Office Furniture: Should You Rent or Buy?

Forget the Lipstick Index or the Hemline Bellwether: The new sign of tough economic times might just be the Office Furniture Indicator. Business is slowing for Berkshire Hathaway’s Cort Business Services, the largest furniture rental company in the world, and Bloomberg Businessweek writer Noah Buhayar says the economy might be to blame.

Demand is “simmering compared to where it was at the beginning of the year, when it looked like the recovery, at least from our perspective, would have been pretty robust,” says CEO Jeff Pederson “It’s not flatlining, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has slowed down.”

It’s understandable that companies want to spend less money when they’re less confident about their own financial future. But assuming that employees still need a place to sit, type, and talk to each other, office furniture will always be a necessity. What’s a spending-conscious company to do?

The answer might be to skip renting office furniture, and buy used. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Cons of Renting Office Furniture:

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  • If you break it, you buy it. Anyone who’s ever worked in an office knows that some people are tough on furniture. People put their feet up on the table, spill coffee everywhere that coffee can be spilled, break chairs and filing cabinet locks, and so on. There’s nothing worse than renting furniture to save money only to have to forfeit some of your deposit and/or buy out the broken furniture.

  • You’re not making an investment. When the rental term is up, it’s up. You can’t resell the furniture or donate it for a tax break.


    Pros of Renting Office Furniture:

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  • It saves money. You can get a lot more furniture for your buck if you rent instead of buy — at least if you’re comparing renting vs. buying brand-new.

  • You can redecorate more often. Once the term of the rental is up, you can swap out any furniture you no longer love and get something new.


    Cons of Buying Used Office Furniture:

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  • It could be less flexible. If you only need the furniture for a short period of time, or experience buyer’s remorse after using your furniture for a while, it’s harder to swap out. (Although using professional space planning services like the one we offer at Arnolds can make this less likely.)

  • Not all used furniture companies are made alike. Arnolds carefully refurbishes all its used furniture back to like-new condition, and sells it for a fraction of the price of brand-new pieces. But not all companies have the same commitment. Make sure you’re dealing with a reputable dealer before you buy.


    Pros of Buying Used Office Furniture:

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  • It’s yours! Once you buy the furniture, you can do anything you want with it: Modify it, re-sell it, break it, rearrange it. It’s up to you.

  • You save A LOT of money. Brand-name used office furniture sells for as little as 50 percent of the price of new furniture. Plus, you can make money on the other end of the transaction, selling your furniture when you’re ready for something new.

    Images: Leehaywood/Flickr, Insideview Blog, IWS, Arnolds Office Furniture

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