The maintenance logs for your aircraft could be clean for new aircraft or very long for older ones. In addition, the logs for LSAs look different from those for larger private aircraft. The airframe and engine logbooks note the inspections and repairs that have been made to the plane. They also should record maintenance to specific ADs on the craft. Separately, you should research to find out what ADs have been issued for this plane, then verify that each has been satisfactorily fixed. Some ADs require ongoing and regular inspections and repairs, adding to the overall cost of the aircraft.
If the aircraft you're inspecting has FAA standard certification, owners are required to perform AD maintenance or repairs as directed. If it follows consensus standards, the manufacturer will notify owners of required ADs. So make sure you know what the ADs are for any aircraft you buy before you buy it.
Want to find out what ADs have been issued for a specific make and model of plane? Check online at www.airweb.faa.gov/ad. Also, AD research services can be found online (search for “airworthiness directive”) or through flying magazines. ADs for light-sport aircraft are available from the manufacturer.
If you're buying an experimental (homebuilt) aircraft, the paperwork is slightly different. For example, the airworthiness certificate in the plane will be clearly marked “EXPERIMENTAL.” Make sure that you know enough about the model and the builder to make an informed decision about buying and maintaining it. ADs are not issued for experimental airplanes. If in doubt, ask the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association).