Written by Doug Hanvey
As a piano teacher, it’s not uncommon for me to hear a student who’s in the market for an acoustic instrument to say they found a promising piano on Craigslist, and ask if they should go for it.
My response is usually ambivalent. Indeed, most often I caution students against purchasing a piano from a private seller. I have a small catalog of reasons why it’s better to purchase a used instrument from a brick and mortar piano store.
Here are the most important ones:
#1. You Can Compare Instruments
As when you buy just about any other big-ticket item, it’s useful to compare models and individual pianos. A private seller is probably only selling one piano.
At a store, you can walk around and play many different instruments to compare their action, tone, etc. You can also compare the used instruments to new ones.
Not only that, but most piano stores that sell used pianos will usually offer a range of instruments at different price points. If you’re seeking a bargain, you might find a decent piano at a lower price than a private seller would ever offer.
#2. You’ll Avoid a Dud
A piano for sale by a private party may be remarkable. Or it may be a dud.
If you’re an experienced pianist and have previously owned pianos, and especially if you know something about piano construction, you may be able to easily recognize a dud. When buying a used piano on Craigslist, you’ll need to know what questions to ask the seller and how to inspect a used piano.
If this is your first piano, buying a used instrument at a piano store is a much better idea.
Why? Piano stores don’t want to sell you a substandard instrument. Doing so wouldn’t serve their reputation in the community. While their cheaper used instruments may not be outstanding (they’re used, after all), they will almost certainly be good enough for a starter instrument.
If the pre-owned pianos were in inferior condition when purchased by the store, they will certainly have been restored before being put on the floor.
#3. You May Be Able to Rent
Private sellers are not going to rent you a piano so you can try it out. Many piano stores will.
Not only that, but many retailers will offer to put part of your rent – say, the first six months – towards the purchase of the rented instrument. This is a wonderful opportunity for any prospective piano owner who wants to take their time getting to know an instrument, or who wants to make sure that an acoustic piano will actually work in their home before committing to a purchase.
#4. You’ll Get a Warranty
Private sellers will typically sell their instrument “as is.” While you may have the option of hiring a piano technician to check it out before purchasing it, you can avoid the hassle and expense by purchasing at a store.
Any store worth their salt will offer you a parts and labor warranty to ensure that you are satisfied. The best piano retailers want you to be a lifelong customer. Your satisfaction is essential to their long-term success. A private seller obviously doesn’t have the same motivation.
#5. You’ll Get Free Delivery
Smart private sellers, or highly-motivated ones, may sometimes offer free delivery with a purchase. Piano stores always will.
Why go through the hassle of securing the services of a piano moving company when you can entrust that process to the store with no hassle at all?
#6. How About a Free Tuning?
A piano should always be tuned after it is moved. Private sellers are not going to offer to pay to have your piano tuned after delivery. Why pay for this service when nearly every store will offer a free initial tuning as part of your purchase?
Find a Used Piano Seller You Can Trust
At Portland Piano Company, our certified piano technicians carefully evaluate each used piano in our Portland showroom. Additionally, each used piano we sell comes with a warranty, bench, prep, and tuning in-store, in-home tuning after delivery, and lifetime upgrade policy.
About the Author
Doug Hanvey teaches virtual and online piano lessons for adults. Doug holds a master’s degree in adult education and is the author of The Creative Keyboardist method for adults. He is a member of Music Teachers National Association.