Buying Guide

Thinking of buying a used piano? It’s an exciting investment but you may want to do a little research before you move that “great deal” piano into your home or business.

The first thing to understand before making your purchase is that pianos are the most complex instrument on earth. While it may be easy to assess if you want that couch listed on Craigslist just by looking at the picture and reading the description, picking a used piano requires you to really take a closer look. Take it from anyone who’s been through it, having a piano that is unplayable on your hands is no fun at all.

Here are a few basic questions you should ask the seller:

1. Has the piano been regularly maintained? Be wary of instruments that have not been touched by a piano tuner-technician in numerous years.

  • Pianos should be tuned at least once a year. (The Piano Technicians Guild recommends that most be tuned two times per year.) A piano that is not played still needs to be tuned since the strings can exert up to 14 tons of pressure on the harp and frame. If the seller has a regular tuner-technician, get his/her name and number and ask for his/her opinion of the instrument.
  • The action of a piano should be regulated every 10-20 years for the occasional player or every couple of years for the consistent player. It’s the piano equivalent of a car tune-up.

2. Where has the piano been kept over the years?

  • Extremes in temperature and humidity, or frequent fluctuations in climate can really wreck havoc on all of the important wood, felt, and buckskin parts that make a piano work.
  • In particular, watch out for pianos near heat registers, fireplaces, radiators, windows, or doors to the outside. Even direct sunlight can cause wooden parts to shrink, glue joints to crack and tuning pins to loosen.

3. Has a reputable piano technician evaluated the piano in its current condition?

  • A piano may look great on the outside and even play just fine, but as we said before, pianos are very complex instruments. A professional technician’s assessment of the thousands (yes, thousands) of working parts within the piano should give you an idea of whether the instrument is a wise investment.
  • Although your piano teacher may be a good resource in your search, remember that a professional piano technician is trained to recognize problems that may not be apparent to you or your piano teacher.
  • If the seller does not provide you with an inspection of the instrument, most technicians will give you a full evaluation for a nominal fee. You wouldn’t purchase a home without having the official inspections. In the long run, you’ll be saving yourself money and hassle.

4. What is the make, model, and serial number of the piano?

  • If you have internet access, knowing the make and model can be very helpful. You’ll find that just like brands of clothing or cars, certain names are known for high quality, while others may be known for deteriorating plastic parts, or poor craftsmanship.
  • The serial number indicates where and when the piano was built if you look it up.

And here’s a question to ask yourself:

Do I have the money to make this purchase?

  • A low list price can be deceitful. When considering the price, always figure in an additional $500.00, bare minimum, to cover the cost of moving the instrument (which you should always have done by professional piano movers), tunings, and small repairs. However, repairs can easily exceed this amount.
  • Don’t forget that pianos are very difficult to move or destroy. If you end up with an irreparable junker on your hands, it could cost you upwards of $300.00 just to have it removed from your home and disposed of properly.

Good luck in your search!

Want to avoid having to ask any of these questions? When you purchase a piano from a reputable piano resale store (like Jackson Pianos!!), these questions are already answered for you