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Piano Care Blog

Buying a second-hand piano?

Robert Langley


Why used and not new?

Buying a second-hand piano can be about more than making your money go further. You might want a piano with the kind of tone that only an older piano can provide. Or perhaps you might want the case to look a certain way. Buying anything second-hand can be a tricky business but I intend give you the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing your piano.

Shop vs. Private Seller

There are a few pros and cons to buying a piano from a brick-and-mortar shop or from a private seller found online. The chief benefit to buying from a shop is that any piano they sell will typically come with a warranty. The terms of these warranties will differ between shops so always check the specifics of what the warranty covers before you pay for your piano. Buying from a private seller will hopefully result in a cheaper sale price. There are also hidden gems to find, if you know what you’re looking for.

When buying from a shop, ask the following:

  • What kind of warranties do you provide?

  • How do you prepare the piano for sale, e.g. tuning, regulating, voicing?

  • Do you provide after sale services like post-delivery tunings?

If they answer “no” to any of the above or are reluctant to provide details consider shopping elsewhere. A good shop will consider its reputation when selling a used piano.

When buying from a private seller, ask the following:

  • How long have they had the piano?

  • Did they buy it new?

  • When was it last tuned?

  • Have there been any substantial repairs?

  • Would they be happy with a piano technician coming to take a look?

I provide inspection and evaluation services to prospective piano buyers. If you would like a technical review of the piano you’re looking to buy, please complete my contact form here to get a quote.

Try before you buy

Never buy a piano without having seen it and played it for yourself. If you do not play the piano yet, either take someone along who does or if you are in a shop you can always ask the sales person to play the piano for you.

Be sure that you play the notes at the very top and bottom of the piano. There are plenty of pianos that might sound full and rich in the middle few octaves but have an extremely muddy or tubby bass sound. This is a sure sign that there is something wrong with the strings in the bass. A piano like this will be rarely worth buying as the cost to replace the strings may exceed what you paid for the piano in the first place.

When buying from a private seller it is wise to pay a piano technician to inspect the piano. While a piano might sound and feel good to you there may be mechanical or structural problems that are more difficult to recognise. 

“Antiques” and freebies

How ever good a deal you might think you have landed it will never be worth it if you find you have a sub-standard piano on your hands. You may end up paying more to have the piano dumped than you bought it for.

In the market, particularly online, pianos are described as being “antique”. In my experience, it is extremely rare to find a genuine antique amongst cheap and reasonably priced pianos. Generally they are just old and in poor condition.

So what should you do?

  • Ask lots of questions.

  • Always play the piano. Every note!!!

  • If you can, take a tuner/technician along with you.

  • And most importantly, pick the piano you want. Don’t let any talk you into buying a piano you don’t like.