The first thing that surprised me was the price – I had expected to pay at least 70% over what Hot Max is charging for their MIG welder.
Since I’d been shopping for a while, I knew that a 180-amp unit would set me back at least $900, not to mention the additional cost of shipping, so a clean thousand bucks out of my account in one swipe of the card.
So imagine the smile on my face when I saw the list price of $699 on Amazon! But what was even cooler was the fact they were running a discount AND offering free shipping to where I was, so in effect, I could own a 175-amp welding unit for just a shade over $500!
That’s like half of what I would have paid for a Miller or a similar brand. But I was still a little skeptical about the price. After all, how could such a powerful unit be so cheap – there had to be a catch somewhere!
I first checked out the features of the unit:
- Warranty: 2 years on unit, 90 days on parts, gun and labor – Check!
- Weight: Within the 100 pounds limit – Check!
- Cart: Included – Check!
- Protective Equipment: Helmet and Glover included – Kevlar-stitched gloves – Check!
- Materials: MS (3/8”), Aluminum, SS – Check!
- Phase: Single, suitable for domestic use – Check!
- MIG enabled: Fully converted, meaning no expensive kits to purchase – Check!
- Convenience: Voltage Control can be used while welding – Check!; wire feed can be adjusted, again, while welding – Check!
- Spool Gun Option: Ready-wired for spool guns – Check!
- Power options: Electric, corded – good – but no power plug – Sucks!
So far, so good, but how does it fare in the real world? For this, I had to scour the internet for reviews of the Hot Max, and this is what I found:
Penetration was good for 3/8” MS so that checked out.
Compares favorably with the Millermatic 211 Auto-Set on .035 SS – by the way, the Millermatic retails at $1,137 – that’s more than twice the price of the Hot Max. Of course, it does have superior features for the most part, but even for a pro garage welder like me, this one’s got everything I need.
Users have found it to be working fine even after 2 years. This was one thing that really concerned me, because a cheap unit typically dies on you just as your warranty period runs out! Uncanny, isn’t it? But this baby seems to have crossed that milestone in style.
Convenient polarity switching for Argon/Flux Core. This is important because you never want to use FC for sheet panel work, for example.
About 30 pounds heavier than the equivalent Millermatic, but when you don’t have to move it around all the time, that isn’t really a downside. Of course, if you’re really going to make it justify its “portable” label, then this one’s a loser; even so, with a price tag like this, it’s going to be a hard choice to make.
I did see a few complaints about confusion with the amp rating – the website says 35 but the box it came in says 44 – not sure what’s going on here.
After all the investigating I did, I was finally convinced about the value for money, so I picked up a unit about a month ago. So far, I’ve found nothing to contradict my research, and the unit is as good as people said it was. I’ve tried it with a number of different materials and I think it’s a great little product. Not recommended for heavy duty usage, but then that’s not what it’s made for, anyway. Great job, Hot Max!