The purchase price might be just the starting point for what an older pre-owned business jet—particularly a light-class model—is going to cost you in the years that follow the acquisition, says private-aviation industry veteran Ralph Michielli. Formerly the chief operating officer of the jet charter company ExcelAire, Michielli is now the president of Custom Jet Charters, the company that acquires, operates, and manages the aircraft for the charter company Exclusive.
“Light jets are relatively inexpensive. The prices for some are sub-$1 million,” says Michielli. “But when you buy at that price point, you need to understand what you’re getting. You need to know what your budget is for the next five years or for however long you’re looking to own the airplane. Maintenance costs could be high, and reliability could be a challenge.
“Let’s take the Learjet 60 as an example,” he says. “You may be able to buy one for, let’s say, $1.3 million from a Fortune 100 company that maintained and hangered it. Or maybe you could find one for $900,000 that has been run hard as a charter jet. They’re two different airplanes, even though they’re the same model. They’re going to be different in terms of reliability. That’s always a concern with older light jets. The message here is you have to do your due diligence. You have to look at pedigree. You have to look at the cost down the road.
“I’ve heard a horror story about a guy who bought a plane for $1.5 million, and three months later the plane goes in for inspection and it’s riddled with corrosion. It cost $1 million to repair it. With the newer aircraft and the heavies, this is less likely to happen because they cost more, which means higher-quality corporations or management companies originally owned them.”
If you’re in the market for a pre-owned midsize or light jet, one that is at least 10 years old, continue on to see which models, according to Michielli, offer the best values. The prices are averages. As noted—and as with pre-owned heavy jets—pedigree can affect the actual price, as can flight hours, maintenance programs, and the overall condition of the aircraft.