Small businesses don’t always have a ton of money to work with when furnishing an office  or facility. But you don’t need to take out a loan  or go broke just to purchase the furniture and equipment necessary to run your business — just buy used.
If you have a small office of about 2,500 square feet, you can save  about $20,000 by buying quality used furniture instead of new, high end furniture. And the savings are even more pronounced in a larger space.
Of course, the exact savings and prices depend on the type of furniture and equipment you need, your location and several other factors. But in almost every case, quality used pieces can help cost conscious startups. However, you need to know how to make the most of those purchases so you don’t need to replace them constantly. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you look for used furniture and equipment for your business.
Keep Safety in Mind
Of course, safety should be your top priority when purchasing any type of furniture or equipment that your team or customers will interact with regularly. Make sure that chairs are sturdy and won’t collapse or tip over. Additionally, any heavy cabinets or tables need to be completely level and strong. And any electronic equipment should be tested for safety.
Be Pickier with Critical Items
There are certain purchases that will make a bigger impact on the quality of your daily operations than others. Things like computers and printers probably see a ton of use and need to be very high quality — otherwise your business may fall behind. That doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase these items used. But it does mean you need to spend more time researching your purchases and might want to spend a bit more to buy from a quality dealer or obtain a warranty.
Additionally, any areas of your space that might impact your customers or your team’s productivity should be a high priority. For example, your desk chairs need to be comfortable and your entryway furniture should be aesthetically pleasing. However, if you need some basic filing cabinets or a standard conference table that only your executive team will see, it may be more possible to save some money on those items.
Consider How Long You Need Each Item
In addition to the importance of the item in question, you should also think about the type of longevity you’re looking for. If you want an item to last for decades, you might want to buy new or look for a dealer that ensures their used pieces are high quality. However, if you’re looking for something that you might outgrow in a few years anyway, it may be easier to skimp. For example, the printer you use in the early days of your business might not be very practical once you scale. But if you save a ton on the purchase, it might make it easier for you to get to that point where you can easily afford the model you really want to hold onto.
However, there are certain types of used furniture pieces that tend to last for a long time. For example, wood furniture like those you might use for a conference table or desk could be made of higher quality materials than even a new product made of particle board or imitation wood. These types of items might still cost a fair amount. But you’ll at least be making an investment in something that will last.
Look at Refurbished Items
Some used items are sold completely as is. Others are sold by dealers that make improvements to each piece. In fact, some of these pieces even come with guarantees or assertions about their quality or longevity. Refurbished pieces are usually better maintained and able to last a bit longer than used pieces sold as-is. You’ll usually pay a bit more for them. But it might be worth it depending on your needs.
Think About Potential Improvements
There are professionals out there who can reupholster, stain and otherwise improve your used furniture purchases. Of course, these services cost extra money. So it might not be the best option for certain pieces. However, if you can find an amazing deal on select items that don’t meet your aesthetic standards, it could help you achieve the look and feel you want for your space.
Price is a factor in nearly any decision your small business will make. When searching for used furniture, you should look for great deals. But be wary of price outliers. If something seems significantly cheaper than all the other options out there, it’s probably for a good reason. In addition, compare prices between used pieces and new pieces. If there’s a negligible difference, you might be better off just paying a bit more to get the new option.
Assess the Quality
It’s always a good idea to look over used furniture and equipment pieces in person before buying, if possible. Test these items for comfort and quality. Sit on chairs. Put some weight on desks. And run a few copies before committing to a purchase. If you’re buying online, don’t be afraid to ask for some extra photos or videos of pieces.
Look for Warranties
Warranties are not always available with used purchases. But if you can find them, they’ll help you protect your investment in case your purchase happens to be defective or not what you wanted. If you’re buying used equipment that originally came with a warranty, make sure that the warranty is transferable to you. And make sure you know exactly what it covers. You don’t want to pay extra for a warranty that only covers very specific situations that aren’t really relevant to your business operations.