(I’ll state this briefly now more at the end, Phoenix Piano Moving does offer piano consultation which in some cases saves the buyer hundreds of dollars and possibly from the worst case of buying a money pit piano.)
There are many consideration when looking for an entry level piano. I will talk about a few of them. Maybe you would like to get a starter piano for you kids to start learning piano. You want something that will give them the feel and sound of a “real” piano but don’t want to spend too much money in case they lose interest and don’t appear to show aptitude. Well, expect to pay somewhere between $500-$700 to make such experience possible. By the time you buy what looks to be a good piano at $350, have it moved for $100 and have it tuned and adjusted for $200 your looking at $650. When buying an older piano keep in mind that it probably has been sitting for a few years with little to no use and probably hasn’t been tuned in at least 3 years. This is the average situation for a $350 piano. If you pay $750, expect to have the tuned every year and to be excellent shape. You would still have $100 moving expense and maybe $80 fine tune one week after the piano acclimates in its new location but you will at least not have to worry about the way the piano performs and feels. There are many reasons for such recovery costs but basically the years of negligent have taken a toll on the piano and it can’t be recovered too quickly but the strings must be stretched slowly requiring sometime two tunes one week apart and some voicing on the hammers so that they return to their original softness.
I would still encourage looking for that $200-$400 piano and then having it moved and recovery work done for this could save you hundreds overall but I want you to know what you are getting into and the costs associated. I think most people will look for a piano that matches their furniture and decor and then how it sounds is a close secondary. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this plan for the insides of the piano can most likely be recovered a lot cheaper then the outside in most cases, but you also don’t want to buy a money pit piano. You have to do a little investigation on the piano asking questions like when was it last tuned, then take a simple tuning app like “datuner” and see how many cents the piano is flat. If the person tells you its been tuned every year and then you find out that its 30 cents flat that tells us one of two things, either the person “has been less then honest with us or the piano has some serious problems, which is it?” A piano in good mechanical shape should not go more then 10 cents flat over the year. Next, examine the hammers looking for repair work that might have been done and specifically look also at the groves that are formed by the hammer hitting the strings. If the groves are deep then this means that the sound will be effected as well and future recovery work on the hammers will cost about $60-$100. Next, hit the left pedal and watch the hammers go up and return. All the hammers should return at the same rate of speed without sluggish stalls. If some of the hammers are slow then the action is due for servicing, this could be another $60-100 to clean, lubricate necessary pivots and tightening 230 plus action screws. Finally and not necessary in this order, but strike every key from left to right, with your tuning app if possible, and listening for the harmony and disharmony of the strings. The app may show that the low side is little more flat then the high side (right side) but it should be fairly close to the same cent or % flat. This simple test will help insure that you haven’t bought a lemon of piano. If there is some unevenness accoss the keys say greater then 50% then I would be concerned that there has been a string broke recently or worst there might be crack in the frame leding to it not wanted to hold a tune. If a string has broke, no big deal, it can be replaced sometimes as low as $25 but it’s a crack that is causing it to loose tune then maybe its best to walk away. Not all cracks will cause a piano to not hold a tune, actually maybe only 10% of cracks are in such a way that the tune is affected. The cracks can be repaired but this can be a costly expense, maybe in the $200-$400 range so make sure you ask for that discount. Actually, I would perform all this test and observations and then ask the seller to help you out with these expenses. Maybe they will discount completely or go half and half. If its a $500 piano and all these things are true except for the cracked sound board then maybe they will take $300 knowing that you have $100 moving expense and if its more then 10% flat, which 95% of the used piano are, then there is a $200 tuning expense, maybe the seller will give you a little break on the price. If they feel offended by all the tests and downgrading, then you can decide if the outward appearance of the piano is worth the risk of buying and hoping the best.
Now if you would prefer that a professional technician come examine your potential piano before buying then we can certainly arrange that. The cost is general $60 for a thorough inspection and consultation, then we can briefly talk out of the seller presence to see how you would like to pursue negotiations or walking away. If you buy the piano and would like to have us move it on the same visit then we can absorb $40 of the consultation fee into the moving cost, so you will only pay $20 for consulting and then the low moving fee based on the situation could be anywhere from $100 on up.