What’s the difference between Used and CPO Steinways?

by Stephen N. Reed


1977 Model D Steinway grand
This 1977 Model M grand would not qualify as a Certified Pre-Owned Steinway piano as it is over 30 years old.

You’ve decided that you can afford a good, used Steinway.  You’ve heard of the “Certified Pre-owned” option, but you wonder if this is primarily a marketing term.  But actually, that designation makes a big difference when it comes to a used Steinway.

If each unique, handcrafted Steinway is a little different when it comes out of the Astoria, NY factory, how much more different will they be after they have had several years of playing, exposure to humidity, and the natural effects of aging that any piano has?

Given the range of quality and age in used Steinways,  you are well-advised to bring an expert with you to examine a piano you are interested in, much like bringing a mechanic to look into a used car you are considering.  Otherwise, your used Steinway purchase could be a lemon.

What could be worse than spending thousands of dollars on a large musical instrument that, in the end, disappoints you?  In short, you need to check out your piano and look beneath the hood, so you know what you’re getting.

M. Steinert & Sons has been dealing in new and used Steinways for over 150 years, making us the oldest Authorized Steinway Dealer in the world.  The main reason we’ve been around this long is because of thousands of satisfied customers who feel that we helped them find the right piano for them.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of the used Steinway market and the value of a Certified Pre-owned Steinway from an Authorized Steinway Dealer.

The Used Steinway Market:  Criteria to consider

2015 Model O Certified Pre-Owned Steinway grand piano
A Certified Pre-owned 2015 Model O Steinway grand

What makes a Steinway piano is the design, along with the quality of the material used in its construction and the workers who build it. A used Steinway piano that departs from these essentials can become so different as to no longer have the touch, tone, and musical range of a Steinway.

In short, not all “rebuilt” Steinways are the same and deserve scrutiny as to the parts and labor used.

The Steinway Piano Gallery of Spokane has a helpful list of criteria when looking into the Used Steinway market:

  • Does the piano consist of 100% genuine Steinway parts?
  • If the piano was rebuilt, has the rebuilder been to the Steinway factory for training within the last 5 years?
  • If the piano is older than 20 years, has the action been completely regulated by a Steinway factory-trained technician, and have the worn parts been replaced with genuine Steinway parts?
  • Will the rebuilder provide a signed statement that all parts are genuine Steinway parts?
  • Is the dynamic range of tone as wide as a new Steinway?

What Does the Steinway & Sons Certified Pre-owned Program offer?

2004 Model A Steinway grand
A Certified Pre-owned 2004 Model A Steinway grand

The Steinway Certified Pre-owned piano program addresses all of these tough questions listed above in the affirmative.  An Authorized Steinway Dealer has access to genuine Steinway parts and uses only such authentic parts in any needed repairs to a Steinway piano.

A Steinway technician in charge of such repairs has been to the Steinway factory for training within the last five years.  In a piano over 20 years old, the action has been completely regulated.   Finally, the Certified Pre-owned Steinway has a dynamic range and character similar to a new Steinway.

What Are the Benefits of a Certified Pre-owned Steinway?

  • Full three-year Steinway & Sons factory warranty
  • A comprehensive 77-point inspection by factory-trained Steinway technicians to verify authenticity, condition, and quality.
  • Confidence that a Certified Pre-owned Steinway ensures an instrument of the highest quality backed by the original build complicated scoring system

A Certified Pre-owned Steinway helps you know what you’re getting

Essentially, the difference between a Used Steinway and a Certified Pre-owned Steinway is two-fold:

  1. With a Certified Pre-owned Steinway, you know that any repair parts are indeed Steinway and are fixed by a credentialed Steinway-trained technician.  In short, it’s a real Steinway, not a hybrid piano that started as a Steinway but now has been repaired or even rebuilt with non-Steinway parts and by a piano technician without current Steinway training.
  2. A Certified Pre-owned Steinway is going to be in solid musical condition.  It’s never going to be over 30 years of age, and with the comprehensive 77-point inspection, you know what you’re getting: a quality used Steinway that has lots of life and good playing left in it.

With an investment of thousands of dollars, you want to have peace of mind knowing that your used Steinway is not going to be a problem.  While a non-certified used Steinway can be found out in the market, you’re playing roulette.  You may luck out and find a well-maintained, used Steinway or just as easily take home a lemon without knowing it until later.

Buying a Certified Pre-owned Steinway

But with a Certified Pre-owned Steinway, you know that it’s a solid, safe, and high-quality purchase, one that an Authorized Steinway Dealer is willing to stake its professional reputation on publicly.

We invite you to read the following articles for more information about used Steinway and the issue of piano construction and the effects of time.

Buying a Used Piano

New vs. Used Steinway

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