Answers for Pilots: Aircraft Purchasing

Buying an Aircraft

May 16, 2014

Aircraft for SaleOur phones are ringing off the hook as many of you call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center with questions about buying an aircraft – and some of you are first-time purchasers! How exciting!

We have an assortment of helpful resources for you: Check out the Aircraft and Ownership page, which opens the door to aircraft valuation (Vref, the “blue book” for aircraft, essential to buying and selling), a helpful guidebook of tips on buying a used aircraft, and links to information on financing and insurance.

You might also want to join us for a webinar on Aircraft Purchasing on July 23. Sign up for it here.

Here is an overview of the steps involved in purchasing an airplane. The upcoming webinar will discuss each of these steps in more detail.

  • Pre-purchase considerations: Put some thought into the kind of trips you will likely be flying – many buyers are tempted to buy more airplane than they need. Think about where you will fly, how often you will fly, whether you will usually carry passengers, if you plan to fly VFR or IFR, what kind of equipment you will need, and how much money you are prepared to spend on flying and aircraft maintenance.
  • If you decide you need more airplane than you can afford, consider joining or starting a flying club. The cost-sharing yields impressive savings, and the camaraderie offers support, encouragement, and fun for you, your friends and family. AOPA has recently published a Guide to Starting a Flying Club, so check it out online. 
  • Shop. AOPA Classifieds lists some aircraft for sale, so does Trade-a-Plane and several web sites. Once you have an airplane in mind, check its list price against its Vref price. You can get an approximate value online, and if you want more specific information – perhaps for upgraded equipment, or for pristine condition – call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
  • Watch out for buying an aircraft that is more than you can manage either financially or as pilot in command. Also beware aircraft with logbook and ownership records that don’t sync, as well as aircraft with extensive corrosion.
  • Find out what your financing options are. AOPA Aviation Finance Company, LLC helps AOPA members find the right financing for both new and used general aviation aircraft, providing assistance in navigating the complex financing options available.
  • Investigate various insurance coverages. AOPA Insurance Services has been helping members insure their aircraft for more than 20 years, and can guide you in finding a policy that’s right for your needs, your aircraft, and your type of flying.
  • Estimate what the continuing cost of ownership will be. AOPA’s Operating Cost Calculator will guide you through a series of questions about your aircraft and your flying that will yield an approximate estimate of ongoing costs.
  • Finally, although you can complete the financial transaction yourself, many buyers hire a title and escrow company to be sure the title is clear and to transfer money to the seller.

If you have questions, please give us a call – the aviation specialists in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center are here to talk with you Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672).