When shopping for a used piano we recommend you have the instrument inspected by a qualified piano technician. Many structural parts of an instrument are not visible, and may remain hidden until a technician gets inside to check the instrument. Pinblock cracks, plate cracks are often not visible. Soundboard, bridges, bushings, action components, hammers, trapwork, should be inspected. An estimate is a cheap investment to insure a positive outcome. It can save you time and money.
A first step would be to decide on a price range and appearance you're comfortable with. Remember, you'll see it everyday even when you don't play it.
Go to piano stores, look in the newspaper, and ask your local music teachers and tuners to let you know if anything turns up.
When you find one that's interesting, play it. Try every note, listening for buzzes or notes that don't work at all. Play some music that's loud and fast, and some that's soft and slow. if you don't play yourself, bring a friend who does.
And finally, when you find a piano you think you want to buy, have it inspected by a professional piano technician. Would you buy a used car without a mechanic's advice? Save yourself the possibility of disappointment or disaster, and have a piano technician check it out for you before you write the check.
Another good source of information is The Piano Book by Larry Fine (Brookside Press, P0 Box 178, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; hard cover $26.95, paper $16.95; 1-800-545-2022 www.pianobook.com) It's an indispensable source of complete information on buying a used or new piano, as well as how to maintain it afterwards. It has wonderful explanations of how pianos work and reviews of dozens of different piano brands.