Not that long ago, a list of best welders would only have been relevant to trained professionals. Thanks to advances in welding technology, today’s welding rigs are smaller, safer, and easier to use than ever before. Shade-tree mechanics and hobbyists can reasonably expect to buy a welding rig off the shelf at a local hardware store, and with guidance from a few YouTube tutorials, be welding successfully the same afternoon.
Of course, complicated or large welding jobs should only be done by certified welders. Anytime you’re dealing with structural issues like frame repair or safety items, you’re not in an area of welding where trial and error applies.
On the other hand, buying a welder and performing simple welding tasks on your own can save time and money, and while challenging, can actually be fun. There’s nothing like finishing a weld and realizing that it looks like a stack of dimes to give you some real pride in your skills and accomplishments.
For more information on the best welders for the home garage, refer to our table of contents.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: Forney Easy Weld
- 2. Hobart Handler MIG Welder
- 3. Miller Electric Millermatic
- 4. Lincoln Electric PRO-MIG Welder
- 5. Hobart Ironman MIG Welder
- What is welding?
- What’s the difference between welding, brazing, and soldering?
- What kind of welder is best for beginners?
- What other equipment will I need for welding?
1. Editor's Pick: Forney Easy Weld
For the beginner on a budget, it’s hard to find a welder that’s simpler than the Forney Easy Weld, a handy entry-level wire-feed welder. It has just two controls—voltage and wire feed speed control. It is powerful, with up to 140-amp output, so you can weld mild steel up to 1/4-inch thick.
Portable and compact, it weighs only 19 lbs, and has a convenient top carry handle, while measuring 16.75-inches long by 8.125-inches wide by 12-inches tall. It comes with an eight-foot gun, eight-foot ground clamp, and a 20-amp to 15-amp adapter plug. It is ruggedly built with an all-metal case, and can handle up to a 10-lb spool of wire. Case is boldly painted in a fluorescent green.
2. Hobart Handler MIG Welder
A step up in price from the Forney, but still affordable, is the Hobart Handler MIG Welder. A true MIG welder, the Hobart Handler can be used without gas with flux core wire, or with gas and standard wire. It comes with a sample spool of flux core wire so that you can use it right out of the box. It has a five-position voltage control selector and an adjustable feed speed knob from 40 to 740 inches per minute. The control panel is angled, so you can see the settings from a standing position when the welder is on the ground.
It comes with a 10-foot MIG gun, a 10-foot work cable with clamp, a power cord to connect to household current (115-volt), a dual gauge regulator with a gas hose, .030 contact tips, and a material thickness gauge. It also has a Quick Select drive roll, which allows you to switch from two-inch to eight-inch spools in an instant.
3. Miller Electric Millermatic
Miller Electric is the Cadillac of welders, and the Millermatic 211 is a professional rig that is priced accordingly. But if you want the best portable MIG welder that you can run on standard household 120/240-volt current, this one should be in your consideration. Take all of the features that you’d find on the Hobart Handler above, and add automated ones such as Advanced Auto-Set, Auto Spoolgun Detect, and Smooth-Start—all Miller features that are designed to make welding easier.
Additional features include Quick Select Drive Roll, thermal overload protection, and Fan-On-Demand. The Millermatic 211 can weld metal up to 3/8-inch thick. It comes with a 10-foot MIG gun, 10-foot work cable with clamp, built-in gas solenoid valve, dual-gauge regulator with gas hose, two .030 contact tips, a sample spool of .030 solid wire, two hook-and-loop cord wraps, and a material thickness gauge. It measures 20.5-inches long by 11.25-inches wide by 12.5 inches-tall.
4. Lincoln Electric PRO-MIG Welder
More power in equals more power out. If you’ve got access to a Level 2 (240-volt) outlet, you might want to consider a welder like the Lincoln Electric PRO-MIG 180 Welder. You can use it as a wire-feed with flux core wire, or switch to MIG by adding a gas source and using the included regulator and gas hose. This is a heavy duty machine with a durable cast aluminum gear box to deliver added drive torque and quiet operation. Quality brass-to-brass gun connection enhances connectivity.
Weighing in at 66 lbs, the PRO-MIG 180 is technically portable, but you won’t want to be hauling it around much. It is 18.6-inches long by 10.15-inches wide by 14-inches tall, so it will fit well on many carts. It is priced for professional use, but still uses simple two-knob operation (voltage and wire-feed speed). Includes a 10-foot gun, 10-foot cable with clamp, multiple contact tips for flux-core and gas welding, a gas regulator, 52-inch gas hose, and a spindle adaptor. Two sample spools of wire are also included.
5. Hobart Ironman MIG Welder
Hobart offers a wide range of welders for a variety of purposes. The Hobart Ironman 230 is designed for serious work, delivering 30 to 250 amps of power in a heavy duty machine. It is conveniently portable, with two wheels on the rear and two casters in front, making getting the 224-lb unit into just the right spot possible without a big struggle or additional equipment.
At 31.4-inches long by 18.9-inches wide by 36.5-inches tall, it does its work with maximum efficiency. You’ll need a 240-volt power source to operate this MIG rig. As a reward, you’ll get smooth arc starts and the capability of welding up to 1/2-inch thick material. It comes with a 15-foot, 200-amp welding gun, precision 12-tap voltage control, and a 60-percent duty cycle so you can keep on working longer.
What is welding?
Welding is a process of fusing two pieces of material together by adding heat or pressure (or both), forming a union together as the pieces cool. You can weld metal, plastic, or even wood with the right process. Welding can be used to fill gaps in existing material; it can also be used to dismantle materials. There are basic four types of welding: Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) or Metal Inert Gas (MIG); Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW/TIG); Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW); and Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW). The most common welders used by consumers are MIG and TIG welders.
What’s the difference between welding, brazing, and soldering?
Welding uses high heat to melt two like metals, which then meld together and join as they cool. Done properly, the welded joint is as strong or stronger than the surrounding material.
Brazing joins two metals by heating and melting a filler (alloy) that bonds to the two pieces of metal and joins them. It can join dissimilar metals, but the joint is not as strong as a welded joint.
Soldering uses low temperatures (relative to welding and brazing) to melt a filler that joins two pieces of metal together. The joint is not as strong as the surrounding material nor is it as strong as a welded or brazed joint. Soldering is used extensively in electrical components.
What kind of welder is best for beginners?
Beginners should look for a welder that is a wire-feed type and can use welding wire that contains flux. This will eliminate the need to add a tank of gas, and will allow you to do simple, non-critical welds while you learn your craft.
Experienced welders will get better results with a MIG welder that uses a gas setup, and welders who need maximum power can step up to a TIG welder for bigger jobs, though many home shops will find TIG welding too expensive, and possibly overkill.
What other equipment will I need for welding?
In addition to a welder, you’ll need welding wire, which comes in spools of different sizes and compositions. Match the wire to the job. If you’re doing MIG or TIG welding, you’ll also need a gas supply, and you may need to purchase an auxiliary tank.
Welding can be dangerous, so don’t scrimp on safety equipment. Eye protection is paramount—either welding goggles, or a welding mask are necessary. A pair of heavy-duty welding gloves will protect your hands, and a welder’s coat or apron will protect your body. Long sleeves are highly recommended—opt for a flameproof material, for obvious reasons.
Always have a working fire extinguisher on hand, and be sure to prepare your work area before you start welding. You’re going to be throwing some sparks, so clean up that pile of sawdust and move those half-empty gas cans before you begin your work.
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