In tough times like these, people look for savings in every way they can. They move cautiously and take fewer risks. Interestingly enough, it also is during economic downturns that many people become self-employed by launching a new business.

I am one of those people. I started my own embroidery business after being laid off.

Embroidery machine sales are impacted by both the cautious approach of current business owners and the concerns of an entrepreneur just starting an embroidery business. The cautious owner needing to expand may try to make do with what she has. Or, if she decides she must buy another machine, she may try to save money buying a used machine rather than a new one. The entrepreneur, in an effort to keep startup expenses to a minimum, might weigh a similar decision — "Should I buy a new machine or a used machine?" Both of these individuals also will have to decide on the size of machine that will meet their needs without breaking the bank.

So how do you decide on whether to buy a used or a new machine? The prospect of saving some money on a machine that is a couple of years old is very appealing. On the other hand, there is the security of a new machine  — knowing that it is warranted against failures for a year or two. The answer to the new-vs.-used question depends on the individual situation, but here are some general guidelines.

For the individual starting up an embroidery business, it usually pays to go ahead and get a new machine. With all the things you have to worry about while launching a business, the last thing you need is to have equipment issues. The security of a new machine will help with that. More importantly, when you purchase a new machine, you also purchase the training and support that comes along with it. Many embroidery machine companies offer new business packages that include additional training and supplies that you may have overlooked when researching the business.

If you buy a used machine, the warranty definitely isn’t going to be the same. More importantly, you won’t know whom to call when there is a problem or simply a question regarding how this is all supposed to work. Finding the right machine with the right support is paramount to the success of a brand new embroidery business.

This is what sets some embroidery machine brands apart from the others. There are differences between all brands in terms of quality and features — to be sure — but some of the most significant differences between brands are the various levels of support and training available to a newbie to the business.

I remember working late one night not long after I started my own embroidery business. I was on a deadline and the machine had a problem. Fortunately for me, I was a technician and instructor for a machine representative before I started my business. So, I simply fixed the problem and went on my way.

How many new embroidery business owners faced with the same situation will have the benefit of similar experience and training? A certain level of panic can set in when you don’t know what to do or where to get help. That is why I recommend paying a little more (sometimes a few thousand rands more) to get a good machine with the proper training and support.

If you have been in the embroidery business for a while and have become familiar with the machines, buying used equipment can make sense. By now you know what to look for in a machine. You know what to do when it breaks down. If you are mechanically inclined, you can take care of little problems that may occur, and probably already have done some maintenance work on your current equipment. 

A good industrial embroidery machine should be able to last for many years with the right care. So, for some established businesses, buying a used machine makes a lot of sense and can save a lot of money. With my background, I won’t ever buy a new machine. In my shop right now, I have two machines — one is 11 years old and the other is 16. Both are still running fine.

For the experienced embroiderer, the answer to the question of whether to buy new vs. used lies in your comfort level. How experienced and confident are you with working on your own machine? How familiar are you with the machine and embroidery in general? If you are honest with yourself in answering these questions, then you will make a wise investment either way.

Steven Batts, a consultant with 17 years experience in the embroidery industry, owns Righteous Threads, Greensboro, N.C., which offers digitizing, embroidery and machine maintenance services. Steven regularly leads seminars at ISS shows and is an industry speaker and consultant. For more information or to comment on Steven’s article, e-mail

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