The 15 Most Important Things to Look for When Buying a Used Sewing Machine

Buying a used sewing machine can be a wise choice, whether you're just starting out or have been sewing for a long time. It's important to know what to look for to ensure you get a reliable sewing machine that will last for years. Your goal should be to find a machine that is in good physical and mechanical condition, fits your budget, and has the features you need.

Here are 15 things to carefully inspect and research when considering purchasing a used sewing machine.

1. Wear on the exterior of the machine

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Inspect the exterior of the sewing machine for signs of excessive wear, such as scratches, dents, or rust. This may be obvious if the machine has been dropped. In this case, abandon the purchase. A needle plate with excessive scratches or nicks near the needle hole could be a sign of rough use.

A well-maintained exterior appearance generally indicates careful or minimal use, which suggests that the machine's internal components are likely in good condition as well.

2. Electrical components

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Check that the power cord and foot pedal are included and undamaged. Make sure the machine turns on easily and all switches and buttons work properly without sticking or resistance.

You may be able to get a great deal on a used sewing machine if the power cord or foot pedal is missing and you can find them online. Be sure to check availability before making the purchase.

3. Mechanical operation

Examine the steering wheel and other moving parts for smooth movement. Confirm make sure the bobbin winder is operating properly and observe any noise or irregularities during operation, as these may indicate underlying mechanical problems.

4. Sewing performance

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Carry some fabric scraps, thread, and an extra bobbin with you when testing a used sewing machine. Thread the machine and sew for at least a few minutes. Check for consistent stitch quality, making sure it can handle different materials, stitch lengths and stitch options. Pay attention to how easy it is to adjust tensions and select different stitch options. If any of the knobs are difficult to turn, the machine won't sew backwards, or won't complete any stitch patterns (especially zigzag), these are obvious problems that will require repair.

5. Brand Reputation

When looking at different sewing machines, pay close attention to the brand. Brands like Brother, Babylock, Singer, Janome, Elna, Pfaff, JukiAnd Bernina are known for their quality and longevity. Sewing machine warranties are generally not transferable, but if the machine is a high-end model or nearly new, you may want to check in case you can transfer a warranty in your name.

6. Model age and reviews

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Investigate on age of the sewing machine model in question and search online Comments:

  • Recent models: Can offer modern features and be more easily usable.
  • Older models: They might be tried-and-true workhorses, but make sure they meet today's sewing needs.

Advice: Sewing forums can contain a wealth of information about customer satisfaction and how much they paid.

7. Availability and cost of spare parts

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Check online sewing machine parts websites to see if spare parts for this machine are available and how much they cost. Check:

  • Common parts such as needles, bobbins, foot pedal, power cord, extension cord, knee pad (if there is one), etc.
  • Model specific parts: Gears, motor parts, or circuit boards unique to the model. You may not be able to make repairs involving these parts, but if a repairman can't get the parts, a broken machine won't be able to be repaired.

In general, entry-level machines cost more to repair than to replace. Make sure everything works before purchasing.

High-end machines may be worth repair costs, but do your research.

8. Stitch Options

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Test a variety of stitches offered by the machine to see if they suit your sewing projects.

  • Straight and Zigzag: Essential for basic sewing.
  • Stretchy and decorative stitches: Additional variety for more creative projects.

An adjustment machine stitch length and width will offer more versatility. Again, make sure all these points work before purchasing the machine.

9. Additional Features

Additional features can improve your sewing experience. Seek:

  • Automatic needle threader: Saves time and reduces eye fatigue.
    • Do not assume that the automatic needle threader is working. This part breaks easily and sometimes easily replaced.
  • Adjustable Speed ​​Control: Allows precision and adaptability.
    • Speed ​​control not working as expected is a sign of an internal malfunction.
  • Top Loading Can: Easier to set up and monitor your bobbin thread.
    • Check whether the bobbin case and bobbin cover are present. You may be able to replace them inexpensively, but know how much before you buy.
  • Presser foot knee lift: Common on more expensive machines, a knee lift frees your hands and makes sewing easier.
    • If the machine has a knee lift option, make sure it is included.

10. Accessories and attachments

When new, most sewing machines come with a variety of basic accessories essential to their operation. If you're lucky, many of them might come with a used machine.

  • Coils: Additional spools compatible with the machine would be great. Otherwise, note the type of can so you can purchase more.
  • Presser feet: Make sure the machine has at least one standard foot; additional types, like zipper or buttonhole feet, are also essential, so it's a bonus if they come with the machine.
  • An exclusive screwdriver: Sometimes a special screwdriver is needed to change the needle, remove the presser foot or needle plate, or perform maintenance.
  • A lint brush: This is used to carry out regular cleaning inside the machine. Don't worry if the lint brush is missing; these are easily replaceable. You can even use a small, clean makeup brush.
  • A seam ripper: Fortunately if a used machine comes with a seam ripper! Otherwise, you can buy a new one at a lower cost.

11. Maintenance and repair history

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If you're considering an expensive used machine, pay close attention to its maintenance and repair history. High-end machines should be serviced every year. The previous owner should have records showing the date the most recent maintenance was performed and all repairs made over the life of the machine.

  • Regular maintenance: Look for receipts indicating that the machine has been maintained consistently.
  • Major repairs: Make note of any major repairs and understand their implications. Replacing key components like the engine or timing belt can indicate a well-maintained machine or potential future problems.

12. Price comparison

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Check various sources to find out the going rate for the sewing machine model you are interested in. Here's how to get started:

  • Check online markets: eBay, Etsy, Craigslist
  • Look at the sale price of the same (or similar) machine that is new. Used machine listings often list the “retail cost” of the machine rather than the realistic amount you will pay for a new machine.

13. Take an expert with you

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If possible, hire an expert to help you thoroughly evaluate the machine, especially if you are unfamiliar with the mechanical details.

Estimate repair costs for common problems:

  • Minor repairs: Needle replacement, tension adjustments, lubrication
  • Major repairs: Motor, circuit board or power supply problems
    • Estimated cost: from 150 to several thousand dollars.

A lower initial purchase price is not a good deal if extensive repairs are necessary.

14. Machine size and weight

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That of your sewing machine height and weight are important to consider if you are considering taking courses or workshops. Look for a model that is:

  • Lightweight: Preferably less than 15 pounds for comfortable carrying.
  • Compact: Smaller footprint means it is easier to transport and install.

15. Storage options

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Proper storage protects your sewing machine and keeps it in good condition. Check if the machine has:

  • Soft case: Good for dust protection and short distance travel.
  • Hard case: Provides superior protection for frequent transport.
  • A box: A sewing machine cabinet might be the best case scenario, depending on your needs and available space. Cabinets are expensive, but they are wonderful to use. If you find a sewing machine with a Horn or Koala brand cabinet, the cabinet may be worth more than the machine.

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Disclosure: Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through one of these links, I may receive a small commission, so please support SewCanShe when you shop! All opinions are my own and I only suggest products that I actually use. 🙂

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