Metal inert gas (MIG) welders are one of the most common welding machines. Their popularity comes from their efficiency at fusing metal, not just in an industrial setting, but at home too.
Whether you’re a skilled welder or a novice, a MIG welder could be the perfect tool for your job.
One of the most significant advantages of using a metal inert gas welder is its speed and quick set-up. Even with a cheap welder, MIG will outpace TIG and stick welding in most scenarios. Setting up should take less than an hour also, even for someone new to the equipment.
The skill floor is a lot lower with MIG, compared to some of the other alternatives; it should take the average person one hour of solid practice before they can start to perform competent welds.
The Best MIG Welder
1. Hobart Handler MIG Welder
First on the list is the Hobart Handler 140. This compact welder is suitable for both MIG and flux-cored welding, allowing you to weld thick and thin materials with just one tool. Despite it’s dual-use, quality isn’t affected, making it incredibly versatile and ideal for all skill levels.
Running off of a standard 115V (120V) household current, this welder can be set up within minutes so that you can start work as soon as possible. It’s also small enough that you can move it around your house or workshop with ease, making it ideal for everyday use on small projects.
Despite its size, it comes with quite a few features too, including MIG and flux cored welding options (it can weld 24 gauge to 1/4 inch mild steel), safety regulators, heavy-duty work clamp, and spare contact tips.
2. Forney Easy Weld MIG Welder
The Forney Easy Weld 261 is another great entry-level welding machine. Suitable for MIG and flux-cored welding, the 261 can utilize 0.30-inch or 0.35-inch wire. It’s 140 amp output allows it to weld steel up to ¼ inch.
This welder runs off of 120V, meaning that you can plug it in at your home or workshop without the need for an external generator. Setting up is also fast due to its small size. Weighing in at only 19 lbs, the Easy Weld 261 is fantastic for conducting DIY maintenance at home, or smaller hobbyist projects.
With your welder, you will receive an 8’ MIG gun and cable, 20A-15A adapter, and an 8’ clamp. What sets this welder apart from some of the other brands is the infinite voltage and wire feed speed control. This feature allows you to take full control of how fast or slow you can weld.
3. Hobart Handler MVP MIG Welder
Here we have another from Hobart, the Handler 120. What makes this tool stand out from the rest is that it has dual-voltage capabilities. Easily swap between 115V (120V) and 230V with just a single twist of the receptacle; no additional tools are required. Another great feature is that it will automatically use the correct input power, which results in excellent arc performance. There are seven voltage settings at 230V and four at 115V.
It can weld from 24 gauge all the way to ⅜ inch wild steel. If you plan on welding aluminum, the Handler 120 has the ability to attach the SpoolRunner 100, that directly connects to the front of the welder.
The Hobart Handler 210 isn’t one of the lightest on this list, weighing in at 87 lbs, but its power makes up for it. It’s small size aids in its maneuverability though, making it ideal for home and workshop use.
In the box, you will receive the Handler 210, a 10ft welding gun and cable, gas hose and dual gauge regulator, 10ft work cable with clamp, .030 contact tips and .030 sample spool of welding wire, and an 8-inch wire spool adapter.
4. VIVOHOME Portable MIG Welder
VIVOHOME’s MIG 130 is a portable flux core welder that runs off of 110V. It’s lightweight (37 lbs) and compact design makes it easy to carry the unit around. By adjusting the four buttons on the welder, you can achieve ten different welding speeds. This in turn, will allow you to work with thin or stainless steel, aluminum, and even thick steel if utilizing flux-cored wire.
What makes VIVHOME’s package really great is what’s included in the box. Not only do they provide a welding gun, grounding clamp, sample wire, and a wire brush, but they even throw in a welding helmet. This certainly shows their level of concern for their customers, as novice welders may try and skimp out on purchasing a welding helmet to cut costs.
5. Lincoln Electric Power MIG Welder
Lincoln Electric’s POWER MIG 210 is a bit different to some of the others on this list, as not only can it do MIG welding, but TIG, stick, and flux-cored too. This makes it an incredibly future-proof and versatile piece of equipment that will undoubtedly continue to be useful to all welding skill ranges.
Operating this machine is relatively straightforward, as it uses push and turn knobs; all information is exhibited on a color display screen. The wire drive is constructed out of metal, which again, helps to future proof your purchase.
Another dual voltage input welder, the POWER MIG 210 can swap between 120V and 230V, allowing it to be plugged into all standard power supplies. Amazingly, the whole unit only weighs 40 lbs. Considering the power and capabilities this welder has, the weight is quite surprising. However, this could help explain the price.
What to Look for in a MIG Welder
Before purchasing a metal inert gas welder, you should first ask yourself what you intend to use it for. For instance, if you plan on welding beyond ½ inch metal, a MIG welder will, unfortunately, fall short. However, the majority of welds, be it hobby-related or otherwise, shouldn’t require anything so substantial.
You may become surprised at just how many different uses a MIG welder has. You will be able to build sturdy workbenches from scratch and conduct vehicle maintenance, all with the same machine.
Below we have outlined some of the specifications you should be noting, and how to interpret them in layman terms, to give you the knowledge so that you can affirmatively choose the correct welder for your project.
Let’s firstly look at weight. You may think that this is not important, but it will vary on your needs. If all your work is to be handled on a workshop bench, then you’re unlikely ever to need to move the welder, especially as most have 10 feet of cord. However, for those who may be using it for repairs around an estate, or if you do repairs on other people's property, the weight will need to be factored in.
MIG welders usually range from 30 lbs all the way to over 100 lbs. Anything around 50 lbs or lower should be easily portable. If you’re dead set on purchasing one that’s a bit heavier, consider buying a cart for it.
Welding Material Restrictions
What you can weld will vary depending on which model you’re looking at, but a typical machine will be able to weld aluminum, mild steel, and stainless steel. Some can weld iron and alloys, but those are not listed here.
The thickness of the materials you intend to work on matters too. A MIG welder is best suited for smaller jobs, where you'll be working between 24 gauge and ½ inch materials. Projects that require thicker welds would be best suited to some of the other welding styles, like stick welding.
Input power is essentially the voltage that your unit will run on. Not all welders will run off of the mains though, but as long as the input power is between 110V and 140V, you can safely use it at home or in your workshop. Every welder on this list can be safely used on a household outlet.
Some welders will be listed as 220V; these will need a different outlet. The 220V that are listed above are dual-purpose, and can still be used from the mains electricity.
The duty cycle is the efficiency of your unit and determines how long you can weld for without needing to stop.
If we look at the Hobart Handler 140, it states that it has a 20% duty cycle at 90 amps. What this really means is that, if you looked at a 10minute period (to make the math simpler), you should only weld for two minutes, and allow the machine to rest for eight, if using it at 90 amps. Amps should be easily changeable on most machines, and following the recommended duty cycle will increase the longevity of the welder, as well as improving the quality of the welds.
The term ‘thermal overload’ is a fancy way of saying that the machine will make sure that it doesn’t overheat. This process will ensure that your welder does not get too hot by shutting down when it reaches a certain temperature. Not all models will have this function, though.
If the model you intend to purchase doesn’t have this feature, be it due to budget limits or other reasons, an excellent way to combat reaching these high temperatures is by following the duty cycle that is explained above.
Unsurprisingly, molten metal is hot. The ultraviolet light produced from the welding process is stronger than our Sun’s own UV rays too. Because of this, it’s a requirement that you wear specialist PPE, including gauntlets and mask.
Sometimes you may find a machine that has a mask packaged with it, but the majority will not. Never skip buying protective equipment, as they are relatively inexpensive, and will protect you from some severe damage.
Regardless of whether you’re an experienced welder or a novice, a metal inert gas welder will undoubtedly be a fantastic addition to your tool collection. Setting up out of the box will take less than an hour (usually within 10 minutes).
Remembering that MIG welders do have limitations is essential too, so be sure to double check the welding requirements for your project before finalizing your purchase.
- Increased power image credits to https://www.mig-welding.co.uk/