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The do's and don'ts of pre-buy inspectionsThe Dos and Donts of Pre Buy Inspections

Do have a pre-buy inspection. It could save you thousands of dollars over time. People who are passionate about airplanes find it easy to fall in love quickly with a particular airplane. What’s more, we think that if we don’t act quickly and say "yes" to the buyer, then the one-and-only airplane for us will be sold to someone else. Slow down and be smart. First, have a pre-buy inspection.

Even if the airplane belongs to your best friend, and even if the airplane you want to buy is one that you have flown before, you need to know more about the total health of the airplane. A pre-buy inspection will reveal issues such as corrosion that would not readily be visible. That’s why the best advice I can give any airplane buyer is to have a licensed A&P perform an independent, non-biased inspection of the airplane. 

And now for a “don’t.” Don’t choose the existing mechanic or shop of your potential new airplane. Use another shop that has no ties to the airplane. Sure, it’s convenient to have the local shop at the airport where the airplane is based perform the inspection. It’s probably cheaper, too. However, the shop that has been working on the airplane may be too quick to praise its own work and tell you the airplane is in great shape. Even if you have to pay to have the airplane flown to another local airport, it’s a good investment. You want a mechanic who has no attachment to the airplane to give a thorough inspection using a fresh set of eyes. 

Here are a few “dos” for selecting the right mechanic or shop. Use the shop you intend to have maintain the aircraft once it’s yours, unless, of course, that shop is the one that’s been doing the service on it. Choose a shop that specializes in the type of aircraft you’re purchasing and frequently works on an airplane like the one you’re thinking about buying. For help selecting a shop, do check out the online owner’s forums. These forums have a wealth of information for potential owners of a particular type, including which shops are the best. 

Don’t rush the process. Slow down and take your time. Make sure you give yourself enough time for the pre-buy inspection and you are not rushed as the proposed closing date approaches. Typically a pre-buy inspection takes one or two days—but we know how that works. Build in some extra time so you don’t feel pressure.

Do use your best judgment when analyzing the results of the pre-buy inspection. Realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect airplane; you have to know what you are willing to accept and what you won’t. Unlike buying a house when the buyer can often pressure the seller into paying for repairs as a condition of the sale, that’s typically not the case with airplanes, unless it’s an airworthiness issue. Be reasonable with the seller and remember that perfect doesn’t exist. Have the mechanic spell out the differences between airworthiness directive (AD) items and non-AD items. Have the mechanic explain the items that have a high level of importance and urgency to fix and those that may be “nice to fix.”

As a side note, if you purchase an airplane that has had minimal use by its current owner, do expect that the pre-buy inspection may uncover a lot of items that will take time and money to fix. Give yourself enough time to remedy these items. Also, often times aircraft that have sat for some time may have squawks not immediately apparent or uncovered during the pre-buy.

And, finally, be willing to walk away from an airplane. That’s the toughest piece of advice to give. There may come a tipping point in your mind when the work necessary to bring the airplane legally to standard, and personally to your standards, just becomes too high. Remember that at any given time, there are literally thousands of airplanes for sale. Just like the adage, “Marry in haste, repent in leisure,” you can buy an airplane in haste and repent in leisure as mounting mechanical bills makes flying inaccessible.

Great rates. Great terms. Helpful and responsive reps. Three good reasons to turn to AOPA Aviation Finance when you are buying an airplane. If you need a dependable source of financing with people who are on your side, just call 800.62.PLANE (75263) or click here to request a quote.

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