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New vs Old. Repair vs Replace. How to get the best value out of a machine.
It seems that the most common question I've been asked lately is, "Hey, I got a new machine in the past couple of years and it's just not working anymore, can you repair it?" Usually along with that question I get a few pictures of a new machine in the $150-$300 range. These people are generally trying to use a newer craft machine to sew a ton of masks for family and friends. While these machines are usually good for the average project sewer, they aren't the best work horses.
I see them usually have a stripped gear, or one of the stepper motors that controls the stitch length or width lose full range of motion either from a sensor malfunction, or something goes wrong with the motor itself. They aren't very expensive parts, and that usually shows pretty easily. Sometimes they also require special tools in order to disassemble. After several years of every now and then use, the plastic holding it together can weaken.
The point of this is primarily that you're better off getting an older machine if you don't need specialty stitches. Oftentimes you can find an older, all metal, machine on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for $50-$150 that was found in someone's attic, or passed down from a parent or grandparent and people are looking to get rid of them. Some of the better ones might go for $150-$300, but any of these machines will likely last longer than I will. "They don't make them like they used to," is a very appropriate saying.
Fixing an older machine often takes 1-2 hours, and if they need a part it is often a metal one that just wore out after 5-7 decades of use. They are meant to be taken apart and serviced semi-regularly and most parts are easily accessed.
On the other hand, newer machines are meant to be serviced by "licensed technicians" or replaced under warranty. Sadly, with the pandemic, a lot of places' warranty can't be accessed, even if it's within the 1, 3, or 5 year plan just because you can't reach the company that provides it. The average time for me to repair them removes an entire casing, and then parts of the internal casing to access a small gear that may or may not be stripped.
The average cost to have me do a hefty repair on an older machine is probably $60-$90 not including the part. Newer machines, the cost of just one of the stepper motors is just in the $50 range, let alone taking it apart and rethreading the wires through the shell.
Suffice to say, if you're going to get a project machine that may last a few years for a couple projects a year and don't plan on keeping it forever, a newer machine is probably fine. If you're looking to have a machine that will last at least a few generations, invest in an older machine, the cost of maintenance will be significantly lower than a new machine every 3-8 years.
Your sewing machine guy:
I am a Jack-of-Most-Trades that was roped into working on sewing machines, and managed to find a knack for it. I love hilarity, fixing things that are broken, video games, dogs, cats, most other creatures, and sleep. Especially sleep. On here you'll usually find tidbits about recent visits or ADORABLE CREATURES THAT LOVE ON ME WHILE I WORK. There may be ancient machines, there may be unique machines.