When purchasing an airplane, there are so many variables to consider it can be quite a process. Although the steps are pretty straightforward, getting to the point of actually purchasing an airplane can be frustrating. Lots of time spent searching, researching, comparing and finally making the decision. Always with the underlying concern that the final decision is the right one. You might consider hiring a Buyer's Broker to help with the process.
Although Buyer' Brokers aren't as common as Seller's Brokers, we offer this service as well as the Seller's Broker service. It can be especially helpful if you haven't owned an airplane before or just don't want the hassle of searching for one. Please contact us if we can be of service to you as a Buyer's Broker.
Here are some major points of purchasing an airplane. Please don't use this as a complete checklist as there are details in any transaction that are specific to that transaction and possibly aren't covered here. If you are a member of AOPA, they have tips on the procedures here: AOPA – Buyers along with lots of links with extra help.
I am not going to go into the type or price of the airplane you are looking to buy – you probably already have an idea what you want the airplane for and what you can pay for it. Here are some of the things to consider when choosing the right airplane.
The heart of the airplane, the engine, is probably where you will spend a lot of time with details. The TBO (time between overhaul), total hours, time since major overhaul, time since factory overhaul and time since top overhaul. These are all very important terms and you should know without a doubt which times apply to the airplane you are looking at. Be very careful with the "overhaul" terms as these are often misused and confused.
Another very important issue is the Airworthiness Directives. It is critical that you get a good history on the airplane's compliance with Airworthiness Directives. If you aren't very familiar with them, get help from a mechanic to understand the ones that apply to the airplane you are looking at including re-compliance requirements.
Damage history is a factor that most people put a lot of weight on. The fact is that the general aviation fleet is aging. In my opinion damage history is unavoidably part of the aging process. It is very important to know about any damage history, but if the repairs were performed properly by qualified personnel, the integrity of the airplane should not be compromised. However, damage history affects the value in all of the aircraft valuation charts and programs, and when you attempt to sell an airplane with damage history it will be an issue in the sale. You have to decide if damage history is something you can live with during the operation and then the resale of the airplane.
The engine, airworthiness directives, damage history and other pertinent date will be in the aircraft logbooks. Be sure to get a good look at them one way or another. Again, if you aren't quite familiar with airplane logbooks, have a mechanic take a look. It might save you a lot of headaches.
The paint, interior, installed avionics and equipment are all factors that need to be dealt with. These are personal taste and requirement matters. They all affect the value of the airplane, but more than anything, you will have your own criteria as you look at the different options out there. You may have to compromise in one area to get what you want in another that is more important to you.
A pre-purchase inspection is pretty much a must. If you are buying an airplane where it is logical for a mechanic you trust to perform this inspection, that is the best option. However, it is not uncommon to be looking at an airplane several states away and it might not be practical to have your mechanic do the inspection. In this case, my recommendation is to at least have the airplane looked at by a mechanic who is not the airplane's regular mechanic. If you aren't knowledgeable in this area, it is often a good idea to have your mechanic talk to the other mechanic about the airplane.
A title search is also a very good idea. Even if the current owner of the airplane has no liens on it, there is a possibility that a lien from years ago is still attached. You probably don't want the headaches of getting it cleaned up and certainly have every right to a title that is clear. There are several Title Service options out there. Again, AOPA has some very good information on their site regarding title services.
Other documentation to be concerned with are the airplane Airworthiness Certificate, weight and balance information, equipment list (if applicable), operating handbook and flight manual. If these aren't available it can cause big problems, so make sure they are part of the documents.
Insurance also needs to be addressed. Check with an experienced aviation underwriter to help you decide on the coverages you need. AOPA offers some great information on their site about insurance.
An aircraft bill of sale is required by the FAA to show the change in ownership. Be aware, when the Bill of Sale is signed is when the actual transfer of ownership takes place. Although it doesn't have to be the exact form, it is easiest to use the FAA form is 8050-2. These forms are readily available on the internet. Here is a link to the form offered from FAA.gov: Form 8050-2 . Be careful when you fill out the Bill of Sale. The Seller name has to be EXACTLY as shown on the current registration. If it isn't exact, the Aircraft Registration Branch will return it with a form letter telling you what needs to be changed to make it work. With a little attention to detail, this annoyance can be avoided.
Federal registration of the airplane once you purchase it is necessary. Remember that once you have closed the transaction, the Seller will take the FAA registration documentation out of the airplane. You need to have a temporary registration on board to fly. The registration form is FAA Form 8050-1 and can be obtained from either the FAA Aircraft Registration Branch or your local FSDO. When you fill out this form you need to remove the pink copy and place it in the airplane for a temporary registration that is valid for 90 days. A caution when you fill out the registration form: Be sure to include the typed or printed name of each signer in the signature block. If you don't do this, the form will be returned to you.
State registration of the airplane needs to be checked as well. Some states require it and some states don't. Check with the transportation department of your state to know for sure.
Remember, these are just some tips for buying an airplane. AOPA has much more complete information here: AOPA – Buyers .
If I can answer any questions for you – or if you are interested in more information about my Broker Services – please feel free to contact me either by chat (upper right corner of this page), by email or call me toll free at 877-209-7506.