Video 5: Used Pianos

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Take a step-by-step video tour of the piano buying process.
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Video 5: Used Pianos - How Old Is Too Old

(where to find good used pianos, how age and size effect price, basics on reading ads) 

How much you should pay for a used piano

You know, figuring out how much you should pay for a used piano is a lot like figuring out how much you should pay for a used car. When people shop for a used car, the first thing they do is decide how much they can afford. Then they look at make, model, year, and mileage. They look at all the ads and get a good idea of the going prices. If those prices are too high then they look at a car that's a little older or that has more miles. Well, with used pianos it's exactly the same, except without considering mileage. You start with a budget, decide on manufacturer and look at the model's sizes and age. After manufacturer, it's primarily a combination of size and age, that determines price. Just remember, a larger the piano - the higher the price, the older the piano - the lower the price.

Why piano age is important

The reason why age is so important is because it can be directly linked to a piano's structural condition. In parts of the country that have extreme shifts in humidity, I personally wouldn't recommend a piano older than 40 years. However, in parts of the country that have a consistent environment, you may be able to consider a piano that's older than 50 or 60 years. Before you guess, go out and get the advice of a local piano technician.

Now the most common question I get is: "where can I find a good used piano?" There are tons of places to find good used pianos. You can look in the newspaper, you can go to piano stores, you can ask friends, family piano tuners, piano teachers, piano movers. But the best place to find the most good used pianos and to do comparison shopping is to look online at To get an overall idea of pianos available in your area, do a search only using the word "piano". Because people make up strange names for uprights and grams all the time. Afterwards, you can filter these results by manufacturer. If you do have a specific manufacturer in mind, but a search on your local Craigslist only brings up a couple of results, you can expand a search to the nearest major metropolitan area. And when you've narrowed it down to a specific make and model, but you feel you need more results for comparison-shopping, don't hesitate to do searches in our country's largest metropolitan areas.

What piano price tells us about

So say you get your sights on a specific manufacturer but the only way you can afford one of their instruments, is to go either really old or really small. Don't do it. From years of experience, that you're gonna be way better off with a less expensive manufacturer. Age, size, and condition are always more important than brand. Unless you've got money built into your budget for major repairs and rebuilding. When you're looking at ads and you see a price that's either way too high or way too low - a warning bell should go off in your head. Nine times out of ten, a very high price indicates a seller with an unrealistic idea of what their piano is worth. While a very low price probably indicates a piano that has something wrong with it. Sometimes though, a very low price can mean a seller that wants a quick sale, maybe they're moving. If you can determine a motive like that, then it's probably an instrument you need to consider. Remember, always to get as much information as you can. You'll be in a much better position when the wheeling and dealing begin, to help you cut through all the silly stuff people put in their ads, we've created a document called "interesting details that don't affect price" you can download it below. Once you've narrowed it down to a couple of pianos but before you go out and look at them, it's time to call a local piano technician. Run the ads by him, along with any other info you've gathered and see what he thinks. When choosing a piano tech I recommend you go with one that's registered. Go to the piano technicians guild website to find one in your area. A registered piano technician has to pass a battery of tests, this way you know you're getting someone competent. Now you've done all the research gotten, a piano technicians advice, aand it's time to go and check out some pianos. I'll tell you the right way to do that in our next video!

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