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Buying a new piano can be a daunting task to some. Considering the fact that a decent piano starts from the $1000 – $3000 range, knowing how much the piano loses its value over time can help you make the decision on choosing the most suitable piano for your needs. If you’re looking to sell your piano, knowing the depreciation rate can give you a rough estimate of how much you can expect to get out of your piano.
Pianos depreciate in values because of worsening conditions of their components, cosmetic damages, and the market’s supply and demand. Generally, a piano loses 20% of its original value in the first year, with a 1%-5% loss of its original value for each subsequent year of ownership.
This article will give a deeper dive into the reasons pianos lose their values along with a chart showing how much value a piano loses over the years.
It’ll also go through how you can price your piano to sell knowing how much it depreciates, in order to get the most out of your old piano, and whether digital pianos depreciate the same as acoustic ones.
If you’re looking to buy a new piano, we’ll discuss alternatives like used or refurbished pianos compared to a brand new piano and whether they lose value at the same rates if you should consider them.
Why do pianos lose their values?
There are 3 main reasons why a piano loses its value over time:
Market’s supply and demand
If you have any experience with economics, you’ll be familiar with the concept of supply and demand. Supply and demand is simply the concept that the price of a good or service offered is determined by the demand from consumers for it and how available that good or service is out there – known as supply.
More demand and fewer supplies drive the price up because everyone wants an item and there aren’t enough of it to go around, while less demand and more supplies drive the price down because no one wants to buy that item.
This concept applies to pianos too. The demand for a piano may be driven by how popular and reputable the brand is. For example, pianos from brands like Yamaha are very popular because the brand is well known around the world for their build and playing qualities.
Demand depends also on how many people are playing piano and are looking to get one. Larger cities will have more people interested in playing pianos compared to smaller towns, raising the demand for pianos.
The supply of pianos depends on how many pianos are there on the market. This means how many piano suppliers are there in the city, or how many used pianos are there on the second-hand market. Again, larger cities will have more people playing pianos, meaning more used pianos sold on second-hand markets and more piano suppliers come in to sell pianos to fulfill that demand.
What this means for the depreciation of a piano is that a piano will hold its value better and won’t depreciate as much if there’s high demand and low supply for pianos. The higher the demand and lower the supply, the better your piano will hold its value over time.
Also, note that the demand and supply of pianos are not the same across the world, meaning how well your piano holds its value depends on where you live. Larger cities will likely have more people interested in piano than smaller towns, a particular piano brand may be very popular in this country but not as much in another, etc.
Working conditions of the pianos
How well your piano plays is another factor that affects how much your piano depreciate. Unfortunately, most pianos will get worse over the years due to use and thus, most will lose their value.
As you play piano, over time, some components will move out of place gradually, causing your keys to feel heavier when pressed down, the hammers and strings will be slightly out of place, making your piano go out of tune.
Playing the piano will also cause the components to wear out gradually, and will need to be replaced at some point.
It’s important as a piano owner to maintain the working condition of your piano by calling a tuning service at least once every year. If you don’t maintain the piano yearly, over time, the piano will settle into its new state of being untuned
This means it’ll be much more difficult in the future to return the piano to its original correct sound because it’ll keep returning to its untuned state. This also means the piano will now need more frequent tuning and will drive its price down.
Not to mention, playing an untuned piano isn’t good for improving your piano skills because you’ll be hearing incorrect notes all the time and will be frustrated when the sound you produce doesn’t match up with what it’s supposed to sound like.
For more info on the danger of playing an untuned piano, check out What an Untuned Piano Can Do to Your Skills as a Pianist.
Another factor that affects your piano’s condition is where you put it in your home. Temperature and humidity are the enemies of a piano’s wellbeing. Too high, too low or a sudden change in either of them can create damage to your piano.
For example, a damp environment causes the wooden components in your piano to draw in moisture, loosening the glued parts and can potentially create mould.
A dry and hot environment causes the components to dry up, the tuning pins inside the piano won’t be able to hold the strings properly, causing the piano to go out of tune
This is why it’s important to watch where you place your piano to make sure the piano is at its top performance, preserving its value. Here is an article listing a few places to avoid putting your beloved piano at.
A piano’s appearance is another major factor in determining how well the piano holds its value. A piano is like another piece of furniture in the house, and no one will enjoy seeing an old, beat-up piano sitting in the corner of their house. They want the piano to be a star and attracts visiting guests’ attention when coming into the room.
Scratches or dents on the piano or the fading of the piano’s colour due to being put under direct sunlight can massively drive down your piano’s value.
Rate of depreciation over the years
Here’s a chart giving a rough estimate on how much value does your piano hold over the years, assuming the piano is in good condition and is maintained regularly:
|1 year||2 years||3 years||5 years||10 years||15 years||20 years|
|% value retained compared to the original price||80%||75%||70%||65%||55%||50%||40%|
As you can see, right off the bat, in just the first year of ownership, your piano has already lost 20% of its original value. This is similar to how the moment a drive a new shiny car off the dealership, it instantly loses 30% of its value.
For every subsequent year up to the 5-year mark, the piano will lose on average 5% per year.
After the 5-year mark, the piano will lose 5% of its value for every 5-years of ownership until the piano is too old, the components are too worn out and are worth very little. These pianos are usually given for free on second-hand markets because it’s not worth it to even restore them.
Get an appraisal on your piano
The chart above is only an estimate of the depreciation of a piano, assuming all the varying factors are normal or average. Of course, in the real world, These varying factors are different, some better and some worse, depending on which city you are living in, the environment around the piano and how well you maintain your piano.
This is why to get the most accurate picture of how much your piano is worth, it’s worth it to have it appraised by a certified piano technician
The piano technician will assess your piano’s current working conditions, how old it is based on its serial number, how much this model is selling for under the market’s condition, and determine how much your piano will sell for.
All of this information and an explanation on how the technician come up with the price will be filled out on a document by the technician and given to you.
To see where is a nearby technician, go on Google and search for “nearby piano appraisal” to see what options are available to you. You may also want to check the reviews of the technician to see how good they are.
Where to sell your used piano
Now, after determining the depreciation and current value of your piano, there are a few options on where you can sell it:
Option 1 – selling to a piano shop: If you are in a hurry and don’t care about getting the best price for your used piano, selling to a piano shop will be the option for you.
Piano shops usually don’t pay very good money to buy your used piano, since they also need to resell it to make a profit. However, in return, you don’t have to worry about transportation or repair costs, since the shop will take care of it.
Some piano shops will also have a trade-in offer where you give them your used piano to get a percentage off a new piano. Personally, I don’t like this option since the shop holds the decision on how much percentage to deduct and you can’t really negotiate.
Option 2 – selling on the second-hand market: to recoup the most amount of money on your piano, the better bet will be listing on sites like Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace since you can set the price as you like.
This doesn’t mean that you can set the price at $3500 while a new one is $3000 and expect yours to sell. To determine the appropriate price to sell at, check how much a new piano of that model is selling to price below it and see if there are any options on the second-hand market.
If there are second-hand options, check the conditions listed for the pianos and compare them to your own and price accordingly. If your piano condition is better, then price higher and vice versa
However, since pianos are more difficult to sell because it’s such a big investment, expect to hold onto your old piano for a while. This is why this option is more suitable for people that have time to wait and doesn’t need to move to a new place.
Pro tip: Here is where having an appraisal by a technician can help you get the best price for your used piano.
For piano shops, understanding how the appraised price is determined lets you know what to expect when selling to piano shops, giving you a better position for negotiation to get the best price possible and avoid potentially getting ripped off by the shop.
For second-hand markets, potential buyers will be more interested in your listing if you can show them an appraisal by a professional, they will be more inclined to trust you and subsequently, you can price your piano a bit higher than other pianos with the same condition since you have proof to back up the conditions claimed on the listing.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll be able to get more from your piano, and enough to pay off the cost of the appraisal in the first place.
Depreciation for used or refurbished pianos
Used or second-handed pianos will depreciate much faster compared to a new piano because of its uncertainty. We may not know how many owners has the piano experienced, how well maintained is the piano or if it has some cosmetic damages from moving.
Refurbished pianos, on the other hand, are great alternatives to brand new pianos. Pianos that are refurbished will go through a lot of work and repair: new strings, hammers, felts, pin blocks are installed, they will be tuned and have regulation of the piano action.
The end result is a piano that is as good as new, with all the components either repaired or replaced, strings tuned to be in tip-top condition. Thus, expect a refurbished piano to have the same or slightly worse depreciation rate compared to a new one.
If you’re on a budget, looking into refurbished pianos can be a great alternative. They’ll usually come with warranties so that’s a plus.
Depreciation differs between different pianos
Different pianos will have different depreciation rates. This makes sense since no two pianos are the same, whether it’s the appearances, the materials and constructions methods used, along with the popularity of the brands they bear.
This means some pianos will depreciate slower than others and thus are better at holding their values in the long term. For example, Steinway pianos are famous for their build and sound quality, considered to be the best of the best, thus are much better at retaining values compared to a regular Yamaha piano.
Aside from the brand name, the type of piano it is will impact its depreciation rate. Grand pianos are better at holding their values compared to upright pianos since they are more expensive and are made with better materials.
In what cases do pianos appreciate in value?
Most pianos will lose value over time because of degrading quality along with the market’s demand for them. However, in some cases, some pianos will appreciate in value. This may be because the piano model is discontinued and there’s a surge in demand for it.
It could also be that the piano is a limited edition model with a set number of pianos out there, driving the scarcity and subsequently the price of it.
Pianos with keys made from ivory from elephants – which is banned nowadays – are worth money since they make for antique collector pianos.
Pianos of famous celebrities or artists appreciate massively in value due to the association with that celebrity/artist. For example, the Steinway Model D that Elton John – a famous British singer and composer- used for 20 years was sold for a whopping $915,000. A base model of a Model D cost around $150,000 – that’s a 510% increase in value!
Do digital pianos depreciate?
Like any object, once used, it will lose value. However, digital pianos don’t depreciate the same way an acoustic piano would since they aren’t really the same animal.
Digital pianos don’t use strings and hammers to create sounds like acoustic pianos. Instead, they used computers and speakers to broadcast the sounds.
This means that the way a digital piano depreciate in value is similar to how electronic pieces of equipment do. Similar to for example a camera, the price will depend on if the digital piano still works well, and if all the features are working properly. How long you have had it may not matter as much compared to an acoustic piano.
Whether you’re looking into getting a new piano or selling the one you are currently owning, knowing the depreciation rate of an average piano can help give you a rough estimate of the current or future value of the piano in question.
For people selling their pianos, knowing the current value can help price the piano on the market accordingly, making sure you get the most out of your piano.
Having a certified appraisal on your piano will give you an even more accurate price to expect from your piano and can also help you negotiate for a better price at piano shops or make your listing stand out on second-hand marketplaces.
For people looking to buy new pianos, know that refurbished are usually of the same quality as new ones and so will more or less have the same depreciation rates, making them great alternatives to getting completely new ones to save a couple hundreds of bucks.