Bernina sewing machines, manufactured in Switzerland, are under strict regulation by the company and warranties are not transferable. To purchase a machine, you either have to go directly to a Bernina dealer or find someone selling a second-hand machine. Authorized Bernina dealers are not permitted to sell on the internet or by mail order - in fact, they are not even supposed to sell or quote prices on a machine over the phone. This means that someone looking for a new Bernina must go in person to their nearest authorized dealer, and for some that can be hundreds of miles. In addition, most dealers ask the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or close to it, so there are always sewers and quilters looking to save some money by buying a preowned machine.
If you are looking for a Bernina on eBay, you should be aware that regardless of how new the machine is, you will not be getting a manufacturer's warranty (see addendum below for details). Even if the original owner tells you she never sent in the warranty card, this warranty is not transferable because you need to buy the machine from an authorized dealer. Having a warranty card does not mean you have a warranty! If an eBay seller claims you will get a manufacturer's warranty with a Bernina he is selling (even one that has never been used), this is just not true! That said, most of the used machines on eBay are out of warranty anyway, and Berninas are generally trouble-free. (I have owned more than a half dozen different Bernina models over the past 25 years, and I have yet to have a problem that required me to return it to the dealer for repair! Most other sewing machine manufacturers pull a machine from the assembly line from time to time to test it - BERNINA TESTS EVERY MACHINE TWICE! All Bernina parts are manufactured in Switzerland, and some machines are assembled at their plant in Thailand.)
Actually, nearly all sewing machine manufacturers also restrict their warranties to the original buyer, so be careful if someone tells you a used machine is covered under the original warranty!
Many Bernina dealers will not take used machines in trades, so this makes it even more difficult for someone to find a used machine. Occasionally you will find a second-hand Bernina at another sewing machine dealership, but most Bernina owners stick with Berninas, so it will be hard to find them . . . except on eBay!
Want to know more about when a particular Bernina was made, what the original accessories were, features, etc.? Do a search on "Bernina Comparison Charts" and look for mariamichaelsdesigns (eBay won't let me list the link here!).
Be aware that the most popular current Bernina models are favorites of the scam artists on eBay. These internet criminals are usually outside of the United States (beware broken English!), and they will try to get their victims to wire money to them. Just remember . . . if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't! Don't ever respond to these offers by using an email address within the description. Always use the "Ask seller a question" link to ask questions of sellers you don't know and HIDE your email address. eBay staff usually find and stop these fraudulent auctions within a day after they are created - to help them, you can click on the "Report this listing" link near the top of any listing and report that you think the listing may be a fraud. If you buy something on eBay and the seller will not accept Paypal, report the seller to eBay! Paypal is the safest way to pay for anything on eBay . . . your investment is protected.
Before bidding on a Bernina on eBay, educate yourself about the model you are considering. The Bernina web site has many resources, including comparisons of all the current models and PDF files of their brochures. (But you won't find any prices quoted on the site!) There are groups for Bernina owners and prospective owners on Yahoo and other internet sites . . . take advantage of all these resources at your fingertips!
If you are looking at a new Bernina model, one way to save money is to look at an older model instead. Berninas hold their value very well, so it is unlikely you will find one really cheap, but you will get most of the features on the newer machines by buying one that was made within the past ten years . . . and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. (But if you want a machine that can use the Bernina Stitch Regulator, you will have to look at a current model - of models made before the BSR was introduced, only the 200 can be upgraded to take the BSR.) Some older Bernina "workhorse" models - especially the 930, 1130, and 1230 - can actually sell for more today than they did when they were new.
So if you are looking for a preowned Bernina, eBay is definitely a good place to look! And you are looking at what many sewers, especially quilters, consider the best sewing machine available today! Good luck in your search!
TIP: I see a "Feetures" DVD being sold on eBay for high prices, much higher than it sells for at a Bernina dealer (around $17 at mine). I got one of these and didn't find it very helpful - Bernina has better videos of all of its feet in operation on their web site . . . for FREE!!! (The Feetures books are wonderful but costly - the DVD is definitely NOT a replacement for them!)
NEWS FLASH: BERNINAS RATED #1! The March 2009 issue of Consumer Reports rated sewing machines, and of the models they tested, rated the two Berninas tops in their categories! The Activa 230PE was first in the Electronic category, and the 440 QE was tops in the Embroidery/Sewing category with a score of 89 out of a possible 100 points. (Note: they tested only 18 machines and just these two Bernina models - if the other Berninas had been tested, they would undoubtedly have scored the same or higher!)
Here is what the warranty card on my own Bernina 630 says (my highlights):
Bernina International warrants the product identified below to be free of any defects in workmanship and materials, under normal use upon the terms and conditions hereinafter set forth. The warranty is offered solely for the private, non-commercial use of the product. The warranty will be in force only for the periods of warranty duration, specified herein when the product is owned by the original purchaser and it is limited solely to the repair or replacement of original parts which, in the opinion of Bernina International AG, are defective in workmanship or material and which are returned to the Dealer from whom the unit was purchased.
The warranty shall extend for a period of:
- 2 years in the case of electrical parts
- 5 years in the case of printed circuit boards
- 20 years in the case of mechanical parts from the date of purchase of the product
The liability of Bernina International AG shall be limited solely to the cost of the affected part and does not include labor charges. All other costs, including the shipment to the Dealer from whom the product was purchased or to such other point as may be designated by Bernina International for service or repair under this warranty shall be those of the purchaser. (NOTE: individual dealers usually cover labor costs for any warranty repairs within a specified period, but this can vary by dealer.)