Cheap office chairs – what do they REALLY cost me?


When you buy a new office chair, price plays an important role in selecting the right product. With such a huge variety of office chairs for sale in South Africa, you can buy a cheap or low cost one for R1000, or pay well over R10 000 for a high-end product. Like everything, your office chair has a life-cycle. Are budget office chairs or those available on ‘specials’, really that “cheap” over their lifespan?

Life-cycle cost analysis

An office chair life-cycle cost analysis evaluates the total cost of ownership over the expected lifespan of the chair, including the impact on your health and wellbeing. A life-cycle costing analysis is much more than the price tag on the chair.

Whole Building Design Guide defines a life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) as “a tool to determine the most cost-effective option among different competing alternatives to purchase, own, operate, maintain and, finally, dispose of an object or process, when each is equally appropriate to be implemented on technical grounds.”

The true cost of ownership of an office chair must include:

life-cycle cost. Are cheap office chairs worth it?

1. The cost of a cheap office chair on your health and wellbeing

Can you put a price on your health? What is the impact of the office chair that you bought on our health and wellbeing?

Basing your purchasing decision on the purchase price alone could have serious consequences on your health and wellbeing. The consequences of sitting on a bad chair are often only realised when the medical bills start piling up!

When it comes to office chairs, budget specials, especially when used for long hours, can lead to health issues such as back, neck and hip problems, to name but a few. These preventable health issues can lead to potential medical costs, absenteeism and loss of productivity.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain costs Americans at least 50 Billion dollars in health care costs each year. Research by Businesstech, found that 47% of adults in South Africa lead sedentary lifestyles, or double the global average.

Your office chair plays an important role in protecting your health and wellbeing at work, so ask yourself whether that ‘specials deal’ is really worth it. Find out more by reading good ergonomic principles at the workplace.

buy cheap office chairs and it can impact your health and wellbeing

According to The Good Body, 54% of Americans that experience back pain, spend most of their day sitting. Furthermore, up to 33% of all back injuries could be prevented through a better designed workspace.

What is my health and wellbeing worth?
Am I prepared to sacrifice my health by buying a cheap office chair?

2. Life-cycle cost

People tend to buy office furniture, including chairs, at inexpensive prices but spend more than what the chair is worth on repairing, refurbishing or even replacing it. When you buy a cheap office chair with a low sale price, it usually results in longer-term costs, making it a budget burden. Office chair repairs: 6 signs you need a new office chair

A good office chair will have a life expectancy of five years. More expensive chairs made from high quality components, are expected to last 10 years or more. If you buy a low cost office chair, you can expect for it to last less than five years, typically 6 to 12 months.

The monthly cost of the office chair is more important than it’s purchase price.

Let’s consider a real example.

Compare a cheap office chair for R1299 that has a 6 month warranty, to a mid-range chair for R3689 that has a 60 months (5 year) warranty.

Actual price of office chairs as per Takealot (May 2021)
Chair PriceWarrantyCost per month
R12996 monthsR216.50
R368960 monthsR61.50
Assuming the chair lasts as long as it’s warranty period.

Assuming that the chair lasts as long as it’s warranty period, a more expensive chair with a longer warranty, is cheaper per month than a low cost office chair with a shorter warranty.

3. Choosing an office chair that is the ‘right fit’ for you

There are a number of factors that impact the lifespan or life expectancy of your office chair.

  • The environment or work area where the chair will be used. A factory or warehouse environment usually requires a more sturdy chair.
  • The materials used to manufacture the chair.
  • The number of hours the chair will be used every day. Will it be used 8 hours per day, or 24/7, or perhaps only 2 hours a day?

How you choose the best office chair for yourself needs careful consideration. An expensive chair used in the wrong environment will often not perform and/or last as long as you may expect.

4. Conclusion

Returning to the original question, is it really worth it paying more for an office chair? The answer is, “well it depends”.

If you plan on using your chair for long hours every day, then yes, it is definitely better, both from a life-cycle cost and health perspective, to buy a quality ergonomic chair.

If you use of your chair only an hour or so every day, then buying a cheap office chair on sale may be fine. That said, there are ‘better’ budget options available. A good example is the Skye office chair. This ‘better’ budget option enables you to buy a chair with a 60 month warranty, but with fewer ergonomic features.

Purchasing a good quality ergonomic office chair should be seen as a long-term investment, especially in light of the benefits to your health and wellbeing.

Author: Philip Wichmann
Director at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd
10 May 2021

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