Plasma cutting is gradually becoming the most popular cutting method for metals, regardless of whether you are a professional or a DIYer. One reason that may cause many to pause when considering whether to purchase a plasma cutter, is the cost which can arrive at prices of several thousand dollars. Especially for hobbyists, that’s a lot of money to spend for a machine that has limited functions.

Despite economic considerations, plasma cutting remains one of the most cost-effective methods for cutting materials without the use of inert gases as well as one of the most efficient. Plasma cutters offer great safety, rapidity in cutting, versatility, and consumables that are budget-friendly. These cutters can also cut metals with thicknesses up to an inch.

If you’d like to own a plasma cutter but aren’t ready to invest a substantial amount of money, fear not! I’ve put together a list of the best cheap plasma cutters that will manage any task you may have along with important tips to aid you in your selection.

Top Picks for the 7 Best Cheapest Plasma Cutters

Best Overall Cheap Plasma Cutter: Lotos Plasma Non-Touch Arc 50A Cutting Machine

Our top pick
Lotos Plasma Non-Touch Arc 50A Cutting Machine
  • 50 Amp Digital Inverter Air Plasma Cutter
  • Automatic Dual Voltage / Dual Frequency (110/220V 50/60Hz)
  • PAPST Advanced German Cooling System

Cuts efficiently through metal that is rusty, painted, or rough with little slag. The Pilot arc allows you to cut without touching the metal and it has a 60% duty cycle at 50A.

Best Premium Cheap Plasma Cutter: Forney Easy Weld Plasma 251 20P Cutting Machine

This plasma cutter from Forney cat cut aluminium, stainless and mild steel that is thin up to ¼-inch. Great as a basic plasma cutter it is generator-friendly in case you don’t have an outlet.

Best Value Cheap Plasma Cutter: PrimeWeld Portable Inverter 50A Plasma Cutter

Built with portability in mind, this compact cutter will cut mild steel to 5/8-inch thick and softer materials to ¾-inch. A duty cycle of 60% at 50 A and an LCD digital screen affords lots of value for the cost.

Best Budget-friendly Cheap Plasma Cutter: Super Deal Plasma Inverter DC Cutting Machine

With a high speed and a high temperature, this plasma cutter is exceptionally economical. Its high duty cycle of 60% means less power consumption and it comes with overheating and over-voltage protection.

Best Powerful Cheap Plasma Cutter: Yeswelder Plasma Cutter with Non-Touch Pilot Arc

A non-touch pilot arc and IGBT inverter technology impress as this 55A plasma cutter can manage ¾-inch thicknesses when cutting. Duty cycles run at 100%@35A or 60%@55A meaning you’ll save time when working.

Best Beginner Cheap Plasma Cutter: Display4Top Inverter DC Dual Voltage Plasma Cutter

An LCD screen lets beginners monitor everything they do and this plasma cutter features built-in protection for overheating making it beginner safe. Easily transportable thanks to a comfortable grip handle, it features a 60% duty cycle.

Best Cheap Plasma Cutter with Built-in Air Compressor: Hobart Airforce 500564 Built-in Air Compressor Plasma Cutter

While this machine may cost more than others, it comes with a built-in air compressor meaning you get maximum portability and easy storage thanks to small dimensions and no need for a compressor.

If you are in the market for a budget-friendly option, never base your choice on a cheap price alone. Look for the best quality you can find at a reasonable and affordable cost and consider the value that they offer for the amount you pay.

What Is a Plasma Cutter?

A plasma cutter simply said, is a cutting machine used to cut materials like aluminum, brass, copper, stainless steel, or any conductive metal. The machine uses electrically conductive gas to bring energy from a power source to any conductive material. 

Because of this energy transfer, the machine cuts through conductive metals with exceptional speed producing precision cuts.

How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?

Let’s start with plasma. When we think of forms of matter, three come to mind: gases, liquids, and solids.  All can be modified into another state through energy. Ice is water in a solid form. With the introduction of heat, it returns to water. 

When you increase the energy by heating the water, it becomes steam, which is a gas.  If you further increase the heat, the gas will be ionized and be electrically conductive. It becomes plasma. After gases, liquids, and solids, plasma is the fourth state of matter. 

A plasma cutter works by creating an electric arc and sending it through a gas that is passing through a small, constricted nozzle opening. As the electric arc meets the gas, it increases the gas’s temperature, and the gas enters the fourth state of matter or plasma. 

Because conductive metals become part of the conductivity circuit, the plasma’s electrical conductivity will cause the arc to transfer to the metal allowing for cutting.

The Benefits of Using a Plasma Cutter

There are several important reasons to invest in a plasma cutter.

·      Ease of Use

Plasma cutters are generally portable so they can be moved where needed and some are so lightweight, that they can be managed by you alone.

·      Precision

Precision cutting is one of the principal benefits of a plasma cutter thanks to a very small cut width. This means that metal edges and the area immediately surrounding the cut will not be adversely affected by incredibly intense heat.

·      Safety

Plasma cutting operates using a gas that is not highly flammable, making it a much safer alternative when cutting.

·      Savings

These machines cut very rapidly saving on time with little or no waste. It proves to be a very cost-effective process.

·      Speed

When it comes to rapidity, the plasma cutter is the winner over other types of cutting, hands down. It’s much easier to operate and cuts rapidly saving you time. It also offers a two-second piercing if your application requires inside piercing making it incredibly faster when compared to Oxyfuel piercing.

·      Versatility

Plasma cutters use an electric arc for metal cutting meaning that any conductive metal or durable material can be cut. One tool cuts quickly and precisely through aluminium, brass, copper, iron, stainless steel, steel, and more.

What to Consider When Choosing a Plasma Cutter

There are several things to factor in when selecting your plasma cutter so here are my recommendations to assist you when choosing.

Amperage 

The amperage of a plasma cutter will tell you what metal thickness can be cut. If the power source is higher, say with 220Voltage, the amperage will also be higher, and this will allow you to cut metals that are thicker.

Duty Cycle

A duty cycle is super important because it refers to how long the plasma cutter will be able to cut without having to stop and cool down. Duty cycles are based on periods of ten minutes. 

Imagine a 60% duty cycle at a precise amperage.  The duty cycle tells you that the cutter will run for six minutes before it needs to stop and cool down to prevent overheating. 

Cutting Capability 

How thick the material that a plasma cutter can cut is fundamental when choosing. You need to know the average metal thickness that you plan to cut often. When selecting a plasma cutter look for a metal cutting capability of roughly ten inches per minute. 

Severance Thickness Cutting

The severance thickness numbers signify the thickest piece of metal that the plasma cutter can cut. At the severance thickness, the plasma cutter cuts exceptionally slowly and does not produce adequate heat for a precision cut. Severance cuts appear rough and feature dross. 

Plasma Cutter Consumables

Plasm cutters have five parts that consumables and they have life cycles that differ. Consumables include 

  • electrode
  • nozzle 
  • retaining cap
  • shield cap 
  • swirl ring 

Based on the material being cut a little damage will be unavoidable such as molten splatter. If the hole in your plasma cutter’s nozzle is not perfectly round your cut will show this. Plasma cutters that cost more tend to have consumables that last longer.

The Pilot Arc 

Better plasma cutters will integrate a pilot arc as the cutting tool. A pilot arc allows cutting where the torch tip never touches the metal. This is fantastic for cutting painted, rusty, or mesh metal because the arc remains uninterrupted. 

Voltage 

Plasma cutters that use 110/115/120V power source inputs run using the home indoor power outlets. Power is limited at this voltage. If you need more power a 220V plasma cutter is the correct choice. There are also plasma cutters with both 110V and 220V.

An Air Compressor that is “Built-in”

If the plasma cutter you select does not have an air compressor built into the machine, you will need a separate air compressor to be able to cut. There are plasma cutters with air compressors directly integrated into the machine, but they cost more. 

Weight 

If you need to use a plasma cutter in more than one location and portability is an issue, look for a lightweight cutter. Plasma cutters that integrate inverter technology weigh less. Should there be a built-in air compressor, it will weigh more.

 

Safety 

We cannot emphasize safety enough when it comes to plasma cutters. Some plasma cutters will offer over-heating protection as well as over-voltage protection.

7 Best Cheap Plasma Cutters

Best Overall Cheap Plasma Cutter : Lotos Plasma Non-Touch Arc 50A Cutting Machine

Amps 10-50A – Cutting Ability 1/2-inch – Voltage 110V/220V 50/60Hz- Duty Cycle 60% @50A – Weight 19.4 lbs.- Dimensions 15 X 6 X 12 inches

What We Liked
  • ½-inch clean cut
  • Dual voltage 
  • Non-touch pilot arc
What We Didn’t Like
  • Wide cuts compared to other cutters

Lotos gets the vote as top pick thanks to its ½-inch cutting ability in a compact lightweight machine. This ½-inch thickness is its clean-cut rate, while the severance rate is ¾-inch. To improve cutting depth, you need a 220V power source, but a cable is included.

The cutter requires little assembly. It uses a pilot arc non-touch tip, and this means the nozzle and electrode will last longer. A one-year warranty is included.

Best Premium Cheap Plasma Cutter:Forney Easy Weld Plasma 251 20P Cutting Machine

Amps 20A – Cutting Ability ¼ -inch – Voltage 110V – Duty Cycle 35%@20A – Weight 21.5 lbs.- Dimensions 15.13 X 8.13 X 12 inches

What We Liked
  • Simple assemblage
  • Ground clamp provided
  • Temperature indicator
What We Didn’t Like
  • Low duty cycle
  • Uses lots of consumables
  • ¼-inch cutting capability only

This is a terrific plasma cutter for DIYers and hobbyists. It can easily work with any 120V power source, and a regulator is included for your air compressor, so you just plug it in and are ready to begin. The ground clamp is a comfortable 8 ft.

The cutting torch is made to drag directly over the metal so you will use more consumables, but it increases precision and balance. The only con is a low duty cycle. The unit includes a temperature indicator to warn of overheating.

Best Value Cheap Plasma Cutter:PrimeWeld Portable Inverter 50A Plasma Cutter

Amps 50A – Cutting Ability ½ -inch – Voltage 110V/220V – Duty Cycle 60%@50A– Weight 22.5 lbs.- Dimensions 15can cut cleanly to 5/8-inch X 6 X 12 inches

What We Liked
  • ½-inch clean cuts
  • Dual voltage
  • 60% @50A duty cycle
  • Portable 
  • LCD screen
What We Didn’t Like
  • Only comes with 2 nozzles

Built for portability, this compact machine cuts cleanly through 5/8-inch and ¾-inch soft metals. A long duty cycle and dual voltage give this cutter that extra that makes it very attractive as a budget option. The amperage range is 10 to 50A but for 50A you need 240V.

Best Budget-friendly Cheap Plasma Cutter:Super Deal Plasma Inverter DC Cutting Machine

Amps 50A – Cutting Ability ½ -inch – Voltage 110V/220V – Duty Cycle Not provided – Weight 22.5 lbs.- Dimensions 18.5 X 11 X 13.5 inches

What We Liked
  • Drag torch use
  • Compact
  • Dual voltage
  • Cuts through paint and rust
  • 50A output
  • 1-year warranty
What We Didn’t Like
  • Short 6 ft. ground lead
  • Torch lead length is variable

While this budget offering may not come with the same quality as other cutters, it is a good option for home DIY projects on a budget. Cuts may not be as clean, but it will cut through rusty or painted metals. The compact design and dual voltage make it an appealing budget option.

Best Powerful Cheap Plasma Cutter:Yeswelder Plasma Cutter with Non-Touch Pilot Arc

Amps 20- 55A – Cutting Ability ½-inch clean, ¾ -inch severance – Voltage 110V/220V  50/60Hz – Duty Cycle 110%@35A, 60%@55A – Weight 14.55 lbs.- Dimensions 16.14 X 6.49 X 11.81 inches

What We Liked
  • 13 ft. torch lead
  • Air filter included
  • Aluminium handle
  • Spare consumables included
What We Didn’t Like
  • Air hose quality is bad
  • Manual is written badly

A convincing option with a 55A output, it features a non-touch pilot arc so consumables last longer. It cannot be used with a CNC table but the Longevity AG60 torch gets the job done. A flip-up cover keeps the control panel safe and dust-free. An unusual factor is a choice to make 120V the main power and use an adapter for 240V. The manufacturer offers a 1-year warranty and a 30-day refund guarantee.

Best Beginner Cheap Plasma Cutter: Display4Top Inverter DC Dual Voltage Plasma Cutter

Amps 20-50A – Cutting Ability 5/8-inch – Voltage 110V/220V – Duty Cycle 60% – Weight 37.5 lbs.- Dimensions 20.4 X 15.4 X 10 inches

What We Liked
  • Inverter technology 
  • Overheating protection
  • LCD screen
What We Didn’t Like
  • A bit heavy
  • Complicated assembly

This plasma cutter from Display4top is a terrific option for beginners. It offers dual voltage capacity and uses inverter technology for current regulation. The LCD screen lets you monitor every step you take during operation. It does require assembly which may appear complicated, but everything necessary is provided.

Built-in overheating protection safeguards use so the machine shuts off automatically if need be. It is a little weighty at 37 lbs. but still manageable.

Best Cheap Plasma Cutter with Built-in Air Compressor: Hobart Airforce 500564 Built-in Air Compressor Plasma Cutter

Amps 20A – Cutting Ability 5/8-inch – Voltage 120V/240V – Duty Cycle Not provided – Weight 31 lbs.– Dimensions 16.5 X 18.5 X 11.25 inches

What We Liked
  • The Air compressor is built-in 
  • Lightweight
  • Rapid cutting
  • Precision cuts
  • Easy to operate
What We Didn’t Like
  • Not dual voltage operating only on 120V
  • Not ideal for thick metals

This impressive Hobart Plasma cutter comes with a built-in air compressor and at 31 lbs. it is lightweight. The cut zone is less heat affected to prevent warping. No gas pressure settings are necessary and there is less slag to clean up after use. User-friendly and portable.

It features a post-flow cooling system with a fan-on-demand. LED lights indicate warnings for temperature and torch readiness. An automatic shut-off offers safety thermal protection. It uses pilot arc technology for cutting.

Top Brands of Plasma Cutters

Many major manufacturers of welding equipment produce plasma cutters. Well-known brands with a reputation for dependability are a guarantee for quality.  Research to see if one of the major manufacturers offers an affordable option that matches your budget. 

You’ll get quality as well as well-developed customer service. Replacement parts and consumables will also probably be more obtainable with a well-known brand.

Popular brands include:

  • Eastwood
  • Hobart
  • Hypertherm
  • Lincoln Electric
  • Lotos
  • Miller
  • Primeweld
  • Yeswelder

Conclusion

Do cheaper plasma cutters perform? Indeed, they do. If you are an occasional welder that needs a plasma cutter for DIY home projects, you can find high-quality machines at a price that won’t break the bank. 

Take the time to determine exactly what you need a plasma cutter for. What materials and thicknesses will you be cutting and how often? Check out client reviews when considering a specific machine. Finally, factor in the cost of consumables, as over time they will determine the plasma cutter’s cost-effectiveness for you.

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