The Buyers Guide To Second Hand Pianos

The Buyers Guide To Second Hand Pianos

A second hand piano can be an excellent alternative to a new instrument and we are firm believers that used instruments deserve a home too!

More and more people are buying second hand pianos through sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and Ebay, however when it comes to second hand pianos you might be left with some uncertainty. That's why we've written up an in depth guide on what to look for and they key things you can't afford to miss before taking in a preloved piano! Take a look at our handy guide below to help you find the right second hand piano for you.

We offer a range of second hand pianos at Millers and all of our second hand pianos are checked over by our trained technicians before they leave our showroom. If you are looking to buy from an independent seller or from a selling site however, here are their top tips on what to look for so you can purchase a second hand piano with confidence. Want more advice or to learn more about our second hand pianos? Speak to our team today! or call us on 01223 354 452


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Buying Privately Vs From A Dealer 

When considering purchasing a secondhand piano, it is always worth purchasing from a trusted source. As with any secondhand product, purchasing privately always has a degree of risk as if you find after a month of having the piano that it is faulty, you may end up stuck with it and no options to return it. There are pros and cons of buying privately, namely that you may be able to purchase an instrument for cheaper than a dealer, however as mentioned, you do take all of the risk in the purchase should something go wrong later down the line.


When purchasing from a trusted piano dealer, they will likely already have had the instrument checked over, tuned and inspected by a technician to ensure it is fit for sale and also will have placed a warranty on the product should anything go wrong in the longer term. For example on all of our secondhand acoustic pianos at Millers Music, we place at least a 2 year warranty on them so you can purchase with confidence that should any issues arise, we can help sort them for you.


The Keys

First impressions matter, and when looking at a second-hand piano this is certainly the case for the piano keys themselves. Are the key coverings dirty or discoloured? This is a good indication of age and how well the piano has been maintained throughout it's lifetime.

Can you see any chipped or broken keys, or are there even any missing? A missing key is like driving a car with three wheels. Sure, it'll go...but it's not exactly winning you any races and you never know when you'll need that particular key!

Likewise, when playing the piano, how does each key feel? Do they all go down smoothly and come back up promptly? Keys that don't return could be jammed, have broken action parts, be warped, or might even be rubbing against each other. These will all require a technician's hands to fix!

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Another great thing to look at when it comes to the keys is how levelled do the keys look?

It's good practice to stand infront of the keys and squat down to eye level to see if any are higher or lower than the rest. Uneven keys could be a sign of moth damage to the cloth and felt of the piano, including the hammers. Look for signs of tiny holes underneath the keys. If these are present then you the piano might have a woodworm problem. Woodworm will cause extensive damage to the keys over time and trust us on this one, it's not a problem you want to be paying for. Lastly, you should play the piano to check that all the notes play and repeat properly. If you notice that a patch of keys is particularly out of tune compared to the rest of the piano, that's a major red flag. It suggests a problem with the pin block, a likely fatal issue for the piano. Issue with piano keys can potentially be repaired with the correct care, but if many are faulty, it may not be economical to repair.

How Does The Piano Play?

Listen to how the piano dampers are working. Do some notes continue to ring on even when you let the keys up? Does the piano sound as if all the notes are ringing on? This indicates a problem with the dampers - the felt pads which stop the strings from sounding. It's not too uncommon for dampers to need adjustment and maintainence, but you may find that the mechanism has become ineffective with age, or springs may be broken. If you feel like you dampers may need looking into, our expert technicians will be able to help you determine!

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When it does come to actually playing your piano, make sure you do it BEFORE you buy. There are a couple of things to listen out for, notably bad rattles or buzzes when you play and the bass notes sounding much quieter than the rest. Likewise, make sure you fully test the pedals. Do both of the pedals work? Do they make a lot of noise, creaking or squeaking? These could suggest internal problems and suggests the piano has not been well maintained, once again these are not unfixable issues, but might be a hidden cost that you're not expecting!

The Casing

A piano case might seem purely aesthetic, but if it doesn't look quite right to you, then it isn't the right piano for you! Ask yourself if the casework makes a good first impression and assess the general condition of the casework. Are there any loose parts, a broken music desk, damaged hinges?

What is the condition of the finish - does it look very distressed? Although a faded or dented cabinet may not impact the playability of the piano, it's often a good indicator of how well the piano has been cared for throughout its lifetime. This is also where we'd recommend looking inside of the piano, have a look and see if everything looks nicely spaced and aligned, has anything come out of place? Which may cause problems down the line if not immediately dealt with. Does it smell? A strong unpleasant smell could suggest damp or mould and if left to develop, could become unbearable in the confines of a modern centrally heated draught-excluded home. And it's a surprisingly difficult problem to fix, no one wants a damp piano afterall!

The Interior

Whilst your looking at the casing, if you can, take a look at the soundboard. This is the large flat wooden panel behind the strings (underneath for grands).

Take off the top and bottom doors and make sure you have a torch handy. Check the iron frame for any cracks, and on the wooden soundboard. If there are two of you, one person can look for any light coming through from the other side. Older pianos are often not designed for modern homes with underfloor heating and even radiators that frequently crack the soundboard. Cracks in the soundboard can seriously damage the tone and the tuning stability of a piano.

Take note as to where is the piano located. Pianos like to be in a stable and dry environment. If it's by a radiator, window, fireplace or anything that will cause the temperature and humidity to fluctuate. It's likely to have problems with tuning and regulation and perhaps damage the soundboard and bridges. Ask our experts or technicians the best place for the piano in your home.


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History of the Instrument

When was the piano last tuned? If it has been fairly recently tuned, you can always ask for the piano tuner's contact details and speak to them about the piano. Any good tuner will have notes on the instruments they look after, so will hopefully be able to give you an idea of the overall condition of the piano. If it hasn't been tuned for a few years, at least two tunings will be required before it is stable and in tune again.

How old is the Piano? Ask for the serial number. On older pianos, this will allow you to find out the age of the instrument, and on a newer instrument, it can alert you to any which are not legally allowed to be sold.


Quite a few houses come with pianos that owners are trying to shift, so it is not uncommon to find people giving them away for free or for incredibly low prices, however hopefully by now you will know exactly what to look for when looking for second hand pianos.

If you've followed the steps above and have found the perfect second hand piano for you, amazing and congratulations! We recommend using a professional piano moving service to ensure your piano arrives to you in the condition you purchased it in.

Likewise, if you are still interested in learning more about second hand pianos or want to see our range of pianos, get in touch today! Here at Millers Music, we would recommend buying a piano with a dealer who can guarantee the piano has been properly worked on by a skilled technician and safeguarded by a warranty. If you require the services for a technician to come out to evaluate or inspect a piano before purchase, have a look at our service team and see how they can help you.

We would highly recommend booking a demonstration to visit our Cambridge showroom, where our experts will be happy to guide you through our pianos, discuss the options and help find the perfect piano to suit your requirements. Call 01223 354 452

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