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Cut the Cost of Musical Instruments

Discover Ways to Save on Popular Instruments Played at Schools


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Many children in the final years of elementary school and in middle school will decide that they want to learn to play an instrument. Although we all want to encourage our children to develop an interest in playing music, finding the money to pay for the instrument, accessories and the lessons can be overwhelming.

A common concern for parents is the possibility that their child will lose interest in the instrument or change their minds on which instrument that want to play. Given these concerns, parents need to weigh the pros and cons of how they plan to go about getting their child an affordable instrument.

Renting vs. Buying Instruments

Renting rather than purchasing band instruments is one option available to parents. Initially it may seem like the perfect solution to both problems of affordability and the possibility that the child may lose interest, but it is important to look at the total rental package being offered.

The monthly rental fee, at first glance, may seem doable, however there are also security fees, interest fees and insurance fees that may be included. If the child decides to stick with the instrument, a rental program (which is usually a rent-to-own program) can cost two to three times over the actual retail cost of the instrument.

The advantages of choosing a rental program versus buying is that it is an easy way to get an instrument, financially it will initially cost a lot less than buying and any repairs are generally covered in the contract.

Rental Resources

Many communities have music stores offering rental programs and schools sometimes sponsor a meeting time for parents and owners of the local music stores to get together to discuss buying and rental plans.

There are also online stores offering rental programs for instruments. Here are two examples of packages and pricing at online stores.

  • Musicarts.com has been renting instruments since the 1950s and has several locations across the US. The rental fees are pretty reasonable and you earn "credit" toward the purchase of a student instrument.

    For most instruments the initial three month rental period runs $19.99 to $59.99 depending on the instrument. There is also a Liability Damage Waiver fee of $5.99 to $10.99 a month. After three months the rental fees increase from $27.99 to $59.99. Most of the instruments come with a protective case, necessary accessories and cleaning and/or lubricating oils and grease.

  • Kincaid.com offers different packages for different instruments. For example, a new clarinet that has never been rented or sold rents for $32.10, but a "Starter Pack" is available for $37 and the first month rental is free. The regular monthly rate includes maintenance and replacement coverage and tax. The starter pack includes a care kit, music stand and a book.
Rental (or rent-to-own) contracts are only cost effective for buyers who do not expect to have the instrument longer than a few months. Most people will find prices on used and new instruments with industry low-pricing structures, beat the overall cost of renting.

Another consideration when deciding between renting and buying, is that owning an instrument can sometimes contribute to the overall commitment towards learning and playing the instrument by both parents and children.

Buying Used Instruments

A popular option for parents looking to offset the price of a new instrument is to buy a used one. Depending on how motivated the seller is and the condition and age of the instrument, prices will often run up to 65% less than the price of a new instrument.

One of the biggest challenges in buying used instruments is finding one that is problem free. For those who do not know what to look for it is always a good idea to ask someone who is knowledgeable (music teacher, band leader) to inspect the product before making the purchase.

Finding Used Instruments

Finding used instruments can be fairly easy, depending on the size of the community. Places to look include music stores, the classified section of local and nearby area newspapers, neighborhood publications, garage and estate sales, local auctions, schools, secondhand stores and through word of mouth. It is also a good idea to post "wanted" notes in the newspapers, the grocery stores, gyms, and other community facilities with bulletin boards.

Online Options for Used Instruments

If local options are limited, the Internet has several resources. Browse Craigslist, eBay and the auction site at Goodwill, ShopGoodwill.com.

Many of the online music stores sell both new, dented and used instruments. The prices may not be rock-bottom like what can be found at a garage sale, but most online stores allow returns and offer some kind of in-shop warranty.

Popular online stores offering used instruments include, Amazon.com, Uncle Ikes and Musician's Friend.

Save When Buying a New Instrument

For those who prefer to buy a new instrument, many online stores offer competitive prices and extra savings with promotional coupon codes.
  • Musician's Friend has a good collection instruments with prices in many categories starting at $149.99. They also offer coupon codes for additional savings throughout the year, plus discounted shipping.
  • Woodwind & Brasswind is known for its marching band and school instruments. They offer a low-price guarantee, daily deals, and periodically have coupon codes for extra savings and free shipping offers. They also carry used instruments and an outlet section offering the lowest prices.
  • Guitar Center has over 200 stores throughout the US. They sell new and used instruments and accessories. Check their coupon page for additional online savings.
This is just a handful of the online stores that sell instruments. Big box stores including Target, Sams Club and Costco sell a small selection of band and other school instruments.

Compare Prices

There is a broad range of brands and prices on musical instruments. Using online price-comparison sites like PriceGrabber.com helps buyers make informed decisions.

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Helpful Resources

Espie Estrella, the Guide to Music Education for About.com has a large library of articles about marching band instruments, choosing a music instructor, buying tips and great advice for parents of children interested in music.

Also, many of the online stores listed above have informative articles and buying advice.

Selling Instruments

If the dreaded happens and a child stops showing all interest in the instrument, then parents can either hope that younger siblings will want to play it or they may opt to sell it. If there are no local takers, the online website Usedinstrumentbuyer.com buys used instruments. However, usually selling a school instrument is not too difficult, although waiting for the beginning of the school year is the best time to sell.

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