What You Will Get Here
- Why you should trust us
- What is a MIG welder?
- Things to consider when buying
- How did we pick these products?
- Our top 10 product list
- Editor’s Choice: Hobart 500559 Handler
- Beginner's Choice: Forney Easy Weld 261
- Great for Home Projects: Goplus MIG 130 Welder
- Budget Choice: Super Deal PRO
- Top Aluminum Choice : Hobart 500554 Handler
- Advanced Choice: Hobart 500536001 IronMan
- A list of 4 other products we reviewed
- Other models we also tested
- Mig welding safety tips
- Mig welder maintenance tips
Why you should trust us
You might be wondering about the credibility of the Drillly team for coming up with scores of reviews on different drilling and welding tools. Our team consists of a group of professional welders and woodworkers based in Nevada, US. We've been familiar with the evolving welding technology for the last couple of decades and had the luck to work with some of the most advanced welding machines on the market.
We are not alone though. We have a network of welding experts around the world who collaboratively researching on the improvement of this technology. Our team aims to create a stronger community network among the welding workers around the world. Most of our research works are directed towards that direction. More importantly, our product reviews and how-to blogs that you find on our website are for building an informed community of welders.
Furthermore, our research-based reviews delve deep into the features of each power tool to expose their potentials to our audience, so they could make the right choice for themselves.
What is a MIG welder?
MIG or Metal Inert Gas is a welding process that allows you to join two base metals using an electrode and a welding rod or wire. The electrode or MIG wire melts as heat is applied to form an adhesive. This liquid that flow is what joins the metals.
The welding gun produces an inert gas that shields the joint from contaminants in the atmosphere. Most of these wire feed models do not need welding rods making the metal joining process faster. The whole operation is simple enough for you to use despite your low skills.
A high-end MIG welder model allows you to work on metals like aluminum, stainless steel, and nickel irrespective of the thickness. It produces smooth joints at a faster rate. It can operate in both semi-auto and full-auto modes. For non-ferrous metals such as aluminum or nickel, pure argon is used for joining.
You’ll need a wire drive system, welding gun, inert gas tank, and power source for your MIG welding. The wire drive system draws the electrode out from the spool for it to pass through the gun. This process generates heat thus, the need for a cooling system. So, if you’re using a water-cooled gun, you’ll need a water source.
Whether you prefer a TIG or a MIG welder, choosing such a device may not be as easy as you think. Don’t worry, this buying guide has everything you need for a safe buy.
Things to consider when buying
Now that you have a little idea about this machine, it is important to know how to make your choice. So, knowing the following features and aspects will help you make the right decision.
1. Welding processes
MIG welders can either come with flux-cored or multi-function welding.
- Flux-Cored Welding – This welding process allows you to perform the metal joining operation without an extra gas cylinder. The only disadvantage is the residue that you’ll remove with hand.
- Multi-function Welding – This multi process function allows you to switch between two welding processes at any time. It is very useful when you’re working on a project that involves different welding techniques. It also saves time and cost because the two processes are in one machine.
2. Input voltage
Each of the top models operates at an input voltage level which might be different from your power outlet. But, you can choose to get models with dual voltages. So, what are these voltage range? These include:
- 110 -120 Volt
This is the most fitting machine for home use since you can connect the plug to your power outlet. But, its output power is low which makes it only suitable for thin or soft metals. Thus, you’ll need to increase the power to join thicker metals.
- 220-230 Volt
The 220 Volt model is perfect for joining thicker metals. But, you’ll need to install a 220 Volt power outlet when using it in your home. It is ideal for outdoor projects, especially where you cannot access the 110 Volt outlet.
AC power source is most common for these tools. However, there are DC options for which the price is on the higher side.
3. Duty cycle
The efficiency of the machine is a product of its duty cycle. It determines the length of time you’ll use the machine per session of the weld. The duty cycle is given as a percentage. So, how do you calculate the duty cycle of a MIG welder?
A MIG welder with a duty cycle of 70 percent will operate for 7 minutes before it overheats. Then, it’ll take another 3 minutes for it to cool. And a 40 percent duty cycle will run for 4 minutes and then rest for the next 6 minutes.
If the output power of your machine is high, your duty cycle will be shorter. This means, the time it’ll take the machine to cool is proportional to the quantity of heat it generates. Yet, good models come with efficient fans and vents that help reduce its cooling time.
4. Thermal overload protection
Some models come with overheat or thermal overload protection. This feature stops the machine once you exceed the duty cycle. Thus, saving it from further damages or injuries to the user.
5. Material thickness
As our field-testing suggests, some of the high-end 110v models did not have the power to penetrate thicker metals. They could join thin sheet metals comfortably. So, you’ll need to invest in a more powerful machine if your metal piece is very thick.
Yet, the thickness of the material will determine the thickness of the wire that’ll be used for the weld. So, if the material is thin, then you’ll use a small wire. But if the material is thick, the wire will be large. Also, the wire and the metal should be of the same material. For example, to join a stainless steel material, the electrode will be of stainless steel.
6. Output power
The size and type of the material you’re to join will determine your output power. Most of the top models come with instructions that allow you to set the right output power for the weld.
Here is an example of the chart that shows the thickness of the metal and the output power.
|Gauge||Metal Thickness in mm||Output Power in Amps|
7. Size & transportability
Another important factor you’ll consider when choosing your machine is its size, weight, and ability to carry. If you’ll be using it only in the workshop, then the weight is not a problem. But, if you’ll be moving it to a different location, then you should buy a model that is small and lightweight with a suitcase design for portability.
You know that the heavier the welder, the harder it is to transport. The most portable tool weighs only about 20 pounds while the heavy models weigh from 200 pounds up. Most of these portable machines use an inverter which in turn, lowers their weight. Lighter models are easy to handle, so, vertical and horizontal both types of welding can be operated.
8. Spool gun
Most welders do not allow you to attach a spool gun which is very necessary when working aluminum materials. You need to look out for this feature before buying your machine. Also, try to buy a spool gun that comes with the quick release feature.
9. Shielding gas
The application of shielding gas, mostly CO2 (Carbon Dioxide), protects the liquid welded metal from contacting surrounding Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen and other hyperactive gases that would otherwise quickly react to the freshly applied metal and degrade its quality. For this reason, MIG gun consumables throw the shielding gas on the freshly molten metal to keep it corrosion free
10. Repair & maintenance
Make sure you buy from a reliable manufacturer who provides a set of complete papers with detailed user manual and maintenance tips. It's not just this metal joiner, whenever someone is buying a gadget, the warranty policy must be understood beforehand. In case you face trouble with your machine within the warranty period, this will save some bucks. In the later section of this review, we'll be giving you some maintenance tips, you're advised not to miss it.
11. Brand & warranty
One of the things that will reduce the cost of maintenance is the warranty. If your welding machine has warranty coverage, then you’ll not spend much to fix it. Some brands offer at least 5 years’ warranty along with customer support services.
Ensure that you buy from a manufacturer with a warranty. Try to compare the ratings and reviews by other users before buying.
MIG welders could be as low as $200 to as high as $1400 (multi-process welders). Your budget will determine the quality of the unit you might use.
How did we pick these products?
The Drillly team conducted thorough online market research on the top rated MIG welder models. After 20 hours of research, we could listed down 20 top models from brands that make the best MIG welders on the market. Our field testing session started right after that. Our team members participated in the painstaking hands-on testings of the initially listed products. Since we couldn’t test all the models ourselves, we engaged some community-based volunteers to assist us.
We compared the results of our findings with that of the volunteers to find out their reliability. Besides, we consulted with persons who’d several years of experience with these machines.
Finally, we collated the results from the tests, research, and consultations. We ranked the products by their features, price, usability, durability, and warranty. This helped us to prepare the list of final 10 models. Also, we searched other popular online shops like Amazon to see if the reviews and ratings from the users agree with our list.
From our results, we are confident that our recommendations are the top models you’ll find on the market.
Our top 10 product list
Here are our chosen MIG welder models for you. You’ll read the reviews to find out the model with the qualities you need.