Why Do Office Chairs Vary In Price So Much?

If you have shopped for office chairs recently, then you may be asking yourself this question. On the upper end, you have the all mesh Aeron chair from Herman Miller that will run you anywhere from $900.00 to $1,000.00 after any discounting.  On the lower end, there are a handful of basic task chairs under $100.00 at most any big box store like Office Depot carries. What is the difference and is it worth it?

There are many differences, some more obvious than others. To design a chair with proper ergonomics in mind will take years from the idea to the final product. Take the leap chair (1999) when office furniture manufacturer Steelcase invested 4 years into studying how the human body, specifically the back, is affected by long office hours in a chair. In partnership with 4 universities, 27 scientists and 700 participants to see how they moved throughout the day while sitting they developed the leap chair, not only where form follows function but also allowing for impressive eco specs where 98% is recyclable by weight and made from 30% recycled content. Even since then time has moved on. New ideas and materials are tested to ensure an ergonomic outcome for the best available back support and body movement in todays office life with long hours of desk work.





The ‘Worldchair’ by Humanscale for example is a composed chair with only two adjustments knobs and 8 major parts that relies on form-sensing mesh technology to provide excellent lumbar support without the need for external components or controls. The outcome is a mechanism-free, self-adjusting recline technology that uses two frame components, the user’s body weight and the laws of physics. Genius! Why? because I actually sit on one and it works. After hours of sitting in this chair my back is supported while I am moving backwards and forwards in it being very comfortable. And the chair does it all for me! I don’t have to adjust any knob while other chairs need adjusting all the time because something isn’t quite right. And it looks great! You might think: and the costs? You are right the chair lies with $850 in the upper price bracket but in my opinion it’s worth it – for my health.

So there is design that has a major impact on the price and with design it’s not only the look of a chair, but the research and technology behind it. The other aspect that contributes to the price are materials used, and quality of manufacturing. High quality materials (such as steel and plastics) with an eco tag as well as differences in thickness i.e. foam pads will cost more. Looking at the NZ market most chairs are imported and for that the price increases as well. Finally is warranty. Most budget chairs have little to no warranty, whereas a decently made chair will have at least a 10 year warranty, with many having lifetime warranties.  

Knowing all this the question pops: is it worth it for me to pay for a high end chair or can a low budget chair serve my needs as well?

I have answered that question already for myself  spending all day in an office chair looking for back support and don’t want to replace it in years to come plus being a designer it has to have the ‘looks’, but what about you? Certain aspects might help decide:

  • How many hours a day do you sit in the office chair?
  • What is your top budget?
  • Do you have already back problems?
  • Do you try to impress someone with your chair?
  • How tall or small are you?
  • Do you mind adjusting several different knobs?
  • Do you care about ecological and ethical aspects of a chair? (what materials are used, how and where it is manufactured)
  • Do you get easy access for replacements if something is damaged?
  • How long shall the chair last?

Answering those questions helps prioritise your needs and therefore help find the right chair for you. Task chairs are an investment but it is worthwhile for having a health supporting office environment. Properties such as long lasting, health supporting and that you care for yourself or for your employees are priceless. Notwithstanding there is always a middle ground for value for money. Concluding I recommend to answer the questions and prioritise your needs and talk to us. There are many chairs with different properties and it is important to find the individual chair that suits you. In our shop we have added comments on unique properties for each chair to help find the right choice. Our goal is to provide chairs that we have tried out ourselves and that we can recommend in different price segments. Our motto: Quality rather than quantity we offer a range that also convinces with our supplier’s service such as availability, lead times and customer satisfaction/warranties.