If you’re in the market for a Steinway piano, your first thought might be to buy a brand new piano. However, when you have an understanding of the depreciation of pianos, you will soon realize you can buy the same used Steinway piano for a fraction of the cost of a new one.
Depreciation of Pianos
Depreciation is: “A reduction in the value of an asset with the passage of time”
If you were to purchase a brand new Steinway (or any other high end new piano for that matter) the moment it sets foot in your home it becomes a “Used Piano”. It loses 30-40% of it’s value overnight. Just like a new car, the moment you sign on the dotted line and you drive the car off the lot you immediately lost a large percentage of what you just paid for it. The depreciation rate in some cases can be even more dramatic depending on the model, wood type and style of the new piano you buy. It should be noted that some new brands do hold their value better than others, but there is no escaping depreciation for the new piano buyer.
I acknowledge that buyers of expensive items know full well that some of the items they are buying are not going to go up in value. Obviously buyers do not seek out items to purchase because they like buying things that depreciate. People buy things on a daily basis for various reasons: quality, durability, the joy that it brings them, etc. Heck, I’ve had my eye on a BMW M5 for a while now, and if I were to purchase a one new, depreciation would be the last thing on my mind. I would be more interested in taking that “Ultimate Driving Machine” to the track, putting that car through the gears and testing the upper rev limit!
However, when it comes to buying a new Steinway piano, you should consider it’s resale value in order to compare it to the value of buying a used Steinway piano.
If you bought a brand new Steinway grand piano, and then tried reselling it to another private buyer, you will get far less than what you originally paid for the piano. Why? Because you are now competing directly against Steinway Dealers. Dealers can offer things that you simply can’t, such as a warranty, delivery service and a trade in policy. Dealers can also offer flexible payment, special financing rates and credit card payments. They will also have a fully stocked showroom for customers to hand select a piano from. Most people will play dozens of pianos before they find the “right one”. It is not uncommon for people to search for weeks, months or even years before they settle on a piano.
If someone is going to buy your “almost new Steinway” they are going to offer you far less than what they can buy a brand new one for. In addition to all that, there are more sellers than buyers in the piano market. The internet is flooded with private piano sellers as well as dealers, and the asking prices for used Steinways, on sites like Ebay or Craigslist are way below what a new one sells for. The only way you can compete with a dealer or other private sellers is to undercut them to entice a possible buyer.
You could also try selling your “almost new Steinway” back to the dealer you bought it from a year ago, but you would not be able to sell it for anything close to what you paid for it. Think about it this way: a new “plain Jane” Steinway M Grand Piano in satin Ebony retails for about $63,000 at the timing of this writing. The dealer buys this piano from the factory for a little over half that amount! So, your used piano would be worth even less than that (to a dealer) since they can get a brand new one for a little over half of the MSRP price.
Another option for selling your hypothetical one year old Steinway is to consign it with a dealer, but unfortunately most dealers typically take 30-50% of the selling price for their commission.
Hopefully by now, you have a better understanding of the depreciation of a new Steinway piano. So let’s compare that to the value of buying a used Steinway piano.
Comparing the Value of a New Steinway Piano to a Used Steinway Piano
New Vs. Used
Lets first clarify what we mean by “New Steinway Vs. Used Steinway” so we can get a fair comparison.
A New Steinway is just that, it’s new and comes directly from a dealer, with all the bells and whistles: full warranty (usually 5 years), delivery service, in home tuning, and the option to trade in at a later date.
By a Pre-Owned Used Steinway piano, we are NOT talking about a piano coming from a private owner (without all the services listed above that a dealer does provide), we are talking about a used Steinway piano that is sold from a reputable piano dealer or from an experienced piano rebuilder that specializes in this brand, and will give you all the same services that you would get when you buy a new Steinway.
For the purposes of this article we are comparing a new Steinway piano’s depreciation to three different types of used Steinway pianos that a dealer/rebuilder may sell.
These three types are:
1 Like New Steinway Pianos … 1-25 years old
2 Reconditioned Steinway Pianos … 25-50 years old
3 Fully Restored Steinway Pianos … 50-130 plus years old
Like New Used Steinway Pianos
These are 1-25 year old instruments that only require regular maintenance: Tuning & Action adjustments. A 1-25 year old Steinway (and sometimes a lot older) barely age at all under the right circumstances. Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon to find Steinway pianos that are 30-50 years old (that have had zero reconditioning or restoration work done to them other than regular tuning and action maintenance) that are still in excellent looking, sounding and playing condition. In the piano industry these pianos are called “Time Travelers” and they usually sell very fast. Remember, a high end piano like a Steinway was built to last several generations provided it sat in the right environmental conditions and its owner took good care of it with the help of their piano tuner.
Reconditioned Steinway Pianos
These pianos generally fall in the age category of 25-50 years old. They may require a fresh set of strings, tuning pins, damper felts, hammer reshaping and action regulation. Sometimes a combination of the above work and sometimes far less, it all depends on how the piano was treated over the years.
Fully Restored Steinway Pianos
These restored Steinway pianos are generally 50-130 plus years old and require more work to get them back to showroom condition. They may require soundboard repairs/soundboard replacement, bridge repair or recapping, pin block replacement, new strings and tuning pins, new agraffs, new action parts (hammers, shanks, flanges, wippins, key bushings, damper felts etc) action regulation, keyboard work (ivory repair or new key tops installed) and case refinishing… the whole 9 yards.
The Value of Used Steinway Pianos
It goes without saying that used Steinway pianos have already depreciated from the time they were originally purchased until now. You can capitalize on the first owner’s purchase because “They paid ALL the money” for the piano when it was new. Now that it’s used you can pay the depreciated price and still enjoy an instrument of the same quality that will last an incredibly long time.
A used Steinway piano can usually be bought for 30% -70% less than what a new one costs. And, a used Steinway piano will last generations if it is taken care of. High end pianos like Steinway’s are built to last a very long time. In fact, we have some Steinway grands that are fully rebuilt, dating back to the 1880’s. They play, sound, and look as good as they did when they originally left the factory. Some of the finest pianos you will find in recording studios, recital halls, and musicians homes are vintage Steinway pianos dating back to the turn of the century, the “Golden Age Steinways.” They can be be rebuilt over and over again every 50 plus years. So, you get the benefit of the longevity of the instrument just like you would on a new Steinway and you will pay a fraction of what a new one costs. Most used piano dealers even offer a trade in policy, warranty, delivery, tuning etc just like you would get when buying a new Steinway, so you get that added value as well as paying a lot less.
A fully Restored “plain Jane” Steinway model “M” grand piano will range in price anywhere from $25,000 -$40,000 from reputable rebuilders, depending on the dealer. Compare this to $63,000 for a new one! That is just one example though. Used Steinway prices have a big price range based on a number of factors…how much work the piano required, how many parts needed replacement, how much the dealer paid for the piano or allowed on trade, how motivated the dealer is to sell, the amount of overhead the dealer has etc.
The price spread, “New vs Used” really opens up when you move into the Art cases: Louis XV, Queen Anne, Chippendale, Victorian Style etc. If you buy certain styles today, like a New Victorian style Steinway grand piano, you are buying a REPLICA of the original design. The Victorian era for pianos ended over 100 years ago. If you want the “Real Deal” Victorian style, you have to buy one that was made prior to 1909. The same goes for the other styles, you have to go back in time to buy the original, not the replica. Today the different styles manufactured are mere carbon copies of the original masterpieces Steinway used to produce. If you’re interested in an art case Steinway, buying a used one not only costs less money, it has the added value of being an original masterpiece.
A brand new “Victorian Steinway model “A” grand piano in Mahogany, retails well over $135,000. That same style and model used/restored Steinway offered by a top notch rebuilder are offered between $45,000 – $65,000.
I bought a house few years ago… my wife and I looked at dozens of houses before we found the one we wanted. We paid about 500k for the home of our dreams. It had everything we wanted and more: beautiful landscaping, open fields, beautiful pool, outbuilding etc. Years later we had it appraised because we were thinking about reselling. I asked the appraiser (who had over 30 years of experience in the business) what he thought this house and property would cost if we had to buy the land, do all the same landscaping, put the pool in, build the out-building, and build the beautiful custom house from scratch. His reply was “You don’t want to know, it would probably be close to 2 million dollars today!” He also told us that what we paid for the house a few years ago is around what it could resell it for.
The house was only 28 years old, the previous owner kept up all the maintenance. They even upgraded all the appliances and put a new roof on the house prior to us buying it. The house is good to go for a very long time before any money has to be invested into it. So hypothetically I could have bought this 28 year old “House of My Dreams” for 500k USED, or we could have built it NEW from scratch today for 2 million dollars. For me it was an easy decision. Now, I understand that the analogy is not perfect but I think it makes the point pretty clearly about depreciation.
What does a New Steinway Grand Piano Cost?
Below is the MSRP for NEW Steinway grand pianos: (these prices are for Traditional Style, and Ebony Only – the Art Case styles and different wood types – are WAY more expensive)
Model S Satin Ebony $57,800
Model S Lacquer Polished Ebony $63,600
Model M Satin Ebony $63,100
Model M Polyester Polished Ebony $65,300
Model M Lacquer Polished Ebony $69,400
Model O Satin Ebony $71,100
Model O Polyester Polished Ebony $ 73,300
Model O Lacquer Polished Ebony $78,100
Model A Satin Ebony $81,800
Model A Polyester Polished Ebony $84,400
Model A Lacquer Polished Ebony $89,900
Model B Satin Ebony $92,400
Model B Polyester Polished Ebony $95,600
Model B Lacquer Polished Ebony $101,700
Model D Satin Ebony $148,700
Model D Polyester Polished Ebony $149,900
Model D Lacquer Polished Ebony $163,600
Steinway has produced about 600,000 pianos since their beginning. At any given time there is about a 50:1 ratio of Used Steinway Pianos vs Brand New Steinways on the market. These Used and Restored Steinway are so popular that even Steinway carries a line of Restored Steinway Pianos, they call them the “Heirloom Pianos” (just a fancy term for “Restored). After all, it was not new Steinways that built Steinway’s great reputation over the last 100 + years for high quality pianos, it was the first 550,000 pianos they built, dating from the 1890’s until present day.
If you do your homework and shop around a little, you can buy the same Used Steinway Piano model as the ones cited above for a fraction of the cost of a new one, including all the added value of the original design, a warranty, trade in policy, delivery, tuning, etc.
If you have any questions feel free to contact us.