Editor's Note from 2007: prices have naturally gone up since
this was written, but not as much as you'd think. This group
of airplanes still represents a huge bang for the buck. Add
15%-25% to the prices here and you'll have it covered. Enjoy!
Any of us who have been around aviation for than a couple of
years have read, written, heard-about or contributed to a dozen
articles in the vein of
The Best Airplanes Under
(Insert your favorite number here). It doesnt seem
that long ago that the goal was to identify the best airplanes
under $2,000. No, really! In the 60s and 70s
you could buy a lot of airplanes for less than that.
This time around we thought wed try a different approach:
rather than set a specific limit, wed cut right to the
bottom line and try to find the cheapest airplanes available.
We laid down no limitations. If it was a real airplane (no ultralights)
and was flyable, we put it in the list.
We had to rely on Trade-a-Plane and a couple weekends of airport
cruising to come up with real-world, low-buck pricing rather
than the Aviation Blue Book because some of the airplanes we
were looking for were either so old or so cheap that the normal
reference guides did carry information on them.
How Low Can You Go?
Youre probably wondering what surfaced as the cheapest
airplane. Bear in mind that we didnt count anything but
an airplane that was licensed and flying. No derelicts allowed.
The absolute cheapest was a Bowers Fly Baby homebuilt at
an asking price of $7900.
1980 Bowers Fly Baby, 705 TTAF, 705 SMOH,
65 hp Continental, metal prop, sliding canopy,
flies good, has heat, yellow. Lost Job. $7900.
In the pictures it is a good-looking airplane and, since it has
700 hours on it that means its a good flying airplane.
Airplanes that dont fly well dont accumulate flying
time. 700 hours also means youre not likely to live long
enough to use up its remaining engine life.
The cheapest certified airplane was an Ercoupe at $10,500
Ercoupe, 415C/D, 85 hp, metal wings, Bubble windshield,
hail dimples, all ADs complied, TT2180, SMOH 830, $10,500
Hail dimples! Thats why the airplane is a solid $4,000
less than most of its brethren. But at ten-grand, who cares?
It should be mentioned that when we were airport cruising we
found a number of certified airplanes that were priced less then
$10,000. There are always some local airplanes for sale that
never find their way into Trade-a-Plane. Some of these can be
real deals. We ran across a fellow who had been badgering a long
time owner to part with a Luscombe 8A hed had staked down
on his farm for a million years. The old guy finally sold it
for $8500. It had a 500-hour engine plus it had the original
aluminum wheel pants on it that are worth a small fortune by
Regional bargains pop up all the time but fortune favors he who
regularly haunts all the small, local airports.
What Makes Them Cheap
There are a number of factors that drive an airplanes value
into the basement. They are:
airplanes will always be at the bottom of the stack.
High Time engine With
an engine thats within a couple hundred hours of TBO, an
airplane is likely to be an orphan until the price is low enough.
Un-popular type Some
airplanes just never made it in the popularity contest. Usually
this is because it doesnt fly very well but the result
is that the market never supported it so relatively few were
built. They may be rare, but they fly like toads, so the price
Bad reputation A
few airplanes, the Luscombe being the prime example, are still
relatively cheap because they somehow earned a bad reputation.
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