Our Top Pick for 2016: Forney 324 190-Amp MIG/Stick/TIG Multi-Process Welder
Read our full review.
We decided to test out the MIG welders in the market and come up with the best ones available. Lucky for us, there are a lot of great manufacturers who are doing their best to create products that are easy to use, powerful and efficient. We took our task seriously and tested each contender with various metals-to-gas combinations and wire thicknesses. Our goal was to find the best of the best. We are confident that we did just that, so here is our official list of the best MIG welders in the market today.
Table of contents
- #1 Gold Pick (1st Place Winner)
- #2 Silver Pick (2nd Place Runner-Up)
- #3 Bronze Pick (3rd Place)
- #4 Budget Pick (Best Cheap)
Built-in Gas Solenoid Valve
Processes Include Mig (gas), Flux Cored (no Gas), Stick And Tig
Automatic Dual Frequency (50/60hz)
Dual-gauge Regulator With Gas Hose
Flowmeter And Gas Hose Included
Accommodates 4 Or 8 In. Spools
Comes With Stick And Mig Set-up
Operates On 200-240v
10-ft. Power Cord
220 Volts Or 120 Volts
Flux-core And Aluminum Gas Shielded Welding Functions
10-ft. Work Cable With Clamp
Advanced Replacement Warranty
Suitable For Welding Stainless Steel, Mild Steel, Aluminum, And Other Metal Materials
#1 Gold pick (Winner): Forney 324 190-Amp MIG/Stick/TIG Multi-Process Welder
View it on Amazon for $982.26*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
After doing our usual research, we decided that the Forney 324 190-Amp MIG/Stick/TIG Multi-Process Welder was the best one. We gave it our top rating because of its wide range of welding capabilities. This is the perfect tool for any job—fabrication, farm, industrial, automotive or boats. Here are the details on what we happy found when testing this machine out.
The motor on this Forney welder is great. It runs on either 220 volts or 120 volts CV/DC and is 1-phase with 190amp output at its max. This configuration provides an excellent amount of power to get any job you need done quickly and easily. When we test out any machine, we always look at its overall power, and its power-to-result. We not only look for powerful builds, but for builds that are efficient. If something commands a lot of energy, we want to be sure that it produces an equitable result. This Forney is efficient in that it offers great solutions for its required inputs.
What we loved most about this welder by far was its flexibility. This model is a MIG, stick and TIG welder. That feature alone means that it is easy to use in a wider variety of applications than most other welders. MIG welding, gas metal arc welding, was developed to be a fast and portable way to create strong joints. It feeds wire through the tip to a MIG gun. The contact is electrically charged and is able to transfer weld current to the wire. An arc is created between the base metal and the fed-in wire. It sounds a lot harder than it is, but do properly MIG weld does take some practice and good instruction. We had one of our specialists work with the Forney to test its MIG welding capability.
He said that as a MIG welder, the Forney model was great. It has 4-different MIG welding modes: 2T-trigger mode, 4T-trigger mode, manual and synergic. It’s easier than ever to shift modes depending on what type of job you have to get done. We tested out the results with all modes and found them to be clean and strong. We had both our pro work with the machine and our novice; both stated that it was easier than most machines to get the hang of. Our novice welder did a lot of testing with the synergic mode. Our pro tested all modes thoroughly.
The controls on a welder can be intricate with a machine like the Forney that does so much. Its vast usage can be a double-edged sword. Fortunately, manufacturers were able to build a lot of variety into the machine, without making it so difficult to use that only professionals can manage it. On the control panel, it has dials to manage the modes, amperage, and hot-start function. Each dial is easy to read and an LED tells you what levels you are at. You can quickly dial-up or dial-down as needed. There also is a foot-control for the manual mode. We thought this was a very handy feature to include in an already high-flexibility machine.
In addition to the controls, it has a euro-style disconnect for replacing liners and working with the wires. There also is an Amphenol connection for spool guns, TIG torch or foot pedal. Included also are a negative- and a positive-terminal. A 15-foot power cord comes with the Forney. This is another convenient feature that makes it easy to station the welder just about anywhere in your garage or workshop. Small conveniences like these can go a long way with our assessments and we were happy with this one!
The size of this welder is 51.4-pounds. It is 20.2-inches by 10.2-inches by 16-inches. That’s actually pretty compact for the amount of work it can do. It also means that it isn’t too bulky to move around if you need to set it up in different places.
The Forney 324 is a great welder because of its many uses. As a MIG, stick and TIG welder, you are going to love the number of jobs you can tackle. Nothing we challenged it with was able to stop it. As a machine, this one is a power house and likely will add a huge advantage to your shop or garage. If you’re looking for a new welder, consider this one. You’ll likely love it as much as we do.
#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Hobart Handler 190 with SpoolRunner
View it on Amazon for $799.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Our second place silver spot went to the Hobart Handler 500554001 190 with SpoolRunner 100. This is another great machine in the world of welding. We liked was its power. This is a machine that can handle big jobs that take some time. We also loved that Hobart made the whole package so user-friendly. Keep reading for our entire experience with this product.
The power on the Hobart Handler is awesome. It works on 100-230v wire. The manufacturer boasted that this machine was able to weld 24 gauge to 5/16 in steel in one single pass. We used this as one of our tests to see if it really did work. Happily, it stood up to this manufacturer-created test and to our additional testing too. What we liked about this machine most was its overall power. This is a machine that can easily solve any problems in a garage, farming equipment issue or large household problem. Plus, it is easy enough to use that anyone with proper training will be able to weld efficiently in no time. We always look for machines that can be used by casual hobbyists and by professionals equally as well. We want to know that a machine isn’t so intricate that you need a degree to figure out how turn it on! What good would that be?
The Hobart Handler also is flexible. Although it doesn’t have as many options as our gold product the Forney 324, it still can tackle any larger job. We started our testing with an aluminum job. Both our pro and our novice started working with the spoolrunner to see if it was as easy to handle as we hoped. Admittedly it took our novice a few tries to get the hang of it and he needed a good once-over of the manual included, but this is normal with any welding job and a newbie. Our professional said that it was definitely one of the better machines he worked with—in particular the advanced steel welding ability it had.
We also liked the manual’s “suggested settings”. When testing them, we found that it was very accurate. This is a machine that a novice can quickly get the hang of with some reading as guidance. We appreciated that Hobart included everything a novice needs to get a superior result. Even our pro stated that the settings suggested in the manual were dead-on. Any manufacturer that offers full-support like this one did, gets some extra points from us. We are always thinking of our readers and their best interests; we demand that the manufacturers we stand behind do the same.
This Hobart Handler also has some built-ins that we liked. It has a gas solenoid valve and a regulator that is dual-gauge with the gas hose. When we do our evaluations we always look at little things like this to make sure that the manufacturer has done everything possible to make a great product. That means convenience, flexibility, and power all efficiently blended into one outstanding product. We believe that is exactly what this machine is and that’s why we were happy to promote it on our list to number two.
This Hobart is a big machine. It weighs 89-pounds and its dimensions are 29.5-inches by 18.5-inches by 13.7-inches. The size is one of the main reasons why it was put at number two on our list. Obviously it needs two people to move it. Granted it is powerful, so that does make up for the bulk. Plus, likely with a welder you aren’t going to move it around a lot; rather, you’ll bring your project to it. Because of this we didn’t put as much weight on size as we do with other more portable machines we review.
In the end though we are very excited about the Hobart welder. We believe that this is a great product that deserves its number two standing on our list of the best MIG welders. Not only is it powerful and able to get just about any job done, but it has a great design to it and its easy-to-use. This is another great option to look at if you are in the market for an exceptional welder.
#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): LOTOS MIG175 175AMP Mig Welder
View it on Amazon for $561.01*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Our bronze pick for best MIG welder is the LOTOS Mig175 175AMP MIG welder. This is a machine we liked because of its size, ease-of-use and cost. All three were great and a real advantage to the end-user. If you are looking to begin welding, this is the perfect machine to start with. Customer service is known to be outstanding so any support you need will be readily available at any time. Here is our official assessment of the number three entry on our list- the Lotos MIG welder.
We liked the LOTOS welder because of its ease of use. Manufacturers at Lotos Technology worked over-time with this welder and it shows the minute you start using it to the minute you are done. Not only did they put a lot of time into its construction, but they put time into making a product that straightforward and simple to use. Anyone who has worked with a MIG welder knows that it takes some training to get the hang of. In fact, some people take full classes on it before they feel comfortable using it regularly. Lotos Technology created a machine that can be handled by a newbie relatively easily. We tasked our in-house novice to set up this welder and get to work.
When he began setting it up, he noted how easy it was to get through the process of installation. The side of the machine lifts for convenient gas installation using the argon regulator. It has easy-to-read manuals to follow to ensure you cover each process of a safe and accurate weld. That includes the actual job and also the details of the set up. It was straightforward to follow the process—from the gas hookup to the CFH connection. We’re not going to say it was easy to set-up because that would be misleading, however it was manageable with practice. Understandably this is not an easy thing to do first time out of the gate, but we felt that the manufacturer did all they could to help users out—even new ones.
The size of this welder is large and sturdy also. It weighs 88.2-pounds and it is 18-inches by 12.5-inches by 10.5-inches. Moving it takes two people, but again, likely it will be stationed in an auto-garage or workshop once and left in the same place for use when needed. It operates on 175amps and at 200-240volts with an automatic dual frequency of 50/60Hz.
The controls on this machine are simple too. It has large dials with clear-to-read red indicators. You can choose volts and wire speed. It has a handy guide to let you know the suggested methods of running the machine based on your specifications. For example, if you are welding with solid wire and CO2, you can see exactly what you should use based on the size of the wire. Our pro tested out these regulations and said that they were accurate. He agreed that as a guide for a new welder, they were a great advantage.
Again- we liked Lotos a lot for their inclusions that made welding easier for anyone wanting to tackle the project. When we are deciding which companies to herald, we always look at how strong their customer support is.
This Lotos MIG welder also comes with a lot of inclusions that put it over the top to our bronze pick for best welders. It comes with a spool gun, aluminum welding wires, some solid wires, a mask for safety, an argon regulator and the MIG gun. The package includes everything you need to get started right away. This is another advantage of Lotos we liked. They get the customer going and give them a great shot at achieving a great outcome. From beginning to end, we believe they performed well. We liked that they included wire also—something that our other companies didn’t.
In the end the Lotos MIG welder is a great product too. It also is pretty straightforward and if you are new to welding this is a great place to start. Plus, it’s highly affordable and you have all the tools you need right away to start your project. It definitely is a great number three pick.
#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): LONGEVITY Migweld 140
View it on Amazon for $390.61*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
We always pick a budget buy when looking at machines. This is the product that doesn’t have all the special features or capabilities of our top picks, but as a standard machine it stood out to us. Usually it also has a great price for what it offers. If you are looking for a standard MIG welder that can do everything you need, try the Longevity MIGWELD 140-140 Amp MIG Welder Capable of Flux-Core and Aluminum Gas Shielded Welding 110V.
As the title of the product implies, it is an 110V machine that uses standard power outlets. This is a very handy feature because you won’t have to worry about a 3-prong outlet or supplying more power. You can use it anywhere. Its amperage is from 25 to 140A. It has an optional spool gun and is capable of a lot of welding. We were skeptical at first because of its 110V power, but we gave it a fair shot. It can weld up to 3/8-inch mild steel. As we put it to the test, we quickly realized that looks really can be deceiving. It was able to keep up with all of our testing and quickly welded to a fine seam.
One of the best things about this MIG welder is that it’s extremely portable. It weighs 54-pounds and its dimensions are 16-inches by 14.5-inches by 9.6-inches. One strong person can easily change its location and put it wherever it is needed. Its easy transport is a main reason why we kept it on the list as our budget pick. If you need a powerful machine that can move a lot, the Longevity MIGWeld may be your best solution. It has a built in handle for easy pick-up. Though it is light enough to carry, it is still very sturdy. One problem with any precision machine is moving while it is running. During testing we never had an issue with that problem. It fortunately stayed put as we were working.
The other thing we really liked about the Longevity brand MIG welder is that it uses many common consumables. We all know that a lot of consumables have risen in pricing. It’s difficult to manage the high cost of them. This has been good reason for some welders to put off finishing jobs that aren’t pressing. With this model welder though, you won’t have to worry. It can be powered with so many different consumables, you can pick the cheapest one and get to work. This is a great feature and one of the main reasons it is our budget buy. With this machine, you aren’t going to break your bank finishing up welding jobs around your house or in the shop.
If you are a professional and just need a standard welder, this one will serve you well. On the other hand, if you are new to welding, this is probably a great starting point. It’s so easy to set up that you shouldn’t have any issues. Plus, the results held up to much bigger and more powerful models.
We decided that this machine had enough pluses to get it to the budget buy position of our best of list. No- it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of our top three picks. And no, it doesn’t have a massive amount of power. Still—it did every job we asked it to during our evaluation and we were very happy with the results. If you need a portable welder that is easy to get running just about anywhere, The Longevity Migweld 140 is the perfect choice.
When we embark on a best-of list we always sit down and first think about what real advantages a machine needs to have to be better than the majority available. We look at things like the motor, the safety features, inclusions, extras, power, result, etc. Our goal is to find the key characteristics of that particular machine that will produce a better result than other models create.
For this assessment, we decided that job capability, controls, design and size all would play a part in the criteria needed to create a great product. We went through each one to break it down even farther. Below is our list of the top characteristics we wanted with MIG welders and our thought process on what each one entails.
Next, we looked at the design/build. This is something we always look at with our products. We want the products to have a sturdy but never bulky look to them. We want them to be solid in terms of aesthetics. Granted with larger machinery we are a little more flexible with this because it doesn’t always affect the outcome, but it still is a customer preference that we can’t ignore.
We want to promote the manufacturers who were able to get the right combination of power, efficiency and look to create the perfect package for their buyers. With MIG welders, we wanted them to be easily moved by two people in case they had to be transported or re-stationed in a garage or workshop setting. All of our machines are built sturdily but efficiently. They have weight to them, but the power to match.
Not all models are created equally. We found that out right away. Normally when we start an assessment we get together all the products we can to get an accurate vision of what is available. We set a standard of performance to guide our future decisions. We found that baseline but then we looked at the machines that had more than just MIG welding. We found a lot of machines offer MIG and stick welding and TIG welding capabilities. Just because a machine can do a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean it does things better. We also learned that the hard way.
We wanted the machines that did their jobs outstandingly well. If they promoted themselves as a multi-welding tool, then they had to do each one excellently. For example, our number one pick the Forney 324 boasted its ability to handle MIG, stick and TIG welding. Because of this, we tested it out on all three in a variety of different applications. We want products that do what they do better than the rest. If they claim they can do more than one thing, then they have to shine at more than one thing. We’re confident that our picks stand up to what their manufacturers claim.
Next we looked at the controls of each one. Again, welding is not the easiest skill to learn. Because of this we wanted controls that were easy to set and regulate. Our models had dials for regulating and they were large and bright. Increments were clearly market for ease of use.
We tested the spool guns/spool runner to make sure that it was responsive enough to produce a great result. We also interchanged our metals and gas accordingly, to ensure that we got the same great results every time with the different options. We wanted the controls to be equally as simple to use for each application we put the machine through. Happily, we were satisfied with our top three picks and our budget buy.
Finally, we looked at customer service/long-term support that manufacturers offered their buyers. MIG welders again are not necessarily simple devices to use. This means that users may need support or direction with their purchases. We wanted to be sure that the manufacturers would be around long-term to commit to a lifespan of positive experience with each machine. To us this meant having warranties in place and toll-free numbers for easy contact if a problem or question should arise.
It also meant having a manual to go along with the machine that was comprehensive and instructional. We wanted the manuals to guide users through everything they would need to know to get an outstanding result once they were accustomed to using the machine. The setting chart had to be accurate. This is where we put our professional welder to work. His job was to make sure that every manufacturer was giving out good information to guide the users in getting the right result. We also had our novice use the manual without a lot of other guidance. His task was to see if he could figure out how to get the machine up and running armed solely with written/downloaded guides.
Thankfully, we are confident that all of our chosen machines and in turn, manufacturers, are dedicated to guidance and long-term commitment. We are proud of the machines we chose because they performed the best and so did Forney, Hobart, Lotos and Longevity.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
In the end, we are excited about our top four machines. We tested them out rigorously and put them to the test on all of their manufacturer claims. They stood up to our assessment and came out on top. If you are looking to purchase a new MIG welder, any one of the names on our list of top choices will serve you well for a long time to come.
Discussion and comments
We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?
Do you know of an even better product?
- Forney 324 190-Amp MIG/Stick/TIG Multi-Process 120V/230V Welder. PerformanceToolCenter.com.
- Hobart Handler 190 MIG Welder with Spool Gun Package. TractorSupply.com.
- James. Lotos MIG 175 Review. PickWelder.com
- Longevity MIGWELD 140 MIG Welder Review. WelderBros.com.
- Marty Rice. MIG Welding—The basics and then some. July 13, 2004.