How to Buy a Used Sewing Machine

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How to Buy a Used Sewing Machine

A sewing machine can be an extremely useful item to have in any household. Even those who are not professional or hobbyist sewers will find that a sewing machine makes even the simplest mending task easier and quicker. Even a used sewing machine will last for years.

Why Buy a Used Sewing Machine?

Used sewing machines are a great alternative to a new machine for many reasons. Used machines are often more affordable than new models. While used models may have some wear, the price difference allows buyers to afford more high-end machines when buying used. Also, many people don't realize how sturdy sewing machines are. A person may try to sell a used sewing machine because it is old or because it has some wear. However, many sewing machines built decades ago still work smoothly. Although many people associate used items with problems, old sewing machines often work just as well as new ones. Finally, a used sewing machine is a great option for a novice sewer who is just learning to use a machine. Using a sewing machine is vastly different than hand sewing, so it may take some people a little while to get used to the difference and feel comfortable with working a sewing machine. Buying a used machine is a great low-entry-cost way to learn how to work a sewing machine.

What to Look for in a Used Sewing Machine

Used sewing machines can be just as reliable as a new sewing machine. Just look for a few things when browsing the available used machines. First, make sure that the machine has the features and capabilities that are needed. Novice sewers will likely only need the minimum amount of stitch settings. While cheaper, used machines can make it tempting to splurge on fancy sewing machine features, these extra bells and whistles can make it more difficult for beginners to learn the basics. More advanced sewers, however, will enjoy having more options available. Try making a list of what the machine will need to be capable of, and don't get distracted by other features that will end up costing more without getting used.
Also do some research into different brands. Each sewing machine brand has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some sewers prefer one brand over another due to usability or aesthetics. Read reviews of different brands. Look for complaints about reliability and ease of use, and avoid brands that seem to develop chronic problems.
Look for used sewing machines that are offered with cases, the original box, or original user's manuals. Sewing machine cases help protect the machine over the years, so a machine with a case is less likely to have experienced any significant damages. Machines that come with original packaging usually have been used less and cared for better than other machines. A user's manual is an added bonus to novice sewers who may not know all of the functions of a sewing machine. While many sewing machine manuals can be purchased separately online, a machine that comes with a manual helps simplify the process.
Finally, check that an individual used sewing machine runs smoothly. Online sellers should provide multiple photographs, which should confirm that the machine works. Make sure that at least one photo shows that the machine will power on; look for a photo that shows the sewing machine's light turns on. Make sure to ask the seller to run a piece of fabric through the machine. The feed dogs, which are the pieces that move the fabric forward through the sewing machine, should work smoothly, and the needle mechanism should move up and down without any snags or loud noises. If there are any doubts that these basic mechanisms do not work, find another used sewing machine.

What to Avoid in a Used Sewing Machine

Most modern sewing machines have bodies made of sturdy plastic. Often, these can stand up to heavy wear. If a machine's body has some small cracks or fractures from use, this does not necessarily indicate that the machine has been seriously damaged. However, since the body covers a lot of small, intricate moving parts, large cracks may indicate internal damage as well. Cracks can also have jagged edges that will snag and catch on fabric later on.
A sewing machine with any electrical problems will be costly to fix. If the seller cannot provide proof that a machine turns on, look for another option. Similarly, if the seller cannot show or vouch that the machine runs, do not purchase the sewing machine. Often, only specialists can fix some sewing machine problems, and these fixes can add up. While some minor problems can be solved with a tune-up, do not assume that a quick fix will be easy.
It is not necessary for a person selling a used sewing machine to be an expert sewer. However, complete ignorance of sewing machines can be a problem. If a seller has not tried to turn on or test the machine, it might be best to search for another option. A seller who is not familiar with sewing machines will make it difficult to confirm the state of the machine. It could also indicate that the sewing machine may not have been cared for properly.

Easily Fixed Common Sewing Machine Problems

Sometimes, a machine that runs perfectly well is available for sale with some minor defects. Some of these flaws are easily fixable without professional expertise.
If a machine simply needs cleaning, then it is likely still a good purchase. Often, a sewing machine does not get dirty on the outside of the case; the major problems occur when lint and fluff from thread and fabrics build up inside the machine. This lint can eventually make a machine run less smoothly, but it is easy to remove. Simply remove the slide plate, which covers the bobbin, and gently remove the lint. A small air canister or small vacuum will help with this task. Most sewing machines do not have loose parts in that compartment, so do not worry about displacing anything. If, however, a part does move during the cleaning process, it may indicate a deeper problem with the used sewing machine.
Missing or broken needles are also more easy to fix than some people may think. While a missing needle can make it more difficult to confirm if a machine works properly, it should not alone be a reason to avoid buying a used sewing machine. Replacement sewing machine needles are readily available, and most replacement needles will fit any sewing machine. Most machines have a small screw or knob that must be loosened to remove the broken piece of needle. Then, the new needle is inserted into the empty space, and the screw is tightened as much as possible.
Missing power cords and foot pedals, along with many other missing parts, are easy to replace. Other small parts that often need replacements include light bulbs and bobbins. Many of these are interchangeable between models and brands, but always double check before purchasing a replacement. While cords require no installation, a new sewing machine light bulb will need a bit of work to install. The amount of work required will depend on the machine, but have a small screwdriver handy. Often, just five minutes of work will save a person from paying for costly repairs. However, be careful of more specialized parts, like slide plates, that are generally different shapes for different machines. When in doubt, avoid a machine that is missing a part or parts.

Finding a Used Sewing Machine on eBay

eBay has many used sewing machines available for sale. From the main page, select the link for Home, Outdoors & Decor.. Then click on the link for the Crafts page. Then, find the link for the Sewing & Fabric page. Use the navigation menu on the left of the page to click on the option for the Sewing main page. Select the link for Sewing Machines & Sergers.. From this page, use the navigation menu on the left to narrow down the options by brand, price, operation, type, and condition. To see only used sewing machines,, select the subcategories under Type and Condition.


Buying a used sewing machine is a great option for anyone on a budget. Since sewing machines are often expensive, used machines make it easier for anybody to afford a sewing machine and begin to explore the world of sewing and crafts.

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