Singer 300, 400, or 500?

Old 06-08-2015, 11:06 AM
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Default Singer 300, 400, or 500?

I keep reading about these great machines and although I covet the Rocketeer, I have heard others say they would love to have (or do have and love it) a 300 or 400 series machine. Is there a way to rank these either because of what the machine can or cannot do or is it just a matter of personal preference? Yea, I know, like I actually need another machine when I am not even using some of the ones I already have. But still, just in case I "accidentially" come across one of these Singers I should be informed, right?
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Old 06-08-2015, 11:13 AM
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Absolutely read everything you can on them. Download the manuals that are free and read those. You don't have to print but if you have a tablet and run into one at a sale look it up and see if you want it or not. Condition as you know is the main thing.
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Old 06-08-2015, 11:34 AM
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I am no expert. However, I own three 301A machines and one 401A.

I love, love, love my 301 machines. I am just getting geared up to FMQ with my black one. My 7 year old granddaughter loves sewing on my black 301 too. They are light weight (just a little heavier than a Featherweight), and have a sturdy built-in handle on it.

My 401A is a work horse. I have repaired seams on our boat canvas covering. It glided through those multi-layered seams. Can't go wrong with either one. Currently, I don't have a 500.

Ditto what tessagin said. Read up all you can while you are hunting. While you are searching get a feel for what those machines are actually being sold for. Some are asking too much. My last 301 I purchased for $150 about 2 years ago in my area. A lot of people barter to lower the price. I didn't. The machine was extremely clean, had a clean original case with attachments. I felt it was worth every penny.

Last edited by SewExtremeSeams; 06-08-2015 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 06-08-2015, 01:21 PM
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the 301 is straight stitch and does a beautiful stitch. I quilt so that's really the only stitch I use except every now and then.
there was a really good article/comparison for 401 and 500 but can't remember where I saw it :-( they take the same cams and the 403 and 503 have fewer built in stitches compared to the 401 and 500) but they're available on cams. the rockateer has the neat shape to it. if you're not wanting to collect I'd just hold out for the one that appeals to you the most. 301s seem to be a bit higher priced along with the featherweights...for myself I'd grab 'em all (already have them all thanks to my mom and dad's eagle eyes at sales...) just need more time to sew on them
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Old 06-08-2015, 02:38 PM
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Like Susanna, I would just grab them all too! I have four 301's and they are great to take to retreats and friend's houses because they are light, full sized, and have a great straight stitch. They also free motion quilt well.

I have a 401A that I just wanted and it sits on a shelf and looks pretty. I bought a 500 Rocketeer for the same reason as the 401A. I love its look but I haven't taken time to clean, oil, and lube so I can use it.

I have a 403 that I like as well as the 301's except that it doesn't have that nice built in handle. If I need decorative stitches at a retreat or friend's house I often take that one since it is much lighter that the Bernina 730.

I don't think you can go wrong with one of those machines.
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Old 06-08-2015, 04:04 PM
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The 301 uses the same bobbin and case as the featherweight. It's a vertical bobbin machine so should be good for FMQ as well. Other 300 # machines aren't in the same "family" as the 301. The 400 and 500 slant needle machines use a drop in class 66 bobbin. I have a 401A and am very impressed by the quality of the machine. IIRC there are other 400 # machines that aren't slant needle machines. The 404 is a straight stitch only version of the 400 series slant needle machines.
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Old 06-08-2015, 04:04 PM
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Yes there are a lot of old articles about the differences between the 401, 500, 503 and 403. I am recovering from surgery but I looked it up for you - LINK:
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Old 06-08-2015, 04:07 PM
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301 offers straight stitch only but fabulous for that as well it is more portable (lighter) and does have a top handle (handy). the 401/501 are essentially the same machine except for the retro styling on the 501. Same is true of the 403/503...difference being only straight-stitch without use of cams. The "zero" cam is for zig-zag and that one is hard to find. Be aware to look for the zero cam on those but otherwise the cams are not hard to find. There were 21 in total and the machines usually came with 8 (or 9?). I like the 403/503 for its simplicity...fewer dials, easier to use and less to go wrong. Most people favor the 401 or 501 with most of the stitches built-in but more available via cams. It sometimes does come down to availability. I was looking for a 403 when I found a 500 (rockateer) priced right in mint condition. I later did find an equally nice 403.
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Old 06-08-2015, 04:13 PM
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Thanks for all the great information. I am still reading through it all so that hopefully I will eventually figure out exactly what I want .... well, besides all of them that is! You guys are a wealth of good info and links so again, thanks for sharing that knowledge.

Miriam, Sorry to hear that you had surgery and I hope your recovery goes well.
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Old 06-08-2015, 05:53 PM
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KLO, keep your eye on Craigslist. That's where I found my four Rocketeers. I don't know how "north" you are in NC, but I'm in the Raleigh area and that's where I saw mine. Of course, a couple of them I had to drive out of town to get, but still. And if you're close to Virginia, check the nearest Craigslist there.

I've seen 300, 401, 403, 500, and 503 machines on Craigslist over the last several years. I also bought a vintage Kenmore for a friend that needed cleaning up (the machine, not my friend). And to tell you the truth, I really liked that machine.

I've never sewn on a 300 or a 401, so I can't answer if they're better or not.

If you're ever down this way and want to see a 500, let me know. A friend of mine owns a costume shop (I do mending for her), so we could meet in a public place. If you've ever been on the shop hop here, her shop is in the same shopping center as Bernina World of Sewing.

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