Updated November 21, 2022
For some reason, once I graduated college, I got it into my head that I was no longer allowed to buy used furniture. Second-hand furniture was something only college kids bought on Craigslist, not working, burgeoning young adults!
How wrong I was. The world of buying used furniture is vast, full of treasures, environmentally friendly, and best of all, my wallet’s best friend. Years later, I am finally ready to say it: buying used furniture is far superior than buying new.
Of course, there are a lot of tricks and strategies you should employ to make sure you get the most out of the used furniture world. Read on for our complete guide to how to buy second-hand furniture!
Check for Tags / Labels
When you’re buying used furniture, keep in mind that your ultimate goal and reason for doing it is to SAVE money. You shouldn’t be paying more for a piece of furniture that’s not worth the price. To avoid this, look for tags and labels to see where pieces came from, and research that brand. The seller may think they’re getting away with pricing a piece of furniture higher than original sale, but you can outsmart them by being thorough and prepared.
Know the Material
If the furniture doesn’t have a label, you can still do some ballpark estimating of what it should cost based on its material. For example, solid wood is better than composite or particle board, and will probably price higher.
Also inspect how the piece of furniture is built – dovetailed joints are a sign of good quality, while nails are an indication of bad construction.
Check for Bed Bugs
If you want to be extra prepared, bring your own bed bug identifying kit. You’ll need a white sheet, plastic card, magnifying glass, and flashlight. Spread the sheet beneath the furniture or mattresses, then run the card over the furniture, scraping for any bugs. Use the magnifying glass to check for anything that may have fallen on the mattress sheet or on the card. The furniture item may have bed bugs if you find old bug skin, feces, or actual bugs.
Factor in the Total Cost
Sometimes, used furniture just needs a little bit of love to look brand new again. However, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the upgrades when assessing the purchase price. If it’s a piece of upholstered furniture you planning on paying a professional to upgrade the item, or will you do you it yourself?
Avoid These Items at all Costs:
Used isn’t always best. Sometimes, it’s worth it to splurge and invest in something new. Here are a list of items you should avoid buying used, if you can help it:
- Bad mattresses – not only are bad used mattresses uncomfortable, but they are also bad for your health; dust mites, mold, and bed bugs are all things you won’t be able to see clearly until your body pays the price. Avoid lumpy, smelly, or stained mattresses.
- Old furniture with missing parts – if the furniture is from an estate stale, it could be rare or particularly old, which means it can also be hard to replace missing parts.
- Anything with structural issues – chair legs with cracked or stapled legs are a bad sign. Look for signs of water damage, termites, or other insect infestations.
- Heavily used upholstered furniture – upholstered furniture can be a bargain, but it’s best to stay away from any that has been heavily used. Lumpy sofas and saggy pillows are ultimately more trouble than they’re worth.
- Anything that smells – this one should be a no brainer. It can be incredibly difficult to get rid of bad smells, especially if that item has been upholstered.
- Anything that has been recalled by the CPSC – it’s illegal to sell furniture that has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Visit SaferProducts.gov to see what products have been recalled.
Get Creative With Your Resources
When it comes to finding used furniture, don’t feel like you’re limited to the used furniture or thrift stores near you. Visit yard sales in your neighborhood and look out for estate sales (look online, in your local paper, or for signage in nearby neighborhoods). Sometimes, hotels will give away used furniture when they remodel.
Finally, don’t forget to use the internet. There are many online marketplaces for buying second-hand furniture
Etsy is best known as a source for handmade items, but did you know that it also has a huge selection of vintage pieces and antiques?
Chairish is an online vintage furniture, art, and home accessories sales service. Here, you’ll find trade-only and designer brands, which means that the prices may be higher than other secondhand sites.
Facebook marketplace lets you discover, buy and sell items with people in your community. Think of it as an elevated Craigslist. We love Marketplace because all communication is handled through Facebook, and being able to see a buyer/seller’s profile eases a lot of worries and fears that come from meeting up with a stranger.
EBTH stands for “Everything But The House,” and is a site that hosts online estate sales. If you’re interested in estate sales but don’t have the time to travel to different homes across the town, this site lets you rummage and dig from the comfort of your own home.
Good ol’ Craigslist. It’s no longer the only one of its kind anymore (thanks to Facebook Marketplace and Letgo), but it is still a comprehensive and decent resource.
1st dibs is filled with carefully curated antiques from thousands of dealers from across the country. A high-end marketplace that also sells art, this is the perfect place for aspiring designers and interior decorators, or homeowners looking to splurge on a statement piece.
Sotheby’s bought Viyet, an online retailer of vintage and antique furniture in 2018. Since then, the huge consignment marketplace specializing in vintage and antique pieces has become the perfect place for finding designer pieces at a fair price.
When all else fails, eBay will always be there for you. At any given time, there are around 800 million worldwide listings spanning clothing, furniture, antiques, collectibles and more. If none of the other resources we’ve listed so far have what you’re looking for, eBay will surely come through.