Why is it so hard, (nearly impossible) to find a great used piano?

By: Steven J. Hopp, Registered Piano Technician

Approx. 3 Minute Read.

So the time has come, and you want or need a piano.  Perhaps your child will begin lessons, or you have moved into or built a new home that has the perfect spot for a baby grand or maybe you have just always wanted one.  While the idea is great soon a realization sets in that you know nothing or very little about a piano and the process of obtaining a good one that works well and sounds great.  Also there is concern about the cost of a piano and how much you should expect to spend.  It feels like your trying to tightrope the Grand Canyon with no net.  You are not alone.

If you have begun the search for a piano and are afraid of the process, then perhaps you are thinking I will just find a used piano.  So starting out on your own you begin to scour the internet for a piano.  Quickly though you realize that there are very few options.  All the pianos seem to be very old and in the pictures are clearly worn and have some kind of problem or problems.  The seller usually states without really understanding that the piano needs just a little tuning and a few minor repairs but that it is a great beginner instrument for a child or is simply great.  However, this great piano which they are selling for a few hundred dollars or are giving away for free because they “just want it gone” is likely riddled with problems due to age.  This is the real reason why there are no good used pianos in the market today. AGE!

Let’s use a car analogy to make the point.  When you buy a car off the showroom floor and drive away it is likely that you will no longer have that car within 5 – 7 years or maybe a bit more.  Perhaps you have taken great care of it and driven it normally for 80,000 miles or so, but it is beginning to show its age and needs more repairs than it might be worth to you.  So you trade it in.  The dealer will give you some money towards your next car.  If you sell it online, you might get more than the dealer will give but not much.  Since it is old and worn it will not command much of a price on the used market even though it is less than 10 years old.  Not surprisingly, within a few more years the car will end up in a junk yard and eventually as a pile of scrap metal.  Pianos however are much different.

When someone buys a piano from a quality dealer the intention is to keep the piano and this is exactly what they do.  Let’s say in 1945 Grandma bought a small spinet piano.  She played it all the time and everyone loved to hear her play.  As time goes on grandma decides she can’t play anymore and gives the piano to one of her children so that a grandchild might take lessons.  By now the piano is probably 30 years old.  The grandchild begins lessons and sadly does not take to the piano.  The family keeps the piano in the living room as an heirloom that displays photos and decorations for the next 25 years.  After all this time the family decides they no longer want the piano and it is offered to one of the children.  Likely because of the style and wear of the piano it will not fit into the décor of the children or simply they just don’t want the “thing”.  Suddenly the idea to sell the piano becomes necessary.  I mean it is not possible to think that a 60-year-old piano might end up the way a disused vehicle does, in the junk pile or the dump? 

You see the fact is people do not trade in their pianos for a new one after only a few years.  They are held on to even if they are not used for many, many years.  Therefore the market is flooded with old pianos that do not really work well and cost almost nothing.  Even piano stores carry very few good used pianos.  Pianos that have been well cared for and have very few condition issues are nearly impossible to find.  Pianos have thousands of parts that must work well and not be overly worn for it to perform acceptably and not cause issues that will frustrate the person who has to play or learn on it.  It may be interesting to know that often when an old piano is traded in to a retail piano store the piano store will likely discard the piano because the cost of repairing and tuning and moving it around will outweigh the possibility of selling it in a store for any real profit.  Piano repair is usually very expensive due to the hand-crafted quality of the work and the fact that if one thing is visibly not functioning then there are many more problems just waiting to go wrong.  If the piano has not been played for many years and has sat unused, then once it begins to be used again the problems surface and that free piano suddenly needs many costly repairs. 

So as a person who wants to buy a piano be aware that these used pianos online will eventually cost you a lot more than the sticker price.  By the time it is evaluated, moved, tuned and repaired (assuming it can be tuned and is worth repairing) you may be many hundreds if not a couple of thousand dollars into a very old instrument.

So what should you do?

Speak with a professional, retail piano store.  Most have good reputations and want to help you find the right piano.  Buying a piano does not happen over night so if you feel pressured to purchase just step back and keep looking.  The right piano is available, and it should not take very long to find.

PianoWorks Gallery & Clocks has on staff people who are musicians and pianists.  We love the piano and love trying to help those who are interested in finding the best piano for their lifestyle and budget.  The first step is to reach out to us and then trust our friendly, honest approach to helping you.

When your ready and you have exhausted the other options for finding a great piano, even a used one give us a call.  We are the source for all of West Texas for new and used pianos.

 Ask for Steven or Philip at 432-262-4420.

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