Miller vs. Lincoln in the Battle for Welding Equipment Supremacy

“I love Lincoln, they make the best welding machines I ever used!” Lincoln welding logo

Miller welding logo
“No way, Miller makes the best quality welders, with the best prices, I never use anything else.”

And so the age old debate over who in fact makes the best welding machines rages on in perpetuity.

It’s like the Coke verses Pepsi or Miller (no relation) verses Budweiser of the welding equipment world. And just as with those “classic marketing battles,” everyone has an opinion on who’s the best, and why.

Read the forums and message boards, and you’ll find passionate support for both sides, citing everything from the highly technical specifics of how one manufacturer’s particular machine out-performs the others for certain applications, to extremely subjective reasoning along the lines of: “I just like color of the machine, and the way the logo looks…”

One of the more common threads, however, and perhaps a telling sentiment in this long running debate can be summed up as: it’s a welder, as long as it works, it’s good enough for me. But can it really be that simple? Can all the dramatic pledges of allegiance to one manufacturer or the other really be boiled down to whatever works, works? It’s certainly worth a closer look, so join me for a quick investigation into these two titans of the welding equipment trade.

Lincoln Electric

Recently, a welding professional I’m well acquainted with, a 16 year veteran of the welding trade, described Lincoln as the Harley Davidson of welding, because so many welders express such passion for the brand. But, if we’re sticking with the marketing scenario posed in the introduction, Lincoln would be the Coke or Budweiser of welding equipment.

Lincoln Electric Welders Founded in 1895 by John Lincoln (joined five years later by his younger brother James Lincoln), Lincoln initially began manufacturing electric motors, but in 1911 produced the first ever variable voltage, single operator, portable welding machine.

Today, Lincoln manufactures not only a multitude of welding machines, but also hundreds of welding related products, and is recognized as one of America’s more successful mid-sized manufacturing companies.




Miller Electric

If Lincoln is the Coke of welding machines, then Miller is definitely Pepsi. Just as Pepsi challenged Coke’s hegemony in the soft drink market with their “choice of a new generation” campaign, Miller has positioned themselves as an innovation leader, often favored by a “new generation” of welders. Interestingly enough, Miller is by no means a new company, having been in business for more than 80 years.

Miller Electric WeldersLaunched in 1929 by Appleton Wisconsin native Neils Miller, the company was conceived to meet a  growing demand from affordable arc welding equipment in rural Wisconsin. Renowned as an innovator in the industry, Miller developed the first welding machine to feature a built-in wire feeder, the Millermatic 35. With a heavy focus on research and development, Miller has released hundreds of products and carries on their tradition of creating cutting-edge welding equipment.

What the People say

OK, we’ve got the boring bio and introduction jazz out of the way, but what do people really say about these companies, and why do they inspire such passion?

The consensus, based on my research, indicates the following:

Miller gets the nod for making better Mig and Tig welding machines, which makes sense given their pioneering role in developing these processes. While Lincoln is known for their excellence with stick welding machines, the process they developed a century ago.

Some welders swear by specific models of welding machines made by both companies, which is kind of a draw, as both companies seem to have an equal number of boosters.

Fabrication shops (of varying sizes and applications) seem to own more Miller welding equipment.

Welding equipment rental operations also tend to favor Miller welding equipment.

Miller customer service is almost universally touted as superior to Lincoln’s customer services, which some go so far as to describe as non-existent.

The report card issued by “the people” would seem to tip the scales in Miller’s favor, but this characterization may be a bit skewed by the manner in which Miller has positioned itself in the marketplace.

The Cadillac of Welding Machines

Cadillac-devilleConsider for a moment the General Motors Cadillac car model. A Chevrolet or Buick, of comparable size and similar features (also made by General Motors) costs less than a Cadillac. Part of this is because certain standard items included in a Cadillac are additional options in a Buick or Chevrolet. The other major contributing factor is the value assigned to the Cadillac Name Brand. How often have you heard a product referred to as the “Cadillac Model,” as in the “Cadillac of Boats,” or a “Cadillac Margarita?”

When you purchase a Lincoln welding machine, you’re purchasing the Cadillac of welders, a brand name long associated with the pinnacle of excellence in the welding equipment industry. Lincoln is certainly concerned with delivering quality service, and if you’re purchasing a large order, or a very high-end item, you will find customer service to be very attentive to your needs, the same as when you walk into a Cadillac dealership.

With more competitive pricing and an aggressive marketing approach, Miller has made many large volume sales to clients heavily concerned with their bottom line, i.e. fabrication shops and equipment rental businesses. Additionally, individuals purchasing personal equipment are also usually operating on a limited budget, making Miller’s lower equipment cost a more attractive option.

Is the perception of Lincoln’s superior quality warranted? Are Miller’s products in any way inferior to Lincoln’s products? The answers to these questions return us to very subjective territory, as quality, similar to beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. It’s very likely that it all depends on your personal feelings toward one brand or the other.

Any issue of a challenge between two products that garners an argument such as: “I just like their colors, and the way their logo looks,” is a competition in which deciding upon a clear winner is going to be pretty tough.

In the end, maybe all those with the attitude of “if it works, it works for me,” have it right.

7 thoughts on “Miller vs. Lincoln in the Battle for Welding Equipment Supremacy”

  1. William O Mozee says:

    I am a welding instructor used both miller & lincoln
    in the field shop. Been in the trade since 1968.Have had
    problems with miller gas welders,every two weeks one would be down.Used lincoln in the shipyard always relabile, my shop on campus is all red.Considering a miller for a new project (pluse tig training).
    William O Mozee
    Lead Welding Instructor
    Delaware Tech & Community College

  2. Mark Laffey says:

    The people here in America really have only had the two brands to choose from for decades, but if they ever had the opportunity to weld with some of the brands from overseas like ESAB, or Fronius, or Kemppi welding machines they might change their minds I mean after all ESAB invented GMAW (stick) welding, and GTAW (better known as heliarc welding). As far as I am concerned I again have not been priviliged enough to weld with the machines I have mentioned but now that they are finally here in the US (except for Kemmpi) I for one am itching to try these machines, after all I’ve only had Miller and Lincoln to weld with in my 25+ years in the trade.

  3. Red-D-Arc Welderentals says:

    Very interesting post! I have found very useful information about welding equipment. Thanks for sharing this post.

  4. Jason Ingraham says:

    How many 1950’s model millers do you see out there? I’ve never seen a single one. On the other hand there are 4 Lincoln’s on my job right now, and they weld great. Lincoln’s are built to last. I thought about buying a miller for my welding rig once, but I couldn’t figure out how to drive to work wearing a bag over my face!

  5. Jade says:

    Mark I am going to welding school where we have several Lincoln’s an ESAB welders aswell as plasma cutters and other equipment. Right now I will say the ESABs are junk they are always broke down and when they are working are far inferior to the Lincoln’s especially if you use spray rather that short circuit transfer. However I work in a welding and machine repair shop where we run all miller welders and I would take the millers any day, less finicky on the settings and much smoother running. We rarely ever have a problem with the miller welders even so simple as a rats nest and 2 of them have been there since the shop was opened 23 years ago. As for gas driven welders we have a miller bobcat at work and it has been a very good welder and never given us a problem. In school we also had some lincoln precision tig 225 welders that ran both tig and stick that were nice welders however I’ve never ran a miller tig and the bobcat is the only stick miller so I cannot compare those to much.

  6. Georgia Lucas says:

    I used to weld using Miller Product,never try out yet Lincoln’s,It seems this blog have it all !

  7. Puspendu Seth says:

    This is a nice post about wielding machine. Wielding machine help to joint two particle. This post has given the picture of five best wielding machine which will help the buyer to select a good wielding machine for him. So thanks for writing such a wonderful post.

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