Best Plasma Cutters for the Money—Top Picks & Reviews

If you want to cut through steel like a hot knife through butter, a plasma cutter is the best tool you can use. They can do so for a wide range of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, brass, steel, and many others. By burning through metal with plasma, these tools can cut through metal with stunning precision and speed.

They’re are nothing new, but thanks to recent advances in the underlying technology over the last several years, the modern models have a lot more to offer than older models do, particularly in terms of portability, precision, and ease of use.

There’s no shortage of excellent models out in the market. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may find it difficult and time-consuming to find the one that best suits your needs.

To help you out, here are our top picks for the best plasma cutters for the money available in the market. We’ve also provided a comprehensive review of each to help you pick the best one out of the lot. 

How to Choose One

But before we get there, here’s a rundown of things you must consider before choosing the tool that is right for you. 

1. Air compressor—built-in or external?

You can’t create plasma without compressed air. To compress air, the tool uses either a built-in air compressor or an external tank air compressor. If you value portability, a tool with a built-in compressor might be best for you. However, if you plan on doing heavy-duty work, one with an external air compressor will suit you better. 

2. Pilot Arc

The pilot arc is an important feature because you need to have a stable and consistent arc through long stretches of cutting. Because of it, you can cut metal even if the torch’s tip isn’t touching it, which means you won’t have to do any cleaning. This can prove helpful when you’re working with rusty materials or painted materials. You’d also want a pilot arc if you’re working with expanded steel.

3. Cut rating

When buying one, you need to consider the thickness of the materials you’re going to cut with it. If you’re cutting thicker materials and your model has a poor rating, chances are you won’t be able to get the quality results you want, much less make a successful cut at all. Or maybe you can, but you’ll have to work harder and spend more time to do it. Before you make a choice, measure the thickest piece you’re going to work on and choose a unit that has sufficient rating to pull it off.

The three different ratings are:

Quality: The rating recommended for cutting thicker metals.

Rated  This is recommended for high quality and precision work.

Sever: For use on very thick materials. These are slower and require more cleanups.

4. Precision

If you’re going to cut metal, you might as well do it with precision. You don’t want to cut something only to make the final product appear sloppy and unrecognizable. If you want cleaner and smoother cuts, you need to have one with excellent quality. 

Many factors determine the quality of the work, including Torch type, Torch alignment, Gas Pressure and Flow, and Arc Voltage, among many others. Make sure to check the specs sheet for them before making a decision.

5. Portability

You want a portable and lightweight model if you’re going to bring it with you all the time. Preferably, you’d want something that doesn’t weigh over 50 pounds. But there’s a catch: most lightweight tools don’t have enough power to perform heavy-duty jobs. That said, having a more portable model can come in handy even if you work in industrial settings. It’s always nice to have something more lightweight during those times when you have to perform small or moderately heavy-duty jobs.

The design and build of your tool also matter as far as portability is concerned. One that’s too bulky and heavy is not only a pain to carry, it also tends to gets in the way. 

6. Torch length

Cutting torches vary in length, and the recommended length depends on the types of projects you’re working on. If you want a torch that can perform common cutting jobs, you’d want something shorter. But if you’re working on jobs where you want to keep a safe distance from the workpiece, a longer torch is always ideal.

7. Input power

Last but not least, you want to get one with enough input power to get the job done. A typical model either uses 110 volts or 220 volts. You also want to pick one that meets the minimum requirements of the electrical outlet you’re planning to use.

What is the best one for the money?

Now that you have an idea of what to look for, it’s time for you to go over what’s available out there in the market. With so many manufacturers fighting for market share dominance, there are so many good choices for every type of tool. 

With that said, finding the right one depends on your preferences and choices. To help you make an informed decision, here are our top picks for the best ones for your money, along with a comprehensive review for each.

Hypertherm Powermax45

If you’re looking for a tool designed for true professionals, the Hypertherm Powermax45 delivers on many fronts. This model has all the essential features of a good machine and more. It comes with a dual-angle design that allows you to use the torch’s consumable tips for long stretches, helping you save on energy costs. The torch handle has a natural grip, so much so that it feels like an extension of your hand. The controls are so straightforward and simple even novice craftsmen will feel like a pro in no time.

Boasting 45 amps of power output, the Powermax is capable of cutting through any metal that’s up to 16mm thick. Coupled with its Hypertherm torch technology, this machine helps you produce deep, precise, and high-quality work. It can cut metal 1.5 times faster than normal oxyfuel cutters. By offering an option to switch between two consumables, the Powermax 45 is one of the most versatile options within its price range.

This model has a lot to offer in terms of durability. Made of top-grade materials, this remarkable machine is meant to be used for heavy-duty projects, even for the long term. If you want to use it in a metal shop or out in the field, the Powermax sure has the hardware for it. 

Last but not least, this unit is easy to set up and transport, which is pleasantly surprising for a unit that packs a lot of power. 

Specs

Weight: 37 pounds

Dimensions: 16.75″ x 6.75″ x 13.7″

Input: 200/230 V

Output: 20-45 A

Duty Cycle: 50% at 45 Amps

Pros

  • Fast and precise
  • Easy to use
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Ergonomic and long torch
  • Powerful enough to handle most jobs
  • High durability

Cons

  • A bit expensive (although the price is more than justified)
  • Precision work takes some time getting used to

LOTOS LTP5000D

The LOTOS LTP5000D has become almost like a household name in the arena on account of its amazing capability and affordable price. Running at 50 amps, this machine packs a lot of power and is rated at ½ inch steel. It also allows for faster and more precise work than most other models you would compare it to. Moreover, this unit can run on both 110V and 220V (with the help of a pigtail adapter), allowing you to use it almost anywhere.

This machine uses an amazing pilot arc technology, allowing you to make cuts without touching the torch’s tip to the workpiece. This dramatically reduces the production of slag, resulting in cleaner, smoother results.

Thanks to its lightweight build and portable design, this model goes from job to job without breaking a sweat or straining your arms. It can easily fit within the trunk of your car and won’t take up a lot of space in a small workshop. 

Specs

Weight: 19.4 pounds

Dimensions: 15″ x 16″ x 12″

Input: 110/220 V

Output: 10-50 Amps

Duty Cycle: 60% at 50 Amps

Severance Thickness: 3/4″

Pros

  • Amazing ability for something as cheap as this model is
  • Affordable price
  • Minimizes slag
  • Powerful
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Inexpensive consumables

Cons

  • Some of the components such as work clamp, knobs, consumables, etc. are made of flimsy material
  • Ground system clamp could be longer

Hypertherm Powermax30 XP

For its small frame, the Hypertherm Powermax30 XP packs some serious power. Coupled with its remarkable FineCut feature, this unit is not only capable of working on thick materials, but it can also produce smooth, detailed, and precise cuts. This same feature contributes to its versatility, so much so that it can go through up to ⅝” of metal. It can also be used on a wide variety of metals, including stainless steel, aluminum, mild steel, and more. Moreover, it can cut flawlessly through painted or rusted over steel

Those who are still learning how to use these machines won’t have a hard time with this machine. The unit is easy to step up, the interface is intuitive, and the controls are straightforward and easy.

Specs

Weight: 21.4 pounds

Dimensions: 14″ x 6.6″ x 12″

Input: 120/240 V

Output: 15-30 Amps

Duty Cycle: 35% at 240V

Pros

  • Powerful even for its affordable price
  • Auto-voltage technology allows the unit to run on both 110V and 220V currents
  • Remarkable ability for its price point
  • FineCut feature allows for high precision work
  • Ergonomic Duramax LT torch is resistant to heat and impact
  • Can get through up to ⅜” steel
  • Portable and lightweight

Cons

  • Goes slow when the material is at least ½” thick
  • A bit on the pricey side

Hobart Airforce 12CI

The Hobart Airforce 12CI is a spectacular choice if you prioritize portability above all else. This lightweight, compact machine sports an inverter-based design and comes with a built-in compressor, making it a cinch to take with you anywhere from job to job. 

This unit’s redesigned XT12R torch is so ergonomic, so much so that you can work with it for hours on end without feeling the slight discomfort. 

The Hobart Airforce 12CI may be small, but it packs a lot of power with 12 amps output. While it won’t cut through 1-inch thick metals but it’s more than serviceable enough to handle low-duty and medium-duty jobs.

To top it off, this unit comes with thermal overload protection, ensuring that you’re protected if things get too hot.

Specs

Weight: 27 lbs

Dimensions: 13″ x 7.5″ x 10″

Input: 120 V

Output: 12 A

Duty Cycle: 35% at 12 Amps

Severance Thickness: 1/4″

Pros

  • Inverter based design
  • Has a built-in air compressor
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Ergonomic torch
  • Comes with thermal load protection

Cons

  • Runs only on 120V
  • Not capable of going through thicker metals
  • Slag may build up

Primeweld CT520d

The Primeweld CT520D is a three-in-one welding machine that does everything—well, almost. With numerous features, this machine has almost everything a professional needs.

This machine can work with stunning proficiency. With 50 amps of current, it has a severance thickness of ¾”. It can cut a wide range of metals such as stainless steel, copper, steel alloy, and more. Moreover, it has an ergonomic handle that allows for a comfortable, easy grip. 

The Primeweld CT520d offers two voltages (110V and 220V), allowing you to use it in most locations with a power source. It’s also easy to switch it up so you can start working on any project without wasting time.

This unit weighs only 36 pounds so it doesn’t take a lot of effort to transport it from one place to another. If you’re a freelancer who frequently has to move from job to job, this model is a good companion to have.

Specs

Weight: 35.7 pounds

Size: 23.6″ x 16.8″ x 12.8″

Input: 110/220 V

Output: 50 Amps

Duty Cycle: 60% at 50 Amps

Severance Thickness: 3/4″

Pros

  • Using a 3-in-1 machine is cheaper than having to buy multiple machines
  • Comes with a 3-year warranty
  • Highly durable and made for tough environments
  • Very portable
  • Switching between modes is a cinch

Cons

  • Poor customer service based on user reviews
  • Could use a pilot arc feature
  • Beginners might take a while to hook it up

Miller Spectrum 625 X-treme

The Miller Spectrum 625 X-treme is perfect for those who perform a lot of light-duty jobs for long periods. Sporting a lightweight and compact design, this unit is easy to lug around from one job to another. 

This option has much to offer in the way of functionality and versatility thanks to its wide range of useful features. It packs a respectable amount of power even with its small frame, allowing you to cut different types of steel, whether its stainless steel, aluminum, or mild steel, among many others.

The unit uses Auto-Refire technology to allow users the convenience of automatic cutting. For example, when working with thicker materials, this unit’s arc executes an in and out movement that facilitates your tasks more efficiently.

Specs

Weight: 38.6 pounds

Dimensions: 30.5″ x 11″ x 13.8″

Input: 110/115/220 V, 220/230/240 V

Output: 40 Amps

Duty Cycle: 20% at 40 Amps

Severance Thickness: 3/4″

Pros

  • Highly versatile
  • Packed with useful features
  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Powerful for its size

Cons

  • A little pricey
  • Not capable of handling heavy-duty projects

Miller Spectrum 375 X-treme

The Miller Spectrum 375 X-treme is a highly portable model that comes with a wide range of features, making it the perfect unit for the hobbyist or the DIY enthusiast homeowner. Operating on either 120 V or 240 V, this model is easy to hook up anywhere. It’s highly efficient at dealing with thin materials. It’s capable of cutting up to ⅜” at 18 IPM. For thicker materials, you only need to switch to 220 V and you’re off to the races.

This unit also comes with an ergonomic handle, a carrying case, and a high-quality cable so you don’t have to break a bone when you take it with you. Also worth noting is the automatic air regulation feature that allows the unit to provide the amount of torch pressure needed to maximize performance.

Specs

Weight: 19 pounds

Size: 13.25″ x 5.5″ x 9″

Input: 110/115/120 V, 220/230/240 V

Output: 30 Amps

Duty Cycle: 60% at 15 Amps

Pros

  • One of the most portable, lightweight options around
  • Automatic pilot arc
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Includes an inverter
  • Great output (30 amps)
  • Durable build
  • Offers great warranty coverage

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • External air compressor needs to be purchased separately
  • Might take more than a beginner’s practice to get the smoothest results

Hobart AirForce 40i

If you want a model that can go through a wide range of metals across different thicknesses, you’d do well to give the Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i a whirl. Don’t let the affordable price fool you; This machine has more than enough power to meet your needs, so much so that it can go through ⅞” steel.

Thick metals is no easy feat to work on, but this unit makes it effortless thanks to its wide array of accessories, such as the amazing XT40R handheld torch, heavy-duty work camp, the Airforce 40i, and its score of XT consumables. With these at your disposal, you can make precise and smooth cuts without breaking a sweat.

To top it off, this unit weighs a meager 21 pounds and sports an inverter-based design, making it one of the most portable models on the market.

Specs

Weight: 21 pounds

Dimensions: 13.25″ x 5.5″ x 9″

Power Input: 220/230/240 V

Amperage: 20 – 40 Z

Duty Cycle: 50% at 40A Amps

Severance Thickness: 7/8″

Pros

  • Great capabilities
  • High-precision cutting with less slag
  • Setting up is easy
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Ergonomic torch
  • Single knob controls allow for easy use

Cons

  • A little pricey

Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 60i

The Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 60i is a beast that lives up to its name. Weighing only 37 pounds, this unit packs a wallop, boasting a power output of 7.6 kW and a duty cycle of 50% at 60 amps. With that amount of power, it’s no surprise that this multi-voltage option is capable of cutting up to ⅝” of steel at 19IPM and a sever capability of 38 mm. It’s also one of the most user-friendly models on the market courtesy of its bright displays and intuitive controls.

What’s astounding is that for all that power, this unit is of small build and weighs only 37 pounds. Coupled with its ergonomic multiple handles, you won’t break a sweat carrying this unit around with you.

 

Specs

Weight: 37 pounds

Dimensions: 21.12” x 7.85″ x 1.15″

Input: 110/115/220 V, 220/230/240 V

Output: 15 kW

Duty Cycle: 60% at 50 Amps/100% at 40 Amps/50% at 60 Amps

Severance Thickness: 1.5”

Pros

  • Superior ability compared to many tools in the same price range
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Highly versatile
  • Powerful (output of 15kW)
  • Big, bright display screen

Cons

  • Expensive (although well worth the money if you can afford it)

Honorable Mentions

As already mentioned, there’s a lot of excellent options out there. But although we have our favorites, there might be others that you might prefer more. Here are other options that you might want to consider buying.

Razorweld Razorcut 45

If you’re on a tight budget and you want one that you can use for home projects, you might want to consider the Razorweld Razorcut 45. Don’t let its cheap price fool you into thinking that it doesn’t do a good job. On the contrary, it has good capacity rating even for its low price. This low-frequency model is a worthy companion to have for small scale projects.  

Top Features

  • Inverter-based
  • 20-45 amps
  • Preset air adjustment
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Built-in handle
  • High-temperature stream

Eastwood Versa Cut 60

The Eastwood Versa Cut 60 is a good choice if precision is of the essence in most of your projects. With a duty cycle of 60% at 60 amps, this unit is so powerful that it can cut up to ⅞” of metal. The built-in pilot arc system also comes in pretty handy when working with painted or rusty materials as well as expanded metal. The “no-hassle” 3-year warranty is a nice addition that sets it apart from other models a bit.

Top Features

  • Maximum rating of ⅞”
  • High-precision results
  • 220V AC input
  • A duty cycle of 60% at 60 amps
  • Comes with a “no-hassle” 3-year warranty

Miller Spectrum 875 Auto-Line

The Miller Spectrum 875 Auto-Line is a good choice for those who work on different types of projects, whether they’re for small home jobs or heavy-duty work common in industrial settings.

The machine uses Auto-Line technology, allowing it to connect to a wide range of power sources from 208V to 575V. It also comes with Auto-Refire Technology which lets the user control the pilot arc with minimal effort, which works quite well with different kinds of metal pieces, even on expanded metal.

If you want a versatile option that you can use for a wide range of jobs, you can’t go wrong with the Miller Spectrum 875 Auto-Line.

 Top Features

  • Spectrum 875 Auto-Line technology
  • XT60 handheld torch and an entire set of 60A consumables
  • Capacity of ⅞”
  • Rated output of 60 amps
  • Heavy-duty quick connect work clamp (20 feet)
  • Additional consumables

Hobart Airforce 27i

The Hobart Airforce 27i is a machine known for its great mix of features and great functionality. Don’t let the simplistic and lightweight design deceive you. This machine has great cutting ability and can withstand long hours of continuous work. It’s easy to set up, and even easier to use—all you need to do is plug the unit and hook up the air supply. The controls are pretty straightforward you’ll feel like an expert in no time.

Top Features

  • XT30R handheld torch (12 ft.)
  • Power cord with 5-15P (10 ft.)
  • Work cable with clamp (10 ft.)
  • Built-in gas/air regulator and filter
  • Additional consumables (2 tips, electrode, and shield deflector)

Lincoln Electric 20

The Lincoln Electric 20 is an excellent tool for the home DIYer and hobbyist. Operating on 115V and with a maximum output of 20 amps, this beast guarantees excellent results when you’re working on small and light-duty projects. It can cut any ¼” metal with stunning results. Moreover, it is designed for portability so it’s easy to lug around with you anywhere.

Top Features

  • Capable of slicing up to ⅛” of sheet metal
  • Maximum capacity of ¼”
  • Lightweight and compact on account of its inverter design
  • 40-50% duty cycle
  • Capable of working on expanded metal, aluminum, and stainless steel
  • The torch has 95 ft. reach

 

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