Even though buying an aircraft is a huge decision for most pilots, the same rule applies as for any other purchase you make: Buy what you need first, not necessarily what you want. Separating needs from wants is an integral part of making that aircraft selection.
It would be useful to start with your logbook and look back at the kind of flying you have done in the past 12 months. Is this flying likely to change much in the next few years? The answer to that question might be “yes” if you are moving or earning your instrument rating or if a family member is joining you in the purchase. If it’s just you, the type of flying you do may stay the same.
It’s easy to get awestruck at the latest models and upgraded glass panels, shiny paint jobs, and plush interiors. What is important to you? Keep your set budget in mind and plan to spend that budget based on the pilot you are and not the pilot you want to be. There’s nothing sadder that a pilot who buys “too much airplane” for his or her skills and experience and becomes nothing more than an accident waiting to happen.
If you are a current aircraft owner looking for a change, make a list of all the things that you don’t like about your current airplane that you want to have in your next. That might be air conditioning, for example. If your family is growing and that little skinny 8-year-old son is now a teenager, you are definitely going to need more room. Maybe as you age, the ease of getting in and out of your airplane becomes more significant. You might not get everything on your list, and that’s why you have to determine how many of your “wants” are “must haves.” Air conditioning may be nice, but your 6-foot-2-inch-tall son no longer fits in the back seat. One is a want and one is a must.
Rarely is there going to be that one perfect make or model for you. Just like buying a house, every aircraft purchase is a bit of a compromise. As you narrow your search to two or three possibilities, talk to other pilots who are flying those models. Ask for a realistic appraisal. This is the time for research. Study the ads, talk to brokers, talk to other owners who will all help you reach a decision.
Once you’ve reached a decision, it’s time to take the next step. Contact AOPA Aviation Finance to see what type of loan is available for your financial profile and aircraft selection. Is there a match? The goal of AOPA Aviation Finance is to make it easy for AOPA members to finance their airplanes. Their experienced team of aviation-savvy loan experts are ready to discuss your unique situation. Fill out a quick form online and get the process started or you can call 800/62-PLANE (75263) to determine which loan works best for you.