How to Find Furniture at Thrift Shops


We’ve already discussed some of the benefits of buying secondhand furniture and refinishing it; aside from keeping useful furniture out of landfills, refinishing used furniture is rewarding and allows you to achieve a custom look- even on a budget.

Buying furniture at thrift shops has even more benefits: providing jobs and supporting worthwhile causes. Many non-profit groups, like ARC and Goodwill, provide jobs to mentally disabled individuals. Foundations like the American Cancer Society and many senior groups raise funds, in part, by maintaining thrift stores. Even stores not affiliated with non-profits are a worthwhile from a social perspective; by shopping there, you’ll be benefiting a small business owner. Additionally, individual owners have more leeway with pricing; you may be able to haggle a bit if you’re a frequent customer.

Social incentives aside, thrift shops offer a bonanza for the furniture hunter. They offer a variety of goods, so you might have better luck than if you visited an individual seller with only one piece. Stock changes frequently, so visit often.

Like most retail stores, many secondhand shops offer the option of paying by check or with a credit or debit card- a nice change from the cash-only policies at yard sales and through Craigslist!

Another benefit of finding furniture at thrift stores is that there is usually someone available to help you load your purchases. Some stores (though not many) even offer delivery!

Getting the Best Deals

Many shops offer student or senior discounts on specific days- just ask! Also, like most retail stores, second-hand shops mark down merchandise that doesn’t sell quickly. They may even have a special clearance section!

Keep in Mind…

  • Because the stores rely on donations, the quality (and quantity) of Goodwill or Salvation Army furniture can vary from store to store and from day to day.
  • Everything is one-of-a-kind. If you find something you love, buy it! It might not be there tomorrow, and the store won’t be able to give you a raincheck! Can’t fit that settee in the back of your Honda? Most of the time, the store will hold furniture for you once it’s paid for.
  • Items are sold as-is. Make sure you check it out thoroughly before you buy; make sure that you have the skills to repair any damaged areas, because Goodwill furniture doesn’t come with a guarantee. A very limited few stores may accept returns with a receipt, but they offer only store credit- not cash back.
  • You’re unlikely to find antiques at thrift stores, although there is always that once-in-a-million chance. More realistically, you can expect to find sturdy furniture with cosmetic flaws. Cheap, MDF versions don’t last long enough to get donated, and furniture that’s pretty enough to be sold by the original owner usually will be.

Other Thrift Store Steals

Even if your only reason for visiting a secondhand shop is to find furniture to refinish, take a look at some of the other items, too. You might find a plant stand, spice rack, or interesting plaque worthy of some TLC. Picture frames, especially, are plentiful and cheap at thrift stores.

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