In this Guide
For a lot of hard-working Americans, sitting all day is a fact of life. Whether you work in a call center or in an engineering lab, you’re spending lots of time in a chair as you work.
While there are plenty of amazing ergonomic chairs out there, designed by specialists and celebrity designers, they’re hard for the average person to afford. Does that really mean you’re stuck with the awkward, uncomfortable budget models? We don’t think so!
No matter how tight your budget is, you shouldn’t have to suffer through the day in an uncomfortable seat. Of course, it’s hard to find the time to sort through all your options, especially when you’re busy at work. That’s where we come in! We’ve put in the time and energy to comb the market, so you don’t have to.
We put this guide together to help budget-minded shoppers find affordable seating options that don’t resign you to discomfort. We looked for sturdiness, comfort, style, and of course, price!
You’ll find our full, in-depth reviews of three great options on this page. We’ve also included a handy guide to finding your ideal seat on a tight budget.
To get you started, here’s a quick glance at our top three office chairs that are easier on the pocket:
Best on a Budget
- Our Rating: 4.3
- Popularity: Medium
- Our Rating: 4.1
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.2
- Popularity: Low
Best Office Chairs For Those On A Budget
This is one of the most affordable models on the market. Don’t let that make you think it’s cheap, though! This has a sturdy nylon base, ergonomic mesh back, and basic adjustments to help you get comfortable. We like its simple effective design, as well as the amazing price. It’s our recommendation for buyers on the strictest of budgets.
The mesh back and seat material are very breathable. They also provide a lightweight, flexible support that adapts slightly to your body without letting your spine collapse.
It’s surprisingly heavy-duty. This one is rated to hold users up to 225 pounds.
That impressive sturdiness is thanks to the fact that the base and stem are made from nylon, not plastic. We prefer nylon parts over plastic because they’re much more durable and resilient over time.
Plastic will crack and warp, while nylon is shatterproof and holds its form. The armrests are also made from nylon, so they’re much sturdier than the plastic type you’ll see on other budget models.
The 5-star base is much more stable than the 4-star designs you’ll usually find on models of this price.
It has all the basic adjustments you want from a good office chair. You can adjust the height, the tilt, and the rotation. The adjustment knobs allow you to control the tilt function, and pick the stopping point at which it won’t lean back any further. You can also lock it in the upright position, if you don’t want it to lean back on you at all.
We also like the tilt tension control on this model, which is a rarity at this price. This allows you to set the tension of the tilt, making it easier or harder for it to lean back. It’s not an essential feature, but it makes this model more easily customizable than others at this price.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty. At this price, that’s pretty impressive!
It’s not the most durable option out there. The seat padding is made from light foam, and it will pack down over time. This is one you might want to supplement with an extra cushion or spare pillow, especially after using it awhile.
The armrests aren’t adjustable. They’re also pretty barebones, and don’t have any padding.
Quality control on this model, like many budget options, isn’t that great. Some previous buyers reported getting seats with misaligned bolt holes. That made the cushions hard to secure.
2. Serta Executive
This Serta is one of our favorite models on the market right now, in any category. It’s padded nicely, upholstered in microfiber, and equipped with ergonomic features to keep you comfortable all day. If you’re looking for something comfy as well as supportive on a budget, this one’s for you.
The microfiber upholstery is extremely soft and comfortable. If you own a microfiber blanket, you’ll know how this stuff feels. The whole chair is covered in the plush fabric, so it all feels comfortable.
We like microfiber because it’s more durable than the fake leathers you’d find on other executive chairs at this price point. It’s also easier to clean. Plus, it looks like suede from a distance.
Like the Amazon Basics model, it uses a nylon base and stem. That gives it impressive sturdiness, and a high weight rating. It’s safety-tested to be suitable for users up to 250 pounds.
The armrests are padded. That’s a nice upgrade over the Amazon model, especially if you type a lot or do lots of work on a computer (and who doesn’t these days?).
It’s fully cushioned. This model has pillowed filling in the seat, the backing, and the headrest. The cushioning is also sculpted to wrap slightly around your body at the edges of the chair.
It’s designed ergonomically. The Serta has a fully pillowed headrest, integrated lumbar support, and a waterfall seat edge. It’s one of the least expensive models on the market with proper lumbar support. The waterfall edge keeps circulation going in your legs, and reduces pressure points on your thighs and knees.
The high back design makes it better for your neck and shoulders than the Amazon model. Since this one has that extra back height, it’s a better choice for taller users.
It has all the adjustments you need. Just like the Amazon option, the Serta has height adjustment, full swivel, and control over tilt distance and tension.
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty.
It’s still very affordable. Even though it’s significantly larger and plusher than the Amazon, it’s still fairly cheap.
It uses fiberboard in the base, which makes it less durable than some more expensive options. Fiberboard is weaker than real wood bases or metal frame chairs. However, we only found one or two previous buyers who reported issues.
The microfiber won’t last forever. Some buyers said it started to show some wear after a year or so of use.
The stitching quality isn’t amazing. That’s not surprising at this price point. We found that some previous buyers noticed sloppy stitching, especially on the back of the chair, but nothing more than an aesthetic flaw.
Like the Amazon model, the armrests on this one aren’t adjustable.
2. Office Star Executive
If you’re in the market for a traditional executive chair that won’t break the bank, you should have a look at this Office Star model. It has a hybridized eco-leather upholstery which has the look and feel of leather without the high price.
We also love the ergonomic design, and adjustable armrests.
The armrests have easy buttons which allow you to flip them back and out of the way. That’s a big plus for people who work pulled up to a desk, whether for typing or drafting.
They’re also padded for comfort, in the same eco-leather material as the seat itself. Many previous buyers actually cited the armrests as their favorite feature on this chair.
It looks great. The Office Star is covered in a leather material, with a sleek finish and clean lines. It looks much the same as pricey executive chairs, and will fit in well with upscale and classy offices.
The leather material makes a great choice for matching bookshelves, or wooden paneling. Previous buyers said they were impressed by how expensive this chair looked, especially compared to the actual price.
The eco-leather outer layer is a smart hybrid material. It’s made from a blend of recycled leather and other composites. We like it because it has a very realistic leather look and feel, without the high cost and animal factor. Plus, it’s easier to clean and maintain.
It comes in two color options. There’s a “cocoa” brown scheme, or a black and grey two-tone look. That makes it easy to match your office décor and furniture.
It’s ergonomic as well as elegant. This one has a padded headrest pillow, and lumbar support to protect your lower back as you sit. It also has the same waterfall edge design as the Serta.
It’s the most heavily cushioned of our recommendations. This one has even more pillow support than the Serta. It’s also less likely to wear down over time, since it’s foam instead of fiber filling.
The pneumatic seat adjustment is more convenient than the other two models. It’s located right at the side of the seat in easy reach.
The casters are built as well as the rest of the chair, and previous buyers said they’re actually good on carpet. Most office chairs struggle to move at all on carpets.
While the eco-leather material looks great from a distance, it does have a slightly artificial look up close. But to people across your desk, you have nothing to hide.
Previous buyers said it can be a bit difficult to put together.
The lumbar support isn’t super prominent. If you need lots of support for your lower back, you may want to add an extra pillow.
Which is the Best Cheap Desk Chair for You?
The Amazon Basics chair will be an easy choice for people on a strict budget. It also makes sense for people who need a good chair, but don’t sit down long enough during the day to justify spending more than $100 on a seat.
We think it stands out from the budget competition with the basic ergonomic support and sturdy base design. On the downside, the cushioning isn’t super plush, and will wear down more quickly than other models.
The Serta is a great compromise for people who want something a bit more cushioned and ergonomic without spending much more money. The high back and padded headrest make it a better choice for tall people, and the larger weight capacity makes it a better choice for bigger users.
We also love the microfiber fabric, which is less utilitarian than the Amazon chair, and an affordable alternative to leathers. However, like the Amazon model, it’s not the most durable chair on the market.
If you’re looking for an affordable leather chair, or simply for the best quality that is not that expensive, we strongly recommend the Office Star. It’s ergonomic, fully-cushioned, and looks great.
While it’s twice the price of the Amazon Basics model, it’s much more comfortable over a whole day, and it’s more durable for the long term. The cushioning holds up very well over extended use, and we couldn’t find any complaints about durability.
We’re perfectly happy to give it our top quality spot! It’s also a good way for people who work in upscale offices to save money without looking out of place.
How to Shop for the Best Affordable Office Chair
Keep it simple:
When you’re looking at budget furniture, you want to be sure to focus on the important components. If you buy a budget chair with lots of features and adjustments, chances are they won’t be built very well.
So, you’re left with a chair that has lots of features, but none of them actually work. It’s best to spend your money where it counts, on a solid frame that ticks all the essential boxes: comfort, ergonomics, and sturdiness.
Look for basic adjustments, like tilt control and pneumatic height control. Beyond that, you’ll want to beware of weak knobs and dials that can’t handle long-term use.
Look for basic ergonomic support:
While Herman Miller chairs have infinite adjustments, adaptive suspension, and other amazing ergonomic features, budget chairs are fairly limited. So, we recommend making sure you cover a few key bases, and then add on with pillows if you have more specific or severe needs.
Regardless of how much you spend, you want a chair that can be adjusted for height. The angle at which you sit is one of the most important factors for ergonomics and health. Sitting at 90 degrees, or at a slight forward tilt keeps the pelvis active, and prevents collapse of the pelvis and lower back.
You’ll also want basic back support. Look for extra padding or special molding in the lumbar region, as well as a headrest or neck protection on a taller chair.
Make sure you think about your height as you shop. Taller users should always look for a high-back chair, preferably with a headrest.
Shorter users may find that larger chairs don’t line up properly with their back. Look for a mid to low size model that has supports which line up squarely with your back.
Think about using pillows:
Since it’s harder to find absolute ergonomic perfection in a budget office chair, you may find that it’s best to accessorize with additional pillows. Extra pillows help you get more personalized support, as well as some extra cushion. They’re also good to have around for improving your other chairs, or for driving in the car.
Even if you don’t have specific back or neck pain to address, you may find that an extra pillow on the seat makes a big difference. We’ve gone out of our way to recommend chairs with good cushioning on the seats.
However, like all chairs at this price range, the cushioning will wear down over time. Adding a memory foam pad or gel cushion is a cheap way to boost the padding for people who spend all day seated.
Consider your workspace:
When you’re choosing between your chair options, think about the rest of your workspace. You want to find a chair that matches or compliments the rest of your furniture and settings. If you’re trying to match bookshelves or wood cabinetry, the most obvious choice is a leather chair.
If you’re working in a more modern, open space, you can add to the airy aesthetic with a mesh chair. Look for smart eco-leather compounds to get the look and feel of leather without having to spend premium prices.