Guide to Buying a Sewing Machine on Ebay

Ebay can be a tricky place to navigate when it comes to sewing machines, espcially vintage machines.  To increase your odds of a good buying experience, I would like to offer the following tips for buying a sewing machine via eBay.


Do your research on the type of machine you are considering beyond what is stated in the listing. Sites like PatternReview, Yahoo groups, this blog and others on this vast internet do offer information about sewing machines that isn't skewed by the eBay sellers drive to get your money. Talk to sewing friends and even your local repairman if you can.  Do not take the sellers word for the quality or capability of any model of sewing machine even if their feedback is 100%.


I see many sewing machines listed as "working", but the seller never sewed with it or even witnessed it actually make any stitches on fabric.   Ask the seller, " DOES IT ACTUALLY SEW?  When was the last time someone sewed with it?"  Just because parts move and "the stabber thingy goes up and down" doesn't mean that the machine sews properly or that all it's functions work correctly.  If you aren't interested in purchasing a machine that might require repairs, look for a seller that has fully tested the machine and will guarantee that it works as designed. 


Does it include a power cord, foot controller, presser foot, bobbin case, etc..... Certain parts can be difficult to find and/or expensive to replace if they are missing.  Manuals can often be purchased for under $20 from an online source or sometimes downloaded at no cost.


Keep in mind that some machines are quite heavy, and shipping a 45 pound box isn't going to be cheap, but watch out for sellers that overly inflate the shipping to avoid eBay fees.  You can check the UPS and USPS sites to get an idea of the cost to ship a machine to your location.

Sewing machines require VERY careful packing
, and unless it is still in the original box with the original packing material, it can cost some $ for the seller to get the correct and sufficient packing supplies. It can easily take an hour to correctly pack a machne as well.  Also, shipping insurance will NOT cover improper packaging.  Honestly, your  lucky if it covers anything. If the seller claims that they will not be responsible for damage in shipping, then YOU WILL BE STUCK if the item isn't properly packed and is damaged in shipping.  Sewing machines can be very difficult to pack and damage in transit is VERY common as a result.  So, do you realy expect the seller of that bargain $19 dollar, cast iron sewing machine to spend $10 on packing materials and an hour packing it?  Chances are really good that they aren't going to be eager to invest the extra time and money required to prevent a sewing machine from getting damaged.

Only buy from a seller that will guarantee the safe arrival of your sewing machine or limit your purchases to local pick-up items. 


(Sample photos of a properly packed sewing machine)

LOCAL PICK UP - NOT ALWAYS FREE Yes, there are sellers that add a surcharge to an item for local pick up. I highly recommend that you contact the seller in advance and inquire about their policy on local pick up of items prior to bidding.


These are all equally vague, deceptive and essentially meaningless phrases used to misrepresent what is really a home / household / domestic sewing machine. These terms give the false impression that the machine is more than what it really is- a household / domestic machine. Furthermore, not all industrial machines can even sew heavy materials.  Industrial machines are intended for high volume, mass procution applications and are very specialized to a particular task or type of sewing.  Our domestic machines are more of a "jack of all trades" so to speak. 

Industrial, Commercial Grade, Professional, Industrial Strength & More- Sewing Machine Buying Guide

  Note the difference between the domestic motor on the left and the industrial motor on the right.

A seller that uses the word industrial (or the other equally inaccurate terms) to describe something that clearly isn’t so, is either intentionally misleading the buyer or very uninformed. Either way, do you really want to buy a sewing machine from them?

As if this weren't enough foolishness, there are now a rash of sellers that have dropped the word "strength" from the phrase, and are simply calling household sewing machines "industrial".


As a seller, Paypal costs me money, but as a buyer it does offer some protection. If an item is significantly different than what is stated in the auction or the emails from the seller (hang on to those) then you can file a claim and try to get a refund.


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  • Thursday, January 15. 2009 Pay Per Click Management wrote:
    Thanks for the tips It is really important to know the details beacuse we can't see the actual product we are buying.
  • Wednesday, May 13. 2009 Life Assurance wrote:
    What is shopping insurance? Could you give me some basics?
    1. Wednesday, May 13. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:

      It's a typo that spell check doesn''t catch.  Thanks for catching it.  

  • Wednesday, June 03. 2009 Storage in London wrote:
    Hey there,just wanted to say your site is looking good! Really nice post on sewing machine and detail about required things considered will packing.
  • Thursday, July 30. 2009 Income Protection wrote:
    Great looking site i like everything about it as my own mom is into classic sawing machines.Keep it up thanks for an enjoyable read and i will be bookmarking your site for future use.
  • Thursday, October 01. 2009 Contract Packaging wrote:
    Fantastic guide on buying a sewing machine on ebay. Loved the detail on packaging it properly. The pictures were great. thanks.
  • Monday, October 05. 2009 Office Design wrote:
    Wow....i'm realy apreciate your posting it's realy informated for me hope you always update more often and share to us what you know. Thanks
  • Tuesday, October 06. 2009 quickutz scrapbooking wrote:
    Yes sewing machines are so easy to damage in transit due to their weight and shape. They should be wrapped with LOTS of bubblewrap....
  • Monday, October 19. 2009 quick house sale wrote:
    Fantastic post I thought it was extremely well executed and it helped me out a lot thanks again. quick house sale
  • Monday, November 02. 2009 Amsterdam Guide wrote:
    Great stuff.I would like to thank you to share the info you have here on your blog.
  • Tuesday, December 08. 2009 Tina wrote:
    Don't forget about what it will cost you in terms of shipping fees to return the machine when it is not as depicted. I got scammed by a crooked seller and got a broken machine represented as excellent and tested. I couldnt return the machine because the shipping fees were too high and I got stuck with it. I paid a lot for the machine and Im still buying replacement parts for it. Just because the seller offers to take it back doesnt mean it will be financially feasible to do so. ; (
    1. Tuesday, December 08. 2009 Sew-Classic wrote:

      Yes, some sellers will stick the buyer with the return shipping if an item isn't as described. 

      That's not my policy.  But, since I am 110% certain that the machine is exactly as I have shown and decribed, I am very comfortabel in standing behind it 100.  I would never stick a buyer with the cost of returning a machine that arrived damaged or not as decribed.  

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