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Buying a used aircraft: our top tips

Buying a used aircraft

Top tips for buying a used aircraft

Buying your first airplane can be a daunting process, but you can go about it the right way with our top tips for buying a used aircraft.

Check you can afford it first

The cost of an aircraft doesn’t just mean the price you pay for it.  You need to be sure you can afford to run it too!  Insurance, fuel, and accessories can all add up, so make a spreadsheet of your ownership costs before you do anything else.

Stick to your budget

Once you’ve established how much you can afford to spend on your aircraft, be strict with yourself and stick to your budget.  Don’t be tempted by extras you don’t need – and can’t afford.

Don’t overbuy

It can be tempting to buy an aircraft which has everything we want – but might not need.  If you’ll only need a four-seater aircraft once a year, and a two-seater the rest of the time, buy a two-seater, and hire that four-seater on the rare occasion you might need it.  Otherwise, you’re wasting your money!

Consider shared ownership

Shared ownership can be a very cost-effective way to own a plane.  If you have someone you can buy alongside, split the aircraft – and the costs – between you.

Get prequalified for finance before you search

If you’re buying your aircraft on finance (like many do), get prequalified before you find your aircraft.  Most finance agreements are good for about 90 days, giving you time to find something – and ensuring you can act quickly when you find your perfect plane!

Take advice from others

If you know someone else who has been through the process, speak to them first to find out about their buying experience.  What pitfalls did they encounter?  What would they do differently next time?  Are there any gems of knowledge they can pass on to you?

Search widely

There are many online directories where you can find used aircraft for sale, and these are a good place to start.  Don’t forget to search offline too, though; check the bulletin board at your local airport, or ask your friends and family if they know of anyone selling a plane.  A local purchase could be easier than buying from a seller halfway across the country.

Check the aircraft’s value

Once you’ve found an aircraft, check its value before going any further.  AOPA offers a Valuation Check, powered by VREF, which can give you an idea of whether the price is in the right region.

Take a demo flight

Don’t buy anything until you’ve seen how it flies, and pay attention to the controls to ensure everything’s running as advertised.  If you’ve read the manufacturer’s manual beforehand, you should have a good idea of the kind of performance you should see – so make sure it matches up in the cockpit.

Organize a pre-purchase inspection

One demo flight isn’t enough to truly know what you’re buying.  A mechanic can carry out a pre-purchase inspection for you, which will cover all the mechanical and physical elements of the plane.  The current owner should be happy for this to take place if they’re confident in what they’re selling.

Check the documentation

A plane sold without all its aircraft records – including log books – can damage its future value.  Make sure you have everything before you buy.

Order the aircraft’s FAA Form 337s 

One last thing – if the aircraft has undergone any major work or alterations, it’ll be detailed on a FAA Form 337.  Ordering this from the FAA incurs a small charge, but it could save you from an expensive mistake.

Once you’ve followed our top tips for buying a used aircraft, you’ll be ready to enjoy your new plane!  And if you have any questions about flying, don’t forget to contact us.

1 Comment

  1. Brayden Brade on September 28, 2017 at 9:13 am

    That’s interesting that pre-purchase inspections are part of the process. I suppose it makes a lot of sense. The process is just very similar to buying a home. My brother is interested in buying a plane so I’m helping him research the process. Thanks for the tips.

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