What are your sewing goals and expectations? Be honest; otherwise you can easily convince yourself that you'll use every feature and may later regret spending too much, says Debbie Colgrove at About.com. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Is this a long-term investment or a casual buy? The answer can help direct you to the right machine, according to the SewMamaSew.com blog, which helps you narrow your choices with several specific questions.
Will you do basic sewing, specialty sewing or both? Quilting or embroidery machines may not be helpful unless you also plan to use them for hems and mending. According to Overstock.com, a specialized model is best purchased as a secondary machine and not your primary one.
Are you really ready for a fancy machine? Sure, many models are loaded with tempting features, but Overstock.com recommends avoiding the investment until you master the basics of sewing or you may become overwhelmed.
Will you progress to more complicated projects? Many machines offer optional add-on accessories, say the editors at Which? magazine. Choosing a model that's compatible with add-ons can be helpful if you plan to tackle more advanced projects in the future.
Will you travel with the machine? If so, you will want to look for a machine that you can carry and could fit into luggage.
How often will you sew? If the answer is "frequently," consider forgoing mechanical units and purchasing a computerized machine, say the editors at Which? magazine. They point out that being able to program stitch patterns will make repetitive work go faster.
What are your maintenance plans? If you purchase a sewing machine through the Internet, make sure there's a local authorized repair shop, advises eHow.com; otherwise, you may be required to ship your machine for service.
Novices may not realize that the cost of a sewing machine isn't confined to the price tag. Many manufacturers recommend routine maintenance, and chances are you'll need a repair from time to time. In addition, optional accessories that seem unnecessary now may become more appealing as you become more advanced and your goals expand. One plus: Some dealers may waive the cost of sewing lessons if you give them your business.