Where to Find Good, Cheap Used Furniture
The 7 Best Places to Find Inexpensive Used Furniture
Firstly, let's make it clear if we're talking about cheap furniture or just inexpensive furniture. When I say "cheap," I don't mean chintzy. No matter how low the price, I want furniture to be sufficiently well-made to stand the test of time.
I have a house full of cheap used furniture. There are three reasons for this: it is less expensive than buying new, it might be better quality, and I like vintage furniture.
Buying used furniture, even at bargain prices, does not mean that you have to settle for lower quality. I'm sure you've heard the phrase "They don't make it like they used to." It's true, and that's why you can often get better-made used furniture for a lower price than you would pay for something new.
Keep in mind that condition is very important to the value of vintage furniture. A piece that is in less-than-mint condition is still cool, but you should be able to get it at a substantially lower price.
1. Thrift Stores
For many people, when they think of used furniture, the first thing they think about is thrift stores. Sometimes you can find a good deal at a second-hand or charity shop.
Thrift stores used to have a stigma attached to them. Now, more people feel more comfortable buying second-hand. This expanded customer base is probably why the prices in most of them have gone up. Keep in mind that just because it's in a thrift store does not mean it's a bargain. I've even seen really cheap furniture—like the stuff they sell at Kmart—priced higher than what it sold for new. In addition, all of their merchandise was donated, so it does often tend to be those lower-quality items that people donate instead of trying to resell to get their money's worth.
In the last several years, I have found it much harder to find a bargain at a thrift store, but it's still possible.
2. The Re-Store
I recently paid a visit to the "Re-Store," the Habitat for Humanity's salvage store. If you have one in your town, it's worth a look. They sell mostly used appliances and fixtures for the home, but they do have some used furniture there, and it is priced much better than the thrift store in my town.
3. Yard Sales
Yard sales are prime territory for finding bargains on furniture and one of my favorite places to shop.
If the people are moving away, they want to get rid of their stuff. If they can make a little extra money, that’s great. They don't have the luxury of waiting for the right customer to come along.
Pro tip: If you have cash and see several pieces of furniture that you want, make an offer on the whole lot. You will probably get a better price than if you priced out each piece.
4. Estate Sales
Before an estate sale, an appraiser usually comes in to estimate the value of the items. Therefore, you are less likely to get used furniture for the low price you'd find at a yard sale. However, you can still often get quality furniture for less than you would pay at an antique store.
5. Flea Markets or Swap Meets
The advantage of going to a flea market or swap meet is that there are many vendors in close proximity so you have more to choose from than at a yard or estate sale.
There are also usually a wide range of sellers there—some are just people who brought their own stuff to the market, but many of them make their living this way. Since resellers buy the stuff elsewhere to resell at the flea market, you will pay more for those items, but many of those professional vendors know how to pick out the good stuff. If you go to the swap meet regularly, you will get to know who has a good eye and quality merchandise.
While you're there, you may want to check out some of the new furniture for sale. It will usually not be high-quality or well-made, but it may suit your needs.
6. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace
Craigslist is the modern-day classified ad. Good deals are snapped up quickly so if you see something you like, act fast. To avoid paying shipping, refine the search to show only items within driving distance. I live in a rural area where there are fewer local items for sale, but friends and family who live down in the city have gotten great deals on Craigslist. But I did find a real bargain on a vintage Wedgewood stove nearby.
Facebook Marketplace has become a good source, too. I think it has outdone Craigslist for me. It seems like there are a lot of spammers and scammers on Craigslist, and I have not yet had that experience on Facebook Marketplace.
7. Classified Ads
It may be old-school, but I still like to look in the newspaper at the classified ads. There are often some nice single items you can pick up there for a song.
If a yard sale or estate sale is advertised there, often they will list some of the items they will be offering.
If there is a phone number, call it. You may be able to buy the best items before the sale even starts. If not, and you know there is a big-ticket item you are interested in, be sure to get there early.
Express Yourself and Save Money!
It does not have to cost a fortune to furnish your house. Even if you don’t have much money, you don’t have to make do with milk crates and pillows on the floor. Furnishing a house with used furniture can be a fun and creative reflection of your personality, and it can save you buckets of money!
© 2012 Sherry Hewins