Just like boat owners, airplane owners always to want to go higher, faster, or carry more- leading to the inevitable upgrade! But first, there's usually the matter of selling your current plane (and getting the best price!).

Begin by assembling a complete spec sheet. You're going to get lots of questions by phone and/or email, and it's best to have all the answers in one handy place. A single page spec sheet containing all the information on your plane is a great sales tool to fax or email to your prospective buyers.

With all the specs in hand, it's time to set an asking price. If you think this can be done by browsing through ads for similar planes, you'd be wrong! Even if there were 3 other planes identical to yours in all respects, there'd be 3 different prices- any of which may be too high or too low. To learn the precise current retail value of your aircraft, use our inexpensive QuickQuote service. (If you think you can rely on web-based pricing models, click here to learn why it may not be wise). You'll have a detailed breakdown and analysis of every major value factor affecting your plane's worth- a great way of showing a buyer he's getting his money's worth.

Once you've determined the fair market value, you'll need to tack on a few bucks for the inevitable negotiations and pre-purchase adjustments. No matter how perfectly maintained your plane, it's cerrtain that a pre-purchase inspection by a "foreign" mechanic will turn up surprise discrepancies. (We have actually seen a case where an airplane was TOWED directly from an annual inspection in one shop to another shop next door for a pre-purchase inspection. Of course the second shop found a few flaws!)


There aren't may guidelines for this cash cushion, but let's look at an example. If the market value of your plane is, say, $63,345, you'll want to net at least that much. Setting an advertised sales price of $67,500 would allow you to accept $65,000 as an offer, and still leaves roughly $1,700 for those nasty pre-buy surprises.

Often we see sellers adding $5,000 for the AD note they just had done, or an additional $3,000 for the GPS they just installed. Be realistic when you're setting your price: the AD note HAD to be done, or your plane would be unairworthy. The GPS you just installed is now a used GPS, and while it adds value, the amount will never be equal to what it cost. (See our article on avionics values.) If you think it's worth that much, take it out before you place a single ad.

Now you'll ready to offer your plane to the public. Personally, we wouldn't bother with print ads today. The internet is the ideal medium for aircraft sales, and we've actually seen planes sold within hours of their listing! Give some serious consideration to the type-specific news groups, such as the Grumman Gang or Cessna Cardinal groups. Buyers will often "lurk" these groups, and posting your ad (for free!) may yield fast results. Many planes are sold to members of these groups every year, and are never advertised in any other way.

If you're going to write an ad, start with the important stuff, and leave out the inconsequential. ALWAYS lead with the year and model. While we've actually seen an ad that started with "Garmin audio panel", I guarantee you few buyers read much farther to find out what kind of plane it was installed in!

Here's an example of a well-written ad:

"1978 Cessna 182, 2,877 TTAF, 1100 since factory remanufacture. Dual King KX-155's, King KN-64 DME, Garmin 155 GPS (approach certified), Cessna 300A autopilot. New paint, interior good, all logs, NDH. $67,500."

Notice the avionics are all make-and-model-specific, we included the GPS certification, and accurately described the paint and interior. In these days of an aging fleet, No Damage History is always an important selling point (along with "All Logs").

Now here's an actual example of a REALLY BAD ad:

"Dry Country aircraft. King IFR C182 with Cessna audio panel
and marker beacons. Just completed $7,000 annual. Must see!"

What's wrong here? The first big error is leaving our the price! Years ago a Trade-A-Plane study showed that ads with prices receive 3 times the reply rate of ads without. Second, "King IFR" essentially says nothing. A single King KX145 with VOR and no glideslope, no ADF and no market beacons can be accurately described (and legally qualifies) as "King IFR".

Also, there's no production year! 182's have been manufactured (on & off) since 1956, leaving lots of possibilities. And finally, the $7,000 annual may or may not be a good thing. Either the owner is a stickler for having everything perfect (possible), his mechanic took him to the cleaners (also possible), OR the aircraft was in such terrible shape during his course of ownership that it took $7K just to bring it back to salable condition! (more possible).