What to know before upgrading your embroidery machine

If you’re like most people, then you likely started with a budget embroidery machine. Something with a small embroidery area, possibly even an older used model. So, if you’re now in the position to upgrade, it can be very exciting – but don’t jump just yet! There are a few things you should think about before you open your wallet.

Are you planning to start or expand an existing embroidery business?

This should honestly be the first question you ask yourself. If the answer is yes, then a multi-needle embroidery machine is the only way to go. There are multiple reasons for this, and while there are single-needle machines that are capable of stitching out larger designs… they are almost as expensive as a smaller multi-needle machine!

For the many, many benefits that a multi-needle machine provides, there’s simply no reason to upgrade to anything else if you’re looking in the $4,000+ budget range for a machine. The cheapest multi-needle embroidery machines start at about $5,000. Though multi needle embroidery machine prices can quickly exceed $10,000 and even $15,000 for commercial models.

As an example, while the Brother PRS100 is an excellent embroidery machine, it is, unfortunately, single-needle-only.

For the same price, you could purchase the Janome MB-4SE or the Elna 940.

Both of these are 4-needle machines that can be had for $5,499, a much better deal.

A multi-needle machine is faster, more efficient, and has better longevity than a flatbed machine, but for a small business, one of the biggest benefits is not needing to rethread every time your design changes colors! If you’re going to be filling big orders, this is a must-have feature when you upgrade.

But, even if you’re a hobbyist, you might still consider a multi-needle if you’re looking in that budget range. I go over the benefits of a multi-needle vs single-needle machine in more detail in this post if you are curious to learn more.

Avoid combination machines

You will almost always pay more money for these machines, and they just won’t be as good as dedicated embroidery machines. If you do happen to also need a sewing machine, it’s almost always a better option to get a separate machine that is made to do just one job. Decent sewing machines can be had fairly cheap, don’t limit your embroidery trying to get a two-for-one – you’re only cheating yourself.

The only exception to this I’ve found is the Husqvarna Jade 35, this is a surprisingly high-quality combination machine for the price point and it actually has a large 9.5″ x 6″ embroidery area for a very reasonable $1,399 price tag! So, if you do want a combo machine, this is the one to get.

Click here to see the Husqvarna Jade 35 combo machine

Are you buying a future-ready machine?

Everyone wants to save money, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of their future aspirations. Will the machine you’re planning to buy last you for years to come, or will you need to trade it six months from now for a different machine, because it didn’t really fit your needs?

For example, have you thought about the items you’d want to embroider on in the future? If you plan to create designs on things like sleeves or hats, then a machine with a free arm should be on your wishlist. This will allow you to use a cap driver for hats or do tubular embroidery on long sleeves without having to seam-rip the arms apart!

Sadly, there are barely any consumer machines that have these features, and the ones that do are expensive. So, again, you’re better off just going with a cheaper multi-needle machine like the MB-4SE or Elna 940 if a freearm is something you must have.

But, if that’s not in the budget for you – don’t worry! There are plenty of excellent flatbed machines that offer exceptional value for their price tag. If you’re planning to upgrade, I’d go for at least a 5″ x 7″ embroidery area, but a 6″ x 10″ offers more flexibility if you can afford it.

These are my top picks for budget flatbed machines.

These machines offer the best bang for your buck in their size range, and the Bernette machine also includes free Bernina 9 embroidery software right now. This is a limited holiday deal, and if you’ve spent any time shopping for embroidery software – you’ll know that’s a pretty good freebie!

Brother NS1150


5″ x 7″ Embroidery Area

Janome 400E


7.9″ x 7.9″ Embroidery area

Bernette 70 Deco


10″ x 6″ Embroidery area

Free embroidery software

Are you buying a trusted brand?

Embroidery machines can be very expensive, leading some people to purchase cheaper, lesser-known brands, or Chinese knock-off machines. While this seems like a good deal at the time, the purchaser quickly finds these machines do not have the same kind of longevity that bigger name-brand machines have.

Many of them also have non-existent support, and the parent company can vanish overnight. This leaves you without assistance when a problem pops up. Plus, finding parts or techs willing to service them is difficult.

For that reason, I’d recommend you stick with well-known name brands. For consumer use, Brother, Baby Lock, and Janome offer quality machines with good availability for parts, accessories, support, and service.

In the world of commercial machines, Tajima is pretty much the top dog and business owners rave about the quality of their machines to anyone who will listen. However, Melco and SWF also make quality machines. All three brands stand behind their machines and the availability of parts, service, and support is excellent.

Melco/Bernina E16 Needle


Juki Tajima Sai 8 Needle


SWF MAS 12 Needle


Will you ever need to sell your machine?

This will likely not be your last embroidery machine purchase, particularly if you’re trying to start a business. People outgrow their machines, sell or trade them, and then move on to the next tier. With some machines though, this may not be as easy of a task as you’d hope.

Many dealers won’t touch any of the cheaper Chinese machines due to their notorious unreliability. That means if you buy one of these machines, it could make it very difficult for you to re-sell or trade it in later. Brands in this category include Ricoma, Yamata, Bai, etc.

In most cases, even the parent company will not buy back these machines. However, you will never have trouble selling a quality machine like a Tajima or Melco, even if it needs repairs. So, keep that in mind.

Beware of counterfeit machines

Be very wary of purchasing anything on sites like Alibaba or Aliexpress. This is typically where people get the knock-off Chinese machines and while most people do know they are buying a knock-off, there are also counterfeit machines here marketed as the real deal to unsuspecting consumers.

No matter what they say, these sellers do not have legitimate Tajima, Brother, or any other name-brand machines for sale. They will use pictures that look legit, but you are not getting that machine, and you’ll have little chance of getting your money back from across the globe.

Buying from a reputable dealer like Sewing Machines Plus which has real relationships with these manufacturers ensures you receive a legitimate product and not a fake.

Ask yourself, is this deal too good to be true? If it’s too cheap, then it’s most likely a fake.

Hopefully, this overview gave you a few things to think about, and I hope it helped you, even a little, to decide on your new dream embroidery machine.

Happy Crafting!