Advice for buying your first airplane

Advice for buying your first airplane

Buying your own airplane is not only fun and exciting; it’s a big commitment.  If not done properly, it could be a very complicated and costly experience.  When you purchase your first aircraft, you need to find an airplane that will fit your mission.  I’m going to go over a few tips that you should take into consideration when purchasing your first airplane.

Buy Only What You Need

What You Want vs What You Need

This is a very important step.  You need to figure out what your primary mission will be.  This way you can decide on what type of aircraft you need.  There is a big difference between What You Want and What You Really Need.  It could be a huge difference in prices. 

 Do you need a 2, 4 or 6 seat aircraft?  Realistically how many people will be traveling with you most of the time?  Do you really need a six seat aircraft?  Are you planning on taking a lot of long trips or just staying in your local area most of the time?  How fast do you want to get to your destination?  Speed costs money.  IF you want a really fast airplane, it will cost you a lot more money.  A fixed wing Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior will be cheaper to operate then a Cirrus SR 20 or Bonanza.  Remember only buy what you need.  You don’t want to be kicking yourself later because you purchased an aircraft that costs too much to operate.

Determine Your Budget and Stick with It

You need to set a budget and stick with it.  Airplanes are not like cars.  Most cars have a few standard options you can purchase. The same make and model airplane can have hundreds of different options.  You can buy a basic used 1977 Cessna 172 for around $30,000 or you can spend $145,000 on a used 2000 Cessna 172.  That’s a huge price difference.  There’s always going to be something bigger, better and faster.  You just need to stick to What You Really Need.

Determine if you want New or Used

A new Cessna 172 can cost upwards of $430,000.  A used Cessna 172 can be purchased for as little as $30,000 or cheaper.  New airplanes usually come with some type of warranty where most used aircraft come As Is.  The average person could not afford a brand-new Cessna 172.  A $430,000 loan over 10 years with 20% down and a 6% interest rate will cost you around $3,800 per month.  A $30,000 loan over 10 years with 20% down and a 6% interest rate will cost you around $266 per month.  So how much can you afford?

Where to Search

Check the bulletin board at your local airport.  You’d be surprised at how many airplanes you could find for sale at your local airport.  You can also check out the following websites:

For a smoother process, you can also work with an aircraft broker.  They can help you thorough the whole process of finding and buying your airplane.   

Take a Test Flight

The first thing you should do after you find the airplane you want is to take a test flight.  Fly the airplane around and see if you like it. 

Pre-Buy Inspection

You should have all the logbooks inspected by a mechanic.  Most sellers should be able to send you PDF copies of their logbooks.  This is a great time to find a certified aircraft mechanic that can do your pre-buy inspection.  Make sure the mechanic is not friends with the seller.  You want a mechanic that has never seen the airplane to do the inspection.  Never, ever buy an airplane without a pre-buy inspection.  This is a very important inspection that can save you thousands of dollars.

Contract and Payment

I highly recommend that you work with an aircraft broker.  They will help you through the whole process of purchasing your aircraft.  You can also hire an Aviation Attorney that can help you complete the sale.

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