So you’re probably on the market for a new chair, and you’ve seen Herman Miller chairs pop up in recommendations here and there.
They seem nice enough, but how on Earth can a chair be so expensive? The cheapest Herman Miller chair costs about $600, while the average sits somewhere around $1,000. The most expensive versions can even go past $1,500.
Why do Herman Miller chairs cost so much? And more importantly, is it worth paying the price for such a chair?
7 reasons why Herman Miller chairs are so expensive
Expensive and advanced building materials
Herman Miller chairs are built from advanced materials that make the chairs comfortable to sit in, durable and allow for advanced ergonomic designs.
As an example of this, the flexible backrest of the Herman Miller Embody is built out of:
Nylon 6, a light, very tough but flexible polymer that can bend easily and not lose its strength after years of prolonged use.
Inside this Nylon 6 covering the Embody backrest is filled with a special glass material to give it more range of motion and durability.
In another example, the mesh (marketed as “pellicle”) on Herman Miller Aeron chairs is built out of:
Elastomeric monofilaments extruded from polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT), a material that offers the resistance of a polyester, but the elastic recovery and resilience of a nylon – meaning the best of both worlds.
Besides the resistance and elasticity, the mesh on Aeron chairs is carefully designed to feel smooth and non-abrasive.
The material used on the mesh on Aeron chairs is only produced by one company: DowDuPont.
Materials frequently used in Herman Miller chairs include: fiberglass, steel, CELCON acetal, composite fiberglass/epoxy, Lycra RTM, Hytrel RTM grade 5544 or 5556 etc.
Cutting edge science optimized for 24/7 sitting
Herman Miller chairs are designed and built in-house. Each of their chairs has multiple registered and approved patents that explain the cutting edge innovation plus research & development done to create their chairs.
As an example, the actual seat on a Herman Miller Embody is built of 3 separate layers called the macro compliance layer, a micro compliance layer, and a load support layer.
Each of these layers is designed to accomplish a certain task and are built from unique components and materials.
The image below shows only the macro layer, which is built out of a complex web of 25 components such as springs, “pixels”, support rails, control strands, attachment nodes etc.
The seat of the Embody chair is engineered this way so that your buttocks, pelvis, tailbone and thighs are properly supported and you can sit in the chair without pain for long periods of time.
A similar amount of innovation was required for the Herman Miller Aeron. It took 5 years to create the commercial version of the Aeron chair, starting from initial sketch to first chair out of factory gates.
In the case of the Aeron, the chair was designed in such a way that it allowed ~750,000 unique combinations of adjustments so that practically anybody can feel comfortable in one.
The Aeron chair was released in 1994, however Herman Miller is still investing research & development efforts in the chair. For example, in 2016 they launched the Aeron Remastered version which added a number of improvements.
All of this innovation going into Herman Miller chairs is done so users are able to forget they are sitting on a chair, not feel pressure points, aches or pains and instead focus on what they are doing.
Pricing is built around companies
Part of the reason Herman Miller chairs are so expensive is because they sell most of their products to companies who buy chairs in bulk, instead of individual consumers.
Companies often have deep pockets and can afford a one time order of ~$100,000 for 100 Aeron chairs, if they think it will lead to improved productivity or employee retention.
As a reference, in 2020 Herman Miller recorded $2.5 billion in sales, with $1.9 billion coming from corporate customers and only $600 million from individuals.
As a result, Herman Miller prices its chairs for corporate customers, since they aren’t as sensitive to high prices as consumers are.
Very strict quality control
Herman Miller does quality control on it’s products with tests that replicate or exceed real life use.
Below are just some of the tests they use on various components to make sure they are production ready:
- Gouging the paint coating on chairs with lead pencils to see how hard they are to scratch.
- Scratching the paint to see if it is sticky enough to remain on the metal or material underneath.
- To mimic sunlight exposure, the chairs are blasted with 160 hours of ultra violet light to see how well the paint holds or if it “burns”.
- Dropping boiling water on the chair and measuring how affected the chair is. To pass the test, a chair must be good as new.
- A vessel is filled with wax, heated until the melted wax reaches 356° F (180° Celsius), and placed on the chair’s surface for twenty minutes. To pass the test, the chair must be unaffected. .
- A sample of each of 18 staining agents is placed on the surface of the chair and covered with a sheet of glass to prevent evaporation. The staining agents are washed off after an hour. To pass the test, the chair must be either completely unstained or lightly stained, depending on the staining agent.
12 year warranty & 30 day return policy
Herman Miller offers 12 year warranty on their chairs, on any component.
This long warranty period is only feasible when a product is constructed out of expensive, long lasting materials and precise manufacturing processes with very low tolerances and margins of error.
Besides acting as a guarantee of a chair’s construction quality, the 12 year warranty is also a guarantee that you, as a customer, will receive quick and efficient quality support.
This warranty process is fairly straightforward. If you think there’s something wrong with your chair, simply contact Herman Miller’s customer support, send them a video or photo explaining the flaw and they’ll send someone to pick up the chair and either replace or repair it for you depending on the circumstances.
Finally, if you don’t like the chair, Herman Miller offers a generous return policy: 30 day, no questions asked. Simply contact customer support, tell them you don’t want the chair and ship it back to them and get your refund.
Manufactured in the USA
Herman Miller designs and builds their own chairs in house, meaning no outsourcing to other companies. They have complete control over design and production to ensure everything is up to their standards.
Chairs sold on the USA market are manufactured within the US itself, more specifically at Herman Miller’s factory in Zealand, Michigan.
Chairs destined for customers Europe, Middle-East and Africa are produced in the United Kingdom, while chairs sold on the Asian market are manufactured at a factory in China.
Manufacturing in the USA does bring some extra costs in the overall price of a Herman Miller, however the overall result is a product with better quality control and customer service since it’s easier to fix or replace a chair in the unlikely event something malfunctions.
There is a concept in marketing called “halo products“. These are flagship products in a company’s line-up, that are purposefully expensive but built at the highest possible quality.
The purpose of these “halo products” is both to be high quality and a status symbol, to have people write positive reviews and rave about how good a company’s products are.
This positive feedback and word-of-mouth marketing creates a halo effect around the company’s entire product line-up, which makes even their lower priced products seem attractive and high quality.
As a result, people who normally wouldn’t buy a company’s top of the line product will instead purchase one of their lower priced ones, since they want the same type of quality and prestige as people who own the flagship.
For Herman Miller, the Aeron and Embody are the flagship “halo products”. For customers who don’t want to spend ~$1,100-1,700 on a chair, Herman Miller has multiple other chairs at different price points:
- Celle – $900
- Mirra 2 – $800
- Lino – $800
- Sayl – $600
Why Herman Miller Chairs are worth it
Adjustments for every body type & position
A big draw of high quality office chair, especially Herman Millers, are the very extensive adjustment options such a chair provides.
For instance, the Aeron has 750,000 adjustment combinations that allow you to tweak and modify your sitting position down to the smallest detail, whenever you want.
Here are the adjustment options available in a Herman Miller Mirra 2:
- Seat height.
- Seat depth.
- Backrest tilt.
- Tension of backrest tilt.
- Lock backrest tilt to a certain angle.
- Lumbar support height.
- Lumbar support tension.
- Armrests up, down, backward, forwards, wider or narrower.
This flexibility in making adjustments allows you to customize a chair so it fits your exact body type and desired sitting position.
With lower end or gaming chairs, most users will tinker a little bit with the chair when they first get it, find a reasonably comfortable position and that’s that. They won’t do any more adjustments after that.
Things are different with a Herman Miller. Once you get used to all the adjustment options and what they do, you’ll end up adjusting and readjusting the chair multiple times a day.
This is because whenever you’ll feel a slight pain or discomfort, you’ll know it can go away by tweaking the chair a bit.
Has your back started to feel a bit sore? No problem, simply tilt the backrest up or down so it supports you in a different position.
Moving the backrest up or down doesn’t work? Adjust the tightness of the lumbar support and how much you want it to push against your back.
Shoulders are uncomfortable or painful? Adjust the backrest or armrests to better support your arms and upper back.
It’s hard to go back to ordinary chairs once you get used to this level of customization.
Excellent comfort for long sitting sessions
The biggest reason people choose Herman Miller chairs is comfort.
At first, you won’t feel much different in a Herman Miller chair compared to lower end ones.
The superior comfort only becomes apparent after 1-3 days when you learn what the adjustments do and find the right combinations for you.
Even then, the comfort in a Herman Miller chair isn’t the kind in which you “feel good”.
It is not like a soft, plush couch in which you throw yourself after a day’s work and can feel the tension flowing away from the body.
Instead, comfort in a Herman Miller chair means being able to sit in it for 10-12 hours a day, get up, and not feel any kind of pain or discomfort.
It’s the kind of comfort where you forget the chair exists and that you’re sitting in it, and can just do whatever it is you’re doing without thinking stuff like “ow, my back hurts” or “I wish there was a way to angle my hands better with the table.”
Good for managing back pain and overall back health
Herman Miller chairs are specifically designed to prevent and manage back pain conditions, and have designs and materials that properly support your spine, upper & lower back, buttocks and shoulder.
This ability to manage back pain is a major reason why people buy such chairs, and there are many positive reviews from users that stopped having back pain after using a Herman Miller chair.
Herman Miller chairs are excellent at keeping their resale value, and it’s certainly possible to sell a used a chair after 2-3 years for about 50-60% of its value, maybe more depending on how well maintained it is.
Customer friendly policies
Besides the high quality of their products, Herman Miller stands out for its very customer friendly policies.
These are so good they give you confidence as a consumer that if something were to go wrong with your chair, Herman Miller will be there to support you in any way possible.
Their greatest consumer friendly policy is the 12 year warranty. If the chair broke somewhere, contact Herman Miller and they’ll either replace or repair with no hassle.
Another customer friendly policy is their generous 30-day return period. You don’t have to invoke a reason to return the chair and get a refund. Simply contact your Herman Miller dealership and they’ll pick up your chair and refund the money.
How to get Herman Miller chairs cheaper
Look for liquidations of used office furniture
If you live in a bigger city, the best place to purchase a low price Herman Miller chair is to look out for office liquidations of companies that are shutting down or moving somewhere else.
Depending on how lucky you are, you might just be able to grab a Herman Miller chair at a very, very steep discount (anywhere between -60% to -80%).
It doesn’t happen often, and you have to be on your toes when it does, but it’s one way to nab a quality chair at a lower price.
Ask the Herman Miller dealership for a returned chair
One way to get a lower price on Herman Miller chair, while still keeping that desirable 12 year warranty policy, is to ask your Herman Miller dealership for a returned chair instead of a new one.
Returned chairs were previously bought, but the original buyer decided to return them in the 30 day return window.
However, as a new buyer you’ll still get the 12 year warranty and the same 30 day return policy only this time the chair comes at a -10% to 15% discount.
In nearly every case these chairs will look brand new too. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a returned or a entirely new one.
Hunt for used Herman Millers on Craiglist, eBay, etc.
If you can’t find office liquidations near your location, then the next best option is to purchase a used Herman Miller chair on eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Herman Miller chairs normally retain their value pretty well, so expect to pay around 50-70% of the retail price for a used chair. This depends of course on how well maintained the chair is and its age.
If you want to know the date of manufacturing for a Herman Miller chair, simply ask the seller to take a photo or video of the sticker underneath the chair – every Herman Miller chair has such a sticker unless it was ripped off (red flag).
This sticker contains the location where a chair was constructed, date of manufacture as well as the individual product serial number used to identify the chair and claim warranty on it.
As for the warranty, officially it is not transferrable for used Herman Miller chairs.
That being said, sometimes you can get away with it by impersonating the original buyer and claiming the warranty under their name.
To be clear, it’s not quite legal, much less ethical, but sometimes you can get away with it. It strongly depends on how your chosen dealership handles warranties.
Some are dealerships are extremely diligent and verify every warranty holder, while others will run the claims on anything.
If you do buy a used Herman Miller and it breaks, then one option is to buy a replacement part for the chair and install it yourself.
Repairing a Herman Miller isn’t terribly complicated, but some components (such as the seat on an Aeron) can be quite pricy. There’s also the hassle of learning how to fix things, especially if you’re not the tinkering type.
While not ideal, repairing an Herman Miller chair is often possible, and something to take into consideration for your buying decision.