Spending

Buying a used couch can save you 'at least 70%' — just don't make these 3 mistakes

"Is the sofa level? How comfortable is it?"

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A brand-new couch can cost you a couple thousand dollars. But you don't have to spend that much to get quality furniture. To save money on a sofa, experts suggest you consider buying used.

"It depends on the original price and used condition, but I would aim for at least 70% off the original price," when buying a used couch, says Lexie Sachs, textiles director at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

You don't want to buy a couch that is so worn you'll have to buy a replacement in a year, though. Here are three mistakes not to make when buying a used couch.

Don't trust everything you see online

"Use caution when buying a couch from a stranger, especially without seeing and feeling it first," Sachs says.

Online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist always have furniture available. But it's smart to see the couch in person before committing. There are some problems a photo can't capture. This includes bedbugs, dust mites, or "stuck-in smells" like cigarette smoke, Sachs says.

"When you do see it, thoroughly inspect both the fabric and frame to check for damage, and make sure the cushions aren't sagging or lumpy," she says.

Be sure to sit on the couch, too. Uneven or uncomfortable cushions mean you probably shouldn't purchase it, says Tiffany Brooks, interior designer and host of the new HGTV show "$50K Three Ways." 

Some questions you should ask yourself, Brooks says, are: "Is the sofa level? How comfortable is it? Are there springs coming out from the cushions?"

A safer option might be a third-party platform, Sachs suggests: "I would focus on third-party sites that facilitate the transaction and can potentially interfere if you run into any issues."

On sites like AptDeco.com and Kaiyo.com, you can find name brand, used couches at a discount. For example, you can find a Crate&Barrel couch discounted from $1,299 to $753 on Kaiyo.

Don't forget to look for flame-retardant warning tags

Look for a tag that indicates whether the couch contains added flame retardants. Until 2014, couch manufacturers built couches with chemicals to meet certain flammability laws. These chemicals were meant to make couches less flammable but weren't effective and were linked to cancer. After 2014, manufacturers were required to clearly label whether they put flame retardant chemicals in their couches.

When looking at a used couch, search for this tag, Sachs says. It should be located under a sofa cushion or under the sofa itself.

Use caution when buying a couch from a stranger, especially without seeing and feeling it first.
Lexie Sachs
textiles director at the Good Housekeeping Institute

"Besides showing you there are no extra chemicals, it also lets you know if the couch was originally sold before or after 2014," she says.

A couch should last about 10 to 15 years, Sachs says. So if a used couch has no tags, it could be upwards of seven years old. While you still might choose to purchase the sofa, it's good to know that it might only have a few good years left in its lifespan.

Don't get distracted by fabric

Stains or an outdated fabric color aren't necessarily a deal-breaker. It might be cheaper to buy a used couch and reupholster it than to buy a brand-new one.

A quality, brand-new living room couch should cost "no less than $2,500," according Brooks. To compare, reupholstering costs between $700 and $1,000, she says.

So, say you find a used couch for $500, but don't like the fabric. Buying it and reupholstering, as opposed to buying a brand-new couch, could still save you between $1,000 and $1,300.

"You can get an entirely new look by selecting a different fabric," she says.

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