Updated July 7, 2015

Study: Best Place to Buy Furniture

IKEA vs Target vs Walmart
Read more about What to Buy in July

There's nothing practical about buying furniture. You have to measure your space, shop around for the look you want and the color you're after. Then you have to hope that the piece you're buying will fit in your car or that you can borrow a friend's truck. Or pay a hefty delivery fee, and then wait around for the delivery.

Tip: Save money by buying furniture online.

Click here to visit Wayfair, one of the world's largest online furniture store. Wayfair offers free shipping on millions of products and sales up to 70% off.

Shopping online for furniture is a more streamlined experience, without the stress. When you need something fairly simple and affordable – three major retailers, Walmart, IKEA, and Target – make it easy for you to shop their furniture offerings and get what you want delivered (or you could pick it up yourself and save on shipping costs, but then you’ll need to borrow that truck again…).

We looked at all three stores to see how they stack up against each other based on three criteria.

Roundup Methodology

Here are the main factors we considered when comparing the companies:

  • 1. Cost
  • 2. Accessibility
  • 3. Customer service

Best Furniture for the Price: Walmart

Best for Families and Outdoor Furniture

  • Cost: Best prices overall. Selection for couches is restrictive, however. Shipping reasonably priced. 5/5
  • Accessibility: Customers can shop online, order in store or ship to their house. 4/5
  • Customer Support: Contact email, mail, or call local store. Can track order on site. 90-day return policy. 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5

There’s a reason Walmart stores seem to be everywhere. Shoppers can’t resist the mega corporation’s convenience, hard-to-beat prices, and dependable stock. This extends to its furniture selection, which includes sofas, ottomans, lamps, bookshelves, TV stands, entertainment systems, computer desks, chairs, and dining-room sets. Most noteworthy is Walmart’s outdoor furniture: when you’re having a cookout or need a few extra chairs on your porch, you can easily fill up your outdoor space at an affordable price.

Most recently, Walmart’s marketing team launched its “Spring into Savings” deal with eye-catching prices on decent outdoor patio sets. Michelle Gloeckler, senior vice president of home for Walmart U.S., said, “Nobody does Black Friday better than Walmart, and we’re bringing that same philosophy to our new outdoor living, lawn, and garden event by offering incredibly low prices on the products our customers are looking for.” It’s worth keeping an eye out for these types of sales by Walmart, especially after the height of a season (like when deeper markdowns will be made on outdoor furniture after the Fourth of July).

Why We Like Walmart
Walmart offers some of the lowest prices on living room and bedroom furniture, and its site is easy to use and filter. It also allows customers to get store credit, layaway, and credit cards in the store, which makes buying new furniture easy and effective. Some furniture ships free. Families will benefit the most from shopping at Walmart because it sells college dorm and kids furniture at affordable prices.

Its Downsides
With all the items Walmart sells, it doesn’t have a large selection of furniture such as sofas, love seats, and bed frames. Some of the styles of furniture come in a limited selection of colors and styles. But what it does carry offers families a great value.

Who It Works Best For
Walmart is usually the cheapest place to shop if you are looking to buy bookshelves, coffee tables, and TV stands, and you’re not picky about looks. This is the type of furniture you buy either as a placeholder until you can afford items of higher quality or for temporary or occasional use (such as a child’s bureau that will be used for only a few years or a foldable table for a party buffet). If you are a fan of the outdoors and enjoy hosting and grilling, Walmart has a large selection of outdoor furniture at unbeatable prices. Since it sells everything from living room sets to baby cribs, this store works best for families.

Best Furniture for Small Spaces: IKEA

  • Cost: Although Walmart’s furniture is cheaper, IKEA’s furniture is reasonably priced and trendy. Also, IKEA has a wider variety of options to choose from. 4/5
  • Accessibility: Website layout is fun and easy to use. You can browse their catalog and, for some items, try various setups. Takes too many steps to get to specific pages. 5/5
  • Customer Support: Contact by phone every day, most hours of the day (except for very early hours). Mail and email are other options as well as “Ask Anna,” IKEA’s virtual automated assistant. 90-day return policy. 4/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5

Forget Swedish meatballs; the Swedish retailer has continued to win over Americans with its no-nonsense furniture designs at affordable prices. Best of all, IKEA’s website lets you browse its offerings without getting stuck in the seemingly endless maze that keeps shoppers of its physical stores browsing for hours. Shoppers can easily order online when they are at the store, and they can get items shipped to their nearest IKEA for pickup.

And if their impressive selection of furniture wasn’t enough, this year IKEA will introduce an app that allows shoppers to scan furniture from IKEA’s catalogue and place that picture in a 3-D model of their home. This app is getting great reviews from news outlets. Michelle Manetti from Huffingtonpost.com states, “The best part is that this could save you from the headache of heading to the store.”

Why We Like IKEA
IKEA has a diverse selection of couches, loveseats, recliners, accent furniture, and bedding. Its wide selection and great online catalogue gives shoppers the ability to see how the furniture they’ve picked will look in their home. Most of their furniture is easy to assemble.

Its Downside
Easy to assemble is a key point because anything you purchase at IKEA has to be put together (or pay more to have the company do it for you). While the interface and layout of the homepage is nice, there are too many steps to get to categories, such as sofas or side tables. Shipping costs are more than Walmart’s, and since the company does not have as many locations, you may not be able to avoid these shipping fees by picking your purchase up at the store.

Who It Works Best For
Starting over or just starting out, IKEA is great for getting all the essential pieces of a home at one location. IKEA products are known for maximizing space, making them great for apartments and children’s rooms.

Best Furniture for the Money: Target

Best for Décor and Accent Furniture

  • Cost: Comparative to Walmart but some items cost more, although the quality is better. Limited selection for every room but more stylish options than Walmart. 4/5
  • Accessibility: Website is fairly easy to use although it’s search feature isn’t as intuitive as Walmart’s. Target doesn’t make it as obvious which items are not in stock or that are only sold in stores. Limited steps to get to specific furniture. 4/5
  • Customer Support: 24/7 phone contact. Email and mail contact available. Can track orders online. 90-day return policy. Target.com orders can be returned to the store for an easy refund, right on your credit card, or mailed back. 5/5
  • CreditDonkey Score: 4.3/5

Target is continuing to expand its selection of items while decreasing the cost. It offers name brand furniture such as South Shore and Threshold. Target also has trendy décor, which can beautify a dull room.

If you want to save even more, Tonya Lee from About.com suggests waiting for those décor items to go on clearance at Target. “Target changes out many of their home decor and furnishings on a seasonal basis. This is great for shoppers because markdowns happen fairly frequently. Knowing Target’s markdown schedule can help you snag that coveted item before someone else does.”

Target gradually marks down its items every two weeks. Price reduction starts at 15% but can go as low as 90%. Thursdays are the best days to search for sales on décor. Also, the day after a major holiday or at the end of the season, Target drastically marks down prices (sometimes by 90%) on seasonal furniture.

Why We Like Target
Although Target doesn’t always have lower prices than Walmart, it does have some of the trendiest décor available at a great price. Items like nautical lamps or steam punk inspired designs, not found in either IKEA or Walmart, can be found at Target. You can also get free shipping on some furniture items, if you spend at least $50.

Target’s customer service is available by phone 24/7. When we called on a Saturday night to confirm a purchase, we were able to get through to live person in less than four minutes.

Its Downsides
Target has an even more restrictive selection of furniture than Walmart, and some of its items are priced higher than similar items found at both Walmart and IKEA.

With the recent mass hacking of Target’s customer information, it’s understandable that many consumers are reluctant to sign up for the retailer’s card, which gives them free shipping and a 5% discount on all orders.

Who It Works Best For
Target is great for those looking for specific pieces of furniture that will accent their living room, bathroom, kitchen, or bedrooms. They have fashionable décor that appeals to the younger families and single households.

Tip: Before you buy new furniture from Target, check out CreditDonkey for the latest Target coupon codes, including 23 tips and tricks to save money at Target.

Other Options to Consider

Along with the companies mentioned above, here are some others that sell affordable furniture online: Wayfair, Amazon, Rooms To Go.

Of these companies, Wayfair is our favorite. It sells furniture for dining rooms, bedrooms outdoor, and children’s rooms at attractive prices. And when you sign up for Wayfair’s email newsletter, you get 10% off your first order. In addition, Wayfair does not have to charge sales tax to residents of certain states (exclusions are Massachusetts, Utah, Kentucky, and New York). And Wayfair offers free shipping on millions of products.

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