The best cheap embroidery machines

By on July 23rd, 2019
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Investing in an embroidery machine in a big decision. And, unfortunately, it’s a little bit of a chicken and egg conundrum.  If you are new to machine embroidery, you probably are not sure if you will even use an embroidery machine.  So… you don’t know if you should buy one until you actually buy it… ugh! Fortunately there are many ways to obtain a cheap embroidery machine and find out for yourself if this is a hobby or business that is fulfilling and/or fruitful. 

In this post, I’ll explain what factors you should consider, introduce you to some of the most popular (new) cheap embroidery machines, and then discuss how and where you can find cheap used cheap embroidery machines. 

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Why buy a cheap embroidery machine?

If you are new to machine embroidery, it makes sense to smart small when buying your first machine. You want to actually see if you will use this thing before making a serious investment.

Another reason why you may want to buy a cheap embroidery machine is as a backup.  I use my primary embroidery machine so much that I like to have an extra machine to use when my main machine is in the shop.  

Having a cheap embroidery machine as your second is also quite helpful when you are cranking out a lot of work.  It is deeply satisfying for me to see both of my embroidery machines running at the same time. 

Caveats when buying a cheap embroidery machine (NEW)

You CAN buy an embroidery machine for under $500.  Keep in mind, though, that this will typically mean you are buying your machine from a retailer like Amazon, Overstock or JoAnns which will not provide you with the type of support that a more boutique embroidery machine dealer would.

In addition, a cheap embroidery machine has some limitations, the biggest of which is the maximum hoop size. Most of the cheap machines have a maximum hoop size of about 4″ x 4″ which is way too small for embroidering something most of us embroidery nerds do all the time: stitching out names and monograms on beach towels. In some cases, you can buy a repositioning hoop for larger designs but that is an added hassle and expense.

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Popular cheap embroidery machines 

The cheapest embroidery machines you can buy are single needle home embroidery machines.  Most of the following listed below are under $1000 – with some even coming in at the $500 range.  

Once you start looking at multi-needle embroidery machines, your starting price will be $5000+, therefore this list only includes home embroidery machines.

Brother PE535 

The Brother PE535 is about as cheap as embroidery machines come.   It is NOT a embroidery/sewing combination machine 

  1. The SE600 embroidery machine from Brother at around $500 has been called the gateway drug to machine embroidery.  It’s actually an embroidery + a sewing machine all in one!  It’s very easy to use and you can load designs on it via a USB stick as opposed to older models which required you to connect the machine to a computer.  The downside is that the hoop size is limited to 4″ x 4″. Learn more about the SE600.
  2. If you already own a sewing machine and don’t need your embroidery machine to sew as well, then another very inexpensive option is the Brother PE535.  It, too, only has a 4″ x 4″ embroidery hoop, but tends to be a little cheaper than the SE600 because it only embroiders.  Learn more about the Brother PE535 embroidery machine
  3. If you are willing to spend a bit more, you can get a more generous hoop size (5″ x 7″).  The Brother PE800  has the same usability features of the PE535 but allows you to embroider much larger designs. See how the PE535 compares to the PE800
  4. Singer offers a fairly inexpensive embroidery machine model that actually comes with two different hoops. The Singer Legacy SE300 is more expensive than the others listed here. But, it ships with a large embroidery Hoop (10¼” x 6″) as well as a small Embroidery Hoop (4″ x 4″). Customers rave about its lightweight size and portability.
  5. Another cheap and very popular embroidery machine is the Janome Memory Craft Machine.  Usually you can get a slightly larger hoop size than the Brother embroidery machines for a comparable price.  For example, The Janome Memory Craft 400E is about the same price as the Brother PE800, however the Janome hoop is a bit larger. 

Factors to consider when buying a cheap embroidery machine

So, which brand do you buy? Brother, Janome or Singer?

For some it depends on who services the machine in the area. It helps to have someone who can service your machine close by.  But, definitely do your homework here.  As I mentioned, some dealers won’t touch the cheaper machines. 

It also helps to have a friend with a similar machine.  You can ask questions and compare notes as you are getting to know the machine. 

But, I think the biggest factor is hoop size. It seems like in every forum, embroidery enthusiasts recommend purchasing an embroidery machine with the largest hoop size you can afford.

If you decide to buy your embroidery machine online, it makes sense to wait for Amazon Prime day or when a fat promo code lands in your inbox from Overstock.

Where to buy used cheap embroidery machines

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, there are deals to be had on used embroidery machines, and there are many great resources for buying a used embroidery machine. Think about it… there have to be tons of people out there who bought embroidery machines and never use them or are ready to upgrade and are just waiting for you to come and buy it from them.

  • Craigslist and/or Facebook Marketplace – I imagine you are familiar with Craigslist as it has been around a LONG time, however, have you scoped out Facebook Marketplace? It’s another locally focused marketplace that connects buyers and sellers.  I personally think it’s faster and more efficient to use than Craigslist. But, if I were in the market for a cheap embroidery machine, I would be perusing both of these marketplaces. The perfect used embroidery machine could be right around the corner.  Literally.   I looked quickly in my area and found an older Brother embroidery machine (4″ x 4″ hoop) selling for less than $100.
  • eBay – Ok, but sometimes you can’t find the perfect used, cheap embroidery machine right around the corner. This is when you turn to eBay. Who knows – maybe you are taking a trip to the exact city where this used embroidery machine lives?! You could pick it up on a trip! Now that’s a perfect souvenir. Or just pay to ship it. If it’s a great deal – it may be worth it. There are LOADS of embroidery machines on eBay.
  • An embroidery machine dealer – the problem with buying an embroidery machine off of Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace is that you have to wait for one to become available. If you don’t have the patience and stomach to buy a machine out of some random person’s basement/garage, you should check with your local dealers. Oftentimes they sell used machines. And, the benefit of buying the used embroidery machine from a dealer is that they are familiar with the machine and can service it for you.
  • Facebook groups – If you haven’t joined a Facebook group dedicated to machine embroidery, and you are interested in the craft, do it!  Now! In addition to the wealth of advice and fun project sharing, there are a lot of machine embroidery enthusiasts out there who have gotten hooked and are ready to trade in their home machine for an industrial multi-needle embroidery machine. This could be a great opportunity to make a deal on a machine. Just put a message out there asking if someone is looking to unload an embroidery machine.

Tips when buying a used embroidery machine

  • Make sure it works!  I’ve bought a used embroidery machine and the seller allowed me to test the machine before I handed over my cash. Be sure you see how the machine works before completing the transaction. My seller even sent me all the manuals and suggestions on where to get it serviced.
  • Find a helpful seller. The person you buy the machine from may just train you how to use it. I have heard this again and again through my Facebook embroidery groups.  The person who sold the machine turned out to be a very helpful resource. After all – the seller wants you to be happy with the purchase so it’s in her best interest to answer all your questions.
  • Don’t let the smell scare you. I kid you not.  Some of my Facebook embroidery buddies report acquiring used machines that are frankly, pretty stinky.  There are all sorts of ways you can de-stink it – from setting it out in the sun, to wrapping it in plastic with some dryer sheets, to wiping it with disinfectant.

How can I justify buying an embroidery machine?

  • If you are interested in the business or making embroidered items, figure out how long it will take to pay it off.  If you spend a few hundred dollars on a machine, you can pay it off quickly by stitching out a few monograms for the people you know.
  • If you buy the machine used, chances are you can sell it for what you paid for it. So you can’t return it, but if you buy it for a good price, someone will probably be willing to buy it from you at that price.
  •  If you are in the phase of life where your kids are going to birthday parties every weekend, you can keep tons of stock items around and personalize them for every party. Think about the money you will save on gifts. Embroidering something for a kid makes a unique gift that costs very little and moms really appreciate it. A monogrammed towel or another plastic piece of crap? I’ll take the towel.

Like anything, investing in a piece of equipment is a little scary. You may doubt if you will use the machine, or if you can master it.  So start small, find a great deal and ask a lot of questions. Before you know it, you may be ready to upgrade.

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