A Guide to Buying Second-Hand Furniture Online

It may seem obvious, but the best place to buy used furniture is locally, as you'll find it seriously cuts down transport costs and hassle. Our Gumtree guide takes you through finding what you want close to home, what to look for in listings and how to contact the seller and complete the deal.

A Guide to Buying Second-Hand Furniture Online

How to buy furniture online

When you set out to buy cheap furniture online, it helps to know exactly what you want. Browsing is always fun, but it’s easy to get side-tracked by an item you could easily fall in love with. You might end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to fit it into your home when it wasn’t even what you were looking for in the first place. Browsing with a purpose gets better results.

Starting with a plan that’s as detailed as possible, including measurements where size is critical, will help you save time too. If you’re only looking for one item of furniture, say an inexpensive bed or a set of table and chairs, it makes life simpler. But, if you’re a first-time buyer and you’ve just moved into your starter home, or you’re renting unfurnished, organisation’s going to be all the more important.

How to buy furniture online

It’s a good idea to write a list of everything you need, together with details like ideal measurements and a budget to help keep your spending under control. Who knows? If you discover a particularly Good Find and come in under budget on one item, you can always adjust upwards for something else.
We’ve assembled a few tips to help you avoid mistakes by planning first and buying second:

  • When buying a bed, it helps to know in advance both the dimensions of your room and whether there’ll be space for under-bed storage. Then you can stick to looking at the right type of bed.
  • For living room furniture, such as a sofa, couch or armchair, you’ll want to find out how many people it seats. Knowing the depth will let you mark out the space on your living room floor – that way you can know how much is left for a coffee table, television and other furnishings.
  • Whatever the item, another vital test to bear in mind is whether it will fit through your doors. If it’s been disassembled, this is usually no problem. But, if a large item like an armchair comes in one piece, it’s worth checking those dimensions carefully before purchasing.
What to look for in listings

What to look for in listings

One of the handy things about Gumtree is that you can pinpoint your location using your postcode. You also have a choice as to how wide a radius you want to search in, with the ability to limit the search to one mile, three, five, any multiples of ten or even nationwide. That way you’ll only see the ads that are a realistic distance from you. Once the distance is set, you can start browsing in earnest. Of course, only you can decide if an item is just right for you, but here are a few tips from us on what to look out for:

  • Some sellers indicate whether they’re willing to deliver or if the buyer needs to collect. This may not be too crucial if you’re buying something easily transportable, but for heavy or bulky furniture, it’s good to double-check.
  • Good-quality photos can help you decide if something is right for you. For instance, if you’re buying a dining table, any marks or scratches on the surface should be shown in photos and be easy to spot. You could well decide the odd mark doesn’t matter if the price is right, but it’s good practice for the seller to be upfront and show as much detail as possible.
  • Sometimes sellers mention the brand of the piece of furniture – like IKEA, Habitat or Wayfair. This helps you to make a judgement about the quality you can expect. If the item was retailing fairly recently, you may even be able to look it up on the manufacturer’s website to check the details.
  • There’s more about how to identify quality second-hand furniture in our Gumtree article, and another on helping to decide where to spend and where to save on bedroom furniture.
How to contact the seller and complete the deal

How to contact the seller and complete the deal

Found what you want? Here are the next steps:

  • You can contact the seller by clicking on the email button under the contact details in the ad
  • If you make your message as detailed as possible, such as including any questions you’ve got, it’ll help to speed things up. Sellers expect to provide full information, so there’s no need to hold back from asking everything you need to know to help you decide
  • When you click send, the seller gets the message in their email and the ‘Messages’ section of their account. It’s the same for you when the seller replies. You can respond directly from your email rather than logging in to your account
  • If you want to check out the seller’s profile before you contact them, you can. It’ll tell you how long they’ve been on the platform, what their response rates are and how other buyers have rated them
  • Plan on haggling a little? It’s a good idea to find out politely whether the price is negotiable. Once the price is agreed – subject to your seeing the item – you might arrange a viewing. It’s always a good idea to take a friend, both for safety and for a second opinion.
  • With any luck, the piece of furniture is just what you’re looking for and you can seal the deal. If there are any surprises about the condition or other aspects of the sale, though, don’t be afraid to walk away or renegotiate.

With nearly 400,000 items of second-hand furniture and homeware items for sale on Gumtree, there’s every chance you’ll furnish your house or find that piece you’ve been looking for. Once you’re finished, why stop there? How about heading over to our garden furniture listings and making a start on your outside space?