What furniture is worth buying second-hand?
March 12, 2018 7:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving! Almost all our furniture needs to be replaced and IKEA is fancy budget for me. We will be living in the new place for at least 10 years, and I'd like to stretch my budget by going secondhand where I can (except mattresses. Never ever. We did bedbugs once. Never again.) The internet is all "refurbish solid wood, shame on you for buying ikea secondhand", but I'm looking for more realistic advice.

My shopping list is:

Big sectional sofa
Microwave oven
Shoe cupboards
Washing machine
Queen beds x4
Murphy bed x1
Carpets/ rugs
Laptop desks in secretary style
Bar carts
Big planter pots
Hanging chair/ hammock chairs
Pendant lights

I'm getting the wardrobes and storage systems built in because every place we are considering has weird corners and it'll be the best way to max out storage for 7-8 people in 1600sq ft.

Is there anything else that you've bought second-hand for a renovation that you've saved a bundle on and been surprised more people don't do?

What should I absolutely buy new to get the warranty and quality?
posted by dorothyisunderwood to Shopping (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The only thing on your list I would buy new is the dishwasher. There are many, many appliance stores that will sell you a used fridge and top loading washing machine that comes with a warranty.
otherwise Craigslist ahoy!
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:18 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you are afraid of bed begs, I would also avoid getting a sofa or rugs second-hand as well.
posted by greta simone at 7:23 PM on March 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

Using your list:
Big sectional sofa - would buy new probably from one of the cheaper online retailers. Just because of bed bugs and the like.
Fridge - There are definitely deals to be had on Craigslist but I'd make sure the fridge is working before handing over any money.
Microwave oven - Definitely secondhand, could probably get for free if member of a local Buy Nothing or Freecycle group.
Shoe cupboards - Definitely secondhand, could probably get for free if member of a local Buy Nothing or Freecycle group.
Washing machine - can get secondhand.
Queen beds x4 - should be able to get secondhand - maybe not all of them.
Murphy bed x1 - this you'll probably have to buy new and it'll be expensive.
Carpets/ rugs - secondhand
Laptop desks in secretary style - secondhand
Bar carts - secondhand
Big planter pots - Definitely secondhand, probably free
Hanging chair/ hammock chairs - Definitely secondhand
Mirrors - Secondhand
Pendant lights - Secondhand
Lamps - Secondhand
Dishwasher - might be able to get secondhand, might be tough to find
posted by peacheater at 7:24 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

also, I bought a teak patio set last summer at goodwill that looks new after a whole mess of sanding and a can of penofin marine oil. Total cost $150
posted by Dr. Twist at 7:28 PM on March 12, 2018

You can buy everything on your list secondhand. As someone who has survived bedbugs I still bought secondhand beds for my house, just check them thoroughly. Also if your budget is tight don’t feel you need to deck your house out to the nines right away, take your time perusing Craigslist and the like for good deals.

Honestly most people I know buy all of this shit secondhand. I have no idea why people pay the premium for new goods. However, I am married to someone very handy who fixed every single broken appliance that came with our house, which was all of them.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:00 PM on March 12, 2018 [6 favorites]

A possible compromise on some of the furniture and appliances: buy the floor models. They may have some slight wear and tear but will be marked down significantly (and obviously they come already assembled, which definitely is an improvement on Ikea!).
posted by TwoStride at 8:01 PM on March 12, 2018

Check out Habitat ReStore for pendant lights and other fixtures.

I'm finding that the Facebook groups for local buy/sell/trade activity are the best bet. You can set up notifications for what you're searching for. People around here use it far more than Craigslist, and you'll find better quality if you join the group where the rich people live.
posted by wwartorff at 8:10 PM on March 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would buy all of this new, with the exception of very specific items that will be essential in maximizing storage and use of a small space. (That said, you might get a lot of mileage out of the Ikea Algot system, which is both inexpensive and super modular, but also probably hard to find used components of.)
posted by tapir-whorf at 8:16 PM on March 12, 2018

Also you can totally buy ikea and ikea-quality* second hand. Sure it's never going to last generations but there are a lot of people keeping an item for a couple of years and then moving or whatever. From where I'm sitting now I can see a bookshelf, dining room table/chairs, and bed that were all second hand, and were originally from ikea.

* Here I'm talking about the nicer ikea stuff, not the super cheap stuff that falls apart immediately. You know?
posted by quaking fajita at 8:29 PM on March 12, 2018

Freecycle.net great way to get rid of stuff before you go, look for specific items
Craigslist.org/zip (free)
posted by theora55 at 8:42 PM on March 12, 2018

About sofas and the dimensions of your people. One large person in our household wrecks havoc on the longevity of cheap sofas, so we went with This End Up (no springs, lower seat height) via Craigslist and had custom cushions made with tough fabric, as well as some extra covers since we were working with teens and small children.

Look up Thrift Stores via Yelp as well. Some carry furniture, and you don’t have to wait on a yard sale.
posted by childofTethys at 8:54 PM on March 12, 2018

We've had good luck with our local Buy Nothing group on Facebook for a number of items.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:09 PM on March 12, 2018

90% of my furniture is from Craigslist's free section. I'm super picky about getting high quality stuff, but if you have time to be patient, and live in a decently well-populated place, this is absolutely possible. I have a gorgeous Norwegian midcentury sofa, antique desk, etc. If you get furniture from someone on Craigslist, whether free or paid, you can ask them directly about bedbugs, unlike buying something in a secondhand store. I see a lot of free brand new mattresses on Craigslist as well from places like Tuft & Needle, which I would have no qualms about getting. The only thing I might avoid re bedbugs is picking up something at the curb.
posted by pinochiette at 9:24 PM on March 12, 2018

So much of my furniture/appliances are second-hand, everything from used IKEA pieces to a curbcycled 1930s Duncan Phyfe dropleaf expandable dining table, to a harpsichord I found at Habitat for Humanity ReStore of all things. Used IKEA, IMHO, fares better over a 10-year timeframe that other cheap particle board furniture like even cheaper stuff from walmart. I think the trick to getting the most bang for your buck when buying used home goods is to consider which pieces take the most wear and tear and chose those to invest a little more in better quality (not necessarily new, but good quality used) . E.g., coffee tables, desks, and sofas get used a lot and take a beating. So with them its fine to buy used, but tried to identify better quality used (e.g., if you're looking at a used sofa, check how much the particular brand goes for new, and pick something that retails new at least a mid-level price not the cheapest sofa from Joe Bob's Discount Furniture Outlet, which probably only had a lifespan of 5 years the day the first owners brought it home. I.e., don't waste your time buying a used Klippan sofa or Lack coffee table, because the first owner has already consumed most of its service life. A Billy bookcase or Expedit/Kallax shelving unit, on the other hand, will last approximately until The Rapture, so buy a used version with impunity.
I've had lousy luck with used microwaves and coffee pots. Fridge/washing machine/dishwasher are also a bit of a gamble, but as long as you're willing to take the risk that you may need a $200-300 service call to repair your $200-300 used appliance at some point in the next 5 years, you're still ahead of the game vs. an $800 new appliance.
Congrats on the move!
posted by drlith at 9:26 PM on March 12, 2018

Another option: buy a circular saw, a drill, and a small sander and Google diy furniture plans—esp for the beds and shoe cupboard. If you favor furniture with simple lines and stick to basics for joining pieces (e.g., screws, no dovetails), you can build decent looking, sturdy furniture for a fraction of the cost of new.

Similarly, when possible, buy used appliances (washers, dryers, dishwashers) with mechanical controls, which are easier to repair. And always check Google before calling a repair service. If you can read and follow directions, you can probably do a surprising number of repairs by yourself.

I seldom buy anything new when there is a "used" or diy option because there are other things I would rather do with my money (and for environmental reasons). Things I won't buy used inc upholstered furniture and anything I can't thoroughly clean e.g., I would be reluctant to buy a used rug (I would avoiding renting a place with carpeting and would immediately replace carpeting if I owned, so maybe this is just me).

Finally, seconding the recommendation that you visit ReStore.
posted by she's not there at 1:08 AM on March 13, 2018

Does a local appliance store have a "scratch and dent" area? I've gotten great deals on things that were only cosmetically damaged, nasty scratched paint typically gets 25% off. Who cares if the side of a washing machine is dented and scratched, it still cleans the clothes.
posted by Marky at 1:59 AM on March 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Almost all of my non-upholstered furniture, including most lamps and art, was slowly curated from secondhand stores and Craigslist. It took years and it’s all amazing. This was cheaper than buying wood, but so slow.

Buy your organizers and wardrobes and shoe closets new because then you can get what’s works for your stuff and your space, rather than what’s available right now.
posted by OrangeVelour at 3:02 AM on March 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

IKEA solid wood holds up fine! Just avoid plastic and particle board.
posted by 8603 at 5:23 AM on March 13, 2018

I'm also secondhand everything you can. Also freecycle/buy nothing/payitforward groups, because free is the best price. Except maybe the couch if bedbugs are a problem in your area. Bar trolleys and murphy beds might be hard to find secondhand, but it's worth a look.

I've bought a lot of secondhand ikea. I go to the ikea store, check that I like it, and then put an alert on facebook/gumtree/ebay for the ikea name. Most people put the swedish name in the description. Anything that isn't particle board will generally be fine secondhand. You can also get small missing connectors from ikea.

If you can't find exactly what you want, but you need an item, buy a secondhand version that's good enough. You can almost always sell it again for what you paid for it when you upgrade. I've made money on secondhand furniture. In my area, it's normally about 1/2 the new price, assuming it's in good condition, and doesn't depreciate much below that unless it's worn or broken. Large items are even more discounted, because so few people can be bothered hiring a van.
posted by kjs4 at 6:52 AM on March 13, 2018

I have had excellent luck finding quality used furniture for short money at my local Habitat ReStore. They frequently have the kind of stuff that you'd see going for hundreds or thousands of dollars in one of those vintage boutique places (the kind of places that I think of as "thrift stores for rich people") albeit a little more dinged up, at prices that I can actually afford.

We're talking stuff like $75 for a coffee table and two end tables made of solid wood with beautiful inlaid tops, $25 for a gorgeous, well-made love seat that's just missing some fabric on its underside, that sort of thing. The kind of stuff that you'd spend days sifting through absolute garbage at regular thrift stores in order to find is just all over the showroom floor there. They do fixtures and appliances as well, and they do the kind of "50% off if it's been on the floor for over a month" discounts that you find at thrift shops, which can lead to some screaming hot deals if you look at the dates on the tags.

Best source of quality used furniture I've ever found, by far.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:31 AM on March 13, 2018

My favorite trick is to set up a Craigslist saved search so you can get an email any time something new that matches your search terms is added. Granted, you end up with a load of superfluous emails depending on how broad your search term, but it means you get to see new things as they're added and can reach out quickly if something strikes your fancy.

Also, if there's a college near you, check when the move out date is in the dorms--I have found some surprisingly nice stuff amidst all of the broken Ikea furniture curbside at the end of a school year.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:48 AM on March 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have had my IKEA EXPEDIT shelves for 8 years and they are still going strong except for scratched paint from moving them without a furniture dolly. They don't make them anymore (have switched to less-sturdy KALLAX), so if you see them used they are totally worth it! I have used mine as bookshelves, dressers, media center, room dividers...they are amazing.
posted by assenav at 11:38 AM on March 13, 2018

Depending on your timeline and how fast you need everything, you might have luck with estate sales. I have found incredibly high-quality furniture for a fraction of the price of new at Target, Ikea, or any other similar store. I tend to visit the sales in wealthier areas, and you would be surprised about what you can find. You might have difficulty finding appliances, but you never know. The only downside is that you have to figure out how to get the stuff home, but the person running the sale will often have a contact for a mover/shipper with whom you can negotiate if your car/truck isn't big enough.
posted by eulily at 1:57 PM on March 13, 2018

Response by poster: I wanted to say thanks for the advice - I've not marked best answers because the reality has been so very very geographical, but the range of answers gave me a lot of confidence. I picked up a fantastic nearly-new dishwasher today at 15% of what I planned to spend on the dishwasher, and I'm negotiating for a bunch of other good items. We don't do estate sales or really garage sales here, and people wildly overprice a lot of furniture, but white goods are well-priced. I'm also able to scavenge a lot of IKEA fittings from my long list to keep my budget down. I'm avoiding anything with cushioning - I lived through a bedbug infestation and would rather live in an empty flat than go there again.

The biggest lesson I've distilled is to be willing to wait. I split a lot of my list to "wait 3-6 months and see if I can find it second-hand and better". Weirdly, I've suddenly been able to find almost everything I wanted vintage, second-hand or super-cheap. A tight budget makes for much more interesting decorating!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:07 AM on April 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

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