Just for the Health of It

Should You Buy a Used Embroidery Machine?

With the prices of new embroidery machines continually rising, shopping the used market looks appealing. Lower prices, combined with their reputation for longevity, means that used embroidery machines attract hundreds of buyers each year. Is this really a good way to buy a machine?

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Under the surface

The ad seems like a perfect fit: Must sell 6-head-moving up to larger machine. Three years old, well-cared for, owner-operated, training included.The machine owner, Jack, explains that he has owned the machine for only about six months, which is in fact the total length of time he has been in the embroidery business. New embroiderer, Barbara, is eager to see the machine and cement a deal that means a substantial savings over a new machine.

When Barbara visited Jack’s shop, the machine was humming away-stitching beautifully with relatively few thread breaks. Barbara was tempted to buy it on the spot, but Jack agreed to hold the machine with a deposit until the machine could be inspected by a qualified technician. Upon inspection, a reputable technician found gear damage on one of the heads. Jack was unaware of the damage, because he had not had an inspection performed when he bought the machine six months earlier. The beginnings of the damage were certainly present at that time, however, because the gear wear was progressive, like erosion. Still, the machine’s stitching quality was not yet discernibly affected. Because the damage was discovered before the deal was inked, Jack shared the cost of the $1,000 repair with Barbara.

The slight discoloration of metal parts could easily escape the attention of an eager buyer, but it could be a clue about hidden damage to the trained eye. No matter how well you know a machine’s owner, a thorough pre-sale inspection is a good policy.


The electronic components of embroidery machines have likely seen the most change in the past decade. Does the prospective machine also need keyboard lettering capability? Aftermarket systems are available, or the machine manufacturer may offer an optional keyboard that can be added. Shop for a reliable system that has good-quality lettering and is compatible with the machine, then do the math to see if the machine· is still a bargain.

Training & Support

The offer of training from the machine’s former owner may be worth exactly what it costs you-not much. Despite good intentions, the former owner may not have quite the same interest in seeing things through once the cash is in hand. Check whether training is available from the machine’s manufacturer or distributor in case your training doesn’t turn out as promised. And just because a person owns a machine doesn’t necessarily mean he understands or uses all of the machine’s capabilities.

You will need a parts and accessories book, owner’s manual and wiring schematic of the machine. Be sure you have them before the deal has been completed. Contact the distributor in your area to discuss the availability and cost of service. Verify with owners of the same brand of equipment in your area, if possible

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