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Buying A Sewing Machine From Goodwill? Read This First

My yearly thrift shop visit has become a tradition, especially when I visit my parents during the holidays. A sewing friend had mentioned buying a sewing machine from Goodwill, and this time around, curiosity more than the need to see what I could find got the better of me. I had already decided that second-hand and preferably vintage was the way to go after a series of letdowns with newer sewing machines.

Goodwill carries a variety of inexpensive working vintage and more modern sewing machines. Donations are tested and refurbished and often listed on their website. They also have a selection of sewing paraphernalia from needles and bobbins, to foot pedals and attachments.

Older sewing machines are more simplistic and ideal for beginners or experts looking for a second (or third) machine. So I set out to shop Goodwill stores, hunting for that variety and one of a kind authenticity that bargain thrift shop items are famed for.

Buying A Sewing Machine From Goodwill

Does Goodwill Take Sewing Machines?

There are more than 3,300 Goodwill stores across the US, and each will feature over 2,000 new items on the sales floor daily. Not only will you find cheap older machines that have been thoroughly refurbished and tested in their physical stores, but you can also browse and order your selection through

I thought to myself, well, it can’t be all that different from regular shopping at any other sewing machine stockist, can it?

Goodwill takes donations of some items and not others, so I had to find out in which category sewing machines fall. Luckily, I found out that they do take used sewing machines to sell, and much more!

I was looking for a sewing machine that sews effortlessly and is affordably priced to reflect its make, model, and vintage year. Although I use new machines constantly, I find older ones have accessible bobbin and thread tension adjustments as well as adjustments for the foot pedal(s).

Armed with this information and encouraged by my inside out knowledge of sewing machines, it was time to head to Goodwill and see what I could find.

Old vs. New Sewing Machines: Which Sewing Machines Are Better?

An ancient saying attributed to the gurus of the east goes that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Old sewing machines are sought after, but with vintage being anything that’s 40 years or older, there’s no telling in what state of operation or price range you’ll come across one.

When comparing old vs. new sewing machines, the better ones will have the features you are looking for, and you can decide without bias right off the bat. Quality construction and durable parts are the epitome when it comes to older sewing machines, while modern upgrades, conveniences, and various accessories apply to newer models.

Other than ease of operation using touchscreens and foot pedals, you’ll find that accessory upgrades and fancy stitches have been added to many later sewing machine models. What’s impressive is that the sewing needle is still in the same position, the thread is threaded the same, and the fabric is fed almost in the same manner.

But just because a sewing machine is old, doesn’t mean it’s gold, plus there is a lack of advanced features that new machines boast of. To make a somewhat balanced comparison, let’s go over a few vital factors, including;


Newer machines have advanced computer-controlled electronics that enable their production of all sorts of stitches. However, the more there is, the more that could go wrong. An old sewing machine trumpsr newer versions where the potential for malfunction or failure is being addressed.

Build Quality And Durability

We all know that they don’t make them like they used to, an old sewing machine in good condition will easily outlast any technology-packed upstart. While a new machine can possibly give you 10 to 20 years of service, when it’s done in and taken to the dump, that old vintage will still be sewing.

Maintenance and Repair Costs

The devil is in the details here, but a vintage machine only requires a few drops of oil to get it going, while new machines will cost much more to replace motherboards and such. Maintaining an old vs. a new sewing machine will depend on the model, age, availability of components, and manufacturer’s warranty for new machines.

Cost and Value

Old sewing machines can’t be tagged to a specific price. The cost will depend on the seller and what intrinsic value if any, a vintage stitcher has. A new machine will put you back anywhere between $80 and $10,000 or more, depending on how capable or complex its features are.

You can also make environmental and economic impact considerations when comparing old vs. new sewing machines at Goodwill. Plastics don’t degrade as much as metal does, so the scale tips in favor of that old pre-war metal model that never rusts.

How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Sewing Machine From Goodwill?

If you are a sewing enthusiast like me, you’re good to go, whether you’re sitting in front of a new sewing machine or an old classic that uses a perambulating wheel and foot pedals. You can pick up a second-hand sewing machine for a song from Goodwill, or you can chance upon a valuable vintage for the same price that you’d buy a new one.

I stuck my nose into a few Goodwill stores, also foraying through their webpages to see how much it costs to buy a sewing machine. The first model that I came across was a Sears Kenmore model 2142 marked down to $7.99, with its valuable cabinet that could itself be worth its weight.

Another model, a Singer Featherweight, was priced at $50 due to its immaculate condition, but it had no cabinet. This was an excellent find, seeing as Featherweights are rare, plus this baby had all the original accessories.

The last sewing machine out of Goodwill was a White Rotary Model Number 43 that nearly floored me with its art deco cabinet and inviting shape. This gem was going for $59.99, which I thought was worth it, considering that all components were moving smoothly and freely.

What Should I Look for When Buying a Used Sewing Machine?

When looking for a used sewing machine, be prepared to meet models that were launched a couple of years ago to machines your mother or grandmother would have been making stitches on. Go for a complete machine rather than one that’s missing parts and make sure you’ve tested everything before buying.

All in all, you should ensure it includes;

Operation Manual

Manuals aren’t that essential for newer machines as their manufacturers probably have online versions of the hardcopy instructional. Although having one right off the bat means good care has been taken on the machine itself, older ones can be tricky to operate or maintain without one.


On older machines, you’ll be looking for presser feet, decorative stitching cams, or button-hole attachments. Although common and inexpensive for newer or not-so-old machines, these and other accessories can also be tough to track down for the vintage models.

Original Foot Pedal

Newer electric sewing machines come with a foot pedal for operations, while older ones use pedals attached to their cabinets to run the wheel. Where a pedal is missing, replacing it can become pricey depending on the model, plus you’ll not be able to conclusively test the machine before buying.

Other parts that should be included with your used sewing machines are bobbins and their casing. Although relatively easy to find and not expensive, bobbins included, or their casing gives you information on which kind to look out for, but it’s better when they are present with the used machine.

Once most of these items on the second-hand sewing machine are checked off and you’re happy with the price that you’re being asked, buy it if it’s what you want. If there are too many missing parts, or you’re in doubt about the seamlessness of its workings, leave it behind as your aim is to save money as well as avoid headaches by shopping at Goodwill.

Tips for Buying a Sewing Machine from Goodwill

Buying a sewing machine from Goodwill is a matter of personal choice and involves a subjective process. After taking your individual desires, preferences, taste, and needs into consideration, an analysis of used machines at Goodwill will facilitate finding the right one for you.

Once you know the worth of the sewing machine you’re seeking, missing accessories or parts like pedals won’t necessarily be the deal-breaker. Although these can be easily replaced, as a first-time buyer, ensure the used machine has a power cable as well as a bobbin case.

For old or vintage sewing machines, look to ensure that the handwheel and needle bar move or turn without a problem. At every turn of the wheel, the feed dogs should move in unison, while the bobbin wheel moves with the handwheel turning.

If there are no broken parts or missing accessories, and the needle, shuttles, and bobbins are of a straightforward design, buy the sewing machine.

Newer used sewing machines are more involved in their purchase depending on the model, and other than foot pedals and power cables, make certain they have;

  • Speed control for sewing with novices or children
  • An over edge stitch for neat seams as opposed to zigzagging
  • An operation manual or one available on the manufacturer’s website

Other Places to Find Used Sewing Machines

Before checking out the sewing machine stock in your local Goodwill stores, ask around among family and friends for any pointers. You may be surprised that someone has an unwanted or unused sewing machine just sitting there in their basement or garage.

At one time, I posted a photo of my sewing machines online, and an acquaintance commented, asking where she could find one like that. It wasn’t long before a fellow stitch-in-timer replied, saying that their mum has one exactly like it, but she couldn’t sew due to arthritis. This pristine piece of sewing technology had been sitting in the basement for years, but it wasn’t long before it found a loving, caring home.

Other places where you can pick up used sewing machines include;

  • On
  • Garage, yard, or car boot sales
  • Salvation Army and other thrift stores
  • Estate or house clearances
  • Online resale groups and sewing machine auctions
  • Antique stores for vintage models


Goodwill is an attractive, catchy thrift shop that resells donated and refurbished sewing machines within a wide age and price range, so you’ll find one that suits you. This is the one place where you won’t be clutching the purse strings as tightly since they have above standard machines at affordable prices.

Remember, you should have your machine serviced after buying it, and change the needle often while using good quality thread. A dust cover ensures that your machine is kept protected and clean so as to give you maximum service life.

Keep in mind the pointers presented to avoid unnecessary hassle or throwing your money away for a piece of junk. If you have enjoyed reading my recommendation on buying a sewing machine from Goodwill, share your thoughts, experiences, or suggestions in the comments section.