Want to Buy a Used Airplane?–Things to Keep in Mind

Before buying a used aircraft, make sure that you conduct a stringent inspection of the mechanical parts and the plane’s aesthetic condition. Also, scrutinize the paperwork, especially the logbook, title, and certifications. 

Buyers of used airplanes tend to overlook the supplemental type certificate or STC, which is a document showing that there is an FAA approval to modify an aeronautical vehicle from its original design. 

Another documentation that you have to scrutinize is the aircraft title. If you fail to practice due diligence, you may end up buying a used airplane with an undisclosed lien. 

Resale value: what to look for
Several factors determine the resale value of a used aircraft. Another thing to keep in mind is that the underlying flaws could mean thousands of dollars of repair work, which the buyer has to point out to the seller during price negotiations. 

  • Engine hours

The time between overhaul (TBO), or engine hours in layman’s term, has the most significant influence on an aircraft’s resale value. In general, the closer a plane is to its recommended TBO, the lower its price. 

Ideally, choose an aircraft with a record of consistent use and a good maintenance program. Take note that the longer a plane has been parked or stored, the more has to be done (which means higher repair cost) to make it airworthy. 

  • Damage history 

Major repairs have a significant impact on the resale value. Make sure that the aircraft with a damage history has been repaired in compliance with the FAA regulations and other best practices. 

  • Aesthetic condition 

Check for any sign of corrosion under the surface, which a new paint job may not always conceal. 

Aside from the paint job, also check the plane’s interior condition.

  • Airworthiness Directives 

Look at the AD history of an aircraft, paying close attention to the logbooks which can show if it has complied with FAA’s safety requirements. (Note: Visit the FAA website to search for ADs.)

  • Onboard equipment

Equipment such as AC, interior fixtures, deicing gear, and avionics can determine an aircraft’s resale value. In general, the better the condition of avionics (electronic parts), the better is the plane’s value. 


Pros and cons of buying a used aircraft

The biggest advantage of buying a pre-owned airplane is that the upfront cost is significantly less than its brand new counterpart. But without a rigorous aircraft pre-buy inspection, you may find yourself spending more down the road to repair undisclosed mechanical issues.  

While having a new plane does not 100% guarantee that you won’t have mechanical issues, at least you’ll have warranties. In contrast, a buyer of a used aircraft does not enjoy a factory warranty unless it is new enough to transfer its remaining covered period to a new owner. 

Contrary to popular belief, not all pre-owned aircraft need expensive maintenance and service work. Well-maintained planes with a good track record can meet or even surpass the reliability of fresh-from-the-factory ones. 


Sometimes, new airplanes may need a few flights before they show minor glitches. 


Inspection tips 

Test the aircraft before making your final decision. During the flight, pay close attention to the avionics and other systems to identify any glitches. (Note: If the seller refuses a flight test, consider it as a red flag.)

It is also a good idea to have a trusted aviation technician who can check the aircraft’s condition, especially its mechanical components. Make sure that you request a written report of his findings. 

A good mechanic can also help you scrutinize the aircraft logbooks and other similar documents. Again, pay close attention to AD, FAA Form 337, the component and plane serial numbers, and the status of service letters. 


Where to buy 

It’s always a good idea to purchase a pre-owned aircraft from a reputable channel or publication, which can be both offline and online. 

You may want to visit these popular publications that advertise and carry details about pre-owned airplanes. 


The Aircraft Bluebook-Price Digest

Because they carry comprehensive information on each used aircraft, they have become the favorite source of dealers, service facilities, insurance companies, aviation consultants, lending firms, and aircraft and component manufacturers.

However, this channel is not for the general public. To receive a subscription, you must provide proper identification showing that you are a stakeholder in the aviation industry.

Their website features easy-to-navigate design to make sure that visitors can easily find the plane based on different categories, including engine, type of aircraft, and manufacturer. 


They carry an extensive list of aircraft, components, avionics, and insurance.