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What should a piano tech drive?

Posted By: kenny

What should a piano tech drive? - 05/27/08 07:30 PM

Today's gas prices make us want the smallest vehicle that meets our needs.

What do you have?
What do you wish you had?
How necessary is a truck/SUV/station wagon to a piano tech?

Do any of you get by just fine with a smaller car like a Civic with a back seat that does not fold down?

How often do you have to carry around an action?
Posted By: Steve Jackson

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/27/08 08:02 PM

My vote would be for a Ferrari, so when we pull up, the customer knows they're gonna have to pay. Other than that, it depends on your area. I am mid city and most of my work is within a mile or 2 and can use a scooter, moped, smart car or whatever and get something else if I need to carry heavy stuff. If you are out in the sticks and miles between appointments, you have to take lots with you and be prepared, so a small wagon would be good. If you are in an area with real bad weather, than maybe an all wheel drive would be good. Depends.

Take care,

Steve
Posted By: Gene Nelson

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/27/08 09:13 PM

Drive what you need. If all that you do is tune and live in a city with good public transportation you need not drive anything.
If you have a small car and need to take an action to the shop what would you do?
If you carry several tool cases, parts, wire supplies, dampchasers and do shop repairs etc probably a wagon, van or small suv. Gas prices go up so do the fees.
Has anyone ever read the book "But You Can Feel It"?
Story about Emil Fries - a blind tech - in the early days of his life when he did tuning and repairs he would travel by train or whatever means available. Pick the worst piano in town and offer free repair for room and board. While in town, word would get out the tech was in town and he would stay till work ran out and move on.
Some of his repairs were amazing and innovative.
He did not carry many tools by today's standards.
Posted By: RoyP

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/27/08 09:37 PM

Many of the techs I know have a small SUV type vehicle. Something like a Honda CRV or a Suburu Forester.

I have a PT Cruiser which works well. It gets 30mpg on the highway, and I can get a couple of grand actions in the back. It was only rated at 25 mpg, but has done really well now that the engine has broken in. Many of the small wagons out have similar setup where the back seats fold down, and it makes a nice area to put things.

Before this I had a couple of small extended cab pickup trucks. They were fine, except the gas mileage wasn't near as good.

Lately I have been thinking of getting one of the Chevy HHR's in a panel version. It's only a two seater. I would get one in white and have a keyboard design painted on the side for advertisement. The back has a flat bed area. There are compartments underneath it that lock, etc. It really would be pretty ideal for what we do. The ones I have looked at are rated at 30 mpg, but I have read forums where people report getting in the mid-30's.

It's either that, or wait for an electric car. I'll probably just keep driving what I have until it dies.
Posted By: RonTuner

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/27/08 11:45 PM

I know a few techs that drive a Prius... an action fits in the back somehow!

I've got a first generation Scion xB - 30+ mpg and soooper roomy inside. I even fit a pedal harp in there once...

I'm waiting for Tata motors to get the bugs out of the compressed air vehicle. It looks perfect!

Ron Koval
Posted By: Ron Alexander

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 12:17 AM

I'm about ready to take to the roller skates, and pull out my army field pack for the tools. Gosh, ya think motorcycles get no respect from motorists. Look at that fool on roller skates.
Posted By: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 12:35 AM

A wing and a prayer....

Audi A4..wagon...
Driving 25,000 each year on Bay Area freeways takes a lot of gas and screen time....so I like to enjoy the process when I can...the all wheel drive is great when it does decide to rain around here...

I like the roller skates idea though...

If only we could get a vehicle that runs on hot air, we could get that free from the Washington administration....
Posted By: Ron Alexander

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 12:59 AM

You said that right Pete. If the hot air in Washington could harnessed, it would power the world.

Actually, I operate out of a 2001 Ford Ranger with over 118,000 miles. I know the time is coming I will have to fix it or trade it. But the thoughts of car payments makes be cringe. I've also thought of mule power, but with the price of mules these days, I could do a high grade fix it on my Ranger!!!
Posted By: RoyP

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 01:21 AM

Ron:
How have you liked the Ranger? I had a 1996 Dodge Dakota as my backup/extra vehicle until recently. My daughter started driving, so we traded it in on something she could drive more easily. It was a good truck, I must say. I've been going through truck withdrawal, and will probably get another one sooner or later. I've had a couple of Chevy S10's over the years. I don't want a truck as a daily driver, but they are nice to have around. The Dakota had 141k on it, and still was doing great. You might do ok for a while. My PT Cruiser is at 112k. They last if you take care of them. I plan on getting alot more miles out of this PT. Face it, we put alot of miles on a vehicle.

Yeah, car payments aren't my cup of tea either. I've really been trying to forego financing anything. Our vehicles are all older, but in good shape. We just bought a Volvo wagon with 141k on it. Runs great. I don't miss the payments.

The Audi wagon sounds like a nice ride. I'm really glad I don't have to fight that Bay area traffic though.
Posted By: Sam Casey

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 01:41 AM

Interesting thread. I am a firm advocate for driving a nice vehicle. My area has its share of gravel roads, low water bridges and washouts plus interstates, state highways and county roads. I drive SUVs. I buy new and turn them over every few years. Latest incarnation is a 07 Toyota RAV4 Limited. Before that a 03 Sequoia Limited, 02 MDX, 98 4Runner Limited.

Sometimes I wonder if my licence plate is memorized by every police department in 300 miles from home. When you drive up to a home unlocked for you the neighbors do notice the chubby guy in a strange car going thru the garage door. I feel a lot better, get a lot less hard stares driving a shiney new SUV. That's not the usual car of choice for the thief or looter. There are tax breaks too. You get waved thru gated communities without a check AND when a customer sees a nice SUV they are more inclined to conclude you must be skilled enough to afford it.
Posted By: Peter Sumner- Piano Technician

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 02:14 AM

Interesting Sam....
Reminds me of when I moved up here from LA...Just a few years in this country and broke (ish) running a 18 year old Chevy S10 truck, it became painfully clear to me that the Steinway owning populace, with whom I was getting acquainted, would not appreciate my truck leaving dollops of oil on their manicured gravel driveways....
SO....got a loan and bought an older BMW 3.28i convertible....I knew that it had been a wise choice as soon as I drove through the huge gates of my next client....he actually came down the driveway to greet me with a..."nice wheels....just love those Beemers"

BINGO
Posted By: CTPianotech

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 02:34 AM

If you aren't a rural area with lots of dirt roads, don't plan on using your vehicle to tow a trailer with pianos in it, and don't get much in the way of snow, I think a Civic (if you've already got one...) should do just fine.

You may find however that you need to be creative with how you use your space, and plan your days so that you do not need to load up every tool you might every possibly need at the beginning of each work day. It's too bad the back seat doesn't fold down in your car (they do in my Civic), as that would make transporting actions much easier, but perhaps there's a way this can safely be done in yours--as least with smaller to mid-size pianos..

Quote
Posted by Sam Casey:when a customer sees a nice SUV they are more inclined to conclude you must be skilled enough to afford it.
It seems as though that could swing around the other way, with your customers thinking, "Just how much of this bill went to pay the gas in that beast!" :p
Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 02:44 AM

I drive a Cadillac.... A paid for Cadillac. A 1994 paid for Caddy... :p Great shape but, I choose to let the other person take the hit and huge loss so I only paid $6,000 cash for it, had it 3 years so far and it still runs like a top with 165,000 on it. Plan on hanging onto it for another few years but, I also think with gas prices playing mind games with us, that I'll pick me up a dinky car to save more money yet. Goes like a bat too I might add! Great passing gear! laugh
Posted By: RoyP

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 03:36 AM

Good points. I'm not advocating driving a rust bucket, mind you. If a car gets old enough that it starts costing you alot of money to repair, you might as well drive something newer and make payments. I've certainly done that. It's just that I really like not having car payments. It gives me a little more freedom to spend my money otherwise. I do appreciate the need to drive something comfortable. We put so many miles on, that you need to be driving something which doesn't make you hurt. Reliability is important. If your car won't go, it's going to cost you money in missed appointments.
Posted By: kenny

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 03:42 AM

Quote
Originally posted by CTPianotech:
If you aren't a rural area with lots of dirt roads, don't plan on using your vehicle to tow a trailer with pianos in it, and don't get much in the way of snow, I think a Civic (if you've already got one...) should do just fine.

You may find however that you need to be creative with how you use your space, and plan your days so that you do not need to load up every tool you might every possibly need at the beginning of each work day. It's too bad the back seat doesn't fold down in your car (they do in my Civic), as that would make transporting actions much easier, but perhaps there's a way this can safely be done in yours--as least with smaller to mid-size pianos..
Actually my Civic is the 2006 Hybrid model.
The seats can't go down because that's where Honda put the batteries.
I do have a lifetime average (over 28 months) of 64 MPG though. wink

I have my eyes on a Honda Fit.
The back seats are very versatile.
You can fold the bottom portion up and it gives you a space 50" high.
[Linked Image]

Or you can fold the seat backs down and you get a cargo space that's perfectly flat and 58" long - my grand's action is only 53" long.
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

The Fit starts at only $13,950.
EPA rates them at 34 MPG (only 6 MPG worse than my the EPA for my hybrid) and there are plans for a hybrid Fit soon.
Honda better retain the Fit's clever back seat flexibility though.

Seems like a good car for a piano tech when gas is $5/gal, but it won't have that BMW panache for your Steinway customers.
Posted By: UprightTooner

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 06:45 PM

You might want to make sure you can get a piano tipper in the vehicle.
Posted By: Mark Purney

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/28/08 06:53 PM

I went with a hatchback. Fits all my tools, upright tilter, and grand action caddy. Gas mileage isn't the best, but it's so much fun to drive that I don't really care.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]
Posted By: RPD

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/29/08 02:23 AM

I have a Ford F150 truck I pull a piano trailer, or when we travel for music our small RV with. But, these days IT STAYS PARKED!!!! as much as possible!

In April 2006 I purchased a new Toyota Yaris...small car...very small...42mpg average. It has 75 thousand miles on it already (sheesh!) and runs like a top...back seats fold forward for grand actions...a little tight...its my office away from home. I'll drive it until it has many more miles on it; my last truck had 325,000 miles when we junked it.

Next time though, I'm going to go Jerry's route and get an older used car...this driving the doors off new cars is for the birds...even tho' the Yaris was only 13.5K out the door, still...

RPD
Posted By: Mr G.

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/29/08 09:41 AM

I have always driven vans in my business. For the last few years I’ve had a Ford Transit, High Roof, LWB running on duel fuel – petrol and Gas. My next vehicle will be the same with the only difference of being automatic and cruise control – I am just sick and tired of changing gears any more.
Posted By: Eric Gloo

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/29/08 05:55 PM

I drive a 2003 Olds Alero, now at 107,000 miles. Bought it slightly used in 2004, have replaced 6 front wheel bearings, at least 5 full sets of front brakes, rotors, etc. ... the insides of all the doors are rusting, the front edge of the hood is rusting...AND I've got 10 more car payments.

But, it gets 30 MPG and is extremely comfortable to ride in...which is most important out here in the middle of nowhere.
Posted By: RPD

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/29/08 09:17 PM

If I lived in a city, I'd chuck it all and buy a MoPed! RPD
Posted By: Bob

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 05/30/08 01:37 AM

In Chicago, I had a Subaru Forester - the four wheel drive was great in the snow. In Florida, I had a Honda CRV, (25 MPG) which I just gave to my wife and bought a Mazda 3 hatch (29 MPG) 8sec 0-60 (fun to drive). I bought 6 $10.00 tool boxes from Home Depot. They fit in the back, hold all my tools, strings, liquids, etc. and create a flat surface to put actions on if needed - but most actions fit on the back seat. I pack them in with a moving blanket or two, and they are secure.

Honda is making more hybrid models for 2010. The fit will be a hybrid. The current Honda Civic with it's non folding and too narrow rear seat is too small for actions. The Prius is also too narrow, but the rear seat folds down to make room for actions slid in from the rear.
Posted By: Torger

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/01/08 11:50 AM

I drive a Toyota Corolla enjoy about 30 MPG in the city and about 40 on the highway,
I haven't had any issues fitting things in back.

I'm considering building a small trailer for my bike and using that for the close (<3 miles )tuning appointments - Somehow I doubt i'd get a 'nice wheels' comment if clients greeted me at their gates.
Posted By: kenny

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/01/08 01:51 PM

Quote
Originally posted by Papageno:

I'm considering building a small trailer for my bike and using that for the close (<3 miles )tuning appointments - Somehow I doubt i'd get a 'nice wheels' comment if clients greeted me at their gates.
Think again.
I'd shake your hand.
$5 gas will be here soon.
Posted By: junmer

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/01/08 07:38 PM

I drive a petrol guzzling Ford Explorer. Very safe, comfortable and powerful.

I noticed that whenever I rent an economy car to temporarily replace the Explorer when it is being serviced, I don't get the same treatment from customers as when I am using the big one. I am given a higher esteem based on the car I am driving. Is that to be expected?

JUNMER
Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/01/08 09:08 PM

Yes, I think so. I find the same thing. Cars are a status symbol so it seems. The better looking they are, the richer people think the next guy are so, they better we are treated.

Never mind that the vast majority of them are so fricken far in debt it ain't even funny but, gotta impress each other anyway I guess. laugh I'll impress them with my paid for car! laugh
Posted By: kenny

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/01/08 09:09 PM

Quote
Originally posted by junmer:
I drive a petrol guzzling Ford Explorer. Very safe, comfortable and powerful.

I noticed that whenever I rent an economy car to temporarily replace the Explorer when it is being serviced, I don't get the same treatment from customers as when I am using the big one. I am given a higher esteem based on the car I am driving. Is that to be expected?

JUNMER
Could that be all in your mind?
Partially in your mind?
We tend to see what we are looking for, or assume others share our values.
Then again among piano owners there may be a snob or two. shocked

I know plenty of people who look down on people with gas guzzlers.
But then maybe I tend to see what I'm looking for.
Times are changing.
Posted By: Dave Stahl

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/01/08 09:11 PM

I think my '99 Saab 9.3 with 145,000 miles on it might last until somebody comes out with a good hybrid van.

The hatchback is great. I can fit a ton of stuff--and hide it.

First choice in a perfect world would be my bicycle. But like many others, I travel too far and carry too much stuff for that.
Posted By: David Jenson

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/02/08 01:15 AM

I'd personally go for the paid-for model ... whatever it is, and however funny it might look. To heck with status!

If they are impressed with my bank-owned car and ignore my drop-dead good looks and unmatched technical skill, well ... just forget 'em!
Posted By: Sam Casey

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/02/08 01:07 PM

I have a 1980 Chevy C-10, bought brand new and quipped with a Tommy Gate for moving pianos. 140K on it, 3 "on the tree" inline 250-6. Looks like heck, as would be expected with a truck stored outside 28 years. About 8 years ago a customer of mine, a middle aged fellow, wanted his Knabe grand, 5'8" rebuilt, (block, shim board, stringing, hammers, keytops, regulation, etc.) When I came to the house with my old faithful rust bucket his wife pulled him aside and whispered "Your NOT letting somebody with a truck like THAT take our piano are you??" He and I got a good laugh over that.

For me newer vehicles pose several benefits; depreciation off taxes, dependability, (my time is too valuable to waste at a mechanic or to lose use of my SUV until fixed), cash flow, (I do 35K miles a year. ANY car with 150K miles needs far more frequent attention and subsequent expense and loss of time. I'd rather make the payment.)

Status is not a good word. IMHO credibility is better. The customer in general has no clue what is involved in piano service. Symbols of prosperity, as crude and clumsy as it may seem, are important to many people. I've had more than one customer mention the old wreck the previous guy parked in the drive. Saying that, there are MANY fine tuners in my area that do not share my opinion. Always has worked for me. Given the amount time on the road comfort is an important fatigue issue. I like my sunroof and good sound system and 6 way adjustable seats.
Posted By: Jerry Groot RPT

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/02/08 04:17 PM

Here's the flip side story to SUV's and driving luxury cars.

I have a good technician friend who through all of his working tuning life, drove the worst looking, most ugly cars I'd ever seen. He was laughed at a lot of the time and teased by fellow technicians including my dad. He always laughed right along with them. This fellow was a very highly respected tuner technician here. Consequently, he was also very busy too, regardless of what he was driving.

This man retired about 10 years ago now. Starting in his early to mid 50's, he started traveling already.

One day, we got to talking about retirement after I saw him drive his brand new full sized custom made conversion van to a tuners meeting. He also drove a brand new motor home to Florida every winter for 6 months where he stayed in his paid for home there too!

That day, he said to me "Jer, do you remember all of those crappy cars I'd been driving and all of the fun and laughter the guys had as my expense, not that I minded it one bit, I would have done likewise?" I said, oh, sure I most certainly do Dale! He laughed and said, "do you know NOW what I was doing with all of my money??? I had a house that was paid for, no kids at home, no charge cards, nothing else to pay for so, I put all of my money into investments every single week."

He continued saying he'd been to Africa 10 times so far, travels all over the world whenever he feels like it, has half residencey in Florida and said, you can do it too Jer, anyone can, provided you save it, instead of "throwing it away like most people do. Spend it later, don't spend it now."

A point I'd like to make is that we are NOT what we drive or what we own as is the tendency in today's society. We are, what we are, through ethics, honesty, quality and how we treat others. At least, that's how I see it.

If people don't like you for what you drive. Who's got the problem?
Posted By: junmer

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/02/08 05:38 PM

Well said, Jer. thumb
Posted By: Mechanical Doll

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/02/08 05:51 PM

Quote
Originally posted by kenny:
I have my eyes on a Honda Fit. The back seats are very versatile. You can fold the bottom portion up and it gives you a space 50" high.

Or you can fold the seat backs down and you get a cargo space that's perfectly flat and 58" long - my grand's action is only 53" long.

The Fit starts at only $13,950.
EPA rates them at 34 MPG (only 6 MPG worse than my the EPA for my hybrid) and there are plans for a hybrid Fit soon.
Honda better retain the Fit's clever back seat flexibility though.
I was lurking and admittedly don't know bubkes about tuning (other than I needed to get it done once every six months when I had a spinet) but I'm a Fit fanatic and would offer the following observations:

1) It gets great gas mileage on the highway. For the 2008 automatic sport the quoted numbers are 27/33, however when traveling in fairly light, occasional-stoplight traffic (i.e. NOT midtown Manhattan rush hour traffic) I was getting as little as 20mpg on a new car. eek Happily, on the open road, doing roughly 65mph, it gets the promised 30+. I'm looking forward to their 2009 Hybrid offering .

2) You can fold every seat (including the driver's!) which makes for a lot of interior room. However, keep in mind that whatever it is you want to carry, needs to either fit in through the doors or the hatch. Unfortunately the rear hatch is not square in shape, more like an upside down trapezoid-ish shape, so things that would fit in the car, might NOT fit through the opening (I learned this the hard way last trip to IKEA.)

3) If you like listening to music wink , go for the Sport package. It has a more powerful sound system. And the fog lights are useful.

Quote
Originally posted by Mark Purney:
I went with a hatchback. Fits all my tools, upright tilter, and grand action caddy. Gas mileage isn't the best, but it's so much fun to drive that I don't really care.

[Linked Image]
We've got a 2008 Impreza Outback Sport too. smile It's got a larger hatch opening (thank god, I would have been stranded at IKEA otherwise) and a fabulous drive. But that 20/27 mileage quote is a killer with current gas prices.

I can usually fill my Fit tank for under $35. It costs mom $50 to fill the Subaru eek
Posted By: Innominato

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/02/08 05:58 PM

"That day, he said to me "Jer, do you remember all of those crappy cars I'd been driving and all of the fun and laughter the guys had as my expense, not that I minded it one bit, I would have done likewise?"

This reminds me of a book I read and re-read and would make compulsory reading at school:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Millionaire...mp;s=books&qid=1212429499&sr=8-1
Posted By: Jim Berna

Re: What should a piano tech drive? - 06/03/08 12:06 AM

I drive a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan with stow and go! I keep my parts boxes and my tool box in the rear well, this way my boxes do not have a tendency to slide, and also if I get an action, I can fold the intermediate seats down and safely carry the action! Milage is about 25 on highway and 21 in city! Great vehicle!
Jim Berna
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