While there are certainly pianos of varying degrees of quality on Craigslist, there are many more pianos that are past their useful life. And then there are the out and out scammers who found a "free" piano, throw a tune on it and flip it to an unsuspecting buyer. And the con artists who steal piano pictures from other people's website and offer you a deal too good to be true (That is what we call a hint!!!) We always suggest that you hire an independent technician to inspect any piano you purchase from an independent party.
Below are some of the common problems reported by our customers who fell for a Craigslist "deal" only to find out they were out thousands of dollars and had to start all over - after pyaing to dispose of the piano that was just delivered to their house.
Piano Owner "Passed"
This scam plays on your sympathies - some "owner" claims to have a piano that belonged to a spouse/mother/etc. who has recently passed. Often the piano is shown wrapped and ready for delivery - which means you can't go see what you are buying. This piano may even be offered for "free" - until you find out you need to spend $2000 to ship it to you.
This particular piano scammer actually used a photo of another piano from sale at a dealer to post on Craigslist. Try using the right click and google search for the image before you buy a piano that doesn't exist!
"Free Pianos" = Kindling
Do you often give away items of value to strangers for free? No? Well neither does anyone else. This simply means that the owner has already tried to sell it to several dealers, their friends and neighbors and probably listed it on Craigslist and Ebay for a few hundred bucks before finally giving up and listing it as "free."
Remember you have to move this piano, tune this piano and maintain it every year. Since the piano is out of tune already, you cannot easily access how it will eventually sound and how many parts are actually beyond fixing. Small uprights that are over 50 years old or are from a manufacturer that went out of business decades ago are prime candidates for a viking funeral! You may well get stuck with the bill for disposing of a piano that someone foisted off on you for "free."
We know way too many technicians who routinely have to inform owners who just bought their piano on Craigslist that they will not even hold a tune.
At minimum, we recommend have a piano technician inspect any piano you are about to buy from a private party!
"Antique or Family Heirloom"
aka "It Just Needs a Tuning"
How many times do you read about how lovely the tone of a piano is and how it just needs a "little tuning" to be a beloved member of your family like it was for the current owners?
Many very old pianos have catastrophic issues such as cracked pin blocks that prevent the piano from ever holding a tune. Other major issues such as sound board cracks and rib separation are not something the normal piano buyer can assess.
Run to ptg.org and find a technician near you to do a full assessment.
Very Good Shape = Pretty & Keys Make Noise
The looks of the cabinet have little to do with the piano's performance. The ability to move each key and make a noise is simply a starting point.
A piano technician can help you asses whether their is any life left in the hammers, whether it can be tuned at all, how long it is likely to hold a tune and how many years of life the piano has left.
Music Teacher or Music School
There are many teachers who have decided that it is a great side gig to resell pianos out of their homes. This generally means one of two things -
either the piano was played to death for hours every day and needs more repair work than it is worth. Worse, the teacher bought it on Craigslist and is hoping that someone will pay more for it from a piano teacher.
Downsizing music schools has also been popular lately. Again, the general rule is that teaching pianos get 5-10 times as much wear in a year as a normal home piano. If you are buying a 10 year old piano from a school, it likely has 50 years worth of wear.