occasional welding.
  • Best beginner stick welder: ARCCAPTAIN ARC200Another cheap stick welder packed with features and a newcomer to the welding scene.
  • Best for farm use: Hobart Stickmate 160iA great mid-ranged stick welder from a well-respected brand for those who do a lot of jobs at home or around the farm and need something a little more solid.
  • Best AC stick welder: Lincoln Electric AC-225This “tombstone welder” is a time-tested favorite. With a heavy-duty transformer, it’s designed for the most demanding workshops.
  • Best 6010 stick welder: Miller Maxstar 161 SIf you’re a professional or you’re planning on running a lot of 6010 rods, then you’ll want a Miller Maxstar by your side to make your welds easier.
  • Entry-level stick welder: Dekopro 160AA cheap stick welder that has sold well and has decent reviews.

What To Look For When Buying A Stick Welder

In short, you’ll want to consider the following factors when choosing a stick welder:

  • Price: I would consider anything below $350 a cheap stick welder. $350-$550 is mid-range and anything above is more premium.
  • Brand & Quality: As a rule of thumb from my testing, cheap welders tend not to push out the amperage claimed, and the current will fluctuate more, giving a less stable arc. More expensive machines are more accurate and fluctuate less. This doesn’t mean cheap welders are no good, just something to be aware of when setting your expectations and budget.
  • Power Source: Most stick welders can operate on both 110V and 220V power sources. Consider where you will use your welder and what power sources are available.
  • Amperage Range: Different welding jobs require different amperages. Think about the thickness and type of metals you will often be welding. Higher amperage can weld thicker metals. A range of 30-150 amps is adequate for most general-purpose tasks.
  • Duty Cycle: This indicates the amount of welding that can be done in a 10-minute period before the machine needs to rest. For example, a 20% duty cycle at 100 amps means you can weld for 2 minutes and then must let the welder cool for 8 minutes.
  • Inverter vs. Transformer-based: Inverter-based machines are generally lighter, more energy efficient, offer better arc control with more features. However, transformer-based machines tend to be more rugged and long-lasting with less features.
  • Portability: Depending on where you plan to weld, you may need a lightweight and portable machine, or you might prefer a heavier, stationary model for a workshop.
  • Additional Features:
    • Hot Start: Makes starting an arc easier by momentarily boosting the current.
    • Arc Force Control: Helps prevent the electrode from sticking during welding.
    • Anti-Stick: Automatically turns off the welder if the electrode sticks, preventing damage.
    • AC/DC Output: Most people will only ever need DC to stick weld. However, if you plan on welding magnetized steel, or want to use specific rods for AC, then ensure the machine supports it.

The Best Stick Welders Reviewed

Let’s take a closer look at the seven best stick welders.

1. ESAB MiniArc Rogue ES 180I PRO

Best All-Round Stick Welder

esab miniarc rogue es 180i pro stick welder small

WeldGuru Rating: 4.5/5

The ES 180I PRO is a high-quality option for professionals and DIYers who need accurate amperage output and excellent arc stability at an affordable price. It’s portable, from a big brand name, and will last you years to come.

Pros

  • Superior build quality
  • Solid Tweco electrode holder
  • Extremely stable arc for smooth welds
  • Very easy to learn stick welding on
  • Designed for professionals and newbies
  • Adjustable arc force and hot start
  • 6010 welding mode runs extremely even on 120V
  • Can run from long extension cords
  • Simple control panel
  • Amperage matches the actual output

Cons

  • Low duty cycle
  • Doesn’t come with TIG accessories
  • Cables are only 10 feet long

ProcessesSMAW/GTAW
Input Voltage/s120/240V
Power Source Inverter
Current DC
Stick Output Range 10-180 Amps
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 25%
E6010 Capability?Yes
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?No
Control Type Digital
Screen Type Digital
Machine Weight18.2 lbs
Warranty3 year
Price Range$$$$
esab miniarc rogue es 180i front panel demo
Testing the ESAB Miniarc Rogue ES 180i

Let’s start with one of the best stick welders – the ESAB Rogue ES 180I PRO delivers one of the smoothest welding experiences that I’ve had, delivering up to 180A of output effortlessly.

Unlike less expensive stick machines, this machine delivers the amperage on display to the electrode. When testing the output on these high-end machines, you get a consistent output without much fluctuation—a critical factor in avoiding frustration and bad welds, especially for beginners. The advanced technology inside provides smooth, stable arcs and a true dedicated 6010 welding mode.

On top, the Rogue ES 180I PRO is compact, lightweight, and dual-voltage, making it a great all-round stick welder. The machine has a robust build, including everything you need to stick weld right out of the box. Every component, from the case to the electrode holder, is of premium quality, feels solid, and will undoubtedly last in harsher environments.

Although it doesn’t include the accessories, this machine also is a good TIG welder. While this machine isn’t as good as a dedicated TIG machine, it’ll TIG weld steel and stainless steel quite well. Connecting a foot pedal to the machine gives you better amperage control over the TIG arc.

My only complaint with this machine is that the cables could be a little longer. 

This machine isn’t the cheapest on this list, but it’s a fantastic stick/TIG welder for everyone, from beginners to those with decades of experience.

2. YESWELDER 205A Stick Welder

Best Budget Stick Welder

yeswelder arc 205a stick welder small

WeldGuru Rating: 4/5

If the price of welders keeps you from buying a stick welder, the YesWelder 205A is the best option. Even though the welder is low-cost, it still welds well and has features that you would expect on high-end machines.

Pros

  • Excellent entry-level stick welder
  • Dual voltage
  • Portable
  • Simple controls
  • Capable of TIG welding
  • Great value

Cons

  • Cables are only 10 feet long
  • No TIG accessories
  • No dedicated 6010 mode or advanced features
  • Not designed for professional use
  • Amperage setting doesn’t quite match the actual output on the high or low ends

ProcessesSMAW/GTAW
Input Voltage/s120/240V
Power Source Inverter
Current DC
Stick Output Range 15 – 160 Amps
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 60%
E6010 Capability?Yes
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?No
Control Type Digital
Screen Type Digital
Machine Weight15 pounds
Warranty1 year
Price Range$
yeswelder arc 205d stick welder demo
Yeswelder ARC-205D stick welder demo

Sometimes, the cost of a welder is the largest barrier to entry for someone wanting to get into welding. The YesWelder 205A stick welder is low cost but still delivers everything you need to stick weld around the shop, home, or out on the road. 

The controls are simple and easy to use, and it even has a feature where you can select the settings based on the welding electrode size. Even though it has these preset settings, you can still adjust the settings to get the best possible welds.

The machine is lightweight enough to take anywhere but still packs enough power to weld steel up to 5/32” thick. Also, the duty cycle is high enough to stick weld all day without any worries.

Even though the machine has a hot start function, it lacks a dedicated 6010 mode, which would be handy for beginners. But, at this price point, it would be hard to find a welding machine with the features that it has while still providing a smooth, stable arc.

3. ARCCAPTAIN ARC200 Stick Welder

Best Beginner Stick Welder

arccaptain arc200 small

WeldGuru Rating: 4/5

You’ll love this simple-to-use but powerful welder whether you need to do the occasional stick weld or you’re looking for a stick welder to learn on. The price is budget-friendly, and the features make welding easy and frustration-free.

Pros

  • Great beginner stick welder with synergic controls
  • Dual voltage
  • Clear digital LED display
  • Portable
  • Simple controls
  • Excellent build quality for a cheaper machine
  • Able to TIG weld

Cons

  • No TIG accessories
  • Not designed for professional use
  • Amperage setting doesn’t match the actual output

ProcessesSMAW/GTAW
Input Voltage/s120/240V
Power Source Inverter
Current DC
Stick Output Range 20-200 Amps
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 60%
E6010 Capability?Yes
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?Yes
Control Type Digital
Screen Type Color LCD
Machine Weight11.73 pounds
Warranty2 years
Price Range$
arccaptain arc200 stick welder demo
ARCCAPTAIN ARC200 Demo

If you’re starting and need a simple stick welder, the ArcCaptain ARC200 Stick Welder is a great option. The digital display shows you exactly what your settings are, which is important when trying to learn.

Even though this machine is low-cost and small, it packs a ton of power with its 200 amps of output. This amount is more than enough power for most small welding jobs around the shop, home, farm, or on the road.

The welding machine is small and lightweight, making it easy to take wherever you need it to go. The control panel is simple, and setting up the machine to produce good, high-quality welds takes very little time. 

As with most stick welders on this list, you can also use this as a TIG welder, but you don’t get any TIG accessories with this machine. It also doesn’t have the advanced features you would like if you decide to TIG weld.

6. Hobart Stickmate 160i

Best Home Use Stick Welder

hobart stickmate 160i small

WeldGuru Rating: 4/5

A welder for home use needs to be functional but also small and lightweight. The Hobart Stickmate 160i fits this bill perfectly and is a great addition to any home shop or garage.

Pros

  • Long-time favorite from a well-respected company
  • Wide 20-160 amps output range
  • Infinitely adjustable amperage control
  • Good mid-ranged stick welder
  • Highly portable weighing less than 20 pounds
  • Good warranty
  • Portable
  • Hot start technology
  • Dual voltage

Cons

  • No TIG 
  • Cables are 10 feet
  • No advanced features
  • Designed in the USA but manufactured in China

ProcessesSMAW
Input Voltage/s120/240V
Power Source Inverter
Current DC
Stick Output Range 20 – 160 Amp
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 30%
E6010 Capability?Yes
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?No
Control Type Analog
Screen Type None
Machine Weight15 lbs
Warranty5 year
Price Range$$$

Hobart is one of the oldest American welding brands, venerated for its rugged construction and excellent performance. The Hobart Stickmate 160i delivers good performance, but it should be pointed out that this one is built in China.

Hobart assures customers that the machine meets Hobart’s exacting standards. Some buyers point out that you can buy a Chinese stick welder for half the price of the Hobart. A Chinese brand can’t offer a nationwide network of dealerships and service centers.

Users praise the Hobart Stickmate 160i for its smooth performance. The extended warranty shows Hobart’s confidence in its quality. Inverter power keeps the Stickmate 160i under twenty pounds, light enough to move around the worksite with its included adjustable shoulder strap (full review here).

The Hobart Stickmate 160i has an infinitely adjustable current dial, which can adjust the output as small as 1 amp increments. Able to run either 120 or 240 volts, the Hobart Stickmate 160i is convenient and powerful. It can weld up to 3/8-inch thick steel, and the wide range of current options gets down to 20 amps.

 4. Lincoln Electric AC-225

Best AC Stick Welder

lincoln ac 225 arc welder white

WeldGuru Rating: 4.5/5

The AC 225 is a great machine that’ll be a good addition to any small shop or garage. Its simple controls and robust design mean there isn’t much that can go wrong with it, and you can depend on it for decades of faithful service.

Pros

  • A trusted classic stick welder
  • Powerful 225A output
  • Robust design & historic “tombstone” style
  • Well-known company
  • 15-foot electrode cable
  • Welds up to ¼” steel
  • Amperage matches the output

Cons

  • Heavy, designed for shop use only
  • AC only
  • No advanced features

ProcessesSMAW
Input Voltage/s240V
Power Source Transformer
Current AC
Stick Output Range 40 – 225 Amp
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 20%
E6010 Capability?No
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?No
Control Type Analog
Screen Type None
Machine Weight96 Pounds
Warranty3 years
Price Range$$$$

The Lincoln AC-225 AC Arc Welder is Lincoln Electric’s best seller over the company’s history. There are examples on the job that have been running for decades.

It’s well-known as a durable, solidly-made welder that brings home the bacon. Lincoln Smooth Arc technology makes for easier starts than most AC welders and maintains optimum arc characteristics.

Although this machine doesn’t have any high-tech bells and whistles like modern machines, its simple design means it can take the wear and tear of a workshop environment. The Lincoln AC-225 AC Arc Welder is made with a transformer power source instead of more modern inverter power, leaving almost nothing wrong. It does make this model heavy, though at 99 pounds.

Many professional welders consider the AC-225 AC Arc welder to be the best stick welder ever made. This welder has huge numbers of enthusiastic owners and an impeccable reputation in the industry. It can weld from 1/16-inch sheet up to 1/4-inch thick steel plate. The controls are easy, it’s American-made, and it’s ISO 9001 certified. If you don’t mind the weight, this is a can’t-miss deal.

5. Miller Maxstar 161 S

Best 6010 Stick Welder

miller maxstar 161 s stick welder small

WeldGuru Rating: 4.5/5

If you want a great welder from a company you can trust, the Maxstar 161 S is a great option. The only downside is the higher price point than others on the market, but you get what you pay for with this machine.

Pros

  • Dual voltage
  • Advance features
  • STL and STH models can weld TIG
  • Portable
  • Well-respected company
  • Long electrode cable
  • Amperage setting matches the actual output

Cons

  • High cost
  • Max amperage is lower than other welders

ProcessesSMAW/ GTAW with STL or STH Models
Input Voltage/s120/240V
Power Source Inverter
Current DC
Stick Output Range 20 – 160 Amp
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 20%
E6010 Capability?Yes
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?Yes
Control Type Digital
Screen Type Digital
Machine Weight13 pounds
Warranty3 years
Price Range$$$$$

Miller is a well-respected and major brand in the welding industry. They produce high-quality machines with advanced features you won’t find elsewhere. The trade-off is that the price point is much higher than other stick welders on this list.

The Maxstar 161 S has advanced features like adaptive hot start and Stick-Stuck. These features will make it easy to start electrodes that are notoriously hard to start and avoid having them stick to your workpiece. These features make this machine excellent for welding 6010 electrodes, which can trouble beginner welders.

At 13 pounds, this welder is very portable, and you can take it nearly anywhere you can imagine where you might need to do some welding. It also comes with a 13-foot electrode cable, which should reach around anything you’re welding on.

The front control panel is very simple and easy to use and set up, making this a great machine for beginner welders. The only downside to this welder is that the price point is high, and if you want a model that will also TIG weld, you’ll need to spend more on the STL or STH.

7. DEKOPRO 160A Arc Welding Machine

Best Entry-Level Stick Welder

dekopro arc 160a stick welder small

WeldGuru Rating: 3.5/5

If you want a basic stick welder to see if you like welding or want something to do the occasional weld, the Dekopro 160A is worth considering. As long as you don’t expect the smoothest or most consistent arc then it’s hard to be let down.

Pros

  • Super cheap if you only need to do the occasional job
  • Dual voltage
  • Portable
  • Simple controls
  • The output is relatively accurate for a cheap welder

Cons

  • Not designed for professional use
  • Amperage setting doesn’t match the actual output
  • Cables are only 10 feet
  • No advanced features
  • Not a well-known brand, so replacement parts may be harder to find

ProcessesSMAW
Input Voltage/s120/240V
Power Source Inverter
Current DC
Stick Output Range 10 – 160 Amps
Stick Duty Cycle @ Maximum Amps 40%
E6010 Capability?Yes
Anti-Stick/Stuck Rod Feature?No
Control Type Analog
Screen Type Digital
Machine Weight12.1 lbs
Warranty1 year
Price Range$
dekopro 160amp arc welder demo
Testing the Dekopro 160A

I kept seeing the Dekopro 160A come up a lot in my research so I had to include it. This stick machine is a entry-level welder aimed at those looking for something affordable that can get the odd job done.

The Dekopro 160A is also a machine that’ll suit your needs if you’re looking for a welder that won’t take up a lot of space, fits any budget, and is easy to move around as it’s one of the smallest out there.

The simple control panel makes setting up the machine as easy as dialing in the amperage and striking an arc. The lack of advanced features may be off-putting for many welders, but a machine like this will work well for most simple jobs.

Like most cheap welders in this range, you won’t get the full 160A output on 240V as advertised. However, when tested with a clamp meter, you’ll get around 150-155A, and this will jump around, which is still pretty good for a cheap welder. If you’re doing the odd stick job, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

The other downside to this machine is that a less popular company makes it, so it doesn’t have a proven track record like Lincoln, Miller, or Hobart.

Wrapping It Up

Of all the welders on this list, three are options many of you may consider, but which is right for you?

The ESAB MiniArc Rouge is one of the best all-around stick welders on the market today. It has a good mix of features and value while also being capable of both stick and TIG welding. This is a great option if you’re looking for a solid stick welder with accurate amperage output and the smoothest welding arc.

The YESWELDER 205A is a great value, considering all the features packed into the small case. Like many stick welders, this one can do TIG welding, which is a great option for the price point. If you need a good welder but are on a tight budget, the 205A is worth considering.

Finally, the Miller Maxstar 161 S is a professional grade welder with great features but has a much higher price tag. But you get what you pay for, and this machine will serve you well for decades. If you want to TIG weld, the STL and STH models have TIG capability but have an added cost. This machine excels at welding with 6010 rods; if that’s something you know you’ll do a lot of, it will be worth the investment.

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