There are over 300 office chair makes and models on the Australian market. You can save yourself a lot of time (and choose the right chair for you), by understanding which tier each chair belongs to. Here are the quick takeaways:
- There is a strong correlation between price and ranking.
- You get what you pay for.
- Tier 1 is the best (and cheapest) long-term option in the long run.
- Tier 2 is your next best bet if you don’t have the cash to buy Tier 1.
- Avoid most Tier 3 and all Tier 4 chairs.
Tiers Of Office Chairs: At A Glance.
The best office chairs rank highly across key criteria.
These are ergonomics, aesthetics, build quality, the sophistication of recline mechanisms and warranty length.
|Tier||Ergonomic Features||Aesthetics/ Design||Build Quality||Premium Mechanisms||Warranty Periods||Price Range|
|1||High||Extreme||Extreme||Yes||5 years – lifetime||$1300- $2500|
|2||High||High||High||Yes||5-12 years||$600- $1300|
|3||Minimal||Mininal||Moderate||No||1-3 years||$300- $600|
|4||None||None||Cheap||No||1-3 years||< $300|
Tier 1: Top-Tier Office Chairs.
These are chairs that you “buy for life”. Rugged construction, easily replaceable individual parts, and generous (5 years / 10 years / lifetime) warranties translate to long lifespans.
You can find examples of top-tier office chairs serving for 15+ years.
High emphasis on both aesthetics and ergonomics (what makes an office chair ergonomic?) tends to drive up the prices, as it’s surprisingly difficult to build an office chair that’s both good-looking and highly adjustable.
- Expect to pay more than $1300, with some examples running at around $2,500.
People who buy these chairs aren’t shopping around on price. On the contrary, the high price is part of the value proposition, imparting exclusivity (what are the most expensive office chairs in the world?)
Examples of Tier 1 office chairs:
- Steelcase Leap
- Herman Miller Embody
- Herman Miller Cosm
- Herman Miller Aeron
- Humanscale Freedom
(Related: Best Standing Chairs And Stools You Can Buy).
Tier 2: Mid-Range Office Chairs.
Offering outstanding value for money, Tier 2 office chairs are typically priced between $600 and $1300.
They are almost as smooth and comfortable as the ones you’ll find in top-tier office chairs.
Expect excellent ergonomic features (ergonomic chairs tested and ranked), which should include, at a minimum:
- Seat pan depth adjustment
- 4D armrests
- Lumbar support height and tension
- Recline tension and lock
An office chair in this tier should not feel cheap, but won’t have the same premium, bulletproof feel you can expect from a Tier 1 chair. Warranties are impressive, with most falling in the 5-10 year range.
Examples of Tier 2 office chairs:
- Ergotune Supreme
- Ergohuman Elite
- Desky Pro+
- Steelcase Personality Plus
- Haworth Soji
(Related: The Correct Way To Recycle Your Old Office Chair).
Tier 3: Budget Office Chairs.
Your first office chair was probably from Tier 3. It’s a budget option that, more often than not, has an unmistakable cubicle aesthetic.
Expect adjustments to be decent, but limited. Lumbar support, for example, will be either fixed, nonexistent or have a crude tension adjustment.
- Build quality in this tier ranges from very cheap to surprisingly OK.
Manufacturers must use inexpensive mesh, fabric, leather and plastics to make this low price point workable, so don’t expect a chair that feels like a premium product.
Mesh on budget chairs is often too hard or too soft. Fabrics, meanwhile, are either too spongy or too hard.
Expect yours to last for 3 years, and if something breaks during this period, you may find it easier to replace the whole chair than go through the hassle of repairing it.
(Related: The Right Way To Clean Your Office Chair).
While we’re on the subject of longevity, warranties on budget office chairs typically range between 1 and 3 years.
Price range is $300-$600.
Examples of Tier 3 office chairs:
- Ikea Markus
- Sihoo M57
- Elite Central
Tier 4: Cheap Office Chairs.
The tier you should avoid. Usually comprised of mass-produced office chairs that cost less than $300, cheap office chairs are not designed with ergonomics, comfort or looks in mind.
- You can find hundreds of them in places like Officeworks, Ikea, and direct-to-consumer brands like Elite Office Furniture.
They’re not a bad option if you’re low on cash and simply need something to sit on for a couple of hours daily.
However, you’ll probably find that investing in one of these is an exercise in false economy.
A lack of ergonomic features can aggravate your underlying back issues (best office chairs for people with lower back issues), while cheap materials will lead to its early demise.
(Related: 7 Benefits Of Ergonomic Chairs).
Final Thoughts About Office Chair Tiers.
Sitting experience is very subjective, which is why I recommend testing a chair before you buy it. Or, at least, buy from a brand that offers risk-free returns. Even Tier 1 chairs are not universally loved.