Is your dream airplane a Cirrus SR22, a Cessna Mustang, or even a Pilatus PC-12? Maybe it’s just a tube-and-fabric aircraft you seek. The search for all aircraft starts the same. Many look to the usual sources— printed publications, online sales sites, friends and even airplane bulletin boards—but that should be just the beginning of your research.
By doing that, you’ll get a rough estimate of the price range for the type of piston or turbine aircraft that meets your needs. It’s an early reality check on what you can afford. Many stop right there, find something they like and begin making phone calls to individual sellers sometimes located across the country.
The question is, does that person have experience with sales paperwork to make the deal go smoothly? What happens if you get the aircraft home and find something wrong?
Here are three sources for your research:
Friends and acquaintances
But what if you are looking for an older piston-engine aircraft, say a Piper Tri-Pacer? In that case, it may be best to use the tried-and-true methods of dealing with an individual.
You might be able to use your network of airport friends or simply, as many do, post a message on the FBO bulletin board. If someone replies that you do not know, maybe one of your friends can vouch for the seller.
Communicating directly with a national seller comes with certain complications, like traveling across the country to discover that the aircraft is not as advertised. Hopefully, you can find an aircraft in the local area a few hours drive away that can be inspected in a day trip.
Online aircraft sales sites and magazines
This is where you get an idea of what you can afford, and what is available. Are there many models of the aircraft you want, or hardly any? Obviously, sellers rarely if ever put negatives in the ads they place.
A magazine like AOPA Pilot has reviews of nearly every aircraft available and reports the positives and negatives of the make and model. A Google search adding “AOPA” to the make and model should bring up reviews done by the magazine.
The “Budget Buy” series in the magazine does the same, and you may want to also search using that title (“AOPA Budget Buy”) along with the make and model you seek.
Brokers and dealers
Unless you are very knowledgeable about the specific make and model of your aircraft, and know how to spot problems when talking to an individual seller, your best bet is to use dealers and brokers who do know and can steer you away from any problems. These dealers and brokers usually have an eye for high-quality aircraft because they deal with large volumes of sales.
Working with such dealers makes the transaction much easier. They know the paperwork. It will go smoother, and if you have a problem with the aircraft after the sale, these high-volume dealers are more likely to treat you well.
AOPA Finance frequently makes suggestions about such sources that buyers can contact to get help with their search. They may know of aircraft not yet listed for sale.
Even if you are looking for a used aircraft, such as a Daher TBM, it might be advisable to contact whoever is handling your region for new Daher aircraft. While they may deal mostly with new aircraft, they also have contacts for used aircraft or may have some for sale.
The dealer or broker may know of what are called pocket listings. That is, he or she may know an owner who hasn’t advertised his or her airplane, but would gladly give it up to trade up to a more capable model.
The higher in the market you go, the better off you’ll be to contact a specialized dealer or broker.
Considering aircraft ownership? AOPA Aviation Finance will make your purchase experience as smooth as possible. For information about aircraft financing, please visit the web (www.aopafinance.com) or call 1-800-62-PLANE (75263).