Metal inert gas welders, or MIG welders, are the most common type of welder on the market. They are also the easiest ones to learn and use. That’s why many professional and hobbyist welders say that MIG welders are their product of choice when it comes to high quality but accessible welding. And it’s not surprising why they feel so. MIG welders are portable. They require very little time to set up. Plus, they are easy to maintain, simple to operate, and convenient to repair.
However, you can go wrong with your purchase if you don’t know what to expect and not expect from a MIG welder many ways. Fortunately, this buying guide will take you through all the information you’ll need to find the right product for you. So, are you ready to find out what is the best MIG welder? Great! Let’s jump right into our MIG welder reviews with the Hobart 500559.
|Model||Price||Item Weight||User Rating|
|Forney 299 125FC|
(Best for the Money)
|Goplus MIG 130||35 pounds||4.3/5|
|Lotos MIG140||54 pounds||4.0/5|
The Hobart 500599 is the best MIG welder on the market. It’s a magnificent piece of technology in terms of build quality and features. You can use the 500599 to weld steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. Plus, it can work with C25 gas mixture, 100% CO2, Tri-Mix, Ar-CO2, or 100% Ar. You can even use it without a shielding gas because it accepts flux-cored wires.
The machine creates a smooth and stable arc across thickness ranging from 24 gauge to quarter-inch. You can control the intensity of the arc using the five-position voltage control knob. Inside the machine, you will find the Quick Select Drive Roll, a trademark technology that allows you to switch drive rolls quickly and easily. The wire drive system, which is made of industrial grade cast aluminum, guarantees smooth wire feed performance.
You can control the wire feed speed within the range 40 to 700 inches per minute. Using the 10-position knob, you can increase the wire speed increases gradually from zero to 100 percent in increments of 10 percent. A handy welding guide clearly articulates the factory settings for material, shielding type, metal thickness, voltage setting, and feed speed setting.
The factory settings are so good, you can start using the welder right off the bat, and with experience, you can fine-tune the settings to your liking. The work cable and the welding gun cable are 10 feet long. The power cable is 6 feet long. This gives you plenty of freedom to move around your workspace.
The machine operates of a 20% duty cycle. If you exceed the duty cycle, the machine triggers the self-resetting “Over Temp Light.” So, you can stop welding until the machine cools sufficiently. The Hobart 500599 comes with a dual gauge regulator with a built-in gas solenoid valve. When you connect a shielding gas tank to the welder, the pressure gauge helps you control the cubic feet of gas per hour (CFH) with precision.
As for the welding quality, the consistency and finish of the beading will surprise you. You will find it hard to believe that an 115V welder could produce this degree of workmanship. The product comes with a five-year warranty on the transformer, three-year warranty on the electronics, and one-year warranty on the welding gun. In a nutshell, if you have the budget, go for the Hobart 500599.
The list of cons for the Hobart 500599 is a short one. However, the price is a significant limiting factor. Unless you’re an experienced welder, you may not be comfortable with spending around $500 on a welder. So, if the Hobart’s price tag puts it out of your reach, consider buying the Forney 299 125FC, this is the best MIG welder for the money.
The FC in the model name stands for flux-cored. So, the Forney 299 works only with flux-cored wires. But, if you’re a novice or occasional welder, flux-cored welding will cater to most of your needs. In addition to gasless operation, this model is also built for portability; it’s about 20 pounds lighter than the Hobart 500599.
Like the 500599, the 125FC has a 10-position wire feed speed knob. However, it has only two voltage settings – the thin plate setting for high voltage and the sheet metal setting for low voltage. Since this welder has just two voltage settings, the scope of fine-tuning your arc is limited. At the same time, if you’re just getting into welding, this is the best machine to learn the ropes. So, why pay for all the extra features when you won’t need them. At least, not yet.
With the 125FC, you can weld steel as thin as 18 gauge and as thick as quarter-inch. It accepts 0.030 inch and 0.035 inch flux-cored wires and its body can house 2-pound and 10-pound spools. The product’s comprehensive user manual provides step-by-step instructions for installing the wire and operating the machine. It also covers safety instructions, welding techniques, troubleshooting guidelines, and other useful information.
Overall, this is the best 120 Volt MIG welder for the feature to price ratio. However, a significant downside to this product is the warranty. The machine comes with a 6-month warranty against manufacturing and workmanship defects. So, be careful while using the Forney 125FC.
The main problem with the Forney 125FC is its limited functionality. A dedicated rookie will outgrow the Forney 125FC after a period, and will need a better model to hone their skills. Even so, they may not be quite ready to invest in an expensive model such as the Hobart 500599. So, you need something in between the rookie model and the expert one. The Lotus MIG140 bridges this gap perfectly. It’s the best 110 V MIG welder for a beginner who is ready to pursue welding seriously.
Unlike the FC125, which works with only flux-cored wires, the Lotos MIG140 works with both flux-cored and solid wires. So, you can run it with or without a shielding gas. If you’re using a shielding gas, you can attach the tank to the welder with the hose included with the package. The machine also comes with a pressure gauge. You can use the gauge to adjust the CFH.
For flux-cored wires, the allowable thickness ranges from 0.025 inches to 0.030 inches. For solid wires, the machine accepts wires of thickness between 0.030 inches to 0.035 inches. And the spindle can accommodate 2-pound spools. You can adjust the wire type, wire thickness, feed speed, and voltage to weld 24 gauge thin metals to quarter-inch thick metals. Now for the best part.
The voltage selector and the feed speed selector have 10 positions. Plus, a digital display shows you the arc voltage in Volts and feed speed in inches per minute. The display lets you adjust welding parameters with amazing precision. Also, an overload protective device safeguards the welder against overheating.
When you purchase the Lotos MIG140 you get a handheld welding mask, a cleaning brush, and all other essential accessories. The equipment is easy to assemble. If you follow the manual, you’ll be up and running in a short time. You get a one-year warranty on this welder. I would have preferred at least a two-year warranty. But, that’s a tolerable compromise.
This is another popular budget welder. It’s a bestselling product on Amazon. Like the FC125, the Goplus MIG 30 is a flux-cored only welder. This means you can’t use it with a shielding gas. This may be an advantage or disadvantage considering the results you expect from your weld. If you are just learning to weld, it makes sense to practice the basics using a low-cost welder like the Goplus MIG 130.
The machine takes flux-cored wires of thickness 0.030 inches and 0.035 inches. However, the former gives the best results. The wire spindle accommodates up to 2-pound spools. The machine works well for 3/8-inch metal. If you are an experienced welder, you can weld metal up to quarter-inch thick. You can also work on 1/8 and 1/16-inch metal.
The welder has a 10-position feed speed selector and two switches to control the voltage. The first switch toggles between min and max mode. The second switch toggles between 1 and 2. Thus, the two switches allow four voltage selections. This give you more control over the voltage than the FC125 does.
The machine does come with a free welding mask. But, the mask is a handheld one and if you’re going to weld daily, you may need a mask that frees your hands. One of the things I find a little distressing is the lack of a welding chart that shows how to set the machine for the required metal thickness. You will have to feel your way around the settings. This can be intimidating for beginners.
But, you have to remember, this is a budget welder. So, you will need to bear with certain compromises. There’s also no warranty information regarding the product. On the other hand, the product enjoys many favorable reviews on Amazon. However, it’s only a few dollars cheaper than the FC125. More importantly, the Forney 299 FC125 comes with an excellent user guide.
This is one of the most frequently asked – and one of the most important – questions about MIG welders. Given its popularity and significance, this question requires a detailed answer. Before we get into it, you should know that a cluster of important considerations go into deciding the merit of an MIG welder. No single factor, except perhaps your budget, can make or break a welder. So, let’s examine each factor.
Now that you know what to look for, distinguishing between a good brand and a poor one is a matter of working down a checklist. The more boxes an MIG welder ticks, the better it is. After completing the checklist, you can look at anything the product is missing. Then, you can choose to go for another product or be okay with the compromise. For example, if you’re low on budget, you may have to settle for less features and less warranty cover.
Answering a few questions before buying an MIG welder will help you enjoy your purchase and get excellent value for money. The first question you should ask yourself is, “Why do I need a welder?” Broadly speaking, you can use a welder to repair, restore, fabricate, or customize. The product you choose should reflect this answer. Let’s say you need a welder to repair things. In that case, you don’t need a welder with premium features; a low-cost model will do. However, if you’re into mass scale fabrication, you will need a high-end model.
The next question relates to how frequently you will use the welder. If you’re an occasional user, go for a basic model with essential functionalities. If you think you will use the welder every day, invest in a more functional model. Also, account for the materials that you’re going to weld. Are you going to work on steel sheet metal, aluminum pipes, or stainless steel plates? After you decide on the type and form of metal, you can buy the appropriate MIG welder.
Now, let’s discuss the environment. If you work outdoors, windy conditions may make it hard to achieve a high quality finish with gas shielded welding. For outdoor welding, flux-cored welding yields better results. On the other hand, if you work in a garage, it’s better to work with a solid core wire and a shielding gas. Naturally, if you’re the kind of person who works both indoors and outdoors, you will need a welder that works with flux-cored and solid wires. And wherever you work, make sure the power source’s rating matches the welder’s rating.
In addition to all this, you should think about the results you want. If you are selling your work, you can’t settle for anything short of professional quality welds. However, if you are making things for your own use, semi-pro results are good enough. If you were a learner, achieving premium results would be difficult even if you had a great welder.
Lastly, consider the availability of consumables, accessories, and spares. Procuring these things should be as easy as buying the welder. Also, look at the catalogue of spares. You should understand what parts of the machine are replaceable and what parts are not replaceable. Get your hands on the user manual before buying the product. The manual should cover these details. If you’re not able to find the manual online, call the customer support or email the company to get the manual. Reading the manual in advance is one of the smartest things you can do. Also remember to buy yourself a welding helmet for when you’re going to be welding.
You’ve consumed a lot of information so far. To weld the information to your memory, I’ll summarize what we’ve discussed. Our top pick, the Hobart 500599, is the best MIG welder you can buy. If you can afford it, then don’t think about anything else. However, if you don’t have the budget, you have two options. First, you could go for a low-cost flux-cored welder like the Forney FC125 or Goplus MIG130. Or, you could buy the Lotos MIG140. It is functionally similar to the 500599, but it is cheaper than the 500599. Unfortunately, it comes with only a one-year warranty.
MIG welders have been around for nearly 70 years. During those years, the fundamental principles of operation hasn’t changed much. But, the MIG welder industry has made major strides when it comes to portability, functionality, and safety. As a result of the advancements, MIG welders today are of great quality. So, there are good MIG welders at every price range. But, unless you have the right knowledge and information, finding these products is tricky. Hopefully, this guide will make the process easier for you and help you find a welder to meet all your requirements and fit in your budget. If you’re looking for a TIG welder or a plasma cutter instead, we also have buying guides for them.
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