How Necessary is an Electric Mixer?

Last weekend my 15 year old Sunbeam Mixmaster died half way through beating up a cake batter.

I am now left wondering whether I should replace it.  Most cakes are made easily enough with a wooden spoon, a rotary beater, or a whisk.  The only things that I could have trouble mixing by hand are meringues and pavlovas, which require a lot of beating over a long period of time.

I admit that I love the look of those big Kitchen Aid mixers with lots of attachments, but they are hundreds of dollars and definitely a 'want' rather than a 'need'.  I also like some of the vintage-looking models, such as this one by Sunbeam.

My daughter thinks I should buy a hand-held electric mixer.  She points out that they can be used with any bowl, unlike the bench-top models.

At the moment I am planning to go without an electric mixer for a while to see how I manage.

What do you think?

Is an electric mixer necessary for someone who does a lot of baking?  What model do you recommend?

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