Buying used sewing machines
There is a wide range of used sewing and embroidery machines available at bargain prices on popular sites such as eBay. But how do you know you’re getting a truly great deal? It’s important to consider what you need the machine for. If you’re looking for a cheap sewing machine for beginners, quality might not be your number one priority, but if you’re an experienced embroiderer you’ll be more likely to want a versatile and durable machine and might be willing to pay slightly more for it. Let’s take a look at what you should consider when purchasing a second-hand sewing machine.
Which is the best brand of sewing machine?
We asked several of the most-respected textile artists and designers, such as Carol Naylor, Sue Stone, Karen Nicol, Nigel Cheney, Sue Hotchkis and Jo Smith, what their machine of choice was. Without fail, all of them recommended Bernina; what better validation? You can read their opinion in the article The best sewing machines for embroidery.
Having dug a little deeper and scouted around for more of an objective overview, we discovered that most experienced embroiderers and sewers considered the European manufactured machines to be the best quality. These machines are generally rather intuitive and take less time to get to grips with. The following brands are available on eBay and are the best for reliability, quality and local dealer support and servicing.
Bernina sewing machines are made in Switzerland. The only way to buy a new Bernina is to go directly to a Bernina dealer in person, as they are not permitted by Bernina to sell the machines over the internet. Because brand new Bernina sewing machines aren’t cheap, there is always a high demand from quilters and embroiderers for pre-owned machines in a good state of repair. It’s important to be aware, that no matter how new the machine is, if you buy a second-hand Bernina on eBay or anywhere else, you won’t be getting a warranty, as the manufacturers don’t allow the transfer from one person to another.
When we published the article The best sewing machines for embroidery, we were contacted by a few textile artists who said they were surprised that Husqvarna sewing machines weren’t featured. Here’s what one well-established textile artist had to say:
I’m surprised Husqvarna Viking didn’t make the list. Their embroidery machines for domestic users are superb quality. Their Diamond Deluxe machine is fabulous – I had the chance to play on one (sadly out of my present price range) – but for versatility, smoothness of stitching, excellent embroidery output and capacity for digitized embroidery on a domestic scale I think nothing else beats it – not even the Brother PR. One of the advantages of the Husqvarna Diamond is that it can be used for general sewing, quilting and pre-programmed stitching etc not just for embroidery. That’s why I think it’s better value for money than a pure embroidery machine like the Brother PR – which has a comparable embroidery field size.
Having done some more research, Husqvarna machines appear to be much sought-after and receive excellent reviews across the internet. The company has a long-established history of quality design and manufacturing, and is based in Sweden. They pride themselves on serving the needs of passionate sewers across the world.
Textile artists we’ve spoken to have also mentioned their love for the following brands: Brother, Pfaff and Janome.
What do I need the machine to do?
When considering purchasing a sewing or embroidery machine on eBay, have a clear idea of exactly what you need to achieve with the machine. There are two main categories of sewing machine; sewing machines for sewing and quilting and combination sewing machines with automatic embroidery attachments and capabilities.
Choosing the best sewing machine for quilting and sewing
Quality is almost always the number one consideration. The higher the quality of the machine, the more capability it will have to perform a wider range of speciality stitches. Ask yourself if this is important to you or whether you only need the most basic of machines to carry out the most basic of stitches.
There are many lower-quality machines being made, and the better-quality brands (like Bernina and Husqvarna) don’t allow their latest models to be sold on the internet. If you decide you do need a more versatile and long-lasting sewing machine, the cheapest way to get one is to shop around for deals on eBay.
If you need the machine to be rich in features, it’s always worth spending more on a great brand. There is far less of a risk involved in investing in a Bernina, even if it is fairly old, because these machines are built and engineered to last. It’s probable that a second-hand machine by a top-quality brand will last you longer, be more reliable, and cause you less hassle than a brand new generic model by an unestablished company.
Choosing a great combination Sewing/Embroidery machine
eBay offers massive savings (often half-price or better) on first class embroidery machines made by the top manufacturers in the field. With these machines, it’s important to make sure you know exactly what you are getting before you purchase; don’t be afraid to contact the seller and ask questions about any concerns you have. Is there a warranty included? What is included with the purchase? Has the machine been reset to Manufacturer’s standards? Study the images of the machine to check its condition.
Consider the age and condition of the sewing machine
Trying to save money on a pre-owned sewing machine is all very well, but don’t compromise on quality of brand. If you are trying to economise, it’s probably worth looking at slightly older machines rather than newer ones by a lesser brand. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is; if the price seems ridiculously cheap, be mindful and ask questions to see if you get a credible response from the seller. The feedback system on eBay is a useful guide to let you know how trustworthy a certain seller is. With a pricey purchase, like a sewing or embroidery machine, it’s probably best not to buy from a seller with no feedback or previous sales. If the seller has a lot of great feedback, you know you can probably trust their claims about the quality and condition of the machine you’re considering.
Questions you may want to ask the seller
- Does the machine have a needle threader?
- How many feet does the sewing machine have?
- How many stitches does the machine have the capability to do?
- How easy is the machine to thread?
- How many hoops does it have? What sizes?
- How many owners has the machine had?
- Has it been in constant use since it was first bought?
- Does it come with any accessories?
- Is it simple to use?
Buying second-hand sewing machines on eBay – a word of warning
Unfortunately scammers are still rife on the internet, but there are some proven ways to reduce the risk when buying a used sewing machine.
- If the seller has placed the item on a 1 day only auction, be wary. It could be that the person is looking for some quick money and doesn’t actually have the item. The price is likely to be way too low for the machine they’re claiming to be in possession of.
- Take notice of poor feedback. Don’t purchase anything from anyone you don’t have the utmost confidence in.
- Always pay via Paypal or cash on collection. Paypal is free to use and you are protected as a buyer . If you opt not to pay until you see the sewing machine, you have at least some insurance.
What questions would you want to ask the seller of used sewing machines? Let us know in the comments section below.
49 comments on “Buying used sewing machines”
After burning through three used Singer machines I bought the simplest Bernina available. There is no comparison! The Singers all had plastic parts that had become brittle and cracked on heavy use. Bernina’s parts are all metal. It’s one of the few machines that you can buy and know that it will hold its value ten or twenty years down the line. I love it! It has some of the fancy stitch options, which I never use, but is just a basic, solid, smooth running machine.
Bernina all the way seems to be the consensus!
I personally wouldn’t buy a sewing machine on ebay or anywhere else on the net unless it was from a business that have a premises I can visit and see them face to face. There are several reasons for this. If you are going to invest a lot of money in a machine – and let’s face it for a decent one you are going to have to cough up a bit, then it’s worth spending a bit of time visiting some dealers and trying out a few machines before you buy. Machines have a lot of different functions and features which you can test out. Something that sounds fabulous in a brochure may not live up to expectations in real life. The stitching may not be as smooth, the glossy look of the machine may prove to be too plasticky and lightweight. It may judder across the table or feel awkward and confusing. You can only find out these things by trying the machine in real life. Conversely trying out a machine can be very exciting and cement your reasons for wanting it. I believe that the way a machine “feels” is very important; the way you and the machine “fit together” – do you like how it handles? Do you enjoy the sound it makes? The way the controls move? Or does it annoy and frustrate you? Most of the people I’ve ever spoken to about Bernina’s and Husqvarna’s often mention that they are a joy to use. In my book joy is a good reason to buy a machine!
I feel that the relationship with the dealer is almost as important as the machine. They should become part of your “A team”. Meeting and building a relationship with a dealer can bring many benefits and can last a lifetime spanning the use of many different machines as your needs change and grow. A good dealer can answer your technical questions. They will help you compare different models and features and bend over backwards to help you find what’s right for you. They offer advice about maintenance and servicing and usually offer servicing based on many years of experience and knowledge. The old guy who has 40 years worth of parts, screws, bobbins etc in his back room and is willing to hunt throught them to fix your bobbin case there and then, for no payment when you desperately need to finish work for an exhibition is a man worth making friends with! Yes he does exist! Machine dealers may also be able to offer you opportunities to create workshops and classes which will bring more custom and publicity for you both.
One of the questions you mention above is how often a machine has been used since first bought – this is a two edged sword. No-one wants a machine that’s been worked to death and has worn brushes in the motor about to give out – industrial machines from factories sold on the cheap can present this issue. However, I’d suggest avoiding machines that haven’t been used for a long time. As one machine engineer advised me “The more a machine is used, the less servicing it needs.” In other words, a machine left standing for months or even years without use needs a thorough servicing before you even considering purchasing. If you are looking at a machine in a private sale e.g. on ebay, asking when it was last serviced (and seeing the evidence and a servicing warranty) is very useful – as well as getting the contact details of the people who serviced it.
I agree with the point that an old reconditioned machine from a rock solid brand such as Bernina (with a dealer’s warranty) is possibly better than buying a new cheaper less robust model. Go for the best you can afford!
And here’s my last tip – always, always, always ask for a deal! Any dealer worth their salt will want to build up the lifetime relationship with you I mention above. So always check what deals they have being offered by the manufacturer network (which can change monthly) in addition to the personal deal they may be able to offer you such as throwing in accessories or discounts on additional machines or special offers on ex-demo models they may not advertise generally. Also ask about payment options, which, if you explain your situation, they may be flexible on and some offer credit schemes – something you are unlikely to get via ebay! Many years ago a dealer gave me a massive discount when they saw how desperately I wanted the machine and I’d explained what my circumstances were. It took me a while to get the machine, and they were willing to wait patiently and work with what I could manage. If you don’t ask you don’t get, so ASK!
Really great advice Nicky – thanks for your input. I think you are right that, because it’s a considerable investment, it is important to trust the person you’re dealing with. Having said that, there are some great and well respected dealers on eBay – I’ver personally made some big purchases on eBay. It’s vital to research the person or company you’re making the transaction with first. After you’ve established that trust, you can get some great bargains.
Thanks again for adding such value to the conversation.
Hi Joe, ha ha yes I’ve bought big things on ebay too – namely a caravan! Thankfully it worked out ok although it meant collecting it from Scotland! 🙂
I definitely think “try before you buy” is the way to go with machines though. There are quite a few good machine dealers who have brick and mortar shops and an ebay shop too where they have special internet deals and nice bundles on machine feet etc.
If you purchase a Bernina from an individual the warranty does not transfer. Is there any way to purchase a warranty?
Hi Linda – I’ve just researched your question and unfortunately I don’t think you can get a warrantee from Bernina at all on a used machine no matter how new the machine is. There are third party warrantees available to buy on certain items but you’d need to check if they cover the item you’re wanting to purchase. Here’s an example of a provider of warrantees – I’ve never purchased a warrantee on a used item so be certain to read the small print if you do decide to go down this route. http://www.squaretrade.com/our-coverage
I must be a lucky person or just simply keep my eyes open.I found my fave Bernina 730 in a skip 20 or so years ago where I worked. It just needed a bobbin winding mechanism repaired.
I traded a piece of work for an 830 and have an earlier one than the 730 with a wooden extending table for another piece of work. Now, has anyone got the Irish singer embroidery machine-have more work to swap! Its the gypsy in me1
I’ve looked the world over to find an Irish singer, but could not find it. (Mind you, I live in the Netherlands). But through ebay I found out, that both Conway and Meistergramm made a similar machine. I purchased the machine head of the Meistergramm, in Miami, and have had a difficult time waiting or it to arrive. But after receiving it in the most inflated bubble plastic package ever, it dit fit perfectly to my Juki industrial table and engine set on Dutch 220 volts. Yay, nobody told me that the Meistergramm also used Juki parts. I am very happy now. Can advise the Miami dealer to you!
Just a comment on all that unnecessary bubble wrap. The proper way to ship a machine head is in a box with bubble wrap around the head, then 2″ of loose fill all the way around. Close this box and put it in another with 2″ fill around it. I worked in Mail Boxes Etc for three years to learn this.
I have a bernina 830 . Quite old ie 20 30 years [in a red case]. It has been maintained well and serviced. I am told that the foot pedal goes fast or slow and can not maintain a steady medium pace. How can I replace this pedal as the local shop does not appear to be able to do this. Any idea of price? I live in Orpington Kent, am retired but a carer for 2 people. Any where local would be a big advantage to me. Thanks
Not sure where you are located but Bernina dealers have the replacement pedal. Ask to have it shipped to you if the shop isn’t local.
Hi I want to sell my Bernina 950. It works very well, is in good condition, serviced every year and used mainly for bridal and evening wear. How much should I sell it for and where would be the best place to sell it.
Hi Vee, ebay is one of the best options. They have used Bernina 950s on there that have sold for between £550 and £1500.
Berninas are not all made in Switzerland. The parts for series 1-3 are now made in Switzerland and assembled in Asia. The bernettas are entirely made in Asia, componentry and assemblage.
I have purchased more machines on eBay than I care to admit. Am looking at another right now. All Berninas–all have worked great except for the one I got for a song that said it wasn’t working. Got it fixed and ended up with a free sewing machine after I sold the extras it came with that I didn’t need. Have given several machines away, and am shopping for one for a niece. The eBay advice here is spot on–carefully examine pictures and descriptions, ask questions, research the machine online, know what should be with the machine and whether it is included. Ask your local dealer what a regular maintenance costs. Understand that you will have no warranty. Of note–the only extra service any of my machines need is fixing the needle threader. I only have a few that are working–not a deal breaker for me, and I understand Bernina has developed a new one that is more durable???? Will be asking for that the next time I bring in a machine for maintenance.
How do I find out how to price a Bernina Virtuoso 160. I have not used since it was last serviced. I have a bad back and had to purchase a lighter weight machine. I loved it, it was my third one
Hi- I d like to see picture of your bernina and see if I’m interested to buy. What price have you determined?
Hi Grace – we don’t have a Bernina to sell – this is an article giving advice about buying second hand sewing machines in general. Thanks, Joe
Hi grace. I have a bernina sewing machine 831 in excellent condition but no manual. Lot of attachments and sewing box I am going to be selling . I want 600 firm for it. The owner has passed on and this machine needs a good home that it is use to.
In reading your early reviews on Husqvarna & Bernina, I’m assuming your “ratings” are from probably some time in 2013 (in view of the date of comments). I’m reading many comments trying to decide which machine to buy & am now reading more & more where people are not as pleased with these 2 machines now (2015) as in the past because the parts, etc, are now manufactured in places other than Europe (Switzerland, etc).
Would appreciate your thoughts re quality of performance, parts, etc. now as a result of the changes in place of manufacture.
Thanks for your excellent comments.
I looked at new Bernina’s in 2014 and they were so out of my budget. A bare bones 1008 “Classic” a model they have been making for over 20 years is $1600 US. Embroidery machines go up to $15,000! I researched machines on http://www.PatternReview.com where there are reviews from owners of sewing machines. I decided to look for a Bernina 1630 from the late 1990’s. I wanted a machine that would be primarily metal and made in Switzerland. If interested in Husquevarna Viking, The Designer SE with the USB is very popular as a machine that can do embroidery. These generally go for $1800 US. There are sewing machine dealers on eBay that refurbish machines. Check their feedback, ask questions. I prefer a dealer over a private party. Pay through PayPal to a verified seller only. Once you find a machine you are interested in, check online first to make sure that if it is computerized you can update its software with today’s tech. Check out YouTube, Google for any manuals to see if it will be a machine you will like to own. I love my 1630. I did not want embroidery, or rather really need it…the machine has some simple designs should I want to play around and can be programmed to a limited capibility. If I were really serious about wanting to embroider I would have found a way to cough up the $6000 for the entry level new Bernina and financed it with their interest free program. As it is, I am very happy where I am and do not have sewing machine debt!
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I require second hand sewing machine parts!!
I have an old sewing machine but the name seems to have worn off. It has a fluted base inset with mother of pearl.
Any ideas please on finding out more about it? I have in the past sent photographs of it to web addresses, but to no avail.
I have recently bought a Janome 5001 on ebay. needed to source a control pedal. £30 all in and a machine made when quality outweighed price. Very very pleased.
I am sell used plain machines @3500 I bought it in 2014 . My contacts is 0712510429
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I am looking to sell my Bernina Aurora 440 QE (Quilters Edition) Sewing Machine with Embroidery & BSR. Is anyone can recommend what the best way to sell my machine is. I do not want to sell on eBay. I live in Maryland.
I am looking for a Bernini 1080 manual. Can’t locate one anywhere.
You will find the Bernina 1008 manual online if you google it. I too couldn’t find it online until recently.
for buying a used machine we should also concentrate on the lifetime of it. the performance of it and also the accessories it covers.
the used sewing machine can be used since ages. it should be more durable and the performance is more accurate than any other machine. the used machine has a better experience of the job and can do it easily. thanks a lot for some tips
Hello. I bought a Bernina 1090 Quilters Edition when it came out that I only used once or twice right after it was purchased. I have taken it in for periodic service (cleaning, oiling, etc.) about 4 times since then, with the most recent service being about 2 years ago. I will probably never use this machine and am interested in selling it. Because it is in mint condition, I am interested in selling it at a fair price and live in Eugene, Oregon. Please contact me if you have a serious inquiry. – Thank you. Julie (JulieRRoach@comcast.net) August 10, 2019
I also can’t go past a bargain and have acquired a Bernina 830 out of a skip in perfect condition with lots of extras. I have seven Bernina machines only one which I purchased new in 1972. The others have all been bought for very little from charity shops or New Zealand equivalent of Ebay. I have had more at times, and given them away to friends who needed a machine. I can really only use one at a time so I think it is time all but one machine was given away or sold.
Bernina’s are good machines, but I think often over-rated against other top brands. Plus if you prefer a drop-in bobbin like I do, you won’t find this on a Bernina (unless they’ve changed recently!). Babylock machines, which you don’t mention, sew beautifully and consistently. Janome is also worth mentioning as they produce great machines as well.