Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is the perfect avenue for getting started in the craft: the learning curve is minimal, it requires little space and even less cleanup, and enables beginning welders to accomplish a significant amount of work in relatively little time—all of which can build the confidence needed to gradually take on more complex tasks. Before we look at some of the best options for low cost and cheap MIG welders on the market today, there are a few other factors you’ll need to consider as you start your first projects.
When using a MIG welder, you’ll need to select the correct amperage based on the type and thickness of steel you’ll be working with. You can refer to one of several online MIG calculators to determine the appropriate number of amps needed for your project, but in general, if you’re using one-millimeter steel, you’ll need a minimum of 30 amps to get the job done.
Even small welders draw substantial current, so be sure the outlets and wiring in your work area are sufficient for the task. If they’re not, you could end up with a dangerous fire on your hands. Most hardware stores sell the equipment needed to test your system’s capacity, but if you’re unsure, it’s worth the investment to have a professional electrician evaluate your setup and if necessary, install a dedicated outlet for your welder.
Welding carries a high risk of injury if your body isn’t properly protected from the powerful light and heat produced during the process. Don’t cut corners in this area—spend the money to get a good helmet, high-quality gloves, welding shirt or apron, leather shoes or boots and thick pants.
Make sure your welding area is well-ventilated, as the fumes produced by welding can cause permanent neurological and physical damage. The airflow should be sufficient to provide you with ample fresh air, but not so powerful that it disrupts your shielding gas. If you notice a buildup of fumes, take a break and open windows and doors or use a fan to help clear out the excess gases.
Now that your setup is ready to go, let’s dive into a review of the five best low-cost MIG welders available for consumer use.
Top 5 Cheap MIG welders
Goplus MIG 130 Welder
The Goplus MIG 130 Welder is an excellent choice for do-it-yourself home and automotive projects. Technically, the machine uses the gasless flux molding process, which relies on a flux-filled tabular wire versus drawing power from argon or carbon dioxide. The flux-cored wire allows the amateur welder to maintain operational efficiency without having to spend extra money on gas cylinders.
Features of the Goplus MIG 130
- Cost-effectiveness: The cored wire is not only more dynamic, but also less expensive than traditional steel wires.
- Heat and power control: Four heat and power settings allow the user to customize heat and speed for a wide range of applications.
- Speed control: The wire speed control feature makes it easy to adjust for an infinite number of sheet thicknesses.
- Value: The Goplus MIG 130 Welder includes all essential accessories, including a 65-inch welding gun, 72-inch power cord, welding wire, weld mask and brush, allowing you to get started on your projects right away.
- Safety: The thermal overload protection feature automatically disables the system if you’ve exceeded the machine’s operational limits, protecting you from injury and the welder from damage, while two air vents help regulate temperature.
- Efficiency: The welder’s built-in torch includes an on-off switch to make saving energy easy.
- Durability: A well-crafted steel frame ensures the welder will hold up over years of use.
Limitations of the Goplus MIG 130
- Output: The unit is not a DC output welder, and some users have reported frequent tripping with a 20-amp breaker, although it performs adequately for short welds.
- Accessory quality: Some users reported receiving cracked or broken masks, and others stated that the mask was of insufficient quality, so plan to invest in a separate welding mask to be safe.
Forney Easy Weld 299
The Forney MIG Welder 299 125FC Flux Core Welder is another affordable unit that offers brand-name quality at a modest price. This 120-volt, 125-amp unit is ideal for novice welders looking to complete small household tasks, and it comes with Forney’s 80-plus years of expertise in the industry.
Features of the Forney Easy Weld 299
- Ease of use: The Forney 299 125FC Flux Core Welder is intuitive and easy to use, even for beginners to welding.
- Portability: The welder’s lightweight body and comfortable handle make it easy to transport for all your project needs.
- Storage: The Forney 299 125FC Flux Core Welder includes a surprising amount of storage space for surplus wire (including the two-pound spool that comes with the unit).
- Warranty: As a testament to their commitment to quality, Forney includes a six-month warranty that covers any repairs or parts replacement needed due to defects in material or construction.
- Low-maintenance: The welder’s simple design keeps maintenance to a minimum; a basic cleaning to remove dust and dirt every few months is likely all the upkeep you’ll need to handle.
Limitations of the Forney Easy Weld 299
- Capacity: This unit is intended primarily for small projects, so if you’re looking for a welder to handle jobs that require thicker metals, it may not be your top choice. The Forney 299 125FC Flux Core Welder is best-suited for 24-gauge, ¼-inch metals and precise welding tasks, such as auto maintenance and chain-link fence repair.
- Short wire lengths: Some users may find the relatively short range of the wire feeder and work piece ground wires to be a bit of an inconvenience, but most users adjust with a little advanced planning.
Super Deal MIG 130
The Super Deal MIG 130 Welder is a high-quality, affordable household welding tool that offers powerful performance and intuitive features in a lightweight package.
Features of the Super Deal MIG 130
- Portability: The Super Deal MIG 130 is made of durable PVC, offering a comfortable grip and easy portability.
- Excellent performance: This welder uses wave form control technology with an adjustable inductor, allowing the user to customize the settings based on the requirements of the task at hand. This feature also increases fusion depth, reduces spatter and maintains a soft electric arc for more efficient operation.
- Versatility: Choose from a wide range of wire feed speed and temperature options to match the thickness of your steel.
- Control: The digital soft-key control panel is easy to use, even with welding gloves on, reducing the occurrence of errors and providing constant feedback about the machine’s settings.
- Clean metal tip: The copper tip prevents slag buildup while welding and is easy to replace with the included spare tips when necessary.
- Thermal overload protection: A cooling fan and thermal overload protection feature prevent overheating and potential damage to the unit.
- Convenience: The welder’s compact size and light weight make it easy to store, transport and reposition for various project needs.
Limitations of the Super Deal MIG 130
- Power source: Some users found that the unit consistently tripped a 20-amp breaker on a 120-volt circuit and suggest running the welder on a dedicated breaker to prevent this issue.
- Speed: Even at its lowest settings, the wire speed is too fast for some users, who complained that the speed resulted in a sloppy-looking job.
Lincoln Electric K2278-1
The Lincoln Electric K2278-1 Handy Core welder is a well-rounded entry-level welder ideal for most home welding projects. This all-inclusive unit comes with welder, clamp, sample wire and shield, offering a simple, straightforward setup process and intuitive operation that will allow even beginning welders to dive right into their work.
Features of the Lincoln Electric K2278-1
- Compatibility: The welder runs well off conventional 110-volt, 20-amp household outlets.
- Quality: Purchase with confidence—Lincoln includes a one-year limited warranty on parts and labor on the Handy Core unit.
- Safety: Overload protection feature automatically shuts down the unit to prevent overheating.
- Portability: At 45 pounds, this compact, lightweight unit travels with you from job to job.
Limitations of the Lincoln Electric K2278-1
- Price: While still affordable, the Lincoln’s base price is almost double that of many of its competitors.
- Capability: The Handy Core doesn’t use gas and doesn’t have the capacity to handle heavy-duty projects.
HIT 140 MIG Welder
Don’t be fooled by its small size: the compact yet powerful HIT 140 Amp 120-Volt MIG Welder is versatile enough to take on automotive and industrial projects of all sizes at home or in the shop.
Features of the HIT 140 MIG Welder
- Compatibility: The HIT 140 works with three MIG and flux-core wire sizes (.23 inches, .3 inches and .35 inches), with or without shielding gas.
- Powerful performance: The unit can handle one-pass welding of mild carbon steel up to 3/16” thick or 24-gauge.
- Convenience: The welder plugs into a traditional 120-volt outlet.
- Versatility: Use the welder with a spool gun (not included) at any speed setting.
- Safety: The system offers advanced thermal overload protection, and an indicator light alerts you to pending shutdowns.
- Control: Enjoy total heat control with an infinite range of heat settings.
- Value: The kit includes a six-foot MIG torch, 10-foot gas hose with regulator, TWECO type MIG gun, one MIG nozzle, two .3-inch contact tips, and a 10-foot ground cable with earth clamp and hex wrench.
Limitations of the HIT 140 MIG Welder
- Price: Like the Lincoln, the HIT unit runs about twice the price of its competitors in this category.
The Bottom Line
In the low-cost MIG welder category, price doesn’t necessarily predict performance. Most of the models at the low end of the cost range performed just as well as the units priced twice as high. Before making your selection, be sure to confirm that the welder is compatible with your power supply and job requirements. If you go with one of the lower-priced units, you may consider using the money you save to invest in a dedicated breaker for it in your garage or shop.
No matter which entry-level welder you end up with, don’t skip out on the protective gear. A high-quality mask, gloves, boots, pants and shirt or apron will allow you to work safely and efficiently for decades to come.
And if you are looking to scale up, check our our other list of the six best MIG welders.