The Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Used Piano

What to Consider Before Buying a Pre-Owned or Refurbished Piano

Relaxed woman at the piano

 Getty Images Plus/ The Image Bank / Oliver Rossi

A piano’s value depends on many factors, and used pianos have a long list of factors to consider. “Used” doesn’t always mean economical, so it’s best to set a budget while getting a good idea of what you want in an acoustic piano.

Pros of a Pre-Owned Piano

  1. The "voice" of a quality used piano ages well. While the timbre of a well-kept piano may evolve over time, it shouldn’t develop a contrasting tone (which happens with some poorly-made new pianos). Be sure you can schedule regular tune-ups to help maintain sound quality.
  2. You could stumble upon a great deal. Some private sellers are in a rush to sell their instrument — whether because of a move or disinterest — others might not be price-savvy, or may simply want to sell a great piano for a low price. But be careful; low piano prices are often too good to be true. If you want to take a chance on buying a suspiciously-priced piano, bring a registered piano technician along for the visit.
  3. The history behind an antique piano is alluring if not mysterious. Just be sure it’s been a positive one. A properly-kept piano has a life span of 30 to 60 years, so don’t be shocked to learn the owners purchased the instrument a decade or two ago.
  4. Sampling is a great way to get to know pianos. This means you should test as many as possible. If you’re unhappy with the sound of a piano, don’t be afraid to move on. This time must be spent discovering your personal preferences, and learning to appreciate quality.

Cons of Buying a Pre-Owned Piano

  1. A flexible budget is best. A high-end used piano will cost you more money up front, while a good, lesser-known instrument may need some extra work (or at the very least, a fresh tuning). In larger markets, expect to see used pianos for $800 on the same page as a used piano for $35,000.
  2. You could get ripped off. While this is also true on the professional sales floor, it’s safe to assume that not every private owner has known how to care for their instrument through the years. Know how to check for common signs of piano damage, and seriously consider hiring a professional to accompany you during your searches.
  3. Mold growth can impair health. This is true especially in children. Left in certain temperatures and room conditions, a piano can quickly and easily host bacteria and mold colonies. When visiting a used piano, be conscious of any unfavorable piano room conditions.
  4. Used pianos are more susceptible to stress. This is simply because they’ve experienced more of it. Repeated moving, fluctuating climates, and even loud playing can cause problems with tuning, and can all lower the value of a piano over time. Be sure to get a clear history of an acoustic piano you might consider — there are 8 specific questions you should always ask before buying a used piano.