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Many people consider shopping at thrift stores to be an activity for poor people and hipsters.
They’re missing out.
Shopping at thrift stores is the best way (in my opinion) to get great deals on items that you could never find or hope to afford otherwise.
This is especially true of larger items such as furniture which are often priced low simply to get them out of the store.
Buying used furniture from thrift stores is a great option for anyone from college students looking to furnish a dorm to families looking to decorate an AirBNB or new home.
So, if you’re in the market for furniture (whether it be a couch, dresser, or bed), then here are some of our best tips for finding good options at whatever thrift stores are in your area.
But first, I do have to brag for a moment about a couch that we just bought at Goodwill which inspired me to write this:
A cool $15 from Goodwill after an evening of leather conditioner gas us an amazing vintage couch that should last us for years and years to come! As long as we can keep the dog off of it.
5 Tips For Buying Thrift Store Furniture
1. Be Patient
If you have to have something today then a thrift store might not be the best place to buy furniture.
For sure you can find something, but then you’re faced with having something that you don’t really like and is possibly gross. What’s more, when you finally get tired of it and get something new you’ll have to dispose of the old piece of furniture.
Which can be much harder than you think.
So if you’re looking for something specific, or even just nice from a thrift store then patience is the name of the game. You’ll want to frequent as many thrift stores as possible for a good amount of time so you can get an idea of what’s normal and what you can find with a bit of effort.
While this is obviously easier than said if you’re in need of a couch or bedframe there are people who have spent years looking for a specific piece of furniture (that is normally unaffordable or unavailable) and been successful in the end.
2. Buy Something Easily Cleanable
Thrift furniture isn’t necessarily all gross. However, there are definitely some gross options to be had at most thrift stores.
I’ve seen furniture covered in pet hair, furniture with the most questionable stains imaginable, and furniture that smells like the granddaddy of all urinals.
Even clean-looking furniture can contain allergens or (worst case scenario) mites or bed bugs.
So, what’s the solution? While looking for clean furniture is a great option, looking for clean furniture that is easily cleanable is an even better one.
Many people have scored amazing deals on expensive couches that just needed a cleaning.
I have a friend who bought a $3,000 sectional at Goodwill for $50 and then spent $250 to have it professionally cleaned. If you factor cleaning costs into the purchase price you can find amazing deals.
So what types of furniture are the easiest to clean?
Well, the absolute easiest is obvious: hard items made of wood or metal can easily be disinfected and wiped down. Unless the surface is destroyed they can usually be made to look new again with just a bit of elbow grease.
If you’re buying upholstered furniture, be aware that some types are much easier to clean than others. If you choose well you can actually remove most stains, smells, etc.
In general, microfiber and leather are two of the easiest types of furniture fabric to clean. Microfiber is a synthetic fiber that is resistant to staining and is often used on couches and chairs. Leather is also resistant to staining and easy to wipe down. However, it can be more expensive than microfiber.
Another option is polyester, which is less resistant to stains but can be easily vacuumed or spot-cleaned. Last in line is wool is also relatively easy to clean, but it may require professional cleaning if it becomes deeply soiled.
Ultimately, the best type of fabric for thrifted furniture will be a balance between availability and cleanability.
3. Have Transportation Figured Out
When my wife and I were first married we drove a Jeep Cherokee. We loved it but it made it pretty much impossible to buy furniture from a thrift store as we couldn’t fit it in our car and couldn’t afford to pay for another option.
So, when we found a couch on the side of the road in the middle of the night, we stuffed 1/3 of it into the back of the Jeep ratchet strapped it up so it wouldn’t drag, and slowly drove a couple of miles to home.
While it worked out, it would have been much easier if we had actually come up with a plan.
I can’t even count the number of people who look wistfully at thrift store furniture and leave empty-handed because they “don’t have a way to get it home”.
There are a few cheap-ish options that can work out if you get a good enough deal on the furniture.
Some of the options I’ve seen people use include:
- Borrowing a truck from friends or family. This is obviously the cheapest and easiest option.
- Hiring a delivery service. If you hire a professional service this will probably turn a great deal into a poor one. However, you can find side-hustling people on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace that are willing to pick up and deliver furniture in their truck for much cheaper than a “real” service.
Does Goodwill Deliver?
Goodwill does not offer a delivery service for any of its items, including furniture. Many moving companies offer delivery service for large items purchased from local stores, including thrift stores.
Some Goodwills and smaller thrift stores have a mover they contract with that they could refer you to. Even if they don’t, it never hurts to call and ask for a recommendation!
4. Learn To Check For Bugs & Mold
While most things are cleanable, there are a few things that mean a piece of furniture is simply not worth your time: mainly bugs and mold.
While these items should never make it out onto the sales floor, it does happen.
Learn to check the cracks of couches for mites or bugs and, if you find them, be very wary of the surrounding furniture as they may have migrated.
While finding bed bugs doesn’t make a piece of furniture irredeemable it does mean that you’ll want to consider the extra cost and effort of properly disinfecting it BEFORE it comes into your house.
5. Consider Flipping Furniture You Don’t Personally Want
For many people, flipping furniture has become a full-time gig that replaced their full-time job.
If you have an eye for colors and styles you might want to consider flipping or fixing/flipping interesting items you find that you don’t want in your house.
This can be especially profitable if you have a truck or can offer delivery service. I know when my wife and I were shopping for a dresser a couple of months ago we literally typed “dresser can deliver” into Craigslist since we don’t have a truck.
Cleaning up an item and selling it personally can also open you to a much wider market of people who are fine buying personal things but are grossed out by the idea of a thrift store.
While we don’t typically flip furniture, we flip lots of thrift store clothing and come out thousands of dollars ahead every month!
Is It Gross To Buy Used Furniture?
This is obviously a loaded question that is simply based on opinion but, in my opinion, it’s not gross to buy used furniture.
You can buy gross used furniture but simply being used doesn’t necessarily make furniture gross.
After all, do you feel gross when you go sit on a friend’s couch? I hope not.
There’s a myth that only gross people donate their gross used-up things which makes people reluctant to buy things second-hand. Well, it’s simply not true. I guarantee you there are items sitting in thrift stores right now that are more expensive than anything you or I own.
This includes not only clothes and decoration but furniture as well. As long as you have a discerning eye, buying used furniture from a thrift store isn’t gross.
Best Thrift Stores For Furniture
One of the biggest factors that will dictate your success in buying nice used furniture is where you shop.
In general, there are a few tips that will make sure that you’re putting yourself in the best position possible for a score:
- Shop in affluent areas. Goodwill and Savers are well-known thrift stores that offer furniture but not all of them are created equal. Look for thrift stores that well-off people would be likely to donate their furniture to.
- Consider online used furniture stores. While many of them are expensive if you’re comparing them to brick-and-mortar thrift stores they often offer higher quality used goods that offer significant savings from retail.
- Don’t pass mom-and-pop thrift stores. Smaller thrift stores often don’t have a ton of furniture but what they do have tends to be higher quality as they have to be selective. As an added bonus many offer delivery.
I find that, in general, thrift stores are an underutilized source of great furniture. Because thrift stores want to preserve as much floor space as possible they price things low.
If a couch is only $10 you can afford to do a good amount of cleaning on it and have a sparkling clean seat in your own home.
As long as you’re aware of some of the pitfalls that can befall you when buying used furniture you can score some great deals! Good luck out there!