Metal inert gas welders—also known as MIG welders or gas metal arc welders (GMAW)—are the most commonly used welding machine, competing with the also successful TIG (tungsten inert gas or gas tungsten arc welding) and stick welders. For both at home and industrial use, metal inert gas MIG welders are known for their efficiency at fusing all kinds of metals together. Dependent on your welding skill level, whether you’re experienced or looking to start welding, a metal inert gas level could be something you’d want to try out.
Many veteran welders would agree that the greatest advantage of a metal inert gas MIG welder is its speed. The pace of these premium and cheap welders is unmatched compared to stick welding and TIG welding, both of which can take a bit longer. For this reason, the metal inert gas welder allows for much faster production rates than the other welding processes (which is a reason they’re used so often in mass production).
Therefore, the metal inert gas welder is faster to learn for a total novice welder. Buying one means having the vast majority of the welding tools you need to be sent to your door in one box. In general, they take less than an hour to set up and make for easy welding. Compared to the other common types of welding we’ve mentioned, the skill level of the welder is not nearly as important. Almost anyone can learn how to MIG weld with one of these machines after an hour or so of practice.
Through our extended research of these welders, we found dozens of videos, articles, and reviews to guide the viewer through the process of buying, setting up, and using these machines.
We hope this buying guide will help you choose the welder that most suits your needs. We’ve included a list of ten well-known metal inert gas welders that will each be reviewed briefly.
View the Best MIG Welder on the Market, Below.
- Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG Welder
- Hobart 500536 IronMan 230 MIG Welder
- Forney Easy Weld 261 140 FC-i Welder
- Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder
- YESWELDER MIG-205DS MIG Welder
- Miller Electric 211 MIG Welder
- Hobart 500554 Handler 190 MIG Welder
- Weldpro 200 Amp LCD Inverter 5 in 1 Multi Process Welder
- Hobart 500574 IronMan 240 Mig Welder
- LOTOS MIG175 Mig Welder
1. Hobart 500559 Handler 140 MIG Welder
Best Mig Welder for BeginnersRead Customer Reviews →
Hobart is an American welding company that has produced quality machines since its inception in 1917. Often toted as the best MIG welder for beginners, the Handler 140 is an affordable and easy-to-use machine right off the bat. Though its duty cycle is on the low end compared to the other welders on this list, the Handler is a crowd favorite. It is also fairly easy to carry. Welders will love the portability. A home hobbyist will get years of use and enjoyment from this powerful machine. All in all, it’s a very sturdy welder that's manufactured in the USA.
The Handler 140amp MIG welder can weld both steel and aluminum. It comes with flux core wire, and it welds 24 gauge mild steel up to a thickness of ¼ inch.
It’s able to run at 20% at 90 amps (in other words, you can run the machine for two minutes and let it cool down for eight). Furthermore, the Handler 140amp MIG welder operates off 115 volts, meaning it will run on the standard household current. It weighs 57 pounds.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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2. Hobart 500536 IronMan 230 MIG Welder
Best MIG Welder for Professionals Wanting More PowerRead Customer Reviews →
The Ironman is a high-powered welder that's very different from the other welders on this list. Boasting more power, the best duty cycle, and a weight that dwarfs the others, the Ironman is nearly without compare. Obviously, this is not the machine that a budding welder should vie for. It’s super heavy duty and will set the consumer back a lot of money.
It welds from 24 gauge to an amazing ½ inch thickness for steel. The Ironman can handle steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. It's capable of Flux core. The “fan-on-demand” cooling system works as needed, offering up a reduced use of power. There are twelve voltage power settings, and the Ironman has infinite adjustment for wire speed.
Operating at 60% at 175 amps, the Ironman has the single best duty cycle on our list. The input power is 230 volts, so standard household outlets won’t be able to handle the Ironman’s power. Weighing a massive 224 pounds, Hobart’s Ironman is by and large the heaviest welder here.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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3. Forney Easy Weld 261 140 FC-i Welder
Best MIG Welder for Your Budget (and For Beginners)Read Customer Reviews →
This is our top choice for those just starting their welding journeys and who want a trusty, capable, easy-to-use MIG welder for learning. Unable to handle heavy-duty or industrial-type welding, this model still has plenty of power with Flux-Core capabilities and can tackle light metal art creations, automotive, farm, light repair, and much more.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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4. Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG Welder
Best MIG Welder for ValueRead Customer Reviews →
Lincoln Electric is an Ohio-based company founded all the way back in 1895. For over 120 years, Lincoln has produced some fine quality welders, and the Handy is certainly one of them. This welder is a bargain that offers great results, and users can expect an uptick in overall power and performance.
As this Lincoln welder is well known for being both reliable and durable, welders who aren’t expecting an overabundance of power will love this machine. People who have purchased the Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy MIG welder remark that it's stable and long-lived even with daily use.
The Handy Lincoln welder is able to weld mild steel from 24 gauge up to 1/8 inches thick. It has four output power settings that the user can dial in. The fan cooling system reduces the risk of it overheating. At 70 amps, the Lincoln welder will run at a duty cycle of 20%. With an input power of 115 volts, this Lincoln welder can be run using the average household outlet. It's also super portable at 46 pounds.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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5. YESWELDER MIG-205DS MIG Welder
Best MIG Welder for Lightweight Metal Arts and DecorationRead Customer Reviews →
Say “yes!” to the Yeswelder, especially if you’re ready to take your welding talents or abilities to the next level— or replace your old model with something newer. This is the perfect gift for those dealing with lighter metals like in artistic endeavors. Explore the next stages of more complicated welding with gas or gasless operation, or switch to lift TIG or stick welding if desired.Check Price on Amazon ➞
6. Miller Electric 211 MIG Welder
A Great MIG Welder for Professionals and Amateurs AlikeRead Customer Reviews →
Miller is a Wisconsin-based company that has been in the business since 1929. At just 38 pounds, the Millermatic is ultra-portable and is one of the lightest welders on our list. Amateur welders and professionals alike love it for its usability. It's also one of the most expensive, so bear that in mind as you read on!
In terms of features, the Millermatic runs at dual voltage. It welds stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum (with the help of a spool gun). It can weld mild steel to a thickness of 3/8 inches, giving it greater ability than the Hobart Handler. As for its aluminum welding capabilities, it can weld from 18 gauge to 3/8 inches. It comes with Flux core abilities.
The Millermatic can run at 120 and 240 volts. At a 120 volt input, it will run at 115 amps for a 20% duty cycle. At a 240 volt input, it will run at 150 amps for a 40% duty cycle. The Millermatic is also only 50 pounds.Check Price on Amazon ➞
7. Hobart 500554 Handler 190 MIG Welder
Best MIG Welder for Transition from Entry Level to AdvancedRead Customer Reviews →
This Hobart MIG Welder is the ideal machine for practicing and perfecting those minute and detailed welding techniques. It's designed for precision and with better magnetics. Plus, it features a practically limitless wire feed speed— you’ll have more control so you can achieve the most seamless and flawless welds you’ve ever done. Enjoy peace of mind with the most exceptional safety mechanisms, too.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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8. Weldpro 200 Amp LCD Inverter 5 in 1 Multi Process Welder
Best MIG Welder in the Versatility and Appearance CategoryRead Customer Reviews →
This is one of the most highly capable MIG welders on our recommendations list. Our top reason for liking it? It makes your shop look great! Weld to your heart’s content while checking the incredibly convenient built-in LCD display for amperage and wire speed. This will give you optimal precision while working. Switch between different MIG welder modes for different metals, jobs, and purposes, and feel like a welding master all the while.Check Price on Amazon ➞
9. Hobart 500574 IronMan 240 Mig Welder
Best MIG Welder for Professional or Heavy-Duty UseRead Customer Reviews →
This is a MIG welder enviable even by the masters and pros. This metalworking beast can easily manipulate the most common metal types and thicknesses with full capability (gas or gasless applications) to work aluminum if desired. It comes with countless components and features for incredible control. You’ll have to shell out the cash, but if you’re a welding pro, you’ll know it’s well worth it.TRACTOR SUPPLY CO ➞
10. LOTOS MIG175 Mig Welder
Best MIG Welder for Plenty of PowerRead Customer Reviews →
LOTOS Technology is a Californian company that has only been around since 2007. Still, the LOTOS MIG is impactful and high quality enough to make it onto our list. This one is a versatile machine with a fair price. And—provided that you have the necessary 240-volt outlet in your home—it can be set up in a matter of minutes. The duty cycle of this welding newcomer is impressive, and it can be utilized by pros and amateurs who have been continually impressed by the bang they’ve gotten for their buck.
The LOTOS can weld steel and stainless steel from 18 gauge to ¼ inches and aluminum to 1/8 inch or thicker. The thermal overload protection doesn’t let this machine overheat. It also features adjustable heat and amperage, and wire -speed, making using the LOTOS simple. Check out the LOTOS MIG140 for a lower power alternative.
At 175 amps, the duty cycle can work at 20%, and at 135 amps, it can do 30%. It has a high input power of 220 volts, so a standard 110-volt household outlet won't cut it this time. 220v MIG welders are not to be taken lightly! The LOTOS weighs in at 85 pounds.Check Price on Amazon ➞
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What to Look For When Buying a MIG Welder
There are many things to consider when purchasing a metal inert gas welder. The first thing on your mind should be the question of what you hope to accomplish with your new machine. Are you looking to MIG weld metals beyond a thickness of half an inch? Unfortunately, that’s not usually possible with a metal inert gas welder, as you’ll soon learn if you read on. However, a myriad of projects only requires the fusion of thinner metals.
You might be surprised at the wide array of things you can build with a metal inert gas welder. A stool for your workshop, a workbench, or a tool rack can all be assembled with the help of a little know-how and a metal inert gas MIG welder.
Consider what power input your welder produces. Basically, the input power is the voltage that your metal inert gas welder will run at. Please keep in mind that not every welder is compatible with your workshop’s outlets! If you find a welder with an input power of 110 to 140 volts, then you likely have nothing to fear. Standard household outlets run at about this range.
On the other hand, some of the premium and cheap welders on our list only run at around 220 volts of power input, or else they can be switched to running at this higher input voltage. In these cases, you will need a different type of outlet entirely.
This would be an involved, do-it-yourself project (or one that will require a good electrician and some extra spending money to boot). You may want to opt for a welder with 110 volts of power input rather than going to all that trouble.
The duty cycle is another important factor. It determines how long you can weld to optimize the lifespan of your machine. You’ll see phrases like, “this welder has a 20% duty cycle when running at 90 amps,” or “when operating at 135 amps, the duty cycle is 35%.” Let’s translate this into the amount of time you can weld. The standard is to look at the time in ten-minute increments.
This means that you can, with a 20% duty cycle at the correct amount of amps, weld for a total of two minutes. It’s then wise to let the machine rest for the remainder of those ten minutes. So, work for two, rest for eight, and repeat. A 35% duty cycle would mean working for three minutes and thirty seconds, followed by resting for six minutes and thirty seconds. The amount of amps always varies from welder to welder and is easily adjustable by a dial on your machine.
A smaller factor to consider is the weight of the product. The products on this list weigh 50 or more pounds on average, while some are in the thirties or below. Still, others far exceed these weights. Products weighing 50 pounds are still easily portable but might require a wheeled cart to move them with ease.
Thermal Overload Protection
A few of the products listed have a handy safety feature called thermal overload protection – (don’t forget to wear welding helmets and a welding mask, though!). This check makes sure that your welder doesn’t overheat and shut down.
Some models have a cooling fan to prevent high temperatures, and others have a “fan-on-demand” that’s triggered when overheating is sensed during the welding process. Overall, the risks of overheating include wasted time and increased expenditure of shielding gas, so the thermal overload protection is a nice feature to look out for if you can afford it.
What Metals Can I Weld?
This varies from model to model. We’ve listed what each welder is capable of in the featured product reviews. Typically, a metal inert gas welder can process mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. A few of the welders listed can also handle iron, cast iron, and even a few alloys.
The thickness of Metals and Material Thickness
A metal inert gas welder can only handle so much. On the whole, these welders can weld from thinness of 24 gauge (about 0.0239 inches) or 18 gauge (about 0.0478 inches) materials all the way up to around 3/8 inch or even ½ inch materials. For much thicker metals, a stick welder is ideal.
What is a Metal Inert Gas Welder?
These are common welders that are attractive due to their cheapness, speed, and ease of use. How do they work? Simply put, when the trigger of these welders is held down, a metal wire is continuously fed out. Shielding gas is also emitted. Combined with the heat, these factors melt and fuse the two metals that need to be welded.
How do you Set Up a Metal Inert Gas Welder?
First, if you have a fume extractor, place it over the area where you’ll be welding. Next, attach the ground clamp to something metal so you can avoid getting shocked. Ensure the adjusting screw of your gas cylinder is loose. Next, open the cylinder using the handwheel at its top. Read the gauge to make sure you’ve adjusted it to the right pressure. After, turn the adjusting screw so that the gauge reads 10 to 15 CFH (or cubic feet per hour).
You’ll also need to figure out your welding settings with the help of a chart. This will likely come with your welder.
There are some questions that need to be asked before welding two pieces of metal together! What type of metal needs to be welded? And what is the material thickness of the metal?
Both of these will determine the wire speed and voltage you should use on the metals. Now you can turn the welder on and adjust these two important factors to get the cleanest weld possible.
What can you Weld with a Metal Inert Gas Welder?
As hinted at earlier on, there is a disadvantage to this type of welder. Only metals of thin to medium thickness can be welded. These welders can fuse metals from a thinness of 18 gauge to a thickness of a half inch at most (though the majority on this list can only fuse up to about 3/8 inch thickness.
This type of welding is actually most commonly used to repair cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles. Also, it’s used a lot in construction. Since metal inert gas welding is so cost-efficient and quick, it’s often used for the mass production of computer parts and ship parts.
What is Flux core Wiring, and can my Welder use It?
Metal inert gas welders use a cylinder of shielding gas to get the welding job done. But gas can get costly over time. It also makes the machine a little less portable. Luckily, some of our welders can also use a process called Flux core welding. This is achieved with a Flux core wire containing elements of shielding gas that are released with the heat from the welder. Without gas cylinders, Flux core welding can become that much more portable.
Also, welding outside in the elements can be a hassle for metal inert gas welders. With Flux core wiring, working outside becomes practical. Flux core wiring also helps when working on a welding project that your welder simply can’t provide the amperage or power for. Sometimes the metal is just too thick. Flux core wiring alleviates this issue, offering a boost in power.
Whether you’ve been welding all your life or are new to the game, a metal inert gas welder will more often than not be a streamlined, simple-to-understand machine. As discussed, the initial setup takes less than an hour. With the chart that comes with the welder, you’ll know the wire speed and input voltage needed to fuse your selected metals properly. There is also a wealth of Youtube videos dedicated to teaching you the basics and more advanced properties of welding.
Perhaps most important is knowing that metal inert gas welding doesn’t apply to every project. As said above, there’s only so much variance in thickness that the welder can handle.
Stick welders and TIG welders are the other common types of welding machines that can weld certain metals where a metal inert gas welder can’t.
Before making a purchase, research is key. This article is only a springboard, as there are many more brands, names, and models of welders out there waiting to be found. A prospective buyer can’t go wrong with joining a welding forum and asking for further advice.
Did you Know?
Metal inert gas welding was invented in the 1940s. At the time, it was prized for its ability to fuse aluminum but now welds a wide variety of metals.