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Bennett Avionics

Why Used Avionics?

There is little question that pilots like to fly with the best avionics possible. (Unless you are a proud traditionalist, this probably describes you.) This desire has become even stronger lately, as the avionics industry makes profound advances in flat panel displays. So why doesn’t everyone fly behind a fancy new Primary Flight Display / Multi Function Display? Like so many other questions in aviation, the answer is money.

As these integrated avionics suites become available for the retail market, it remains to be seen how practical and economical it will be to retrofit them into existing aircraft. In many cases, this retrofit will exceed the value of the rest of the airframe.

Fortunately, a middle ground exists. By purchasing used avionics, you can obtain much greater capability than you may currently have installed, while allowing the radios’ original owner to pay for the depreciation. If you cringe, even a little bit, when paying your aircraft’s bills, you owe it to yourself to consider buying used avionics.

There are several advantages to buying used avionics:

Used avionics are less expensive than new avionics
Buying used avionics allows you to maximize the additional capability for your budget. You can improve your aircraft’s utility and safety, while still saving money compared to new. The cost difference will be determined by the age, features, and market demand of the used avionics. In other words, older radios will be much less expensive, while almost-new radios will offer a more modest discount.

Used avionics are reliable
Most current solid-state avionics are highly reliable with a long life expectancy. Radios from a trusted source will come with either a Yellow Tag or an 8130-3 tag, and will be in "Serviceable" condition. This means that the radios have been tested to meet the manufacturer’s original performance specifications, and they are ready for installation and use. They are not new, but they perform like new ones. If you do experience the rare problem, it will likely occur within the warranty period.

Used avionics offer many options
By considering used avionics, you can decide how much money to invest in your radio stack and indicators, and how far to advance your capability. You have the option of upgrading 1 or 2 generations (depending on your current radios), without going all the way to state-of-the-art electronics.

Used avionics may offer a slide-in / plug-in replacement
Anytime you can replace a radio with a slide-in or plug-in replacement, you greatly reduce (or eliminate) the installation cost and effort. If your original radio is no longer in production, then a used replacement is often the only direct-replacement option. For some of the most common older radios, there are also newer designs that are slide-in replacements, and these replacements can also be purchased in used (Serviceable) condition.

Used avionics can save you time
If you purchase a direct replacement, you will save time on the installation, since installers are often booked far into the future. There may be times when you need a replacement quickly, for example if your radio is not repairable or is stolen. A replacement radio can often arrive the next morning, getting you back in the air quickly.

Used avionics may be more compatible with your other radios
By buying used avionics, you can update an older “lagging” radio to the same vintage as your other radios. This upgrade will ensure that your radios will match. Plus, you will be using radios designed to work together, improving compatibility.

To be fair, there are also some limitations to keep in mind when shopping for used avionics:

Used avionics “market delay”
We have customers contact us looking for just-announced radios in used condition. This simply is not going to happen. It generally takes 2-3 years of production before an item is available in used condition in any quantity. There also needs to be an upgrade path from a given model before people begin upgrading.

Used avionics are used
While a Serviceable condition used radio has been tested to meet the original specifications, it is still used. This means that there will be some wear on the faceplate, it’s just a matter of degree. If this is very important to you, make sure you can see the radio (or good photos of it) before your purchase to eliminate any surprises. It is not realistic to expect a used radio to look like it has never been touched. However, keep in mind that even a new radio will show some minor wear in short order.

Used avionics are not always the answer
There are some categories where the used avionics “business case” does not make economic sense. For example, we rarely sell a Blind Encoder or standard “generic” antenna (COMM, NAV, Marker Beacon, DME / Transponder, etc.) in used condition. By the time these items are properly certified, there is very little price difference between new and used.

Here are some points to keep in mind as you are evaluating your next avionics upgrade:

  • Determine how much money you will budget, and how important it is that you recover this investment when you sell your aircraft. You will likely recoup a larger percentage of your investment in used avionics, because depreciation has already occurred.
  • Consider what additions are needed to improve your aircraft’s capability and utility, to reduce your workload, and to improve your awareness and confidence. Think about what you need versus what you want.
  • Buy used avionics from a reputable firm. Be sure to get recommendations from other pilots and aircraft owners. The avionics industry is a small one, and an avionics shop’s reputation (good or bad) is enduring.
  • Insist that any used radios you buy have been tested and certified. This is a valuable step to improve your confidence in the equipment and reduce the chances of problems.
  • Make sure you obtain a guarantee / warranty to cover the electronics.
  • If the replacement radio is not a direct replacement, be sure to get rack/tray and connector/plug. These items can be expensive, and the best radio is useless without them.

Used avionics are not the answer for every pilot in every situation. However, you are selling yourself (and your aircraft) short if you don’t examine the suitability in your situation. You may find used avionics offer just the answer you need.

If you have any questions about used avionics in general, or specific models in particular, please contact us. We are happy to discuss your situation, learn your needs, and present options for you to consider.