Pre-owned Business Jet Sales — Improving or Declining?

If you only look at one source on pre-owned private jet sales, you could easily think sales are improving … but you could just as easily think they’re declining from a different source, even if the numbers are all correct. That’s because there are a lot of complex factors that play into pre-owned jet sales, and differing numbers can easily skew the raw data if you aren’t paying careful attention.

According to AMSTAT, the leading provider of business aircraft market research, first quarter sales of the world’s 20,170 pre-owned business jets have been characterized as just ‘mediocre’:

  • Heavy jets — 92 sales (1.7% of the fleet)
  • Medium jets — 184 sales (2.7% of the fleet)
  • Light jets — 192 sales (2.4% of the fleet)

When compared to the previous quarter, Q4 2013, that’s a drop of 0.9%, but as Andrew Young, general manager of AMSTAT, notes: strong Q4 sales are traditionally a signal for a Q1 drop. “This was certainly true this year with 2.3% of the business jet fleet turning over in Q1 2014, compared to 3% in Q4 2013,” Young says. “However, it was disappointing to see a smaller percentage of the active fleet turning over in Q1 2014 versus Q1 2013.”

AMSTAT also counted a total of 2,355 business jets listed for sale (11.7% of the fleet) in Q1, which is a solid 1.1% increase on the same quarter the previous year and an improvement over the prior 2 years with 0.7 and 0.6% respectively. These results demonstrate fair progress toward recovery in the business jet market since the recession of 2008-2009, but it’s still a buyer’s market with plenty of business jets for sale.

The trends in jet prices are just as messy:

  • Average asking prices for pre-owned jets declined by 11.6%
  • Average asking prices for used turboprops fell 29.4%

While that sounds bad for sales, if we examine the raw data, we get a slightly more positive picture:

  • Pre-owned business jets are selling on average 73 days faster than in 2013
  • Sales transactions are up 3.1% from Q1 2013

So, what do you think? Are things improving or declining overall? We may just have to wait and see.

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