If you are looking for a really great deal and you are comfortable in your ability to assess a vintage sewing machine, then I recommend that you buy local. Yes, you can buy a vintage sewing machine from eBay, but sewing machines are heavy so even if you find a good deal online you are going to have to pay some hefty shipping charges to get it to your house. You have a better chance of getting a good deal on a vintage sewing machine if you find one locally that is underpriced due to its condition. Vintage sewing machines that needs some tender loving care are your best bet.
Machines sold on online sales sites such as EBay or specialty stores tend to be more expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of shipping. In the case of EBay, you are competing against other people who also want this machine and this can drive the price higher than what the vintage sewing machine may actually be worth. Vintage sewing machines on EBay may have been refurbished, so the price will be higher. You have to scrutinize the photos and take the seller on faith when they describe the condition of the machine. If you want a machine in really good shape that doesn’t need repair, it may be worth purchasing it this way – but only from a seller that you can trust and one who knows how to ship a vintage sewing machine so it arrives in one, and not several, pieces.
Estate sales are another venue where I have had success buying a vintage sewing machine. In my area I receive emails about estate sales that have information and photographs of everything that is available. I can see the machine online first, but then I have to go to the estate sale to inspect it. You can sometimes find a good deal at these sales, but be aware that you will have to arrive early and line up to have any chance of getting the vintage sewing machine in which you are interested. They say "the early bird gets the worm" and if you are wanting a vintage sewing machine that is being sold at an estate sale, “the early buyer gets the machine”.
If you have the patience and don’t mind spending time browsing, there are also opportunities to find good deals at local places such as Goodwill stores or a yard sale. You can get some really good deals in thrift shops such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, however there is no guarantee that there will be any machines at all (never mind the one you are looking for) when you visit. The price of the vintage sewing machine varies with the experience and knowledge of the manager meaning that you can see a large range in prices. The good news is that new stock is always being added so you just have to keep checking back (and you might find some other deals as well!).
The likelihood of finding a vintage sewing machine at a yard sale depends on where you live. In some locations there is a chance you may find a used machine, however in other places, such as where I live, it would be very rare for someone to sell a vintage sewing machine at a yard sale. People in my area seem to sell their vintage sewing machines mostly through online classified ads. The big problem with looking for a vintage sewing machine at a yard sale is that you might spend a lot of time going from sale to sale before you find the machine you are looking for – if you find any vintage sewing machines at all.
My favourite method for shopping for a vintage sewing machine is online. Vintage sewing machines sold on classified ad sites such as Craigslist or Kijiji are usually less expensive – often because they are in need of a little, or a lot of, TLC. I like the convenience of shopping without having to drive all over just to look at the machine. There is usually enough information in the ad to allow me to do research to determine if this is a model that I might consider buying. I can often contact the seller if I require more information or additional photographs to decide if it is worth the trip to look at the actual machine or to purchase it online. This method allows me to actually look at the machine before I pay for it. Unfortunately, since you have to visit the owner, this method may limit the location from which you can purchase the machine. I have been known to travel for four hours to look at a machine that I found online (much to the dismay of my husband).
I have created a FREE printable download, Find Your Vintage Sewing Machine Online, that lists websites to search when you are looking for a vintage sewing machine. Be sure to print it out right away so you’ll have it available when you want to start your search for a vintage sewing machine.
Share this blog post with your friends by clicking on the "Share" icon below.
Good luck and good hunting!
P.S. Join the private Chatterbox Quilts Facebook group for discussions on quilting and vintage sewing machine. I love to help you with your quilting questions, so be sure to join me there.