Whether you are renovating a current office space or opening up a new one, furnishing your office can be a challenging task. One question you may be asking is whether or not you should buy used office furniture. Buying used furniture comes with many pros and cons; here are some tips to help you know whether it's best to buy used or new.
When to buy used office furniture
If you are working with a tight budget or a tight implementation timeframe, buying used furniture might be the best option for you. Used furniture is often cheaper than new furniture, and usually comes preassembled and ready for pick up.
Mitch Kent, president of MBK Office, said when it comes to lead times, there are few differences between new and used furniture.
"Those with limited timeframes would benefit from buying used furniture, because if the vendor has an inventory in stock that fits the needs of the customer, it is possible to complete the installation in the timeframe required," Kent told Business.com. "When buying new furniture directly from the manufacturer, lead times can often stretch far beyond tighter timeframes."
Used furniture is a good option if you are looking for unique or antique furniture to fit your space. It is also convenient if you are only looking for a piece as a temporary solution or one-off item.
"For one-off items, used furniture comes in super handy," said Yesenia Paredes, manager of workplace and culture at Justworks. "If you know you won't need a ton of these [items] in the future, like more of the same desk or chair, this could be a good time to think about used furniture."
Pros of buying used office furniture
- Cost effective: Used furniture is sold for a fraction of the initial retail value. This can save you a great deal of money.
- Quality brands: Since used furniture is cheaper, you may be able to afford higher quality brands.
- Customizability: Finding furniture to fit your unique style can be difficult. When you buy used furniture, you can use the money you saved to customize it and make it your own.
- Style and comfort: Buying used furniture enables you to buy vintage and antique pieces. This can add a unique look to your office and create a homier feel. In some cases, it can be softer, unlike stiff, new furniture.
- Eco-friendly: Recycling used furniture stretches out the materials' shelf life and keeps items out of landfills. It also supports your local economy.
- Short lead time: You can usually pick up used furniture right away. Since you will most likely pick up the furniture yourself, you won't have to wait for backorders or shipping.
Cons of buying used office furniture
- No warranty: Used furniture is sold as is, and there is typically no warranty on it. If you purchase furniture and then later find out it's the wrong size, look or quality, you might be stuck with it.
- Condition: Buying used can mean incurring certain risks. You do not know the history of the furniture, which brings uncertainty about the quality or durability of the item, or possible damage you won't know about beforehand.
- Repair costs: If your used furniture needs significant repairs or refurbishing, you may end up spending more than the piece is worth.
- Longevity: Used furniture often comes with wear and tear, which means it will likely need to be replaced sooner than new furnishings.
- Limited quantity: Used furniture comes in a limited quantity, which can create a mismatched look in your office, especially if you expand. This can make a business look low budget.
- Transportation: You are oftentimes responsible for pickup when you purchase used furniture, which can be difficult if you do not have the time or resources to pick it up. It can be especially challenging if the piece is already assembled into one large unit.
Tips for buying used office furniture
If the pros outweigh the cons, there are several things to keep in mind when buying used furniture. In addition to "buyer beware" and inspecting the furniture thoroughly, there are several other tips you should keep in mind navigating your way through the process.
Consider buying a combination of new and used furniture. Some items with a shorter life cycle can be bought used, whereas Kent suggested purchasing new items like desks and chairs, since they are harder to refurbish and can be purchased new very inexpensively.
"There are many combinations of new and used office furniture that allow customers to enjoy the benefits of both," said Kent. "For example, you can buy used cubicles with new fabric, new filing cabinets, and used surfaces to create a customized space that can be very budget friendly."
Paredes recommends connecting with your local resources when you are looking to buy used furniture. Other offices in your building may be moving or renovating, and since disposing of furniture can be pricey, they may offer you a good deal on items that are in really good shape. This is also a good way to save on shipping costs, which Paredes says adds up quickly.
"Sometimes shipping can cost you more than what you are saving or bring the cost of that piece higher than what you [had] budgeted," said Paredes. "If you are setting up shipping on your own and using a service that will deliver to your office, you may likely need to familiarize yourself with the COI (certificate of insurance) requirements and freight elevator usage and fees."
Once you have decided on buying a piece of used office furniture, you can enter a negotiation – and not just on price. Since the furniture is used, it is likely that it is out of warranty. In this situation, Kent said it is sometimes possible to negotiate a limited warranty with the reseller. This will give you peace of mind that the furniture will be up to your standards when it's delivered to the office. Kent also noted that buying used office furniture is an environmentally conscious option that allows customers to earn LEED credit for recycling on their tax returns.
When you are purchasing used office furniture, don't be hasty or feel pressured into buying something. Be sure that the furniture suits your business, matches your budget and fits you ergonomically. If it checks all of the boxes, then you may have found yourself a winner.