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

18 PERFORM A THOROUGH PHONE SCREENING BEFORE GOING TO SEE AN AIRPLANE. Buyers frequently forget the cost of accessories when purchasing aircraft. These add-ons could significantly push up your final price tag. For example, that shiny, new, aerobatic-capable plane will require a couple of parachutes, which can easily cost up to $3,000 each. Avionics, safety add-ons and comfort features all add significant cost. Perhaps you’re outfitting a four-seater with top-quality ANR headsets for all passengers—that’s a $4,000 price tag. Accessories are great assets, but be sure to factor in the cost beforehand.

19 NEW AIRCRAFT, PREDETERMINE WHAT ADVANCED EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED. It’s a fact that newer fixed-gear airplanes are as fast as or faster than their retractable counterparts of the past. Though most pilots immediately think of “retractable gear” as a must for better performance, modern buyers need to rethink that stance. Fixed gear offers lower insurance and maintenance costs. Other performance features to consider are whether or not you’ll require icing protection (remember the “90% rule”), the level of protection, whether you’ll need pressurization or oxygen, the complexity of the avionics (fully integrated autopilot or a simpler version) and the level of battery backup you desire. Today’s airplanes are electronic marvels, but they eat energy fast. There are backup systems that range from a simple backup battery to dual independent electrical systems. Be aware of each option and the price tag it carries.

20 USE “ALTERNATIVE” SOURCES TO FIND YOUR AIRPLANE. Most people use the same resources when shopping for an airplane:,,, aircraft dealers, etc. But some of the best bargains can be found off the beaten path. Your local airport’s bulletin board is a great place to start; so are pilot gatherings and word-of-mouth recommendations. Sometimes a seller doesn’t even realize he or she wants to sell until somebody asks about buying the person’s airplane. Also, check places like eBay Motors ( and local newspapers. On the used market, agricultural publications frequently feature airplanes for sale at low prices. Scour forums dedicated to a particular type of airplane, since members usually take care of their airplanes religiously and can offer show-quality specimens. Working with a professional broker is another way to make sure you’re seeing everything on the market.

Putting It All Together
An informed, prepared buyer and a motivated, honest seller are the dream combination in the airplane market. Whether you’re considering a brand-new factory airplane, a certified LSA or a gently used airplane, following a checklist of sorts in your quest will help you sleep better once the papers are signed and the keys are in your hand. “Off-the-cuff” buying decisions, shopping “till it feels right” and “letting the airplane find me” all sound good on paper, but are sure ways to experience regret after making a buying decision.

Arm yourself as you would in any battle. Prepare, learn and have everything ready so that when the perfect airplane does appear, you’ll be ready to make the decision quickly enough to get a great deal. Purchasing an airplane is one of the most significant decisions you’ll make as a pilot. The Boy Scouts had it correct when they created their motto—one that applies equally well to buying an airplane: Be prepared.


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