What influences the price of an office chair?

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value vs price for ergonomic office chairs in south africa

When you’re looking to buy a new ergonomic office chair, one of the first things that comes to mind is the price and whether it fits within your budget. When you start looking at the available options, it quickly becomes clear that there are huge differences. The prices of office chairs in South Africa varies considerably. You can expect to pay anywhere from R1000 for a cheap office chair, to well over R10 000 for an imported ergonomic one.


Factors that influence the price of an ergonomic office chair

You should never select an office chair based only on it’s price. The following 8 factors should always be taken into consideration:

1. The use or application of the chair
2. Warranty
3. Weight rating
4. Ergonomic rating
5. Compliance with international standards
6. Seat foam
7. Swivel mechanisms
8. Construction materials and other components.

1. The use or application of the office chair impacts it’s price

The type of work you do, or application, plays a significant role in the price of an office chair. For example, chairs that are used in a 24/7 Control Room are quite different to those used in a laboratory or in a casino. Control room and casino chairs are extremely robust and designed for heavy-duty usage, whereas office chairs are designed for 8 hour days. Like cars, clothes or shoes, chairs are designed for specific applications and there is no “one size fits all”.

If you are spending most of your day away from your desk and a total of only 1-2 hours sitting at your workstation, then an office chair with basic functionality will do the job. Such a chair typically has limited features and adjustability. A cheap office chair should cost less than one that offers greater adjustability and more ergonomic features.

On the other hand, if you spend the greater part of your day sitting down, then a 8-hour day chair would be the natural choice. These chairs have additional ergonomic features and adjustability to allow you to correctly setup the chair for your work environment. The added functionality will however, increase the price of the chair. Using a cheap office chair for this application, can be detrimental and impact your long-term health and wellbeing.

The application of the chair impacts its design and construction, and therefore its price.


2. Warranty

If you are spending a lot of money on an office chair, you expect it to last. A chair like the Mira High Back, has a 10 year warranty so you can expect it to provide many years of service. A cheap office chair on the other hand, may save you cash in the short-term, but could result in multiple chair replacements. Cheaper chairs often lack the features of a more expensive chair, and the potential health risks associated with such a chair should not be underestimated. The 5 consequences of sitting on the wrong chair.

An office chair with a 10-year warranty should last longer than one with only a 1-year warranty. You can also expect it to carry a higher price-tag.

3. Weight Rating

An office chair that has a higher weight rating is normally manufactured from stronger and more costly components. For example, a heavy-duty chair that is used in a 24/7 control room and has a weight rating of 180kg, needs a special gas lifter, upgraded swivel mechanism, and added reinforcements. These upgrades directly lead to a higher price. Typical weight ratings for office chairs are:

  • Budget and entry-level chairs, 120kg
  • 8-Hour day chairs, 120-150kg
  • 24/7 chairs, 150-180kg

An ergonomic office chair with a higher weight rating is stronger and more durable, and usually has a higher price.

4. Ergonomic Rating

The Ergonomic Rating of an office chair is a scientific evaluation system that determines the value of it’s various ergonomic features. The final score is then expressed on a 1 to 5 scale. The higher the ergonomic rating, the greater the number of features and adjustability functions a chair has. Typically, office chairs with a higher rating have a higher price.

For example, a chair with a 1-Star rating is not adjustable and is only suitable for short period use….a dining room chair is a good example. Office chairs with a 5-Star rating have all the latest ergonomic features to enable you to adjust the chair to your exact requirements. These chairs are suitable for anyone who spends their entire day sitting at their workstation, including multiple shifts and 24/7 operators.

The ergonomic rating can influence the price of the office chair. The higher the rating, the higher the price.

5. Compliance with International Standards

Chairs that are designed in accordance with international quality authorities like BIFMA, meet certain minimum standards regarding performance, comfort, safety, sustainability and durability. Such standards, in conjunction with quality system and process control standards like ISO 9001:2015, give you the confidence that the chair you are looking to buy, will “do the job!”

Manufacturers’ that adhere to international standards offer superior products. This is typically reflected in a higher selling price.

BIFMA standards for office chairs

6. The type of Seat Foam can increase the price of an office chair

The type of seat foam used in office chairs has an impact on their price and comfort. There are 2 basic types of seat foam, viz. Moulded Foam and Block-Cut Foam.

Although moulded foam has numerous advantages, it is the more costly option. If you are looking for a quality office chair, then moulded foam is a definite “must-have” feature.

difference between moulded and block-cut foam for office chairs

7. Swivel Mechanisms

Standard swivel and tilt mechanisms are commonly used in budget office chairs. These affordable mechanisms offer only basic functionality and will allow the chair backrest to tilt and lock in a single position. 

Chairs fitted with synchronous or free-float mechanisms offer far greater adjustability and are mainly used on office chairs with a 4 or 5-Star Ergonomic Rating. At the upper-end of the scale, mechanisms that incorporate seat depth adjustment provide additional functionality, and improve the seated comfort for taller people.

As a general rule, the greater the functionality of the mechanism fitted to the office chair, the higher the price.

8. Construction Materials and Other Components

Construction materials and components influence the price of an office chair not only in South Africa, but around the world. Here are the most important:

  • Aluminium – Commonly used in the frame, mechanism and 5-Star base of more expensive chairs like the Alya Executive. Less expensive chairs will utilise components made from nylon.
  • Upholstery materials – there are significant differences in the quality, durability and cost of upholstery materials. The price of mesh, fabric, vinyl and leather can vary dramatically, thereby impacting the price of the office chair.
  • Gas height adjusters – The various grades and weight ratings of gas lifers all come at a different cost.
  • Armrests – Adjustable armrests can vary from simple height adjustable, to multi-adjustable. The latter provide greater functionality that may include height, width, angle and depth adjustment.

Office Chair Price & Feature Comparison

Below is a comparison table showing 4 chairs that have a significant difference in their selling price. The Alya Executive chair incorporates all 8 of the above factors, which is why it is the most expensive option.

FeaturesAlya ExecutiveMira ExecutiveLeila ExecutiveElara Executive
Approx Price (incl VAT)R11500R5000R3000R2500
Warranty10 years10 years5 years5 years
Weight Rating150kg150kg120kg120kg
Ergonomic Rating5 Star5 Star5 Star3 Star
CertificationsTÜV SÜD
BIFMA
Greenguard
BIFMABIFMA - -
Backrest & Lumbar SupportIndependent
backrest angle
and fully adjustable
lumbar support
Fully adjustable
lumbar support
Fully adjustable
lumbar support
- -
Seat FoamMouldedMouldedMouldedMoulded
Seat Depth AdjustmentYesYesYes - -
ArmrestsMulti-adjustableMulti-adjustableHeight adjustableHeight adjustable
Base & Castors70cm Aluminium,
65mm castors
68cm Nylon,
60mm castors
68cm Nylon,
60mm castors
68cm Nylon,
60mm castors
MechanismSynchronous
Wire controlled
15 locking positions
Synchronous
4 locking positions
Synchronous
4 locking positions
Synchronous
1 locking position
HeadrestMulti-adjustableHeight adjustableHeight adjustableHeight adjustable


Conclusion

The prices for ergonomic office chairs in South Africa varies greatly. Don’t make your selection by price alone. Focus on the 8 critical elements and for the sake of your health, never compromise on comfort and quality.


Author: Ronel Hendry
Office Ergonomics Risk Facilitator at Karo Manufacturing (Pty) Ltd
8 Dec 2020 (rev 2)

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