How To Successfully Buy Used & Refurbished Office Furniture

Posted by: Bob F.

 In our current economic downturn, it makes more sense than ever to intelligently explore used and refurbished furniture options for your office. Given the high cost of brand new modular furniture (i.e. cubicles), used or refurbished furniture represents one of the best opportunities to save a bundle when you set up your new office. Not only can you save a significant amount of money (up to 90% off of manufacturer’s list prices), but the green aspect of utilizing components that might normally end up in a landfill can’t be denied.

In most cases furniture remanufacturers tear off the original panel fabric and replace it with new fabric. Typically all of the trim surfaces such as top-caps, side-rails and base-plates are stripped and refinished as well. Fully remanufactured furniture usually appears brand new, but at a huge savings. 

For even more savings consider purchasing “as-is” furniture, where typically the fabric is not replaced but rather steam cleaned to freshen it up. Most of the larger manufacturers (i.e. Haworth, Steelcase, Herman Miller) build a solid product that is very robust. Fabric can be replaced, trim can be painted, but the basic core of most panels and laminate work surfaces usually lasts a very long time.

These days you’ll see lots of postings for inexpensive or free cubicles on web sites like Craiglist . If the cubes are being sold by an end-user, one of the most important things to be aware of is that the layout or space plan for their cubes needs to be very similar to your desired layout. Otherwise, you may end up having to find and buy lots of parts and pieces to make those cubes work in your particular space. These components can be difficult to source and may be expensive, so consider the value of your time before jumping at an offer for free or cheap cubes from any source other than a qualified remanufacturer. Unless you’re an experienced facilities person, most people don’t understand the process involved in buying used or refurbished cubes, and it can be a downright frustrating experience if you haven’t thought about some of the basic details your furniture vendor may need. Towards that end, the following checklist will go a long way towards saving you time and money before you engage a used or refurbished furniture vendor. 

Key Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Approximately what is my budget?
  2. Do I have a layout & design completed yet, or do I need help with this?
  3. Are their specific colors of fabric & laminate that I must have, or can I be flexible in this area, which might possibly save some money?
  4. Do I know specifically what components I need in each of the cubes (i.e. shelves, flipper doors, pedestal files, tack boards, task lights, etc.), or do I need help with this?
  5. If I find an inventory for sale directly from another end-user (i.e. on Craigslist), do I have the time, knowledge and patience to make their furniture work in my new location?
  6. What is my critical date to have the product installed and therefore, when do I need to make the decision on a vendor?
  7. Am I the only decision maker on this purchase, or do I need to involve others in the process before making a final decision?

Key Questions to Ask Potential Vendors:

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. I have a critical date to meet for completion of this job, what kind of control do you have over the entire process to ensure you’ll be able to hit my date?
  3. Are you a broker who simply searches for used inventory and makes arrangements to have it torn down, transported and installed at my location, or do you have this product in your warehouse, now, waiting to be installed?
  4. Does your company do the installation itself, or do you hire that service out?
  5. If I need space planning services, can you do that for me? If so, how much will it cost?
  6. Do you sell “as-is” products only, or can you refurbish the product with a different color fabric, trim color or laminate before delivering it to me? Do you do the refurbishing yourself, or do you hire that service out?
  7. If I buy an “as-is” product from you, in what kind of condition can I expect this product to really be in? Will you clean & paint it first as needed, or will it simply be transported from someone else’s office to mine?
  8. Can you break down your quote into separate line items for each of the individual components, including installation and labor fees, so I can make an apples-to-apples comparison with other vendors, or remove certain items if my budget changes?
  9. If I need to add more cubicles at a later date, is the fabric you’re going to sell me likely to be available at that time?
  10. If I need additional components like shelves, flipper doors, task lights, etc., at a later date, will you have components in stock in the colors I need to match what I already purchased?
  11. Can you show me photos of recent jobs, or can I go out and see some of the jobs you’ve done, so I can get a sense of what my job might look like when completed?
  12. Can you put me in touch with any of your recent customers, so I can determine their satisfaction level and overall experience?

Last updated: 10.29.2010 05:16 PM