The basic sewing machine is the best choice for the beginners. The more bells and whistles you have the more you will need to learn. Or the more there is to confuse you. but one is like a car, you buy what you can afford and the brand you personally prefer.
The prices can vary from below $100.00 to well into the thousands. All will sew up a dress but some will have trouble sewing up the finer fabrics. I have had one in just about every category and brand. Some times the lower priced one would do a better job on the finer fabrics than the more expensive machines.
This is a very reasonably priced machine for under $100.00. I have always used the Brother machines Brother XL2600I 25-Stitch Free-Arm Sewing Machine with Multiple Stitch Functions
Another thing to consider is the weight. The lighter it is, the more it will "walk" across the table when you sew. You really don't want to be chasing your machine across the table while you are trying to make an outfit.
Now if you already have a light machine that does this try putting a sheet of the rubberized shelf liner under it, this will help keep it in place.
The more expensive machines have more built in stitches and can come completely computerized. These will make up beautiful items but the cost and maintenance will be on the high end of the scale.
Here are a few things you may want to consider before buying a new one. They will help you decide on price and stay within your budget.
1 - What kind of sewing will you be doing?
a- Only mending
b- Making clothing for the family
c- Heavy sewing like upholstery and drapes
2 - How much room do you have for your sewing area?
a - An entire room
b- The dinning room table
c- A corner of a room
3 - Must you store the machine when not in use? Where?
a-Does it have a cabinet you can close up?
b- Must it sit on the dinning room table?c- Can it be stored in a closet
4- How much will you use it?
a-Only for a couple of projects
b- Constantly sewing for the family
c- Just for the holidays
You don't want more machine than you can or will ever use. It will turn into a white elephant on your dining room table. But than you also don't want a one that can not do the job you are planning. That would be a wast of your money and will prove to be completely frustrating.
If you are buying a brand new machine try it out at the store. Use different types of fabric and see what it can do. If you are buying a used machine make sure it is clean and again try it out.
As you gain experience you may soon be looking at embroidery machines and overlockers (or sergers) and want to expand. If so the same questions will apply to these machines.
I haven't found any free machine manuals at the moment but when I do I will post them. Until than I did find this link that has a good repair book for sale here.
Sewing Machine Repair As A Home Business Or For Your Self
How To Repair Your Sewing Machine.