How to buy your first plane

Choosing to buy a plane is a tough but incredibly rewarding decisionAfter hours of classes, practice and studying, you’ve finally earned your pilot’s license. Congratulations! Now, it’s time to reward yourself — and your family and friends — for all your effort: It’s time to buy your own plane.

Be realistic

For most people, a plane isn’t a typical purchase, but it is one that’s important to get right. The first thing you should consider is what you really need it for. It can be easy to dream about regular flights around the world, or self-piloted family vacations, but that fantasy isn’t realistic for everyone.

Plane & Pilot Magazine suggested using the 90 percent rule: Buy a plane for what you’re going to be using it for most of the time. This means that, unless you have concrete plans to fit six people into your plane on a regular basis, opt for the two-seater for you and your co-pilot. When it’s time to take that family vacation, rent out the appropriate plane.

Consider fractional ownership

When you analyze how much you’ll actually use your plane, you might discover that having a whole plane all to yourself isn’t really necessary. If you only plan to fly a few times per year, fractional ownership might be a better plan than purchasing one alone.

With fractional ownership, a group of pilots will pitch in to buy a plane, Flying Mag explained. This can have pluses and minuses. For instance, you and your co-owners will all pitch in for maintenance, scheduling and other costs, reducing your investment. But when you want to use the plan, you’ll have to reserve it, and it usually works on a first-come, first-served basis; if someone already has it reserved for this weekend, you’ll have to wait your turn.

Test it out

Next, you’ll want to take a demo flight to make sure the plane you’re looking at will really meet your needs. The Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association recommended renting a plane before buying it so that you can get an idea of how much you’ll use it and how much you enjoy flying it.

When a demo pilot is showing you the aircraft, be sure to stay focused on your goal: deciding whether the plane is for you. Pay attention to important key indicators that should give you an idea of how well the plane performs. These include:

  • Fuel flow
  • Speed
  • Cruise power settings

Remember, your demo pilot is ultimately a salesperson who wants to convince you to make the purchase. While he or she may be giving you factual information about the model, make sure you compare these stats against what you actually observed during the demo flight.

Compare new vs. used planes

When purchasing a plane, you’ll need to decide whether you want to opt for a new plane or a used one. Both have their perks and drawbacks. If you go for a used plane, you’ll probably pay less upfront, but may have to deal with more maintenance costs. A new plane will probably be a little bit more expensive at first, but you’ll likely have an easier time qualifying for a loan, get a better rate and may even be eligible for tax benefits.

A plane might be one of the more exciting large purchases you’ll make. Be sure to give it the careful thought a big decision like this deserves.