Originally posted by Ariel:
Even from this small sampling, I am understanding that there is tremendous variability between makes - much more than I had thought. I expected to hear that the only real differences were length of warrantee and transferability, and perhaps to a lesser extent flexibility in interpretation
Well..... in essence, that *is* all that's different. Rick Clark said it very well some time back on rmmp, paraphrased "a warranty is only useful in the event of catastrophic failure". I don't know what differences you were reading into what was said, but the fact is, every single warranty out there reads almost the same way, in regard to what the warranty covers - "defects in materials and workmanship". The only difference is type of warranty (limited Vs full), length of warranty, and frilly sales hype, such as lifetime plate warranties, 25 year soundboard warranties, and such. Other than defects in materials and workmanship, everything else can be attributed to maintenance.
Anything past 5 years is fluff. If a piano hasn't experienced a major structural catastrophe within a couple of years, the odds are it isn't going to. The Japanese and Korean companies are going to honor their warranties just fine, as are the American makers, and most of the European makers. The Chinese makers almost won't, it all depends upon the integrity of the distributor it came in through. Mason Hamlin has a good warranty - but it's no better than any other quality maker's warranty. Kawai has excellent service - just like all the other quality manufacturers. Yamaha has a 10 year limited warranty, Kawai has a 12 year full warranty. From there, the lower in quality you go, the longer the warranty, and the higher in quality you go, the shorter the warranty. Lower quality makers use their warranty as a selling point, high end makers don't.
If you start splitting hairs, using the warranty as a measuring tool, giving one brand more points than another because it has 2 more years on the warranty than another for example, you are going to screw up. Just make sure the maker or distributor has a good reputation for service (as I said, all the quality makers do) and then don't worry how long the warranty is. Play the pianos, and choose based on what you feel and hear. If it's going to explode, it will do so fairly quickly. If it isn't going to explode, 99% of the things you'll face after a couple of years will fall under the category of "maintenance", and no one's warranty covers maintenance. Not a one.