Why & How to Buy Used Office Furniture

Why Buy Used Office Furniture?

In short, used office furniture is a sustainable option for organizations looking to quickly furnish a cost-effective workspace. First, to buy used office furniture extends the useful life of a durable good otherwise bound for the landfill. Second, it’s expedient – when procuring newly manufactured contract furniture, you should figure in an automatic 4-6 week lead time. If you can get it and install it, it’s ready today. Finally, you’re almost guaranteed to save a significant amount on the up-front price tag compared to buying new. These cost-savings are most valuable to startups and scale-ups who need to cultivate a cohesive workspace while keeping strain off their cash flow.

Used Office Furniture's Impact

Used Office Furniture's Impact

According to aggregated data from the EPA, furniture and furnishings make up an estimated 9.8 million tons of landfill waste annually. That’s a lot of furniture! Worse, this number is trending upward as recycling, compost and combustion reuse rates stay relatively static. To buy used office furniture is to make a dent in landfill volume, contributing to the overall sustainability of your operation.

How to Buy Used Office Furniture

Now that we’ve covered the cost-benefit analysis for used furniture, let’s take a look at guidelines for procurement and purchasing. Since the pre-owned business relies so heavily on how we buy used office furniture, our experience has afforded some insight as to what’s important. Which brings us to an important disclaimer: we’re in the business of selling used office furniture. However, we don’t want to simply sound like the best option. These are standards any buyer should hold a dealer to – including us! That being said, let’s take a look at considerations for used cubicles, used desks, used chairs and more.

How to Buy Used Cubicles

Cubicles are fundamentally comprised of five components – panels, connectors, electrical, work surfaces and storage. Manufacturers produce “systems” or modular product families that can be configured together. We’re not going to dive into anatomy any deeper in this post. So, if you’re unfamiliar, you can learn everything you need to know in our cubicle guide here.

Cubicle inventories are sourced two ways: bought from a dealer, or brokered from the previous owner. Brokered cubicle inventories are a great option to skip the middle man, but can be hard to come by. When an organization decides to relocate or update, they’re faced with what to do with their existing furniture. Ideally, someone would buy the inventory of existing workstations and facilitate removal. The last option is generally to pay someone to remove the furniture. So, if you’re able to find a group of cubicle workstations from an organization on the way out of their current space, you’ll still need to negotiate relocating and installing the furniture.

More commonly, used cubicles are sold as a la carte components. This is what we have in our warehouse – components grouped by system and/or manufacturer. These inventories can be used to create your desired configuration of cubicles. Or, if you find compatible components, they can be used to expand or reconfigure your current system.

What To Look For When Buying Used Cubicles

What To Look For When Buying Used Cubicles

Cleanliness of Panel Fabric

Broken Connectors

Inventory to Create Desired Configuration

Compatibility with OEM or Clone Parts

Seller’s Capability to Install

There are two major benefits to buying used cubicles worth mentioning here. Because of cubicles’ modularity, the components can be cleaned, reconfigured and repaired. Don’t let dirty fabric dissuade you from being frugal. Upholstery, metal and other materials can all be cleaned easier than you might think. Since the system will have to come apart for installation, there’s an opportunity to render these services without extending the project scope too far. Now, this brings us to configurability. Once again, the systems are comprised of a la carte components. While a standing inventory may not fit in your office as-is, the components can be rearranged to balance physical constraints with desired outcomes. And, for the inevitable selection of parts that need replacing, most major manufacturers’ parts can be ordered OEM for a fraction of the cost.

A final note about buying used cubicles – while you will most certainly save money on product over buying new, you will still have to coordinate the logistics and installation. You can learn more about budgeting guidelines for cubicle installations in our guide here.

How to Buy Used Office Desks

In this post, we’re going to address work surfaces, workspace congruence and components to double check when buying used office desks. If you want to dive deeper into office desk anatomy, you can check out our office desk buyer’s guide here.

The most important physical factor of used office desks is the material. In a well-rounded selection, you’ll have options for wood veneer, laminate and metal. Laminate is the least expensive and generally most available. However, laminate case goods retain very little resale value. Used laminate desks also require the lowest level of maintenance – making them a good option for high traffic areas. Metal desks will range in price between the two, and have comparably easy maintenance to laminate. They’re another good option for areas of heavy or constant use.

Wood veneer is more expensive, and routinely requires special maintenance. So, we typically suggest that they’re reserved for less intensive physical use. Wood desks can be refinished, which extends the potential lifespan and resale value relative to laminate.

What To Look For When Buying Used Desks

What To Look For When Buying Used Desks

Broken or Damaged Drawer Slides

Material and Brand for Resale Value

Keys for Storage Components

Consider Desk Application and Usage

Seller’s Capability to Deliver and/or Install

When you’re making moves to buy used office desks, you should come prepared with a two bits of crucial information. First, and most importantly, the dimensions of your space. Measuring twice before you start shopping will save you an unexpected amount of time and energy. Second, used office desks are almost always sold as-is and assembled – that is to say, they can’t be flat-shipped. Prepare to arrange a pickup or incur delivery cost.

How to Buy Used Office Chairs

Used office chairs bear many similarities to used cubicles in the context of purchasing. Upholstery is a main component of seating, and you have the same opportunities to clean and reupholster fabric, vinyl or leather. The same goes for repair and replacement parts. Used office chairs are fairly easy to procure compatible components for when chair functions begin to fail.

What’s significantly different is the way sourcing used office chairs affects how you shop. Since chairs require less labor to transport, they typically have higher availability and less overhead cost. An individual office chair is infinitely easier to attain than a single cubicle. So, you’re more likely to see a great deal of variety with limited quantities of each. Large quantities of matching pre-owned chairs are more difficult to come by, but can be procured from a business on the way out of their current space similarly to cubicles. If you do manage to find a “fleet”, however, expect to receive it in total, as-is. While you may get some duds, these can be cannibalized for components to get the remaining selection to 100%.

What To Look For When Buying Used Chairs

What To Look For When Buying Used Desks

“Double-Rub” Rating = # Rubs before Upholstery Frays

Caster / Floor Congruence

Seller’s capability to Clean, Reupholster and Repair

Major Manufacturers for OEM Compatibility

A few things to look for when before you buy used office chairs. First, check the casters and compare to your floor covering for congruence. Commercial seating comes with either carpet- or hard surface-casters. Mismatching can damage both your chairs’ mobility and your floor covering. Next, make sure you’re buying seating that will serve its purpose. Standard, commercial grade seating is typically rated to withstand 400lbs for 40 hours weekly with fabric that will withstand upwards of 20,000 “double-rubs”. Chairs from big box stores are typically not. Finally, whenever possible, try before you buy. It’s impossible to judge the functionality and fit of a chair via description.

Final Notes Before You Buy Used Office Furniture

First and foremost, pre-owned furniture and defective furniture are not the same thing. While you should expect to buy used office furniture “as-is”, it should still live up to the manufacturer warranty. Buy used office furniture from major, name brand manufacturers. This will help your furniture retain resale value and, more importantly, ensure the longevity of your investment.

Second, and just as important, measure your space twice. Then, measure it a third time.

If you’re buying for a whole office, ask about brokerage options as you begin shopping. Used furniture dealers will often have a network of broker resources for procuring entire work environments. Also, as a business, make sure you investigate the financial implications of buying pre-owned. Allocating ≥30% of your budget to pre-owned furnishings can qualify your facility for points toward LEED certification. Pre-owned assets can be fully depreciated during the first year of purchase.

Final Notes

Final Notes

Pre-Owned ≠ Defective

Measure Twice (at least)

Ask About Brokerage for Quantity

Investigate Financial Incentives for Pre-Owned

Buy Reputable Brands for Durability and Resale Value

Thanks for Reading!

While we make no claims at being the best, we’re very confident in the results of our experience. And that’s not to say that we should be your first choice when you go to buy used office furniture. However, we’re here to make your workspace work as hard as you do. S0, we hope this has at least helped bolster confidence in your own purchasing power. Transition in your workspace on the horizon, or just on the brain? Tell us about your project below and let’s build a cost-effective solution for a cohesive workspace.

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