New vs Used Pianos: Why Buying a New Piano is Your Best Option?

New vs Used Pianos: Why Buying a New Piano is Your Best Option?

The art of playing piano, navigating 88 keys simultaneously with two hands, is a challenge for all ages but has enormous benefits. Just consider the findings of these three key studies.

It’s not surprising that many parents feel cultivating their children’s musical ability through piano lessons is worth the investment. The first step to encouraging your little Mozart is to give them a high-quality piano. However, pianos are one of the most expensive instruments, starting around $3,000 and running all the way into the tens of thousands. Is buying used a more reasonable option? A good piano has an estimated lifespan of about 50 years, and some rebuilt antique pianos can go another 50. Why not save some cash and buy used? It’s important to examine the risks of any investment. Let’s look at the drawbacks of buying used and why buying new is a better option.

Should I Buy Used Piano?

The Only Advantage: Saving Money

The obvious benefit of buying a used piano is that you’ll save money. How much should you expect to pay? You can probably find one under $500, or sometimes owners will offer them for free if you’ll simply move them. However, there is a need for caution. You don’t want to end up with a piano that is not usable or requires extensive reconditioning. Even at a great price, they are heavy and extremely difficult to move. The last thing you want is to get a piano you can’t use, and end up having to move it again, or pay to have it junked.

If you can bump your budget a little higher, maybe $1,500, it’s likely you can find a used piano from a dealer. This situation offers a little more protection. Dealers often get pianos on trade. They recondition them, polish the outside and typically provide a very limited warranty. Keep in mind, however, at this price point, you’re probably still looking at a 40-year-old piano with average sound quality. If it includes a warranty, it’s likely to be short-term.

As with any purchase, you get what you pay for. If you spend $3,000 or more, you may get a higher quality piano and may even stumble onto a very good deal. A private owner may not know the true value of the instrument, or may just be looking to make a quick sale at a bargain price. If you do opt to risk buying used, be sure to have the piano inspected by a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) before purchasing.

Three Disadvantages

Buying a used piano comes with risks, including these three.

  1. Incurring Additional Costs: When you buy a used piano, you risk getting ripped off and having to  incur additional costs to get your piano in working order. This is especially true if you opt out of having it inspected by an RPT, which can cost at least $200. Buying from private sellers is especially risky since they may be selling a unit that looks like a great deal, but is really damaged. You won’t have the protection of a warranty when buying privately either. Look out for specific red flags. For example, it’s common for older pianos that have not been used often to grown mold. Not only does this damage the instrument, but it can affect your health too. Additionally, keep in mind that even if you get a used piano in seemingly good shape, you may still have additional costs. A piano that has not been tuned in many years may take an RPT a few tunings to get it in shape. This can cost hundreds of dollars.
  2. Higher Maintenance Costs: Be sure you budget for maintenance costs if you buy used. Just like all old things, old pianos are susceptible to damage. Moving, loud playing, even climate changes can cause them to get out of tune faster. Budget for these additional tunings and repairs.
  3. A Complicated Shopping Experience: “Used” can mean the piano was new last year or 50 years ago. Shopping for a used piano will likely yield an overwhelming variety of options.  For example, the Chicago Tribune ran an article on the revival of the piano industry, noting that at the time of their printing, 1,000 used pianos were listed on Craigslist in Chicago. The selection ranged from a 1930s upright piano being given away for free to a Yamaha baby grand listed for $10,999. It can be confusing and stressful sorting through available instruments. When shopping for a used piano you must do all the leg work, and bear the pressure of determining if it’s a good deal or not. It’s far different than walking into a piano store, finding what you want, and leaving with the confidence of a full warranty.

New is the Better Option

Young girl seated in front of a new piano

All of the above disadvantages are eliminated when you buy a new piano. Consider the benefits.

  • Know your costs upfront. Instead of incurring additional costs, you know all your costs upfront. Dealers often offer attractive financing, so you can easily budget for your new instrument.
  • Get superior performance. An out-of-pitch piano is very discouraging to any piano player, but especially to those just learning. You know what you are getting when you buy new. By caring for your instrument, you’ll get decades of superior performance and stress-free playing.
  • Have peace of mind. New pianos come with warranties, typically ranging from three years to “lifetime.” Warranties are usually offered through the manufacturer and must be claimed within a certain period of time after purchase. However, stores sometimes offer additional warranties.

Give Your Student the Best Chance at Success

Avoid the frustration of a low-quality, damaged or unusable piano. Give your students the best chance of success with a brand-new instrument they can make their own. Grace Music School has a unique relationship with Steinway & Sons Piano where you can get the piano of your dreams for any budget. There are rental options as well, so you can try out your piano before committing to purchase it. Please contact us to get started on your piano lessons, and we can also connect you with a representative from Steinway to help you select the best piano for you or your child.

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