When it comes to sewing machines, you get what you pay for. An inexpensive sewing machine may last a year or two, it may or may not make consistent stitches, or it may break at an inconvenient time. That leads many sewing crafters to search for used sewing machines. But there, too, are concerns with buying used.
Is the used machine in good condition? Why is it being sold? When is the last time it was used, and what was it used for? Was the sewing machined taken care of? These are all questions to ask, no matter where you buy your used machine. So after asking yourself those questions and deciding that a used machine is for you, then keep on reading. There are several good places to look for used sewing machines. Here are my top 5 picks:
Where to Find Used Sewing Machines
1. Thrift Store
Our local thrift store gives small appliances a try before putting them up for sale in the store. Look for notes or tags attached to the machine that say “Runs great” or “Working order.” Ask, too, if you can plug the machine and try it before you buy it. Some will say “Parts only,” meaning that the machine is not in working order but some of the parts may be useful to those who make sewing machine repairs.
2. Flea Markets
You may find a used sewing machine in a flea market. Look for those signs about whether it is working or not. You should also ask to try the machine out before leaving the store with it. If they won’t allow you to try it, don’t waste your time or money on it. You should also ask about their return policies.
Sometimes a machine may work with a simple running stitch, but may not make a button hole stitch or zigzag when you get home. Some flea markets do offer return policies. Be sure to leave with all the specifics if you purchase a used sewing machine from a flea market. And be sure to get a receipt and hang onto it until your return policy expires.
3. Yard Sale
The great thing about yard sales is that, in most instances, someone familiar with the machine is on hand and can answer your questions about it. Ask those questions listed above. You may also ask how much experience the previous user had with sewing and if the machine has had any professional maintenance or if the user performed any preventative maintenance (like regular oiling) while owning the machine.
If you are buying from a thrift store, flea market, or yard sale, there are some other things you should look for before opening your wallet. Is the machine discolored? That could be a sign that it was stored for a long period of time. Gears can have a tendency to lock up if a sewing machine is stored for long periods of time without any use.
Also, as gross as it may sound, you should look for remnants of insect feces. Open the bobbin casing to look there. Open the door to the thread tension mechanism, too. You should also check any indentions, like small grooves around the needle plate and in the manual wheel.
If the sewing machine is computerized and has a touch screen, gently touch all the button panels to make sure they push smoothly. If you feel a crunch, that could indicate insect remains or feces under the computerized key panel. Don’t buy a machine with any of these signs. In addition to possibly only working short term, you could also be bringing insects into your home.
4. Buy from a Friend
The great thing about buying from a friend is that they can also act as tech support if you ever need it. They know the nuances of their sewing machine and can help you learn them, too. They will also honestly tell you why they want to sell it. Maybe they are upgrading to a new machine or one with more bells and whistles. They will definitely let you try it before your purchase, and will help you with sewing machine basics if you are new to sewing. You will also likely get a pretty good deal when buying from a friend.
5. Buy from a Sewing Machine Retailer
The safest bet when buying a used sewing machine is to buy from a sewing machine retailer. Yes, they retail new machines, but many of these stores accept old machines as trade-ins. The stores are run by sewing machine specialists who have machine mechanics on hand to make repairs and honor warranties locally.
Before they ever put a used machine on the floor, they give it a tune up, test it, and make sure it runs as it should. Many times they rebuild a machine, so it’s like you’re buying brand new when you buy one of their refurbs. Most sewing machine retailers who deal in used machines offer warranties on the used products, too. You may even be able to buy an extended warranty for extra protection if you choose.
Another great thing about buying a used sewing machine from a sewing machine retail store is that many of them offer classes free of charge to their customers. Buying a used machine at your local store may unlock a bevy of sewing classes to help you learn the craft and how to operate your sewing machine.
A lot of serious sewing crafters trade their machines at a retail store. It’s like trading a vehicle, they get a dollar amount from their trade to knock off the price of their new machine. Since so many sewing machines are computerized, crafters sometimes trade often to get the newest up-to-date technology. Usually, there is nothing wrong with the machine they are trading at all. Some trade a traditional sewing machine for a sewing/embroidery combo; or a sewing/embroidery combo for a larger embroidery or quilting machine.
To find your local sewing machine dealer, just Google “Sewing machine stores near me.” My closest store is 40 miles away, but it is definitely worth the drive for the service, supplies, and training opportunities that I get in return.