Hey there, KP-
You're absolutely right; painting is a very tedious, time consuming process. You're witnessing first-hand the consequences of a sloppy paint job. If the previous owner had taken the time to strip, sand and prime the furniture, it would probably not look as scuffed and scratched as it is today. Yes, the easy option would be to "touch up" the chips and scratches. But getting whites to match is nearly impossible. If this furniture is high-quality and can serve your family for a long time, I highly recommend going to a paint store where the professionals shop to find out what's the best and RIGHT way to repaint this furniture you have. In my book, short cuts with furniture just aren't worth it--they're such a major part of a room, and a piece that gets a high-quality paint job can really make a room shine.
Best of luck, let us know if you have any more questions!