Finding the right aircraft: 4 questions that will drastically improve your outcome

choosing the right aircraft


If you’re in the market to purchase an aircraft, you are probably learning a lot about different aircraft specifications, equipment, avionics, and pricing.

As you gather information, you may discover that the type of aircraft you originally thought would be the best one to meet your needs is actually NOT the best one.

In fact, it’s very common for aircraft buyers to change their mind on their “ideal” aircraft several times during the course of their aircraft acquisition process. Conversations with different sales reps promoting their specific aircraft can either confuse or assist with the aircraft selection.

The goal of nearly every aircraft acquisition is to purchase the aircraft that offers the best value to the new owner (and/or their business).


Here are a few of our top questions to help you find the right aircraft:


Question #1: What kind of flying do you plan to do?

This question seems like an obvious one; but we’ve found that it’s often addressed with far too much brevity. It can be enticing to look for the plane with the lowest price or the most impressive equipment, avionics, and performance specifications. But you’re not going to find the one that will meet your needs over a longer term if you don’t have a thorough understanding of how you plan to use it.

Will you be flying solo or with a group most of the time? Are you really going to be filling those additional seats on a regular basis? Will you be taking short trips or flying longer distances? What sort of weather conditions will you be navigating?


Question #2: What is the total estimated cost of ownership?

When it comes to a budget range, many buyers focus on an initial purchase price. Instead, they should be looking at a budget for the total cost of ownership.

You have probably heard it said that there’s no such thing as an inexpensive aircraft. Everything from fuel burn to upcoming maintenance needs, financing and hangar costs, pilot needs, and potential charter or leaseback revenue should be factored into the equation. You may find that the aircraft with a bigger initial price tag will be much better for your budget long term when you do all the math.


Question #3: What is your flight training and experience level?

This is a very important question for any owner-flown aircraft purchase. Especially if you don’t have thousands of hours as pilot-in-command and a multitude of type ratings, you’ll need to ensure you’re ready to handle the aircraft confidently.

Some factory-new aircraft purchases will include a training program if needed. But in the pre-owned aircraft sector—other than Cirrus Aircraft’s new Cirrus Embark training program—transition training is rarely included with the purchase of pre-owned aircraft.

In addition to training availability and cost considerations, be aware that some transitions are smoother than others. Don’t hesitate to contact someone who can knowledgeably discuss your potential transition.


Question #4: What is the right price for the right plane?

This question is often the most difficult question to answer. Some markets have only a handful of similar aircraft for sale at any given time, making it very challenging to determine a fair price without more information. Sellers often list their aircraft online without posting an ask price, so you have to dig even further for numbers. And some markets have wider spreads than others between typical bid prices and ask prices.

If you’re justifying your price based on a “book value” you should be aware that book values are typically 6-9 months behind the market and are often tens of thousands off of actual market values.

Also, here’s a “buyer beware”: what looks like a good deal on the surface may end up costing you more than you realize after you get it under contract. Damage history, missing logbook entries, corrosion, and below average condition (cosmetic or mechanical) can make a significant impact on the value of an aircraft. Regrettably, many sellers display only a handful of photos and very little supportive information in their online listings, leaving buyers to find out for themselves why the plane is priced so low.

Read more: Getting a good deal when buying an aircraft.


You might be surprised at how much value the right aircraft sales expert can add to you your overall transaction. Especially when you factor in their market value information and negotiation expertise, you may discover it’s well worth it to hire someone to help you achieve a more successful aircraft acquisition.


Try our free Aircraft Market Review Tool! 


Questions or comments? Want to discuss your next aircraft?

We’d love to hear from you! Contact us today by calling 402-475-6000 or emailing


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What satisfied customers are saying...

  • I did not expect that the sale would go quickly, in fact, I anticipated that I would have a couple of extra months to fly the plane as we waited for a purchaser to come along. The marketing that was done on my behalf created an immediate interest in the plane. This transaction was easy on me, as the Performance team produced amazing results in record time with very little input on my part. In my opinion, there is no better team to represent you when you buy or sell an aircraft.
    – Thomas M. Belford, Nebraska
  • My first sale with Performance Aircraft was inked in four business days, for more than the listing price! The second, a Beechcraft King Air 300LW, was an impossible task—after five brokerage firms unsuccessfully tried, Performance Aircraft delivered! They understand the market, the people involved, and have so much integrity with both sides of the transaction. Theirs is a world wide reach, with an unbelievable staff. 
    – Tony Spears, Texas
  • I trusted the team at Performance Aircraft to help me identify an airplane that fit my mission, budget, and goals.  I'm happy to say that they exceeded all my expectations by keeping me informed throughout every step of the process.  You can trust that this team is not out to sell you an airplane but to be a lifelong aviation partner.  I would definitely use them again for selling or buying an aircraft.  Thank you!
    – Eric Leatherman, Nebraska
  • As a first time buyer, I was nervous about the entire process–plane selection, negotiations, paperwork, and closing. After my first contact with Stacey at Performance Aircraft, I knew they were the right fit to help me. She quickly made me feel at ease with everything. Their website is positively the best and most comprehensive in its class.  The process was smooth and the plane was exactly as it was represented. I couldn't be happier!
    – Dennis Cooley, Florida
  • Your team did exactly what you said you would do, which is a very rare trait in today's business world. I would recommend you guys have integrity.
    – Tony Wagner, Florida
  • I purchased an airplane from Performance Aircraft a few years ago and have also utilized some of their Flight Training Services since that time. I have developed a respect for their professional expertise in both their Training and Sales side of their business.
    – Mike Kelly, Nebraska
  • Because of your professional team and alliances with other top companies, you will be my first call when looking to purchase another airplane. Thank you again.
    – Tom Saxon, Florida
  • I would tell my friends they can trust Performance Aircraft to provide honest, ethical, and enthusiastic service. Bill found an aircraft that best suits our needs while staying well within our budget. The whole process was practically stress-free. And, the post-purchase training and follow-ups have been phenomenal.
    – Matt Young, Wyoming
  • Your communication here is very good and I really appreciated your honesty. Your follow up is awesome. Bill knew the value of airplanes as well as anyone I have met in the industry and I have been flying for over 30 years. You guys did a great job communicating with me throughout the process and kept the plane moving to closing. I was very pleased with everything.
    – Randy Christo, Nebraska
  • Their knowledge of the market allowed us to feel confident that they understood aircraft values. Additionally, the personality of the marketing team made this an easy decision that we would be treated well and communicated with frequently on their progress.
    – Skyhawk Flying Club, Nebraska
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Getting a great deal when you buy aircraft


Great aircraft deals




“I’m looking for a really great deal.

Can you send me any aggressively priced aircraft in good condition that meet my specific make, model, avionics, and equipment needs?”


We have received thousands of inquiries from potential aircraft buyers over the years. Without a doubt, one of the most common statements we hear is “I’m looking for a great deal.”

Can we help you find a great deal? Absolutely. Will it be the great deal you envisioned? That depends.

To help you find the “great deal” you’re looking for, we need to better understand what you’re hoping to achieve. For example, are you looking to buy the plane that meets your travel needs with the lowest cost of ownership over a set period of time? Or, are you looking for a bargain on a perfectly pristine aircraft with very specific avionics, equipment, maintenance history, and more?

Here is what we see: good deals are out there, but you will rarely find the plane you really want priced well under the market with the avionics, paint scheme, maintenance history, and more that you are looking for.

Reasons include:

1. Modern technology has opened up a worldwide market. 

Gone are the days when aircraft stayed at the same airfield their entire lives. In a matter of minutes, we can post a plane for sale that will be seen online by thousands of aircraft buyers and dealers.

The advantage of marketing planes online is simply too powerful for sellers to ignore, and any dealers who are not openly advertising “great deals” on aircraft are only doing so to benefit themselves.

2. If you think it’s a great deal, so will everyone else.

If you look at an aircraft listing and say “wow, this looks like a really good deal,” we can guarantee that several other aircraft buyers are thinking the exact same thing. That “really good deal” will probably be under contract within hours of being posted, so you need to act fast.

Landing a great deal on the plane you want requires more time than most people realize. You’re also competing with dealers, who actively monitor the markets daily and rearrange other commitments quickly when a good deal surfaces.

Buyers who are able to snag the plane they want below market value often find themselves jumping through additional hoops, as the selling party becomes the “customer” who needs to be served. This can result in the buyer trying to make everything easy for the seller and taking on extra costs, unexpected risks, and shortened timeframes.

3. There might be a good reason it’s priced so low.

What looks like a good deal on the surface may end up costing more than you realize after you get it under contract. Damage history, missing logbook entries, corrosion, and below average condition (cosmetic or mechanical) can make a significant impact on the value of an aircraft. Regrettably, many sellers display only a handful of photos and very little supportive information in their online listings, leaving buyers to find out for themselves why the plane is priced so low.

Because the buyer is typically responsible for many costs associated with pre-purchase inspections, it is wise to review as much information as possible prior to making an offer. Look for: complete logbooks; high quality photos of the exterior, interior and panel; video footage showing the condition of the plane’s surfaces; and detailed, accurate aircraft specifications.

4. Off-market deals are not always great deals.

A small percentage of aircraft do not hit the open market. Instead, they get sold to a friend, family member, or other local individual. A personal relationship can lead to a good deal, but it is very rare to find the aircraft you want being sold off-market by someone you know.

On occasion, we have seen deals between acquaintances where the buyer trusts the other party and believes they are getting a great deal, but they end up overpaying for a plane without doing their due diligence. Without a proper pre-buy inspection, title search, or understanding of the aircraft’s true market value, buyers can take on unexpected lien issues, maintenance problems, and other financial woes.

5. A great deal on a great aircraft might involve paying full market value.

If your goal is to buy the plane you actually want to own (with your desired avionics, equipment, condition, and timing), your “great deal” will very likely involve a transaction at or around full market value.

Nobody ever calls us and says “I want to overpay for an airplane.” And conversely, most sellers don’t want to give their planes away. Most of the time, a good deal is a deal that is fair to both the buyer and seller.

A great deal is really a matter of perception. Are you more interested in finding the right price or the right plane? A plane that meets your business and personal needs, falls within your budget, and is enjoyable for you to fly might be an excellent deal for you, even if you are not able to purchase it well below the market.


Want a little help finding your next aircraft?

We’d love to hear from you! Contact us today by calling 402-475-6000 or emailing


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