I got a comment on a post I wrote on an old blog I'd quite forgotten about here about buying knitting machines.
"Good summary of machines, but I was hoping you would actually say HOW to buy them. Any reputable websites for buying new (I guess only silver reed)? Any brick and mortar places to buy new or refurbished machines? Any buying tips or reasonable price ranges (so we know we aren't getting ripped off)? I would love to buy a knitting machine, but in months of looking I have yet to find an online source that seemed 100% reputable. Suggestions?"
Well, for a start, I'm in the UK, and I haven't bought machines from many dealers here. I bought my SK860 plus ribber new from Andeeknits, and she kindly adjusted it under warranty when it turned out the back rail wasn't square. All other machines I've bought second-hand from Ebay or from friends. I can also recommend Metropolitan Machine Knitting. I've also ordered small items from Heathercraft and Knits n Bits. There's a good list of all the current stockists I know about on the Machine Knitter's Treasure Chest site, under M/c and accessory shopping, but I cannot vouch for anyone I haven't personally used, so caveat emptor applies here.
As for pricing, well, it's a difficult one. Personally, I wouldn't pay more than £80-100 UK for a modern *(1980s onwards) punchcard machine, £100 for a ribber, and £200 for an electronic, and that's assuming they are in reasonable condition and mostly complete - I'm happy to replace small tools, but not to replace a vital component eg a sinker plate or carriage. But I can clean the machines up myself so am prepared for that. If you're a complete newbie to the whole machine knitting thing, it's worth paying more and getting your machine from a reputable dealer, so if something does go wrong you have someone to go back to and complain. If the dealer is an honest one they will have refurbished the machine and will have no problem in demonstrating it to you in person. I'd always try and buy in person if at all possible - you can then take the machine home with you and know that it didn't get damaged in the post.
Now, when it comes to vintage machines (earlier than 1980s), I'm afraid they are just curiosity value now. You'll struggle to get spares and repairs, and if a major item is missing (eg the carriage handle), well, I guess it depends how inventive you can be. I recently paid £20 for a vintage Record machine, it's a glorified peg loom really but makes great garter stitch. Having said that, if vintage is your thing, and you're happy to take a risk, go for it - but don't pay over the odds!
So yes, it's somewhat of a black art. However, you may not be aware that there's a big machine-knitting group on Ravelry - and those guys are always glad to look over an auction for you, if you spot something suitable. There's a whole list of useful threads here, but if you've spotted something likely, please start a new thread with a "is this worth a look?" or something, and include the link to the auction. As the group is international, it won't be long before someone takes a look and says "Well, I'd only pay xxx for that", "That's a steal, go for it!" or "It's missing the carriage! Beware". There's also a thread "For sale ads that made you laugh", reserved for us to share seriously overpriced or incorrectly labelled auctions - we poke fun internally at them. You can also tell us what you're trying to achieve with a knitting machine, and we'll recommend our favourites for something suitable.
Of course, if you're lucky enough to have a machine knitting group or guild that meets near you, why not ask them? Groups often have a healthy trade in second hand machines, and they'll be happy to bring you into the fold.
* For Brother, and for me personally, this would be the KH836 upwards as it has compatibility with other items eg garter carriages. I'm not so familiar with the entire Knitmaster range.