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Avoid the shops: 4 ways to find quality furniture on the cheap

Posted on 2015-08-06

Furnishing your house with cheap-as-chips flat-pack furniture can be tempting when you’re on a budget and, indeed, many people love the way it looks and its affordability.

But, if you’re looking for more solid, quality pieces that’ll last the test of time, you might not know where to start looking, especially if it’s the first time you’ve really looked into buying furniture.

Can’t find anything you like on eBay? Can’t afford, or don’t like, the stuff in the shops? Don’t worry; there are lots of others ways of bagging a bargain, many of which may never have occurred to you.


We’ve all seen the likes of Bargain Hunt and Cash in the Attic – where the poor contestant gets £5 for their carefully selected treasures and everything else in the auction sells for thousands.

These shows can inspire you to want to see how much money you could make by selling your old stuff (which can be a great idea for making money to buy new furniture, by the way) – but have they ever actually enticed you to go to an auction to buy something?

You may think of all auctions as places where expensive antiques are sold to specialist dealers with loads of cash, but you’d be wrong. Many auction houses also hold regular sales where they simply sell donated items from the public, much like eBay.

Many auction houses list their catalogues online – so you can see beforehand what’s going to be sold at the next auction. You can also often visit the auction house before the sale, to view the items first-hand.

Going to auctions for the first time can be daunting – but it needn’t be. Prepare yourself by reading the Telegraph’s guide to buying furniture at auction and you’ll be a pro in no time!

Police auctions

Ever wondered what happens to stolen goods seized by police, or lost property, that hasn’t been claimed by the owner?

In order to limit the amount of space taken up by lost or stolen items, police forces across the UK regularly hold auctions to sell them off, often at a mere fraction of the original price.

Obviously, not many criminals are attracted by furniture – so the site lists mostly electronic items, tools and bicycles (easier to steal and easier to sell on) – but keep your eye out and you will sometimes spot larger home furnishings on there.

Possibly the easiest way to buy these goods is through Bumblebee Auctions, an eBay-style site specifically for police auctions. However, not all police forces are registered to this site, and many of the items are local collection only – so it’s worth checking if your local force is registered before you start looking for things to buy.

One risk you take when buying from police auctions is not seeing the condition of something before you buy it – especially with electronic items. Although the administrators do make an effort to detail the working order and any damage, you can’t be 100% certain until you receive the goods.

There’s also a risk that the person who previously owned the item recognises it and asks for it back – if this happens before the auction ends, the sale will be suspended. If it happens once you’ve received the item, you may be asked for it back (this usually only applies within the first 12 months after purchase).

Car boot sales

Cast aside your assumption that all you’ll find is old VHS tapes and ornaments and get yourself down to a decent car boot sale - you could find some absolute bargains when it comes to furniture.

While there may be more junk than anything else, a good car boot sale will also offer hidden gems. The advantage you may have when buying larger pieces in this situation is that many people often go to browse, or buy cheap antiques – and may not have enough cash or car-space to take home bigger items.

You may need to watch out for antiques dealers though – they’ll be lurking around trying to spot a bargain too – and will possibly be prepared to spend more than you!

Get there at the crack of dawn, take enough cash and a large enough vehicle with you, and you’ll be able to have your pick of the offerings. Just remember to haggle – it’s practically the law at these things! That said, make sure you always have a maximum price in mind and stick to it.


This one takes patience and dedication – as you probably won’t find hidden treasure overnight – but can definitely be worth your while when it comes to freebies.

Keep an eye out for skips outside houses. A quick look inside should tell you if it’ll be worth digging deeper, in which case you should always knock on the owner’s door and ask their permission to have a root through and take away anything you want.

Legally, even though the items in the skip have been thrown away, they still belong to the owner – so taking without asking is technically theft. And make sure you’re careful of nails and splinters, as most skips contain old building materials.

If you don’t have the energy to get stuck into a skip, there are always sites such as Freecycle and Freegle – where you could find just what you’re looking for, without spending a penny.

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