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Used Embroidery Machine Landmines

Should I buy a new or used machine?

If you are new to embroidery you may want to consider buying a new machine as your first. With your new machine you usually get technical support, training, technical support, warranties, technical support, and it is easier to get financial support. Oh, and did I mention that with a new machine you can get TECHNICAL SUPPORT?

You can save substantial money buying a used machine. The bottom line is this. You can get a good machine in your budget but there are a lot of pitfalls. Do your homework before you spring for a machine. You don’t want a $3000 boat anchor








Generally speaking, I have found that any embroidery machine has three different life spans. Parts and support stops at this point.

  • Support from manufacture – from 5 to 15 years
  • Mechanical – up to 15 to 20 years
  • Electrical – 1 to 10 years

Here are some conciderations that you should take into account when buying either an old or new machine…

  • Technical support – Is there someone I can call and talk to if I run into problems or have questions about my machine?
  • Service technicians – If my machine breaks, is there someone in my area that can service my machine without costing an arm and leg?
  • Training – Is there someone that can provide training on my machine?
  • Parts – Are parts available for my machine? Are parts expensive for my machine?




When you consider buying either a new or used machine you should realize that you are weighing price against quality.

I like to compare embroidery machines to automobiles, do you need a Mercedes to drive to Walmart, and take the kids to soccer practice? You might want to look at something a little better than a Yugo, an Edsel or something that is going to stay in the shop most of the time. You will pay more for a higher quality machine but you may not have as many headaches.





In China and in some other countries there are companies that build machines. You bring your blueprints and machine specs to the company and order 500 machines and they will build you an embroidery machine and put your name on it.

Some companies focus on quality and consistency while others focus on turning a dollar.

Beware of any Chinese embroidery machine older than about 2010.

Beware of buying machines directly from China. You can get them for a fraction of the cost, but I have seen and heard many horror stories. Support comes from China and may take 24 hours to answer an email. I have heard of some very shady companies from there.

Stay away from Inbro, Prodigi, and Aemco. The companies are no longer in business and parts are difficult to get. The machines are still bouncing around in the market and you might see one for sale.

Barudan, Brother, Happy, Melco, SWF, Tajima, Toyota, and ZSK are great machines but any embroidery machine has a definite lifespan. Do your homework. I would be very warry of anything over 15 years old, especially the Chinese machines.





There are a few things you probably want to consider if you are looking for used  machines

  • Parts - The companies that built these machines may or may not still make parts for these machines. You may want to call the company and ask if can still get parts. The PCB boards are becoming rare and you may end up having the boards repaired. You are looking at $600 to $2600 for a board replacement or repair. As an example, Toyota 850 and 860 have little or no new parts. You will end up getting parts for them from companies that are buying older machines and parting them out.


  • Service - When you get the machine home and it breaks in a couple of weeks, will the company offer service on the machine and is there a repairman in your area that can fix the machine? Most of the companies that sell embroidery machines will not give you free support on used and older machines. You can find some help from them but unless you have a service contract, they may not provide support over the phone. Look for a service technician in your area that can service the machine. A lot of technicians will not bother with older machines, and travel cost for a technician is a bear.


  • Training - I do not know if you know anything about operating the machine and embroidery but there is a learning curve to getting it right. I have seen a lot of new embroidery machine owners that start taking orders before they get their machines. You need to get the machine, learn how to use it and then work into the sales. It is not as easy as buying a laser jet printer and plugging it in. You should be able to get training from the people you buy it from, or you may be able to find a technician in your area to help you out.


  • Check out the machine - If you do end up wanting to go with an older machine make sure that it works like it should and you can use it.
    • can it load a design,
    • can it sew out a flat,
    • can it sew out a cap
    • does it take a special link or software to load new designs?