All my furniture is used, purchased either at yard sales or thrift stores. While typically you get a great buy on going used, you always have to keep a watchful eye on what you’re buying, even if it’s cheap. Since there is always a reason someone is getting rid of something, be thorough when shopping for used furniture to make sure you aren’t getting a bum deal.
Shopping for furniture (tables, couches, chairs, entertainment centers, etc) is a great way to save money. But watch out. That couch may be in that yard sale or thrift store for a reason. The hide-a-bed may not function, it may have nasty stains, the springs could be broken, etc. So don’t just look at that cheap tag; make sure you aren’t just buying cheap junk.
For couches and chairs remove all the cushions prior to purchasing. Feel the springs and bend down and sniff the couch. Look for pet hair, stains that you may or may not be able to remove. If it’s a hide-a-bed couch, pull out the bed. Check the cushions for tears or broken zippers. Check the bottom of the couch or chair for broken legs, and shake them to see how sturdy they are. Put the cushions on and sit in the couch or chair, bouncing to see how supportive and comfy the furniture is. If it passes your inspection, purchase it. If you see flaws but you still want the furniture, bring the flaws up to the seller and barter for a cheaper deal. Even a thrift store will often take an offer so long as you prove your case. Point the flaws (torn cushion, broken leg) to the manager and they’ll likely knock off a few bucks for you.
For bookshelves, tables, entertainment centers, dressers, and other wood pieces, lift them to see how heavy they are. A lot of these items are made from cheap wood and will lift quite easily. Solid wood will be too heavy to lift comfortably. Open and close dresser drawers to make sure they slide correctly, and check out the interior of the space to make sure there are no stains. Shake all wood furniture to see how sturdy it is for mobility, particularly bookshelves. Cheap or poorly kept bookshelves will come apart in your car, and you can avoid this by shaking it vigorously to see how it holds. Entertainment centers often have moving doors or compartments; make sure they open and close properly and there are no knobs missing. For tables, shake ’em good to make sure they are sturdy, and if they come with a leaf, take the leaf in and out to make sure the leaf part works. You’d be surprised how many tables come with a leaf that cannot be put in or taken out, so you’re paying for an addition you cannot use. Check first to make sure all works well.
Stoves, washers, and dryers are tough to come by, but when you see one, definitely check it out. Open the compartments, looking for loose wires and missing or loose parts, which may indicate repair. Plug those buggers in to make sure all the knobs work, and take along with you someone who knows major appliances to give you the OK or suggest a fair price. Either way, you can easily get very nice used washers, dryers, and stoves for around $100. They are as-is though, so check them very well to avoid buying a bum appliance.
Once again if you notice flaws yet still want the product, point them out to the seller or store manager and you will likely get a discount. Throw out your best offer based on what you saw and they will likely take it.
For lamps and other electric appliances, plug them in prior to buying. There is a plug in somewhere, so don’t buy unchecked. I’ve purchased lamps unchecked before and was only able to return the non-working appliance for a trade of a same-priced item. All items are as-is, so it’s up to you to find the flaws and buy accordingly.
Yes, there are a lot of great deals going used on furniture, but be careful. There is always a reason someone donates or gets rid of something, so check your choices thoroughly before purchasing, and only pay a fair deal. I bought a bookcase that fell apart in the car, a couch missing a leg, and a lamp that was defunct, but that was MY fault for not checking the items first.
On the other hand, I got a great huge entertainment center for $10 that is beautiful solid wood, a hide-a-bed couch in great comfy condition for $15, a dryer that has a few dings but works great for $25, and a coffee table for $5. So you can get awesome deals if you know what you’re looking for.