With thousands of options out there, shopping for a new office chair can be overwhelming. Your choice is important because you’ll probably have to sit in that chair every day, and you’ll have it for years. In addition, a good quality office chair can cost a fair amount, so you want to choose correctly. Here is a buying guide to help you in your search.
What Office Chair Style Are You Looking For?
Task chairs are also known as computer chairs. They’re smaller, feature a small or mid-back design, and are available with or without arms. They are often used in college dorms, doctor’s offices, in computer labs, etc. They’re not as comfortable as most office chairs, so we suggest a task chair only if you’ll be using it less than 1.5 hours per day.
High Back Office Chairs
Commonly used in home and commercial offices, high back office chairs are suitable for 8+ hour per day use. They offer impressive features to help keep you comfortable, but cost more than task chairs. The high back design provides full back support and usually a headrest. A high quality executive chair will typically last a long time.
Mid-Back Executive Chairs
Mid-back executive chairs are a cross between task and high back executive chairs. They fit in smaller spaces, are suitable for 8+ hour use, and will last longer than a typical task chair. They offer many of the same comfort features that high back chairs offer, but lack the headrest and full back suppport.
Mid-Back chairs are commonly used for conference rooms, desks, and computer stations.
Drafting stools sit higher than standard office chairs so that they can be used at tall desks and tables. They usually feature a foot ring and come equipped with the same features that task and executive chairs offer.
Most of our drafting stools come with two cylinders – one for normal height, and one for drafting height.
Big & Tall Office Chairs:
Big & Tall Office chairs are available in mid-back, high-back, drafting, and standard models to give you an extra wide seat and additional weight capacity. They offer extra cushioning to keep you comfortable.
We typically suggest not using a Big & Tall chair unless you need to. Otherwise, it’s like wearing a shoe that’s too big – you’ll be uncomfortable.
Determine Your Priorities
After you’ve selected your style, you need figure out what is important to you. This will guide your decision making and make everything easier. Here are your four focus points:
- Comfort – Important for 8+ Hour a Day Use
- Quality/Durability – Important for 8+ Hour a Day Use
- Low Price
You need to rank these factors because ultimately, there will be a trade-off somewhere during your search. You may find the style you want, but it isn’t as comfortable as you would like. You’ll find the perfect color and comfort, but the style clashes with your office. You may find a good price, but the chair doesn’t seem to be the best quality. Having this hierarchy set up will save you a lot of time.
As a general rule of thumb, comfort and quality should be on the top of your list if you are shopping for an office chair you will sit in for more than 1 hour every day. Otherwise, you may end up with an uncomfortable chair or need to replace it quickly – a big waste of money.
Don’t Get Hung Up on Price
Before we go any further, we need to talk about price. When it comes to office furniture, “you get what you pay for” is a key principle. No matter where you shop, do not go with the cheapest chairs you can find – you will regret this mistake. Your office chair is an important investment – it needs to be comfortable and last for years. Countless times we get customers who are replacing a poor quality or uncomfortable chair that they purchased because it was low priced. In the end, they ended up having to spend more money altogether because they had to replace it. Here are some price ranges for a good quality model of each style:
- Task: $60-120
- High Back Executive: $150 – $300
- Mid Back Executive: $110 – $250
- Drafting Stool: $120 – $250
- Big & Tall: $275 – $400
If you’re buying a chair under these price limits – be careful. We’ve been in the office furniture business a long time and are very familiar with each group’s average price. The more you spend, the better off you’ll be. But of course you don’t need to break the bank with a $500 chair.
Do I Need a Brand Name Office Chair?
Not necessarily. Brand names charge a premium for the name and reputation. They have to pay for expensive marketing campaigns and build this into your price. However, most brands offer a warranty which we always say is a must.
However, there are plenty of non-brand name office chairs that come with warranties. They’re more affordable because you’re paying for the chair’s materials only – not the name or marketing campaign. Most brand name furniture is manufactured by the same factories as generic furniture – it can be the exact same quality. So just make sure your chair comes with a warranty and you can pass on the brand name.
Any company can claim high quality, but the only way to provide accountability for this claim is by offering a warranty. If they end up selling low-quality furniture, they’ll be out of business very fast. Make sure your office chair has a 1 year warranty at minimum – we prefer 2 years. If there is going to be an issue with your chair, it will happen within the first 2 years. After that, issues rarely occur. All of our chairs on efurnitureMax.com come with at least a two year warranty. Additionally, make sure the store you are buying from honors their warranties. Most do, but every once in a while you get a company with terrible customer service.
Don’t Buy From a Big Box Store Like Walmart
An office chair is a big investment, so we suggest purchasing from a furniture retailer who is experienced with office furniture. If you have an issue, you know you’re working with someone who knows how to fix your chair. In addition, Big Box stores like Staples, Walmart, OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Target stock mostly the cheap quality chairs. These companies compete entirely on price and sacrifice quality for lower price. We get parts replacement requests for chairs from Big Box stores ALL the time, so please, please – don’t make this mistake. We don’t care where you shop – you can pick us or another furniture store. Just stay away from Big Box.
Measure, Measure, Measure
An office chair is like a shoe – you want it to fit your body. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they buy an office chair online is that they buy one that doesn’t fit them. Then they’re stuck with large shipping charges for return shipping. Make sure you measure:
Seat Height: How high do you need to be to comfortably reach your working surface? Additionally, will your feet touch the floor or rest on the foot rest (if it is a drafting stool)?
Seat Width: Make sure you’re not too snug on the sides, especially if your chair will have arms.
Back Width & Height: Back supports are key. Make sure it will fit you.
Chair Width: Will the chair fit through a doorway you will need to roll it through often?
Office Chair Features
Once you’ve picked out your chair type, you need to figure out which features you need. The more features, the higher the price tag, so we will tell you what each feature does and if you can pass on it or not.
Adjustable Height: This is a standard feature on all office chairs. Just make sure your height mechanism is pneumatic, (powered by a gas cylinder with lever).
Arms: Do you need arms? They can add to a chair’s price tag. For task chairs, a lot of people skip the arms because they get in the way while they are working. Think about your chair’s use and whether you can skip these or not.
Adjustable Arms: Some arms adjust in height. Some arms swivel. Typically, we say you can skip the swivel. But the height adjustable arms are nice.
Tilt: This allows you to lean back in your chair. It’s a standard feature but is often missed when you discover your chair doesn’t have it.
Tilt Lock: This is a must if you have a tilt mechanism. There are time when you don’t want to tilt, so being able to lock it in the upright position is important.
Infinite-Locking Tilt: Standard tilt-locks only lock in the upright position. This mechanism allows you to lock the tilt at any point in its range. It is a nice, but expensive feature that can be skipped.
Lumbar Support: Ergonomic chairs offer built-in lower back support. This is a nice feature that usually shouldn’t be skipped.
Adjustable Lumbar Support: Some chairs allow you to adjust the prominence of the lumbar support, as well as its height. This is an advanced feature that isn’t needed as long as your chair is contoured well and features ample padding.
Adjustable Seat Angle: This is an advanced feature that allows you to tilt your seat back and forth. Not often do people need to do this, so we say skip it.
Adjustable Back Height: Sometimes a nice feature if you’re tall. However, you can save money by just looking at a chair’s measurements and picking one that fits you in its standard position.
Metal Base: We like chairs with metal bases. Nylon (plastic) bases are strong, but the metal is stronger. It is more expensive, but a great feature.
Swivel: A standard feature. Unless you’re purchasing a side chair, most chairs will swivel.
Mesh: An alternative upholstery. It is similar to fabric, but feels “squishier” to the touch and often breathes better if the back is made out of it. It is a “neutral” feature meaning it’s up to you.
Please let us know what else we can add to this guide. We appreciate your comments and feedback!