Buying cheap can be tricky… inexpensive products often break down quickly or do the job you need them to. Don’t make this mistake when getting yourself a sewing machine. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get a good model, but it’s important to know how to choose the best cheap sewing machine that will give you maximum bang for your buck.
Thankfully, you’re at the right place. Here is our curated list of the best inexpensive sewing machines money can buy as well as some additional tips on how to pick the ideal model for your needs. Jump straight to my affordable sewing machine reviews, or scroll a bit further down for a handy buying guide with everything you need to know to get a great low-cost sewing machine!
For a broader range of options in every price range, see our best sewing machines page.
Reviews of the Best Inexpensive Sewing Machines
1. Budget Friendly Sewing Machine – Brother CS6000i
If you’re looking for a low-cost sewing machine that gives you a bunch of utility and decorative stitches, look no further than Brother CS6000i.
This computerized sewing machine comes with whopping 60 built-in stitches and an LCD display to help you pick. The speed is button controlled, and the machine comes with an automatic needle threader to help you get started quickly. It has a top-loading bobbin, which is easier to use. It also has a free arm and an extension table to make working on large projects easier. Since it doubles as a quilting machine, it also has a free-motion sewing option. It comes with 9 presser feet.
- 60 stitch patterns
- LCD screen
- Extension table
- 9 presser feet
- Top-loading bobbin
- Double needle support
- Automatic needle threader
- Adjusting tension is a bit tough
2. Cheap Sewing Machine – Singer Prelude 8280
I’ll be honest with you – the Singer Prelude is a personal favorite. I’ve been using mine for 7 years and counting, and I never had any issues with it.
It’s a sturdy fella backed by a limited 25-year warranty.
This machine is quite basic: it has 6 stitching options and 3 needle positions, and it doesn’t support a double needle. Instead of retractable feet, you get a darning plate in the box. There are four stitch length levels. The bobbin is front-loading. It supports several sewing speeds controlled through foot pedal pressure.
You get a lot of accessories with this machine, including 3 additional presser feet, needles, a seam ripper, and a dust cover.
- Great warranty
- Free arm
- Bonus presser feet
- Darning plate
- Front-loading bobbin
- No double-needle support
3. Affordable Sewing Machine – Janome 2212
This lovely model made by Janome has it all, and comes at a rather reasonable price.
First of all, it’s a high-quality unit backed with a limited 25-year warranty. It comes with everything a hobbyist needs: 12 built-in stitches and double-needle support, a stitching length adjustment knob, a free arm, and retractable feed dogs. Its speed is above average at 1000 stitches per minute.
You also get a variety of accessories, including 3 different presser feet, a set of needles, and a seam ripper.
- Great warranty
- Retractable feed dogs
- Double needle support
- Free arm
- Bonus presser feet
- Up to 1000 stitches per minute
- Front-loading bobbin
How to Pick the Best Budget Sewing Machine – Buying Guide
I witnessed it time and time again – an enthusiastic beginner tailor gets a cheap machine just to try their hand at the craft, and soon enough, they give up because the machine is just lousy. Working on a machine that skips stitches is simply a nuisance, no matter how much money you saved.
To avoid buying a sewing machine that dampens your enthusiasm for the craft, you need to pinpoint the best options available on the market. The fact that a sewing machine is affordable doesn’t have to mean it’s bad, but it’s crucial to know how to recognize a great deal.
That’s exactly why I prepared this buying guide: to equip you with the knowledge that you’ll need to find a high-quality sewing machine for a low price. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
The Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Sewing Machines
Just like most other domestic-use appliances and machines, sewing machines are made and sold with different price to performance ratios. Here are some of the factors that influence the price of your sewing machine.
The same manufacturer may make both expensive and cheap models. Beyond that, the same manufacturer may even have extreme quality differences between models in the same price range. Even Singer machines can be lemons – brand name doesn’t always ensure quality. That’s why I’d always recommend checking out reviews for each model you’re interested in. That being said, you’re more likely to find tested and tried models backed with long warranties if you opt for a famous, reputable brand like Singer, Bernina, Pfaff, Juki, Janome, or Brother.
Mechanical sewing machines were patented in the 1830s, almost two centuries ago. And the truth is that the technology behind them didn’t change all that much. Sure, your sewing machine may use electricity to run, but the inner construction of the machine has stayed more or less the same for 200 years. At least, that’s true for mechanical sewing machines which are typically cheaper.
The more advanced, modern sewing machines aren’t purely mechanical. Instead, they also come with a built-in computer that lets you save and select stitching presets, auto-adjust settings, download new stitch patterns, and pick and automatically recreate complex embroidery designs. Of course, there are cheaper and more expensive computerized sewing machines too, but chances are that these feats of technology cost much more than regular mechanical models (especially if they support embroidery).
Built-in Stitching Options
Unless we’re talking about industrial quilting machines, cheap machines typically have fewer built-in stitch patterns for you to use. Some may only come with the basic straight and zig-zag stitch, while others contain a few specialty and decorative stitches as well. A cheaper machine is less likely to have specialty stitches like the double-needle options or intricate decorative designs like lettering or flowers.
The fact that a sewing machine is expensive doesn’t necessarily make it more durable.
The inner mechanism (called ‘interior frame’) of mechanical sewing machines is usually made out of quality metal (even if your sewing machine is on the cheaper side). So, price doesn’t normally influence durability all that much. What really does make a difference in sewing machine durability is proper and timely maintenance and oiling, not price.
The outer casing of the machine does get better or worse with the price. Inexpensive sewing machines typically have cheap plastic exteriors, making them more vulnerable to hits, bumps, and chipping.
Cheap sewing machines may also require maintenance and set-ups more often. That’s especially true when it comes to hook timing set-up. In essence, the mechanism that connects the two threads may get out of sync, and this problem is somewhat more common in lower-cost sewing machines.
Features to Look Out For
Finding the right sewing machine is hard, even more so when your budget is limited. Here are some of the most important features to keep in mind when making your pick.
Weight and Build Quality
Every sewing machine worth its salt will have its inner frame made out of metal, typically steel. This frame and the inner machinery is very sturdy and long-lasting, so most manufacturers warrant this part (called ‘head’) for 10 or even 25 years. Don’t worry about your budget – even cheap sewing machines rock heads made out of metal.
The metal construction doesn’t only make your machine’s lifespan long. In fact, a heavy inner frame also makes sure the machine stands sturdy and reduces shaking during stitching.
Sewing machine build quality also dictates the fabrics you can use. Only machines with powerful, high-quality motors can pierce through heavyweight fabrics like leather or layers of denim.
Most sewing machines come with a couple of stitching speed options. Some have their stitching speed button-controlled, and others have pressure-sensitive foot pedals so the machine sews faster the stronger you press. Whatever you prefer – it’s always a great feature to have, especially if you’re a beginner.
Stitching speed depends on the motor quality of the machine. That being said, most home-use sewing machines have a similar stitching speed range from 400 to 800 stitches per minute. Compare that to the 1000 to 2000 of heavy-duty sewing machines, or the 1200 to 5500 stitches per minute of industrial models, and you’ll quickly realize why domestic models cost so much less.
Most of the time you’d want to use the straight or the zig-zag stitch for your construction sewing, but what about specialty stitching like sewing buttonholes or adding decorative stitching to make your designs feel more refined? You’ll need a machine with good stitch variety to do that.
Different models have different numbers of stitch patterns. The span is huge – some only have 3 or 4, while others may have upwards of 200 stitching patterns. Of course, the variety adds quite a bit to the price, so consider the designs you want to create before making your pick.
A sewing machine needs two spools of thread to make a stitch: the top spool, and the bobbin, which is located at the bottom of the machine.
Older sewing machine models typically have a front-loading bobbin system. To set up a front-loading bobbin, you’ll typically need to remove the accessory box, open the compartment, remove the bobbin case, put your bobbin in, and reassemble everything. Don’t worry – you’ll master the process pretty quickly, but the matter of fact is that it’s much more complex than setting up a top-loading bobbin.
Top-loading, otherwise known as the drop-in bobbin system, is newer and preferred by most manufacturers nowadays. If you’re a complete beginner at sewing, I highly recommend this system, because it’s much easier to learn. All you need to do is open the top cover, and as the name suggests, drop the bobbin in. Apart from set-up simplicity, another advantage of this system is that the top covers are typically transparent – making it easy to see how much thread you have left on the spool.
If you want to hem sleeves, cuffs, or trouser legs (and you WILL need to do this eventually), you need a sewing machine that has a free arm. In essence, it means that you can remove a part of the working area around the needle plate, typically by removing the accessory box. That leaves you with a smaller workspace that you can wrap a tubular sleeve or trouser leg around, making hemming much easier.
You should also make sure your sewing machine comes with all the accessories you need.
First and foremost, that includes a couple of different presser feet – the part that holds the fabric down. Look for accessories like the zipper foot, blind stitch, nonstick, buttonhole foot, and so on.
If you’d like to try your hand at quilting, look for models with retractable feed dogs (also called ‘drop feed’, and ‘free-motion sewing’). This option lets you disengage the steel teeth that guide the fabric and move it in a straight line. Once the feed dogs are disengaged, you’re free to move the fabric in a free motion underneath the needle, letting you create lovely free-motion stitch patterns.
Finally, to cut down on precision work, look for a model that includes an automatic needle threader. This handy little device sits beside the needle and can be used to effortlessly push the thread through the eye of the needle.