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How Do I Ship An Upright Piano?

Pianos are one of the largest and most valuable items in our homes, and that makes them notoriously difficult to move. In addition to their size and value, they’re also exceptionally heavy, and they contain over 10,000 moving parts—each one susceptible to damage with every step you take.

As a musician (or the parent of one), you know how hard it is to find the perfect piano—one that fits into your space, matches your aesthetic, and perfectly expresses your musical personality. Whether your piano is a recent purchase or a priceless family heirloom passed down through the generations, leaving it behind when you move is rarely an option, even if you’re moving long distance or across the country.

If you’re researching how to ship an upright piano, chances are you fall into one of three groups:

  1. Homeowners: You’re relocating, either locally or long distance, and you need help safely moving your piano to your new home.
  2. Estate breakups: You’re managing an estate distribution and need help shipping a piano (and probably some other items, too) to multiple destinations across the country.
  3. Schools: You represent a music school and need help shipping a piano to another location in your network.

There are four main ways to move or ship an upright piano across the country. TSI’s shipping experts are here to help. Read our comprehensive piano shipping guide to learn about each shipping method, or use the menu below to jump directly to special consideration, mistakes to avoid, and detailed packing instructions.

1. How To Ship an Upright Piano

Read about five common ways to ship an upright piano, including pros and cons and when to use each method. 

4. Special Considerations

Pianos are bulky and heavy, and each instrument will come with its own unique set of considerations for packing and moving.

2. How Much Does It Cost to Ship an Upright Piano?

The cost of shipping your piano depends on what shipping method you choose.

5. Mistakes to Avoid

Keep your piano safe throughout the moving process by avoiding these mistakes.

3. Recommended Shipping Method

Moving locally or long distance? Find out which shipping method is best for your move.

6. How To Pack an Upright Piano

Pack your piano the right way with our step-by-step instructions.


How To Ship an Upright Piano

How To Ship an Upright Piano

If you’re moving long distance and want to transport your piano across the country, you have 4 options:

  1. Rent a truck and move yourself
  2. Hire professional movers
  3. Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
  4. Consolidated freight

Upright pianos, like other types of piano, feature 88 keys and over 10,000 moving parts. That’s a lot of moving parts—and a lot of opportunities for damage. While it is possible to move a piano yourself, it is always recommended that you hire a professional moving company to help relocate your piano, regardless of the style or size.

If you do choose to move your piano on your own, it is vitally important that you pack and move it properly.

Skip to packing instructions.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods:

1. Rent a truck and move yourself

Renting a truck and moving yourself is a common choice for small or short-distance moves. If you don’t have much stuff to pack up and move, are only moving across town, and are physically capable of loading and unloading your stuff (or have friends and family who can help), this method is typically the most affordable option.

If you’re moving a piano, you can pack and load it into a rented moving vehicle, or a pickup truck if you have access to one. However, moving a piano without professional assistance is never recommended, especially if you are moving a particularly large, valuable, or fragile upright piano.

If you do choose to move your piano yourself, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Never place a piano on its back to move it. This increases the likelihood of damage to the internal components.
  • Allot at least 2 hours to move your piano, on top of the time you’ll need to load the rest of your belongings. A DIY piano move is a very tedious and demanding task, and it requires a lot of preparation.
  • Measure all doorways and hallways the piano will be travelling through to ensure it will fit easily, and so you can make alternative plans if required.
  • You’ll need helpers—at least 3-5 people—to prevent the piano from tipping or falling. Position one person at each end of the piano, one along the keyboard, and a fourth to act as a spotter for any potential collisions or to hold doors open. When it comes to moving a piano, more people is better than fewer stronger people.

Loading upright pianos onto the moving vehicle

The challenge isn’t over yet—loading your upright piano onto the moving vehicle involves its own set of special considerations. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Load your piano first, and unload it last.
  • Once you’ve securely mounted the piano on a four-wheeled dolly, roll it gently by tilting the front edge upwards to clear any thresholds, bumps, or other raised segments.
  • When rolling your piano down a ramp, position two movers at the front end of the piano to bear its weight. Position a third helper at the back end of the piano to control its movement.
  • When rolling your piano up a ramp, position two movers at the back of the piano so they can push it, and one helper at the front of the piano to guide its movement. Have a fourth helper at the side of the piano to stabilize it in case it starts to tip over.
  • Be sure to firmly secure the piano inside the moving truck. Roll it up against the back wall of the truck, right up against the cabin, with the keyboard side facing the wall so that the backside is exposed. Remove the four-wheeled dolly, which might break loose and roll around in transit, and position your piano on a piece of plywood to add stability and help cushion it from bumps and vibrations. Fasten the piano lengthwise to the support bars or railings using moving straps. For the safest ride, double or triple fasten your piano. It should not be able to shift more than 1 inch in any direction.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Can be more cost-effective than hiring movers (assuming your piano doesn’t sustain damage) You are entirely responsible for packing and loading your piano—pianos require significant preparation and exceptional care and attention while moving, which can add to your moving stress
Your piano remains in your care the entire time May require renting additional equipment to load and unload
You can move on your own timeline Can be expensive for long distance moves, particularly if you are moving lots of stuff
  No insurance included

How much does it cost to rent a truck and move your piano(s)?

The cost of a DIY move will depend on the size of the rented vehicle, as well as the distance of your move. You will pay a day rate based on the size of the vehicle, as well as mileage and fuel charges. You may also pay extra for moving supplies, equipment, and insurance.

  • Day rates typically range between $19.99-$29.99 per day for a 10’-17’ truck, or $29.99-$39.99 for a 20’-26’ truck.
  • Mileage often ranges between $0.69-$0.79 per mile during the week and up to $0.99 per mile on weekends, and can be higher during peak moving season.

If you’re moving long distance, you may also be required to pay an additional fee to leave your rented vehicle in a different city than where you picked it up.

When should I rent a truck and move my own piano?

  • Inexpensive pianos
  • If your budget is more important than your piano
  • Local or short distance moves, if hiring professional piano movers is out of your budget

2. Hiring professional movers

It is always recommended that you work with a professional piano moving service when you are moving a piano. If you are moving locally, a quick online search will help you find experienced piano movers in your area. If you’re moving long distance, finding a qualified moving partner can be a bit more complicated because standard long-distance moving companies may not be capable of packing and transporting a piano safely—in this case, consolidated freight is a great alternative.

MOVING TIP: Be sure to mention your piano when you call for a quote so moving companies can provide an accurate price and advise you about packing requirements before they arrive.

Always get quotes from at least 3 moving companies before you book. When you get a quote, ask each company about their piano moving procedures so you can confirm that they have the knowledge and expertise to move your piano safely.

You should also be prepared with any specific information the moving company will need to be aware of in order to generate an accurate quote, such as narrow hallways or tight spaces. Some piano movers will add extra charges for each step, staircase, or hardship.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Professional movers know how to handle pianos, have access to more equipment, and will load it onto the truck properly Regular household movers likely won’t pack or move your piano, unless you pay extra for these services
No heavy lifting—the pros will load and unload all of your stuff Can be costly for long distance moves
May include professional packing materials for your other household items &nsbp;
Basic insurance is often included  

How much does it cost to hire professional movers?

According to the American Moving and Storage Association, the average local move costs around $2,300, while the average long distance move costs about $4,300. The total cost of your move will depend on the distance of your move and how much stuff you are moving. Specialty items like pianos will add to the total cost of your move.

Local piano moves typically cost between $250 and $1,000 depending on the time of the year, the distance of the move, and the number of movers required. Factors such as stairs, narrow doorways, and other obstacles can also add to the cost of your move.

When should I hire professional movers?

  • Local or short-distance moves
  • Small moves or full household moves
  • If you are able to pack and unload the rest of your belongings, and only need help moving your piano

3. Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping

When you post your piano shipment on a rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping website like Roadie or uShip, potential shipping partners who are travelling in the right direction will bid on your shipment. They could be a professional piano moving company, a roadtripper with room in their car, or even a larger logistics company. It’s up to you to vet your options and negotiate your shipping rate and included services.

Properly vetting a potential peer-to-peer shipping partner is especially important when you’re shipping a piano. Any shipping partner should be qualified and have the experience required to safely pack and transport a piano over long distances. This includes providing a safe transportation environment for your piano, such as temperature control or air-ride suspension.

When you post your piano on an online peer-to-peer shipping marketplace, be sure to provide accurate information about both the pick up and drop off points, including things like stairs, tight spaces, and the total carrying distance. You should also provide detailed information about the type of piano, including accurate dimensions and an estimation of its weight.

Advantages

Disadvantages

May be cheaper for long distance moves You may not be working with a professional—there’s no guarantee of expertise or experience, and there’s less accountability if something goes wrong
Can be used to ship just about any type of large item Need to pack your piano yourself
  May not be able to take larger pieces
  May need to provide loading and unloading assistance
  May not be able to track your shipment
  No insurance if your shipment gets damaged

How much does it cost to ship a piano using peer-to-peer shipping?

Shipping your piano using peer-to-peer shipping services typically costs between $750 and $1,000+, but peer-to-peer shipping costs can vary and are often negotiable depending on your piano. Its size, age, value, and fragility, as well as pickup and loading conditions, will all impact the cost of your shipment.

When should I use peer-to-peer shipping to transport my piano?

  • Newer, inexpensive pianos
  • If you are shipping a few other large items

4. Consolidated freight

When you ship your upright piano using consolidated freight, your instrument will share space on the truck with other shipments heading in the same direction. You only pay for the amount of space your shipment takes up on the truck.

Consolidated freight shipping services are always provided by licensed and insured shipping companies. The best consolidated freight providers will connect you with an experienced shipping company that specializes in transporting pianos. This may include:

  • Indoor pickup and delivery
  • Temperature-controlled vehicles
  • Air-ride suspension
  • Loading and unloading by hand or using a crane (instead of by forklift)
  • Varying levels of service, such as white glove packing services, to ensure that your piano is packed or crated properly.

TSI FACT: We have safely delivered over 3,000 pianos since 2008! Learn more about our piano shipping services.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Safe—you can trust experienced professionals to handle your piano properly in a controlled environment May be costly to ship large, especially valuable, or antique pianos
Convenient—no need to find space in your rented moving vehicle to safely transport your piano Longer timelines, unless you pay for expedited shipping
Always includes packing services, as well as indoor loading and unloading  
Includes limited liability coverage and additional insurance can be purchased  

How much does it cost to ship a piano using consolidated freight?

The cost of shipping a piano using consolidated freight depends on the size and style of the piano, as well as other considerations such as especially delicate components, stairs, or tight spaces.

All pianos are shipped by consolidated freight use White Glove service. This typically costs between $950 and $2,500, depending on your piano, but offers a much safer environment than moving your piano yourself, or a standard less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping environment. You’ll get indoor pickup and delivery, and instead of being loaded and unloaded using a forklift, your piano will be carried by hand by professional piano movers.

When should I use consolidated freight to move my upright piano?

  • Long distance moves
  • Large, antique, or especially valuable pianos

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How Much Does it Cost to Ship an Upright Piano?

Method

Cost

Renting a truck and moving yourself Depends on size of vehicle and distance of move
Hiring professional movers Depends on size and distance of move; approximately $4,300
Peer-to-peer shipping $750-$1,000+
Consolidated freight $950-$2,500+

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Recommended Shipping Method

We always recommend hiring professional movers to transport your piano.

For short distance moves, look for a local piano mover in your city.

For long distance moves, consolidated freight is the safest option. Consolidated freight services are always provided by licensed and insured shipping companies. When you ship your piano using consolidated freight, you can rest assured knowing it will be handled by experienced professionals who know how to transport pianos safely. 

Upright pianos are always shipped using premium White Glove service. White Glove service costs more than a standard less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment—typically between $950 and $2,500 depending on your piano—but includes essential services and safeguards such as indoor pickup and delivery, temperature-controlled vehicles, air-ride suspension, and loading and unloading by hand or crane (instead of a forklift). 

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Special Considerations for Shipping an Upright Piano

Pianos consist of a number of distinct parts, including:

  • KEYBOARD: Acoustic pianos are comprised of 88 black and white keys. Pressing or striking the keys causes a chain reaction within the piano that ultimately produces that quintessential piano sound.
  • HOUSING & LID: “Housing” refers to the wooden frame that encases the internal components of a piano. The lid can be opened or closed depending on what sound you want to produce. Opening the lid of a grand piano creates a louder, more resonant sound.
  • PEDALS: Some pianos have two pedals, but most have three. The pedals are used to flavor the sound produced by the piano, typically by softening the sound or lengthening certain notes.
  • KEYS, HAMMERS, & STRINGS: Each key is connected to a small, felt-covered hammer. When a key is pressed, the hammer strikes a string that is tuned to the corresponding musical note. The string then vibrates rapidly, creating a sound we perceive as music.
  • DAMPER: The damper sits over the strings inside the keyboard. It’s typically made of cloth or felt, and mutes the sound of a piano by preventing vibration. When you press a key, the damper lifts so you create a sound. When you release the key, the damper returns to mute the string.

There are three main types of piano:

1. Upright

Upright pianos, sometimes called “vertical pianos” are the most common type of piano. Typically standing between 43” and 53” tall, these pianos are the easiest model to fit into a home or classroom.

Upright pianos are named after the position of their strings and soundboard, which are positioned vertically. Because of the location of these components, upright pianos carry most of their weight in the top half, and the legs and feet can be very fragile.

There are 4 styles of upright piano:

  1. Spinet: The smallest style, typically under 40” tall. The piano’s action is located below the keys and is operated by vertical wires attached to the back of the keys.
  2. Console: Console pianos are the most common style, typically between 40” and 44” tall. The action sits directly on top of the keys, with smaller hammers and strings stretching downwards.
  3. Studio: Studio pianos are slightly larger than console pianos, between 44” and 47” tall, with a full-size action sitting directly on the keys.
  4. Upright: The tallest style of upright piano, with a soundboard that is nearly the same size as a baby grand.

2. Grand

With a larger horizontal soundboard and longer strings, grand pianos are faster to play and offer greater control over the sound produced. Grand pianos also contain special mechanisms that aren’t present in an upright piano, allowing musicians to create certain musical sounds that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve.

There are 4 styles of grand piano:

  1. Baby grand: The smallest grand piano. This is typically the style you’d find in someone’s home.
  2. Medium grand: Slightly larger than a baby grand, typically between 5’6” and 6’6” in length.
  3. Parlor grand: Typically between 7’0” and 7’6” in length.
  4. Concert grand: The largest grand piano you’ll find, ranging in size from 9’ and up.

3. Digital

Instead of activating a hammer when you strike a key, digital pianos activate a sensor that triggers audio playback through built-in speakers. Purists may not consider digital pianos to be “real” pianos, but these models are capable of replicating similar tones, with a few added advantages.

Modern digital pianos have weighted keys and pedals similar to those of an upright acoustic piano, but they typically cost less. They can also produce different voices, and typically include other practical features, such as built-in metronomes and the ability to record music. Plus, digital pianos are also the easiest model to move, and don’t require tuning after being relocated.

Upright pianos are always heavy, bulky, and extremely delicate. While some are relatively inexpensive, other upright pianos, such as antique pianos, are priceless pieces that demand even greater care and attention to detail.
Here’s what makes pianos so difficult to ship, and what you can do to keep your upright piano safe throughout the moving process:

  • WEIGHT: Upright pianos are heavy—typically around 300 lbs, and sometimes as much as 1,200 lbs. Most of the weight comes from the cast iron harp that holds the strings; smaller upright pianos have a smaller harp, and will therefore weigh less than larger models. Antique pianos also typically weigh more than newer models. The key to managing the weight of your piano is to use the proper tools and have enough helpers on hand for the move.
  • ERA & AGE: The age and era in which the piano was built can impact its durability, as well as the condition of its interior components. Older pianos are generally heavier and may feature delicate ornamentation, as well as extra fragile interior components, that will make them tougher to move. For older pianos, always work with a professional piano mover—they will have the expertise and experience to properly move antique pianos.
  • STYLE: While it is possible (but not recommended) to move most upright pianos by yourself (if you are able to take the time to pack and transport it properly) large or especially valuable instruments, such as antique or heirloom upright pianos, or any grand piano, should never be moved without professional help. These instruments will require special equipment that only professionals can provide.
  • VALUE: Upright pianos can be worth anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to over $100,000. Pianos exceeding $500 in value should never be moved on your own—always hire professionals.
  • TUNING: All acoustic pianos, regardless of size, age, or value, will need to be tuned after you move them. Some local piano movers include tuning services, but if you are moving long distance, you will need to find a piano tuner in your new town.

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Mistakes To Avoid When Shipping an Upright Piano

  • Not using the proper packing materials and tools. This is not the time to “make do” with what you have lying around or MacGyver your own DIY moving tools. Keep reading to find out what packing materials you need to pack your piano safely. 
  • Not having enough helpers. You’ll need at least 3-4 people to help move your piano, ideally in good shape and with experience moving heavy items. The more people you have, the lesser your chance of injury or damage to your piano. When you’re looking for helpers, remember that more people is better than stronger people.
  • Not measuring doorways, staircases, and hallways before you move. The last thing you want is to get your piano mounted onto the dolly and halfway to the truck before you realize it won’t actually fit through the front hallway. Always measure every space your piano will pass through so you can determine how easy (or hard) it will be to maneuver your piano through these spaces.
  • Not protecting your space. When you move a piano, you should also protect the space it will be travelling through, including furniture, walls, and floors. Lay blankets on the floor and pad furniture that may be bumped by the piano during the move. You should also cover any sharp edges or railings so they don’t scratch your piano while you move it. Extra towels or even baby bumpers work well. 
  • Rushing through the move. Dropping a piano has severe consequences. Rushing through the packing and moving process and not taking the proper precautions throughout the process is just asking for trouble.
  • Rolling your piano on its built-in casters. The wheels or casters on the bottom of your piano are purely decorative, and are not there for moving the piano. These casters tend to deteriorate over time, and can easily jam or even break if you attempt to roll your piano on them, leading to more significant, potentially irreparable damage to your piano, not to mention your flooring.

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How To Pack Upright Pianos

Packing an upright piano for a move requires great attention to detail. While it is possible to pack and move your piano yourself, it is always recommended that you work with professional piano movers to ensure that your instrument is transported safely and securely. If you are limited by budget, or for other reasons need to move your piano yourself, here is how to pack it:

Packing materials

  • Moving blankets—lots of them
  • Four-wheeled dolly that is at least half the length of the piano—NOT a hand truck. The wheels on the bottom of your piano are not designed for moving.
  • Piano board or skid board
  • Straps to hold piano in place and help you load
  • Packing tape
  • Van ramp

Packing instructions

  1. Measure the piano. Determine its exact dimensions and approximate its weight. Upright pianos are typically between 43 and 55” tall, 59” long, and 25” deep.
  2. Prepare the area:
  • Remove all items from on top of and around the piano.
  • Clear a pathway to the exit, removing any furniture, rugs, and other potential obstacles.
  • Prop every door open.
  • Set up ramps on any stairways, such as porch steps.
  • Lay down plywood to make it easier to roll your piano over difficult patches of carpet, grass, cobblestones, gravel, or sand.
  • Pad any steps you might have to go down so they don’t bump the bottom of the piano.

PRO TIP: Clean your piano before you move it. Any leftover dust or dirt can scratch its delicate surface while it’s in transit.

  1. Take pictures of the piano from all angles. Note any existing damage, or places that might cause problems during the move. You’ll need these pictures if your piano sustains damage and you need to make an insurance claim. NOTE: If you are moving your piano yourself, you won’t be covered by insurance if your instrument sustains damage.
  2. Close the lid and lock it if possible. If it won’t lock, wrap it tightly or secure it in place with painter’s tape.
  3. Cover the keys (if there’s no lid) and pedals in moving blankets. Secure the blankets in place with packing tape, taking care not to let the tape touch the wood surface—it could leave residue and damage the surface of the piano, especially on older or antique models.
  4. Cover the entire piano in moving blankets. Tape the blankets securely in place, again ensuring that no tape comes into contact with the piano. Some upright pianos have handles on the outer frame of the backside of the piano to help with moving. If your piano has these handles, make sure you don’t cover them in moving blankets.
  5. Hoist the piano onto the four-wheeled dolly. Position a person on all sides of the instrument to avoid tipping and falling.

How to mount your piano onto the dolly:

  • The best grip is underneath the ends of the keyboard, and ideally on the back handles if your piano has them. If there are no handles, there should be a horizontal board near the middle or top of the frame that will also work.
  • Bend from your knees, not your back.
  • Don’t support the weight of the piano on one or both of its front legs. These legs are largely decorative and are not designed to bear the weight of the piano. Instead, tilt the piano back slightly when lifting it.
  • Once mounted onto the dolly, your piano may not appear perfectly centered. This is okay! The keyboard side is slightly lighter than the back. The trick is to center it according to its weight, not the dimensions of its case.
  1. Secure the piano to the dolly using moving straps or rope. Pass the straps under the dolly and over the top of the piano, then tighten or tie them at the piano’s back side.
  2. Gently roll your piano to the moving truck, following the loading instructions noted above.

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Conclusion

You have four options for shipping an upright piano:

  1. Rent a truck and move yourself
  2. Hire professional movers
  3. Rideshare or peer-to-peer shipping
  4. Consolidated freight

It is always recommended that you work with professionals when you are moving or shipping a piano. For short distance moves, look for a local piano moving company. Some even offer tuning services. For long distance moves, consolidated freight is the safest way to transport your piano. Consolidated freight services can be used to move any upright piano, including antique or heirloom pieces.

TSI can help—our experienced logistics coordinators will connect you with an expert piano shipping company and help you create a shipping plan that works for your schedule and budget.

Ship your Upright Piano

Let TSI create a personalized plan for shipping your piano. 

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