Manual or computerized? That is the question.
There are two general classes of sewing machines, manual and computerized. Both have their pros and cons, which one is best for you depends upon what features you think you might need, both now and in the future.
Manual Sewing Machines are also known as mechanical sewing machines. These are particularly good starter models for beginners or children. Many experts recommend manual machines if you just want to do some basic sewing, such as mending or crafting simple Halloween costumes or doing easy interior design projects. Interestingly, some owners -- even expert sewers -- praise mechanical models for what they can't do. Plenty of users aren't looking for fancy or expensive machines, and don't like the distraction of hundreds of stitches or a dozen buttonhole options. You can get a durable, well-performing mechanical sewing machine for $100 to $300 and expect that it will last for years. One great thing about manual machines is that they're very easy to service yourself -- and you should service your sewing machine regularly, either yourself or by a professional
Computerized Sewing Machines are high-tech marvels with LCD screens that let you push buttons to navigate through settings and select stitches and functions. They can feature hundreds of stitches -- even thousands with apps that allow to you download specialty stitches from the manufacturer's website. With a computerized machine, sewing also tends to be faster and outcomes are more precise and predictable. These are machines that can do it all, but, as with all computerized gadgets, there is more to go wrong. There is a big price range when it comes to electronic sewing machines. High end models can cost upwards of $5,000 or more -- with longarm quilters costing $10,000 or more -- although the priciest one we cover here is around $3,500. At the other end of the spectrum, sub-$200 computerized sewing machines often get tons of love from owners.
Both manual and computerized sewing machines generally include a good selection of presser feet and other accessories, like extra bobbins and cleaning tools. Basically, choosing the right machine for you comes down to how much you think you'll be sewing now and in the future. If your ultimate goal is to learn to embroider clothes you make yourself, too basic of a machine will need to be replaced with a good computerized model down the line. If you just need a sewing machine for basic mending or occasionally sewing a straight stich -- or for heavy-duty tasks like sewing jeans or leather -- opt for a mechanical sewing machine.
You can try before you buy
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, to name just a few -- can run you into the thousands of dollars, and plenty of owners say they're worth every penny. However, they're mostly sold only through authorized retailers. 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.