If you are curious how much an office chair costs, you can do a search and look through a bunch of different chairs to get an idea. You could even make a list of chairs and sort them by price to get a feel for what you can get for your money. Understanding why some chairs cost more than others may not be as obvious as you’d think.
Some chairs look very similar, but they are much different in terms of quality and functionality. In this post we are going to look at what drives the cost of an office chair. We are going to dive as deep as the shipping and packaging on your chair. We will get into things like components, functions and warranty. We will also provide you with real world examples of what you can expect for various office chair price ranges.
We want to make it easy to understand why some chairs cost less than $100 and others cost $2,000+. This will help you to decide what price range you should be looking in when you shop for your new office chair.
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How Much Does An Office Chair Cost Links
Office Chair Costs vs. Expectations
Quality of Components
The first thing that is a factor in determining the price of your office chair is the quality of the components used. This will be things like the wheels, cylinder, base, mechanism and frame. There is a wide spectrum of quality on every part that goes on an office chair.
If we look at something like the cylinder, you can see how part quality can vary greatly. The lowest end chairs have the cheapest cylinders. They may only have a few inches of adjustment range and hold 150-200 lbs. Compare that to high-end cylinders that can adjust 5” and hold 500+ lbs.
The high-end cylinder may cost three to five times as much as the cheap one but it has more functionality and longevity than the cheap cylinder. This will hold true for every part of the chair. If a chair is made of high-end parts and it is being compared to a chair with low-end parts, then it is not unreasonable to see a chair that costs five times as much as another.
After looking at the quality of the parts that make up the chair, the next thing that will affect the price the most is the upholstery used. There are four main upholstery types that we see on office chairs: fabric, mesh, leather and vinyl. All four of these upholstery types will have wide price ranges, depending on their quality.
The one upholstery that is rarely seen on low priced office chairs is leather. Genuine leather is the most expensive office chair upholstery. Some of the finest leather office chairs in the world will cost you over $5,000. High-end leather is so expensive that it can often cost as much as the chair, or more. We have some chairs on BTOD.com that more than double in price when adding the top leather option.
You can find real leather chairs starting in the $300-$400 range but they will be lacking in other areas, like adjustability, quality of components or warranty. The way to get a chair with a good build quality and adjustability, in something that is like leather, is to go with vinyl. Vinyl is often referred to in many ways to make it sound dressier and more like real leather. Just know that bonded leather, faux leather, PU leather are all just different names for vinyl. There are a lot more names that manufacturers use but these are the most common.
Vinyl is a very common substitute for leather because it looks and feels similar, often costs much less, and is easier to clean. It is important to understand that the lower the price, the less it will be like real leather. The lowest end vinyl will have poor durability, will not wash easy and may have a strong odor.
Low-end vinyl is known to peel when it wears. It can be a real nuisance to have tiny particles of vinyl peeling off your chair when it starts to wear out. Be careful with vinyl chairs that cost less than $300. This is the price range where we see this problem to be the most common.
One of the most popular types of office chair upholstery is mesh. There are a ton of different mesh chair options. The prices range from $50 Amazon chairs all the way up to $1695 for the Herman Miller Cosm. Because mesh is being used on chairs with such a huge price gap, there are large differences between the two meshes used.
There are two main differences we see between low-end and high-end mesh. The first is the elasticity. Low-end mesh is knit and made from cloth like materials. The mesh may be comfortable on your skin but it will not have the ability to stretch. It will simply hold you like a hammock. High-end mesh will weave in elastomeric materials that allow the material to stretch and flex. This will offer much better support than the knit mesh.
The second main difference is durability. The lower end knit mesh is not made to last through the rigors of constant use. You should plan on this type of mesh wearing out within a couple years if you are using the chair consistently. The highest grade mesh options will last much longer. It is not unreasonable to expect the mesh on chairs like the Aeron and Cosm to last 12 years or more.
Fabric is the final upholstery we are looking at and also the most common upholstery used. Like the previous upholsteries, there is a wide range of quality. Fabric offers a huge range of colors, patterns, and durability ratings.
Durability is the first thing that will affect the price of the fabric. Upholstery durability is done by measuring upholstery’s double rub count. A double rub simulates someone sitting down and then getting back up. The more double rubs, the more durable the upholstery. The lowest end upholsteries may have double rub counts of 20,000 or less while some of the highest grade upholsteries offer double counts of over a million.
The design and pattern on the fabric is the next thing that will really affect the cost. Fabrics with bright, multi-color designs will cost more than solid, basic colors. Fabrics that offer intricate patterns will also cost more. Fabrics are priced by grade. The more design that goes into a fabric, the higher the grade it is, so the more it costs.
The lowest priced fabric chairs have solid colors, like black, burgundy, grey, navy and taupe. They will have low double rub counts and will last around one to two years. Mid-range fabric chairs offer more color options and the fabric should be expected to last around five years. The highest end fabrics have complicated patterns and/or unique colors. They often last 10 years or more.
The next thing that is greatly going to affect the cost of your office chair is the quality of the craftsmanship. We see huge discrepancies between low-end chairs and high-end chairs when it comes to craftsmanship. I think the easiest way to highlight the differences is to compare both ends of the spectrum.
On one end, we have chairs that cost less than $200. These chairs do not offer a lot of room to pay for skilled labor and a big time investment. For this reason, we see the sub $200 office chair market over saturated with chairs from China. These chairs will often be cutting corners that you cannot even imagine. An example would be a gaming chair that we recently cut open that was being sold for around $150-$200.
After cutting open the chair, we found that the backrest was composed of mismatched pieces of foam held together with shipping bands and zip ties. They used the same bands that you would have to cut from a large package. There was no rhyme or reason to where the zip ties were placed. They just poked through the foam and tightened to the frame. On the wooden seat, we found a screw poking through the underside of the seat and it was only covered by a small layer of seat foam. You could literally be sitting right on top of the sharp side of a screw.
Finding these types of things is a bit shocking because it is not something you would expect to see and there are other chairs being sold for a third of the price of this one. I can only imagine what is inside a chair that costs a fraction of the cost of the one we cut open.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have chairs like the Aeron, Embody and Cosm from Herman Miller. These are chairs that are $1,000 or more, but you are getting some of the most well-built chairs in the world. Instead of being produced in an inexperienced Chinese factory, these chairs are made in Holland, Michigan USA. Why is this important?
The Holland/Grand Rapids area in Michigan is like the Silicon Valley of office furniture. This area is filled with companies that make some of the highest quality office furniture components available. There is a reason why a lot of the largest and most prestigious office furniture companies are based there. They are easily able to work with hundreds of smaller companies that are the best at what they do. If they need a high-end elastomeric backrest to an exact specification, then they will be able to find a company to do it to the highest standards, every time.
This level of precision with components means that everything fits together perfectly, and everything works smoothly. Having the entire chair made and built by skilled labor ensures that the chair is not shipped out with defects, like we often see with lower end products from China.
Before we get into the different recline functions on office chairs, it is important to note that the lowest priced chairs do not have any recline function at all. The mechanism is so basic that it will only allow the chair to stay in the upright position. These chairs will often cost less than $100.
For chairs that do recline, there are four main types of recline functions. They are: swivel tilt, knee tilt, synchro tilt and weight sensitive. The most basic recline function is swivel tilt.
Swivel tilt can also be called center tilt. This function tilts the chair from a point right under your seat. This is considered the lowest quality recline function because it requires the most physical effort to do and it also raises your knees, which takes you out of an ergonomic position and may make you hit your knees on your desk.
This type of mechanism is most commonly found on chairs in the $100-$400 price range. Swivel tilt mechanisms will often allow you to lock the backrest in the upright position and most will have tension adjustment for the recline. One common thing we see on swivel tilt mechanisms is that the tension doesn’t do a whole lot. Sometimes the recline feels the same no matter how much you adjust the tension.
Knee tilt is a step up in quality over swivel tilt. Knee tilt reclines the chair from the point right behind your knees. Moving the pivot point forward makes it much easier to recline and also keeps your knees in the same position, allowing your feet to stay flat on the floor. This type of recline mechanism is often found on mid to high-end leather office chairs that are meant for management and executives.
They allow a nice recline function for environments that lack heavy tasking. You start to see knee tilt mechanisms at around the $300 price range, and you will see them available on some of the highest priced office chairs out there. The locking and tension adjustments on knee tilt mechanisms are similar to swivel tilt. You will often be able to lock it fully upright. You have tension adjustment with most models, but you won’t notice too much of a change in the lower priced knee tilt chairs.
Synchro tilt is one of the most commonly used mechanisms on ergonomic office chairs. A synchro tilt recline will recline the back at a higher ratio compared to the seat angle. This ratio is usually 2 to 1. This means that for every 2 inches that you recline the back rest, the seat will tilt backwards one inch. This design is an upgrade to swivel tilt.
This design is meant to keep you in an ergonomic position through the entire recline range. This allows you to utilize numerous positions while still being able to task efficiently. Synchro-tilt mechanisms almost always come with multiple locking positions and tension adjustment. The tension adjustment is not always effective on lower end units, but having multiple backrest locking positions is a big bonus over swivel and knee tilt mechanisms.
Synchro tilt mechanisms have become the go-to design for ergonomic seating. For this reason, we see chairs priced as low as $200 and as high as $1,000+.
The final recline function is weight sensitive recline. This is a system that was first developed and used by Humanscale with the Freedom chair 20 years ago. This design has recently gained popularity with other high-end brands, like Herman Miller and Steelcase coming out with the Cosm and Silq, respectively.
A weight sensitive mechanism reclines the backrest based on the weight of the person using the chair. They do not have locking capabilities or tension adjustments. They are meant to be minimalistic so that you do not need to mess with knobs and levers. The chair does the work for you.
This type of mechanism is almost exclusive to high-end chairs. There are a few mid-range options, like the OM5, but finding a low priced chair with weight sensitive recline is a tough ask.
The number of adjustments that a chair has is another factor that will come into play with the cost of an office chair. Adding an adjustment to a chair costs money. The more adjustments you add to a chair, the more expensive it will be.
While adding adjustments increases the cost on a chair, the highest priced chairs do not necessarily have the most adjustments. The best way to explain this is that some manufacturers offer the same chair with varying levels of adjustability. One example is the Affirm from OM Seating. If you choose the least adjustable option, it will cost much less than adding all of the possible adjustment options.
Even though you can get an Affirm chair with a ton of adjustments, it will still cost far less than a Steelcase Silq chair, even if the Silq only has one adjustment. There are other factors that drive the price of the Silq over that of the Affirm.
It is just as important to understand that adding adjustments to a chair will come at an increased cost. If a chair has fewer adjustments than another chair, but costs more, then it has to be far better at other things. Maybe it has better components, a better warranty or more expensive upholstery.
One thing that goes into the cost of your chair that you may not be considering is the packaging. The packaging on your chair costs money and is built into the price of your chair. The cost for the packaging on your chair will vary, depending on the brand and size of the chair.
Chairs that are shipped completely knocked down may require less packaging than something that ships fully assembled. The box will be smaller but chairs that ship knocked down also ship with more foam and cardboard on the inside to keep the parts from banging against each other.
There are also brands that put more money into their packaging for branding purposes. Some of the fanciest boxes we have seen come from gaming chair companies. Being able to open a really cool looking box with fancy packaging helps to make the whole experience of receiving your chair better.
The thing to think about is that you are paying for whatever packaging the chair has, plus the seller’s mark-up. The cost of the packaging may range anywhere from $15 up to $60+ plus for large, logo’d boxes. The higher the price on the chair, the less of an impact the packaging price will have. If you are paying $50 for the packaging on a $1500 Herman Miller chair, then it is a very small portion of the chair price.
When this really comes into play is when you get into lower priced chairs. If you are buying a $100 chair, you need to think about how much actual value you are getting in the chair. The seller has a mark-up and a fifth of the chair price may be packaging alone. That does not leave a lot of money left to pay for actual chair. This is even more exaggerated when we look at shipping costs.
Similar to the packaging costs, shipping is another thing that you may not be considering when it comes to your chair’s price. It is very common for sellers to offer free shipping. This does not mean that you are not paying for the shipping costs. This means that they are simply built into the price of your chair. Offering free shipping makes the shopping experience easier because you can see the final price without having to calculate shipping costs. But you will still be paying the cost.
Shipping an office chair will range from about $20 to as much as $100+. Smaller, knocked down chairs will cost around $20 to ship while fully assembled big and tall chairs may cost over $100 to ship. This is very similar to the packaging because the shipping costs have a much larger impact on lower priced chairs. On lower priced chairs, a large percentage of the price you are paying is going to the packaging and shipping.
Another thing to consider is that imported chairs have another shipment, the price for getting it to the states. Chairs that are imported arrive by the container full. From our experience, it will cost about $15 per chair to ship a chair from China to the US.
Now, if we go back to our example of buying a $100 office chair that is made in China, then you start to see that there if almost no room left for the actual chair. There is about $15 to ship it from China, and then another $25 to get it to your house. Factor in $15 for the packaging and you are left with $45. There are also 2 companies that have built in margins to make money on the chair, the manufacturer and the seller. You might be getting less than $20 of actual chair value on a chair that you paid $100 for.
The warranty on your chair is very important because it guarantees how long you will have a fully functioning chair. The higher priced chairs typically have stronger warranties than lower priced chairs. On the lowest end of the spectrum, we see chairs with warranties as short as a year, 30 days or even no warranty at all.
The most common warranties that we see are from the mid-range market. These are typically limited lifetime warranties with heavy exclusions. Things like non-moving metal parts may be warranted for life but we will almost always see certain parts being excluded from the warranty. Commonly, we see things like foam, fabric and cylinders being excluded.
The best office chair warranties will be from the best known brands, like Herman Miller, Steelcase and Haworth. Herman Miller will cover their office chairs for 12 years. This may seem like a downgrade to the limited life warranty offered by mid-market chairs, but Herman Miller covers the entire chair for 12 years. There are no exclusions. You can also use their chairs in 24/7 environments and still have them covered under the full warranty. This is not something we see on low to mid-range chairs.
Higher end chairs have a much lower chance to breakdown when compared to low-end chairs. While a high-end chair has a lower chance for a breakdown, it will come with a better warranty and that will be built into the price of your chair. Getting a better warranty is a big factor why some chairs cost more than others.
Cost per year
After taking all of these factors into consideration, it is important to understand the cost that you are paying for your chair per year. Higher priced chairs are a larger investment up front, but you will get better longevity out of your chair. The easiest way to find out the cost of your chair per year is to look at the chair’s warranty. The warranty is a great indicator of how long a manufacturer thinks their chair will last. If a manufacturer offers a 1 year warranty, then it is smart to plan on replacing that chair every year or so.
When you buy a chair from Herman Miller or Steelcase, you get a comprehensive 12 year warranty. This means that you are guaranteed to have 12 years of use out of your chair. Simply take the price of the chair you are considering and divide the total price by 12. The number you get is the maximum amount of money you will spend per year. Example: if you buy an Aeron for $1,395, then you will be paying a maximum of $116.25 per year. If the chair lasts longer than 12 years, then the price per year will go down for every extra year you get out of it.
If you buy a chair for $150 that comes with a 2 year warranty, then the maximum price you are paying per year is $75. If the chair lasts longer than 2 years, then the price per year will go down. If you go with a chair that costs $399 and it comes with a limited lifetime warranty with 5 years of coverage on the foam and fabric, then you are guaranteed 5 years of use out of your $399 chair. This boils down to a maximum price per year of $79.80.
Another thing to consider is the comfort and functionality of the chair you are considering. If you go with a high-end chair, then you may be paying more per year, but you are also sitting in a better chair. It will be more comfortable and more functional. Sometimes the price per year makes it easier to upgrade to a higher quality chair. This is very apparent when we look at the 2 chairs in the paragraph above.
A $150 chair with a 2 year warranty costs $75 per year. A $399 chair with a 5 year warranty costs $79.80 per year. So, for $4.80 more per year, you get a much better chair. It is more comfortable, more adjustable and has a better chance to outperform its warranty.
Office Chair Cost List
Less Than $100 Office Chairs
Chairs that cost less than $100 will be low quality with little functionality. These chairs will almost certainly be made in China and come with really short warranties or no warranty at all. You will be getting very little actual chair when buying in this price range due to the shipping and packaging costs being a large percentage of the chair’s cost.
The leather chairs in this price range will be the lowest end PU and bonded leathers. They will typically start to peel fairly quickly into their life cycle. Mesh options will be coarser knit which is not going to offer any flexibility. You will also be getting the lowest end wheels, cylinder and base in order to keep the price as low as possible.
Chairs at this price point will often only have one adjustment, seat height. Sometimes it will require you to spin the seat to raise it. Some chairs may offer center tilt but things like synchro tilt, adjustable arms or locking positions are rare.
$100 – $200 Office Chairs
Jumping up a bit in price is not going to drastically increase the overall quality of the components or the upholstery on your chair but the options are much better than the sub $100 route. Chairs for less than $200 are among the lowest end office chairs on the market yet customers are able to get a chair in this price range that really works for them.
Most of the chairs in this price range will be coming out of China but this is the range where we start to see chairs that are made in Taiwan. While not up to North American or European standards, Taiwan is a step up in quality over their Chinese neighbors, on average.
The average warranty will be short, but you may be able to find some chairs with 5 year warranties if you get close to the $200 mark. One noticeable difference with this small jump in price is that you can find chairs with good adjustments. While they are not the best quality, you can find chairs with synchro-tilt or multi-function mechanisms. Adjustable arms are also not uncommon.
$200 – $400 Office Chairs
The $200 – $400 price range is a range where we start to really see some chairs with good value. This is the range where we see some mid-range chairs coming out of China and also a good number of chairs made in Taiwan. Manufacturers with strong histories have a wide selection of chairs in this price range.
Manufacturers like Boss, Eurotech Seating and Offices to Go all offer a ton of different options and they offer limited lifetime warranties. They have exclusions on things like foam, fabric and possibly some components but you will get noticeably better coverage than the sub $200 chairs, on average.
You can find chairs with a large range of adjustability and with multi-function or synchro tilt mechanisms. You can find chairs with four-way adjustable arms and adjustable lumbar support options. This is a price range that you can find chairs that may outperform higher priced chairs. Chairs like the Vera, by Eurotech Seating, has been featured on our list of the most comfortable office chairs and the best chairs for back pain with a price tag of $399.00.
This is also a price range where you will start to see real leather chairs. You will need to be careful and make sure to look for genuine leather. It won’t be the highest quality leather and you probably won’t have much adjustability, but this will be the range to look for introductory real leather office chairs.
Big and tall chairs will also make an appearance in this price range. They will be entry level and will usually have a warranty length of about 2 years or less. We have a lot of happy customers that have purchased big and tall chairs in this price range. Companies like Boss, Flash Furniture, Office Star and Safco are all prominent players in this area.
$400 – $700 Office Chairs
I feel that this is the “sweet spot” in terms of finding value in an office chair. I think that the most common thing that customers are looking for is the office chair that can compete with the high-end chairs but is available at an affordable price. This is our go-to price range for that request.
This is a price range where we find chairs that are a considerable jump in quality over the lower priced chairs. This price range is dominated by the best quality chairs coming out of China and Taiwan. A couple examples are the Akir and Ergohuman.
The Akir is made in Taiwan, sells for $404.99. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty, a high level of adjustability and is currently ranked as one of the most comfortable office chairs we have tested. The Ergohuman is one of the highest end chairs coming out of China and has a price tag of $699.00. It also has a limited lifetime warranty, a ton of adjustments and has been one of the best selling Aeron alternatives since it was released.
These chairs won’t have the build quality of the highest ranked chairs we have tested but they are comparable in comfort and function. They may not have the longevity of the higher priced chairs, but they do offer much better longevity than the lower priced chairs.
If you are shopping for a leather office chair, then this is the price range where you will start finding top grain leather options. This is also the first price range where we find chairs that are made in the USA by some of the most well known brands. Chairs like the Steelcase Series 1, Steelcase Amia Air, Herman Miller Lino and Herman Miller Sayl are all available for less than $700. This is your first opportunity to get into a really high-end brand, with one of the best warranties in the industry.
$700 – $1000 Office Chairs
When you are paying over $700 for an office chair, you are getting one of the highest end chairs out of China or Taiwan. This is also a range where we find a lot of chairs made in North America and Europe. Lesser known brands like Neutral Posture, Cramer and Nightingale all have products in this price range.
This is also a range that we see high-end chairs from brands like Humanscale, Herman Miller and Steelcase. Chairs like the Diffrient World, Liberty, Mirra 2 and Think chair will fall into this price range. These are not the top-end chairs that these brands offer but they are better quality than most office chairs.
At this price point you should expect one of the best warranties available. Limited lifetime warranties with few exclusions or 10-15 year warranties that are comprehensive are what you should be looking for. Chairs in this range are well built, have good craftsmanship and should function smoothly for a number of years to come.
$1000 – $2000 Office Chairs
The price range with the most well known chairs, from the most popular brands, is $1,000 – $2,000. It should come as no surprise that the top 6 chairs on our list of the best office chairs for 2019 are all priced over $1000. The Leap and Gesture from Steelcase, Embody and Aeron from Herman Miller, Freedom from Humanscale and CXO from Nightingale are all priced over $1,000.
These are all the top-end office chairs from each of these brands. The Herman Miller chairs are made in the USA, Nightingale makes the CXO in Canada and Steelcase makes the Leap and Gesture in Mexico. They are all really high-end. They have amazing craftsmanship, great functionality and have some of the best warranties available. If you want to be guaranteed to have a high-end chair for 10+ years, then these are what to look for.
If you want a really high-end leather chair, then this is a good range to start with. You have a lot of top grain leather options from many prominent brands. Chairs from Global, Laz-y Boy, Neutral Posture and Nightingale will all be really high-end. You also have your first opportunity to get the classic Eames Chair by Herman Miller.
$2000+ Office Chairs
Chairs that are over $2,000 are specialty chairs; chairs that have prominent designers or chairs with some of the highest quality leather. If you want some of the best quality leather on the market, then there is a good chance you will be paying over $2,000 for your chair, regardless of the style or brand. We have some chairs that will start for less than $1,000 but then jump to over $2,000 when selecting the highest grade leather.
This is also a price range where we see some of the highest end specialty chairs. The pillow top big and tall chair from Neutral Posture offers some of the most adjustability and best comfort for someone up to 500 pounds. But it will cost you over $2,000. If you want an office chair that feels as nice as your luxury car seat, then ERA Chairs has some options for you, but they can be priced as high as $3,000+.
Famous chairs from prominent designers will also come into play in this price range. Anything designed by Charles Eames instantly increases the price. You can get into an Eames office chair for $1,695 but you can go with upgraded options and push the price to $3,500+.
It should go without saying that if you are paying more than $2,000 on an office chair, it should be a really high quality product. Expect to have the highest end components, the best quality upholsteries and a strong warranty backed by a reputable company.
There is a lot to think about when considering what office chair to buy. If you have a set budget that you need to stick with, then it will be a bit easier to narrow down your choices. Just take the things we talk about in this post to identify what is important to you. Then you can decide which things you can sacrifice and which things you can’t. Once you know what you are looking for, it will be much easier to find the best chair for your needs.
If you do not have a set budget, then there is a lot to think about. How much do you want to invest and what is the quality of chair that you would like to use on a daily basis? A low priced chair is a low investment up front and might cost less on a year by year basis. Is the cost savings worth it for you? Investing in a higher end chair will cost more upfront and it may even cost more on a yearly basis but the cost increase may be worth it for you.
There is not a perfect answer because there will be a different path for everyone. Our goal is to educate you on how much an office chair costs and why they cost that much. We want you to understand what you are paying for and what you should expect to get for your money when shopping for your new office chair.
Additional Office Chair Resources
- 5 Best Ergonomic Office Chairs For Back Support
- 7 Best Big and Tall Office Chairs For 2019
- 21 Best Office Chairs For 2019 (Reviews / Pricing)
- Humanscale Freedom Headrest Ergonomic Chair Review
- Herman Miller Aeron vs. Herman Miller Embody: Which is best?
- Herman Miller Aeron Mesh Office Chair (Review / Rating / Pricing)