Buy - Experimental or Certified?

Discussion in 'Home Builders and Sport Pilots' started by Shane C, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. Shane C

    Shane C Pre-Flight

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    Hello all,

    I'm brand spankin' new to this forum, but I already love the content. I had a question that I'd like some insight on.

    I'm a fairly new pilot - 120 hours almost IFR Certified - and I've saved about $15k to buy a plane.
    I would prefer not to finance, so I will continue to save if I need to, but what I'd like is a 4 seater single engine, low wing plane. I can live with a 2 seater, but I have an infant and a dog I'd like to bring on trips. My dog isn't the best baby sitter... o_O

    Anyway, I'd love to build my own plane for the experience and to have that intimate knowledge of my own aircraft, but I'm well aware of the amount of time and money that will take. I'd like to perform my own maintenance as well.

    That being said, what are my best options, both Experimental and Certified, in the $20k-$25k range, if I have any... Should I just save more?

    I occasionally come across a little Cesna or random experimental on craigslist for $15-$25k, so I know I'm not too far off!

    Thank you in advance for all your input fellas!
     
  2. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Options for experimental are limited if you want 4 seats.

    Personally, I considered a certificated aircraft, but came to my senses in time to buy an E-AB.

    $20-$25K is kinda the bottom of the barrel - you gonna get something that needs work.

    Barnstormers.com is a better place to look.
     
  3. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking PoA Supporter

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  4. Dana

    Dana Cleared for Takeoff

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    $20-25K can get you a slow 2 seat plane in nice shape, or a "needs some work" faster plane. RVs are great all around planes, but you're not gonna get one in the $20s. The lowest cost 4 seater will probably be an old C-172 or maybe a Stinson 108 if your taste tends towards the classics, not many 4 seat experimentals, and really none in the lower price ranges.
     
  5. catmandu

    catmandu Cleared for Takeoff

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    If you go experimental: build if you like to build, buy if you like to fly. I am in the second category. I am allowed, and do, all the maintenance, modifications, and upgrades on the experimental airplane I bought, with appropriate annotations in the logbook. I need an A&P to sign off the condition inspection once a year, but I do most of the grunt work. In six years of ownership, I have more than scratched that 'I built my own plane!' itch, while still having an airplane to fly, save a two or three month span here or there.

    Four seats is a tough nut to crack in the experimental world. My biased opinion is that the RV-10 is the king, and that is going to run you $200k plus or minus 10%, save the lucky estate sale you stumble on that is not advertised. For that, keep saving, or start borrowing.

    Compare that to some four seat certified airplanes (including twin engine planes) in the $70k plus or minus range. That is a lot of money you can put towards increased operating and maintenance costs, which, if you are mechanically capable, and can find a willing mechanic, you can reduce by going the owner assist route.

    IMHO, go do some research on some experimental aircraft type forums, find a two seat plane that you can figure out how to fly IFR and pay cash for, and learn by owning. Rent a four place when you need it. Be ready to sell the two seater in 2-3 years for less than you paid for it, in case you are fed up with ownership, or ready to move rapidly to the next plane. You won't be dissapointed that way ("How do I make a million dollars in aviation?").
     
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  6. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Says me build experimental if you want to build. Buy one if you want to fly. I usually advise first time aircraft purchasers to stick with certificated aircraft, only because there is a bit of a learning curve to aircraft ownership and experimentals involve some extra issues. 25 AMUs is enough get you into a Piper Cherokee or Cessna 150. That said, I'd keep saving were I the OP. What one pays for an airplanes merely the down payment. There are lots of costs to airplane ownership, and you really have to have access to enough money to rebuild the engine, because you might have to do so at some point.
     
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  7. YooperMooney

    YooperMooney Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My $0.02: No such thing as a cheap plane. I’m on my second one now and buying a E-LSA this weekend. My plan is to sell the Mooney and keep the LSA to go low and slow and enjoy Aviation. I paid $18.5k for the Mooney and almost $40k later it’s a great cruiser. When I decide to sell I’ll list it for $40-45k or whatever the market says it’s worth.
    My annual insurance bill is $1700, up 42% in the last three years and I haven’t made any claims. The cost of an annual inspection is $1500 plus any optional work. Ownership is a very expensive luxury. TRY to find a flying club in your area even if you just want to build time. I live in a remote area but only recently found out that there is a club at my airport. They charge $20/hr dry for a C-150 and $35-40/hr dry for a Piper 180. It’s only $500 to join the club. PM me and I can email you a spreadsheet that weighs the cost differences of renting vs owning vs partnership.
    Note that if you purchase an Experimental Light Sport Aircraft (E-LSA), ANYONE can work on the aircraft and either the builder, an A&P, or the OWNER (after taking a 16-hour class) can do the annual condition inspection. Also, factory built Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) can be easily converted to E-LSA via paperwork. To perform the annual condition inspection on a factory built S-LSA they must be an A&P or Light Sport Repairman-Maintenance Rating (LSRM 120-hour course).
    Personally, my decision is to enter the LSA arena and perform my own maintenance and inspections. I will join the local flying club to get my IFR and build hours in much more comfortable long range cruiser.
    Any of us owners will tell you about the same numbers. It’s $4000-7000/yr to own a certified light aircraft and keep it in the hangar. Add $45-75/hr to run the engine. Is it worth $4-7k a year to have the proud privilege of owning your own plane? Or instead pay $700/yr in monthly instalments to the flying club to “own” 1,2,3+ planes?
     
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  8. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    That there. I've told a lot of prospective buyers that. I got to fix all the ugly little (some not so little) things we'd find in those "affordable" airplanes.

    Spend half of what you have on the airplane. The other half will disappear quickly enough. It's difficult to overestimate the costs of ownership. All you need to do is look at rental rates and then look to see how rich the FBO owner is.
     
  9. alfadog

    alfadog Final Approach

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    I just sold a nice little Cherokee for $14500 and my friend just sold his Archer for $32k I know he would have taken $28k. The Archer was a good deal with a GNS 530 and a good running high time engine. I think a Cherokee in that price range fits the bill for you.
     
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  10. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking PoA Supporter

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  11. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    It's incorrect to think experimental is a less expensive way to get into ownership. In most classes of airplanes the experimentals represent the higher end of aircraft value. For a budget 4-place look for a 172 or 182. They'll blow your budget but will hold their value better than most planes. Ownership is a balance sheet of purchase cost, maintenance cost, and asset value. Hard to beat a Cessna for that.
     
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  12. alfadog

    alfadog Final Approach

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  13. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking PoA Supporter

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    True.
    784109155404305
     
  14. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking PoA Supporter

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  15. GrummanBear

    GrummanBear Ejection Handle Pulled

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    FWIW...I had 30k and set a purchase budget of 20k to allow for startup costs and repairs. Including purchase price, flying cross country 2000 miles home w/ CFI (2 birds, 1 stone with insurance type training), all in for about 25k. Insurance is $700/year w/ hangar $132/month. I got lucky, as that number also includes a second airframe I bought with a very nice panel, leather interior, etc to cannibalize...the extra has everything sans engine. I saw it on a ramp with rotted tires as we were crossing the country and cold called the owner with an offer. The Grumman is a fun, cheap time builder, but they don’t command the resale of P&C. That said, it is very easy to fly and I couldn’t be happier. I’m starting ap school next week, and will be building a scratch Bearhawk through that process at home. I love engineering and building, but felt that holding off on my greater passion, flying, would ruin the fun of the build. Scheduling is easy. Build on rainy days, fly on sunny. Good luck with your journey.
     
  16. Dana

    Dana Cleared for Takeoff

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  17. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    If you need a 4 place and don’t have a near 6 figure budget you are pretty much locked into a certified airplane. The cheapest 4 place experimental airplane will be of the canard variety. Something like a Cozy. If you can live with a 1-2 seater and have 30-45 to spend buying experimental will really save you in the long run if you feel confident working on it your self.

    A budget less than that I would stick to a certified airplane. There are tons of 172, Stinson, Cherokee, Grumman and other 2 seaters for that price. In the experimental world you will be limited to airplanes with automotive based engines, older designs like Early canards, wood and fabric, or a biplane.
     
  18. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    Yeah, but you have to be a real pilot to fly that;)
     
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  19. lsaway

    lsaway Pre-takeoff checklist

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  20. Tom-D

    Tom-D Taxi to Parking PoA Supporter

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    Not flown for 15 years. .... ?
     
  21. lsaway

    lsaway Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Yes, & out of annual. Ad says Ferry permit available with local IA. Any prospective buyer needs to consider it a project and be well aware of the possible complications. Hangared in a mild climate location is a big plus, and reasonably priced low time 4 seat airplanes are getting hard to get. I don't know what offer the seller will take, but might be worth undertaking. Maybe there is a good deal here, maybe not?

    Since OP wants intimate knowledge of his own plane, this might work if he can find a good A&P or IA to work with. I have purchased a few airplanes before that have not been flown for years. I worked with a good IA that allowed me to assist and know "every" detail about the planes. Since I worked with an IA, the experience also applied toward the requirements for A&P.
     
  22. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    Take the value of a flying one with a low time engine. Subtract 30k from that and make an offer on this one. That's it's true value.
     
  23. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    Find out if it's been ground-run. If so, especially multiple times, that engine could be full of corrosion. Mild climate means nothing in such cases.
     
  24. lsaway

    lsaway Pre-takeoff checklist

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    That is true. Many people think running an engine for short periods is better than letting it sit, but the opposite is true.