How To Buy a Used Sewing Machine (11 Important Tips)

Finding a used sewing machine from one of the bigger brands can be a solid investment. The best machines last more than a lifetime so when you know what to look for, you can do a really good purchase.

After reading this article you will know exactly what to look for when you go shopping for a used sewing machine.

We will go over our tips one by one so you can easily scan down the article and get a good overview of all the different tips.

how to buy a sewing machine

Don’t be afraid to buy a used sewing machine. The big brands make sewing machines that last more than a lifetime. There’s a reason your grandma’s old Singer machine still works. Unlike cars, an old sewing machine can be a very good investment that you’ll enjoy for decades.

Let’s get started.

Know which features you want

Before you can decide on a machine you need to know what types of sewing you will be doing.

Let’s say you know you would do some embroidery work. Then you will need a machine with a ton of stitches and you should probably go for a computerized model as they tend to have a lot more stitches to choose from. If on the other hand you know you would never do any sort of embroidery or quilting, you can go for a more simple and standard mechanical model.

For quilting and embroidery work you also need a model with a decent throat-length and a long extension table:

Throat size on the sewing machine

This will enable you to move the fabric around much more easily. And that’s very important when you do embroidery or quilting. Is also very nice if you’re sewing bigger pieces of fabric like curtains or a dress.

If you are physically impaired you also need an automatic threading system on the machine. This is something you will find with almost all the newer models but now that you are buying a used model, this is something you should pay attention to.

If you want a high-end model with a lot of features it’s a good idea to buy a used model. Go for a sewing machine that is a few years old, just like you would when shopping for a car. This way you will be getting an almost new machine without having to pay the full price.

Choose a model that is still being produced

This is a good idea for one simple reason. Whenever you need to take the machine to the repair shop it’s a lot cheaper if this shop can get replacement parts.

If you go with a machine that is not produced anymore it will be more expensive to find replacement parts. That means a higher bill for you next time you need it fixed. Hopefully, you will never need to take it to the repair shop but this is not something you can count on when you go for a used model.

If you want to make sure whether a model is taken out of production, you can look at the manufacturer’s website. If you cannot find it on the website it’s definitely taken out of production. And if you can find it on the website just make sure they haven’t listed it as “expired”.

If you have a local repair shop with a good reputation you should give them a visit and ask them which models and brands they prefer.

Try before you buy

This is one of the best parts of buying a used sewing machine instead of a new model.

If you can manage to find a sewing machine in your neighborhood you should definitely go check it out before you buy it. Make sure to give it a good run before you leave with it. Try all the different stitches, and if it claims to be a heavy-duty machine you should make sure to bring a piece of leather or vinyl.

Ask the seller to let you use the machine alone for 10 or 15 minutes. This way you will have enough time to run over all the different settings and features of the machine.

If the seller will not let you try it you should just turn around and walk away. The reason this probably that the seller knows that the machine is not working properly anymore.

Choose a well-known brand

You should never buy a sewing machine from a brand you haven’t heard of before.

You can check this article to see what the top brands are, plus a couple of brands should stay away from. But a good rule of thumb is to never get a machine from the printer haven’t heard of.

If you haven’t got time to read that article above here’s the short version:
Get a machine from one of these brands: Brother, Baby Lock, Singer, Bernina, Janome, Pfaff, Husqvarna Viking, or Juki.

There’s a reason these brands became so big and that’s because they have consistently produced high-quality sewing machines for decades (or centuries!).

This is also a good way to make sure you get the best warranty. The big brands on the market all compete for having the longest warranty period. When you go for a no-brand machine (or a cheap brand) you will never get a good long warranty. Even if you manage to find a machine from an unknown brand with a solid warranty period, you might not be able to find a repair shop to take care of it when it brakes.

(which it will!)

It’s not important which is the bigger branch you go for as long as it’s a good solid brand you know.

Check it for cracks, rust, and funny sounds

Make sure to give it a good inspection.

Be careful to check it all around for cracks and deep scratches. If it looks damaged it probably is and you shouldn’t buy it.

You also want to make sure it doesn’t have any funny sounds coming from the motor or the bobbin area. This could be because it needs a good clean but make sure to do this before you run away with it, so you know it won’t be a problem later.

Make sure it runs smoothly and sounds like an ordinary sewing machine. It shouldn’t make any clicking or buzzing sounds and it should also be able to sew at a good constant speed.

Also inspect the machine carefully for any rust.

We don’t want any rust on the machine whatsoever. It’s just a really bad sign and even though you might be able to remove it, it will just come back as quickly as you get rid of it.

If you’re buying the machine online or you can’t inspect the machine before you get it, you could always ask the seller to send you a video of the machine. Pay attention to the sound it makes and be sure it does everything the seller says it does.

Go for a front-loaded machine

Some machine has a front-loaded bobbin system and other machines have a top-loading bobbin system.

The front-loaded machine will have the bobbin placed on the front of the machine pointing towards you. The top-loaded machines will have the bobbin case placed horizontally below the needle.

The reason we want you to go for a frontloaded machine is that this type of machine often lasts longer. They are also harder to damage from everyday use. In 99% of the cases, these machines will have a metal bobbin case. This makes them more durable and they will last longer.

The top-loaded machines, on the other hand, can be used with a wide selection of bobbins. This might sound like a good thing but in reality, it is really not. Because the previous owner might have been tempted to use a wrong-sized bobbin on the top-loaded machine. On the front-loading machine, this is not possible so you know it has been used properly.

Buy from the dealer if you can

It’s always a good idea to buy a used machine from the dealer shop. Because you will know exactly where to take it if something goes wrong. You might also be able to get a warranty period on the machine, even though it’s a used model.

They will also do a much better job of answering all your questions and help you get the right machine for you. After all, they have a reputation to care about.

This will also let you try different models and see a good variety of machines before you make up your mind.

When you get your machine from the shop you can also be pretty sure they have tested it well before putting it on the shelf. They won’t be selling a machine just to get rid of it if it’s not working properly.

It’s better to get a used model from a proper dealer than getting your sewing machine from the grocery store. You should never buy a sewing machine at the grocery store unless you are lucky to find a model from one of the bigger brands.

But even then you should definitely go online and check with the specific model, to see if people have any problems with it. There might be a reason why this model ended up being sold at the grocery store.

Considered getting a refurbished model

Refurbished sewing machines are often the best choice.

So what is a refurbished sewing machine? Refurbished means that the machine is not brand new. It has been used for a short period and returned to the shop. Or the shop might have gotten it in exchange for selling a new model to a customer.

Either way, you always buy a refurbished product with a warranty. This means that he would be able to return it to the shop if it doesn’t work properly or if something breaks within a few months.

Here you can find a very good selection of refurbished sewing machines.

I have made some really good deals from refurbished shops and they have always treated me like I was buying a brand-new product.

I normally get the same warranty period as I would with a new product.

But we have saved the best argument for last:
It’s also good for the environment because as we know, production of electronics is very tough on the environment. When we buy refurbished sewing machines we can reduce the number of new sewing machines being produced.

Make sure everything is included

Ask the seller to go over all the different parts of the machine. You need to make absolutely sure that you get all the original parts along with the machine.

Otherwise, you might end up saving 50 or $100 Only to realize that you now have to visit the store and spend more money buying all the parts that you didn’t get.

Here’s the list of what you should ask the seller to include with the machine:

  • Multiple presser feet
  • Bobbins
  • Bobbin cases
  • A foot pedal
  • An accessory tray
  • A tiny screwdriver
  • A seam ripper
  • A Quilting bar
  • Needles
  • Manual
  • Instructional DVD
  • Receipt

If anything is missing you need to make sure you know exactly what it will cost you to get it from the shop. Make sure you’re still getting a good deal even after adding this amount of money to the purchase price.

Like we mentioned above, you need to make sure the machine is still being produced. If it has been put out of production you might not be able to find the missing part for the machine and then you have ended up in a really bad situation.

Make sure to check with the manual that everything is included. Don’t just take the sellers word for it. If you find something to be missing this is also a good reason to ask for a discount.

But you need to be absolutely sure you’re getting a good deal if something is missing.

Think a few years ahead

This comes back to the first point about making sure you have all the features you need.

You need to think ahead a few years and consider how are you will be using the machine in the future. If you are the creative type you probably like to try new things. In that case, you should probably go for a machine with enough stitches to keep your satisfied for the years to come.

If you just bought a house maybe you want to make new curtains within a couple of years. Then you also need to make sure the machine can run fast enough. When you want to work with very long pieces of fabric it’s frustrating to have a slow machine.

Maybe you have kids and you might have to fix some heavy materials in the future. Not every machine will do well with canvas, denim, vinyl etc. In that case, you need to go for a heavy-duty machine with a strong motor and a durable needle system.

Make sure you take all of these things into consideration before you decide which model is the right one for you.

Looking for an industrial model?

Maybe you’re looking for an industrial sewing machine. These are little different from your standard home-use model.

Industrial models tend to be set up for specific types of work. So make sure the model you’re going for suits your needs. You want to find out what it has been used for and how it is configured. If you’re going to use it for lingerie, it’s no good if it’s been set up for heavy-duty projects.

These type of machines are also hard to value. You might not be able to find the exact price for the machine online because industrial sewing machines are often not sold in batches. In other words, you need to know what you’re looking for and what the right price is. Otherwise, you might end up with a bad deal.

If you’re going to use the sewing machine at home you shouldn’t go for an industrial model unless you would use it professionally.

Even though you might think this type of machine is more robust (and you might be right) you will be better off with a standard machine designed for home use.

With a standard sewing machine, you will get much more features and a better all-around machine for the same price.


To sum it up; you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. Think about how you will be using the machine and what types of project you will take on.

Choose a machine that is still being produced (from one of the bigger brands) and make sure to try it before you buy. Check it thoroughly and get it from a dealer if you can.

Also, make sure everything is included and you will be well on your way to do a very good deal on your new “used” sewing machine. Either way, it will be new to you and we hope you get a really good deal!

Happy hunting!

Related questions

How much does a used sewing machine cost? A used sewing machine for home use should cost between $50-$200 depending on the features of the machine. A full-functioning sewing machine should cost around 50% of the new retail price.

Where do I find the best second-hand sewing machines? The best place to buy a used sewing machine is from a repair shop. Many sewing machine retailers we also have a selection of used machines. A shop can often offer you a good warranty and help you find the best model for your needs.