For many people, a digital piano is a significant investment. It’s highly likely that you’ll be spending a significant amount of money on your piano. So naturally, you’ll want to ensure that you can use your piano for many years to come. But how long do digital pianos last? Can you expect them to keep going for years and years, or are they just like a laptop or a phone - a throwaway device designed to be replaced when a newer version comes out?
Ultimately, a digital piano’s longevity depends on how well it’s been taken care of. If you spill water over it, or keep it near a radiator, or let excessive amounts of dust into the keyboard, then it won’t last as long as it could. Take care of your piano, and it will take care of you.
How long do acoustic pianos last?
Firstly, let’s preface this article with a little insight into the longevity of an acoustic piano. Even if you buy the cheapest acoustic piano you can, it’s very likely that you’ll get at least thirty years out of it without any real maintenance besides tuning. Indeed, many used pianos you can buy are up to 100 years old. They don’t get this old without serious maintenance and potentially rebuilding more than once, but if you look after them, they’ll live longer than you. This is also important when it comes to the used market; the acoustic used market is booming because pianos last a long time; the digital used market for anything older than around five years old is almost non existent. Find out more about selling your piano.
My piano is 45 years old - nearly twice as old as I am. However, it’s been looked after - the previous owner obviously took care of it and wasn’t pounding out Liszt concertos on a daily basis. Before I bought it, it was re-built - new keys, new action, new strings, everything, to ensure longevity. I don’t give my piano a lot of abuse - it maybe gets an hour of practice a day when I have time. However, I am sure that with the proper care, this piano may well be the last piano I ever need to buy. That includes tuning; find out why this is important beyond making the piano sound nicer.
However, if I bought a digital piano, could I expect it to last as long?
Factors that limit a digital piano’s lifespan
The major thing to consider with an acoustic piano is that the technology really hasn’t changed for nearly 100 years. You could take a 100 year old piano that’s broken, and fix it up with readily available parts. The same isn’t true for a digital piano.
While there’s nothing specific to limit how long a digital piano lasts, the fact is that it’s a piece of technology. Technology becomes obsolete very quickly. Digital pianos first came into being around the 1980s, and there are lots of examples built around that time that still work today. In fact, many of them are still capable instruments for learning and performing.
However, if a digital piano from that era breaks, it’s going to be extremely hard, if not impossible, to find the required proprietary parts to repair it. You might be faced with a piano that is, in theory, repairable, but you can’t find the part that you need, so in practice it isn’t possible to repair the piano.
I’d suggest that build quality is also an important factor. If you spend £1000 on a piano, you’re likely to get better build quality than if you spend £300. This is important - better build quality = longevity. You’re also likely to get better support and service from the manufacturer.
One final thing - how you treat the piano is probably most important here. If you’ve got a digital stage piano that you carry around with you, that gets bumped and scratched, it’s not going to last as long as a regular console-style digital piano that you keep in your music room at home that never gets moved. Keeping your piano by a radiator, spilling water on it, getting crumbs or dust in between the keys causing them to stick - these are all things that are going to limit the life of your piano and cause problems, such as noisy keys.
Can it be repaired?
I suppose the question here is more “do you want it to be repaired?” That may seem a little confusing, but I’ll explain why it’s important.
The easiest analogy I can use here is that of a laptop, as almost everybody has them. We would pay good money for a laptop, often similar to what we’d pay for a digital piano. But we don’t expect them to last too long. I recently bought a Dell, and I’m expecting around three years out of it. That’s not a very long time. Technology now moves so fast that my thoughts are “am I even going to want to use this thing in three years time?”
The same is true for pianos, but in a slightly different way. Your piano won’t become obsolete like a computer will. However, if it breaks, and it’s ten years old, it may end up being more expensive to repair than to replace. That’s even if you can find the parts. If I had a ten year old laptop which broke, and I took it into a store, they wouldn’t even look at it. They know they wouldn’t be able to source the parts. The cost of labour to try and work on such an old machine wouldn’t be worth it. It would be more cost effective to buy new.
Unfortunately this isn’t ecologically sound, but it’s the way it is. If at any point it makes sense to buy new, that’s what you should do. This is an issue specific to digital pianos. It doesn’t apply to acoustic pianos, because parts for them are very easy to come by. You’re not really going to ever be in a situation where the cost to fix the piano is more than what you paid for it, seeing as acoustic pianos are generally much more expensive than digitals.
So… how long do digital pianos last?
I would suggest, to give an arbitrary figure, that you can expect at least 15 years out of your piano. Many manufacturers, such as Kawai, offer a ten year warranty on their pianos. This means that if your piano develops a fault in that time, you can get them to fix it.
Unfortunately, as the technology gets older, it’s going to be harder to find someone willing to fix the piano. It's going to be harder to get the parts that you may need. That’s not to say your piano won’t last a long time. As I mentioned before, there are examples that are nearly forty years old still going strong. You may find yourself in a position where it makes more sense to buy a new one.
Have I missed anything in this article? How old is your digital piano? I'm really interested to hear your responses. Let me know, down in the comments section.
Interested in buying a digital piano? Check out the top digital piano brands of 2019 in my recent article.
If you're moving house and are interested in how to safely transport a digital piano, read my latest article here.