This really keeps coming to my head.

A brand new 172SP costs a quarter million while a older one (10 years older or a little bit older) costs for less than 100.000 Dollars and the only visible difference is the G1000 NXI and a AoA indexer next to the compass.

Its maybe my ignorancy on the specifications but with the price difference I could:

  • Buy a brand new avionics suite turning the plane to a spaceship. everything from a autopilot to the Class S transponder.
  • AUX tanks
  • And maybe a brand new, upper model engine by selling the original one!

And I would STILL have surplus money!

Things is... As long as the owner of the second hand plane treats the engine good and doesnt abuse the airframe for aerobatics I dont see a SINGLE reason to NOT buy that plane.

So why waste so much money for a factory installed AOA Indexer that can be bought for less?

I am not acquinted with helicopters but the same "250K Brand New vs 100K Owned" thing applies to them too, I see. (Robinson R22)

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    $\begingroup$ In my experience, that question generalises quite well to anything. Only reason I see to by new occasionally is if I can’t get what I need second hand or if I absolutely require manufacturer‘s warranty. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I said you can generalise the question to anything, outside aviation as well. Why buy anything new? Manufacturers warranty: If you buy the brand new aircraft, I expect that if the engine blows after five minutes of flight, you get some money back. If you buy used from a neighbour‘s shady uncle, not so much. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ FYI, the G1000 is only available from the factory; you can put other glass in used planes, but not that specific system. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 20:40
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    $\begingroup$ "A brand new 172SP costs a quarter million" I think the new SP's go for closer to $400,000 new. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ According to this answer aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/11967/… an R22 has to be rebuild at 2200 hours $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 21:19

2 Answers 2


Because some people like new things... Thats how salesmen stay in business.

There are however some practical aspects to this question and on the tail end of my instrument rating I've been getting serious about buying something, here is what I have found. For the purposes of this answer I'm only going to talk about aircraft that are still in production like the 172 and have been for some time. The only other comparable aircraft is the Piper Archer. Mooney no longer makes the lower power stuff, the early low power PA-28 variants have been out of production for some time and are thus out of scope. In the end it depend s on what you, the pilot/owner/operator really wants out of the aircraft.

  • While a 1956 172 will share a lot in common with ones rolling off the line now a G1000 cockpit is not a steam gauge cockpit. A G1000 unit, or any of the various glass options for retrofit are NOT cheap to buy and install. Thus if you get a decent, low time 172SP and replace the panel to make it just like a new one, you have already spend about what a new one costs and there may very well be 2000 hours on the airframe already.

  • The older the plane (generally), the more engines its been through. A well flown early era 172 may very well be on its 2nd, 3rd or 4th engine. These engines could have been overhauled, rebuilt, swapped by various different entities in various ways. There may or may not be a warranty on them anymore and you may have little protection against it blowing out on you. Meanwhile a new plane may come with a warranty which represents real tangible value especially considering the first hundred hours or so of an engines life are quite critical. You can find all of Textron/Cessna warranty info here.

  • You are buying effectively a 0 time engine (or as low as practical) again you can buy a nice 172 then go spend another 20K, 30K, 40K... putting a fresh engine in it to get a "new" airplane.

  • The paint and interior are new and clean. There is nothing quite like the tired velour interiors of rental aircraft but even second hand planes often have tired 80's fabric that have seen a lot in their time. A fresh paint job and new interior is not cheap, especially when you realize you need fireproof fabric, may need to take a lot of the plane apart to paint it and dealing with the downtime. We come back to the 80's 172 that needs paint and a costly interior example...

  • Finally, old planes are just tired. Even planes that look to be in good shape, pass inspections, and fly great dont last forever. Some times you are just taxing along and your gear gives out...

Buying an old plane and making it a new plane may just cost as much as a new plane.


If you put in a new (and probably bigger) engine, new avionics, new interior, new paint, etc., then you almost have a new plane, but once you consider the cost of labor for all that work, you're approaching the cost of a new plane too. The airframe will still have a ton of hours on it, though, and those may have been very hard hours in the case of trainers like the C172. That's where most of the remaining difference in price can be found.

So who is willing to pay for a brand-new airframe? Mostly career-oriented flight schools. They want to be seen by students (or whoever is paying the bill) as having brand-new, top-of-the-line fleets to justify their high prices, and those new airframes come with glass, which is also valuable for them in particular because that's what their students will likely be using now when they go commercial/airline after graduation. You generally won't find glass or new planes at flight schools (or clubs) oriented toward weekend warriors, who are typically more focused on the cost than what exactly they're flying.


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