10 Tips to Get the Best Deals on Used Furniture

by Guest Contributor · 11 comments

used furniture

Used furniture can be a practical way to add to your home’s decor without breaking the bank. While the phrase may conjure up some idea of a couch found next to a dumpster or an ugly dresser handed down just in time for your first apartment, the fact is that it’s possible to find high quality used furniture that has little more wear and tear on it than the floor model at the brand name furniture store.

But many used furniture sellers know exactly what they have on their hands, leading to prices that are not so far off from what a brand new sofa or dining room table might cost you. That means finding the right deal can take a little work. These 10 tips can make it easier:

used furniture1. Plan your purchase.

Shopping for new furniture can include plenty of staring at catalogs, making sure patterns match and all that. Shopping for used furniture is a very different animal. You can, and should, have a general idea of the style and colors you want for your home, but be prepared to be flexible. The more flexible you can afford to be, in terms of how well your furniture needs to match an ideal, the better you can do in finding the right pieces. Make a list ahead of time and determine where you’re willing to be flexible – that list can help you stick to your budget when you see an end table or something else that matches your new purchase better than what’s already in that space.

2. Examine furniture carefully.

One of the biggest problems you can face when purchasing furniture second-hand is determining just why the seller is getting rid of that furniture. If you’re working with a middle-man, such as a consignment shop, it’s still important to take a good look at the piece — check for cracks, signs of repair and anything else that seems out of the ordinary. Purchasing something that has a little more wear and tear on it is not out the question. Instead, a scratch or a patch job can give you an opportunity to negotiate the price downwards.

3. Consider repairs.

Everyone wants furniture they can move in and be done with. But the more work you’re willing to do on “new-to-you” furniture, the more opportunities you have to get a deal. Major repairs may be too much, but small repairs, a fresh coat of paint or some new upholstery can make a deal look much better. You don’t have to do all the work, either: many upholstery shops offer a variety of repair services, as well as a way to turn a comfortable couch with a pattern straight out of the 70s look more modern.

4. Check furniture liquidators.

Furniture liquidators can be a great source of used furniture, especially if you look specifically for hotel liquidators. Some furniture liquidators handle more odds and ends of new furniture or office liquidations, but hotel liquidators will routinely have beds, couches and other furniture that has relatively little wear and tear (some hotels replace their furniture every few years). Liquidators can also be a less expensive way to find matching furniture sets.

5. Talk to furniture repair pros.

While most furniture repair shops don’t make a point of selling furniture, many will have the occasional item available — something they fixed up on the side or something that the owner never came back for. You may also be able to get an idea of whether it’s practical to purchase furniture that’s in need of a little more TLC and bring it into the local repair shop if you frequent those shops.

6. Be wary of classified ads, but consider them.

More often than not, individuals posting their own furniture for sale on Craigslist put a higher dollar value on what they’re selling than any consignment shop, liquidator or other used furniture seller would, due to a hope of recouping at least some of the money spent on it in the first place. However, as long as the seller is willing to negotiate, you can turn a classified ad into a better deal. The same goes for garage sales.

7. Take cash along.

Many used furniture sellers are willing to negotiate on price, especially if you’re willing to offer cash. Using cash can also help you stick to a budget. The exception tends to be consignment shops, which usually already has a set price that they are working with.

8. Look for cleaned furniture.

When you’re dealing with certain types of used furniture, such as mattresses, it’s worthwhile to pay a little extra in order to get a professionally cleaned piece of furniture. That may seem like a tip to spend more on a used mattress, but the long-term cost of owning the mattress can wind up being much less. On the plus side, sellers who handle used mattresses in enough quantities and also provide cleaning services usually have more flexibility to negotiate lower prices.

9. Arrange for transportation in advance.

Only some second-hand furniture sellers provide home delivery at all, let alone for free. The cheapest alternative may be a friend with a truck, but many truck rental facilities offer special deals on pick-up trucks, especially if you don’t need the truck for a full-fledged move. Many companies have rates starting about $20 for one day.

10. Give the process time.

Because you’re dealing with used furniture, it’s difficult to guess what a liquidator may have in stock at any given time — and it’s downright impossible to figure out what a private individual may decide to sell. It may seem that there are absolutely no couches (or whatever type of furniture you’re looking for) in the county, but the more time you allow for the process, the more likely you are to wind up with the right furniture at the right price. That said, when you see something that fits your requirements, act quickly. Make your offer as soon as possible, so it may be gone before you know it.

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  • Andrea says:

    My most amazing used-furniture finds have been at legitimate independent thrift shops. The huge ones, like Salvation Army, generally get lower-quality donations. There is one in Culver City, CA, sponsored by a recovery organization, I always keep an eye on because they get wonderful donations from wealthy people who work at Sony Pictures nearby and have someone who will deliver for a fee. Scout in your area for such places, and just pop in from time to time, even when you’re not deliberately looking. I scored a gorgeous armoire I will never part with there that takes my breath away, and for a price less than buying a new piece of particleboard. Totally agree that wood pieces, if that’s your thing, are the best options. Easy to clean as well as repair or touch up. Would never buy a used mattress, no matter what.

  • Aria Wellington says:

    I actually agree with your tip about bringing along cash! That can be a great buying tactic when it comes to use furniture. One of my favorite things to do is restoring old pieces and using them in my home. Using cash has worked for me in the past so I definitely would encourage people to try it out!

  • Arminius Aurelius says:

    I have often made this suggestion to young people or to people on a tight budget. Many have said absolutely not, I want new furniture. I am financially well off but I also buy used furniture – antiques. Bought a dining room table, 8 chairs and a side board [ long chest ] about 20 years ago for $1600. The dining set is from about 1910, it came from a mansion on the east coast of Massachusetts.

    You could say it is an antique therefore not the same as used furniture, BUT no matter what it is still used furniture. I am proud of it. When I gave up my summer home in 2010, I had a tufted leather couch that I paid close to $5500 about 15 years before. It was in MINT condition considering it was only used for 6 months a year. I put it on the market via Craigslist for $1800, could not sell it, dropped the price down to $1200, still could not sell it. Finally had an offer for $900 and I took it. The buyer had a great deal [ a new one now would cost over $6500+ ]. AS long as the furniture is in excellent condition and you can buy it for 60% or 70% less than a new piece, why not. Every one of my automobiles that I bought over the years has been a used low mileage car. My last car was a 2008 Lincoln Town Car that I bought in May 2008. It had 13,800 miles on it and I paid $23,900 for it. A new one would have cost me about $44,000. I saved $20,000 on that 1 deal alone. That fall, September, October the stock market crashed and I invested that $20,000 into the market and more than doubled my money.

    I am now getting out of the market because I think it is irrational, will wait for the next CRASH and then again buy dirt cheap. Money makes money.

  • Lumiere says:

    It can be helpful to look out for community garage sales for great pieces too. One of the best bargains I’ve ever had came from an event like this where I got an ultra modern looking mint-coloured cubic couch set for $50. It was in perfect condition from the 60’s and the owners were just looking to ride themselves of the two 3-seaters and the single chair. I ended up reselling it on craigslist for $200. I’d say there is a business to be had in this.

  • CD Phi says:

    I love furniture shopping and what I love even more is getting it at a great deal. I always check out vintage stores for used furniture and it ends up being really cheap sometimes. I’ve bought from Ikea before and the quality isn’t that great but it’s alright because you really get what you pay for. For certain furniture pieces, I’d rather have the quality but for others it’s not really necessary so saving would be a plus.

  • Squirrelers says:

    Agree with the first comment on mattresses, and the response too. Be very careful with used mattresses, for health reasons. In addition to bed bugs, dust mites can wreak havoc with allergies and asthma as well. Of course, your back relies on your mattress being of excellent quality – this truly isn’t an area to go downscale. Remember, if you are in bed 8hrs a day, that’s 1/3 of your life on that mattress. It needs to be good.

    When it comes to used furniture, I would focus on wood pieces or other non-cushioned items.

  • Julie from Toronto says:

    People sometimes buy old furniture, because they think it will add antique, conservative look to their property. But you can hardly find high quality furniture on garage sales, antique furniture market is hunting these items very precisely. In most cases you would do better redesigning some IKEA stuff (if the price is what matters). If you want to buy old furniture, I would definitely avoid old mattresses, sofas, beds and similar pices, which tend to change lose shape.

  • Stephan says:

    great tips, i have purchased before on craigslist and had no problems. as mentioned above, i too am very wary of certain types of furniture because of bugs, ive heard too many stories of bugs,lice, etc being introduced into a new home due to used furniture.

  • kt says:

    i also think that one should also test them to see if they are comfortable enough. They may be of good quality, clean and affordable but a nightmare to sit on. My mom bought a set that was so uncomfortable to sit on and no one uses them, apart from the visitors.

  • Finance Nerd says:

    Great advice, but with the resurgence of bed bugs in many parts of the country, I would be VERY careful about buying a used mattress, regardless of how carefully cleaned it was.

    If you are going to do this, I would strongly advise completely encasing the mattress and box spring BEFORE you bring it into your home. Several companies make products just for this purpose — and encasement is also not an area you want to skimp on, it is worth paying more for a quality encasement.

    • MoneyNing says:

      I know there’s a huge cost issue, but mattress is one of the few things no one should skimp too much on. Used mattresses lasts about 10 years before they should be replaced. Otherwise, you are paying with your back without really knowing, not to mention all the bugs in the mattress.

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