Considerations for Buying an Aircraft

February 10, 2021

A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Pre-Owned Private Jet

Choosing the Right Size is Your First Step

If you’ve been tasked to lead the team responsible for purchasing your company’s next (or first) business jet, then you know what a tall order you’ve been given. The world of private aviation and personal jets can be complicated to understand, especially when you throw a jet purchase into the mix.

With so many considerations in regard to which used private jet to buy, you’ve surely been spending much of your time formulating how you and your team will go about making the decision. No doubt you’ve assembled spreadsheets to organize your options, and perhaps you’ve reached out to an International Aircraft Dealer Association (IADA) Accredited Aircraft Dealer to get started on the hunt for a jet.

To help you narrow your search, we’ve assembled a guide to jet sizes and models that fall into those size categories, and how you might go about choosing one. Read more about used business jets for sale after you’ve determined which size jet your company needs for its executive travel, and the amenities your leaders will expect on their plane.

Considerations When Choosing a Private Jet
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of considerations, it will help get you started on your search. We assume that you already have access to a hangar for storage and a management plan in place, and your company is well-equipped to own a private plane.

Private Jet Size
The larger the jet, the larger the cabin, the longer the range, the more the amenities. While a smaller jet might be capable of getting your executive team from Point A to Point B, the interior features might not be what they’re expecting, or smaller jets might not seat as many people as necessary for business trips. Ask your company’s leaders about their expectations, and manage them carefully as you search for your company’s next plane.

Jet Annual Cost of Ownership
Consider the company’s budget for purchasing, maintaining, and flying an aircraft. The annual cost of ownership varies from jet to jet, even those in the same size classes.

Fixed costs - the cost of the line items for which you must pay to own a plane - include things like hangar fees, insurance, flight crew training, maintenance subscriptions, and more. Variable costs depend on how often your leaders fly, how far they fly, and the cost of refreshments and other items they want to have aboard, among others.

Cycles on a Jet
Unlike a car, jet mileage isn’t measured on an odometer. Instead, the number of pressurization cycles a plane has gone through is the magic number you need to know. In general, the more pressurization cycles, the shorter the jet’s remaining life. Determining a jet’s remaining useful lifespan can help you make more informed purchase decisions.

Buying a New Jet or Buying a Pre-Owned Jet
To buy a new jet, you will need to work directly with the manufacturer to purchase, customize, and receive your new private plane. The lead time can be more than a year. When you buy used, you can take ownership of the jet much more quickly. The purchase price also will be significantly lower than the cost of a new plane.

Many used jet cabins are already configured for business use, which can save you the time and effort of reviewing possible layouts, like you’d have to do if you chose to purchase a new jet. In short, you know the configuration is conducive to getting things done while in the air. Conduct thorough research about which type of purchase is best for your company.

Business Jet Guide
As you already know, amenities, range, takeoff and landing distances, and more are important considerations when choosing an ideal jet to purchase for your company’s C-suite executives.

We recommend a careful look at cabin layouts and amenities before narrowing down your short list of jets for sale. For example, toilet facilities on the smallest business jets are quite small, and some offer only the privacy a curtain can afford. Because 80 percent of private jet flights are under two hours, this may not be an issue for your company, but it is something to consider if your executive leaders will be taking much longer flights.

Larger jets, too, tend to have much longer ranges than smaller airplanes for sale. Some smaller jets will require frequent layovers for refueling in order to complete long flights, putting unnecessary wear and tear on the jet due to the added cycles. The right size jet will have a range long enough to get your C-suite executives where they need to go without the added fuss of multiple layovers. It should also fit into the annual operating budget you’ve been provided.

Very Light Jets or Small Compact Light Jets for Sale
A very light jet seats four to six people, often with a maximum take-off weight of less than 10,000 pounds, although some are slightly over. Very light jets are approved for single-pilot operation. These private jets tend to have much lower operating costs than other aircraft, and can take off from runways as short as 3,000 feet. The most popular over the years has been the Cessna Citation Mustang, which is often considered a slightly larger light jet.

Not all very light jets include a galley, nor a lavatory, although some do, at the expense of a passenger seat. Do not expect privacy while using what is considered the emergency toilet; often only a curtain separates it from the rest of the cabin. Some very light jets, however, like the HondaJet, have full lavatories with a solid door. This variation is a great example of why choosing a business jet for your company requires meticulous research and consideration.

Despite their small size, each passenger seat is equipped with a small table and some storage for personal items. Luggage areas are small, and usually are not accessible from inside the plane. In terms of range, super light jets can fly about 1,000 miles in one hop and average cruising speeds of about 420 miles per hour. Plan about a half-million dollars to operate this size jet each year, not including purchase price.

Jets to Research:

Shop for very light jets on AircraftExchange.

Light Jets for Sale
The private aviation industry’s definition of a light jet are those business jets with up to 20,000 pounds maximum takeoff weight. Their maximum ranges vary greatly, from about 1,000 miles to nearly 2,500, at a cruising speed of about 450 miles per hour. Many planes in the light jet category can seat up to seven or eight passengers - although it may feel crowded at maximum capacity - and still don’t require a lot of runway room for takeoff and landing.

You can expect a small galley cabinet and lavatory on most light jets, although privacy can again be an issue. Within this size category, you’ll begin seeing more well-appointed cabins, including those with in-flight entertainment systems and even cabin management systems. Each passenger seat is equipped with a table for working and a small amount of storage space. However, like their very light jet brethren, passengers in light jets usually cannot access their luggage in the cargo compartment during flight.

A light jet will cost less than a million dollars annual to operate, not counting the original purchase cost. Consider entry-level jets like the Cessna Citation M2, one of the most popular aircraft in the category, and the Embraer Phenom 300, which might be the most popular. It’s also receiving an upgrade in 2020.

Jets to Research:

Shop for light jets on AircraftExchange.

Buying a Mid-size Private Jet or Super Mid-Size Private Jet
Jets in this category can accommodate transcontinental flights and carry an average of 10 passengers. Some individual jets may seat more. The mid-size jet is designed for business, with in-cabin productivity features and a longer list of amenities than its smaller counterparts.

Expect mid-size jets and super mid-size jets to achieve speeds of up to 550 miles per hour, with a range of up to 3,600 miles, non-stop. They’re designed to handle long flights while still providing creature comforts your leadership team will enjoy, including seats suitable for sleeping, larger galleys with the ability to prepare gourmet meals, and a private lavatory with enough room for wardrobe changes.

Expect to pay up to $2 million per year to own and operate a jet of this size. The cost is worth it, though, if your company’s C-suite travels frequently, especially transcontinentally. The Bombardier Challenger series and Learjet series are two of the most popular line-ups of mid-size and super mid-size jets on the market today. The Cessna Citation Sovereign is a good choice, too.

Jets to Research:

Shop for mid-size jets on AircraftExchange.

Large Jets for Business Travel
Jets in this size category are designed specifically for long-haul business travel. Cabin layouts tend to include workspaces and private living quarters, full-service galleys, and even private meeting rooms, in addition to the traditional double-club seating configuration in the main cabin. In-flight entertainment and cabin management systems are more robust, offering plenty of options for activities during down-time after work hours.

Large jets can accommodate up to 18 passengers and fly upwards of 6,000 miles at top cruising speeds of 580 miles per hour. Because of their large size and higher cruising altitudes, these jets can operate in most weather conditions and fly non-stop routes like London to Seattle and New Jersey to California.

Luxury private jets of this size will be the costliest to operate, coming in at well over $2 million annually. The total operating cost will differ greatly from aircraft to aircraft.

Jets to Research:

Shop for large jets on AircraftExchange.

Work with an IADA Accredited Aircraft Dealer
The International Aircraft Dealers Association, or IADA, is the only accrediting body of aircraft dealers worldwide, and the dealers with this prestigious accreditation are experts in the private aviation industry and aircraft sales. Working with an accredited dealer protects you from misinformation about planes for sale online. Your dealer represents you and has your best interests in mind as they guide you through each step of the aircraft purchase process.

IADA Accredited Aircraft Dealers must meet all the criteria set forth by IADA and possess recommendations from other accredited dealers and industry professionals. IADA Accredited Aircraft Dealers agree to abide by a 12-point code of ethics to ensure they maintain transparent and ethical sales practices. Of the approximately 1,500 aircraft dealers worldwide, just 5% have achieved IADA accreditation.

You can trust an accredited dealer because they cannot be influenced. Unlike in a real estate transaction, where the agent can take a commission from both the buyer and the seller, an accredited aircraft dealer can only earn commission from one party. The seller never pays the buyer’s fees and vice versa.

If you’re ready to work with an IADA Accredited Aircraft Dealer, start by browsing listings of some of the best private jets for sale on, the only source for aircraft listed by accredited dealers. Each aircraft listing is thoroughly vetted before posting to ensure accuracy of specifications and to confirm identification of the plane. Then, find a dealer on our website and contact them to get started on the purchase process.