As difficult as it might be to come up with accurate price information, confusion and ignorance about pricing for such a high-ticket item is intolerable to the consumer, and can cause decision-making paralysis. I strongly believe that a reasonable amount of price information actually greases the wheels of commerce by giving the customer the peace of mind that allows him or her to make a purchase. In this guide I’ve tried to give a level of information about price that reasonably respects the interests of both buyer and seller, given the range of prices that can exist for any particular model.
Prices include a bench except where noted. (Even where a price doesn’t include a bench, the dealer will almost always provide one and quote a price that includes it.) Most dealers will also include delivery and one or two tunings in the home, but these are optional and a matter of agreement between you and the dealer. Prices do not include sales tax.
In this guide, two prices are given for each model: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and Suggested Maximum Price (SMP).
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
The MSRP is a price provided by the manufacturer or distributor and designed as a starting point from which dealers are expected to discount. I include it here for reference purposes—only rarely does a customer pay this price. The MSRP is usually figured as a multiple of the wholesale price, but the specific multiple used differs from company to company. For that reason, it’s fruitless to compare prices of different brands by comparing discounts from the MSRP. To see why, consider the following scenario:
Manufacturer A sells brand A through its dealer A. The wholesale price to the dealer is $1,000, but for the purpose of setting the MSRP, the manufacturer doubles the wholesale price and sets the MSRP at $2,000. Dealer A offers a 25 percent discount off the MSRP, for a “street price” of $1,500.
Manufacturer B sells brand B through its dealer B. The wholesale price to the dealer is also $1,000, but manufacturer B triples the wholesale price and sets the MSRP at $3,000. Dealer B offers a generous 50 percent discount, for a street price of, again, $1,500.
Although the street price is the same for both pianos, a customer shopping at both stores and knowing nothing about the wholesale price or how the MSRPs are computed, is likely to come away with the impression that brand B, with a discount of 50 percent off $3,000, is a more “valuable” piano and a better deal than brand A, with a discount of 25 percent off $2,000. Other factors aside, which dealer do you think will get the sale? It’s important to note that there is nothing about brand B that makes it deserving of a higher MSRP than brand A—how to compute the MSRP is essentially a marketing decision on the part of the manufacturer.
Because of the deceptive manner in which MSRPs are so often used, some manufacturers no longer provide them. In those cases, I’ve left the MSRP column blank.
Suggested Maximum Price (SMP)
The Suggested Maximum Price (SMP) is a price I’ve created, based on a profit margin that I’ve uniformly applied to published wholesale prices. (Where the published wholesale price is believed to be bogus, as is sometimes the case, I’ve made a reasonable attempt to find out what a typical small dealer actually pays for the piano, and use that price in place of the published one.) Because in the SMP, unlike in the MSRP, the same profit margin is applied to all brands, the SMP can be used as a “benchmark” price for the purpose of comparing brands and offers. The specific profit margin I’ve chosen for the SMP is one that dealers often try—but rarely manage—to attain. Also included in the SMP, in most cases, are allowances for duty (where applicable), freight charges, and a minimal amount of make-ready by the dealer. Although the SMP is my creation, it’s a reasonable estimate of the maximum price you should realistically expect to pay. However, most sales actually take place at a discount to the SMP, as discussed below.
Actual Selling or “Street” Price
As you should know by now from reading this publication, most dealers of new pianos are willing—and expect—to negotiate. Only a handful of dealers have non-negotiable prices. For more information on negotiating, please see “Negotiating Price and Trade-Ins” in the article “Piano Buying Basics.” The Piano Book also gives advice about negotiating tactics.
How good a deal you can negotiate will vary, depending on the many factors listed earlier. But in order to make a budget, or to know which pianos are within your budget, or just to feel comfortable enough to actually make a purchase, you need some idea of what is considered normal in the industry. In most cases, discounts from the Suggested Maximum Price range from 10 to 30 percent. This does not mean that if you try hard enough, you can talk the salesperson into giving you a 30 percent discount. Rather, it reflects the wide range of prices possible in the marketplace due to the many factors discussed earlier. For budgeting purposes only, I suggest figuring a discount of about 15 or 20 percent. This will probably bring you within about 10 percent, one way or the other, of the final negotiated price. Important exception: Discounts on Steinway pianos generally range from 0 to 10 percent. For your convenience in figuring the effects of various discounts, a discount calculator is included in the model and price database, accessible through the electronic edition of this publication.