How Should I Choose a Used Piano Dealer?

This section deals with how to choose a dealer for your used piano needs. We encourage you to find a dealer with an in-house restoration facility — one that you can actually see, by the way — not a mythical one the dealer CLAIMS to have, but is nowhere in sight.

As a used piano shopper, this information should be very useful to you! Almost every piano dealer takes trade-ins. Some trade-ins are bound to be basket cases, some will be diamonds in the rough, most are somewhere in between. In any case, we assure you of this: No trade-in is ever ready to move right on to the showroom floor without serious work.

To say it another way, every single trade in can be vastly improved by having a technician run through our checklist — a list based upon Piano Technicians Guild standards. Performing all the steps in this list can take days. This work is referred to as “restoration work“. Used pianos that are even just a few years old are not exempt from needing restoration work. Such work involves four separate areas, often performed by different craftsmen.

So how do dealers tackle refurbishing and reselling their trade-ins? That depends on which showroom you have just visited. Dealerships who don’t have an in-house restoration facility usually struggle to compete with those who do. Without an in-house shop, dealers are left with four choices for restoration work:

1) don’t do it and sell the instrument as is,

2) don’t do it and claim it was performed (you’d be surprised how often this actually occurs),

3) allow independent contractors (as opposed to full-time technicians) to enter their showroom and perform “restorations” without adequate tools such as table saws, drill presses, hoists, heat guns, a spray booth etc., making restorations — let alone a complete rebuild — a near-impossibility,

4) send the piano to an outside shop, negotiate who’s responsible for any promised warranties and be burdened with several hundred dollars spent in moving the piano back and forth for servicing.

When looking for a broad selection of good used or restored pianos, finding a reputable piano dealer with an in-house shop is where you’re more likely to get the best bang for your buck. Certainly there are many talented independent piano rebuilders and refinishers, but these independent technicians typically concentrate on retail-quality restorations only for their private customers. They don’t have dozens of pianos to choose from, since they’re not usually in the resale business — certainly not at a level where you’ll have a great selection or support from an established dealer.

Choosing a dealer is important. Where you buy can be more important than what you buy, especially in the arena of used pianos. Most major markets have good ones and bad ones. Of course, wherever you are in the world, we’d be glad to earn your business if you’re shopping for a top-quality used piano!