AOPA Aircraft Buying Guide: It's a buyer's market

April 9, 2008

AOPA Aircraft Buying Guide

It’s a buyer’s market

By Dave Hirschman

It’s a sound negotiating strategy, and it makes good sense, to prequalify for a loan and have aircraft financing worked out in advance. Through the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program, that process can be as short as 15 minutes, and it gives you added leverage when the seller knows that you’re serious and prepared to move quickly.

A prepurchase inspection is a standard part of virtually all aircraft sales, and it’s important to make sure that a qualified mechanic takes a hard look at the airframe, engine, and logbooks. Some prepurchase inspections are so detailed they are nearly annual inspections—and some buyers go to the extra expense of combining them, or they agree to split the cost of an annual with the owner. That way, a new airplane comes with a clean bill of health, and the next annual inspection is less likely to turn up expensive surprises.

If you already know the mechanic who will be performing future maintenance on the aircraft you buy, hire that person to perform the prepurchase inspection. That way your mechanic will be familiar with the aircraft from the start. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid every pitfall—but your odds of predictable and acceptable maintenance costs will improve.

AOPA also can perform title, FAA, and NTSB accident and incident database searches that can disclose previous damage that may be hidden or absent from aircraft maintenance logs. And the title search will uncover any liens or legal complications that could encumber your ownership. The cost of such services is miniscule compared to the savings and protection they can provide. Learn more in “ 10 tips for financing your aircraft purchase.”

Also, make sure you’re insurable in the aircraft you’re buying. Complex, high-performance, and tailwheel aircraft require additional endorsements and flight experience, and you should have a clear idea of the experience requirements and costs before you buy.

Experienced aircraft owner John Downing, of Atlanta, Ga., said rising fuel, insurance, and hangar costs, along with tight credit markets, have pushed down aircraft values and made it a buyer’s market. Fuel costs have hit piston multiengine aircraft particularly hard. But he said the best deals go to buyers who have the resources and decisiveness to consummate deals quickly.

“Buyers who are ready to move can get some astonishingly good deals,” he said. “I watch the market closely, and I’ve been amazed that some excellent airplanes at very reasonable prices have been slow to sell, or haven’t sold at all in the last year. It’s a real buyer’s market.”

April 9, 2008

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.