Buying Pre-Owned Jets: Does Brand Matter?

How important should an aircraft’s brand be in your search for a pre-owned business jet? Brian Foley explores some general perceptions of the products built by today’s leading bizjet OEMs and assesses other important factors to add to the selection process…

Brian Foley  |  07th September 2023
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Brian Foley
Brian Foley

Brian Foley formed Brian Foley Associates (BRiFO) in 2006 to assist aerospace firms and investors with...

Does brand matter with pre-owned private jets?


There is a dizzying array of manufacturers and models on the pre-owned aircraft market to choose from. For those first-time buyers who generically refer to all business jets as “Learjets” it must be particularly daunting. 

Once the labyrinth of various makes and models is navigated, however, is there a particular brand (or brands) a buyer should narrow their choice to, or will just anything do? Having a pre-conceived notion of which aircraft make(s) to buy is a bit out of sequence… 

First, a buyer or their agent should have a general idea of the mission that will be typically flown. This way they’re not considering a Cessna model, predominantly a maker of Light to Super Mid-Size jets, for frequent New York to Singapore trips, or a Gulfstream jet, known for its Large Cabin through Ultra-Long-Range Jets, for hops between Boston to Martha’s Vineyard. 

Once that’s out of the way, let’s narrow our discussion to just the primary five manufacturers who still produce aircraft today - specifically Bombardier, Dassault Falcon, Embraer, Gulfstream and Textron Aviation (under which Cessna Citation jets are built). 

There are, of course, many more aircraft makes available on the used jet market that are either less ubiquitous or have since ceased production. Even so, most of the aircraft on the pre-owned aircraft market today are in some way affiliated with one of these ‘Big Five’. 

Characterizing the ‘Big Five’ BizJet Brands

As for deciding on which brand to buy, it may be of interest to know how each of the Big Five OEMs are generally characterized in the new business jet market. Analogous to the auto world with the Jeep brand having one set of market expectations and perceptions and the Cadillac another, so are there broad, general notions about each business jet manufacturer. Subjectively: 

  • Cessna Citations are generally regarded as utilitarian, doing the job without a lot of flashy technology. 
  • Falcon Jets are perceived as being a pilot’s airplane, with crisp flying characteristics in a well-built, fuel-efficient package. 
  • Gulfstreams are considered the ‘gold standard’ by some, with more size and power than finesse.
  • Embraers come from a legacy of regional airliners that are considered by fleet operators to be ideally suited for their high utilization operations. 
  • Bombardier’s big cabin aircraft have traditionally been regarded as a technologically advanced, clean sheet design, while its Mid-Size offering had a value reputation as a no-frills stand-up cabin. 

Applying these very broad and subjective market labels to the pre-owned market, once the brands are narrowed down to those fitting the mission, buyers could conceivably give preference to the make that gets the job done (Cessna); are well-engineered, fly well and save fuel (Falcon); are big, go far and have an outsized ramp image (Gulfstream); can take a beating and keep on ticking (Embraer); or offer mid-size cabin value or a more modern large cabin design (Bombardier). 

The Reality of Buying a Pre-Owned Jet

In reality, much more consideration should be given to which pre-owned jet to buy besides brand preference. More practical factors such as purchase price, operating cost, aircraft performance, hangar size, location of service centers (and much more) should also be analyzed before choosing a final brand. 

Some publications even provide product support surveys for both in- and out-of-warranty aircraft, which provide additional insights into parts cost and availability, responsiveness, service center feedback, and more.

Business jets are inherently safe and reliable so there’s no clear brand standout in these categories. Moreover, being a used jet means they’ve already gone through their fastest depreciation periods so it should be a relatively even playing field as far as future depreciation is concerned.

Choosing a specific used model that’s still in production has the further advantage of being viewed as a current, in-demand platform, particularly to the aircraft finance community. 

No matter the brand, an airplane is going to get you from Point A to Point B safely. As such, most of the Big Five offerings, particularly their later models, are acceptable candidates. However the final decision should still be validated with objective criteria to reduce the chance of buyer’s remorse.

More information from www.brifo.com

Read more Market Insights in the AvBuyer September 2023 Digital Edition


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Brian Foley

Brian Foley

Editor, Market Intelligence

Brian Foley formed Brian Foley Associates (BRiFO) in 2006 to assist aerospace firms and investors with strategic research. In addition to his work as Market Intelligence Editor, AvBuyer, he is a regular contributor for Forbes.com and his views are published in the media worldwide.

Currently, Brian serves the Transportation Research Board as a member of the Business Aviation, helicopter, commercial airline and UAV system subcommittees, and he previously served on the Wall Street financial firm Board.

Before starting his consultancy business, Brian was marketing director at Dassault Falcon Jet for 20 years, and started his career at Boeing. He is an instrument-rated private pilot.


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