Have you thought about selling your piano but don’t know where to start? If so you’ve come to the right place! Having been on both sides of the equation, I can share with you that selling a piano is not as easy as it seems. However, with a plan of action in place, you can make the process much easier.
Pianos are valuable instruments, so the approach to selling them needs to be well thought out. The basics of selling a piano include:
- Researching the piano brand
- Determining a fair asking price
- Taking great photos of the instrument
- Listing the piano on eBay, Craigslist, and other marketplaces
- Running online or print ads to your listing
- Reaching out to piano technicians and tuners
- Selling your piano to a local shop
Everything from researching your piano brand, choosing a fair asking price, listing on marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist, and even donating the piano are all options. Much of this depends on how you value the instrument and the purpose of getting rid of it.
In this post, I’ll share some helpful information to help you sell your piano quickly, and some often overlooked techniques to peak the interest of potential buyers!
1. Research Your Piano Brand
Before you even list a piano for sale, research needs to be done on the instrument and brand. By this, I mean extensive research! Most pianos are built with a brand label, serial number, and model number. A simple Google search of that readily available information will show you a lot about your instrument.
Model numbers tell you what style of instrument you have. You’ll be able to determine if it’s a student conservatory model or something professional grade. Because model numbers have been around for many decades, it’s not enough to use that information alone.
This is where serial numbers come into play. Serial numbers can tell you the exact year your piano was manufactured. This is important because over the years piano manufacturers make slight (and sometimes major) changes to how they build their instruments.
For example, pianos pre-1960 might have ivory keys yet carry the same model number as pianos from 2019. The same can be said for the type of wood finish, hammer action parts, and even which factory the instrument was produced in. Certain features may be rare and present on only older models too. A detail like that can drastically change the value of your instrument.
Serial numbers for grand pianos are located directly on the cast iron plate. They are usually long numbers but printed large enough to easily read. Upright pianos have serial numbers too, but it’s either printed underneath the keyboard or inside the piano just under the lid.
Usually, older pianos sell for much less than their newer counterparts. This is because newer pianos are always better, especially with the advancement in piano production technology. On the other hand, some buyers prefer older models because of unique features you can’t find on newer ones. This isn’t just a cosmetic thing, but the sound older pianos produce might be more appealing to some.
In most cases, model numbers and serial numbers are going to be most important for grand pianos as opposed to uprights. This is not to say upright pianos do not hold some value, but grand pianos are usually of a higher quality and standard.
If you can’t find the information you’re looking for online, then definitely reach out to the manufacturer directly. They can provide information to you such as how the piano was built, the technicians that may have worked on it and much more. They can also help you certify your piano for authenticity.
2. Determine A Fair Price
By this point, you should have a ton of information about your instrument. You know where it was made, the year it was produced, and how much it sold for when it was new.
Determining a price can be difficult, but with a used piano you can use a depreciation method like this one to determine the price.
Used pianos will never sell for the original price, but they are still worth quite a bit. Another thing you can do is search for your piano or similar models and see what others are selling it for. If someone is selling a Yamaha C7 for $29,999 then you could undercut them and sell it for $25,999.
Or, if you feel your instrument is more valuable because of the finish on the wood casing then you could sell it for more. Rebuilt pianos will always sell for more because it’s essentially a brand new instrument again. If you have a quality piano like a Steinway that’s been rebuilt, it may be worth investing in a rebuild if you feel you can fetch much higher profits in the long run.
Below is a list of piano brands that typically fetch the highest used sale prices:
- Mason & Hamlin
Of course, there are many more brands, but these are the most recognizable by name brand alone. If you have one of these in your possession then it’s easier to ask for a higher price. These are piano brands with a proven track record of producing great performance quality instruments as long as they are well maintained.
There’s a lot that determines the price of a piano but here are a few basics to think about
- The finish of the instrument
- Custom legs, fallboard, bench, music stand, etc.
- Engravings or artwork
- Signatures from technicians or builders
- Cosmetic Value (scratches, blemishes, no damage)
- Working condition of the pedals and keys
I will say that one huge factor in the overall sale of pianos is the age of the instrument. Upright pianos especially have a much tougher time selling when they are older than 30 – 40 years old. At this point, the instrument is simply not worth much, and that much wear and tear on an upright will affect its functionality.
Grand pianos older than 50 years old don’t sell that well either unless it’s a luxury model like a Steinway or Yamaha. It’s not uncommon to see a Steinway from the 1800’s sell for almost as much as a brand new model.
If you’re in the possession of a Yamaha grand piano from the early 2000s, chances are it might have a piano player system in it. This is a technology that allows the piano to play itself, usually through a floppy drive.
These systems were extremely popular back then, but the technology is outdated. These days we have Bluetooth technology such as what you can find on the Steinway Spirio models. Pianos can now play music from an endless soundbank and transmit that information from an iPad.
The player systems from the past also had a bad effect on the touch and feel of those pianos. Most of those pianos were blocky and not responsive. While a player system still holds some value, I would not consider it something that will significantly boost your overall sale price.
If anything, treat it as an incentive to buy the piano rather than use it as a major selling point. They just simply don’t sell that well anymore, even in local stores.
3. List Your Piano On eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace
One of the most popular ways to sell a piano is to use an online marketplace. The most popular places to sell a piano online are eBay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. A simple search on any of these platforms yields tons of pianos of all shapes, sizes, and price ranges.
Selling a piano on an online marketplace has plenty of benefits such as:
- Better profit margins
- Simple transactions between the buyer and seller
- The ability to relist the item if it does not sell
- No storage fees
Whether you’re using eBay to sell your piano or some other service, the listing process is generally the same. You’ll start by uploading a few photos of your instrument, fill in some details, choose shipping methods, and set a sales price. Most of these platforms do administer a listing fee, so that will be taken out of your overall profits.
To ensure that the sale of your piano goes smoothly with an online service, you’ll want to do the following:
Take Great Photos Of The Piano
Nothing online ever sells easy, and something expensive like a piano is a perfect example of that. Because these instruments are so valuable, it’s crucial that you take great photos of the instrument.
Be sure to take every angle you can of the piano so that prospective buyers have an idea of the instrument. Never use stock photos of your own instruments! Pictures don’t need to be taken professionally, but it does help to have proper lighting.
I find that natural lighting works best when trying to sell something online. Before taking pictures of your piano make sure that the keys are polished, the piano has been dusted, and any smudges or marks are buffed out. If you need tips on how to clean your piano properly, read this article.
List Any Issues The Piano May Have
Every piano has a story to tell starting from the day it’s produced in the factory. While most pianos are well taken care of, those that have had several owners tend to have more issues.
If your piano has any glaring issues such as an inability to hold tune, broken keys or other mechanisms, or cosmetic issues like scratches and dents, you need to list that information. Trust me, there is nothing worse than having a buyer come check out your piano only to find that its got way more issues than advertised.
I would make it a point to list any major repairs the instrument has had over the years.
Another thing you could do is have the instrument repaired, cleaned professionally and prepped beforehand. You can even list those facts in your listing which makes buyers feel more confident about purchasing the instrument.
While listing issues your piano has may detract some buyers, it may actually attract buyers looking to make a bargain. In this instance, it might be a good idea to list a piano with serious issues at a higher price point so that you can eventually negotiate down to the price you desire for the instrument.
Get Your Instrument Inspected And Certified
Most piano buyers are searching eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook in search of specific brands. Below are some of the most popularly searched piano brands:
That’s a good mixture of luxury and middle of the road piano brands. When it comes to luxury brands; Steinway in particular, buyers are looking for genuine instruments. Too often people will sell those pianos with parts that are not genuine.
Because of this, it’s important to get the piano inspected and certified by a technician. Technicians are able to check out all of the working parts of the instrument, verify parts and serial numbers, and give it a seal of approval. This is especially helpful if you’ve got the piano in a private sale and don’t have the documentation to prove that the instrument is indeed an original.
Aside from verifying the authenticity of the piano, inspections can help you identify potential issues that you may have not seen before. If the piano has a problem that might arise let’s say in the next 3 – 6 months, a technician can tell you that. If parts are starting to wear down and need replacing, a technician can tell you that too.
At this point, you have the option to either fix those parts before selling or be transparent with the buyer. Ultimately, if the repairs are going to eat into any profits of the sale, you might be better off listing the instrument for less so you don’t go into the red.
Tune The Piano, Cover Moving Fees And Offer Other Incentives
Sometimes buyers of used pianos need an incentive to complete the purchase. There are many ways are recommended doing this.
- Covering tuning costs
- Covering moving fees
Both of these costs are an investment by you, so it’s important to factor those fees into the overall purchase price without being greedy. For example, if your piano is being sold for $500, it makes no sense to pay for moving and tuning fees as you would certainly go in the negative in terms of profits.
On the other hand, if you’re selling a Steinway or Yamaha for $20,000, then it would make sense to include those things because you could still walk away with $18,000 – $19,000 if that was your target price. Those are just examples, but a sold piano is better than one that you can’t get rid of!
The typical purchase price of a piano tuning is $150 although this can vary depending on the brand of piano and whether the piano also requires voicing, key adjustments and other small technical adjustments during the tuning session. Learn more about piano tuning fees here.
Piano moving costs are usually a flat rate of $500 if the move is local within a 30- 45-mile radius. Long-distance piano moves cost anywhere between 1,000 to $2,000. That’s something to really think about, especially if the customer lives far away from you. In a situation like that, it may not make sense to offer to cover the moving fees.
I highly suggest providing these incentives if you are trying to sell an expensive used piano. This would include something like Steinway, Yamaha, or any luxury brand piano. If you are simply trying to sell an upright piano then I would not offer much more than loading the piano in a pickup truck or U-Haul moving it yourself, or at least providing the first tuning for free of charge.
Other incentives that you can also throw into the sale price of your piano can include repertoire books, metronomes, cleaning supplies, or free maintenance on the instrument for a year. People like the idea of a jumpstart sort of package deal. The more you can offer (even if it’s minor) the more appealing the piano will be to them.
Again this needs to make sense financially for you before you start offering services that put you in the red.
Invite Prospective Buyers To Try Out Your Piano
This might seem obvious, but almost nobody purchases a piano if they have not physically try to play one.
If you’re selling a piano online especially, you need to set up a time for the customer to come try out your instrument. This is why it’s really important that the piano is clean, free of dust, and that all of the technical issues have been repaired or adjusted.
Piano purchasers are very interested in the sound of the instrument and how it feels to them. This is an emotional instrument, so having a connection to it at the end of the day is the most enticing part of the purchase, not just the pricing.
Be sure to come and try your piano, give them a story about it be sure to always comment on how the piano sounds to you and even talk about the things that the piano does well and does not do. The more information a customer feels they know, the better they will feel about completing the purchase.
4. Run Ads To Sell Your Piano
Whether you’re selling your piano online or locally, running ads is a great way to spark interest. there are all kinds of ads but the two will be on our online ads and print ads.
Online ads can include anything from Facebook, online classifieds, or Google ads. These ads usually feature a small snippet picture of the instrument along with an asking price and other useful information. Ads allow you to target certain users based on interests, age, and other demographics.
When it comes to selling a piano, it makes the most sense to show the ads to users interested in music, or who have performed a search related to piano purchases in the past.
Print ads work the same way, but there’s a lot less you can do when it comes to choosing your ideal customer. It’s kind of like tossing a penny in a haystack. It’s more cost-effective though, and you can usually run print ads much longer.
Another way you can advertise is through local shops. Drive to your nearest music store and ask about listing your piano on their website for sale. You can also leave flyers for your instrument there for customers at the counter.
Anytime you run an ad, you should certainly have a budget in mind. This is how much you plan to spend to advertise your piano before it starts eating into profits. While setting up a print ad might be cheaper in the long run, I think you’ll get much more traction with an online ad. This allows you to narrow down the customer, reach more people, and increase your chances of a solid purchase.
5. Reach Out To Technicians And Piano Tuners
Piano enthusiasts are those that are most likely to purchase an instrument. So, why not consider offering your piano up to a technician or tuner? Piano technicians and tuners have a ton of experience with instruments and are always looking to purchase one for themselves. You just never know what they might be looking for, so it can’t hurt to ask.
The other great thing is that even if they do not want to necessarily purchase your piano, they might know someone who does. Piano technicians and tuners have a long list of clientele, and so they can certainly find someone who could use your instrument or is at least interested in one.
While many of this will pass the word along for free, it might be a good idea to offer them part of the purchase price if they can help you sell your instrument. You could even work out a free tuning or piano maintenance incentive package. Selling a piano on your own is already a challenge, so doing this as a team is a great opportunity.
6. Find Local Places That Buy Used Pianos
In addition to reaching out to technicians, using online marketplaces, and posting ads, pianos can be sold in local stores on your behalf. Usually, there is some sort of a fee associated with selling your piano at a local store. Stores will charge you a stocking or storage fee, similar to how warehouses hold inventory.
The longer your piano is sitting in the shop unsold, the more money they make. This can work out on your end though because you’ll keep a bigger portion of the margins when the instrument does sell.
Stores will also be willing to purchase instruments from you directly. In almost every instance of this though, you will not get anywhere near the profits from selling the piano in a private sale. For example, I tried to sell a $5000 upright of mine to a reputable piano shop and they would not offer any more than $500 for the instrument.
That can be a bit demoralizing, especially when you know your instrument holds value. On the private market, I would be able to sell a quality $5000 upright for at least 40 – 60% of its original value, especially if it’s in great working condition.
If you really want to get rid of your piano and want to get at least some value for it, reaching out to your local piano shop can be a wise option.
I will say with some of the luxury boutique stores for specific brands, you’re more likely to fetch a better offer for the instrument.
7. Consider Donating Your Piano
At the very least, if the piano does not sell and you just want somebody to take it off your hands, consider donating to it. There are always churches, schools, after school centers, and local organizations looking for pianos.
Consider reaching out to those places as well as music therapy centers to see if they need instruments. At the very least, they will orchestrate the piano move themselves. I recommend this mostly for people who don’t care too much about the money but are downsizing and just need it off their hands.
Do not donate a piano out of frustration. These instruments can sometimes take weeks or months to eventually sell. A piano is a large investment for most people, and something they will use for years. With that in mind, you have to understand that the purchasing decision is never easy (unless it’s relatively cheap).
Additional Tips To Help You Sell Your Piano
While the above steps are the basics you need for selling a piano, there are a couple of tips that might help you out even more.
- List your piano in several marketplaces
- Post in piano forums
- Give buyers plenty of space to test the instrument
- Be prepared to negotiate
- Be patient
- Reach out to family and friends
Listing your piano on eBay alone is not enough. Each online marketplace has its own set of clients with different demographics. To accommodate that, you’ll need to list your piano in various places such as Facebook, Craigslist and even piano forums to give it maximum exposure. Be sure to factor any listing fees into your overall budget.
Reaching out to family and friends is also a great idea when selling a piano. If you know of a family member who has an interest in music or just wants some fancy musical furniture, this could work out well. The great thing about selling to the family is that coordinating moving the piano along with communication is much easier to manage.
The potential downside is that because you’re family or a friend that they expect a steep discount from you. Do not budge! If your instrument holds significant value, then you need to sell it as such regardless if you know the people well.
No matter who you sell your piano to, it’s important to give them plenty of space to enjoy the instrument. The last thing you want to do is hover over someone while their playing. Having shopped for pianos myself, I’ve experienced sales reps who will interrupt the playing experience, asking for feedback before I’ve really tested the instrument.
That kind of pushy approach just does not work well, especially in a private sale where you don’t have as much credibility as an established piano shop. Be patient, and give the customer some space. Even more, invite them to come back and test the instrument again. Most sales don’t happen on the day of, and playing the piano, thinking about it, and coming back to it again is something well all need to do.
When selling your piano to the general public, I would advise you to be prepared to negotiate. Everyone wants a fair value for the instrument, and of course, you have to make a profit on the sale too. The best thing you can do is start with an asking price that you know is well above what someone is probably willing to pay for it. Don’t go too high though as you run the risk of excluding customers that you actually want.
For example, ask for somewhere between 10 – 15% more than you’re actually willing to settle for. As discussions continue with the buyer, this gives you that much more room to work with on a price. What happens a lot of the time is that you settle somewhere within the 5 – 10% range. This is great for the seller because they actually made a bit more money than they were hoping to, and the customer is still happy paying that price.
The final and most important tip I can share with you in regards to selling a piano is to be patient. Selling pianos takes time, and it’s not an automatic thing (although this can happen). You need to play the long game.
If a piano is not selling on the first round of listing, make adjustments and list it again. There can be all sorts of reasons fo rit not selling such as poor photography, lack of information in your listing, and bad pricing. Monitor the data, make those changes and then repeat the process.