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 many metals. It includes 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 nothing new. Thanks to recent advances in the underlying technology, modern models have much more to offer than older models. It’s particularly in terms of portability 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.

metal being cut

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 right tool for you. 

1. Air compressor—built-in or external?

You can’t create plasma without compressed air. The tool uses either a built-in air compressor or an external tank air compressor to compress air. A tool with a built-in compressor might be best for you if you value portability. 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 cutting stretches. Because of it, you can cut metal even if the torch’s tip isn’t touching it. It means you won’t have to do any cleaning. This can prove helpful when working with rusty materials or painted materials. You’d also want a pilot arc 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. Suppose you’re cutting thicker materials and your model has a poor rating. You won’t be able to get the quality results you want, much less make a successful cut. Or maybe you can, but you’ll have to work harder and spend more time doing it. Before you choose, measure the thickest piece you’re going to work on and choose a unit with a good 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.

plasma cutter being held

4. Precision

If you’re going to cut metal, you might as well do it with precision. You don’t want to cut something 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. It includes the 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

plasma work

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. 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 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 a pain to carry. It also tends to get 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 in the market. With so many manufacturers fighting for market share dominance, there are 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 and a comprehensive review for each.

plasma cutter working

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 even novice craftsmen will feel like a pro in no time.

Boasting 45 amps of power output, the Powermax can cut through any metal that’s up to 16mm thick. Coupled with its Hypertherm torch technology, this machine helps you produce 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. It’s even great for the long term. If you want to use it in a metal shop or out in the field, the Powermax has the hardware. 

Last but not least, this unit is easy to set up and transport. It 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 to get used to.

LOTOS LTP5000D

The LOTOS LTP5000D has become almost like a household name in the arena because 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. 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. It results 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

  • The 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 clamps, are made of flimsy material.
  • The ground system clamp could be longer.

Hypertherm Powermax30 XP

For its small frame, the Hypertherm Powermax30 XP packs some serious power. If coupled with its remarkable FineCut feature, this unit is not only capable of working on thick materials. It can also produce smooth, detailed 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 various metals, including stainless steel and more. Moreover, it can cut flawlessly through painted or rusted steel

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

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.
  • The remarkable ability of its price point
  • FineCut feature allows for high precision work
  • The ergonomic Duramax LT torch is resistant to heat and impact
  • Can get through up to ⅜” steel
  • Portable and lightweight

Cons

  • It 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. This lightweight, compact machine sports an inverter-based design and comes with a built-in compressor. It makes it a cinch to take 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 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. It ensures 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
  • It has a built-in air compressor.
  • Portable and lightweight
  • Ergonomic torch
  • It comes with thermal load protection.

Cons

  • It 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 and copper. It also works great for steel alloy and more. 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. This model is a good companion if you’re a freelancer who frequently moves from job to job.

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
  • It 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
  • It 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 many light-duty jobs for long periods. It sports a lightweight and compact design. This unit is easy to lug around from one job to another. 

Thanks to its wide range of useful features, this option has much to offer in functionality and versatility. It packs a respectable amount of power even with its small frame. It allows you to cut different types of steel, whether it’s stainless steel or mild steel.

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

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 heavy-duty handling projects

Miller Spectrum 375 X-treme

The Miller Spectrum 375 X-treme is a highly portable model with many features. It makes 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. You only need to switch to 220 V for thicker materials, and you’re off to the races.

This unit also comes with an ergonomic handle and a carrying case. Enjoy its 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
  • It might take more than a beginner’s practice to get the smoothest results

Hobart AirForce 40i

Maybe you want a model that can go through a wide range of metals across different thicknesses. You will 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 that it can go through ⅞” steel.

Thick metals are no easy feat to work on. Thanks to its wide array of accessories, this unit makes it effortless, such as the amazing XT40R handheld torc and heavy-duty work camp. The Airforce 40i and its score of XT consumables are top-notch. You can make precise and smooth cuts without breaking a sweat with these at your disposal.

This unit weighs a meager 21 pounds and sports an inverter-based design, making it one of the most portable models.

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. It boasts 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 can cut up to ⅝” of steel at 19IPM and a sever capability of 38 mm. It’s also one of the most user-friendly models, 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 multiple ergonomic 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 are 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 want one that you can use for home projects, you might want to consider the Razorweld Razorcut 45. Don’t let its low price fool you into thinking it doesn’t do a good job. On the contrary, it has a 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 comes in pretty handy when working with painted or rusty materials. It’s also great for expanded metal. The “no-hassle” 3-year warranty is a nice addition that sets it apart from other models a bit.

Top Features

  • A maximum rating of ⅞.”
  • High-precision results
  • 220V AC input
  • A duty cycle of 60% at 60 amps
  • It 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 projects. It’s no matter if it’s for small home jobs or heavy-duty work common in industrial settings.

The machine uses Auto-Line technology 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. It works quite well with different kinds of metal pieces, even on expanded metal.

Maybe 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
  • A capacity of ⅞”
  • It has a 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 a 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 working on small and light-duty projects. It can cut any ¼” metal with stunning results. 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 and stainless steel
  • The torch has a 95 ft. reach
plasma cutter

How to use a plasma cutter?

  1. Set up work area

    Clean the surroundings and make sure there are no flammables nearby. Open up windows for the air compressor to function properly.

  2. Prepare the metal

    Clamp the metal to the table and clean the area to be cut. Draw the line of cutting with a chalk or marker. Put the ground clamp of the cutter onto the metal to ensure the static nature of the sheet.

  3. Put on safety equipment.

    This includes your plasma helmets and gloves. Be sure to wear something tough like denim or a lab coat to avoid pieces of hot metal from burning you.

  4. Plugin the cutter

    Plugin the cutter and the air hose and check that both are working. Your machine should be receiving air from the compressor.

  5. Start cutting

    Position yourself in a way that you can cut without stopping mid-way. You should also not be in the range of any blowback. For this, position the torch slightly away from the piece of metal. Keep cutting along the line until you hear the metal hit the floor.

  6. Collect

    Collect the metal only once it’s cooled down. Hot metal can burn through your gloves and damage skin tissue.

FAQ

Are plasma cutters worth it?

Plasma cutters are truly worth it. They are known to be inexpensive tools to get quality cutting jobs done. The torches rarely require changing, which makes it worth it. It also involves gases that aren’t as dangerous as oxygen since they are inert.

What is a good size plasma cutter?

This depends on the thickness of the material to be cut. If the metal is 1/4″ thick, you’ll require a low volt cutter like 25 amps. For thicker metals of 1/2″ thickness, you’ll require up to 50 amps. For anything thicker, it’s safe to go with the 80 amps cutter. If you’re still confused, pick the machine that can handle twice the thickness you normally handle.

Do you need a compressor for a plasma cutter?

Since the air plays the role of shielding gas in plasma cutting, an air compressor is a must. You will need to purchase an air compressor depending on the size of your cutter.

What is the best plasma cutter you can buy?

There are a couple of things to consider before buying a plasma cutter. Firstly check if the air compressor is built-in. This makes the cutter portable and easy to set up. A dual voltage cutter can switch between 115V and 230V options and isn’t restricted to only one. One such amazing buy is the LOTOS 50 amp cutter with dual voltage.