Finance an airplane, helicopter or other aircraft
There’s an old adage in the flying world, “It takes two things to fly: airspeed and money.” When you’re ready to buy an airplane, you’ll likely need financing.
The term “aircraft” comprises most things that go up in the air, including blimps, gliders and drones. Generally, however, when we speak of aircraft, we refer to airplanes and helicopters — the two most common types of aerial vehicles. Aircraft are expensive, to purchase and maintain. Take time to brush up on aircraft financing before you look for a loan. With a little advanced research and preparation, it will be a breeze to get yourself ready for the first flight.
$50,000 or more for best terms
Typically 20 years
15% to 20%
Minimum 2 days
There are many different types of aircraft, from personal planes to business jets. In general, aircraft are divided into categories (airplane, helicopter), classes (single-engine and sea) and types (determined by weight).
Airships are also referred to as aerostats, as they use aerostatic (rather than aerodynamic) lift to achieve buoyancy. This category includes hot air balloons, blimps and dirigibles.
Light-sport aircraft are light and easy to fly. This category includes flying utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) and certain fixed-wings, as well as powered gliders and parachutes.
Aircraft are classified as single- or multi-engine. These classifications include certain fixed-wings, biplanes, floatplanes, small jets and seaplanes.
Rotocraft or VTOL are craft that take off and land vertically. This category includes helicopters, autogyros, convertiplanes, cyclocopters, rotor kites and tiltrotors.
Ultralights, as the name implies, are light-weight aircraft. This category includes electric powered, gliders, kytoons, sailplanes and weight-shift controls.
Other types and styles of aircraft include unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely piloted vehicles and drones.
When you’re ready to buy an airplane, one of your first steps is to compare lenders, then get preapproved for a loan. Getting preapproved tells you the maximum amount you qualify for, and gives you negotiating power when you’re shopping for an aircraft. It can streamline the closing process as well, allowing you to move quickly once you find the right aircraft.
Buying an aircraft is more like buying a home rather than a car. Lenders want to see a strong credit score, steady income and a low debt-to-oncome ratio. Lenders also tend to review your liquid assets.
As with most loans, on your application, you’ll disclose all of your assets and liabilities, including documenting all sources of income. Expect to supply several months of bank statements and tax returns for the past two years.
Once you choose a plane and start the process to close the loan, you’ll need to provide the lender with information about the aircraft you intend to buy, as the condition affects the interest rate and other terms of the loan. At minimum, you need to negotiate the price, get a pre-buy inspection and find insurance before you close the deal. You may also need to present complete logbooks and ensure any issues from the inspection are addressed.
A variety of factors can affect interest rates and other terms.
How the aircraft is used affects the interest rate. Airplanes flown more often — say, if you plan to rent your plane to a flight school — likely will come with higher interest rates and shorter terms, often for less than 20 years. Lenders also tend to require down payments of at least 20 percent. Airplanes logging fewer flight hours often see lower interest rates, 20-year terms, and down payments closer to 15 percent.
Older aircraft are more difficult to finance. Airplanes that depreciate more quickly, such as turbine and piston twin-engine planes, typically come with shorter terms and require larger down payments.
Down payments for aircraft typically range from 15 to 20 percent, although borrowers with exceptional credit may be able to find loan offers for as little as 10 percent down. If you need to increase the length of the loan term, you can typically do so by offering a larger down payment.
Many lenders only loan up to 85 percent of the aircraft’s value — as determined by the Vref or Aircraft Blue Book valuation guides — or the purchase price, whichever is lower. Exceptions may be made, however, if the aircraft has been recently refurbished.
Lenders typically seek to offer loans for aircraft purchases of $50,000 or more. It’s possible to get a loan for a lower amount, but expect to pay higher interest rates, make a larger down payment, and have a shorter loan term.
You may benefit from refinancing your airplane or other aircraft loan. Refinancing could extend your loan term, lower your interest rate or lower your monthly payment. To get started, find lenders and request rate quotes to see if you qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate. Take note of any fees you may have to pay, such as origination fees.
Ask if you’ll have to pay any fees on your existing loan. Some lenders charge a fee if you pay off a loan early. This is called a prepayment penalty. If you refinance, you’ll use the new loan to pay off the old one, so you’ll want to be aware of any prepayment penalties.