Should I buy a used office chair?

On the advice of a work from home veteran, I bought a used office chair recently. It was the best advice I’ve received in a long time. Should I buy a used office chair? Should you? Yes, and here’s why.

Does the office chair really matter?

used office chair
Should you buy a used office chair? Well, this $149 Steelcase Criterion chair at a used office furniture store wasn’t quite what I was after, but it’s much better than a $149 chair from a big-box chain store.

I bought a $100 chair from Office Max in 2012 when I first got a job that let me telecommute once a week. And it was fine for a while, especially when I was only using it once a week and I was still in my 30s.

When I was working from home every day, that was another story. I’m sure it didn’t help that I’m not in my 30s anymore. But after a few years, my back was almost always sore. It wasn’t debilitating, but I can see why some people end up addicted to painkillers. I didn’t go that route but became a regular at the chiropractor. That’s safer in every way but gets expensive too. And my carpal tunnel flared back up too.

When I bought a Steelcase Leap office chair, similar to what I sat in when I had office jobs, it took about five days for my back to loosen up. I paid $300 for it after tax, but I’d been going to the chiropractor every week, which was not only expensive, but was also hard on my schedule. My employer’s time off policy allowed it but that doesn’t mean every customer is so understanding.

When I worked in an office, I only had to go to the chiropractor once a month. I never made the connection that it was the chair. But I think it was the chair. So that $300 office chair, while not cheap, will pay for itself in about two months.

Finding a used office chair

Almost any medium-sized city will have several used office supply stores. St. Louis has several. The problem is they tend to be open only during regular business hours. After one especially bad week, I took Friday afternoon off to go hunting. Look for a chair that gives good low back and upper back support, has adjustable armrests, and adjustable back pressure. I had a hard time finding anything with all that for less than $289. Preferred chairs like a Herman Miller Aeron or Mirra go for more than that. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth $500 to you.

For me, $300 for the Steelcase was easy to justify and I could afford it. There was a time when I wouldn’t have been able to. Even then, a $90-$150 used Steelcase or Hon chair with limited adjustments would have been better than the $100 Officemax special I’d been using.

There are people who will tell you a used office chair is risky, that a new one will last 15 years. The thing is, this Steelcase Leap I bought obviously has some years in it, but it’s more durable than the Officemax specials I already own. I’m sure I’ve worked places that kept their chairs a lot longer than 15 years. And the one, count ’em, one place I ever worked that brought in a chair repairperson only needed to do it once a year. Commercial grade stuff costs a lot new because it’s built to last, because downtime is expensive.

Ideally, buy locally from a place that will let you exchange the chair if you find you don’t like it. In the instance of my Steelcase Leap, I was familiar enough with it I was fine just buying it.

My only regret is I didn’t do it sooner.

Sometimes you can get lucky and there’ll be an office building that’s clearing out. The selection will be limited but the price will be lower. And sometimes you can get one at an estate sale too. In that case you probably have a selection of one, but again, the price will probably be pretty low.

Some people will say I paid more than I had to for the chair I got, but there’s opportunity cost as well. I was hurting, and I was able to get there, get the chair, and get home in between customer commitments.

If you work from home, even occasionally, get a used office chair. You’ll thank yourself later.

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