If you’ve ever bought a house, this process will look very familiar. This is the overview. I’ll go into detail on each one.

  1. Define your budget. Examine your financial situation, and determine how much you want to spend per month on flying. It’s important to do this before you start looking at planes. Buying a plane is a major financial commitment, and you risk allowing emotion to cloud your financial judgment if you allow yourself to get attached to a plane before making a frank assessment of your means.
  2. Define your mission. Before you start thinking about makes and models, you need to figure out what you plan to do with your plane. Combined with your budget, this will allow you to rapidly narrow down the field of available planes.
  3. Select a make and model. Once you know how much you can afford and what you plan to do with your plane, it’s relatively easy to determine the exact model of plane you should buy.
  4. Get pre-approved. If financing, get pre-approved before starting your search so that you can make an offer as soon as you find something.
  5. Find a candidate plane. At this point, you know the right type of plane for you. Now you need to find one that’s for sale.
  6. Review the logbooks. Before spending money on a test flight or prebuy, get a copy of the logbooks and 337s. Go through them carefully and make sure you feel good about the plane.
  7. Open an escrow account. This lets you make a deposit, start a title search, and will handle closing if the deal goes through.
  8. Conduct a test flight. This lets you get a feel for the plane, find small internal things that are broken, and make sure it’s a good fit for you.
  9. Conduct a prebuy evaluation. Before buying the plane, have a mechanic thoroughly evaluate the plane.
  10. Negotiate the purchase. Reach a handshake agreement with the seller on the price and logistics of the transaction.
  11. Close. Deposit the remaining money with the escrow firm and submit written closing instructions.