8 Things to Know Before Buying a Used Piano

Mother and daughter playing piano
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Before you check out a used piano, learn about its background. Ask the seller about the brand, model, year of manufacture, and if possible, the piano’s serial number. You can ​use the information to find the piano’s value before you even leave your house.

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Why Are They Selling the Piano?

The reasons for selling a piano are plenty; make sure those reasons aren’t going to cost you. Watch out for reasons like: “It’s taking up space,” or “I could use the money.” It might allude to neglect, and if they need the cash, chances are they haven’t been spending on maintenance.

You should also ask whether they’ll be purchasing another piano, and if so, why they prefer it to the one they’re selling.

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How Often Was the Piano Tuned?

Was the tuning schedule consistent? A piano must be tuned at least twice per year; anything less could mean you’ll soon be paying extra for special tunings or other related maintenance.

If the piano is out of tune, purchase at your own risk. You’ll have no way of knowing if the piano is out of tune because of serious internal issues or if it’s tunable at all.

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Who Performed Maintenance on the Piano?

Was the piano being tuned by a qualified professional or by Bob down the street for $25? If Bob wasn’t qualified, he may have made some errors that could lead to an avalanche of internal damage. Tuning and repairs should always be carried out by a registered piano technician.

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Where Has the Piano Been Stored?

Beware if a piano has been kept in a basement (especially in flood-prone areas) or a public storage facility. These areas often lack climate-control, and temperature extremes along with humidity fluctuations pose serious threats to piano health.

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Has the Piano Been Moved Around a Lot?

Find out how much extra stress the piano has endured, and whether any dangerous measures were ever taken during a move (like leg removal). Keep an eye out for tight corners and small staircases leading to a piano room, because these could up your moving bill.

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Who Was Playing the Piano?

Two pianos of the same make and age will each sound differently 20 years from now, depending on who’s been playing them. Serious pianists are more inclined to keep their instruments in top shape because they’re more likely to get annoyed at minute changes in sound. On the other hand, those uninterested in playing the piano are interested in testing its volume or ambushing the keyboard with a merciless series of glissandos.

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How Often Was the Piano In Use?

Was the piano avidly played or was it kept for ambiance? This is important to know so you can find out if it was tuned accordingly. Household pianos used once a week or more should be tuned four times per year, while unused pianos can go up to a year in the right climate conditions.

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Who Were the Previous Owners?

If possible (and applicable), find out how many previous owners the piano has had, and how well they cared for it. The longer a piano’s history, the longer you’re affected by it; get to know your potential investment as intimately as possible, and watch out for signs of damage when inspecting a used instrument.