“Plays beautifully. It does not fit into our new home and now sits in our garage. It is yours to take away. You must provide your own transport and labor. ”
Take a look through Craigslist, and you’ll notice that used pianos are a popular item for sale. Take a closer look, and you’ll see that many people are actually giving away their pianos - they just want you to come and pick it up from them. In the economic sense, there is no such thing as a “free piano” - it costs time and money to transport a piano to your home. On top of that, it’s likely that a free or cheap piano requires significant repair or maintenance to play properly.
But if you are a bargain hunter (which you probably are if you’re on Priceonomics), the benefit of buying a used piano can be significant cost savings. Things that are a pain in the butt to transport tend to get heavily discounted on secondary markets. Sellers have to offer a solid discount in order to compel buyers to undertake the hassle of transporting the item. If you’ve ever bought or sold a used appliance like a refrigerator, you already know this.
So, we would expect used pianos to be offered at a significant discount to just buying them new from a dealer that delivers it to your house. It turns out, you can save 60% buying a piano used instead of new. If you are willing to invest in delivery and have the used piano inspected by a professional, you can save big.
The cost savings of buying a used piano
We decided to compare the used price of the most popular pianos on Priceonomics to the price of buying the same piano new instead. The most popular pianos on Priceonomics are biased toward high-end models from Steinway and Yahama, so please keep that in mind.
We found that on average, used pianos were 60% less expensive than new ones:
The average new price in our sample was $50,000 and the average used price was $19,000. In this case, you could save $31,000 buying the piano used instead of new!
What are the risks of buying a used piano?
Like any used product, a used piano can be damaged or defective. If you peruse through the listings of free and cheap pianos on classified advertising sites, you will find ample evidence that this is true.
How bad is it to buy a piano that may be damaged? Does it just need a tuneup or is it completely ruined? Is it difficult to tell if a piano is in poor condition? According to the Piano Technicians Guild:
- “Often problems that don't seem that big are major problems and vice versa.”
- “Keys that don't play are usually not a big problem.”
- “Look for notes that sound terribly out of tune when played by themselves.”
- “Another serious problem is the presence of strange rattles or buzzes.”
The Piano Technicians Guild’s (heavily biased) advice is to have a trained piano technician inspect the used piano before you buy one. We’re inclined to agree. Buying a used piano has the potential to save you tens of thousands of dollars, it’s worth the a small investment upfront to make sure you’re capturing the value and not foolishly buying a piece of junk.
If you are looking to buy a used piano you can save a lot of money. Like, seriously a lot. However, you’re going to have to work for those cost savings - sifting through many classified ads, visiting multiple sellers, getting a piano technician to inspect the product, arranging for its transport, and then getting the piano tuned or repaired by a professional. But, if you are willing to work for it, there are huge savings to be gained in the world of used pianos.
Oh yeah, Priceonomics is hiring engineers!