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Do upgrades add value to your airplane?
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Do upgrades add value to your airplane?

One of the most frequently asked questions we get here is, “how much will this upgrade add to the value of my airplane?”

The answer depends on a lot of things, and one of the most important is why you do want an avionics upgrade in the first place? Most owners want greater capability or reliability from their avionics. Some need to comply with an FAA mandate – remember ADS-B Out? There are a few who just want the coolest panel at the airport. You know who you are.

Bonanza Before

And, there are those, and believe me, you’d be surprised at the number, owners that are

upgrading to increase their airplane’s value, ie, sell it for more money. If that’s your goal, you’ll probably be disappointed.

My rule of thumb is you can expect the typical upgrade to increase your airplane’s market value around one-third of the total upgrade cost, but don’t take that to the bank (pardon the pun).  

In my opinion, if you’re planning your avionics upgrade so you have a more capable airplane, then plan your upgrade to deliver the capability you want. Not what you think somebody in the future might want.

Unless the airplane is going up for sale very soon, you have no way of knowing what “value” the buyer will place on the upgrades you install now. Technology changes too fast.

In fact, I do not recommend an avionics upgrade because you’re planning on selling the airplane and want to increase the value. You will not get your money back.

Bonanza After

That’s why one of the first questions I ask is, “how long do you see yourself owning this airplane?” If it’s a “stepping-stone” aircraft that you’re not planning to keep for more than two years or so, then as long as it’s compliant and everything works fine, I’d say leave it alone. At most, add a new GPS navigator.

Anything more than that and many times, the upgrade cost will exceed the total hull value of the airplane. I’m betting the

next owner isn’t going to pay for that.

But, if this the airplane you love, is perfect for your average “mission,”  and want to keep for the foreseeable future, any upgrade that allows you to safely fly where, when, and how you want is a tremendous increase in the aircraft’s “value.” And it’s worth whatever you choose to spend.

In fact, I would say the majority of panel upgrades we do on 60’s/70’s era Cessna 182’s, 206’s, 210’s, Beech Bonanza’s, Piper Arrows, and many others, on average exceeded the aircraft’s Blue Book value. But that’s okay, because in most of these installations, the owner has had the airplane for some time, knows the airplane, loves the airplane, and realizes that replacing the airplane with a newer model is far more expensive than just equipping the airplane they already love with the new avionics they want!     

So, the bottom line is that an avionics upgrade does increase the resale value of the airplane to some degree. But how much depends on a lot of factors.

For example, if your airplane has a late-generation IFR GPS with color touchscreen moving map, LPV approach capability, and is ADS-B compliant, it is going to more attractive and worth more than the same airplane with the original 1990’s avionics.

On the other hand, if it has been upgraded with EFIS and digital engine monitor as well, it’s really more of an attractive airplane, and that’s when it’s worth even more. But still probably not enough more to cover the avionics and installation costs.

If all you do is upgrade to an ADS-B Out device, at the other end of the scale, you probably won’t see much of an increase in the aircraft value. But it does make your airplane more attractive than a similar model that is not ADS-B compliant.  

It’s all very confusing, so if you’re looking for help to make the best decision for your situation, call me at 503. 678. 6242 (ext: 201), and we can discuss your exact needs, situation, and budget.

Until next time, keep looking up,




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