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  Home > Newsletter > What to Know Before Buying a Plane, December 2016

What to Know Before Buying a Plane

What to Know Before Buying a PlaneWhat pilot doesn’t occasionally dream about buying their own airplane? Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to upgrade your existing model, here are some important tips to help ensure you’re smart and savvy when you make your big purchase, courtesy of

Think twice about buying used.

While the price of a used plane is usually cheaper than new, depending on the model and other variables, it may make more sense to buy new.

Loans for new airplanes usually are easier to qualify for, and down payments typically are lower than for a used airplane. Buying new allows you to pay lower interest rates on your purchase, as they are sometimes subsidized by the manufacturer. Buying new may also allow you to finance the airplane for a longer time, and enjoy possible tax benefits.

Other considerations: A new plane should be relatively repair-free for the first few years, other than regular, expected maintenance, allowing you to calculate maintenance costs more accurately and give you peace of mind for the first few years of ownership. For these reasons and more, buying new may make more sense than buying used.

Use the 90% rule.

When selecting an airplane model, be realistic regarding how often and in what capacity you'll actually use it. Too many pilots find out too late and after the papers have been signed that they bought too much plane. To avoid this trap, use the “90% rule:” Shop for an airplane that meets your needs 90% of the time, and rent for the other 10%. Realistically list what you’ll do with your airplane, and how often. The money you’ll save by purchasing the right plane will pay for years of “10% rentals.”

Set and stick to your budget.

Once you have an idea of what model airplane you want, set and stick to a price you can realistically afford. This simple piece of advice can help you avoid buyer’s remorse.

Too many pilots have a “rough idea” of what they want to spend, and then allow the price to increase based on what they want, but not necessarily need. Establish a hard-number budget and shop only in that range.

Do research and join owner’s groups.

Do as much research as you can on the pros and cons of the plane you're thinking about buying. The internet is a great resource for buyer and user reviews. Pay attention to these, and don’t just visit the manufacturer’s website, which of course, won’t be as objective as other pilots.

Also join owner groups, as they're a treasure trove of information for prospective buyers of any aircraft. You can learn everything from maintenance to pricing, and 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, as well as Bonanza, Duke and Skymaster groups, to name a few.

Consider a light sport aircraft.

Light sport aircraft (LSAs) are one of the fastest growing categories in aviation. Companies like Flight Design, American Legend and others are making some of the most popular new aircraft, with Cessna and Piper now in the market with the Skycatcher and PiperSport.

Many of these new planes offer 2,000-hour TBOs (time between overhauls), glass panels and innovative safety features, all priced in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. Also, many innovations appearing in standard-category aircraft are also embraced by LSA makers, including carbon-fiber composites, more efficient engines, automotive-type restraints and LED lighting. So, when shopping for a new plane, don’t count out LSAs before doing some due diligence.

Source: Plane & Pilot, Top 20 Tips For Buying An Airplane

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