You do have a tough dilemma. I purchased my piano from quite a distance - plane flight away but in the same country. I am not sure how it would work with you, but I was very comfortable with the dealer I purchased my piano from and did not worry about warranty / service issues as he assured me they would be taken care of if they arose.
All he asked was that I use a PTG Certified technician for any items that needed to be addressed. I did have one item that needed to be addressed - it was handled easily (at least in my mind.) My tech came out, spoke to the dealer on the phone while he was working on my piano and sent his bill to the dealer.
Maybe you could make a few phone calls / swap emails with a long distance dealer who you could develop a relationship with before travelling to try out pianos?
True. That is also an option. Although also non-ideal, as the rest of the options.
I am not sure my non-ideal option is worse than the other non-ideal options
Also, I can't be the first person in a small, remote market that is faced with this dilemma. And I can't be the first one in history to choose something not physically available after researching and assessing options.
Maybe I should start a thread for people in this situation or people who have made this choice.
In theory, Denmark isn't that remote of a market. In northern Europe, close to Germany and England. I live in the capital of Denmark even. And we have EU wide laws to protect consumers. In practice, it doesn't feel safe to buy from some unknown dealer far away in another country. And also, I have to find that dealer and the right piano first.
I guess I could visit some German or English dealers that have the Ritmüller grands on the floor, to try them out. But that is certainly easier said than done. And I probably still wouldn't buy that specific piano anyway, foreign remote dealer and all.
I guess the five year deal with my local dealer feels like I am betting that
1) I want to own a grand piano for the next five years.
2) That I will find at least one piano which I like enough for a price am willing and able to pay.
Could you guys elaborate on what you see as the greatest risk in buying a piano remotely?
Is it that the tone I've heard from several different recordings isn't the same in real life?
Is it that there is too much variation on tone between different specimens of the same model, so that even if what I've heard is true, there is a big risk that I will get something else or something worse?
Is it that there is too much variation in build quality, so that there is a big risk I will get a bad specimen?