Should I Rent or Buy my First Harp?

I used to always recommend you start by renting so you could have a chance to learn about harps and figure out which one was right for you. But I no longer feel that is necessary. Here is why.

Harps are large, awkwardly shaped, bulky, and fragile. So shipping them is not cheap. Unless you are lucky enough to find a rental harp available locally, shipping a rental harp to you and then back when you are done is going to cost hundreds of dollars. Who wants to throw that down the toilet when you could put it straight toward a harp of your own?

With that in mind, let’s look at the pros and cons of renting versus buying so you can decide which is right for you.

Pros of Renting

1. Renting gives you a chance to make sure it is, in fact, something you (or your child) will enjoy playing and want to stick with long-term. It’s easier to return a rental after losing interest in 3 months than to sell a harp.

2. Another pro is you likely do not yet know what type of harp is going to be best for you in the long run. Should you get a pedal or lever harp? How many strings? How tall? What finish? Do you need a certain weight? Type of wood? If lever harp, how many levers and what kind? Should you get the upgrades and accessories? Which ones?

3. Additionally, people who are not harpists do not know which brands to be wary of or how to tell if a used harp is in good condition or not. Getting a harp teacher involved to help guide you through this process and help you find the perfect match for you is worth the wait.

Cons of Renting

1. When you rent, none of the money you are paying goes towards owning the harp. When you decide to return the harp, you are back at square 1 in your harp ownership. 

2. Rental harps are often not in great shape. They tend to get beat up and not kept in tune. They might also be very old with antiquated lever technology. This might not give you a true sense of what harp playing and maintenance is like. 

3. Depending on the contract, the owner of the harp may request that you return the rental, and you might not be able to find another rental quickly, leaving you without a harp to practice on.

Pros of Buying

1. The first pro of course is that the harp is YOURS! There is a sense of pride and security that comes with ownership. You never have to worry about giving it back and suddenly being without a harp.

2. You will save money in the long run. When you buy a harp, even if it is on a payment plan, the money you are spending gives you equity in the harp. While rental payments go on forever, financing a purchase has an end date to the payments.

3. When you own, you can customize the harp as you like. A renter has to stick to the rules in the rental agreement, but an owner can add a soundboard decal, change the string type, and buy new accessories. 

Cons of Buying

1. It is best to try a harp before you buy, whether used or new. Even harps that look identical, the same make and model, can sound different due to the variances in wood. You may prefer a bright, vibrant sound while someone else prefers a more mellow, even tone. However, unless you have the funds to travel, happen to live near a harp showroom (very few exist), or find someone locally selling the ideal harp, you will likely need to consider an online purchase. I have purchased some incredible harps from places like eBay, Craigslist, and other classified sites. But I know what questions to ask, pictures to request, and things to watch out for. I also know there is still a HUGE risk I am taking buying sight unseen from someone without a warranty or guarantee. If you are not able to try the harp in person, I strongly recommend buying from a reputable harp manufacturer or dealer who provides return options and a good warranty. 

2. You might not have the cash flow or the credit to afford to buy a quality harp right away. A quality lever harp will be a few thousand dollars. You can get cheap ones, but you really do get what you pay for: cheap price = cheap materials, cheap workmanship, and cheap/non-existent customer service from the seller/manufacturer. HOWEVER, if you want a quality harp from a reputable manufacturer but can’t afford to shell out 3-6k at once, there is a great rent-to-own option with the Starter Harp that allows you to make manageable weekly payments over 2 years until the harp is yours, with NO ADDED FEES OR INTEREST! It’s a game-changer for aspiring harpists!

In summary, never buy a cheap harp without talking to a harpist about it first. Find a teacher (you can even connect with us on with a free registration) and start talking to the teacher about what you want in a harp. You will be so much happier with what you end up buying.

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