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Did You Know – That COPA Classifieds Work?

By Adam Hunt

It is a fairly common occurrence here at COPA that I get a phone call from a member selling an airplane, who is calling to complain that our classifieds don’t work. “I’ve been advertising for six months and haven’t had a single phone call.” Or something similar.

Usually I ask him which ad is his. A read through it usually shows the problem, often something like: “1960 model Cessna 150, 1800 SMOH, needs bit of paint, no radios, $45,000 firm…” Needless to say the Bluebook on the plane would be about minus Cdn$5800. No wonder he hasn’t had any calls.

So I decided to put COPA classifieds to a real life test, to see if they work. I decided to put my own plane up for sale and at the worst time of year – the middle of winter. The ad was a colour photo classified and on the front page of Canadian Plane Trade. No favours for COPA staff here – I paid full price for the ad, $85.67 with tax. The ad was a straightforward description with a photo of the plane on the ground, shot from a step ladder to get a different point of view. The asking price was set just below the Bluebook value, as I was hoping to sell the plane before I had to buy insurance on New Year’s Day. The ad started off pretty typically: “1970 AA-1 Yankee, 117 KTAS Cruise of 6.5 gph…”

The ad appeared in the January edition of COPA Flight, which hit the streets on December 18th. That meant that most members would get it over the Christmas holidays, not the best timing as most people are thinking about other things than buying an airplane. An ad in COPA Flight also includes an identical ad on the members-only section of the COPA website.

As an adjunct I also listed it on the type club website. That was a free ad and publicly available on the internet. It was interesting to compare the results.

The type club internet ad netted two serious inquires and three Nigerian scammers (“I send you cashier’s check for twice the amount you are asking for your plane and you send me balance”) and nothing else.

The January COPA Flight newspaper and internet ad resulted in 8 serious inquiries including one person who came up to Ottawa for a demonstration flight. He liked the airplane and put in an offer, but it was too low for me to accept.

The classifieds deadline for the February edition was coming up and so I bought another colour photo classified for another $85.67. This time I re-wrote the ad, just for variety. It included an air-to-air photo that even in the small size looked pretty dramatic. I changed the text too. It started off with a bit of a twist: “RV-7A appeal, Cessna 150 price! 1970 American AA-1 Yankee…”

That ad hit the street in the February edition on January 22nd, at just about the coldest time of the year anywhere in Canada. I knew that not many people would start looking for a plane to fly until March or April, but figured it was worth trying.

The February ad resulted in 17 serious inquires, including four after it had sold. I had an e-mail from a local pilot who was interested and took him for a flight. He had the pre-purchase inspection done and the aircraft sold that same day, February 16th. That was just 26 days after the second ad came out and almost exactly two months after the first ad was on the streets. I consider that pretty good performance for this time of year.

I was surprised, but the second ad did create a bit of confusion for at least two people who called. They wanted to know if I had sold my RV-7A or the Cessna 150. We had to explain that the ad was for an AA-1, if you actually read it. One person claimed it was “false advertising” to offer an RV-7A for sale when I didn’t have one. Takes all kinds I suppose. I hope he found his $29,900 RV-7A!

How much did the plane sell for? Let’s just say that I was happy with the price I got for it. Overall the COPA Flight paper and internet ad netted 25 serious inquiries, which I think is pretty good for mid-winter. The advertising cost was a total of $171.34, which was about 0.5% of the asking price – not a bad investment at all. For me, even in the dead of a Canadian winter COPA Classifieds worked and worked fast!

One bonus with using COPA Classifieds is that the internet version is “members only”. Because almost every non-commercial pilot actually flying in Canada is already a COPA member this means it gets to your potential market without attracting the scammers that publicly available internet ads do.

What made the difference in selling this aircraft so quickly? I believe it is all about the asking price. Aircraft advertised well above their current market value don’t even get calls. If you want to sell a plane in 3-6 months, then get a professional appraisal of its market current worth or at least get a Bluebook value, which will give you a “ballpark” figure. Then advertise it for around that number, knowing that haggling will bring the price down a little bit.

If you want to sell it faster than that, then price it slightly below Bluebook and it will sell more quickly.

If you don’t want to sell your plane at all, but just want a photo of it in the paper, then by all means select an asking price that is well above current value.

Bluebook values for most certified aircraft can be obtained by COPA members by sending the aircraft make, model, year, engine hours, plus information on the interior condition, paint and avionics to pgilligan@copanational.org.

PS We sold our plane with the concept of upgrading, so we may be on the other end of the selling enterprise in the near future.