Used embroidery machines: where to buy and should you?

By on February 21st, 2021
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Used embroidery machines can be a great deal and work just as well as their newer counterparts. But, they can also be a risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, what should you know before you invest in a used embroidery machine? And where should you go to buy one?

Used embroidery machines are a lot like used cars.

Have you ever heard that a new car loses a large percentage of its value as soon as it leaves the lot? Well, embroidery machines aren’t that different. Once the embroidery machine is taken out of the box and starts stitching out designs, it’s a lot less valuable. So, just like cars, a barely-used, well-maintained embroidery machine, is a diamond in the rough and you could get a really great deal.

Brother Embroidery Machines and Accessories

Used home embroidery machines

You can often find a great deal on a used home embroidery machine if you are willing to be patient, travel just a bit, and to let Facebook and Ebay start to recognize your search history.  Once I started searching for a used home embroidery machine on Facebook Marketplace, more listings for them began to show up in my feed.  It’s not a coincidence that the used Brother PE535 showed up in my feed almost immediately after it was listed.  I was the first person to contact the seller and beat out 6 other interested buyers. And, I believe this is just because Facebook knew exactly what I was looking for.

Wondering why someone would want to sell a home embroidery machine? In my case, the buyer just got fed up with trying to figure out how to use it.  I believe that she never took the time to figure it out, had a couple of failed projects and then gave up.  She just wanted that machine out of her life as fast as possible.  Another seller I contacted wanted to sell her home embroidery machine because her vision was too poor to use it.  Oftentimes, I’ve noticed that people sell their embroidery machines when they are ready to upgrade.  So, it’s quite common to find a used home embroidery machine with a 4″ x 4″ hoop. While it’s a great embroidery machine for a beginner, a lot of people who fall in love with the craft quickly outgrow it.

Used commercial embroidery machines

While many people grow out of their 4″ x 4″ hoop embroidery machines, there are also individuals who grow out of their commercial embroidery machines.  For example, someone may feel that their 6-needle machine is inadequate and wants to jump up to a 10-needle machine.  This can be a great opportunity for you to jump in and scoop up a used commercial machine.

In my opinion, however, I think the best deals to be had on used commercial machines arise when companies or individuals want out of the embroidery business altogether. They will likely be more willing to part with their machine for a lower price than someone who is just upgrading.  The upgrader will want to get as much as possible for their current machine to help fund their next purchase.

What to look for in used embroidery machines

stitch count on used embroidery machine
Stitch count display on an embroidery machine. Photo provided by and used with Veronica Dalila and used with her permission.

Low stitch count

The stitch count on an embroidery machine is the number of stitches the machine has made. Fortunately, embroidery machines keep track of how much they are used – much like an odometer on a car.  To find this number, you will need to navigate to the appropriate menu on your embroidery machine. In additional to seeing how many stitches the machine has made, you will also likely be able to see how many stitches have been put on the machine since the last time it was serviced.

So what is a reasonable number of stitches for a used embroidery machine? Well – considering that most embroidery designs are between 1,000 and 10,000 stitches – a machine can hit a million stitches pretty quickly. In fact, according to one embroidery machine owner, a machine is “just getting broken in” at 1 million stitches. If a machine is used heavily, you should expect to see 20-30 million stitches on a machine every year.

Young age

Compared to other industries, the technology associated with embroidery machines has not changed that fast.  So, a 10-20 year-old machine can still be perfectly good. However, old machines might have obsolete cables and memory cards that you may not be able to use. For example, I read a description of a used embroidery machine online that had a floppy drive for transferring designs onto the embroidery machine. Being that most computers haven’t had a floppy drive in 20 years, it might be a bit of a challenge to get embroidery designs from your computer onto the embroidery machine.

Good maintenance history

A regularly serviced embroidery machine is going to perform better than one that wasn’t. But, only the most diligent and organized embroidery machine owners will keep a record of every service. Fortunately, you can get a sense for the last time the machine was serviced through the machine interface. But, it’s definitely worth asking how frequently the machine has been serviced and by whom.

I try to get my single needle machine serviced about every year, (and practice good embroidery machine maintenance), but multi needles are work horses. So, you can go a couple years without getting one serviced.

Risks of buying a used embroidery machine

The risks of buying a used embroidery machine are fairly obvious.  You could pay too much.  You could also buy a machine that is a total lemon.  Or, you could buy the machine and never figure out how to use it. However, you can avoid some of these risks by taking the following precautions.

  • Research the make and model.  Was this a well reviewed model?
  • Ask to see the machine run. Never buy an embroidery machine that you don’t get to see running in person.  Better yet, ask to use the machine yourself (of course with the owner’s assistance).
  • Compare prices  Find comparable used embroidery machines for sale and educate yourself on pricing.
  • Check out the resources.  Can you find tutorials and lessons online? Are there Facebook groups dedicated to this particular model where you can get your questions answered?
  • No warranty. If you buy your used embroidery machine from an individual seller, you will likely not have any sort of warranty. If you buy it from a dealer, however, you may get one.
  • Lack of financing. New machines can often be financed, but used ones (especially ones you buy off of Craigslist) can typically not be financed.
  • Not being able to get it serviced and/or fixed.  Don’t buy a brand of an embroidery machine that you can’t get serviced locally. In a big city, you will probably find someone who can service almost any type of embroidery machine. But, in a smaller town, finding a service provider for certain embroidery machine models may be challenging.

Benefits of buying a used embroidery machine

The are some unexpected benefits of buying a used embroidery machine. First of all, since the machine has been around awhile, you can know if you are getting a good deal or not. You can ask members of embroidery Facebook groups what they paid for the machine and then use that information to assess the asking prices.

Another plus is that since the model has been in existence for a few or more years, there are plenty of people around who have used it. From other users, you can lean tips and tricks. If the model has been around a while, then plenty of people have owned it and written about it. Ample reviews exist online.

Another expected benefit in buying a used machine is that the previous owner may offer to teach you how to use it. Sound crazy? One of my embroidery buddies bought an embroidery machine from a woman who included a lesson with the sale.  She also provided her contact information and was willing to answer questions in the future.

Finding a used embroidery machine for sale

Used embroidery machines for sale by dealers

If you live near a local sewing / embroidery machine dealer, then you may have a great source for a used embroidery machine. Typically, if the store sells new machines of one type, they also sell used versions as well. For example, if it is a Babylock dealer, then they will likely sell used Babylock embroidery machines.

There are a number of benefits to buying a used embroidery machine from a local dealer. Even if the machine is used, you may be able to get a warranty. They might also offer lessons. Even if the lessons don’t come with the machine, it’s probably a good place to go to get training on the machine even if you have to pay for it.  And finally, the local dealer will be the perfect place to bring the machine back for servicing.

If you live in a large enough city where you can choose between multiple dealers from whom you can buy a used embroidery machine, then you are very lucky.  You have the luxury of visiting all of these dealers and letting them know what you are interested in. If they don’t have a machine like what you are looking for, they may offer to contact you when they have one in stock. In addition, you can see how you are treated by the staff in the shop and determine if this is a store you would like to give your business to.

finding the perfect used embroidery machine online can be super exciting
Finding the perfect used embroidery machine online can be super exciting

Used embroidery machines for sale by owner

If you like the thrill of the chase, you may be able to pick up a used machine on Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook Marketplace or even an estate sale.  You can also check Facebook groups dedicated to helping people buy and sell used sewing and embroidery machines, e.g. Sew It’s For Sale

Online dealers of used embroidery machines

There are a few places online that offer used embroidery machines, such as:

How to sell your used embroidery machine

Keep in mind that whatever embroidery machine you buy, there may come a time when you are ready to upgrade. Fortunately, if you bought the machine used, you can probably sell if for not too much less than what you paid for it.   And when that time comes, any of these places where you looked for that used machine will be the perfect places to sell it back.

Good luck! And happy stitching

xo

Julie

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