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Answers for Pilots: Choosing the Right Airplane to BuyAnswers for Pilots: Choosing the Right Airplane to Buy

buyingYou saw one, again, last weekend, flying overhead. The airplane you’d like to own. Well, not THE airplane, but one similar to it. And then, this afternoon, as you were eating a sandwich at the airport café, you noticed one on the ramp with a “For Sale” sign hanging on it. You made quick work of your lunch and spent an hour talking with the seller, giving the aircraft a thorough look. He even took you up for a short flight. What now?
AOPA has many resources that can help you decide whether that airplane is the right one for you. AOPA staff can help you determine the fair value of the aircraft, and talk with you about ownership costs, financing, insurance, inspections, aircraft records and all the other considerations that go into making an informed decision to buy.
The first challenge is thinking objectively about whether that airplane is well-suited for the kind of flying you typically do – or plan to do. Sometimes it’s hard to realize that the airplane you love is not a good fit for your needs or your budget. Where you will fly – local day trips or long cross-country flights? How often? Would you fly IFR or wait for fair weather? Are these family trips or just the two of you? Or maybe you fly solo, skimming through the blue sky for the pure joy of it. Determining the realistic nature of your flying plans goes a long way toward determining the kind of flying machine that’s right for you.

Next is cost. Work out a realistic budget to determine a price range that you can afford. Then look at aircraft within your reach.
You’ve done all that? What next? You’ll want to determine for yourself that the price of the airplane you have in mind is fair. Give AOPA a call at 800-USA-AOPA and we can run a Vref aircraft valuation with you over the phone. It’s a free service for AOPA members. The airplane’s condition and its equipment factor into the price, so have as much detail about it as you can.
Then, you might want to look into financing. The folks at AOPA Aviation Finance Company have a lot of information and can discuss various options with you.
So far, so good? Next is to find out about insurance. Gotta have it! AOPA Insurance Services can talk with you about the various coverage choices you have. Remember, also, as you think about ongoing monthly ownership costs to include maintenance, fuel, hangar or tie down fees, and possibly other recurring costs. AOPA has a cost calculator to help you figure out what you might reasonably expect.
AOPA does recommend you pay a mechanic to do a thorough prepurchase inspection – try to find one who has experience working on that type of aircraft. Before you put a deposit on the aircraft, consider contacting AOPA’s Title and Escrow Service, who – should you so choose – can run a title search, check for liens, generate a report of the aircraft’s major alterations and repairs, and facilitate the paperwork and the closing.
Aircraft purchasing is naturally a hot topic with AOPA members and we host a webinar about it every year. Our next webinar is on Wednesday evening, July 23, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Tom Haines, AOPA Sr. Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, AOPA Pilot, along with Rodney Martz, Sr. Aviation Technical Specialist, AOPA Pilot Information Center will host the webinar. Click here to register.

And, as always, if you have an immediate question, give us a call, 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672), Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.




Kathy Dondzila

Kathleen Dondzila King

Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center
Technical Communications Manager, Kathleen Dondzila King, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
Topics: Financing, Ownership, Cross Country

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