And as with any major purchase, it often helps to take a trusted friend or expert along for the ride to review your choices and help steer you to the best decision. In the case of buying a piano, that trusted person might very well be your piano teacher, who probably knows his or her way around the strings and ivories.
That said, considering that your piano is probably going to be a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, you want to ensure that your piano teacher has stayed current on changes in the piano marketplace with regard to price, design and warranties. A piano teacher who hasn’t set foot in a piano showroom in 20 years might be as helpful as a car enthusiast who scans a new car lot in pursuit of a Renault 4 (which ceased production in 1992).
So begin your piano search with a sense of purpose, for your piano is bound to outlive even your car. In fact, the average lifespan of a piano is about 40 years, according to the National Piano Manufacturers Association. The good news is, unlike your car, pianos depreciate very little over time. Most telling? A piano that was built 10 years ago and has been well taken care of will cost as much as a new and comparable piano. If your piano teacher harbors a bias with regard to new or used pianos, now is the time to inquire.
To block the sense of "sticker shock" that afflicts so many car buyers, do a little research before you go shopping to get an idea for what pianos cost. Then set a budget. The association recommends buying the best piano you can afford, even if you’re purchasing one for a child who is beginning piano lessons. "Making good music on a quality instrument is the best way to keep a young pianist interested," the association says.
Then there is the matter of space. Be sure that you have a 5-by-5-foot area to accommodate a spinet, console, studio or vertical piano. Generally, the bigger the piano, the better the tone.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions — of both the piano salesperson and the piano teacher. After all, that’s why they should be along for the ride.