4 Tips for Buying Your First Airplane

Buying an airplane is something a lot of pilots and wealthy individuals decide to do. And if you use it enough, it’s not a bad investment. However, you must use discretion in the purchase process.

Should You Buy an Airplane?

The decision to buy an airplane is much like any other major purchase decision – it comes down to opportunity versus cost. In other words, what will you gain from purchasing your own aircraft? And what will it cost you?

Benefits of owning an airplane include:

  • Not having to rent a plane, make reservations, or abide by usage limitations
  • The ability to customize your aircraft, parts, etc.
  • Freedom to quickly get up in the air whenever you feel like it
  • Cost-effective if you fly multiple times per month

However, owning an airplane isn’t for everyone. There are certain costs associated with it, including (but not limited to):

  • 100 percent of the maintenance falls on your shoulders
  • Owner’s insurance is often 5 to 7 times more expensive than renter’s insurance
  • Hangar and tie-down fees
  • Limited to one type of plane (and will have to sell if your needs change)

4 Helpful Tips for Buying a Plane

Ultimately, the decision to purchase an airplane is your decision to make. And depending on your circumstances, it could be an excellent choice. Here are a few helpful tips for buying your first plane:

1. Pick the Right Aircraft

Buying an airplane is a lot like buying a car – at least in the fact that there are so many different makes, models, and price points. The average cost breakdown for different types of aircraft will look something like this:

  • Ultralight Planes: $8,000 to $15,000
  • Single-Engine Planes: $15,000 to $100,000
  • Multi-Engine Planes: $75,000 to $300,000

You can obviously spend millions of dollars on a plane, too. But this gives you an idea of each category. The cheaper you go, the more you can expect to pay for short-term upgrades on the plane. The more expensive, the more costly it is to fly and maintain over the long term (as a general rule of thumb).

In addition to pricing, think about practical elements like where you plan on flying (cross-country, regionally, etc.), how many people you plan on flying with (solo, two-seater, entire family, etc.), and where you’ll store the plane.

2. Secure Aircraft Financing

While it’s certainly possible to purchase an airplane in cash, most people find it makes more financial sense to finance it. And while it’s not exactly as easy as getting a car loan, aircraft financing isn’t nearly as challenging as you might assume.

The first step is to find a good aircraft financing expert to help you secure competitive financing for your purchase. Once you find the right group, the process usually involves reviewing your finances, a loan proposal, credit underwriting, documentation, and closing/funding.

3. Do Your Due Diligence

Once you know what type of plane you want and have a necessary loan proposal/approval in hand, the fun part begins. This is where you get to look for planes and start seriously considering making a purchase. 

Before ever making an offer on a plane, we recommend doing three specific things:

  • Fly before you buy. When you’re in the air, check all systems and equipment to ensure everything is operating as it should.
  • Have a trusted mechanic conduct a pre-purchase inspection to verify all parts are in good operational condition. Encourage your mechanic to make a list of any parts or systems that will likely need to be replaced in the next year or two.
  • Conduct an aircraft title search to make sure there are no liens on the aircraft. (If you go the financing route, this will almost certainly be included as part of the process.)

4. Be Patient

Most people aren’t going to find an airplane within the first week of searching. It takes several weeks or months of looking to zero in on the right option in most cases. The key is to be patient and avoid feeling pressured into making a purchase simply because you can’t find something. It’s better to continue renting for a while than to make a rushed decision that you end up regretting.

Adding it All Up

Buying an airplane doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you might think. Once you determine that this is the right decision for you and your family, it’s simply a matter of putting the right steps together. Use this article as a launching point and don’t be afraid to take the process slowly.

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