If you don’t know much about pianos or their price ranges, don’t feel bad. After all, if you’re not regularly buying pianos, why would you? If it’s any consolation, most people don’t know much about pianos and their prices — even people who play them and teach on them every day. After reading this page however, you will have a much better understanding of price ranges and value than most professional pianists. Other pages on this site will get you there, too.
I. “How Much Are Pianos?”
Much like cars, pianos can be “free for the hauling” or tens of thousands of dollars. Countless cars across America are constantly being brought to junkyards or crushed because repair costs exceed the value of the car. Similarly, thousands of used pianos across America truly have no monetary value because the mere cost of moving it, let alone adding any restoration costs, exceeds its value.
Because people know more about cars than pianos, it’s rare that a car dealer would hear the question “How much are cars?” You could see how difficult this question would be to answer! So with pianos, the more appropriate question might be “How are pianos priced and why?” And that’s a question that takes some explaining.
II. Used Pianos are Also Not Like Used Cars!
Unlike cars, pianos don’t change much from year to year, as next year’s models won’t have an 89th key or a fourth pedal. Used pianos also don’t become obsolete like computers — which resell at a mere fraction of the cost of new ones. Piano models rarely change from year to year, In fact, our industry is rather boring in this regard. Some piano models remain largely unchanged for decades, which given their human-like life spans, explains why many good used pianos can easily command much more than 50% of what their new counterparts cost.
For example, if a car is five years old its functional life might be half over. A 5 year-old piano is still well within its infancy. If a baby grand from brand X sells for, say a rock bottom $10,000 new, then the same model, used for 5 years, might easily sell for $8000 on the open market. This can be disheartening to the professional shopper looking for a mint-condition used baby grand piano for say, $3000! (The truth is, $8000 may be a great bargain for the used baby grand in the above scenario.)
This is one of the realities of used pianos, especially concerning those which are still “young”. In cases like the above, the used prices end up being JUST enough under the similar new one in order to entice a buyer to forgo the benefits of buying NEW (factory warranty, flawless cabinet, etc) and simply pay less for a comparable used. An important consideration is that the comparison at hand is truly “apples to apples”. In most cases, it’s not because so many manufacturers have changed hands in recent years…or changed manufacturing facilities/techniques, that even if you’re comparing the same used brand & model to a seemingly identical new one, the whole story may not be in front of you. In some instances, many used pianos can rightfully sell for much MORE than their new counterparts.
III. Finding Pricing Information on a Specific Used Piano
When a piano is older, and/or the manufacturer went out of business decades ago, determining value gets tricky — particularly for a potential buyer. Unfortunately, there is little, if any, accurate and/or definitive information on determining the value of an aged or “really used” used piano. The condition of the instrument outweighs everything else. Whereas, the price of a new piano is USUALLY dictated by MSRP’s, older used pianos have a more complex formula — one that begins with a technician’s visit to check out the piano’s…er, “vital signs”. While cabinet styling certainly has been known to influence a purchase (“judging a book by its cover”), be advised that a piano’s appearance — whether beautiful or atrocious, doesn’t often have anything to do with a piano’s quality or value.
One way to play it safe is to find a local, trustworthy dealer who has a reputation for being fair to help show you price ranges and what to expect from these price ranges in terms of musical quality and furniture style. We know however, that many readers here may not live in areas that are serviced by a reputable dealer, not to mention one that has a great inventory of new and used pianos. No matter how much research you do, you should not expect to become a fully-qualified piano technician in the space of time while you are shopping for a piano!
Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to be in an area where you have a reputable piano store with an in-house technical staff and shop that is willing to walk you through the restoration process (it’s actually pretty interesting!). Then you can see first-hand just how complex and wonderful pianos really are and why buying privately or through a marginal dealer can be a risky endeavor.
IV. Used Vertical Piano Prices
Remember that pianos have a long lifespan; if you purchase wisely, you’ll only have to do this once. That said, for a used vertical piano that is properly restored and warrantied, you can expect to pay $1000 up to, well, up to $13,000 or more (as in a vintage Steinway, for example). Generally, most reconditioned verticals end up somewhere between $1500 and $4000. Obviously, there is plenty of overlap in price between used and new pianos — but that’s a whole different essay! Incidentally, good new digital pianos cost about the same.
Check our used vertical piano inventory pages to see what’s in stock! But please note that our online inventory only represents a fraction of what we have in stock. If you are looking for something you don’t see, please e-mail or call us at 773.383.1734. We have an extensive “piano finder” database where you can give us your wish list and we’ll compare it to pianos that are available to us but are not yet in our inventory.
V. Used Grands
As for used grand (and baby grand) prices? For starters, we get calls almost every week from someone just wanting one “out of their house”. Pianos can often need restoration work that well exceeds the eventual value of the instrument, so “freebies” are common because well, they just aren’t worth anything. Even the cost of the move alone can exceed the value of some grands.
Grands that are truly playable are another story. Grands that play well AND look nice is yet another. And just what constitutes “nice”? What YOU need to spend in order to get what YOU want is largely determined by what YOU find is acceptable. Let’s say you found a playable, older baby grand from say, the 70’s selling for $4000, but when you went to see it, that “beautiful walnut” finish turned out to be the medium-tone, honey walnut stain frequently used in that era that matches absolutely nothing you own. Or maybe it’s ebony, but the ebony finish has become checked (or “alligatored”) due to sunlight, so once again, that one’s not finding a home in your living room either.
The time it takes to find that needle in a haystack can be daunting. You will likely find that your time is much more valuable than the savings you may incur through multiple want ad calls and home visits in which your wish list eventually becomes clear. If you do your homework here, you’ll really know what to ASK for when talking to dealers. The more specific you can get, the faster you’ll rule out places to visit — either because you can tell they don’t have what you want (some dealers, by design, don’t even have websites), or they’re not qualified…they’re not being straight…or they’re really just “four walls in a strip mall” and really aren’t even IN the used piano business. To truly be in the used piano business, a dealer must have a restoration shop, otherwise, the “strip mall” dealer’s used inventory is pretty much limited to trade ins which are often used as pawns to help sell the new pianos that they’re really in the business to sell!
A really good dealer will actually ask YOU a lot of questions to make sure they have what you’re really looking for, even if YOU don’t know how to ask for it. If you’re seeking a good PIANO as well as a nice piece of FURNITURE, prices will start rising and will begin to overlap with inexpensive new pianos made in China and Indonesia, a comparison which might be a good idea for you, at least for comparison’s sake.
There is no “Blue Book” for used pianos because the value of a used piano is almost entirely based on its INDIVIDUAL condition. (Hint for sellers: if you want to know your piano’s value, call a technician to appraise it! It’s the ONLY way to get a specific dollar value on your instrument.)
Contact Park Avenue Pianos to start a discussion about what used piano might work for you. Some customers may wish to visit the showroom; others simply buy from them online. Check the used inventory pages to see if we have what you’re looking for. Even if they don’t, email them anyway with your wishlist because their used inventory changes almost every day even though they can’t update it every day.
VI. New Piano Prices
As we mentioned, most piano manufacturers have very strict dealership agreements that expressly prohibit dealers in North America from phone quoting or internet quoting sale prices. It’s safe to say that you could spend a lot more money on a good used piano than you could on an entry level piano made in China or Indonesia. Retail prices on new, entry level vertical pianos begin under $3000. Retail prices on new baby grands begin under $8000. Discounts off retail prices vary dramatically depending on the manufacturer.
VII. How to Buy a Piano
When purchasing a new or used piano, you should carefully choose your dealer, as buying privately or buying from a not-so-reputable dealer certainly can have its drawbacks.
Pianos last a long time (60-80+ years and beyond!), so when looking for a dealer, look for one that has a large selection of used pianos to consider in addition to new brands they carry. Literally ask them how many pianos are on display to see if it’s worth your visit.