I have a Janome 6600P and a 720 to take to classes. What I like about Janome is that they have the Janome forum on their website. You can type any questions about your machine in and someone always has an answer and explains some solutions. I agree a good repair person and a good support dealer make a world of differnence.
I have the Janome MC 3000 purchased in 2007 when my 82 Kenmore motor burned out. This is only my second machine. I researched extensively and like some did not want the big monetary outlay. For the price of some machines they should clean your house and cook your meals. I love this machine and am learning more wonderful things about it. You can still get them, but the purchase is most likely online around $399.00. I purchased mine via Sew Vac Direct. I have ordered parts through them since as well. They are very reputable. I called to speak with them before my purchase. Make sure when you purchase online that you clarify that the machine is new and not refurbished. If you want refurbished that is fine. Just know what you are getting.
It is more comforting to have a dealer if you have a problem, but at the time of my purchase Janome dealers were far from where I lived. Because of the reviews by avid sewers I was sold on the brand. This was an entry level computerized machine as opposed to mechanical, which is why I purchased it as well.Apparently now Janome makes some of the Kenmore brand as well. I tried Bernina and Pfaff because friends had them, but at the time they were too expensive.
For free motion quilting this is what I love.The 3000 has similar feed dog mechanisms to the 6600p and they can be put in the down position for free motion quilting. I tried free motion quilting wiith my old machine and could not put the feed dogs down and all I did was fight it, so I love this feature. It has an automatic threader and needle down position as well. It does not have the wider bed space for quilting, but I need to be more proficient before I invest in the 6600P. There is a new low shank quilting foot kit available that actually works on the 6600p as well. One of the feet is a metal open toe looking darning foot. I had the plastic ones, but this works wonderfully. It doesn't jump like the plastic darning feet do. I have not tried the 2 other parts yet as this kit was a new discovery after a class this weekend. The kit is about $79.00. I added one of those small lights that attaches to the machine too. The 6600p comes with another light. I also purchased the extension table. Since the feet, light and table were purchased gradually since 07 I did not have the sticker shock.
Also of note is that I took this to my sewing group and most of the women have multiple machines and many are older machines as well. Two women said "What kind of machine is that? It is so quiet." Enough said!
This is in case someone else is looking!
I am a 62 yr. old male retiree who pushed a button on a sewing machine for the first time about two yrs. ago. Because I knew I would need help, advise, and service, I purchased from a local authorized dealer. It was the right thing to do because, I supported a local merchant AND I have needed help, advise and minimal service which has all been available as needed. I also discovered that a local authorized dealer needs satisfied customers and will not try to talk you into more machine than you need. My only caution would be to try and also determine what your needs might be two years from now so you are not faced with a "too soon" upgrade decision.