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12 Tips for Buying Used Furniture

Shopping for used furniture? Whether you’re an experienced homeowner or moving into your first apartment, buying secondhand furniture in good condition is a cost-effective way to add comfort and style to your space. It can also help you save resources and reduce waste. Check out these 12 tips for buying used furniture!

Consider Your Budget

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Compared to buying new furniture, purchasing secondhand can be a good way to save money. Though, with such low prices, it can be tempting to purchase any item that catches your eye. Setting a budget will help you determine how much you can afford to spend and remind you to be selective with your purchases. Rather than buying several lower-quality pieces with small dollar signs, hold out for higher-quality items that still fit within your budget. And remember—even when you buy secondhand, specific items can still come with a sizable price tag. If your goal is to buy affordable furniture, lean toward used pieces as opposed to restored furniture or expensive antiques.

Browse Multiple Marketplaces

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If you’re wondering where to buy used furniture, there are a variety of options available to you. Traditional buyers might prefer to stop into thrift and consignment stores or check out pop-ups in the neighborhood like garage and estate sales. In the digital age, however, you aren’t limited to buying items in person! Some of the best places to buy used furniture include popular online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Kaiyo, Chairish, and Etsy. When buying from vendors that sell used furniture online, it’s best to think long term and compare multiple sources—rather than acting on the first listing you see. By taking advantage of all your available resources, you can make more informed decisions when buying used furniture.

Measure the Space & Furniture

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Before buying furniture secondhand, measure your home to find spots where additional furniture could reasonably fit, and record the numbers. Then, remember to always bring a tape measure with you when shopping in-store so you can take physical measurements of the pieces you’re interested in. Be sure to consider the height, width, and depth of the items—not only to ensure they fit through your home’s doors, but also to make sure you can comfortably use your existing and secondhand together. If you’re shopping online, ask the seller to give you exact measurements.

Research Details of the Furniture’s Condition

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Used furniture comes with its own history. As a mindful buyer, you’ll want to look for furniture labels and conduct proper research before taking an item home. Investigate all pieces you’re interested in to avoid those that have been previously recalled and ensure your items don’t contain any hazardous materials. One of the most common materials to avoid is lead-based paint, which can cause damage to vital organs like the brain, kidneys, and lungs. When shopping online, view the comments or look into customer reviews to see what other buyers have reported. Additionally, find out how much the furniture typically sells for to see if you’re getting a fair deal on the price or should consider negotiating.

Assess the Furniture’s Quality

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Naturally, used furniture doesn’t always come in pristine condition. But rather than getting hung up on small chips and scratches that you can touch up later, focus on examining the furniture’s construction, durability, and material. Be sure to also look for major cracks, broken supports, and signs of previous repairs. Significant structural damage could determine not only how long furniture lasts, but how safe the piece is. When buying online, don’t be afraid to ask for multiple photos or different angles to get a well-rounded view of what you’re working with. You’ll also want to be mindful of how much work you’re willing to put into restoring secondhand furniture, as well as the additional expenses such a project might require. Specific items, such as cribs and mattresses, could come with any number of safety and sanitation risks when bought secondhand and should typically be avoided altogether.

Test It Out

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Physically testing used furniture can help you get a better sense of its quality and integrity. Before you buy secondhand sofas or recliners, sit or lie down to assess the piece’s comfort. If you don’t enjoy sitting on it in the store, chances are you won’t want to in your home, either. When buying a used dresser or nightstand, pull out the drawers to see how they slide and make sure the handles are tightly fastened. Listen for pieces of furniture with any popping or creaking sounds, which could indicate internal damage or poor stability. Just don’t forget to ask permission before testing to avoid “you break it, you buy it” policies!

Make Sure All Parts Are Present

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Though it’s exciting to start purchasing thrift pieces and decorating your home with antique furniture, make sure all of the pieces you find are intact. Old antiques might have some wear and tear. Full furniture sets, such as a secondhand sofa set or used dresser set, have plenty of small pieces that could’ve been misplaced over time or lost during relocation. Double-check that all parts—including drawers, handles, and other hardware—are present and accounted for before purchasing a secondhand piece. Missing parts can be difficult (or costly) to replace and might not be worth the hassle.

Avoid Smelly Furniture

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A foul smell can be a tell-tale sign of a piece of used furniture that isn’t worth buying. Furniture made of fabric or upholstery, such as couches, are especially susceptible to absorbing strong smells like smoke, pet odor, urine, harmful chemicals, and more. Once these smells set in, they can be extremely difficult to remove—and the odor could even be absorbed by other pieces of furniture in your home. You might be tempted to restore a piece of furniture like this, but for the safety of your household, it’s recommended that you avoid buying smelly furniture altogether.

Look for Evidence of Mold

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While shopping for used furniture—and used wood furniture in particular—keep an eye out for surfaces stained by mold and mildew. Mold can easily ruin the structural integrity of wood and metal furniture. Once mold has taken root, it can cause paint to pit and flake. Not only is mold hard to remove, but it can grow on almost any surface—meaning untreated moldy furniture can infect other household items like clothes and fabric, resulting in major damage. Plus, mold can be harmful to humans, causing symptoms like coughing, rashes, and nasal congestion. To protect yourself and your home, look the other way when you see signs of mold when shopping for secondhand furniture.

Check for Insect Infestations

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Creepy crawlies don’t discriminate—they can get themselves into all different types of furniture, from couches and loveseats to used nightstands or antique dressers. Termites eat away at your wood furniture, carpet beetles damage fabric and upholstery, and bed bugs bite humans and animals, causing itchiness and anxiety. Thoroughly inspect used furniture for common signs of infestations—and if possible, wear white latex gloves to help protect you while also picking up any signs left behind by bugs. Look for signs of termites in wood furniture, such as buckling wood, termite wings, and droppings resembling sawdust. Signs of carpet beetles include larvae, molted larval skin, and damage to fabrics. Indications of bed bugs include shed exoskeletons, musty odors, tiny white eggs, and blackish specks, which can be found on both wood and upholstered furniture. Since infestations are difficult to treat and prone to spreading, you’re better off leaving infested furniture behind.

Gauge the Furniture’s Weight

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Though armoires, vintage dressers, and large sectionals can be appealing additions to any home, they can also weigh a significant amount. When you find a piece you like, try carefully lifting or tipping it to get a sense of its weight and mass, as well as your capability of moving it safely. If you’re buying furniture online, ask the seller how much the piece weighs. Consider enlisting help from others to move heavy furniture. Or if you’re shopping by yourself, you might want to opt for lighter-weight pieces that you’re confident you can move on your own.

Have a Plan for Getting Furniture Home

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When it comes to getting furniture out of the seller’s space and into your home, it’s important to have a plan, especially when dealing with old furniture and fragile antiques. Securely wrap each piece to protect it during transportation, using blankets or furniture pads to provide cushioning and plastic stretch wrap to keep drawers and other moving parts in place. Larger pieces of furniture could require disassembly, but take care with this process so your furniture can be safely reassembled. For transportation, use a large vehicle or pickup truck to ensure there’s enough space to fit the item or consider renting a moving truck for particularly large hauls. After bringing an item home, be sure to clean it thoroughly to help it shine in your living space!


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