Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Top 20 Tips For Buying An Airplane

Preparation is the key to getting a great deal in today’s buyer’s market

2 DECIDE ON NEW OR USED. Though the initial price of a new airplane may seem to make buying used a better choice, think again. Buying new allows you to pay lower interest rates on your purchase (rates usually are subsidized by the manufacturer), finance the airplane for a longer time, and enjoy possible tax benefits. New-airplane warranties allow you to calculate maintenance costs precisely and give you peace of mind for the first few years of ownership. Loans for new airplanes usually are easier to qualify for, and down payments typically are lower than for a used airplane. You may be surprised to find that, in some cases, buying new may make more sense than buying used.

3 JOIN OWNER GROUPS. Owner groups are one of the best sources of information for prospective buyers of any aircraft, but few airplane shoppers ever think to join them before buying. A treasure trove of knowledge about everything from maintenance to pricing is available from these groups. Smaller groups have emerged that focus on single models within a manufacturer’s line. For example, there are Cessna, Cirrus, Piper and Beechcraft owner associations (and many more), as well as Bonanza, Duke and Skymaster groups—this is true for nearly every model out there.

4 CONSIDER LSA. Light sport is one of the brightest beacons in aviation. Many innovations appearing in standard-category aircraft emerged from LSA, such as carbon-fiber composites, more efficient engines, automotive-type restraints and LED lighting. Companies like Flight Design, American Legend and others are making some of the most popular new aircraft, and now Cessna and Piper are in the market with the Skycatcher and PiperSport. These new planes offer 2,000-hour TBOs, glass panels and all kinds of innovative safety features, all priced in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. LSA is where the “cool stuff” is happening.

5 SET A BUDGET & STICK TO IT. This simple advice is one of the keys to avoiding buyer’s remorse. Too many pilots have a “rough idea” of what they want to spend, and then slowly ratchet up the number as they find prospective airplanes that are just beyond their financial target. Establish a hard-number budget; shop only in that range. Give yourself a realistic overflow number and stick to it—no matter what.

Buying 101: Getting Started
Two online resources to help you begin your ownership journey Greg Smith is a CFI and CFII based in Salt Lake City, Utah, with a background in finance and real estate. He learned to fly in 1998 and earned his master’s degree in business, then began forming an idea for a website that would allow users to go to a single source for aircraft research and comparisons. Today, that website is Its most powerful feature is the ability for users to get specific information on a particular aircraft from different sources. That includes getting performance numbers, doing side-by-side comparisons and combining expert reviews and pilot reports—all in a single web portal. Visit The Buy A Plane Kit is a great place to start your aircraft search. When you sign up (it’s free), you’ll get all sorts of information, including a buyer’s guide on the proper way to buy, finance and insure your aircraft. You’ll also receive goodies like an owner’s guide from ASA, a carbon-monoxide detector and a free DVD from Sporty’s “Air Facts” series. The kit includes manufacturer contacts for requesting more information on a prospective aircraft, as well as tips on buying accessories like navigation software and headsets. Visit


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