Buying a Used Embroidery Machine (9 Helpful Tips!)
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Like buying used electronics, appliances, or cars, buying a used embroidery machine can be a great way to save a fortune.
Or, it could be a huge mistake that costs you big in the long run.
Thankfully, if you do your due diligence before purchasing a pre-owned embroidery machine, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars and find a machine that will take its place as your trusted crafty sidekick.
So, read on to learn places to purchase a used embroidery machine and what to know before buying!
Where to Buy a Used Embroidery Machine (Least to Most Risk)
Purchasing from a business will carry less risk than buying from some random person you meet on Facebook.
And while you could strike a deal with your closest friend or a family member, that’s not possible for most of us.
Thus, here are the pros, cons, and things to consider for different marketplaces for secondhand embroidery machines.
1. Buy From a Local Dealer In-Store
In general, the most risk-free place to buy a used embroidery machine is from your local authorized dealer.
There, embroidery technicians inspect used machines, replace worn-out parts, and ensure the machine is in perfect working condition before reselling.
And, many shops offer generous warranties on machines and provide free support and service for a period of time. (They are also most likely to offer to finance.)
While browsing around in-store, don’t forget to ask if your local dealer has any available classroom or floor models.
These typically have low stitch counts, but since they’ve been taken out of the box, they’ve lost value immediately and can sell for up to 25% off the new price. (Ask about classroom or floor models at sewing expos also, for that matter!)
In my area, most sewing machine dealers carry only used home embroidery machines.
You will likely need to locate a commercial embroidery dealer or distributor near you if you want to purchase used commercial or industrial embroidery machines. (Think Tajima, Barudan, Toyota, or Melco multi-needles or multi-heads instead of Brother, Janome, Baby Lock, or Bernina single-needle machines, which are more for home use.)
2. Buy “Certified Refurbished” or “Renewed” Online
If you keep an eye out, you can find certified refurbished embroidery machines or “Open Box” embroidery machines on Amazon, eBay, or retailers’ websites.
Examples of sewing dealers’ websites where I’ve bought supplies or machines in the past include:
You can also sometimes even buy refurbished machines directly from the manufacturer’s website! (Brother, for example, sells refurbished products on their site.)
The important thing in these situations is to check the specifics of a warranty and verify returning items is an option.
Sometimes, the warranty will be the same as the manufacturer’s warranty for a new machine; other times, it will be as little as 30-90 days, depending on the retailer.
Furthermore, some retailers offer to let you purchase an extended warranty.
For example, if you purchase a renewed embroidery machine from Amazon, you have a 90-day return window but can add an optional 3-4 year protection plan.
3. Buy For Sale By Owner in Online Marketplaces
Facebook Marketplace, Facebook buy & sell embroidery machine groups, Craigslist, and eBay are four popular online sources for purchasing embroidery machines.
The most popular machines in my area? Used Brother embroidery machines.
So many embroiderers (like me!) started with smaller embroidery machines (4×4 or 5×7 hoop sizes) and decided to upgrade soon after. Or, they decided embroidery wasn’t for them and wanted to recoup some of the costs fast.
As such, these machines are so easy to score secondhand and usually for a great price.
However, one risk for buying for sale by owner is that the odds of getting your money back are low if something goes wrong after purchasing.
Thankfully, some online marketplaces like eBay do offer buyer protection, so you can buy with a little more security. (They also have seller protection, which is why I’ve sold my used embroidery machines and sewing machines there.)
On a helpful note, opt for local pickup in a safe location when possible.
Reasons pickup is preferable to shipping include:
- Reduce chances of damage in the mail.
- Save on shipping costs, which are VERY high for large, heavy machines. (Don’t forget to bring a friend and a big vehicle if you pick up a multi-needle machine.)
- You can test the machine before handing over any money.
Now, if you have an item shipped, be sure to ask the seller to insure the package when it’s mailed.
4. Thrift Shops, Garage Sales, or Other Resale Stores
Thrift stores can be the site of great treasures but also great junk.
While I was suffocated by student loans during my doctorate, I bought a lot of stuff from our local thrift store.
Before purchasing from a place like this, where you have minimal access to information about the machine’s history, ask if you can plug it in and test it.
It’s common for users to donate machines that aren’t working in hopes someone may find them and could repair them. So, you might not always find a functional embroidery machine along with your great deal.
Deciding What You Want in a Machine
Before you start looking, set a list of wants for your machine and a budget.
Consider features like:
- Max hoop size
- Single vs. multi-needle machine
- Embroidery only vs. sewing and embroidery combination
- Automatic jump stitch trimming option
- Maximum embroidery speed
- Machine brand
- Built-in embroidery designs and fonts
- Onscreen editing or design creation abilities
I’ve covered even more considerations in my best embroidery machine for beginners article if you’re new to the art!
9 Tips for Buying a Used Embroidery Machine
Here are my recommendations before you seal the deal on your machine.
1. Test and Get to Know the Machine
First, if purchasing a pre-loved embroidery machine in person, test it out.
Bring some fabric, stabilizer, and your favorite brand of thread, and see what the machine can do! (Stores have these goodies, too, but I like bringing the brands from my supplies collection.)
Spend a few more minutes testing if you can use the interface, work the hoops, and thread the machine without wanting to pull out your hair!
Then, ask for tips from the seller for using the machine and if there’s anything you should know.
For instance, I know my Brother SE1900 hates Coats and Clark embroidery thread, but my Luminaire has no issues.
However, my Luminaire is a real primadonna regarding thread cutting. If I don’t clean the thread cutter after every project, it becomes frustratingly unreliable when cutting jump stitches.
Meanwhile, I’ll forget to clean the cutter for months on my SE1900, and it doesn’t complain!
2. Check Stitch Count and Last Service Date
Embroidery machines often display the total machine stitch count or the number of active stitching hours onscreen.
This number is an important metric as it explains how much wear and tear the machine has had over its lifetime. A low stitch count is ideal.
However, I’ve seen well-maintained machines with 50+ million stitches on them still functioning! (In fact, my newest machine did almost 2 million stitches in the first six months I’ve had it.)
An arguably more important metric is the service count, which shows how many hours or stitches the machine has made since its last routine maintenance or repair.
I take my machines in yearly (or sooner, if they tell me I need to), and just like car maintenance, embroidery machine maintenance is important to ensuring longevity.
However, not all users service their machines, which is not ideal if you’re the next one to buy it.
Some situations are more concerning than others, though.
For instance, a $300 machine that’s never been serviced in its three-year lifespan…meh, a servicing may cost close to the cost of the machine, so this isn’t a dealbreaker for the low cost.
A 5-year-old, $10K machine with 10 million stitches and not one routine maintenance visit? Nope, not interested!
Also, it’s important to note that a multi-needle machine will likely have a higher stitch count than a single-needle machine.
10 million stitches on a multi-needle is NOTHING, whereas 10 million on a 4×4 small embroidery machine is A TON!
3. Read the Warranty
Unless you get the world’s best deal on a machine or know how to test out a potential machine, don’t purchase without a warranty or at least a return period.
4. Assess Replacement Part Availability (& Age of Machine)
Technology changes so fast (and the supply chain is so volatile) that many older embroidery machines no longer have replacement parts available.
For instance, many machines with card readers are no longer supported, so if something breaks, that’s the end of life.
Be wary of purchasing a machine you can’t get fixed if it breaks.
5. Look for Lessons and Support
Are online tutorials for your embroidery machine (or at least a manual) available?
Does the dealer offer free lessons or lifetime support for your machine?
Or, is there a good YouTube channel or Facebook group for this specific machine model you can visit for help?
Consider these things if you’re a beginner and aren’t confident figuring things out yourself.
6. Peek Inside the Machine
Okay, don’t disassemble the whole machine!
But, if possible, take off the needle plate, remove the bobbin case, and check inside the machine.
Preowned or refurbished dealer machines should be cleaned, but those machines you buy on Facebook Marketplace probably aren’t.
Look at how much thread lint’s built up and how clean things are. Taking a look will give you an idea of how well the previous user took care of their machine!
If users don’t regularly clean inside their embroidery machine, lint can push farther inside and wreak havoc on the motor and other parts.
7. Evaluate Upgrades and Updates
Did you know several Brother embroidery machines can be upgraded to more expensive models?
Same with Baby Lock and several other brands.
For instance, if you purchase a Brother Luminaire XP1, you can purchase the XP2 and then XP3 upgrades to turn that XP1 into functioning like an XP3.
So, consider purchasing a less expensive used machine and then paying for the updates (pennies compared to the newest machine) to make it equivalent to a much more expensive machine.
Also, check to see if the software on the machine is up to date.
8. Know Pricing
Before purchasing a machine, check the embroidery machine price history on eBay, or scroll through listings for your specific machine on Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace.
That way, you know what you should expect to pay when the perfect machine becomes available.
9. Consider Asking for a Deal
If you’re buying from a dealer, there’s no harm in asking if they offer any packages or specials.
I got all sorts of free things when I purchased my Luminaire just for asking. (Well, that and shopping at two dealers and asking which could give me the better offer…perks of a big city!)
And, even if you’re interested in a machine on Facebook, Craigslist, etc., that seems overpriced or is slightly out of your price range, it doesn’t hurt to ask if the seller will accept a lower offer in your budget or throw in a few lessons.
I always accept reasonable Best Offers on eBay items I sell, for example, because I want stuff gone fast!
Should You Buy a Preowned Embroidery Machine?
In conclusion, there are used embroidery machines for sale everywhere, and you might get a great deal and save thousands.
Some things aren’t always as good as they seem, though, so ensure you’re protected if you soon discover why the previous owner was selling that machine for so little!
And if you’re not ready to buy yet, check locally–there might be many places you can rent an embroidery machine to try out the hobby first.