Of course there are many things to consider when purchasing a sewing machine, price and function being the top two. After you have decided how much you have to spend you need to know what you want your machine to do. Will you only be sewing? Are you hoping to do some machine appliqueing or embroidering? What about quilting? Maybe you already know exactly what you want, and even if you don't, now is a good time to visit your local sewing machine repair facility. This may be a sewing machine/vacuum repair shop or it may be at your favorite fabric store but it is always where I suggest people start and typically end their search for their machine. Here's why ...
First of all, I always, always, always suggest you buy something that can be repaired locally. Whether you're a sewing amateur making a few things for the kids now and then or a professional quilter making family heirlooms we all love our machines and I promise, you're not going to be happy when something breaks to begin with. If your machine has to be sent "away" for repair (wherever that is) you're going to be even more disappointed. In addition, typically when you buy from a local shop they offer a warranty for repair and chances are you will already know exactly who will be doing the service for you.
Second, check for trade ins. Many repair shops not only fix machines but they also sell new machines and chances are if they have new machines they have used trade-ins. This is a great way to get "more" machine for your budget. The used machines have been serviced, typically have warranties and often have bundles that can include accessories, hoops and even software at a discounted price. Find a shop that will let you trade in your trade in and you've struck gold.
Third, many repair shops offer ongoing support classes and even if they don't have formal classes they are almost always willing to sit down and show you how to do things. Let's face it, sewing machines have evolved like all other technology and they can be intimidating. Knowing that you have someone you can turn to for help is well worth it.
Whatever you do please don't be fooled by deep discounts at chain stores or celebrity endorsements. Support is the key and you won't get any from a national chain or a celebrity.
Does all this mean that the only place to buy a machine is at a repair shop? No, of course not. Check estate sales and craigslist. Ask at the fabric shop if anyone is selling one. If you don't need the support you might find what you're looking for at a national chain store.
Whatever you do ask lots of questions and be clear to those helping you about what you intend to use it for so they can guide you along the way.
Did I miss something? Do you have a tip, a lesson learned? Please feel free to share.