Top 3 Considerations Re: Furniture Delivery
Delivery and assembly of furniture is an inevitable consideration in the process of making furniture buying decisions. The following statement is in no way a joke, although it is hilarious: one time, in 2008, I was extremely late to pick my girlfriend up at the airport because a friend and I had gotten a sofa so thoroughly lodged in our stairwell while moving it in, that I couldn’t get out of the house. It almost cost me the relationship!
In general, there are three ways to purchase and receive furniture:
- Buy new, unassembled furniture (IKEA, Burrow, Campaign, others)
- Buy new, pre-assembled furniture (most major, mid- to high-end brands such as Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, and countless others)
- Buy used furniture that usually comes assembled
We’re going to unpack (pun intended?!) these three scenarios – and in the end, all three boil down to the same fundamental considerations:
- All-in cost – This concept is particularly important when buying used furniture, where you may need to pay extra to rent a vehicle large enough to move a sofa or sectional, or pay for movers, on top of the supposed “good deal” you got on the thing in the first place.
- All-in stress and time requirement – This is important to consider with brands such as Burrow and Campaign or especially IKEA, where you think “sweet the sofa gets delivered!”, only to realize that the time and energy of getting it up some stairs, down a narrow hallway, assembled, and disposing of packaging is actually worth the few hundred dollar difference between these brands and the next-level-up brands that include full in-home delivery and assembly.
- Furniture and home preservation – If while lugging your sofa to it’s final destination, you put a major ding in the corner of the wall in your hallway and also put a nasty snag in the fabric on the back of your brand-new couch, well, you may wish you had sprung for the in-home delivery and assembly option, or bought from a brand that includes that by default.
New, Requires-assembly Furniture
IKEA has been shipping unassembled sofas to your door for as long as most people can remember. So have a few lesser known brands. But more recently, there has been a proliferation of new internet-based startups selling flat-packed sofas, such as Campaign and Burrow (definitely check out our full reviews on them!).
The funny thing is – almost ALL sofas are delivered, and always have been. When is the last time you can remember someone having to get their own sofa home from the store? With the exception of buying used furniture (which we’ll get to later), sofas have always been delivered.
So, getting a sofa delivered to you house, in and of itself, is not an innovation. Beyond not being anything new, getting an unassembled sofa delivered to your house or apartment isn’t always as cool as you think, even if the sofa arrives super quickly.
When these lower-priced brands speak of “delivery” – they mean just, and only, that: the sofa will be dropped off outside your door like any ole Amazon package. The reality of this usually doesn’t hit you until you get that text or email notification while you’re at work, telling you the package has arrived, at which point an image of your wrestling with the thing in your tight hallway flashes across your mind’s eye.
Assembly is whole ‘nutha story. IKEA furniture is infamous for being simple and difficult to assemble, at the same time. It’s simple in that there’s only a few steps and they seem intuitively clear, but there are always unexpected twists such as putting the left arm of the sofa on the right side but not realizing that you’ve done that and why it’s a really bad thing until it’s too late and you have to backtrack like 5 steps, or finding extra pieces leftover at the end that leave you with a perpetual concern that the whole thing could cave in at any moment.
In this regard, many of the new brands such as Campaign and Burrow are making real progress in the world. Their sofas assemble smoothly, quickly, and with none of the doubt or confusion of IKEA and other incumbent brands.
So here’s what it comes down to: you can totally schedule someone off of TaskRabbit or Handy to come and help get it into your house and assembled, but this is going to cost you money that could instead be put towards a next-level-up brand that would get you a) an equally nice or (usually) even nicer sofa, and b) included in-home delivery and assembly.
But if you’ve got roommates or friends who are game to help and you’re really trying to get the best sofa for the least amount of money, then we highly recommend you check out Campaign – they unequivocally offer the best quality, most visually attractive, and ultimately best bang-for-your-buck sofa in the “requires-assembly category”.
New, Fully Assembled Furniture
Throughout history, furniture is and always has been delivered. In fact, delivery of furniture is the rule, not the exception. Only in rare cases – such as buying 2nd hand – would furniture NOT be delivered.
Brands such as CB2, Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Joybird, and really any other major furniture brand you can think of will offer a “white glove” or “in-home” option – and really these days, it’s usually not even an option but included as part of the sale price or as a required, non-removable add-on fee.
While this may leave you wondering, “How much cheaper could I get this without the white-glove delivery service, or why the heck should I be REQUIRED to pay a fee on top of the price for such a service?” our experience has uniformly been: don’t argue, don’t complain, and don’t bother putting on shoes when the delivery guys arrive, because having someone take care of the hassle of moving and assembling furniture is almost always 100% worth it!!
It just removes all questions, all doubt, and all sweat and tears from the occasion. You receive the sofa with the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding, proudly observing your new life milestone being hovered nicely into its place. You don’t pull your back out and sweat through your clothes. And most importantly, the sofa itself – and everything else in your home – is damage-free, professionally assembled, and in optimal condition from the very beginning.
In fact, we suspect the reason most major brands build-in this service to their prices or otherwise require the fee to cover it is because it drastically reduces product returns or insurance / reimbursement claims for damaged merchandise or damage to other in-home items during a botched delivery or assembly.
Technically, some used furniture can be disassembled, moved, and then reassembled. This certainly works for beds – but beds are purpose-built to be dis-assemble-able, because they simply have to be due to their size. But sofas and couches are rarely really meant to be taken apart and put back together more than once or twice.
If you’re one the few, the brave, and the potentially misguided folks who are hell-bent on disassembling someone else’s used furniture after buying it from them, and then reassembling it in your own home, well, you probably won’t even be reading this blog. So our hats are off to you, and good luck!
But if you are reading, you’re secretly just looking for someone to tell you what you already known deep in your heart:
This is probably a bad idea, and the juice (i.e. potential cash savings) ain’t worth the squeeze (i.e. the enormous hassle, strain, and potential risk).
IF you buy used furniture, we highly recommend you use one of these services to both make the purchase, and get the furniture delivered:
- AptDeco – This interesting site is sort of like eBay or CraigsList, but they actually handle all the payment and delivery logistics for you. Think of it as a quasi-retail experience, but for used furniture – including sofas, couches, sectionals, etc. We can’t vouch for how well their plans actually go down in practice, but it’s one way to buy a used sofa that doesn’t make us completely cringe.
- Everything But The House -- This site performs a similar function to AptDeco, except they focus on estate sales where families are trying to sell belongings en masse. The shipping can be expensive, but you can find some huge deals on sofas, so if you're patient, it can balance out to a good outcome.
But aside from these types of midway solutions, a number of – in our opinion prohibitive – challenges present themselves:
- Rushed purchase decision If you go to inspect a potential second hand purchase, you’re inevitably going to feel rushed and on-the-spot. Standing in someone else’s living room evaluating whether or not to make a deal that you’ve probably already talked about with them at length – any normal human is going to be subconsciously inclined to avoid receiving negative information (i.e. seeing and asking about the dents on the back of a sofa) in order to keep the atmosphere positive and forward-moving. In short, you’re very likely to rush to a positive purchase decision without your eyes fully open, because humans prefer harmony.
- Increased toil Remember our discussion above about moving your sofa into your home and assembling it? Take all that sweat and toil – AND DOUBLE IT!!! Buying used furniture, in an urban environment, is pretty terrible, period.
- Deceptive additional costs Renting a U-Haul: $45. U-Haul insurance policy: $25. (Or, replacement fender for someone else’s car because you forewent U-Haul insurance: $625.) Rental of wheeled dolly to move sofa: $17. Gas: $15. Parking while in the seller’s apartment finalizing the deal: $25. You get the picture. And this doesn’t even include additional muscle – if you need to pay someone to help with the hard parts, that could easily on its own be $100+ in New York.
Sofa Digest Bottom Line
If you want to buy used furniture to limit object proliferation in the world for the benefit of the environment, or because you’re convinced you can get a nicer sofa for less by buying used, then we strongly urge you to go to AptDeco.com or to go to well-managed second hand / thrift / antique stores that provide in-home delivery service.
If you absolutely want to minimize cash expenditure and get a requires-assembly sofa delivered by UPS, buy a Campaign sofa.
Otherwise, go with one of the major sofa and furniture companies that provide “white glove” or “in-home” service. It will feel like a bit more money out of pocket, but you’ll do it all in your bathrobe while drinking your coffee, the new purchase will be in pristine condition, and you won’t knock over your grandmother’s heirloom ceramics while wrastling the re-assembly of an already suspect second hand sofa.