4:18 PM

Buying online...
crapshoot, or a
very smart idea?

My involvement with the Internets goes back to about 1992, when “chatting” was generally pervert-free, and buying things on the web was still pretty scary. Oh, what changes we have seen in those 15 years.

Today, we buy online, we bank online, we date online, and yes – dare I say it – some goofballs even have virtual sex online. I haven’t any plans to try that last one. Not even sure how it’s done…maybe it’s best I don’t know.

Somewhere along that wild and crazy trip through cyberspace, eBay came our way, and it’s become the gold standard online auction house for everything you can possibly imagine, including airplanes. I’ve bought and sold a few things on eBay, with great results. But buying an airplane? Come on, does anyone have that kind of trust anymore?

Yes, it turns out.

Just a couple of years ago, there were one a tiny handful of airplanes for sale on eBay – it was still far too weird a concept. Well, a quick visit to eBay Motors today revealed 113 listings, so if there were ever any sort of trepidations about buying your bird online, I guess they are officially past history.

Here's a taste of what I found:

• A 1984 WESTWIND II business jet, with a current bid of $1,800,100. There was a dogfight over this one, with 64 bidders waging war.

1999 Bombardier Challenger 604. No bidders yet, but it does have a “Buy It Now” price of $19,750,000 if you must have this one.

• A Dassault Falcon 50, in perfect condition, with a current bid of $11,900,000.

• Forty two bidders were killing each other over a 1966 HUGHES TH 55 269A helicopter, with a starting bid of $37,100. The reserve had not been met, so this one ought climb fast as the auction nears the end.

• Not all the items are plain Jane flyers either. How about a 1961 Broussard 6-place STOL Warbird with a starting bid of $33,100.00? If you want this one, you’re gonna have to battle 21 bidders who all have the same idea as you.

• If larger iron is your thing, how about a 1944 Douglas DC-3/C-47 Freighter with a current 135 certificate? Starting bid is only $75,000. I’d love to throw down on this one.

• There are at least 18 bidders who think this is a sweet deal – a 1974 Cessna Centurion II Turbo 210 with a current bid of only $58,100.00. This is not a basket job either, it has great avionics and decent times left on the powerplants.
I’m still one of those airplane buyers who has to see it, touch it and fly it before making a respectable offer. I want a fair A & P to give it a once over, even if it's on my dime. So buying a sight-unseen airplane off the Internets is still too far out there in riskland for me.

I'm not saying any of these airplanes listed here are risky purchases, and I suspect that you can make a serious offer on the high dollar ones persuant to them passing a pre-buy inspection. There may be some real bargains here, if you have the stomach to drop money on a plane you've never seen in person.

So if you see something on eBay that fits your mission plan for a new airplane, go for it, after all, it is your money. I personally would never, ever buy a car without first driving it and poking around under the hood, so how could I ever buy a plane without the same due diligence?

For now, I'll do my shopping in the real world. Give me Trade-a-Plane and a telephone, thank you very much.

ps: If you have an eBay success story about a great plane that was bought through an online auction, email me here and I'll post it.

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