One way to get a high-end office chair, for a huge discount, is to buy it used. Buying used can also be a good tactic if you need something really cheap. You can often find basic task chairs for as low as $10 on Craigslist and name brand chairs, like the Aeron, for a fraction of their retail price. While the cost savings can be substantial, there are some downsides when buying a used office chair. This list will highlight the top 7 potential problems to consider when shopping for used office chairs.
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7 Problems with Used Office Chairs
- No Manufacturer’s Warranty
- May Have Unoriginal Parts
- Shorter Chair Life
- May Have Hidden Defects
- Upholstery Might No Be Clean
- Not Always an Economical Choice
- Delivery May Be an Issue
- Bottom Line
Top 7 Used Office Chair Problems Video
1. No Manufacturer’s Warranty
One of the biggest downsides to buying used is that you will almost never have a manufacturer’s warranty. It is very rare for a manufacturer to make their warranty follow the chair and not the original purchaser. Since the warranty is only valid for the original purchaser, it becomes void as soon as it is re-sold to someone.
The warranty on a chair is quite valuable. It guarantees that you will have a set amount of time with a fully functioning chair. This becomes more and more important as you go up in price. High-end brands offer warranties of 10+ years on the entire chair. The warranty includes repairs, replacements and shipping costs. You are making a large investment upfront, but you know that you will have a top of the line chair for the next 10+ years.
While lesser quality chairs will have shorter warranty periods, they still add nice value on your investment. Eurotech Seating is a great example of providing awesome value with their warranty. You can buy a chair for less than $300 and get lifetime coverage on everything but the foam and fabric, which is 5 years. If something goes wrong, they ship you parts free of charge. This gives you a lot of bang for your buck because you know that you are going to get several years out of a lower priced chair.
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2. May Have Unoriginal Parts
Since the used office furniture market has grown so much, there are a lot of dealers that strictly sell used furniture. These dealers will buy large lots of furniture at deep discounts or take furniture on trade. Sometimes the chairs that are purchased are in need of repairs or parts to be replaced. Most dealers that are selling used furniture are not authorized dealers for all the chairs they are selling, so they won’t have all of the replacement parts needed.
Instead of using original parts, dealers will often use generic parts as substitutes. These are typically lower quality and were not designed to be used specifically with that particular chair model. As an example, let’s say a dealer buys 20 Steelcase Leap chairs from a local business that is moving. One of the chairs has a cylinder that won’t hold its height and is missing two wheels. Since the dealer does not have genuine parts, they will replace the cylinder and wheels with generic parts that will almost certainly be lower in quality. The original cylinder and wheels were designed to hold 400 lbs., while the new parts may only be designed to support the standard 250 lbs.
3. Shorter Chair Life
A used chair will save you some money but you cannot expect it to last as long as a brand new version of the same chair. Office chairs are not designed to last forever. Parts like foam, fabrics, arm pads and cylinders will eventually wear out. If you buy a five year old chair, then there is a chance that it will only last a couple more years.
This becomes a bit riskier if you do not know where the chair came from or who was using it. You won’t know how many hours were put into the chair or how it was being used. You may find a chair that was only used in a home office for a couple hours a week, or the chair may have been in a 24 hour call center where it was used around the clock for four years. It is a bit of a dice roll. You may get lucky, but there is that risk of getting a chair at the end of its lifetime.
4. May Have Hidden Defects
Office chairs often have little things that do not work perfectly as intended. This becomes more prevalent the longer a chair gets used. As we discussed in the previous section, office chairs will eventually start to break down. Maybe the seat foam has compressed and now bottoms out after a short period of time. Maybe the backrest no longer locks into position. Or, maybe the armrests no longer adjust four ways as they are designed to do.
There are numerous things that can go wrong with a chair. You cannot see these defects in a picture from an online listing. The seller may list the item as in perfect condition but it may arrive with functions that do not work properly.
One way to help mitigate this problem is to try to see used office chairs in person. While this is the best way to spot defects or flaws in a chair, there might still be things that you simply do not notice until you start using the chair consistently. Maybe the cylinder slowly sinks down over the course of a day. This is not something you would notice by seeing it in person, but it means you are buying a chair with a cylinder that needs to be replaced. Things like this can seem minor but they have the potential to make the chair uncomfortable or unusable.
5. Upholstery Might Not Be Clean
Like some of the other things that we’ve discussed, buying a used chair is a bit of a gamble with regard to the condition of the upholstery on the chair you receive. Again, you may not know the person that used the chair and how often it was used. There is a chance that the person ate while using the chair and it could have had things spilled on it. There is also the potential for the chair to have a foul smell. This may mean that you have to get the chair professionally cleaned.
One benefit of a new chair is that you know that you are going to be the first person to use it. It is fresh, clean and has that new furniture smell. If you think about how much time a lot of people spend in an office chair, it starts to become comparable to a bed. Many of us sit in our office chair for six or more hours per day. This is similar to the amount of time you spend sleeping. Buying a used mattress is not very common and one major reason is the potential hygiene issues. A used office chair could be looked at in a similar light, especially if it has been used extensively by the same person.
6. Not Always an Economical Choice
Buying a used office chair can save you some money upfront but it may not end up being the best investment at the end of the day. Let’s say you’ve got your eye on the Freedom chair, but you don’t know if you want to commit $1,000+ on a new chair. You look for a used Freedom and find a few options in the $400 range. Do you buy the new Freedom with 15 year warranty or do you get the used Freedom, with no warranty, for a third of the price?
There is no right answer here. Buying the new chair is the safer investment because you are guaranteed to get at least 15 years of use out of it and you get to start with something that is brand new. The used chair route has the potential to be a big win but it can also be a negative experience. If you get a used chair that ends up lasting a decade, then it will clearly be a better investment. On the other hand, the potential need to replace your used chair every few years is also there. Going this route can cost more money and put you in situations where you do not have a working chair because you are waiting for a replacement.
7. Delivery May Be an Issue
The final potential problem to consider when buying from private sellers on sites like eBay and Craigslist is that they do not always offer delivery. Many of these sellers are offering the chair as is, meaning fully assembled with no box. A lot of times you will be expected to make the pick-up in a situation like this. If that is the case, then you need to make sure to have a vehicle available that is large enough to hold a fully assembled office chair.
Buying a new chair will be a much different experience. If you buy the chair online, then it will be shipped to your location. If you buy it at a local store, like Office Max, then you will have two options. The first is to buy it knocked down and ready to assemble. The second option is to have them assemble it on-site for you and you can leave with it fully assembled.
If it is knocked down, it will be in a box that is much smaller than the fully assembled chair. This makes it easy for people to take the chair home if they have a smaller vehicle. The fully assembled option gives people with large vehicles the option to leave with a chair that they do not have to put together on their own.
Deciding between buying a new office chair vs. a used office chair can be a tough call. Do you go with a long term investment, which costs more money upfront but gives you a long term seating solution? Or, do you go the used route to save some money on the front end in hopes of getting a chair that outperforms its price?
There are downsides to both paths but buying used will certainly be the riskier path with the potentially higher reward. If you look at the problems we’ve presented here and don’t think they are a big deal, then the used office chair option is probably a good choice. If any of the problems are red flags for you, then you may want to lean toward a new office chair. As long as you know what to look for and what is important for you, then you will be able to decide if you are the right person for a used office chair or a new office chair.