Best MIG Welders For Beginners Reviewed
Gas Metal Arc Welding is a process of joining two metals together in a permanent bond. By heating the workpiece and the filler metals, the two melt together to form the weld. Metal Inert Gas welding, or MIG welding, is a subset of the GMAW process and is popular among beginners.
MIG welding is one of the basic welding types that can be picked up easily and mastered quickly. The equipment for MIG welding is relatively less expensive and generally more portable, making MIG welding a highly sought after trait for both career and hobby welders. This article will examine MIG welding and give you the best MIG welders for beginners.
Interested in getting into the craft of welding but unsure of where to begin? You’re looking in the right place. Finding the best welder for beginners can be tricky, as there are so many shapes and sizes out there that it can get a little overwhelming. There are right and wrong types of welders to choose when you are starting from the bottom, so doing your research into the proper option for a beginner is incredibly helpful.
Why Mig Welder Quality Matters
If you are new to this craft, you may be wondering why you should even be looking for the best MIG welder. After all, why invest in a potentially expensive object when you aren’t looking to do the craft professionally – won’t a cheap knockoff work?
The short answer: no.
The reason is because quality matters. A good MIG welder is important for a beginner to practice with. If you’re new to this practice and the first MIG you encounter is a poorly constructed knockoff brand that can barely complete a successful weld, you will probably be turned off to the craft completely.
When you are first learning how to do a MIG weld, you will learn about how the automatically fed spool creates an electrical current that melts and joins wire to the base. A quality MIG will ensure that this process is as simple and clean as possible, and also allow you to experiment with all kinds of metals regardless of how thin or thick the plates are.
Types of Welding: Which is Best for Beginners?
If you are a beginner or are recently showing interest in welding, you may not know that there are many different types of welding. Of all the welding styles and types, the four most common are MIG, TIG, Stick, and Flux Cored Arc welding. Let’s examine the four types and determine if MIG welding is the best for beginners.
MIG welding is considered a beginners welding style or one for hobbyists. The constant-feed wire and smooth mix of gases allow for a weld that is quick to learn and simple to master. With a MIG welder, you can take on all types of metal, including steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and nickel.
There are instances when MIG welding won’t be ideal such as vertical and overhead welding. The temperatures are less forgiving, and the weld beads will run in these situations. However, because you can select from a variety of gasses, wire thicknesses, and metal types, MIG welding is extremely popular.
With the right equipment, MIG welding doesn’t have a lot of guesswork. You dial in the machine with metal type, thickness, and wire type. Once that is done, the equipment will run itself, providing you the optimal heat and wire-feed speed for the job at hand. Once you learn the different nozzle angles and speeds to use for the best welding bead, you have pretty much mastered MIG welding.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is a welding process that is different than MIG welding. For starters, there isn’t a filler material or a line feed for TIG welding. Instead of using a different metal to heat and bond the workpieces together, TIG welding heats the two pieces of metal and melts them together.
TIG welding is a more precise welding practice and takes a well-trained operator. To decide which is better, TIG or MIG welding, for beginners, the answer will almost always fall to MIG welding.
The other significant difference is the ability of the welders. TIG welding is generally used for thinner metals and smaller welds. MIG welding can join thicker metals and make larger beads because of the filler material.
Stick welding, also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is one of the oldest known methods of welding. It is also one of the most challenging welding types to master. Because the tip angles, electrical current, and setups must be exact, it can be complicated to learn, use, and master.
Stick welding uses a rod, much like the wire feed of a MIG welder. You will need to continually replace this rod as is it consumed. However, because of the versatility of stick welding, it is useful for many types of metal joining that other models cannot accomplish.
The most significant advantage of stick welding is that it can be done in adverse conditions such as rain or wind. To be proficient at stick welding though you must have a lot of experience and studies under your belt and is therefore not recommended for beginners.
Flux Cored Arc Welding
Flux Core welding (FCAW), is a faster alternative to MIG welding. It isn’t for beginners, though, as there are more advantages, but a higher learning curve involved. Flux core doesn’t use gas as MIG welders do. Instead, the constant-feed wire is coated in a flux that provides the anti-contamination that the MIG welder’s gas bubble does.
Like stick welding, flux core can be used in adverse conditions like the wind (not in the rain, though). The biggest advantage is that FCAW can join impure metals together without sacrificing composition.
Arc or TIG welding for beginners isn’t advised. Once you have mastered a more beginner-friendly method, like MIG welding, you can then move on to the more advanced techniques like stick, TIG, and flux-cored arc welding.
How MIG Welders Work
All MIG welders work in pretty much the same way. The gas creates a bubble to protect the metal from corrosion. The wire heats up and melts, creating a weld puddle and the transfer heat the workpiece metals, creating the welding bond. There are several types of MIG transfers, though, and this is where the difference comes in.
The most common form is known as a short circuit transfer. When the welding wire touches the workpiece metal, it heats up with low voltage and melts to create the puddle that binds the metals together. Carbon dioxide gas is used for the bubble. Because of the low voltage, single gas, and wire transfer, short circuit transfer is the least expensive and most comfortable to use.
Spray and pulsed spray transfers use a mix of CO2 and argon gases for the bubble, and the welding wire is melted and sprayed onto the working surfaces. The welds are generally cleaner, though they produce more spatter. Because of the use of higher voltage and argon gas, these spraying transfers are more expensive. For pulsed spray, the machine must be capable and generally costs a great deal more than other welding machines.
The globular transfer is the fourth standard transfer method. Here the welding wire is melted at the nozzle tip and is dripped onto the working surfaces. It uses argon gas and has a high spatter ratio. Because of the argon gas, the globular transfer method is usually more expensive than short circuit transfer.
Buying Your First MIG Welder (Buyers Guide)
Let’s take a look at the various considerations when deciding which welding machine to purchase. Depending on your specific needs, the following items will hold more or less weight in your final choice.
For the beginner, having a machine that will automate the electrical output, wire feed and voltage is almost essential. There are plenty of machines that will handle various weld types, transfers, and voltage outputs. However, it is advised to find a machine with the most straightforward controls at least until you master the welding techniques and can move on to more complex welds.
Using a welder with a simple and standard power input should be at the top of your list. Because most MIG welding is low voltage, you won't need higher input devices. A welder that has the standard outlet 110-120 volt input should suffice for over 90% of your welding jobs. You won’t have a need, in most cases, to spend more money on a multi-voltage input machine.
To get a consistent weld takes practice. However, having a high-quality welder will go a long way to making that happen sooner. Because you will most likely be using short circuit transfer to begin with, you should find a machine with a consistent voltage output to ensure the wire feed is heated and pushed at the same rate throughout the weld.
Where will you be setting up your workshop? If you cannot answer this question yet, you shouldn’t make a welder purchase. Each machine will vary in abilities in various conditions. If you are working out of your home as a hobby, for example, you will require a smaller, less commercial-grade welder than if you are working in an outdoor workshop. Knowing your primary usage location will be a significant factor in deciding which welder to purchase.
Feed Rate & Duty Cycle
Another feature that is often overlooked is the feed rate and duty cycle of the welder. You should determine the types of welding jobs you will undertake to get a machine that can keep up with you. The wire feed speed is one of the most critical settings. If your speed is too high, the gun will sputter and kick-back in your hand. At the right speed for the voltage, the wire will feed at a constant rate, and the gun won’t buck around.
The duty cycle is the rating at which the machine must rest per ten-minute periods. For example, if you have a duty cycle rating of 60%, then the machine can run for a solid six minutes before needing to rest. The rest time will take up the other 40%, or four minutes before you can rerun it. Longer weld times will require a higher duty cycle percentage.
Wire Size & Material Thickness
You won’t be able to set your feed speed without knowing the wire size (in millimeters or gauge). The size, or thickness, of your feed wire will determine how much voltage and speed the machine needs to operate under.
The thickness of your workpiece metals is also important to know. Thinner pieces need less wire and lower temperatures to prevent burn through. Thicker metals may need a stick weld or a TIG weld since MIG is designed for more lightweight applications.
Weight & Portability
If you are going to mount your welder and bring the work to it, the weight and portability may not matter to you as much. However, if you plan on throwing the welder in the back of the truck and taking it to the worksite, you may want to think about how much the unit weighs.
Some welders will top the scales at over 100 pounds, making them less than ideal to cart around on a whim. The more portable units weigh in at 50 pounds or less, making them better for moving or relocating as the need arises.
Thermal Overload Protection
MIG welders get hot. Constant use can cause overheating and the breakdown of components. Thermal overload protection prevents the machines from overheating and should be included in your final purchase decision. If the machine you are looking at doesn’t come with thermal overload protection, you may want to consider an alternative option.
Easy to Setup & Use
Beginners need to focus on their welding skills and be less concerned with the equipment setup. Spending a little more for a welder that has a minimal and straightforward setup process could be the leg up you need to get your projects going.
Using the machine should be a natural and comfortable process. Looking for a welder with simple controls, easily followed instructions and the ability for some leniency in the settings is well worth a slightly higher investment price.
Price & Warranty
If you aren’t yet making money from your welding skill, you might be on a tighter budget. Learning the craft while working with a less expensive machine is okay. You can turn your hobby into a paying career and upgrade to more advanced tools as you go along.
Besides the initial price, you should make sure that the welder comes with a warranty. Most of the welders on the list below come with a valuable warranty that you should take advantage of. Even if the warranty comes at an additional cost (most don’t), it is worth it to get the warranty or extend the current warranty. This will save you time, money, and frustration down the road.
7 Best MIG Welders For Beginners Reviewed
1. Miller Electric
40% duty cycle @ 150A, 21.5V (240V)
30A to 250A
Wire Feed Speed
60 - 600IPM
Yes - 3 years
Few MIG welders will stand out on their own as much as this handy tool. Miller is a respected brand by even the most seasoned workers, so you know going in that they are going to produce something good. And despite this being more of an entry level machine, Miller more than delivered on those expectations.
The features and specs on this handy little welder are really impressive. Even if you are a beginner at mig welding now, you can be assured that as you grow in skill and take on more complicated jobs the Miller will handle what you throw at it.
Pros - Explained
Cons - Explained
This Miller machine will truly give you one of the highest quality welds you could ask for, while also being conveniently portable and easy to manage. The Miller Electric MIG Welder may not be for everyone due to the high cost, but if welding is one of your long-time passions then this could be the tool for you.
Here is a handy video from Miller giving some of the basics of MIG welding with their units:
2. Hobart 500554 Handler 190
30% duty cycle @ 130A, 20V
25A to 190A
Wire Feed Speed
40 - 740IPM
Yes – 5 years
The Hobart Handler 190 is our runner-up for the best MIG welder for beginners. The versatile machine is capable of running welds from 24 gauge up to 5/16 inches. Hobart created a heavy-duty machine with beginners in mind, and the 190 can take on tough farm equipment jobs down to delicate aluminum piecework.
With the optional SpoolRunner 100 spool gun, you don’t even need to feed the wire. If you do plan to use the welder for aluminum, the SpoolRunner 100 is required. The major problem is that the machine runs on 230 volts only and will require a dedicated power supply.
It isn’t the lightest machine, weighing in at 79 pounds, though the cart is portable with rear wheels for more comfortable transportation. The included setup guide takes you from unboxing to welding in just minutes.
Check out the Hobart MIG welding basics video for a better idea of what the Handler 190 can do.
If you are looking for a welder that is capable of taking on any project, the Hobart Handler 190 is your go-to option. You can weld and repair any steel, stainless or aluminum including car fenders, farm equipment or mailboxes. You will need a dedicated 230V power supply, though so keep this in mind when setting up your shop.
3. Lincoln Electric Powermig 210
25% duty cycle @ 200A, 24V (230V)
20A to 140/220A (120V/230V)
Wire Feed Speed
50 - 500IPM
Yes - 3 years
The Lincoln Electric Powermig 210 might be the most versatile welder around. Weighing just 40 pounds and capable of running off 120 or 230 volts, you can take the welder anywhere, plug it in and go.
The best-rated MIG welder for beginners can also be used for TIG, stick or even flux-cored welding. Taking you from beginner to expert as your skills improve. The most alluring aspect is the full-color display that not only makes setup simple but keeps the guesswork out of dial settings. The few dials it does have are push-to-turn so you won’t have to worry about settings changes with small bumps to the machine.
The Lincoln user interface is one of the best in the industry. Check out this video to see it in action.
If you are looking for the most versatile welder for all skill levels, the Lincoln Electric Powermig 210 is your answer. The full-color digital display makes setup and use a breeze and offers the ability to MIG, TIG, stick, or flux-core arc weld.
4. Forney Easy Weld 261
Best Portable Mig Welder For Beginners
30% duty cycle @ 90A, 19V
20A to 140A
Wire Feed Speed
10 - 150IPM
Yes - 1 year
The best portable MIG welder for beginners is arguably the Forney Easy Weld 261. The entire welder is designed with the novice in mind. Setup, use, and dial control are simplified to make the learning curve much smaller. The Forney welder is exceptionally lightweight (only 19 pounds!), so you can take it anywhere. The MIG operation is smooth and straightforward, so you can work on your technique without breaking the bank.
Unfortunately, the Easy Weld 261 isn’t designed for everyone. Journeymen welders and experts won’t find much use from this compact machine. If you are setting up a small shop in your home or want a portable machine to learn on, you can’t go wrong with the Forney model. For serious jobs and those requiring a more practiced hand, though, this may not be the best option for you.
If you think the Forney welder isn’t up to the task, take a look at this video showing off the full capabilities of the welder.
If you are a green welder and need a lightweight, low-cost welder to learn on, the Forney Easy Weld 261 is ideal. You won’t get the full welding experience or capabilities, but the learning curve is low to allow you to quickly hone your craft before upgrading to a more professional welder.
5. Hobart 500559 Handler 140
Value for Money Option
20% duty cycle @ 90 Amps, 19V
Wire Feed Speed
40 to 740IPM
Yes – 5 year
Another respected brand name on the welding market is Hobart. This model is one of the more affordable options from Hobart you will be able to find, which is always enticing for newer craftsmen. It is much better to fill out your shop with solid brands rather than skimp on no-name tools.
American made and well known in the farming community, this welder has a lot of qualities that make it one of the highest-ranking options in the industry.
Pros - Explained
Cons - Explained
With simple controls and various capabilities, this model is one of the best bangs for your bucks out there. As far as small MIGs go, a the price tag isn’t bad for something as portable and convenient as this. You can expect a lot of reliable use from this Hobart, regardless of if you’re building workbenches or doing exhaust systems.
Here is a YouTube video from a new MIG welder unboxing his new Hobart:
6. Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy
Best Beginner Mig Welder For Home Use
20% duty cycle @ 90 Amps, 19.5V
Wire Feed Speed
50 - 500IPM
Yes 1 year
Another great option for smaller welding jobs is the Lincoln Electric K2185-1 Handy model. Lincoln is a company that has been established for well over 120 years, so it is safe to say that they know their stuff in this department.
That should be a great comfort if you are just getting started with this type of welding. Knowing your equipment manufacturer has been working to improve for over a century means their products have a history of working for their customers.
Pros - Explained
Cons - Explained
If you’re a beginner who isn’t looking to weld any serious thick metal plates, this could be perfect for you. It gives you the opportunity to do some pretty powerful welding, while also being able to carry it easily and utilize different methods.
Here is a YouTube video showing the basics of MIG welding with the Lincoln welder:
7. Lotos MIG140
Best Cheap Beginner Mig Welder
20% @ 90 Amps, 19V
30 - 140A
Wire Feed Speed
50 - 550IPM
Yes 1 year
The rugged Lotos MIG140 140 Amp welder is built with sturdy materials, reassuring consumers that it can withstand a little knocking around. And let’s be honest – that is inevitable in any work space or garage.
The Lotos goes beyond just offering a great welder at a reasonable price – they also throw in a complement of needed accessories, which is perfect for someone just getting started. Rather than searching around for the other pieces you need, Lotos puts them all together into one package. Let’s take a look at why this affordable model is so coveted.
Pros - Explained
Cons - Explained
This inexpensive product gives you an impressive amount of accuracy control as well as a complete unit package, which is great for a beginner because it gives you the opportunity to feel out the different welding options and decide what you like to do and how you like to go about it so that you can continue practicing this unique craft.
Here is a helpful YouTube video from Lotos demonstrating the MIG140:
Setting Up a Welding Workshop
A welding workshop is crucial for hobbyist and career welders. When safety is paramount, you need to be able to control the environment as much as possible. TIG welding needs to be done indoors, as windy conditions are not suitable for the gas bubbles. You also need to be able to control the temperature as much as possible.
To set up a shop, you will need a good size room that allows you to house all of your equipment. Use a worktable that will suit your needs plus have enough room to maneuver around all sides. You also need proper ventilation, so make sure you have fans, windows, and air control devices such as air conditioners. On top of all of that, you should have the following equipment.
Using MIG Welders for Beginners
Beginners may not know how to set up a MIG welder properly. The process is straightforward and relatively simple. However, there are often things that overlooked by both beginners and journeymen alike. A refresher is never a bad idea, so we have compiled this list on the proper MIG welder setup.
Safety Tips While MIG Welding
Welding produces high heat, sparks, slag and spatters of molten metal. Fire and personal safety risks are imminent, yet avoidable. Taking the proper precautions before starting work will go a long way to avoiding injury, fire, equipment damage, or worse.
MIG Welders: Common Issues & Fixes
Below are some of the most common issues associated with MIG welders, their output, and the weld beads in general. If you experience any of these issues, the following list should help you diagnose the problem.
Weld bead or base metal
Heat input is too low, raise the input temperature.
You are most likely pushing the gun instead of pulling. Pull the gun down and use a 5 to 10-degree angle.
Input temperature is too high. Lower the temperature.
Bead and workpiece metals
Spatter is caused by high wire speed feeding and high voltage. Check your settings and lower the feed speed or voltage as necessary.
Wire Won’t Feed
Welding gun or welder
There is a jam or “birdnesting” with the wire spool. Check nozzle tension and open the welder to check the spool. Re-roll the wire and apply proper tension as needed.
The most common issue with a porous bead is metal contamination. Ensure the workpiece metals are clean, dry and free of contaminates
Besides the welder, gas tanks, nozzle, and wire, you will need to have some welding accessories in your shop or work area. Being overly prepared is better than having to stop in the middle of a project because you don’t have the right tool to complete the job. Let’s take a look at other items you will need.
The idea behind personal protection equipment, or PPE, is to prevent bodily harm while welding. Your entire skin surface should be covered, including hands, feet, arms legs, and torso. When shopping for PPE, you should make sure the equipment is rated for welding or at a minimum for extreme heat.
A welding helmet will cover your head, and along with a #10 or darker eye mask. You will prevent sparks from igniting your hair, landing on your face and neck and prevent arc eye. Welding gloves avoid burns, and a welding apron will protect your clothing a torso.
Other items to consider are a good pair of work boots, long pants designed for working conditions, and long sleeve shirt to protect your upper arms and shoulders. Even a bandana to prevent sweat from getting in your eyes is a good idea.
Tools and Miscellaneous Equipment
Once the PPE is taken care of, you will need other items in your shop to help with the welding process. Chipping hammers and wire brushes are used to clean up the workpiece metals, removing burrs, rust, paint, and other contaminants before welding.
Having a variety of gas nozzles and contact tips will ensure you are ready to weld whatever metal comes your way. A good mix will enable you to perform a weld on all metal types regardless of joining or hole repair size.
Finally, a good set of angle grinders will clean up your beads and smooth out any burs or globs created. The finished metal will be ready for sanding, painting, or application when you are finished with your portion of the job.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let us answer some of the most common questions about MIG welding and welding in general.
How hot is MIG welding?
MIG welding requires the base metal to melt to bind the workpiece metals. The temperature needed for this varies, and MIG welding can range from 3,000 to 20,000 degrees Celsius (5,500 to 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit).
What is arc eye in welding?
Arc eye is when the cornea of your eye is burned due to exposure of UV light. Sometimes called welder’s eye or a flash burn, arc eye can lead to permanent blindness.
How to know when to use MIG vs. TIG welding?
Besides experience and metal type, the primary difference between MIG and TIG welding comes down to the thickness of the metals being joined. TIG welding is superior with thinner metals, while MIG welding is ideal for thicker pieces.
What size MIG welder do I need?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to MIG welders. The best option, though, is to find a welder that can handle various sizes of feed wire, and produce a wide range of output amps. Single-pass phases can vary from 20 amps to 300 amps (or more). Buying a welder for general application use is almost impossible. However, with the right set up, choice of nozzles and gases, a welder that offers 30 to 150 amps output should cover most of your beginner needs.
How much does a good MIG welder cost?
The idea of a general price point for a good MIG welder is subjective. What defines a good welder and how much can you spend. In most cases the “you get what you pay for” adage fits, but you can find great deals during Amazon Black Friday MIG Welder specials. The accepted range for beginner MIG welders falls between $400 and $1,500.
How do you MIG weld without gas? Is that possible?
Technically, gasless MIG welding is impossible. The nature of a MIG weld uses gas to create a protective bubble around the weld point. When someone speaks of gasless MIG welding, they are generally using a flux core metal tube in a process called self-shielding.
What are the most popular brands of MIG Welders that are currently in the market?
Currently, the top three brands of MIG welders on the market are Miller, Lincoln, and Hobart. The brands are reliable, affordable, and durable. Many master welders still have their first Miller or Hobart welders that were purchased when they were still beginners.
Is stick welding stronger than MIG welding?
The short answer is no; stick welding is not stronger than MIG welding. However, it all depends on your stick or feed wire being used and the depth of the weld. Stick welding can penetrate deeper than wire fed MIG welding, which can produce a stronger bond. On a level playing field though, using the same tensile stick or wire will produce an equally strong weld.
Beginner welders aren’t limited in their welding choices anymore. You can learn to MIG weld in your spare time without having to go to a technical school. With welders becoming more affordable and more capable, the hobbyist and beginner MIG welder will be up to par quickly.
For the novice looking to hone the craft of welding and to learn on an affordable and highly-capable machine, the Miller Electric Millermatic 211 is the best option. It will not only help you learn how to weld correctly but is versatile and durable enough to last you for years to come. The initial investment will pay for itself, allowing you to maintain the same welder as you progress through the various welding skill levels.
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