Have it looked at by a piano technician 
As either a buyer or seller, if you use no other tip on this sheet, remember this: have the piano inspected by a piano technician before the money changes hands, it is not necessary for all the pianos you look at, but the one or two you are most interested in. Through no fault of the buyer or seller, many people each year throw away their hard earned money on pianos that would be better used as fire wood. This is not an attempt by the seller to defraud the buyer, but caused by the seller being as unknowledgeable as the buyer. It would be better to pay the small fee a piano technician will charge you to look at the piano than to end up with a piano that is not worth the repair charges.

What should I look for ?

In your search for a piano, you are unlikely to come across instruments made before 1880, if you do, walk away. There are two types of pianos made before 1880 that you need to be warned about. One of them is the square grand, a rectangular grand piano with four legs. The other is an upright with an over damper system that has been nicknamed the bird cage piano. Look inside by the hammers for wires running above the hammers to the dampers (it will look like a bird cage). Walk away from these two types of piano. Generally look for a piano made after 1900. Our company and many other technicians and dealers can tell you when the piano was manufactured from a book called the Pierce Piano Atlas using the make and serial number. The serial number is stamped on the piano somewhere and is at least four digits and could consist of many more. Call us or email us at CustomerService@APianoTuner.com and we will be glad to look up the piano in our atlas for you. You will need the serial number of the piano to determine age (click>>Where Is A Piano's Serial #?).

How to find a used piano ?
The best place to start your search is by investigating ads in the local newspapers to get an idea of the going price for pianos at the current time. Secondly visit new and used piano dealers. The one thing that all piano dealers have plenty of, and it's free, is information. Their prices must be higher than an individual for obvious reasons, but not always the worst value as most dealers are knowledgeable of the condition of their pianos. You may also get a feel for what you might get when you trade-up a used piano for a new one at a later time. Be sure that the technician you have look at a piano at a dealer is not in any way connected with, and owes no favors to , the dealer. Here are some other options: Contact piano technicians and rebuilding shops, Answer ads or notices offering pianos for sale, Hunting up a piano by placing an ad yourself or by contacting places that might have pianos they want to get rid of, Check with piano movers, Buying a piano from a friend or relative or accepting one as a gift. You can probably think of other ways but this will get you started.

Checking out the piano.
Types of pianos:
Grands - 4 to 9 feet long.
Vertical pianos from floor to the top:
36” or so – Probably a Spinet piano.
42”-44” – Console
44”-49” Studio Upright
over 49” – full size upright

Note: The difference between a spinet and a
console is that the spinet has a “drop action”.
When you open the top and look inside the piano,
if the hammers (felts that strike the string when
you depress the key) are on the same level or
lower than the keys themselves, it is a spinet. If
the Hammers are 4 – 6 inches above the level of
the keys it is probably a console.

Please be aware that "drop action" pianos are generally more expensive to repair as the action is much harder to remove for repairs requiring action removal.

Rule of thumb:
The taller the piano (or longer in the case of grand pianos), the longer the strings, the larger the soundboard, the bigger and better the sound.

Look at the outside of the piano. Imagine it in your home. Could you live with it? If not, move on. If you continue, check for loose veneer and other signs of water damage along the bottom edge of verticals. Play the piano a bit to see if you like the way the piano feels, and make a mental or written note about anything you think needs looking into. Key sticking or keys that won't work, usually fall into the inexpensive repair category (under $150). Rattles can be as little as a child's toy inside the piano or as serious as a cracked plate. If the piano does rattle, ask the owner to remove anything that's on the piano. If the rattle stops, that was the problem. A piano that is grossly out of tune could have slipping tuning pins or it may be some other problem much more serious. If the key tops are not all level, the keys may need regulated. Key regulation falls into the moderate repair category ($150 to $300). Inspecting the inside of the piano is beyond the scope of this tip sheet. Yes there are items inside you could check and if you would like to know more about this you can call us or other dealers and technicians, however, if at this point you are impressed with the piano, then it might be time to have a technician look at the piano for you. A word about cracked soundboards, while unattractive, cracks are not necessarily important if the tone seems good. Heavy soundboard cracking might indicate that the piano has been subjected to extreme climate and humidity changes.

 Try this book for much more info.
A 70 page paperback that lets the buyer be aware of the pros and cons in the used piano market. Well illustrated, this concise text could prevent the piano buyer from potential disappointment.
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Selling your piano? 
Most of the information about buying a piano applies when selling one. Our "How Much Is It Worth" sheet should accompany this tip sheet, if not call us and we will be glad to send it to you, it will give you a general idea what the value of your piano is. For the seller there is one more piece of advice: tune your piano before you advertise it. You are probably thinking that you will save the money of tuning since the buyer will need to have it tuned after moving it. But most buyers know so little about pianos that when they play them and find that the piano is out of tune or has some keys that stick or don't work quite right, they have no way of knowing if the problem is major or minor, or how the piano might sound after tuning. Buyers frequently reject perfectly good pianos because of relatively insignificant problems. You will find that your piano will sell faster and at a higher price by tuning and making minor repairs prior to selling it, easily recovering the cost.