When It's Best to Avoid Buying Used Furniture

Vintage and Antique Finds Are Appealing, But Beware of Pitfalls

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Buying used furniture is often an adventure, resulting in one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that add interest, style, and drama to your space. But there are times when it is best to just walk away and avoid some buyer's remorse. The single most important thing to do before buying used furniture is to inspect it carefully for clues that tell you if that piece of furniture is usable and worth buying or not. Chances are you won't be able to return it since most used furniture is sold as-is and without any guarantees.

A good practice for buying furniture, new or used, is to always measure it as well as the space in your house to make sure there are no ugly surprises. You should absolutely love that piece of used furniture or know exactly what you need to do to improve it before you bring it home. And sometimes, it is best to avoid buying it altogether.


Sometimes used furniture can be bad for your health. Used mattresses are pretty much a no-go, especially if you don't know and trust the seller.

A lumpy, smelly, or stained mattress is a definite no-no. It doesn't matter how low the price is. You may end up paying with your health because you have no idea what has made its way into it along with associated health hazards such as mold, dust mites, and bed bugs. You should definitely never buy a used crib mattress for an infant from a garage sale or flea market.

Structural Problems and Missing Parts

When you are buying used furniture, always make sure that the piece is sturdy and that there are no structural defects.

If a chair has wobbly legs, check to see if it can be fixed. Cracks or stapled legs are never a good sign, and it can be hard to replace missing parts, especially if the piece is many years old.

Also look for signs of water damage and termite or other insect infestation. Look under a piece of furniture and behind it to gauge its condition. If you think you won't be able to fix a piece of furniture by yourself, it is best to walk away from it.

Heavily Use Upholstered Furniture

It is generally better to walk away from upholstered furniture that has been heavily used. Lumps on a sofa seat or back are enough to tell you that it will be uncomfortable to sit on. Saggy pillows are difficult to fix, too. 

While a worn upholstery fabric can be replaced, it can cost a lot to have it done professionally. Check the sofa frame while you're at it. Unless it is a prime vintage piece of furniture with superb lines or an antique, you are better off not buying it.

When Furniture Smells

It can be difficult to rid any furniture of unpleasant smells. Both upholstery and case goods can absorb smells from many different sources, such as smoke from fires or cigarettes, pets, cooking odors, or urine. 

If you find the smell unpleasant, avoid that piece of furniture, especially if it is upholstered. You may end up with the rest of your room smelling like that too.

High Price

Don't buy any used furniture if you feel it is costing you more than it is worth.

That can be the case when the price tag does not reflect the condition of the piece and you end up spending even more money and time to make major repairs to it.

Sometimes a seller might misrepresent the furniture and ask for a price that is not fair for the condition or type. For instance, often any old furniture is called an antique. To be an antique, the furniture has to be more than 100 years old. Research trusted buying guides for prices if you are going antiquing or looking for an old style that is having a moment, such as midcentury modern.

Another way to pay too much for used furniture is when transporting it drives up its initial low cost. Big and bulky pieces might require renting a bigger vehicle than you own. Factor that cost in before you buy.

If It Has Been Recalled By the CPSC

First of all, it is illegal to sell furniture that has been recalled, unless repairs specified by the Consumer Product Safety Commission have been carried out. In all fairness, the seller might not even be aware that the piece has been recalled or needs any repairs, but as a buyer, it is in your best interest to find out.

It is best to avoid buying used nursery furniture. Most cribs made before 2011 are unsafe and have resulted in injuries and deaths. Why even risk it? Check out saferproducts.gov for lists of recalled products to make sure you are not buying one.