Free Pianos

Craigslist usually has at least 5 free pianos listed at any given time. They say free is a very good price but be careful because a “free piano” isn’t always truly free.

Acquiring a piano always has some costs and it’s worth doing a little research on the piano before you start spending time and money on a free piano.

Basic Costs

  • Moving – Paying professional movers will usually cost between $100-$250 depending on the distance you have to move and how many stairs are involved. If you choose to move it yourself, it will cost less money but will likely cost you a solid 3 hours of time for 2-4 people. I recommend hiring professional movers because just a little damage to the piano, your house, or yourself will quickly cost more to repair than the $150 it might cost to have others move it for you. I’ve moved pianos myself but by the time I rent a truck and bought lunch for my friend, I’m out at least $100 not including my time.
  • Tuning – If you’re going to have a piano, you should have it in tune so you can enjoy it. Many “free pianos” have been neglected and haven’t been used or tuned in a long time. This usually means you should expect to have your piano tuned at least twice in the first year you have it. If it’s been neglected, it’s likely a long ways below pitch and that first tuning won’t be very stable since the tension has to be changed so much.
  • Potential Repair/Terminal Problems – More often than not if a piano is being given away, it has problems. Sometimes a it’s just a couple notes that aren’t working and it’s a quick fix, but sometimes it’s something major that will need either several hours of repair, or the piano could be “totaled.” I’ve seen more than one free Craigslist piano that had issues so large that it was basically dead. If the repairs needed to make the piano close to functional are so extensive that it would cost more than buying a better piano, you usually just have to start over. Issues like rusty/brittle strings, a compromised pinblock and a cracked soundboard are things that can end a piano’s life.

The takeaway here is be careful of acting quickly on acquiring a free piano that you don’t know much about. You could easily end up spending a good deal of time and money on something before learning the instrument won’t really serve you as you anticipated. 

I would recommend you have a technician do a quick inspection on any used piano before committing to a purchase, or even taking a free piano. It could easily save you a lot of time, money and disappointment further on down the road.

Feel free to contact me regarding inspections or even emailing me a Craigslist ad. I can often tell you a good bit about the piano from the ad over the phone for no charge at all.

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