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Used vs New Acoustic Pianos, Which Is Right For You?

Many people decide to buy a piano after renting for a while or after deciding that an electronic instrument is no longer appropriate. Others elect to begin study with an acoustic piano.

Once you have made the decision to buy a piano, the next question is whether to buy a new one or a used one. We understand that this decision can be intimidating and overwhelming so we have put together some information to help you along the way.

New Pianos

  • Price
    • New pianos can be a hefty investment, often ranging anywhere from $3,500 to $100,000. Buying a new piano will give you superior quality in the instrument, but is likely going to be your most expensive option.
  • Maintenance & Warranty
    • New pianos will likely not require any maintenance for several years. If your new piano does happen to have any problems, it should be covered by a full manufacturer’s warranty and will be repaired at little or no cost to you. A new piano may also require tuning after it arrives at your home. If you buy from a dealer, they may include tuning with the price of delivery. If not, you may elect to hire a piano tech to tune your piano for you.
  • Moving Costs
    • New pianos will have moving costs included in the price or warranty. Dealers will often deliver your new piano for little to no extra charge.

New Piano Advantages

  • Manufacturer’s warranty included
  • Little chance of hidden defects
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Easier to shop for
  • Usually more local choices
  • Longer piano life expectancy
  • Moving cost is usually included
  • Greater peace of mind after purchasing

New Piano Disadvantages

  • Higher upfront cost
  • Significant depreciation loss if resold within first few years
  • Limited choice of attractive older styles and finishes

Used Pianos

  • Price
    • Used pianos are less expensive. However, you must also factor in the cost of moving, tuning and maintenance for your used piano. Buying a used piano from a private seller can also be risky, as there is no warranty or insurance involved. Often, a good course of action is to have a potential piano looked at by a technician to determine its value. This will add an expense to your search for a used piano.
  • Maintenance & Warranty
    • Used pianos are much more likely to require maintenance. Used pianos can easily be compared to used cars. How much maintenance it requires depends upon how well it was treated by its previous owners. Typically a used piano bought from a dealer will be in decent shape aesthetically and covered by a dealer’s warranty. A used piano bought from a private owner may require maintenance on the casework, tuning, and other small repairs.
  • Moving Costs
    • Used pianos may require you to hire someone to move your piano, especially if you’re buying from a private seller. If you’re buying from a dealer, ask if they include free delivery services. It is not advisable to move a piano on your own. Use professional piano moving services if you don’t want to damage your new investment.

Used Piano Advantages

  • Lower upfront cost
  • Greater choice of attractive older styles and finishes. Can be more fun and interesting to shop for (if you like shopping for old things)
  • Restorer may detail instrument to an extent that rivals new piano
  • Piano is likely to already be significantly depreciated, resulting in little or no loss if resold

Used Piano Disadvantages

  • No manufacturer’s warranty (though there may be a dealer’s or restorer’s warranty)
  • Greater chance of hidden defects (unless completely restored)
  • Higher maintenance costs (unless completely restored)
  • Shorter piano life expectancy (unless completely restored)
  • Can be difficult and confusing to shop for
  • Need to pay technician to examine and appraise it
  • Possible need to pay for professional piano moving

Although there are a lot of disadvantages, most people start with a used piano because of the lower upfront cost and because they feel they can manage the risks that come with it. The most important thing to remember for minimizing risk is to have the piano professionally inspected by a piano technician prior to purchase. This is especially important when buying privately because there is no warranty, and particularly important if the piano is over ten years old. This professional examination should cost between $100 and $200 and is well worth the money.

Used pianos actually come in a wide variety of conditions and situations, many of which can be quite attractive, musically and financially. However, pianos priced at a few hundred dollars or for free on websites like Craigslist and other social media are usually a very poor option. These "bargain pianos" will almost always need a great deal of work to bring them into playable condition, and are often not worth the considerable cost of moving them.

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