Financial Tips After You Buy Your First Airplane

It’s our experience that first-time airplane owners don’t always have all the information they need to keep up with the costs of owning an aircraft. 
Composite photography of a Cessna 172 in a crosswind landing. Augusta Municipal Airport (FLI) Wichita, KS USA

There are two basic “laws” to follow: establish a reserve fund for the annual inspection, and set aside funds for unexpected events.

Here are some more tips for staying on top of expenses:

  • Your airplane is an expensive asset. Pay attention to it.
  • Don’t be cheap. If you’re going to leave the airplane out to save money rather than put it in a hangar, it’s going to be harsher on your aircraft—harsher on your paint and harsher on the interior and the avionics.
  • Plan to spend more money on your first annual than you expect. Unfortunately, plenty of people don’t show an airplane enough love, and it shows during the new owner’s first annual.
  • Pay now or pay later. Don’t defer too much maintenance. Annual inspections always reveal things that must be done and things that should be done. Pay for the things that should be done as soon as possible.

If you’re going to have the airplane for more than three years, it’s better to put the money into it early on so you can enjoy any upgrades. Say you want to add XM music and weather in the airplane. While you won’t recoup the entire amount you spent in the sale, you’ll at least be able to enjoy the new features. After all, aircraft purchases, for the most part, are not typically based on a rational decision. They’re based on passion, driven by what people want to do, not need to do.

Another reason not to defer maintenance is that you may find yourself wanting to move into a newer aircraft. Don’t be caught having to put a whole bunch of money into an airplane that you’re about to sell just to make it marketable.

For first-time owners of larger, more expensive turbine aircraft, the emphasis on maintenance schedules rather than airframes and engine age is a significant change in understanding valuation. Those who previously owned a turboprop or light jet might be caught off guard. This is important when it comes time to sell your larger jet. Folks who are behind on the maintenance schedule will lose leverage when it comes time to sell. That’s just simple math. A company called Asset Insight is a good source for determining valuation based on where a particular jet is in its maintenance schedule.

Great advice. Great rates. From helpful and responsive reps you can trust. Three good reasons to turn to AOPA Aviation Finance when you are buying or refinancing an airplane. If you need a dependable source of financing with people who are on your side, just call 800.62.PLANE (800.627.5263), or click here to request a quote.

Adam Meredith
Adam Meredith
President of AOPA Aviation Finance Company
Adam Meredith, the longtime president of AOPA Aviation Finance Co., died after a long battle with cancer in December 2023. He is remembered for his passion for helping fellow pilots, leading a team devoted to putting flight training and aircraft ownership within everyone’s reach.
Topics: AOPA Aviation Finance Co, AOPA Products and Services, Ownership

Related Articles