The prospect of learning a new skill can make one’s motivational-hormone go wild with excitement. A handful of failures and pop blows the motivation-balloon replaced by a cloud of frustration. Learning how to weld with a MIG Welder is no exception.
However, MIG Welders have an easy learning curve. They helped me through this challenging phase. It can help you, too, if you’re up to it.
So, if you’re willing to walk the long path of becoming a welding-warrior… you must start as an initiate, and for that, you’ll need a MIG welder. Motivation is the first step though, the next thing I needed was a budget around $1000.
It got me a mid-range welder that would go on to last for a couple of years before dying out.
Anyways… as a seasoned veteran, now it’s my time to guide newcomers on how to select the ideal welding tool. The weapon of choice is the best MIG welder under 1000 (I’ll tell you why later). Now, once you start looking for said weapon, things could go south quickly due to a vast collection.
Therefore, I’ll show you the path that led me from a welding-wannabee to a welder-extraordinaire.
- Best MIG Welders Under $1000
- Some Parting Wisdom
Comparison Table of Best Mig Welder Under $1000
|Hobart 500559||200 Amp||115V||65.0 pounds|
|LOTOS MIG175||175 Amp||220V/240V||85.0 pounds|
|LINCOLN K2697-1||70 Amp||120V ||62.0 pounds|
|Weldpro Welder||200 Amp||220V/110V||30.4 pounds|
|Lincoln K2185-1||70 Amp||115 volts||26.0 pounds|
|SUNGOLDPOWER||200 Amp||110/220V||44 pounds|
What to Expect from A $1000 MIG Welder?
A thousand dollars flying out does create a void in most people’s wallets. I’ve seen a lot of newbie welders unwilling to spend the amount. They remain skeptical whether the machine can dish out their money’s worth.
Before you go and shoot a long verse of curses, it’s wise to understand what a $1000 welder brings to the table. No matter how much you want, a $1000 welder is mid-tier and will fall on its face if you’re putting it beside an industrial-grade welder.
It doesn’t mean you get a doll for your dime that you can simply use for experimentation. A mid-tier welder has enough juice in its system for any home projects. I’ve used my LOTOS MIG175 and WeldPro 2020 to create some sturdy tables and racks.
The quality of a thousand-dollar welder isn’t necessarily lower than an industrial machine. What holds a mid-tier welder back is the duty cycle. The standard for these welders is 20 to 30%, meaning you’ll get to use the welder for 2-3 minutes per 10-minute cycle.
I don’t think it’s bad; I just have to work around the timing, that’s all. But my experience with mid-tier welders has taught me that even juniors can stand up to the big-boys if I use them right. Yes- a lot of the effectiveness comes down to your own skills. As they say, it’s more about the wielder than the sword.
I can’t deny that some $1000 welders offer more than I’ve expected. Take the WeldPro 2020, for example. It had three different welding options- MIG/TIG/Stick- so I could go wild with my practicing. I practiced and used all the weld-options for a couple of home projects.
Mid-tier welders did justice to me, and they’d do the same for you if you keep your foot to the ground. I know that $1000 is hard to come by, but you need to be realistic and have a leash on expectations. I’d say a $1000 MIG welder can help you enter the wild-weld. Also, it’ll be a completely different beast in the hands of a master.
Best MIG Welders Under $1000
It’s time to look into the welding machines themselves. When I was a beginner, I only got one machine to test things out. Later, I’ve tried a bunch to figure out how much a thousand buck-welder can bring to the table. Let me show you the results of my experience and research for this article in these short reviews.
The Hobart 500559 Handler is my first love. By giving me easy access to the world of welding, Hobart’s 140 marvel molded me into the welder I am today. The first thing you should know about Hobart is it supports both Gas-powered welding (GMAW) and cord-powered welding (FCAW).
I started out with cord-powered welding because it made less sense to thin my wallet out even more for a gas cylinder. Although in the FCAW setting, the wire was in a hurry to dry out, the results were up to the mark as I expected.
Although I was scared to invest close to a thousand bucks for my first purchase, I was more than satisfied with the performance. When I got the machine, I opened it to check if everything’s in order. To my surprise, I found a chart right under its hood. The list has all metrics down to the last detail.
The sheet is also available in the manual, but it’s rather inconvenient to walk around holding a paper all the time. Whenever I forgot what settings to choose for what surface, just opened the hood, and voila! Tweaking the setting became less terrifying, as the sheet was a silent mentor.
Besides, the beads I got from the machine were crisp and clean. I would also come out and say that getting all the juice out of this product is difficult.
For instance, I had trouble working with 24-gauge metal; the arc was too powerful and was slicing through the surface like paper. However, a .5-inch gap between the material did the trick for me, so I was able to get the full performance.
I also tried out 1/4 steel to see how it holds up. Turns out, the results were okay-ish, the beads were a little feeble for my liking.
The best thickness range for Hobart 500559 is 1/8. I saw the machine in all its glory while working with 1/8 steel. And I have no qualms about it because most household projects don’t need steels thicker than 1/8.
The machine came to me as a ready-to-devour instant-noodles. I’ve seen a lot of people get taken aback by this, as they can’t get the machine kicking despite its ready-to-use feature.
Let me clarify; the welder came with a cord-powered (FCAW) setting. So, you need to either use it like an FCAW welder, or change the wire, and call in the gas cylinder for a GMAW setting.
After a few years of use, I was satisfied with this welder. However, I do think the manufacturer could’ve done a couple of things better. For instance, the ground clamp boasts of handling material 1 to 1.5 inches thick. In reality, while it does clamp 1-inch materials, there’s no shot in hell for it to peg down a 1.5 incher.
Also, the 20% duty cycle is a bummer, gives me 12 minutes of non-stop action out of 60. Still, as a scared newbie, the Hobart 500559 Handler helped me break my cocoon.
While Hobart’s performance was consistent, the price point is at the tip of 1000 dollars. So, I wanted to see if I can cut some corners with money and still come out unscathed.
After a few clicks here and a few videos there, I came across the LOTOS MIG175. And I’d be blunt in declaring that a deal so sweet is hard to come by.
When I say deal, I mean the whole package that comes along with the machine. The product comes with a lot of nifty accessories, albeit not all of them are important.
What caught my attention is the inclusion of a spool gun. I’ve seen spool guns sold separately at wallet-slashing prices. Here is a manufacturer giving it out for free. A curious development. I couldn’t help but get intrigued.
Now that I’ve used the LOTOS MIG175 for quite some time, I understand that their spool gun can’t stand in the ring against the big-boy spool guns. However, getting the accessory for free gives LOTOS’s spool gun a tinge of superiority despite the occasional performance issues.
Plus, I had a seamless time working with aluminum for free, and that’s a win in my book.
Apart from the spool gun, the rest of the accessories are standard, that’s all I have to say. Now, coming to the power of this machine, the MIG175 does have more amperage than Hobart (35 more to be precise).
Initially, I assumed the natural outcome of having more current-flow would be greater power, and that’s true in some cases. I found the performance metrics to be nearly identical, with two exceptions.
While my Hobart machine could work much better with thin material (24 gauge), the LOTOS would give out at 18 gauge.
However, I was able to force the machine to weld a 3/8 metal sheet, which is way beyond its paygrade. The only reason I pushed was that I thought (theoretically) more amperage backing up the machine has to mean better performance with thicker metals.
I also found a chart under the welder’s hood. The chart outlines all the settings I need to tweak before I go to town with the welder. It’s another added benefit because I don’t want to engage in a staring contest with the manual (which also has the chart) while I’m working.
The biggest problem with LOTOS’s MIG175 is that they’re consumables are almost exclusive. For instance, you couldn’t use the spool pump in another welder even if you wanted to. So, that does not bode well for a professional who’s prone to tinkering a lot.
However, once I start weighing the features and expenses, I can easily declare this welder as one of the top MIG welders within budget. In my eyes, it’s a top contender for the throne.
I started to get the hang of MIG welding after using both the welders I’ve talked about earlier. Once I started to understand the ins and outs, I thought it was time to extend my experimentation even further. So, I decided to get my hands on the LINCOLN ELECTRIC’s K2697-1.
The price point is exactly in the middle with this machine, neither as high as Hobart nor as low as LOTOS.
Just like the price, even the performance is mid-tier, making it a suitable product for beginners, but not really up to professional standards. However, I did use it for a handful of professional work; it was exhausting, though.
The biggest perk of K2697-1 is having both GMAW and FCAW welding (refer to the top if you’ve missed). I always love having multiple options, and it makes me feel in control of my work. I get to choose which method I’d want to as the situation arises.
Unlike LOTOS’s welder, this one doesn’t come with a spool gun, so dealing with aluminum was tougher (not impossible though). However, the welder does come with a roll of MIG wires and flux core wires.
Not having to buy them separately was a pleasant experience, as I could get my hands dirty as soon as the machine set foot in my workshop.
I started out with the cord-powered setting on 1/4-inch thick metal sheets, and the beads were quite consistent. I was impressed with flux core wire’s performance, that too coming from a 140-amp welder. Regardless, the sudden burst of affection was somewhat canceled out by the gas-powered setting’s performance.
The beads were a little bubbly for my liking. The stout ground clamp holding the fort swimmingly, so I don’t think it’s my skills are in question here, it was definitely the MIG wires performance.
I forgot to tell you the best part- the welder has a fat warranty of three years. So, that does (at least for me) surmount the MIG wires performance issues. I didn’t need the warranty yet, but having one in the quiver feels nice.
It doesn’t weigh too much, coming at 62 pounds, it’s not too difficult to lift it up. I’ve moved it around several times to find a suitable place for it to sit in, and no- it didn’t ruin my night’s sleep with back pain.
Finally, I’m not too happy about the duty cycle of this welder. I understand that a mid-tier welder won’t have a professional duty cycle, but at least I expect a standard 30%. This welder does hold its own (trust me), but the 20% duty cycle is a serious no-no.
Just like this welder’s price is in the middle, the quality is as well, and I’m also stranded in the same place; it’s a very average welder, according to me.
Going from brand to brand was getting a little tedious, so I decided it’s time to go off-brand and see what lurks behind that curtain. Looking into a few welders, I stumbled upon 2020 Weldpro 200 Amp, and it was a stumble of the ages I must say.
I’ve always been crazy about multi-purpose devices, and for a good reason as well. It amazes me to see neat little machines man-handling two or even three tasks at once. The Weldpro 200 Amp is a similar three-in-one welder that has MIG, TIG, and Stick welding.
I found it at $700, and having three functions in one machine for such a cost seemed too good to be true (I was skeptical). However, after taking this welder for a spin, I realized I’ve never been so wrong.
I started with Stick welding, and the performance was satisfactory. The beads were more than what I’d expected. Afterwards, I began experimenting with MIG welding, and I’d say that’s the strongest suite this welder.
Finally came TIG welding, and not a shocker to me, but TIG welding was its weakest link. TIG welding is an intricate process, and this machine just doesn’t live up to that.
While tinkering with different welders, I saw a lot of safety features, but the VRD feature blew me out of water. The feature in all its entirety was so simple yet so elegant.
If I leave the welder turned on for a long time, the arc starts collecting voltage. Anybody suddenly pulling the arc’s trigger can cause a voltage-explosion of sorts. The VRD (by itself) halts the attacker before it gathers too much momentum.
Furthermore, I found the dual voltage options to be another boon. Even in a home 110V setting, I was able to get the machine up and running, but the low-voltage does force the machine to hold back considerably. So, 220V will be “THE” choice for heavy-duty welding.
I know what you’re thinking. And I admit, I am a fanboy of the WeldPro 200 (and for a good reason). I wasn’t a fan when I bought the product; I was just curious. My mind was racing to understand how a meager 30-pound welder can boast of having three weld options.
I was surprised (shocked as I explored) to see the beauty of this welder. Anyways, I should remain forthright and inform duly that the TIG welding is nothing more than a toy (yes, it’s that bad).
But still, I keep fanboying over the fact that it gave me three different welding options at such an unbelievable price point. As a beginner, I could experiment away without having to buy three separate welders.
Therefore, I’d go as far as to declare (which I usually don’t) that the Weldpro 200 is the best MIG welder for the money.
It took me a little while to break myself off from the Weldpro-dazzle. So, when I did break free, I continued my adventure through the rabbit hole.
I halted at the tiny Lincoln K2185-1, throwing caution to the winds as I wondered whether this device (with such a compact construction) could never stand toe to toe with any good welder out there.
So, I got the K2185-1, and my previous notions of disregard started falling apart. Firstly, this is really cheap for what it does (I would’ve added “super” but I’ll save it for later). You’ll be hard put to find anything that lasts within a budget of 400.
While the welder says it’s compatible with 24 gauge, I found it a little lacking. But with 23- or 22-gauge materials, the performance was up to mark. One can work with 24 gauge (as I did), but their welding game has to be spot on.
If you haven’t guessed already, let me tell you, this welder weighs around 26 pounds only (which is why it got my attention). I could carry it around, pretending to have an oversized handbag. It came in real handy when I had to travel to my friend’s cottage to get some welding done.
While a lot of users have mixed options about this welder, I didn’t find anything to be a major dealbreaker. I think most complaints revolve around the machine’s inability to handle anything thicker than 1/8-inch.
However, I think such expectations from a machine of this price range is like asking a baby to knock out a full-blown adult.
I admit, compared to other welders, it is a baby, and judging by its performance and amperage, that was the whole point of this product. So, if heavy-lifting is on the menu, best leave Lincoln’s K2185-1 out of the party.
Also, the machine came with both MIG wire and flux core wire (one set). So, it was prepared for battle right out of the box. The GMAW (MIG wire) setting has better performance than the FCAW (flux core). For some reason, the flux core wires seem too willing to run to their demise.
My recommendation would be to get a gas cylinder for MIG; one could take chances with flux core wires; I don’t think it’s worth the consumables.
Despite me defending this welder for less-than-optimal performance, its duty cycle bums me out. The interruption that follows a 20% duty cycle is a mood killer. I know that 30% would mean three minutes (a minute extra), but the extra 60 seconds gives me butterflies.
Still, I don’t hold it against the K2185-1. I think the little dude dishes out enough oomph for beginners to take advantage of. I wouldn’t call it the top MIG welder under 1000, but the price to performance ratio does make it a worthy challenger.
I trotted down the off-brand lane one more time before calling it quits. And my final discovery was the SUNGOLDPOWER MIG 140. Earlier I refrained from adding “super” before the word “cheap because I was holding out for this little welder.
By far, this is the cheapest welder I’ve tried, and I was not too stoked when I bought it (didn’t think it would amount to anything). Yet, the welder (judging by its price) can give its competitors a good run for their money.
For starters, a dual voltage option with a 140-amp motor is rare for a machine priced at less than $250. I have both 110- and 220-volt outlets, so it was nice to know I could make use of both. Besides, having a 110-volt option did help me cut down some power costs.
I was also surprised to see the welder being friends with both MIG wires (GMAW) and flux core wires (FCAW). I never expect budget welders to have more than one arrow in their quiver, but I was happy to see that it has a few shots to give.
The welder’s testing commenced with flux core wires, and the performance was shaky (horrible at certain edges of the metal surface). I was trying out 3/16 metal sheets, and my initial disappointment did weigh me down.
However, I’m not the one to go down without a fight, so I started tweaking the settings, and after a while I saw the machine does excellent work with 3/16 sheets.
So, what I understood from this experiment is that the manufacturer’s attempt to cut costs by not giving a digital readout meter is a punch in the face (especially for beginners). The manual adjustment system is fine, and there’s not wrong with it, one just needs to know where the wind flows through some trial and error.
Furthermore, I could traipse around my workshop with one hand engaged with a coffee mug, and the other with this welder. The 22.8lbs weight helped me enact this delightful scenario.
So, after having so many elite welders, why would I even keep the SUNGOLD? The answer is duty cycle, my friend. It has a 60% duty cycle, an absolute stamina monster. If you’ve read this far, you know how stingy I can get with my dear duty cycles, and this machine hits the ball way out of the park.
However, it’s tricky to recommend this welder to anyone. It’s here and there, torn between two worlds. For instance, the cost, weight, and easy-to-start make it beginner-friendly, but adjusting the settings accordingly requires a professional touch.
The manual is no help, either. Also, while it does have a powerful duty cycle, it doesn’t (at times) live up to the standards of a top-notch machine.
Tips to Help You Make the Correct Choice for Yourselves
When I started out as a welder and was about to make my first purchase, I was scared to my bones. The welders on this list didn’t pop out thin air; they’re my brainchild. So, I thought you’d like to take a Tour-De-My-Mind to understand my reasoning behind every purchase.
The Penetration Power is Yours to Decide
Back in the not-so-knowledgeable days, all I could think about back then was power. It’s a newbie mistake, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if it does happen to you. The oomph of a welder should be a priority to anyone (beginner or pro).
But I’m going to shed a negative light upon this aspect because people are highly susceptible to fall into something I call “The Power Trap.” It happens because beginners are mostly one-dimensional when looking for a machine, and their principle behind any purchase is power, power, and more power.
It’s a classic example of overcompensation, where you get more than you need just because you’re afraid you wouldn’t have enough. Don’t fall for the power trap; more power doesn’t mean better performance.
Try to find out what material thickness you’ll be working with for a certain project. Get a welder that does take care of said thickness, and you’re golden. If you will not work with 1-inch plates, why go to the trouble of wasting money to buy a welder that powerful? Don’t bring a bazooka to fisticuffs.
Select A Machine That’s Easy to Handle
As I’ve reiterated a couple of times in this article, MIG welding is the best ride for a beginner entering the weld-world (But I think even professionals can relate to the point I’m going to cover here). Your machine needs to be your friend. You and your machine should be yin and yang.
My first machine was Hobart Handler 140, and the user-friendly operation made my welding experience exhilarating. Every time I got a decent bead (not super-good), I was brimming with excitement and couldn’t wait to get back to my workshop.
So, a machine with an easy learning curve is a blessing for beginners, even professionals love this attribute. Nobody wants to beat themselves up with complex machinery unless the results are extraordinary.
Let the welder be your friend, this can only happen if you’re comfortable using it, so user-friendliness should be on top of your checklist.
Take Care of the Safety Mechanisms
A welder needs to come with both functions, attack a piece of metal, and protect the user. I consider the basic function of welding to be an attack. However, without having proper safety measures, it’s you who’s in the front line, susceptible to injuries.
Welding is a risky business, and I’m talking from experience. The world of wild-weld will show no mercy if you slip. So, if your hands are yet to master the mojos of welding, it’s best to get a machine with a built-in safety mechanism.
For instance, Weldpro 2020 has a VRD system that can reduce the voltage buildup in a welder gun’s electrode (it happens if you keep the machine on without using). That’s a neat feature to have because even after years spent in this craft, I too at times forget to turn the machine off before leaving the premises.
So, newcomers heed my call, you need both offense and defense to come out unscathed from a welding quest. Keep that in mind.
Every Penny’s Priceless
Just because you have money doesn’t mean you should be out there throwing it away. Therefore, what you’re willing to invest should coincide with what you’re willing to do with the welder. It’s fundamental to understand why you’ll be needing a MIG welder and what for.
Take this as an example: are you going to use it on aluminum or average-thickness metal sheets? For average metal sheets, one doesn’t need to scratch their heads too much. Most welders (even the cheap ones) can handle the job with ease.
However, the aluminum brings trouble to the table. The everyday welding gun is not the ideal candidate to get into a duel with aluminum. Optimal results require having a spool gun, which is another issue because it is sold separately (not in all cases).
So, you can either get a spool gun by yourself or set your eyes on a welder that gives it out for free such as the LOTOS MIG175. Get your budget in line with your demand, that’s all there is to it.
A Versatile Machine is A Good Purchase
Contrary to the popular belief of strike three and you’re out (cue: American Baseball), in case of a welder, it’s different. If a welder can strike the metal surface in three ways, MIG, Stick, and TIG, then the sheer versatility should make it a worthwhile purchase.
As I matured with my welding, I began to prioritize multi-purpose machines more because of the added value I got from them. I must admit that dedicated products (as in one machine for MIG-welding only) give better results, but having a little box with more options gave me room for experimentation.
So, it comes down to what you want from a welder. I love having a few bows on my quiver because, despite the subpar performance, a multi-purpose product gives me more options than a dedicated MIG welder.
If you feel like you want the average of all worlds, then angling towards a two-in-one or three-in-one welder can be of great service.
You Should Be Careful about the Warranty Period As Well
Nobody wants their investment to go down the drain. I see so many sad and frustrated faces in review sections, ranting about their machine’s premature death. That’s why the wise man always looks for an escape route from such troubles, namely warranty.
Welders backed up by a warranty do cost more, but it’s cheaper in the long run. You don’t have to look over your shoulder all the time, worried whether tomorrow the sun won’t shine on your welder. The LINCOLN ELECTRIC CO K2697-1 (featured on my list) whips out a massive warranty of three years.
For beginners who are none the wiser about maintaining and caring for their machines, should always stick to warranty-welders instead of taking their chances with other alternatives. However, if you feel confident about your nurturing skills, you can decide otherwise.
How To Handle a MIG Welder
I’ve just finished discussing how a welder is susceptible to damage in the hands of an amateur. Although the learning curve on MIG welding is not steep, you still need to get your game straight by understanding the basics. It’s not a simple pull-the-trigger, as most people think.
So, I’ll lay down some groundwork for you to get started with MIG welding.
Be Safe than Sorry
- Get a mask, not just any mask, a dedicated welding mask. The light that emits from welding is enemy numero-uno, your eyes will burn like hellfire, so protect yourself first.
- Next, have protective gloves and leather clothing (if possible). Once you start welding, there’s no telling where the heated metal may splatter; it can jump anywhere before you notice. Best be ready for such shenanigans.
- Have a pair of leather boots to boot. As I’ve said earlier, the splattering directions are arbitrary, having a pair of synthetic shoes won’t protect your feet from the metal’s hostile heat.
Remember to Set Your Machine
- Most welders come with a set of MIG and flux core wires. You need to set things up before welding. If you don’t have a gas cylinder available, use the flux core wires.
- Go under the machine’s hood, and you’ll see a circular wire reel. Open it up, and place the flux core wires inside, patch it back up.
- Then, ensure that the wire goes through a wire drive motor right next to the reel into the gun. Check the tension of the wires, it has to be moderate (too tight and there’ll be a jam, too loose, and the wires come off).
- Now, you have to set the wire speed and voltage. The settings vary depending on the thickness of the surface your work with, so consult the manual or gauge sheet you’ll find under the welder’s hood.
- Once you fix the settings, take the gun close to the metal and weld.
The process I described is extremely basic. Going through all the aspects of MIG welding would take a separate article altogether. Instead, I’ll put down two videos here that perfectly illustrate both gas-powered MIG and flux core welding.
GMAW (Gas MIG welding): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1GTgDQFE4A
FCAW (Flux core welding): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksp3RncpqH8
Some Parting Wisdom
I’ve brought this article to life by saying that MIG welding can be a newcomer’s path to avoid learning curve frustrations. However, it’s still not as easy as it sounds. It can quickly turn into a nightmare if you’re too laidback.
But with a little zest and gusto, you’ll be looking at some handsome welding projects in no time. And to succeed in this endeavor, there’s no alternative to a perfect weapon.
People can be nitpicky about the welders they want, and it’s natural. I also believe in the principle “to each his own” so you should know by now (and further research if needed) which welder deserves a spot in your arsenal.
Still, from where I sit after years of experience, my money for the best MIG welder under 1000 will be on both LOTOS MIG175 175AMP MIG Welder and because of my versatility-craze the 2020 Weldpro 200 Amp.
Then again, I’d chime along with Captain Planet and say, “the power is yours”, adios.