What should I sit on?
March 6, 2012 5:48 AM   Subscribe

How much should I spend on an office chair? I work from a home office as a software developer, and sit in this chair pretty much all day every day.

Whenever I go shopping for a new office chair, I am appalled at how expensive they are. I always wind up spending about $100, and they always wind up lasting about a year. My current chair has started gradually lowering itself un-noticeably slowly, so that I keep winding up in a bad sitting position and feeling like I am sitting in a children's chair at kindergarten. Clearly it's time to start thinking about a new chair.

I don't want to spend an obscene amount of money. But I also want a chair that will be comfortable, durable, and last several years.
posted by Lokheed to Work & Money (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

You can't get what you want. Cheap office chairs are the modern equivalent of the rack or the iron maiden.

If you want a chair that is, as you specify, "comfortable, durable and last[s] several years," you are going to have to drop a significant chunk of change. That's just the way it is.

My suggestion would be to look for a used/refurbished Aeron. I have one at home and one at the office, and love them.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:04 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you in a large city? Keep on eye on CL for offices shutting down and grab a Steelcase Leap or something similar for cheap.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:04 AM on March 6, 2012

Best answer: To answer your question specifically - $500 +. Think about it - you spend ~2000 hours a year sitting in it. Pay the money.
posted by brand-gnu at 6:05 AM on March 6, 2012

Steelcase, Aeron, or Humanscale. It is the single most frequent place for you to be, so invest in it. Your body and quality of life will thank you.
posted by supercres at 6:07 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

I always wind up spending about $100, and they always wind up lasting about a year.

A $100 chair is by definition a piece of junk. $500 will get you a good used chair on Craigslist (e.g., Aeron).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:07 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

As my old mum used to say to me, pay cheap, pay twice or thrice..

Go for an aeron. This is almost as important as buying a proper bed.
posted by the_epicurean at 6:14 AM on March 6, 2012

I'll recommend a probably cheaper solution - make a standing desk out of a bookshelf. Sitting for hours every day appears to be bad for your health:

NYT - Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?

Here are some examples of standing desks, many of them cobbled together out of household objects:

Standing Desks
posted by permiechickie at 6:22 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Leap or Aeron. Each has cheaper options but as said above, watch CL for someone selling theirs or a liquidation, and get the real deal cheap. Each fits different body types, so try them out to see which fits you best first. Worth the money for the obscene amount of time you spend in it.
posted by kcm at 6:25 AM on March 6, 2012

I have an Aeron and love it; I bought it from these guys, who have a large selection and what seem to be competitive prices. Have you tried any of these high-end chairs when you were out shopping? When I did I could feel the difference right away, as well as note the increased quality of build.
posted by TedW at 6:32 AM on March 6, 2012

My chair, occupied about 12 hours per day, was $400 from a wholesaler. (I can't remember the brand.) I went in with my contact, who specializes in ergonomic furniture, and went through a "princess and the pea" routine sitting and moving around in many sample chairs. Mine's not a Leap or an Aeron, but it's the right one for me.

That's a rare opportunity, but the point is that you should try out as many as you can.
posted by jgirl at 6:33 AM on March 6, 2012

To answer your question specifically - $500 +. Think about it - you spend ~2000 hours a year sitting in it. Pay the money.


Back in the dark ages -- when Macintosh computers were seen as an indulgence, I routinely converted people to the platform with that very equation.

But a Mac is $500 more than an equivelent PC

How much time do you spend on your computer?

4 to 5 hours a day [this was in 2001]

How many days per week?

Probably 6 days a week

So you spend 1200 to 1500 hours a year in front of your computer. Let's conservatively give the system a lifespan of three years. That's 3600 to 4500 hours. That's 50 cents a day difference. How much did you spend for that coffee at Starbucks? How many times a day do you go to Starbucks?

I converted a lot of people to Macs.

Similarly with an office chair. Let's have an equation:

((Cost of a ergonomically correct chair) - (Cost of a basic chair)) / (Hours per day in chair x Days per week in chair x weeks per year at work).

That will give the cost-per-day of a better chair over a year. Optionally add year life span to the denominator.
posted by nickrussell at 6:35 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Expanding on a couple of the above answers, there are companies that specialize in used office furniture - they buy stuff in wholesale lots from firms going out of business/moving/remodeling and then resell it cheap. The two places I've checked out in my area have huge warehouse floors with hundreds of chairs & desks & credenzas & cubicles & etc etc. Serious "name brand" ergonomic chairs (Haworth, Steelcase, Herman Miller) that retail new for $500 - $1000 being sold for usually $150 or less.

Admittedly, they're used, so you have to take a little time to poke around & check out that the chair has all its' parts & that it's working properly.

Googling "used office furniture Orlando", it looks like you have at least a couple of these companies in your area.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:37 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

While you're at it, consider the rest of your desk ergonomics-- are your hands in the right position? Is your monitor at the right height? Are your feet supported? Going from putting my keyboard on my desk to putting it on a tray that's basically sitting in my lap was an amazing leap in comfort.
posted by supercres at 6:40 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would totally go with soundguy99's suggestion. If you're spending $100 a year now, and want a chair that will last, be prepared to spend $500. I am totally not willing to spend $500 on a chair, so office liquidation warehouses are my friend, and yours. You can pick up a really good chair for $250 or less.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:42 AM on March 6, 2012

Response by poster: supercres - yes, when I built out my home office I specifically designed my desk to be the proper height for my size, with the keyboard on a tray so that my arms are angled properly (at least when my chair hasn't sunk too low) and my monitors are at the correct height.

Thank you for the advice, everyone. Much appreciated.
posted by Lokheed at 6:52 AM on March 6, 2012

I got this Herman Miller Caper XR at Costco for $250 about 2 1/2 years ago. It's very comfortable and is holding up perfectly.
posted by amarynth at 6:55 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

the aeron chair sucks.
posted by hotelechozulu at 7:06 AM on March 6, 2012

hotelechozulu: "the aeron chair sucks."

To be honest, I agree with hotelchozulu's link- I find the Aeron very uncomfortable. (Yes, I've tried the correct size.)

When I sit at work (I've switched a a Geek Desk, so I stand over half the day), I use a Steelcase Leap, which is very comfortable for me. I'm not sure of retail (we buy through a wholesaler), but I'd give the general advice to try out a few chairs and wee what works for you, since everyone's opinion seems to differ.
posted by JMOZ at 7:12 AM on March 6, 2012

I suspect that with some of the chair brands mentioned above there is rather a high retail mark up. The chairs go for a 10th of their retail price in liquidation sales, as soundguy99 suggests, then that would be a possible indicator. The haters of this chair always mention its association with over optimistic businesses back in the .com crash days.

If you have a look at the qualities that are suggested for an ergonomic chair you will probably be able to find a reasonable match for less. However I would suggest $100 is rather little for a new chair that you are going to use a lot and expect to last.
posted by rongorongo at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2012

I've got to recommend the Steelcase Leap, too.

I use one of these at work and there are days where I literally don't get a chance to get out of my chair for up to 8 hours (I know, I know...), and I always felt relatively comfortable and had no aches and pains. Especially when I compare it to the old cheapo chair I used at my last job. Ouch.
posted by ohmy at 7:21 AM on March 6, 2012

Nthing hotelechozulu and JMOZ! Do try out a bunch.
posted by jgirl at 7:26 AM on March 6, 2012

Some people find exercise ball helpful as seat But to answer a comment:
sitting indeed not healthy; but so too, constant standing.switch back and forth
posted by Postroad at 8:14 AM on March 6, 2012

Ultimately it will be your body that tells you which chair to choose. Sit in as many as possible. Follow the same advice as bed shopping, that is, sit in the chair for as long as possible, bring a book or magazine.

I spent about $800 on an Aeron almost 15 years ago. The chair has held up to 5 moves, multiple reassemblies, years of me sitting in a variety of positions typing and pointing and clicking away...
posted by uhom at 8:46 AM on March 6, 2012

Consider the Herman Miller Mirra as an alternative to the Aeron. It is a little bit cheaper, and, at least in my opinion, it is cooler and more comfortable.

If you just can't bring yourself to drop $500 on a chair, then the Realspace Pro at Office Depot is a decent option at $250.
posted by spilon at 9:04 AM on March 6, 2012

Make sure you read the Jeff Atwood article rongorongo linked. I was just coming here to post the same. I really didn't like the Aeron chairs at my old workplace. I went with a used Steelcase Leap and it's been fine, but now that it's time to replace it, I'm looking elsewhere. There is no reason to buy a $100 chair at a local box store. They are a waste of time if you sit for more than an hour at a stretch.
posted by yerfatma at 11:22 AM on March 6, 2012

Agreed that $500 is the minimum if you're buying new. Craigslist or used office-furniture places are good alternatives. I bought a sit-to-stand desk and an Ergohuman mesh chair from The Human Solution -- if you buy from there, Google for coupons first, as you can usually save 10-15% or so.

They do have some cheaper chairs, too -- I got one like this for use at home, and it's definitely better than anything you can get at Home Depot -- but I'd strongly recommend getting a full-size, fully-ergonomic chair for work. I sit in this one longer than I should as it is... in another year or so I'll probably be buying a sit-to-stand desk and a quality chair for use at home, too.
posted by vorfeed at 11:34 AM on March 6, 2012

one data point: i have been programming in the same aeron chair for 20 years. once, ten years ago, i replaced the armrests because they were worn. besides that, it's been non-stop comfort.
posted by bruceo at 12:47 PM on March 6, 2012

I'd got and take a look at IKEA's got if you're looking in the $100 price range. The thing about IKEA is that with its scale all the design, setup and marketing costs amortise to almost nothing, so all you pay is proportional to the cost of manufacture. So decent shaped chairs at nice low prices.
posted by ambrosen at 3:00 PM on March 6, 2012

You can buy a Steelcase Leap or Aeron off of craigslist for around $300. I have done this in both NYC and Phoenix, AZ, as data-points. And the guy in New York was this nice older guy who drove the chair to my apartment in his car, which had heated leather seats. Hard to beat that kind of service.
posted by !Jim at 1:10 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: For the benefit of anyone who finds this thread in the future:

I followed advice, and went to a local used office furniture store and actually spent quite a bit of time talking to the salesman there and sitting in a variety of chairs. He specifically helped me find the specific size of chair I needed (he called it a seat "C"), because of my larger frame. I found one chair that I sat in for more than fifteen minutes as we talked, and liked it quite a bit. I held off buying it because the price, at $275, seemed a little low based on comments in this thread and because he said he tends to get in more Aerons used avery 2-3 weeks, and if he gets one in the correct size and not totally blinged out it would be in my price range. I would at least like to go sit in one and see if it feels substantially better than the chair I liked today. Worst case, I wind up in a $300 chair with a five year warranty. Best case, I wind up in a $500-$600 chair that is built like a tank and will last ten years.
posted by Lokheed at 5:29 PM on March 17, 2012

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