Buying a Sewing Machine from Craig’s List or Facebook
I’ve purchased two of my machines from Craig’s List. Craig’s List (CL) or a Facebook (FB) Neighborhood for Sale page are great resources for finding used sewing and embroidery machines so I highly encourage you to utilize those if you’re in the market for a new-to-you machine.
The first purchase I made was the Baby Lock Ellegante II (sewing & embroidery combo that uses large hoops) in 2015 which had originally been purchased at a dealer with a full set of Koala furniture.
Shortly after the original owner purchased the machine, she went into a nursing home. I saw the ad on CL with an asking price of $2,200. I dismissed it out-of-hand but several weeks later, I text the seller again to see if they still had it (the ad was no longer on CL). The seller said she did still have it so hubs and I made the 50 mile trek to go “look” at it. The seller turned out to be the daughter of the original owner who had recently passed away. Unfortunately the furniture was already sold (dang it!) but the machine was brand new and the sale included a Sew Steady table that had been custom made for the machine that had not been originally advertised. And by brand new I mean BRAND NEW – it had a zero stitch count on the display. I haggled the price down to $2k and felt like I’d won the lottery. The original selling price of this machine was around $8,500. This cash sale occurred at the seller’s home and I took my husband with me to make the purchase. This is the machine I use at our other home at the coast.
My second CL purchase in 2017 was a little different. It was being sold by a gentleman who was the cousin of the lady who owned the machine and she had passed away. She had a lot of sewing things and he had sold all but the Brother Quattro Innovis 6000D (sewing & embroidery combo) which he was selling for $3,800.
The ad had been on CL for several weeks. This was another cash sale so we chose to meet at a local police sub-station that has a couple of parking spaces marked Safe Exchange Zone and there’s a security camera pointing right at the parking spots.
This machine came with a full set of rolling travel cases, two upgrades already installed in the machine (a $1,500 value), a never-used external Brother PED memory card reader ($90 value), and a digitizing tablet ($1,200 value). Again, my husband went with me and this time, because our truck has an inverter for 110 power, I brought along some fabric, thread, and a bobbin to do a test to make sure the machine operated as advertised. I’m SO glad I attempted to make sure the machine at least powered on while the seller was there because it was then that we all discovered that the wrong power cord had been included with the machine. Fortunately, we were just a few minutes from an Allbrands Creative Sewing Center and I bought a new Brother power cord for just $15. I never buy after-market for power cords because it’s just too easy to seriously screw up the power center of your machine. The seller offered to go back and look for the original power cord but it would be an hour wait. Also, the external card reader is basically useless because the machine takes a standard USB stick so I’d never, ever use the reader. I told him he could keep it. We haggled a bit and due to several factors (lengthy ad listing on CL, no power cord, & useless card reader which he didn’t want back) I was able to get the machine for $3,500. It was a crap shoot that I won not knowing if the machine even powered up or not.
So from these experiences, here are some tips I have for you when buying a machine on CL or FB.
1. Do not go to the sale alone. EVER. You must ALWAYS, ALWAYS have someone with you for safety: preferably a large male (…with a gun…hey, this is Texas and that’s how we roll). You will be carrying a very large amount of cash dollars and people have been robbed, killed and/or car jacked during Craig’s list sales. This isn’t meant you scare you, but the more aware of the dangers you are, the better prepared and the safer you will be. Also, tell people where you are going, who you will be meeting, and give them the phone number in case you do not return.
2. Meet in a public location during the daylight – preferably at a police station. If you can meet at a local quilt or sewing store, that’s all the better. You’ll want to buy new goodies for your machine anyway. If they insist on you coming to their home, evaluate the neighborhood and see #1 above. Obviously, someone can’t drag a quilting frame to a meet-up. I went to the lady’s home for my first purchase, but I took my large husband during the daylight hours and she lived in a very nice neighborhood. I would not have met the 2nd seller at his home. That’s just me.
3. Do some homework to make sure you’re getting a good deal. If what they are asking is the same as an eBay sale, be sure to haggle them down. Tell them it’s for “X amount” on eBay and you’re willing to wait for shipping for a less expensive price. Nine times out of 10, they want the sale as much as you do so they will come down.
4. Find the manual online for the model you want to buy. Figure out how to find the stitch count to see how much the machine has really been used. If you have a portable power inverter that can produce 110 power, take it with you to plug in the machine if you’re meeting in a parking lot. If the machine has millions and millions of stitches, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but can be a haggling point to bring down the price. It’s an even better haggling point if the seller does not know the maintenance history.
5. Ask for the maintenance records or at the very least, ask where the machine has been serviced. You may be able to gain some insight into the health of the machine. Then call the shop if possible. If it’s been in the shop for the same thing several times or has made frequent trips into the shop, it might be a lemon someone is trying to unload. Along those lines, do some online research for frequent maintenance issues with that particular machine. If you see a lot of problems, keep shopping.
6. If software is included in the deal, like digitizing software for embroidery, check to see if there is a fob (sounds like “job”) that’s required for the software to work. Many pieces of software can only operate on one machine at a time, and while selling the software in a personal sale is perfectly legal, software manufacturers ensure the software can only be used on one machine at a time by use of a special USB stick that’s called a fob. It has a license key on it that allows the software to work. Without it, the software is completely useless and you cannot get another one from the company. If you’re not sure if a fob is required for the software, do a quick Google search prior to finalizing the deal. If one is needed and it’s not there, haggle down the price. Here’s the software that came with our Janome multi-needle. The USB stick is the fob and the software won’t launch without it in the computer. Along that line, ask the seller how many times the software has been installed on another computer. Many pieces of software, especially the expensive ones, have a limited number of installs that can be done whether you have the fob or not. Most will allow 1 to 3 installations because manufacturers understand that users buy new computers.. If it has been installed on the previous owner’s computer ask the seller if it was uninstalled. If they don’t know, you might be buying software that cannot be installed on your system. If the software does not have a fob, then the seller may not be authorized to sell the software. Buyer beware.
7. Get your new-to-you purchase into the shop as soon as possible for a once-over checkup. You don’t want to ruin a project or run up against a deadline only to have a machine that won’t operate properly when all it needed was a tune up. It’s worth it for peace of mind.
So I hope I’ve provided some helpful tips. There are a lot of great deals out there and if you’re in the market for a new-to-you machine, I highly encourage you to look for a used machine first if possible.