You'll discover many aircraft for sale through ads or signs. If you've ever tried to read some of these communications, you know they're confusing because they use various acronyms and contractions, called aviation shorthand. Let's take a look at the wording in a typical ad and how to decipher it:
Cessna 150, VFR, 3500 TT, 400 SMOH, Cont. O-200, King Nav/Vom, Portable GPS, ELT, Mode C XPDR, all ADs, Aug. ann.
It translates: Cessna [manufacturer] 150 [model] with basic instruments for VFR (not IFR) flight. It has 3500 hours total time on the airframe and 400 hours since a major overhaul. The engine is a Continental [manufacturer] O-200 [model]. It has King [manufacturer] navigation and communication radios [model not identified], a portable (typically, hand-held) global positioning satellite system, an emergency locator transmitter, and a Mode C transponder. All airworthiness directives (ADs) have been completed and an annual inspection was completed last August. Of course, the ad will also include a price and who to contact.
This particular ad answers many of your primary questions, but leaves a few more (nav-com system model and components, damage history, condition) that you can clarify if and when you contact the owner.
Think of shopping for a plane as being similar to shopping for a car. You have a list of what you're looking for and you compare each ad with your list, looking for ones you can disqualify. What's left is a field of candidates. From the seller's prospective, the purpose of a classified ad is to tell you enough to answer most of your primary questions, but not so many that you can make a decision to buy based on the ad. Most plane sellers want you to contact them for more information. Consider each conversation with an aircraft owner an opportunity to learn more about planes.
How can you decipher airplane ads for yourself? Most aircraft ad publications include a cheat sheet of acronyms and contractions used in ads. You'll also learn by contacting the owners and asking for an explanation. They're not trying to trick you, they're trying to keep the cost of the ad low by using aviation shorthand. You'll quickly catch on.
A few more ad terms include Cont (Continental engine), Lyc (Lycoming engine), FRME (factory remanufactured engine), STOH (since top overhaul), STOL (short takeoff and landing aircraft), and TTAE (total time airframe and engine).