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Thanks for all of your help on my previous questions. I did some more research and came
up with a few more questions:

- it was recommended to me that I could get a 172 XP that needed a lot of work for cheap
(e.g. 30k) and then upgrade it; however looking on, it seems like the
cheapest 172 XP's are more like 60k, even for ones with mostly spent engines. Do these
prices tend to come down with negotiation? What are people's experiences?

- After a period of jumping from new favorite plane to my new new favorite plane as I
discovered more about various models, I seem to have settled among a few choices. My
mission profile is SMO->MYF mornings, and MYF->SMO evenings. It's 97.5 nm. I will fly
roundtrip something like 3-4x week for three years. The area has a marine cloud layer in
the mornings, so the plane needs to be IFR, but a very tame IFR. It will be just be me and
my stuff (175+25 lbs). I have .5 hours of flying time, but will be getting a license over the
summer, and then working on IFR certification. My choices seem to be narrowed down to
something like:

1979 172 XP - ~$60k + 20k avionics upgrade. 120 kts @ 10 gph

2002 Cirrus SR20 - ~$120k. 150kts @ 12 gph

1979 M20J 201 - ~$80k + 20k avionics upgrade. 160kts @ 10.5 gph

2003 Diamond DA40 - w/530-430 pair ~$120k. 140kts @ 10 gph.


+ more of a beginner plane

+ moderately fast

+ gear always retracted

- issues because it's a newly developed model?

- avionics not the latest

- hot (I am very heat sensitive)

172 XP:

+ more of a beginner plane

- guzzles gas

- slow

- scary interior

2002 SR20:

+ interior is enticing to non-aviation types, and to me

+ moderately fast

+ ok fuel consumption

+ benefits of new technologies from newer design

+ would not have to upgrade avionics, has avidyne MFD (is this true?)

- depreciation may be greater since it is newer

- new model aircraft; reliability / maintenance costs and history very worrying

1979 M20J 201

+ fast

+ plane has a cool legacy

+ fuel efficient

+ may be able to fly higher and fly around weather better?

- gear down landing scary

- scary old interior

- more advanced plane

In terms of cost, I believe that the Mooney is actually the cheapest alternative over the
long haul; mostly due to the fuel efficiency. It is also the fastest. If I thought the Cirrus
was equally safe and reliable, I would choose it, though. For Cirrus and Mooney, I could
get training specifically for the plane. I don't mind investing money in training, just prefer
not to spend it on depreciating equipment. But based on people's Mooney bashing, I am a
little scared to fly it.

I disqualified the following planes for the following reasons:
Piper Arrow: Word on the street seems to be that the Mooney is more reliable with same
performance characteristics.

182: Bad fuel efficiency.

M20K 232: Unreliable, turbo is more expensive

M20K 252: Too expensive; too much of a stretch for a newbie

DA40+G1000 (180k): Too expensive

Does anyone have any insight or advice on this? Are my impressions correct?

Any insight appreciated.



-- Ralph Nelson, May 15, 2009


If cost is a concern, don't buy any plane until you're done with your training and need to start commuting. Airplane sellers are still unrealistic about the market and asking prices are often ridiculously high (sort of the way that houses were early in 2008; the market was falling but sellers didn't believe it). Also, right now is the peak of seasonal demand. Planes will be cheaper once the winter is approaching and sellers realize that they probably won't get any calls before March.

As a raw beginner, I think that you might not have enough experience to deal with a major avionics upgrade or an older airframe.

If you're determined to buy an airplane in the near term, I would vote for the DA40. It is easy to fly. Maintenance should be simple. The plane is very rugged (more so than the Cirrus).

You're going to use this airplane for commuting on weekdays? That almost cries out for a partnership. Most airplane owners work for a living (or work to support their flying habit!). You want to use the airplane on the days when they're at work. They want to use the airplane on weekends and holidays. I would urge you to find a working slave with a suitable airplane and propose a partnership where you get the airplane on weekdays. Once you've been flying for a year or two you'll be much better situated to choose a plane to purchase.

-- Philip Greenspun, May 20, 2009

Regarding the question of whether you can trust the asking prices in they perhaps do reflect 1.2X what the seller hopes to get for a ragged-out old plane. But most airplane sellers lack the energy to market their plane nationwide. There are a lot of local transactions with people selling to friends of friends. Consider a guy who was the original purchaser of a 1979 Cessna 172XP. He is now 80 years old and lost his medical. He is still paying tiedown fees at the airport. He will not want to talk to 85 potential customers, demonstrate it to 10, and finally sell the plane a year from now for $15,000 more than he could have gotten from an immediate sale to a friend of his mechanic. As you spend more time at the airport and talk to the FBO owner (rents hangars) and maintenance shops you'll learn about airplanes that someone wants to get of but hasn't advertised.

-- Philip Greenspun, May 20, 2009

I have owned a star and a mooney (R). I also have represented Diamond and Mooney (and Piper).

I would scratch off the 2002 cirrus. Cirrus is best to own under warranty.

The Star is my favorite, and it's perfect for the mission. The J would be more plane than you need, but not overly so. Since you fly so often, a big issue may be storage and parking. The star has long wings, but the castering nose makes it easy to move around. The J is small, but in and out is tough for larger guys like me. My R is a pain to move on a ramp without a power tow or even with one.

If rough air is not an issue, then a 172 is fine, but they are rather light. A rebuilt cardinal may be worth looking into.

-- Eric Warren, May 16, 2009

Ralph, for your short-haul mission (<100 nm), cruise speed is really not that much of an issue, nor is fuel consumption. A significant proportion of your engine-running time will be spent taxiing and/or waiting for clearances; bigger engines burn more fuel in all phases, and the extra cruise speed will not save you enough minutes each day to drink a latte. If I were in your shoes, I'd be looking at a 2-3 year old Diamond DA40 with a glass panel.

Consider your insurance costs as a new pilot. These costs will be considerably less if you fly a fixed-gear airplane, and one with 4 seats or less. A good, refurbished (ie: low time + new avionics) Cessna Cardinal would be very good. If so, go for the fixed-gear Cardinal -- less weight, less complexity, and less maintenance -- and damn near as fast as the Cardinal RG for less fuel burn. A similar airplane to consider (and better-built, IMO) would be a Beech Sundowner (fixed-gear version of the Sierra). Both burn ~ 11 gph.

Also (as Eric recommends) consider hangaring costs. The Diamond has a 39'2" wingspan - a tight fit for a standard T-hangar, but possible if the hangar truly has a 40' opening (measure twice, etc). Cardinal: 35'8" wingspan, Sundowner 32'9''. However, in SoCal's relatively mild climate, a ramp tie-down might be fine.

If your flying goals are short-term, be sure to consider resale. If you buy it cheap (or share the buy-in with others), you may have a hell of a time getting out when your need for the airplane expires. A new (or newer) airplane, bought for business, can bring advantages of depreciation and higher (quicker) resale value.

Lastly, your insurance costs will be reduced (and your skills and safety will increase) the sooner you attain your instrument rating. Good luck with your Private Certificate and have fun!

-- Jane Carpenter, May 26, 2009