Negotiating Price and Trade-Ins
The prices of new pianos are nearly always negotiable. Only a handful of dealers have non-negotiable prices. If in doubt, just ask — you'll be able to tell. Some dealers carry this bargaining to extremes, whereas others start pretty close to the final price. Many dealers don't like to display a piano's price because not doing so gives them more latitude in deciding on a starting price for negotiation, depending on how they size up the customer. This makes shopping more difficult. Use the price information in the "Model & Pricing Guide" of the current issue of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer to determine the likely range within which a given model will sell. Don't give in too quickly. It's quite common for the salesperson to call a day or two later and offer a lower price. If there's an alternative piano at another dealership that will suit your needs just as well, it will help your negotiating position to let the salesperson know that.
Due to the high cost of advertising and conducting piano megasales (such as college sales, truckload sales, etc.), prices at these events are often actually higher than the price you could negotiate any day of the week, and the pressure to buy can be enormous. Shop at these sales only after you've shopped elsewhere, and look for the real bargains that occasionally exist.
If you're buying a new piano to replace one that's no longer satisfactory, you'll probably want to trade in the old one. Dealers will usually take a trade-in, no matter how bad it is, just to be able to facilitate the sale. In fact, in many cases the dealer will offer you what seems like a king's ransom for the old one. The downside is that when a generous trade-in allowance is given on the old piano, the dealer is then likely to offer you a less-generous price on the new one. To see if you're being offered a good deal, you'll have to carefully analyze the fair-market value of the old piano and what would be a likely price for the new one without a trade-in. Sometimes it will be to your advantage to sell the old piano privately, though in that case you'll need to take into account the hassle factor as well.
For more information about new-piano prices and negotiating, see the introduction to the "Model & Pricing Guide," elsewhere in this issue, as well as in The Piano Book.
Used-piano prices may or may not be negotiable. If the used piano is being sold by a dealer who primarily sells new pianos at negotiable prices, then the used-piano prices are probably also negotiable. Prices of restored pianos sold by the restorer are less likely to be negotiable, as technical people are usually less comfortable with bargaining. Prices of pianos for sale by private-party sellers are usually negotiable, in part because the seller often has little idea of what the piano should sell for and has just made up a price on the basis of wishful thinking. But even knowledgeable sellers will usually leave a little wiggle room in their price.
Electronic Player-Piano Systems
Prior to the Great Depression, most pianos were outfitted with player-piano mechanisms — the kind that ran on pneumatic pressure and paper rolls. Today's player pianos are all electronic; they run on CDs, iPods, floppy diskettes, or electronic downloads from the Internet, and are far more versatile and sophisticated than their pneumatic ancestors. Now you don't have to wait until Junior grows up to hear something interesting from the piano! A substantial percentage of new pianos, especially grands, are being outfitted with these systems. In fact, many pianos are being purchased as home-entertainment centers by buyers who have no intention of ever playing the piano themselves.