I want to buy a sewing machine, but I can’t afford a new one. What should I look for in buying a used model?
Buying a used machine can be a great idea, especially if you’re new to sewing and not sure what you’ll really need as your interest develops. It’s also economical and many established sewers are opting to buy used. Dealers take in machines on trade constantly and they refurbish them (where needed) and resell them at a lower price than a comparable new machine.
The same factors should be considered when purchasing used, as when buying a new machine. What features do you need for the kind of sewing you do? Think about this seriously before visiting a dealer, as it’s easy to become enamored with the ducks and tulips, even if you have no possible use for these decorative stitches (there’s always dish towels and table napkins that look cute with fun hems)!
Check out the utility stitches–straight, zigzag, blindhemming, mending and buttonholes, as these are the most frequently used for general sewing. Take some sample fabrics with you and sew on the machine yourself, don’t just watch a trained salesperson sew on it. Check the tensions, and the ease of changing from stitch to stitch, and making adjustments to the stitch length and width. Try sewing with different thread weights and types. Ask what accessories the machine comes with–commonly you’ll get a zipper foot, buttonhole foot and all-purpose or zigzag foot; others may be available for purchase. If you’re a quilter, check to see if the machine has a walking foot, either built-in or available separately.
Ask about service for the machine. Does it come with a warranty or guarantee? Can you return it if you don’t like it for some reason, or if you want to trade up? Be sure to check on how to maintain the machine with regular lubrication, tune-ups, cleanings, etc.
If you’re a new sewer, take a sewing friend with you to help evaluate the machine as you put it through the paces.
SEW-lutions Tip: Check out our sewing machine Guidelines (Section 2) on sewing.org to learn more about machines.