Before you decide whether you want to buy a sport aircraft, let’s take a closer look at how and why to do it. Then you’ll learn some of the jargon of buying a plane.
The selection process begins with a search of all available sources. Surprisingly, there are probably hundreds of general aviation aircraft on the market in your area. In addition, there are many thousands more if you’re willing to do a little traveling. Where?
Before you decided to get into sport flying, you probably noticed only a few planes for sale. But as you learned to fly you discovered that nearly every plane is for sale. Narrowing the field is going to be your biggest challenge. Let’s take a look at the many resources of new and used sport aircraft.
- Aircraft dealers. Plane manufacturers are like car makers in that they prefer to have dealers sell their vehicles for them. Nearly all plane builders use authorized dealerships where you can inspect the newest models and trade-ins. Some of these dealers are “authorized,” meaning they get first choice on new models and are authorized to do repairs. Some are “independent” dealers, selling any brand they want; they might or might not have a service department. Both authorized and independent aircraft dealers typically sell used aircraft on a consignment basis, taking a fee from the owner if they sell the plane. Because aircraft dealers are based at airports, that’s the first place to start looking for new and used sport aircraft.
- Auctions. Aircraft auctions are a good source for used planes—if you know what you’re looking at. Most first-time plane buyers don’t attend auctions without taking along an experienced aircraft owner or broker who can help them select and buy the right plane. You’ll find aircraft auctions advertised in the classified section of major city newspapers and flying publications.
- Online. You can find thousands of aircraft for sale—including many sport planes—online. The most popular source is eBay Motors (www.ebaymotors.com), the world’s largest auction. As this book is being written, a quick search of the aircraft category shows 167 planes available this week—everything from a $1,000 basket case to a half-million-dollar zoom machine. There are lots of sport planes mixed in there. AeroPrice (www.aeroprice.com) is another good resource for buying airplanes. They offer buying, selling, and appraisal services to help you get your money’s worth.
- Publications. There is a variety of aviation publications, and many of them focus on helping pilots buy and sell aircraft. The granddaddy is Trade-A-Plane (www.trade-a-plane.com), published since 1937. It’s a monthly and available at some larger private airports and through bigger newsstands. AeroTrader (www.aerotraderonline.com) is another monthly buy-sell publication for planes. In addition, check the ads in Sport Pilot magazine (www.sportpilot.org) and Flight Training (www.aopa.org). Numerous regional aviation publications such as The Oklahoma Aviator (www.oklahomaaviator.com) also have classified ads for buying and selling aircraft. Even closer to home, check out the classified ads in your favorite metro newspaper and you’ll probably find lots of sport aircraft for sale nearby.
- Bulletin boards. Most small airports have a bulletin board for pilots. You’ll find ads, services, events, and even personal notes tacked up. Check out airports in your area for for-sale ads. Also walk around an airport’s tie-down area because many owners simply post a “For Sale” sign in the window of their plane.
- Airport personnel and other pilots. One of the easiest ways to discover what’s for sale at your nearby airport is to ask the FBO (fixed-base operator) or airport manager. They typically know what’s for sale. They also might offer some valuable advice on selecting the right plane—and avoiding the wrong one. Ask other pilots, too. Most pilots will be very helpful if you simply tell them you’re a new pilot looking for help in selecting your first plane. People love to help.