A lot of welders nowadays are portable enough to carry anywhere, but they are useless when you need to weld somewhere without any power source. In this kind of location, how can you even weld?
The answer to that is by using an engine driven welder generator.
Instead of relying on a separate power source, this type of welding machine is powered by its own generator, allowing you to weld anywhere. This means you can do your welding projects even in the remotest of places.
If this sounds like your ideal welding machine, you know that checking out the different models available is your first step to buying one. And you probably know that this step is also a time-consuming one.
To help make your research easier, we have gathered our top picks of the best engine driven welders for the money. Read our reviews to see which one meets your requirements.
How Does an Engine Driven Welder Work?
Before you start using one, you first need to know and understand how an engine driven welder works. Think of it as basically a combination of a welder and a generator that is housed in a single machine. This means that the power needed by an engine driven welder is built-in and does not come from any outside source.
A fuel-powered engine, which uses either propane, diesel or gas, and generator are both present in the machine. Once you start up the engine, it allows the generator to produce enough power for you to start welding. You only need to make sure that there is enough fuel for it to work.
That’s how simple the operation of an engine driven welder is.
Advantages of an Engine Driven Welder
Compared to other welders, an engine driven welder gives you the convenience of welding wherever you need to without worrying about finding a stable electrical supply. After all, that’s the main selling point of this type of welding machine.
But, did you know that engine driven welders also have other advantages?
For starters, welding anywhere is not the only thing this machine can offer. Its built-in generator is not only used for supplying enough power to weld but you can also use it to power up your other tools and equipment – just like a standalone generator. You can even use it as your backup generator in case of a power outage.
Its mobility and use as a generator are not the only advantages this type of welder offers. Other noteworthy features of an engine driven welder include the following:
- While it is typically used outdoors in locations without any power supply present, you can also use it indoors if you don’t have a sufficient or stable power supply available
- It allows you to not only stick weld but also do other types of welding, depending on the type of welder and accessories connected
- Because it is fuel-powered, you can easily refill it at any gasoline station when you run out of fuel
- It is generally much more powerful than the portable ones typically used at home
- Known to be durable because it is designed for use outdoors and in different weather conditions
- Despite being larger than portable welders, the smallest ones can still be carried around by hand. The bigger-sized ones can be equipped with a wheel kit to make it mobile
- Because it generates thousands of watts, you can use it for both light-duty and heavy-duty welding
There are so many other advantages of an engine driven welder aside from the ones above. If you know that you are going to do a lot of welding in different places where the power supply is questionable, you should definitely invest in one.
Let’s face it: an engine driven welder is expensive. However, it is also one of the best investments any serious welder can make.
We understand that the prospect of shelling out thousands of dollars for welding equipment can make you hesitant to get one, that is why we have come up with a buyer’s guide to help you get an engine driven welder that you will not regret.
When choosing one, you need to focus on the following aspects:
- Fuel Required – gas is often the fuel of choice for smaller ones because of its lower price and consumption. Propane has no emissions so you can use it in spaces with poor ventilation and can even be stored for longer periods. Diesel, while the most expensive, has the longest run time and is the most fuel-efficient
- Style or Design – open designs or tube frames are much easier to move around than one with an enclosed casing
- Power Type – AC power, sufficient for basic welding, is the most common and is found on cheaper models. DC-powered models are more expensive and need additional accessories for it to work, but let you do more types of welding
- Output Range – while most engine driven welders are powerful enough for heavy-duty work, they also come in different output ranges, from 5,000 to 20,000
- Application – while they all allow you to do different types of welding, certain models allow you to do more complicated work like arc gouging and pipe welding
- Weight – the bigger and larger the machine, the more powerful it is
- Duty Cycle – this determines how long you can use the machine for welding before you need to let it rest
Use this buyer’s guide as your checklist when determining what you want and need in an engine driven welder.
Engine Driven Welders Top Picks
Once you know the features you want, you can now narrow down your search for an engine welder. While looking for a model that has all the features you need is ideal, don’t be surprised not to find one with all the features you need or find one but is beyond your price range.
But if you have trouble finding one or can’t choose among the many available, why not consider any of our top picks?
Miller Bobcat 250
Miller is known to craft reliable machines, which should be expected given their price range, and the Bobcat 250 stands out as one of the best engine driven welders around. This model is renowned for its ability to produce smooth currents, better accuracy than most models, and reliability.
It is equipped with a fuel tank that can hold up to 12 gallons, allowing it to run for as much as 14 hours, and it can generate power of up to 11,000 watts. Not only that, it has a rated output of 25V, welding amp range of 40 to 250 amps, and a duty cycle of 100%. It runs on a 23 HP Kohler or Subaru engine.
- Has a multifunction process that allows you to do different types of welding, including both MIG and TIG
- Weatherproof, which makes it usable even in extreme weather
- Suitable even for industrial use
- Has both AC and DC modes
- Comes with a standard three-year warranty
- Noise level is lower compared to most models
- Has features like an idle lock, fuel readout gauge, and stud covers
- You need to buy welding leads separately since it only ships with basic welding accessories
- Price falls at the middle range, which is still considered to be quite high by most
- Has a weight of 501 lbs
Miller Trailblazer 302
For the more advanced users, the Miller Trailblazer 302 may fit their requirements. Designed for industrial use, especially for repairs and construction work, it can generate as much as 13,000 watts without sacrificing fuel-efficiency. It is also known for its stellar arc performance no matter what welding type you use.
A unique feature of this model is the fact that it employs a two-generator system, separating the power supply for welding and for generating power. Also, maintenance won’t be an issue, as it comes with removable service doors.
- Relatively quiet for its class
- Among the most powerful models around
- Can be used not just for welding but also for cutting
- Comes with a remote control for use when TIG welding and to control spool guns and wire feeding
- Designed for heavy-duty even in extreme conditions
- Can operate for up to 18 hours
- Noisy despite being marketed as a quiet model
- Its features may be too much for casual users
Miller Bluestar 185
If portability is a must for you, opt for the Miller Bluestar 185. Its small footprint makes it ideal for those who only need to do stick and TIG welding. It runs on a 13 HP engine, has a 6.25-gallon fuel capacity, and can generate a maximum of 6500 watts. Don’t expect anything fancy because this model is marketed as a basic model of engine driven welders, which explains its cheaper price.
- Can reach up to 12 hours of operation
- Small but powerful enough for basic welding
- Features an electric start and auto-idle
- Cheaper than most engine driven welders
- More portable compared to others in the same class
- Designed for stick and TIG welding only, but you can also do some basic or minimal MIG welding and plasma cutting
- Not suitable for complicated welding projects
Lincoln Electric Ranger 225
Another highly-rated option is the Lincoln Electric Ranger 225 that provides DC power by default and can also supply AC power, which is unlike most engine driven welders that offer the opposite. Designed mainly for stick and TIG welding, it comes with a 12-gallon fuel capacity and provides up to 10,500 watts of power.
This welding machine is equipped with an electric start and can run for up to 14 hours. Its maintenance is also easy because of the service doors present. Note that it has a 100% duty cycle, 25V output, and 50 to 225 welding amp range.
- Has a much affordable price
- Comes with an electric start and auto-idle feature
- Maintenance is relatively easy because of the service doors present
- Limited to stick and TIG welding, although you can use it for some flux-core and MIG welding
- Does not have “Chopper” technology that offers smoother welds
- Requires accessories for AC power mode
- Only suitable for basic welding, not industrial use
Hobart Champion Elite
Among the many engine driven welders around, the Hobart Champion Elite is one of the easiest to set up. Despite its seemingly simple appearance, it is equipped with a 12-gallon fuel capacity, 23 HP engine and can generate up to 9,500 watts. It also comes with a 100% duty cycle and is known for having high-quality components that ensure its durability.
- Lighter than other models with similar specs
- Comes with an electric start and 120v and 240v receptacles
- Comes with a standard three-year warranty
- Price falls on the mid-range
- Can only do DC-powered welding, which ranges from 40 to 225 DC
- Ships without any welding leads
- Despite its smaller frame, it is still quite heavy at 493 lbs
These are our top five engine driven welder picks that we believe will give anyone the best value for their money. While those manufactured by Miller dominate our list, that does not mean that those from other brands should not be considered.
Always prioritize the features that you need, not just the brand, when looking for engine driven welders. After all, you will spend thousands of dollars on one and are going to use it for a long time, so your chosen welder must have all the features you need and more.
The price tag of any engine driven welder is nothing to sneeze at, that is why you must get the one that provides you with the best value for your money.
Are engine driven welders right for you?
There is no denying that these types of metal beasts offer so many benefits over some of the simpler machines out there, like the more common MIG welders and TIG welders. If you are really serious about your welding business, and ramping up your money-making efforts, there is no denying that you need a piece of machinery that can go the extra mile and offer those additional functionalities that you require.
It’s not enough that you are simply able to do welding jobs, you should also have the advantage of not having to drag an external generator along with you in order to get the job done. While you can go out and buy special generators capable of handling the very sporadic load that these machines are going to require, you’re buying a solid piece of machinery that will make you a lot more mobile, while upgrading your business’ earning potential!
The same way you’d get an additional fuel transfer tank if you have to travel great distances with your truck, or you’d get a wide belt sander if you are getting serious with your wood workshop, or you’d get a waste oil heater if you have a garage where you have a lot of excess oil available, you will also want the right piece of machinery when you have a welding business that you are trying to scale.
If you are in business by yourself, you will see rather quickly how it also becomes a good financial investment to get the type of machinery that makes your life easier. When you are considering the functionality of different machines, it’s not just important to consider the actual price of the machine but rather its potential for improving your business, and what your solution would be if you did not have that piece of machinery available.
Sure, these types of machines may cost you somewhere between $4,000 for the slightly simpler options, and $6,000 for the more advanced options, the question is really how much additional functionality you are able to get from this. If your alternative would have been that you would have otherwise bought a $2,000 welder that served a more generic function, it is really the difference in cost that becomes the most important aspect for you to be focusing on.
Is the additional portability and earning potential provided by these types of machines going to make up for the slightly higher price tag that they come with, or would you rather pay $2,000 less and have the inconvenience of having to make sure there is an adequate power supply wherever you go that can handle the work for you?
When it comes to engine driven welders, these machines are no different from portable sawmills in the fact that they come in different price ranges with some of the machines offering more functionality and reliability than some of the other machines.
With these machines, you aren’t just able to make sure your welding needs are met, but you can also power all the other stuff that you need to have powered.
While we have already taken a brief look at some of the most popular machines that are being manufactured by Miller, here’s another brief overlook of some of the remaining machines that this great, American manufacturer has to offer.
There is no denying that the Miller Bobcat 250, the Miller Trailblazer 302 and the Miller Bluestar 185 are some of the most advanced and popular models on the market, there are still some of the slightly less known machines out there that definitely warrant being covered!
While being a considerable step up, there is no denying that you get a whole lot of power when it comes to Miller’s Big Blue 300 which also comes with a lot bigger price tag than some of the other machines that people are looking into, why it may not be for everyone. With this impressive machine, you get a 60% duty cycle at 300A, while there is a max amperage output of 410 amps. Are you wondering what this machine is capable of doing? It offers both flux-cored, MIG, Stick and TIG capabilities with 3 years of warranty. Whether you are looking to weld stainless steel or mild steel, this is surely a great machine for any career welder.
If the time has come for you to upgrade your old Airco Dipstick 160 with something new, you might also have an interest in looking in the direction of the more modestly priced Miller Blue Star 145, allowing as much as 185 amp of power!
Lincoln is another great company that produces these machines, and we obviously already spoke about the possibility of choosing the popular Lincoln Electric Ranger 225 – if that’s not what you’re looking for, and you want something that has more power than the 225 welding amp that this machine is able to produce, you’re lucky to know that it’s not your only option when it comes to this manufacturer.
When you are really looking to upgrade your game with a strong welder generator from Lincoln, a good contender is the SAE 300 with its 300 amps of power at a strong 60% duty cycle! This machine is one you won’t be disappointed with whether you’re doing pipeline repairs or welding for the construction industry, where the strength of the weld is imperative. While being rated at 60% duty cycle at 300 amps, its entire range allows this machine to go as high as 390 amps, while having a 100% duty cycle if your job allows you to go down to 250 amps.
Two other Lincoln welders that deserve being mentioned are the Bulldog 5500 with its impressive reviews and up to 140 amps of power and the Lincoln 250. This machine lets you get as many as 250 amps, and it can also produce as much as 11,000 watts peak with its generator, which will come in handy in most situations you can think of.
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Besides putting together these “best of” articles, that may include best plasma cutters in the market right now, we also work on continuously creating informational guides on the various tools that you might be able to purchase through our platform. For instance, here is a thorough guide on how to use a plasma cutter. Our goal is to become your go-to source when it comes to information on the built world, finding the right tools and finding the various information that you may be interested in.