What are your sewing goals and expectations? If you're a serious sewer or crafter who does all kinds of projects on your machine, spring for a computerized machine with a plethora of features. If you just need to do basic tasks (hemming, for example, or making simple costumes), go for a sturdy, mechanical machine that will last you for life.
Are you really ready for a fancy machine? Many models are loaded with tempting features, but it's easy for novices to become overwhelmed. Stick with a simpler -- and less expensive -- sewing machine until you are confident that you've mastered the basics. Good sewing machines lose very little value over time, so you'll probably be able to resell it for enough of the original retail price to make it worth your while if you decide to upgrade.
Will you travel with the machine? If so, you will want to look for a machine that is highly portable, yet can perform like a regular sewing machine.
Where will you stow it? The more often you use your sewing machine, the more crucial it is to have a dedicated area for your sewing and crafting. Consider a sewing machine table or cabinet to keep all of your projects organized and easy to access.
How often will you sew? If the answer is "frequently," consider forgoing mechanical units and purchasing a computerized machine. The ability to program stitch patterns will make repetitive work go faster.
There are a lot of very expensive, high-end sewing machines out there, and they are wonderful. These sewing machines -- made by companies such as Pfaff, Baby Lock, Bernina, and Elna -- can run you into the thousands of dollars, and plenty of owners say they're worth every penny. However, they are sold only through authorized retailers and we strongly recommend that before you spend the money, you spend the time to travel around and try a few of these premium machines. It's a terrible shame to read sad, buyer's remorse tales from people who bought a $1,000-plus machine sight unseen and found that it was well beyond their skill or interest level.