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What to Look For in Used File Cabinets

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If your current filing system is less of a system and more of a churning sea of invoices, bills and various paper detritus that covers every available surface of the office, it might be time to invest in a file cabinet or two (or ten). If you’re working on a budget, look at purchasing a used cabinet. Just be sure to think about the following:
    • Do the drawers close properly? If you wanted to keep your most important paperwork out in the open for all to see, you might as well just leave them in those Leaning Tower of Pisa stacks you currently have on your desk. Check to make sure the drawers in the cabinets you’re considering close all the way to keep your office looking polished (and to protect your co-workers from bruised shins). If you’re extra concerned about office safety, consider looking for file cabinets that only allow one drawer to be open at a time, which prevents tipping.


  • Does it have all the dividers and hanging folders intact? The purpose of a file cabinet is to help you organize your files. We can’t overstate the obvious enough. Dividers and folders can help you reach Martha Stewart-esque levels of neatness. Dividers are often designed to only fit in cabinets made by the same manufacturers, so it’s important to make sure the original dividers are in place before you purchase a used cabinet. Also, check to make sure that the bars used to hold hanging folders are in place, or are easily replaceable if they’re missing.



  • If has a lock, does it have a key? If you’re trying to find a home for sensitive documents (like personnel files or the blueprints for your latest invention — the shadow-casting groundhog lamp is gonna be huge in Punxsutawney), a file cabinet that locks is ideal. However, before you take it home, make sure you have the key. After all, you don’t want to have to pick a lock in front of your shadow-casting groundhog lamp investors during your big pitch.



  • Is it fireproof? Beyond being useful for organizing and storing important records, file cabinets can keep them safe. Not all file cabinets are fireproof, however. When looking at fireproof cabinets, consider what you want them to hold and find out the UL rating (learn more about UL ratings here). Cabinets are rated for their ability to protect items like paper products, magnetic tapes and photographic films, and flexible computer disks when exposed to an external temperature of 1700 degrees or higher. The items you are protecting will determine what type of fireproof cabinet you should purchase.



    • Will it fit in your office? File cabinets come in two shapes: Vertical and lateral (pictured above). Because vertical file cabinets are taller than they are wide, they don’t take up as much wall space. However, the drawers in a vertical model are deeper than those in a lateral one, so be sure to make sure you have enough room to open the drawers in the area you plan to put your cabinet. Built for high-volume storage, lateral file cabinets are wider than vertical models, but the drawers are not as deep, which make them convenient for storage in narrow areas. Many lateral models can also be stowed under tables or desks.


  • Is the cabinet large enough to accommodate your files? The last thing you want is to be shoving your most precious documents into too-small drawers. There’s nothing professional about wrinkled, torn contracts. Most file cabinets are made to accommodate letter or legal-sized documents. Make sure you are buying cabinets with drawers that are wide enough.



  • How does it look? You want to make a good impression with clients and customers. Nothing will make a bad first impression quite like dented, scratched or worn out cabinetry. Sure, your used file cabinets don’t need to be pristine (although, there’s no harm if they are), but make sure there is minimal wear and tear. Cabinets are generally wooden or steel. While wooden cabinets might make your office look a little more collegiate, they aren’t as sturdy as steel models. If you expect to be using the cabinets frequently, a steel model would be more practical.


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