Finding Furniture At Thrift Stores: Top Tips And Where To Shop
Sidney Richardson7-Minute Read
February 17, 2021
Shopping secondhand for furniture is a great way to find one-of-a-kind pieces for your home without breaking the bank.
Whether you’re just looking for a cool new chair or you’re trying to fill your living room with eclectic vintage accents, chances are, someone somewhere has what you want to buy. Even if they don’t, the great thing about thrifting is that it’s (usually) cheap, so you can likely afford to refurbish and redesign a piece to your liking.
Buying furniture from a thrift store may seem like a gamble to some, but if you know where to look, there are plenty of beautiful, durable and unique pieces out there waiting to find a new home.
Ready to try thrifting some furniture yourself? Read on for our guide to thrifting furniture, both in-person and online.
Why Buy Furniture Secondhand?
There are many reasons that you might choose to thrift your furniture rather than buy it brand new. If you’re on a tight budget, buying secondhand can potentially allow you to furnish your entire living room for the same price (or less than) you’d pay for a brand-new sofa at a furniture store.
Buying secondhand furniture is also a great option for those looking to limit their personal environmental impact. Thrifting gives old furniture a new life and prevents it from sitting in a landfill.
Others might buy secondhand simply for the aesthetic appeal of the piece. “Vintage” furniture has seen a rise in popularity as eclectic and vintage decor styles have become more widely embraced. For those interested in creating a midcentury modern look in their home, thrifting furniture can be a great way to achieve that authentic look.
In short, there are plenty of reasons to thrift your next furniture purchase – but where should you go to actually buy furniture secondhand?
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Best Thrift Stores For Furniture: In-Person Shopping
In-person is the classic and arguably best way to thrift, and for good reason. While the furniture selection is limited compared to that of online secondhand retailers, it’s easier to examine a piece for its actual worth and potential in person. Being able to feel the quality of the materials and look for flaws or stains is a huge advantage when shopping secondhand.
So, if you’ve decided to shop in a brick-and-mortar business, where should you go? Here’s a few of our suggestions.
As one of the biggest names in the thrift store world, Goodwill can be a great place to find furniture. Tables, chairs and dressers are all good things to look for here. Based on Goodwill’s donation valuation guide, you can expect to find something like a sofa or table and chairs for around $75 – $100 or even less.
Salvation Army is another widespread thrift chain that usually has a fair share of furniture to look through. This thrift store also accepts and sells a few things that Goodwill doesn’t, such as large appliances. You can expect prices here to be similar to Goodwill’s.
If you’re interested in checking out a thrift store, remember that Salvation Army and Goodwill aren’t necessarily the only options. There are plenty of other thrift chains and local thrift stores that sell furniture, so be sure to research what shops are located in your area.
Consignment shops are usually small, local businesses. They sell items on behalf of independent sellers and collect a share of the profits from each sale. There is plenty of great furniture to be found at consignment shops, especially vintage and antique pieces.
Unlike Goodwill or the Salvation Army, though, consignment shops usually don’t donate their proceeds to charity – they’re trying to make a profit. That said, you might pay a little more for furniture at a consignment shop than you would when thrifting. Some consignment shops are fully furniture focused, though, so you might find the selection to be more substantial than that of a thrift store.
Flea markets, also sometimes called “swap meets,” can also be good places to find furniture. What you might find at a flea market varies depending on the sellers that are present, but vintage and hand-made furniture are fairly common at these events. Remember to have money on hand if you’re headed to a local flea market or swap meet – many sellers will only accept payments made with cash.
Best Thrift Stores For Furniture: Online Shopping
If you aren’t having any luck scouring thrift stores in person, good news: You can buy furniture secondhand online, too!
While shopping online means you probably won’t get a chance to check items for any hidden issues before buying, it can be more convenient than hunting for furniture in person. There tends to be a wider selection online than in person as well, so you have a better chance of finding something you like.
So, where should you try thrifting online? Here are some of our ideas.
Facebook Marketplace isn’t exactly a thrift store, but it can be a fantastic resource for finding good quality furniture – and selling it, too. You can search for specific types of furniture and adjust the results based on how far you’re willing to drive to pick a piece up. There’s also room for negotiation on Facebook Marketplace, which is helpful if you’re on a budget or looking to renovate or restore something you’re buying.
If you live in certain areas of the U.S., you can even get your purchase delivered to your house through Facebook Marketplace partner companies such as Dolly.
Chairish is an online platform for buying and selling vintage furniture and other home accessories. Since Chairish only accepts items that it thinks will sell, it makes the hunt for great furniture a little easier on the customer. Chairish also handles shipping itself, so if you make a purchase you won’t have to drive across the country to pick it up – they’ll bring it to you.
AptDeco is a site similar to Chairish that sells quality used furniture and takes care of its own shipping. Unlike Chairish, however, AptDeco only serves a small area which includes parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. You can still buy items from AptDeco if you don’t live in their service area, but you’ll have to pick up your item yourself – or find a way to have it delivered through a third party.
eBay can also be a great place to pick up secondhand and vintage furniture, though it may require a bit more digging than other sites listed so far. Unlike Chairish and AptDeco, eBay isn’t responsible for personally screening furniture for quality and damages – that’s on the seller. It’s sometimes necessary to check out a seller’s reviews and activity to determine whether you can trust that the item you’re bidding on will be of good quality.
That said, there are plenty of good sellers on eBay offering amazing finds. eBay handles shipping through USPS as well, so you won’t have to worry about driving anywhere to pick up something you’ve purchased.
Tips For Buying Thrifted Furniture
Knowing where to look for secondhand furniture is half the battle – but what else should you know about thrifting before giving it a try? Here are a few of our tips on how to get the most out of your thrifting experience.
Be Willing To Look
You never know what you might find while thrifting – but keep in mind that sometimes, you may not find anything at all. Buying furniture secondhand, especially if you’re looking for something specific, can require a lot of patience. There won’t always be amazing furniture waiting for you at your local thrift store. If you can’t find anything good for a while, though, don’t be deterred! Keep looking, you never know when a diamond in the rough will show up.
Check For Pests
It’s a myth that all secondhand furniture is dirty or bug-infested. It is still important, however, to check any furniture you might want to buy for pests, just to be safe and avoid infestation in your home. Bring gloves to check every nook and crevice of a piece of furniture for bugs before bringing it home – and once you’re home, be sure to thoroughly clean and vacuum your furniture, especially near seams and folds that bugs might be hiding in.
Assess The Quality
Beyond checking for pests, you should also assess the quality of an item before deciding to bring it home. Is there any damage or excessive wear and tear? Generally, if an item is missing a piece, smells foul or is considerably damaged, it may not be worth your time or money. Many beat-up pieces can be given new life with a new paint job or other DIY work, but some are beyond saving. Consider the price of an item and how much time and effort you would have to put into making it usable before sealing the deal on the purchase.
Consider The Price
The price you pay for a piece of furniture should reflect its current condition and (usually) shouldn’t surpass the item’s original value. It’s important to research the original value of an item you’re looking to buy (or items similar to it) to get an idea of what it should be worth secondhand. If a $200 chair is 20 years old and significantly damaged, you probably shouldn’t be paying the full original retail price.
If you plan to do some DIY work on an item, think about the cost of repairs as well. If you overpay on an item, the cost of repairs could be more than the piece is worth, even after being restored.
Keep An Open Mind
Thrifting can be very discouraging to those starting with big expectations. When looking for secondhand furniture, try to keep an open mind.
While you may not always find what you’re looking for, there’s always a chance you’ll stumble upon a perfect piece that you didn’t even know you wanted. Remember that pieces you may find can always be improved upon, too. With some DIY skills and a little time, you can turn an ugly chair into a vintage beauty.
Rather than seeking a specific piece of furniture when starting your secondhand hunt, try looking for potential in the pieces you look at instead. Consider whether the item you’re looking at could be restored or altered to fit your home decor style – or if it could somehow fulfill a different purpose. You might find creative new uses for items that you might not have considered before, like using an old ladder as a shelf or an antique trunk as a table.
The Bottom Line
Thrifting furniture is a great way to furnish your home with unique pieces while also saving money and cutting down on waste.
For more resources and ideas, check out our homeowner tips on the Rocket Homes® blog.
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