The Best MIG Welders of 2022

MIG welding offers simplicity for beginners and high productivity for pros. We take an in-depth look at the best equipment currently available.

By Bob Beacham | Published Mar 24, 2022 12:10 PM

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Best Mig Welders Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

MIG (metal inert gas) welding, also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), is generally accepted as the easiest type of welding to learn. Yet with the right equipment, MIG welding can handle not only a range of thicknesses but also offer the speed demanded by professionals. With gasless MIG, a feature of many welding machines, it’s also possible to weld outdoors.

MIG welding is extremely popular, and many different types of equipment are available, which can lead to understandable confusion, particularly in those buying their first MIG welder. Our comprehensive article explains the technical aspects, and we suggest the best MIG welders to solve a range of welding challenges and to suit the needs of different users.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Forney Easy Weld 261, 140 FC-i Welder, 120V
  2. RUNNER-UP: Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: SUPER DEAL PRO Commercial MIG 130 AC Flux Core Wire
  4. UPGRADE PICK: Hobart – 500553 Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder, Small
  5. BEST FOR BEGINNERS: Lincoln Electric 120-Volt Flux-Cored Wire Feed Welder
  6. BEST FOR PROS: MILLER ELECTRIC MIG Welder, 120/240VAC, 1 Phase
  7. BEST MULTI-PROCESS: Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter Multi Process Welder
  8. BEST FOR ALUMINUM: YESWELDER MIG-250 PRO Aluminum MIG Welder, 250Amp
  9. BEST KIT: LOTOS MIG175 175AMP Mig Welder with Free Spool Gun
  10. ALSO CONSIDER: VIVOHOME MIG Welder 130 Flux Core Wire Automatic Feed
Best Mig Welders Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best MIG Welder

MIG welders vary from budget models ideal for a home workshop to high-capacity equipment for the professional. Not surprisingly, considerable variation exists in both capability and complexity. In the following section, we look at the key technical and performance issues that impact choice.

Duty Cycle

Even the best MIG welders cannot run continuously at full power; they need frequent breaks to cool down. A MIG welder’s runtime without stopping is called its “duty cycle,” and it’s usually expressed in 10-minute percentages. Welding beyond the duty cycle risks causing serious damage to the machine.

For example, if a MIG welder’s duty cycle is 30 percent, it can run for 3 minutes, after which it needs 7 minutes of rest. The duty cycle often is not quoted at full power. For instance, several of the 140A (amp) MIG welders we looked at quote the duty cycle at 90A. This is important, because when running at the full 140A, the duty cycle is less. MIG welder duty cycles run from 20 percent to 60 percent.

Power, Voltage, and Amps

Voltage (V) is the amount of power the MIG welder requires to operate. Entry-level equipment is usually rated at 110V, which means it can be plugged into any household socket. The label may state it at 115 or 120V, but in practical terms, there is no difference. The 220V option (which may be marked as 230V or 240V) is usually professional-standard equipment that requires the use of a generator for site work or a dedicated socket in the workshop. Dual-voltage MIG welders offer the flexibility of switching between the two, though they seldom produce full power at the lower voltage.

Amperes (A), frequently just expressed as “amps,” are the current available for welding. The higher the amps, the thicker the metal the welder can handle.

Material Thickness

Typically, a 90A MIG welder can weld steel up to ⅛ inch thick, whereas a 200A model can weld ⅜-inch steel. However, the latter may need a 220V supply to weld this thickness, so buyers should consider both amp and voltage figures. Manufacturers typically provide the relevant information.

The thicknesses quoted are the maximum available in one pass; however, they aren’t always as restrictive as they sound. For example, it’s often possible to weld two sides of an item to join greater thicknesses. Users must understand MIG welding techniques, and taking a beginner welding course is worth considering.

It’s a common misconception that MIG welders can weld thicker aluminum because it’s a softer metal. In fact, its thickness is reduced by around 20 percent, because aluminum absorbs more heat than steel.

Gas or Gasless and Portability

MIG welding requires a shield gas to create a protective bubble around the weld as it’s being formed, which prevents impurities in the air from weakening the weld. Welders often use a combination of argon and Co2 (carbon dioxide), though Co2 can sometimes be used on its own. Gas bottle sizes vary, but most are around 4 feet tall and relatively bulky.

Gasless MIG welding, which uses flux-core wire, is an alternative because it creates its own shield as the wire melts into the weld. This method is particularly useful for MIG welding outdoors because the wind can disturb a standard gas shield. However, flux core produces more smoke, an unpleasant smell, and a coarser weld. The weld can be just as strong, but it may require more work to clean up. Also, flux-core wire is only available for mild steel.

MIG welders can be gas, gasless, or both. Without the need for a gas bottle, gasless welders are much more portable. Carts are available to mount a MG welder and gas bottle, but while they add maneuverability, they are neither small nor light. Also consider the weight of the MIG welder itself, which can vary from under 20 pounds to over 70 pounds.

Wire-Feed Speed and Settings

In MIG welding, users melt a wire to join two pieces of metal. The type of wire must be appropriate for the type of metal, so users need different wire to weld steel, aluminum, copper, etc. The diameter of the wire, which relates to the thickness of metal being joined, also varies. Charts are widely available.

Wire feeds into the weld automatically, and users can adjust the speed. Feed speed is usually given in inches per minute (IPM) but sometimes in yards per minute. The greater the range, the more flexible the MIG welder is to match the feed rate to the skills of the welder. Settings may be stepped in that they have several fixed speeds; however, the best MIG welders offer many variations in speed.

Additional Features

Gas MIG welders usually come with a gas regulator to control flow. If it isn’t included, users must purchase one as well as the gas. Some MIG welder kits include a welding mask, which is basic but sufficient for occasional use. Those who frequently weld may want to upgrade.

A roll of welding wire often comes with gas MIG welders to get the user started, but this seldom comes with gasless models. A separate feed spool for aluminum welding may be provided. Multi-process welders not only perform MIG welding but also may offer stick and/or TIG welding capability.

Our Top Picks

After this discussion of the various features and technical aspects of MIG welding equipment, it’s time to look at some examples. The following represent various categories, each with a pick for the best MIG welder for various purposes, as well as its cost and features.

Best Overall

Best MIG Welders Option: Forney Easy Weld 261, 140 FC-i Welder, 120V
Photo: amazon.com

Trying to select a single best MIG welder is an almost impossible task. Users have different needs, and many different types are available. We chose the Forney Easy Weld 261 because it’s a great all-around welding tool. It’s uncomplicated and extremely light at just 19 pounds, and it offers the kind of performance that appeals to both home welders and professionals.

The Forney runs off ordinary power. It uses flux-core wire, so users only have to select the voltage (which varies widely) and choose the wire-feed speed. While the latter offers 10 steps, the manufacturer doesn’t provide the actual figures. For more experienced welders, even the top speed may be a little slow. Speed doesn’t impact weld strength, but it does affect productivity.

The welds made with the Forney may not be as neat as those made with a gas MIG, and it can’t tackle stainless steel or aluminum. Nevertheless, for those who regularly weld mild steel, indoors or out, the Forney Easy Weld 261 is competitive.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 30A to 140A
  • Duty cycle: 30 percent at 90A
  • Gas or gasless: Gasless

Pros

  • Very portable
  • Welds up to ¼-inch steel
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Modest wire-feed speed
  • No gas option

Get the Forney Easy Weld MIG welder on Amazon, at The Home Depot, or at Tractor Supply Co.

Runner-Up

Best MIG Welder Option: Hobart Handler 140 MIG Welder
Photo: tractorsupply.com

Hobart ranks among the world’s leading welding equipment brands, and the company’s Handler range is very popular. The Hobart Handler 140 is its entry-level MIG welder, yet it’s still capable of welding up to ¼-inch sheet metal. Unlike gasless models that can only weld mild steel, it also can weld stainless and aluminum.

The Hobart Handler 140 runs off a standard 110V current. The voltage control has five settings rather than infinite variations. However, users note the smoothness of the power supply, which allows wide control of the welds. At 40 to 700 IPM, its wire feed accommodates welders of all skill levels.

At 20 percent, its duty cycle isn’t particularly impressive, and its 5-foot power cord is rather short. Its dual process capability also means that although the price of the Hobart Handler 140 is competitive for its type, it costs significantly more than the Forney Easy Weld.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 25A to 140A
  • Duty cycle: 20 percent at 90A
  • Gas or gasless: Both

Pros

  • Good versatility
  • Renowned quality and durability
  • Wide wire-feed range

Cons

  • Modest duty cycle
  • Short power cord

Get the Hobart Handler 140 MIG welder at Tractor Supply Co. or Northern Tool.

Best Bang For The Buck

Best MIG Welders Option SUPER DEAL PRO
Photo: amazon.com

There’s a lot to like about the SUPER DEAL PRO MIG welder. This gasless machine plugs into a 110V-household supply, is relatively portable at 38 pounds, and can weld up to 3/16-inch steel. A roll of flux-core wire and a basic mask come with the welder.

This is a low-cost MIG welder, so expect some limitations. With only four voltage settings marked “Max” “Min,” or “1/2,” determining the correct output requires trial and error. The wire feed has 10 positions, but no speed indication. The body of the machine is PVC, so although it works outside, it isn’t built for tough environments.

The SUPER DEAL PRO is not a difficult MIG welder to use, but its instructions may be inadequate for beginners. It probably best suits those with some experience who want a budget tool for “quick-and-dirty” repair jobs.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 50A to 120A
  • Duty cycle: 10 percent at 105A; 35 percent at 60A
  • Gas or gasless: Gasless

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Includes mask, brush, chipping hammer, and wire
  • Can use outdoors

Cons

  • Mask is poor quality
  • Plastic body

Get the SUPER DEAL PRO MIG welder on Amazon.

Upgrade Pick

Best MIG Welders Option: Hobart - 500553 Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder, Small
Photo: amazon.com

As noted previously, Hobart welding equipment has a reputation for quality products, and the Handler 210 adds flexibility. It can run off 110V or 220V current, and it can be used with gas or without. These features, along with its ability to weld ⅜-inch steel and 3/16-inch aluminum make it a good choice for both workshop and job-site use.

A seven-step voltage dial and 40- to 770-IPM wire-feed speed provide good control. The Hobart Handler 210 provides stable power with reduced spatter, resulting in smoother welds.

At 79 pounds, the Hobart Handler 210 is quite heavy. It’s one of the more expensive models we considered, but for serious welders, the capabilities and durability may make it worth the investment.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 25A to 210A
  • Duty cycle: 30 percent at 150A
  • Gas or gasless: Both

Pros

  • Dual-voltage capability
  • Strong, smooth welds
  • Quality construction

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Substantial investment

Get the Hobart Handler 210 MIG welder on Amazon, at Northern Tool, or at Tractor Supply Co.

Best For Beginners

Best MIG Welders Option: Lincoln Electric 120-Volt Flux-Cored Wire Feed Welder
Photo: lowes.com

Lincoln Electric is another highly regarded welding equipment brand, and its MIG welders are recognized for their construction quality and durability. With consistent performance, simple setup, and flux-core ease of use, the Lincoln Electric Wire Feed Welder is one of the best MIG welders for beginners.

This model plugs into a standard 110V household outlet. While the 88A current is modest, it’s sufficient for ⅛-inch steel. A cold start safety feature means that electricity doesn’t flow through the welding wire until the trigger is pressed, dramatically reducing the chance of accidental shocks.

At 45 pounds, the welder is quite portable, and it comes with a roll of flux-core wire and a mask. However, the mask is a handheld item, which frequent users may want to upgrade.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 35A to 88A
  • Duty cycle: 20 percent at 70A
  • Gas or gasless: Gasless

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Cold contact for safety
  • Mask included

Cons

  • Modest performance
  • Mild steel only

Get the Lincoln Electric MIG Welder at Northern Tool or Lowe’s.

Best For Pros

Best MIG Welders Option: MILLER ELECTRIC MIG Welder, 120/240VAC, 1 Phase
Photo: amazon.com

A number of very good MIG welder manufacturers are around, but none have a better reputation for build quality than Miller Electric. The Miller Electric MIG Welder has a number of user-friendly features that make it a popular choice for professionals.

This Miller Electric MIG Welder offers gas or flux core using 110V or 220V current. Setup is quick: The user chooses gas or gasless, wire diameter, and metal thickness, and it’s ready to go. It also has Smooth-Start technology, which forms a protective shield just before the welding begins, helping to create very smooth results. A number of high-end MIG welders (but none in this price range) offer this feature. Maximum weld thickness is ⅜ inch. Despite robust construction, the machine weighs just 38 pounds.

The Miller Electric MIG Welder is undeniably expensive for a compact MIG welder, but many professionals may consider it a price worth paying.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 30A to 230A
  • Duty cycle: 40 percent at 150A
  • Gas or gasless: Both

Pros

  • Rapid, semi-auto setup
  • Especially smooth welds
  • Good duty cycle

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Ground clamp could be better

Get the MILLER ELECTRIC MIG welder on Amazon.

Best Multi-Process

Best MIG Welders Option: Weldpro 200 Amp Inverter Multi Process Welder
Photo: amazon.com

MIG welders are all-around machines, but TIG welding is better for high-precision work and visible welds. Stick is a gasless form, not unlike flux core, and it’s particularly good for heavy-duty steel and iron welding, especially outdoors. This versatile Weldpro combines these three welding processes in one portable machine. The MIG option offers both gas and flux core.

It can run on 110V, but it produces full power at 220V, which can be provided by a generator or a dedicated socket. It weighs a fraction over 30 pounds, so it’s quite easy to move. In MIG mode, its maximum thickness is ¼ inch, with a variable wire feed between 78 and 550 IPM.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Weldpro 200 is not a budget machine; however, it’s competitively priced for a welder with extensive capabilities.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 40A to 200A
  • Duty cycle: 30 percent at 200A
  • Gas or gasless: Both

Pros

  • Outstanding versatility
  • Good portability
  • Welds indoors or out

Cons

  • Full power requires a generator or 220V socket
  • Substantial investment

Get the Weldpro MIG welder on Amazon.

Best For Aluminium

Best MIG Welders Option: YESWELDER MIG-250 PRO Aluminum MIG Welder, 250Amp
Photo: amazon.com

Welding aluminum is challenging, because although the metal is comparatively soft, it absorbs heat quickly, which means it’s difficult to keep hot. The powerful YESWELDER MIG-250 Pro provides an effective solution.

It offers both gas and flux-core modes, and it can weld an impressive ½ inch of mild steel. While the manufacturer doesn’t supply an exact figure for aluminum, it’s likely around ⅜ inch. Moreover, the 60-percent duty cycle at full power is outstanding. However, this model requires a 220V supply, though it uses inverter technology to keep energy consumption as low as possible.

The YESWELDER MIG-250 Pro also offers TIG and stick capability, though the TIG torch is extra. Its wire-feed speed is between 79 and 590 IPM. It weighs 34 pounds.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 30A to 250A
  • Duty cycle: 60 percent at 250A
  • Gas or gasless: Both

Pros

  • MIG, TIG, and stick capability
  • Excellent duty cycle
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • 220V only
  • TIG torch is extra

Get the YESWELDER MIG welder on Amazon or at Walmart.

Best Kit

Best MIG Welders Option: LOTOS MIG175 175AMP Mig Welder with Free Spool Gun
Photo: amazon.com

The Lotos MIG175 offers competitive performance at an excellent value. It can produce neat welds up to ¼ inch in steel or stainless and 3/16 inch in aluminum. The latter is possible thanks to a dedicated spool gun. Often an extra, the spool gun is included in the kit, as are a gas regulator, mask, chipping hammer, wire brush, and a roll of MIG wire.

The Lotos MIG175 is easy to set up and use, and it might challenge for the title of best MIG welder for amateurs were it not for its 220V supply requirement. At 85 pounds, it’s also heavy. It has sufficient capabilities for some professionals, offers proven durability, and is a good value. However, the 20 percent duty cycle might be a bit limiting.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 30A to 175A
  • Duty cycle: 20 percent at 175A
  • Gas or gasless: Gas

Pros

  • Kit includes mask
  • Spool gun included
  • Competitive price

Cons

  • Requires 220V
  • Modest duty cycle

Get the LOTOS MIG welder on Amazon or at The Home Depot.

Also Consider

Best MIG Welders Option: VIVOHOME MIG Welder 130 Flux Core Wire Automatic Feed
Photo: amazon.com

The VIVOHOME may not be the most versatile MIG welder, but its low cost and simplicity may make it an appealing option for those who would rather buy a tool for occasional use than pay a contractor.

This is a flux-core MIG, giving it the ability to weld outdoors, and it runs on a standard 110V supply. Its controls are basic but straightforward. Its maximum weld thickness is 3/16 inch in steel, but it cannot weld aluminum.

At only 36 pounds, the VIVOHOME MIG 130 is portable, and of course, it doesn’t need a gas bottle. While we have some doubts about its long-term durability, owner feedback is largely positive.

Product Specs

  • Amps: 40A to 130A
  • Duty cycle: 15 percent at 105A
  • Gas or gasless: Gasless

Pros

  • Flux-core simplicity
  • Uses household power
  • Low cost

Cons

  • No gas option
  • Questionable durability

Get the VIVOHOME MIG welder on Amazon or at Walmart.

Our Verdict

The Forney Easy Weld MIG welder lives up to its name and our choice as top pick. It’s simple to use, portable, and versatile; however, it’s flux core only. The SUPER DEAL PRO MIG welder comes in a low-cost kit ideal for the occasional user, though limited adjustability means it’s not the easiest for beginners.

How We Chose the Best MIG Welders

As an engineer and amateur auto enthusiast, I have hands-on experience with MIG welding. To support this knowledge, Bob Vila researchers investigated a wide variety of the latest products to make sure we had current technical information.

While amperage and duty cycle are the headline elements when choosing a MIG welder, we didn’t look only at those that offered high performance. For example, we also chose more budget-friendly models that might be the best MIG welder for beginners or hobby users.

Long-term reliability is a key issue, so we focused mostly on MIG welders from well-known manufacturers with an established reputation. However, we are always conscious of costs, so we included more affordable models from lesser-known makers if they provided acceptable performance and good value.

Safety Tips for Using a MIG Welder

Welding metal must be treated with caution. Following these straightforward rules will help avoid accidents:

  • Before starting, have a thorough understanding of how a MIG welder functions and how to set it up safely. For those new to welding, we recommend getting expert guidance such as taking classes or getting the help of a professional while learning the basics.
  • Sparks and spatter (molten waste metal) are inevitable, and they can burn skin and clothing. Wear appropriate protective clothing.
  • Always wear a welding mask. The brightness of the weld causes a condition called “welder’s flash” or “arc eye.”
  • Make sure the area is ventilated, particularly if using flux-core wire.
  • Clear the area of flammable material, and invest in a fire blanket or extinguisher.
  • Make sure to stay fully focused. Never weld if tired or unwell.

FAQs

This information should have answered many of the questions about MIG welder specifications and features. During our research, we came across a number of queries of a more general nature, so we have gathered those here along with their answers that should prove useful.

Q. What is a MIG welder best used for?

MIG welders are versatile tools, and they’re ideal for beginners. While they can weld a variety of metals, they work best with steel.

Q. What’s the difference between MIG and TIG welding?

Generally speaking, MIG uses a metal filler wire, which melts and becomes part of the two pieces being joined. TIG uses a non-melting electrode to fuse the two pieces directly into each other. MIG is faster, but TIG is neater.

Q. How do I set up a MIG welder?

Consider several elements, including voltage, wire-feed speed, and gas supply, if required. Actual settings vary depending on the metal being welded and the capabilities of the machine.

Q. Which metals can I meld with a MIG welder?

Some MIG welders only weld steel, but better models can weld most metals successfully. However, professionals often prefer the greater precision offered by TIG welding for so-called “exotics” like magnesium and titanium.

Q. What is flux-core wiring, and can my welder use it?

Flux-core wire creates its own shield around the weld, so you don’t need a separate gas supply. Whether your welder can use it depends on its specifications. The label should clearly state whether it’s gas, gasless (flux core), or both.

Q. Why should I avoid live torches?

Always be aware of welding safety. A live MIG torch can produce a strong electric shock, along with temperatures in excess of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Looking at a live weld without a face mask can damage the cornea, a condition commonly known as arc eye or welder’s flash. Though usually temporary, it can painfully irritate for a day or more.