Yes, you read the title correctly! If you are looking at a used piano, give this post a very good read as it could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in costly repairs. Pianos do not last forever. Choose to purchase the wrong one, and you could waste your time and money on a piano that can’t even be tuned.

Hunting for a used piano in good condition is a time consuming process. The time and gas it takes to go and look at one only to find it doesn’t play well or have a good tone can be frustrating. We have put together some tips that will help you purchase an excellent piano without wasting your money.


  • Why A pretty piano case does not always mean a good piano
  • Reasons why someone may sell a piano cheap or give it away
  • How the piano functions
  • Issues of bringing a used piano in to your home without a professional inspection
  • Why a 5 min phone call with us will save you hours of headaches and thousands in repairs
  • How to find a fully serviced piano
  • Tips when looking at a used piano


We receive many calls from customers looking to purchase a cheap piano or take a free one. But, a piano that has not been evaluated before taking it in to your home is never a good idea. Having the piano evaluated before hand by a trained technician will save you hundreds of dollars and hours of headaches.


That cheap piano might cost you more than a tuning and move to your home! I could write a book on cheap piano stories, and call it “The expensive cheap piano.”

There is no such thing as a cheap piano! The owner said, “It just needs tuning!” The outside looks good and all keys play! But does this mean you are getting a good functional piano? Absolutely not!

A pretty piano case does not always mean a good piano! If you do not learn anything else remember that phrase! Tape it on your mirror, on your refrigerator, on your favorite dog etc.

Many pianos from the early 1900s have some of the most elaborate artwork that you will ever come across on the outside case. But unless a piano this old has been rebuilt over its lifetime it will need much more than just a tuning especially if it has lived in the South.

The large American made uprights are some of the best pianos you will ever play after a rebuild. They would be of higher quality and around half of the price of a newer comparable piano. This is because the way they were made 100 years ago. The real wood, larger soundboards, longer strings, larger action and longer keys make for a very high quality piano! “They don’t make em like they used to” certainly applies here! But, unless you are looking to have a piano rebuilt stay away from these. Do not bring one in to your home and expect a functional instrument if no work has been done.

Do not get an old piano because you think it may be worth something. Just because a piano is an antique does not make it worth anything. An old piano that needs new strings, hammers, felts, and other work done is worth about $100-500 depending on outside condition.

This is not to say that an old upright piano is junk. Far from it in fact. But think of it like an antique car. In unrebuilt condition, it is worth far less than it would be after a total rebuild.

So, if someone gives you a cheap piano have you considered why they would give it away at a low price? It’s because someone lost interest in lessons, major repair expenses, or it has sat for years and is in the way.

This means that the piano has not been played in many years and not tuned and maintained regularly. If so, it would have a decent price on it because of its value as a musical instrument and not furnature.

Many times Pianos are posted in the “for free” and the “antiques” sections of Craigslist instead of musical instruments. Here is what this “cheap” piano could mean for you the “lucky” owner if you choose to take one.


A piano has around 8000 parts that cause it to play and function properly. Like a car if a piano is not maintained or stored properly, parts begin to ware, tuning pins are unable to hold a tune, bridges crack, etc.

Just a side note pianos should never be stored in a barn or garage!

Contrary to popular belief a piano needs tuning and basic maintenance. Someone elses lack of maintenance or improper storage of a piano could cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars to repair.


So, you found what seems like a good piano and all you have to do is get it in your door. Pianos are not very light instruments with most small uprights weighing in at 400 pounds. So, unless you have a truck and a few friends willing to break their backs for you, you will have to hire someone to move the piano. This runs $250-300 for an upright if there are not many stairs.

If moving a grand, it is not recommended that you try this yourself as the best way to move one is to remove the legs from the bottom and lay it on a skid board. Most movers will charge extra to move a grand as they are more involved.

So, now that the piano is in your home, all you must do is call the tuner to come tune it up for you and little Johnny can start his piano lessons right?

Unexpected tuning and maintenance costs

Many times a used piano has not been maintained in years and would at the very least benefit from a cleaning and a major tuning. The longer a piano sits without being tuned the more work it requires to bring it back to a stable tuning.

However, some pianos have not been maintained in so long that they would need far more than a tuning to be functional again. Tuning pins could lose their grip, bridges could be cracked, felts and leather can be extremely worn, etc. These repairs can be costly and run in to the thousands of dollars.

Most people contact us after they have received a piano in their home asking us to tune it up. If we arrive to find the piano in an untunable state, we must charge a service call and you must decide if you would like to proceed with any needed repairs. Now you have a piano on your hands that you have invested quite a bit of money into and it can’t even be tuned. If you choose not to have it repaired, you will have to get the piano out of your home requiring you to move it again with friends or professional movers. This will cost you even more time and money.

we have been involved with these scenarios more times than we care to consider, and it is never enjoyable for us to tell a customer a piano can’t be tuned in its current state!

So, what can you do to prevent wasting time and money on a used piano that might need costly repairs?


One evaluation appointment with us could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Think of an evaluation as cheap insurance compared to the cost of repairs. Did we mention an evaluation is even cheaper than a standard tuning?

We can also provide you with a written evaluation with costs for proposed repairs and the potential value of the piano after the repairs are completed. An evaluation is done before you put any money in to purchasing the piano so no surprises for you and no wasted money on moving it to your home.


Don’t want to deal with the time-consuming task of finding the right piano? Take a look at our fully serviced pianos and see what we have available.

If purchasing a piano from our inventory you can be rest assured that the piano is structurally sound, cleaned, repaired, adjusted to play at its best, and tuned to standard pitch.

Every piano we sell has had many hours of work put in so they are a quality instrument for you and your family. We believe In taking the extra step so your piano will last many years.

All of our pianos come with a one-year warranty. This means no surprises or headaches for our customers letting them get back to enjoying their music!

Because all work has already been done to the pianos we sell, we personally believe that it is a far better deal to buy from us or another reputable dealer rather than find one in the used market.

When purchasing a used piano outside of Valley Tuning understand that unless the piano has been meticulously maintained, much of this work should be done in some form or another. While all of this work is not always necessary to have a functioning piano, having it done allows the piano to play like new.


If you are set on finding a piano outside of a dealer, it is not impossible but it will take allot of time and patience. Here are some tips that you should keep in mind and questions you can ask the seller before contacting us for an evaluation.

Always remember the seller of the piano is not an expert on pianos. These tips are not a substitution for our evaluation services as the pinblock, soundboard, bridges and other internals of the piano are still left unchecked. These tips will help you to determine what pianos would be worth an evaluation. We are not here to waste your money, we are here to ensure you receive and excellent piano!

  • Why are you getting rid of the piano? Possibly a piano tuner has already told them the piano has no value or needs significant repair and they just want it gone… continue looking elsewhere.
  • Before going to look at the piano ask the seller a few questions. When was the last time it was serviced? Has it had allot of playing time? How long have you had the piano? Where has the piano been stored? Do all keys play? These will help you weed out many pianos that aren’t worth looking at. Generally, unless the piano has been tuned and maintained over the years the more work it will require. Having a piano tuned regularly is like having a mechanic check your car on a regular basis. A competent piano tech will spot small problems on routine visits before they become major issues. Tuning regularly will also have the benefit of keeping the piano up to standard pitch. If a piano is stored in a garage or barn with no temperature control move on. Improper storage of a piano will do more damage than anything. Large temperature and humidity swings can affect its structure causing glue joints to fail, veneer to flake off, mold, etc. Barns and garages are perfect homes for friendly creatures such as mice. These guys can get in to the piano and snack on yummy felts. While they are having a midnight snack they are costing you hundreds of dollars to repair their damage.
  • We hate saying this but stay away from the giant old uprights unless the customer can prove that it has been rebuilt and can show you the paperwork. If calling us for an evaluation, a piano that has paperwork with it would be extremely helpful for us to see.
  • Ask for the brand and serial number. If this information is sent to us we can tell you the exact age of the piano and if it is a good brand name.
  • Open the top of the piano. If it has been spray painted gold on the tuning pins, strings, and cast-iron harp, jump out the nearest window! Certain piano resellers who shall not be named have been known to spray paint the inside of the piano to make it look good. These people should not be allowed to look at a piano and should be forced to play a digital keyboard the rest of their lives.
  • Lift the lid and look for plastic parts. Flanges on hammers, dampers, wippens, and look for plastic jacks. If any plastic parts are spotted look for another piano as these repairs are costly and requires new parts.
  • Sit down and play the piano to make sure it feels good under your fingers and sounds relatively in tune.


If you believe you have found an excellent piano, we would love to evaluate it for you. Set up an appointment to have it evaluated with us today.

Valley Piano Tuning and Repair Serving Huntsville, Madison, Athens, Decatur, Alabama and surrounding areas.