Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Discussions about buying and owning your own plane.
jeiting
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Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby jeiting » Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:13 pm

I am a student pilot looking to finish my PPL in the next couple of months.

Cruising around on barnstormers I found a lot of C150s for less than 25,000. Financially this would be possible for me but is it worth it? I understand a 150 isn't going to be my cross country ticket but it wouldn't be the last airplane I buy. I just want something that I can call my own to build time in and become a better pilot before I buy the airplane of my dreams.

Does it make sense to buy a cheap little trainer to build time and get a taste of the joys of aircraft ownership with the eventual goal of upgrading? Anyone have any experience with this sort of strategy?

Dave Higdon
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby Dave Higdon » Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:50 pm

jeiting wrote:I am a student pilot looking to finish my PPL in the next couple of months.

Does it make sense to buy a cheap little trainer to build time and get a taste of the joys of aircraft ownership with the eventual goal of upgrading? Anyone have any experience with this sort of strategy?


As it happens, jeiting, that's exactly what we did...

Just before starting my primary flight instruction we found and bought a 1969 Cherokee 140 -- a four-seat, 150-horse bird that's an excellent starter airplane...we paid $18,000...got my ticket, my wife took lessons up to solo, then we traveled around the country in it at 105 knots to the tune of 300-plus hours over two years. We made some upgrades, dealt with a couple of minor maintenance issues and sold it two years after buying it and got $25,000...after paying off the note, and factoring what we had spent on gas, maintenance, insurance, etc...we calculated that the two years of flying cost us about $3,000...and then we bought our beloved Comanche -- the bird I still miss...

So you're working on a good idea here...you'll always have an airplane for lessons when you want/need to fly; you'll have an airplane to start your piloting experience as a licensed Private Pilot...and an asset that shouldn't, if kept up properly, cost you much if anything when you sell...

And, jeiting, now is a superb time to be looking for a starter airplane...

Good financing is still available, interest rates are low -- and you'll effectively reduce your training costs this way.

Just one suggestion.

As great as the old 150/152 airplanes are, you can also find a number of other simple good-starter models in the same price range if you look around.

The Cherokee 140 and 150 are super simple and inexpensive to fly and maintain; ditto for the older 172s...so do yourself a favor: go tro http://www.trade-a-plane.com and use its search tool to look for piston singles priced at or below your comfort zone...say the $25,000 you mentioned...then start clicking through the dozens and dozens of options that will come up in the search.

And when you're ready, start another topic here asking for advice specifically on buying -- things like getting pre-qualified for a loan, so you know in advance and can negotiate appropriately; pre-purchase inspections and the importance of them; and the potential risks of "fresh annual at purchase" offer you'll sometimes see...

Go for it and good luck!

Dave

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champguy
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby champguy » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:00 am

jeiting wrote:
I am a student pilot looking to finish my PPL in the next couple of months.

Does it make sense to buy a cheap little trainer to build time and get a taste of the joys of aircraft ownership with the eventual goal of upgrading? Anyone have any experience with this sort of strategy?

As it happens, jeiting, that's exactly what we did...

You are so far ahead of the game here.
Owning an airplane is so much more than just learning to fly. It's about having a hanger, a few tools, learning preventative maintenance, earning the trust of an A & P, and an IA.
Knowing about tires and oil seals in the landing gear makes a sloppy hard landing so much more meaningfull.
An older inexpensive plane will require more TLC and you will learn about care and consequences through ownership.
As for cross country, that small bore Continental may be old and humble, but it will run all day, every day, and with time and patience it will get you there and bring you home.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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Dave Higdon
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby Dave Higdon » Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:11 pm

jeiting wrote:I am a student pilot looking to finish my PPL in the next couple of months.

Cruising around on barnstormers I found a lot of C150s for less than 25,000. Financially this would be possible for me but is it worth it? I understand a 150 isn't going to be my cross country ticket but it wouldn't be the last airplane I buy. I just want something that I can call my own to build time in and become a better pilot before I buy the airplane of my dreams.

Does it make sense to buy a cheap little trainer to build time and get a taste of the joys of aircraft ownership with the eventual goal of upgrading? Anyone have any experience with this sort of strategy?


So, jeiting, how goes the training? and the shopping?

Been wondering what you decided...

Dave

jeiting
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby jeiting » Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:54 pm

Thanks for asking Dave. It is nice to know the voices in my head are concerned about me.

The training is going well, just finished my first solo XC on Monday and have my second scheduled for next week. We just finished soft field landings today which means we've covered all the techniques in the PTS. We are starting into the pretest review tomorrow. It is all coming along very quickly.

My search for an airplane went cold for a while as I became weary of all of the continuing cost of aircraft ownership coupled with my family (parents) discouraging the idea. I thought for a moment that building an experimental would be the thing to do. I was always a project sort of guy so I thought it would work. I mean the RV-7 kit is only 20k! But, 20K quickly becomes 35 when you add avionics and instruments, and 35 quickly becomes 55 when you add an engine, coupled with the valued man hours required. Plus, this would basically be sucking up every dollar I made for the next 3 years, which would also make it difficult to rent and get any flying done in the mean time.

This past weekend I attended the MERFI fly in at Urbana Grimes airport (I74). There I saw so many simple, old, beautiful airplanes. And you know what? People flew them there! No GPS, autopilot, glideslope, dual nav/com. Seeing people getting to fly around in these simple little (or personal if you prefer) planes may have changed my philosophy on airplane ownership.Owning a simple bird, in the sub 30,000 range would be perfect for me. Perfect for giving rides to friends but also capable of taking me and my wife to be on some cross country trips. IFR certified (or certifiable) would be great as I could use to cheapen the cost of getting an IFR ticket, but a pure VFR bird would be great as well.

I've started poking around on barnstormers but there are a lot of options, I am really open to anything, tail/nose dragger, high/low wing. Perhaps I should focus on a couple of types and narrow the search down?

Also, regarding financing. No reason to dance around the numbers so I'll just lay it out. My fiance and I figure we can manage with spending 1000 dollars a month to go to airplane related expenses, loan maintenance etc. Is this reasonable or am I destined to just enjoy my 10 hours of rental a month that this buys me? Then there is the loan, I am just out of college with a decent job but little to no credit history. I know people in a similar position who are getting home loans but an aircraft loan may not be viewed in the same way.

Anyway, thanks for any advice anyone has to offer. Looking forward to reading it.

- Jacob

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txpilot82
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby txpilot82 » Wed Sep 16, 2009 10:31 am

I don't think you can go wrong buying a "simple" airplane as long as it has a well maintained logbook and a pre-buy inspection is performed by an A&P you know and trust. Using the right A&P is key. Have it be the one you will use at annual time and develop that relationship early. There will be times your aircraft will have a maintenance item but that's expected.

If your mission is buzzing around on a Saturday afternoon then there is nothing wrong with a 152. My advice is to define your mission by 90% of your flights. Some may disagree with me but it's something my family and I have been discussing lately. My father and I are both pilots and we fly a Sundowner that we both learned to fly in. It is a very capable VFR machine with a roomy interior. We have talked about wanting to go further distances and thought we needed a faster aircraft. The more we looked at operating costs we realized that we would probably fly less if we "upgraded". Most of my flying is by myself or with my father checking crops from the air. (Which works better than most realize!) My most common x-country is visiting the in-laws. 6 hours to drive, 3 to fly. It's amazing how far you can get with a plane on one tank of gas. A 152 wouldn't be much different in speed than a Sundowner.

We have decided to keep our girl and maybe eventually start work on the panel to make it IFR capable. She's become part of the family. :) So be warned... You may decide after you buy your plane that you won't be able to "upgrade" either.
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Dave Higdon
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby Dave Higdon » Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:53 am

Jacob -- First off, great to hear of your progress; sounds like you're closing in on the big day very quickly...waytogo!

Second off, pretty much agree with all that txpilot82 said...we take that 90-percent approach with airplanes and cars...for the 10 percent that the machine can't or doesn't work, we rent...keeps us in machines that suit is most of the time and within budget well enough to allow plenty of use...

Now, you and you're fiance seem to have taken a smart step and identified what you can afford...and $1,000 a month for the whole nut -- loan, maintenance, tie-down/hangar, fuel -- is not unreasonable. How that works in part depends on how much goes solely to the loan payment...

So here's a few suggestions:

Go shopping...and an airport or two or three...just to sit in and look over a variety of low-budget types that appeal to you. Settle on two or three that fit your 90-percent mission-capable definition...then try shopping using these tools:

First, you can search for specific types at http://www.trade-a-plane.com -- down on the home page, you'll find a link for Single Engine Pistons; that link takes you a page with virtually all the piston singles...you can check the types one-by-one...or, if you click on the Airplanes for Sale link on the upper-left side, you'll go to a search page that lets you enter type and price limits, narrowing down your searching...this is one way to shop...

Second, just do a keyword search (Google, Ask.com, whatever) with this string: "Cessna 150 For Sale" or "Piper Cherokee For Sale"...

you'll generally get a collection of links to a number of other sites with airplanes for sale of the type you're seeking...

Finally, if you can hold any monthly loan outlays to no more than 35 percent of your budget, you should be able to make it work and fly the time you want.

Suggest considering an older, well-kept Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee 160 (or 150) as a good starting point. Bigger than the two-seaters, a little better for cross-country potential, good candidates for that Instrument Rating you'll eventually want, and with the capacity to take along another couple on short jaunts -- for the fun of it or whatever -- and not really bigger budget eaters than the the two-seat Cessna 150/152, Beech Skipper, and some of the old tailwheel birds.

Fuel will run a little more, but you'll get farther per hour.

As for the family discouragement...man, been there, fought that...if the issue is "safety" remind them that you will feel safer being in an aircraft you control versus taking a rental. If it's the idea that owning an airplane is some kind of foolishness or madness, well, dredge up your best evil-monster laugh -- Bwaaa-HAA-HAAA-HAAA! :o -- and let 'em know that your madness has no cure ;).

Good luck and happy shopping...

Dave

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champguy
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby champguy » Wed Sep 16, 2009 2:03 pm

All well said encouragement and good advice.
Remember, you are not in this alone, and I don't mean us here encouraging you along. Your "Partners" will include, in no particular order, your airport manager, the other pilots at the field you will call home, the persons you rent from, or share hanger space with on the field, your Loan Officer, your A/P, and the flight instructor who in two years will have heard all the stories about you and be giving you your next BFR.
Even a "small world" has plenty of places to make friends.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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JimP
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby JimP » Sun Oct 25, 2009 8:33 pm

I once had a chance to purchase a Piper Tri-Pacer that was a really clean, well-maintained airplane with a mid-time engine, and updated avionics. It even had rudamentary IFR capability! It wasn't the fastest, sexiest airplane around, but the price was right, and it would have met 90% of my flying needs.

Unfortunately, I wasn't realistic about how I would actually use the airplane, so I passed on the deal, hoping to find a faster, sexier cross-country machine that in hindsight would not have been nearly as good a fit for me. I still regret that decision, and wish I had that Tri-Pacer... You don't have to look much further than ChampGuy to find someone who is truly in love with a simple, basic airplane that meets most of his needs *and* fits his budget.
Jim Parker
N5842N - 78 Commander 114 Hot Shot (Turbo Normalized)

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champguy
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Re: Would buying a cheap little airplane be a good idea?

Postby champguy » Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:52 pm

So once a year, or maybe twice, you want to go 1,000 miles. A night in a motel is a lot cheaper than a plane that will go the whole way in one day. And a five hundred mile day, even in my Champ leaves time for a dip in the pool before dinner.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.
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