I started out with my Lincoln tombstone when Tricky D1ck was President and it's still a go-to machine, especially for outside use. With 5/64" 6013 it welded in sections of a car hood to replace a rusted-away floor in a 1970 3/4 ton Chevy I got for cheap. It also handled 3/8" steel with 1/8" 7018 for antenna supports. Welded lots of rebar with it (oops did I say that?). It was $300 new and you can't beat that for Total Cost of Ownership. Craigslist in the DC area has buzz boxes almost every day and if you don't like it you can get your money back. But you will like it. It was fine for keeping my old Cub Cadet lawn tractor going and there's no reason a basic buzz box won't do the same for you.
Usmcpop mentioned the Dial-Arc 250. The local CC had Dial-Arc 250 machines when I was taking night classes. The arc was so smooth, handled so nicely that it was noticeably easier than the tombstone for vertical and overhead and I can't explain why, but the difference was not small. I saw one on Craigslist for $375 which wasn't the best deal but the place is full of toys so I reluctantly passed on it; two stick-capable machines are enough........until the garage goes up next year.
Harris dual-stage O/A
Lincoln AC/DC buzzbox
Miller 3035 spoolgun
Thermal Arc 185
Thermadyne Cutmaster 52
Angle grinders, vicegrips, the usual suspects
Two hands, tired body, not enough time...