Helicopter Buyer's Guide: Everything You Need To Know!

By Jason Zilberbrand

November 10, 2020 Educational

What a time to buy a helicopter! The helicopter market is facing challenges unseen for over 40 years. Unbeknownst to many, helicopters have been having a hard time locating buyers. The oil and gas crisis parked much larger, twin heavy aircraft and COVID-19, as well as Kobe Bryant's untimely death, haven't helped.

The helicopter industry is not all doom and gloom; in fact, older aircraft are being repurposed for fire fighting, ems, and other search and rescue missions.

If you're thinking about purchasing a helicopter, considerations vary between buyers. Are you a private buyer purchasing a Robinson for personal use? Hospital staff purchasing an ems configured aircraft?

Aspects like budget, size, fuel efficiency, and buying new vs. used are essential to consider but will vary from person to person. That's why we've compiled this helicopter buyer's guide for those beginning the search for their next personal aircraft.

We've made it easy for you to figure out where to start, so take off with us, and we'll guide you to your ticket to the clouds!

Putting Together Your Helicopter Buyer's Guide

As we go through this guide, bear in mind that owning a helicopter requires homework, resources, and things like insurance. Later on in the article, I will come back to this topic, but do yourself a favor and get a quote for liability insurance before you even think about buying one. There is a reason why so many are for sale.

Is Owning a Helicopter Right for You?

The most obvious consideration for purchasing a helicopter is usage. If you're buying a personal aircraft, it may be wise to consider renting before purchasing.

While the concept of renting a helicopter may seem daunting, it's essential to understand that the cost of purchasing a private aircraft is only a fraction of the operational costs. Many markets will make rental nearly impossible, but it is worth looking into before buying one.

Rental estimates per hour are around $300 to $600 an hour for a Robinson R22 or R44. Do your research, and figure out what's right for you.

Should You Buy New or Used?

Buying any machinery before the end of the year has tax benefits. You can take a 100% bonus depreciation and obtain low-interest loans. If you do the math, you will find that assuming you can take the depreciation is a no-brainer! Buying equipment for your business that will allow it to grow is a smart investment, and helicopters can help in numerous ways. Combine this purchasing power with low demand and high supply, and you can see how now is the time to buy. Once COVID is behind us and the tourism sector starts to open up again, many of these parked aircraft will return to service. We have already seen oil start to climb in price with expectations things will eventually return to normal. The truth is, if you need a rotorcraft for your business, why wait?

What Model is Right for You?

It's easy to understand why the model is essential when buying a helicopter. The problem is, which factors are vital to YOUR decision to buy a private aircraft?

If it were easy, we wouldn't have to write a helicopter buyer's guide about it.

While there are dozens of factors to consider, some of the critical components of your owning a helicopter are as follows:

  • support and maintenance locations
  • average distance traveling
  • interior and floor plan
  • fuel efficiency
  • size
  • operating costs
  • operating history
  • mission profile

You'll want to ensure your helicopter has everything you need. Why get a private aircraft otherwise? Remember, most helicopters are purpose-built utility machines, not vanity aircraft for VIP travel. While you can fly executives around, most are used for actual work.

Life limited parts and Overhaul status are essential things to pay attention to before you exhaust your research. All helicopters have routine maintenance. Unlike fixed-wing aircraft, once a helicopter airframe is overhauled, and the significant inspections are completed, the value goes up tremendously.

Insurance

So you finally got a game plan in place, you know the aircraft you want to buy, you have identified several that meet your needs, and it's time to make an offer. Hold on just one second. Did you know insurance rates are increasing 10-100 percent? Not only helicopter insurance but al; aviation-related policies are seeing significant increases. But why? The issue at play is what is called the hardening of the insurance market. FOr many years most policyholders saw no annual increases, and many even witnessed lower rates. But with all good things, even cheap insurance has to come to an end. Think about the numerous losses in recent years, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, crashes, and fewer underwriters are all to blame. There were over 20 underwriters a year ago, today 15 remain. Chances are it will take another 18 to 24 months before we see things improve, so do your homework and be prepared to triple or quadruple your insurance budget.

Free to Fly

It's finally time! You've read the helicopter buyer's guide. You've got the know-how to figure out what kind of helicopter is the perfect make and model for you and how to determine your unique needs and the others who will be using your helicopter.

Make sure you consider renting, make sure the price is accurate, and figure out how much and how far you'll be taking it.

If you've already found a helicopter, you want to purchase, head on over to our appraisal page to ensure you're getting the best deal! If you need an appraisal or help with a helicopter purchase contact Jason Zilberbrand, ASA for help.