How to
Buy an Aircraft

Step 1:
Choose the Make/Model
that is Right for You

Step 2:
Get Pre-Qualified
for Financing

Step 3
Shop Around

Step 4
Research Your Aircraft

Step 5
Put Deposit on Plane/
Open Escrow Account

Step 6
Pre-Purchase Inspection

Step 7
Verify the Aircraft
has a Clean Title

Step 8
Get a Quality
Insurance Policy

Step 9
Arrange Final Payment

Step 10
Closing Paperwork

Step 11
Pick Up your plane/
Schedule Delivery

Printable Version

Aircraft Buyer's Checklist

Step 3:   Shop Around
Knowing how similar aircraft have been priced can be very helpful in determining if the price of a specific aircraft seems fair. Remember, each aircraft is different so you will have to consider all the variables when making your comparison, keeping in mind those factors that are most important to you.

Factors that Effect Price

Total Time: Low total time aircraft are highly desired and cost more. High total time aircraft are less desireable and therefore cost substantially less. The values of newer aircraft are more affected by total time than older aircraft. Aircraft Blue Book and Vref each have there own formula for determining how total time affects the value.

Engine Time: Engines have a limited life expectancy or TBO (Time Before Overhaul). This number is based on when the average engine needs to be overhauled. If you purchase a plane that has 1500 hours on an engine with a 2000 TBO, you will have approximately 500 before you need to overhaul the engine. You will probably want to start saving for the occasion or if you plan on selling before that happens, you should know it may be a little harder to sell your plane as it approaches TBO. If you purchase a plane that has 1150 hours on an engine with a 1200 TBO, however, you should make sure you already have enough money to perform an overhaul. Be advised, TBO is based on averages. Just because an engine has a TBO of 2400 does not mean that it will make it to 2400 before an overhaul is needed. If not taken care of properly it could need an overhaul at 1100 or with proper care and some luck you might make it to 2800 hours or more.

Exterior Condition: Painting an aircraft is very time consuming and can be quite costly so an aircraft in above average condition is worth several thousand dollars more than one that requires paint. Corrosion is another thing to consider. Many airplanes have it, especially if they come from humid areas near salt water. It can often be treated, but depending on the severity, it does reduce the value of the plane. It is always a good idea to get a mechanics opinion on this matter.

Interior Condition: Like painting, refurbishing the interior also requires a fair amount of time and money. Seat covers can always help extend the life of an interior, but a new interior adds a few to several thousand dollars depending on the number of seats and the quality of work.

Avionics: Radios play a major role in determining the value of the aircraft, adding more than $20,000.00 in some cases. Aircraft Blue Book has a formula for calculating this value. Vref also has a system for considering avionics upgrades. A qualified aircraft broker or appraiser can help you put these figures into perspective.

Options/Modifications: Many airplanes have after market modifications that enhance the beauty or performance of the plane. It is important that these mods all have the proper FAA paperwork and log book endorsements. Some mods increase the value of the plane, while others improve the marketability.

Location: Don't forget to consider the aircraft's location when determining value. You should figure in the cost involved in getting to the aircraft as well as what it will take to bring it home.

Resources to Help You:

AOPA's Aircraft Valuation Service: This is a free service to AOPA members that will give you a Vref appraisal, based on market value according to the aircraft information you supply. There are many additional factors that go into an actual appraisal, so the actual value of the aircraft may differ from your results, but it should get you in the ballpark.

Certified Aircraft Appraisers: To help you make an educated purchase, it may be wise to enlist the help of a Certified Aircraft Appraiser. A qualified appraiser understands all the factors involved in determining aircraft value. Items that the average pilot may overlook, such as a new prop or maybe your plane is missing some items that are considered to be standard and included in the base value of the aircraft. Getting an appraisal by a professional just might save you thousands of dollars. You would never consider buying a house without an appraisal, so why would you invest in an airplane without one?

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