When the time comes to buy a piano, which is a better deal: a new piano or a used piano?
Pianos are like cars because it may take some time to find the one that's right for you. More often than not, the "used piano" phrase conjures up an image of an old upright piano on its last legs with a ridiculous amount of repair work needed. This is a common misconception. The fact is, there are many excellent deals on used pianos in the private sector and at piano dealerships all over the world. You must set aside some time to go look at each piano which could take days or even weeks. If you have ever bought a used car, you know that there are good deals out there, but it takes time. One of the advantages of shopping a piano dealer is that you can get a quick overview of both the new and used line. Financing is often available for new or used at the piano stores. In less than an hour, you can get a good feel for what might be the right instrument for your family. Most dealers will deliver and tune your piano as part of the deal.
As far as the privately owned pianos go, there are probably several good deals on these within an hour of your home. A 45-minutes trip may save you $500 in many cases. Once again, like used cars, the environment tells the real story. If you walk in to a piano teacher's studio and see a nice neat room where the piano is the centerpiece without a scratch on it, you know the thing is probably in excellent condition. On the other hand, if you show up and the piano is buried under lawn equipment in the garage and all nicked up, that one will probably need at least $500 worth of work. You could bring a piano technician out for the price of a service call to take a look at this beast. Maybe it just needs a few minor repairs, cleaned up and a good pitch raising. In this case, you could offer the owner $100 for it because it obviously needs some T.L.C. Most owners of this type will say, "Sure, I'll take $100 for it. I just want to get it out of here to make room for my riding mower." Now get the piano tuner to arrange the move and the repair job and in about 10 days, you'll have a great new instrument sitting in your living room for half the price.
If the seller "wants to think about it," pay the piano tuner to do an appraisal before you leave if you really like the piano. You can then use this as a bargaining tool with the seller the next day on the phone.
New pianos are an investment. Many reputable dealers who have been in business for a long time will finance your piano, have it delivered and tuned, and offer a trade in of equal value which is good anytime in the future. So if you trade in a $9,000 piano 12 years from now, they will take $9,000 off the selling price of your next piano. The question is, will they still be in business when it's time to buy your next piano? Are they a chain store with several locations? Once again, like a car, you would put a down payment on your new piano and finance the rest. This situation is perfect for the serious piano student who might want to practice on a Yamaha like they have in the practice rooms at college. Also, for the person who has always wanted a brand new baby grand in their living room.
One final note: do not buy a cheap, beat up piano for a brand new student because, just like a freshman's car at college, nobody wants to spend much time around a broken piece of machinery. So if you want your kid to come home from college to visit once in a while, get them a decent used car and if you want them to practice piano and stick with it, get them an instrument in good working order, new or used.