Pre-Owned Update: Available Inventory Continues Downward Trend

 - October 8, 2007, 10:47 AM

At nearly the halfway point, this year continues to build on what has been an 18-month-long trend of lower pre-owned inventory and stabilizing prices among most models, especially late-model and current-production aircraft. In late 2002, pre-owned inventory rose above 2,050 units and has since backed off to 1,814, roughly a 12-percent decline.

Aircraft 10 years old or newer are in low supply on the used market, with about 5-percent availability. Dividing this group in half finds the five-year-old and newer aircraft–of which there are currently 115 for sale out of a possible 2,867–at about 4-percent availability, while the five- to 10-year group is positioned at just above 7 percent, with 180 of the potential 2,406 up for grabs.

Ten- to 20-year-old jets are more plentiful at 12.5 percent for sale, or a couple of ticks above what has long been considered an average supply (10 percent), while the 20- to 30-year-old segment skyrockets to 22-percent availability.

Consider the Learjet 45, which a little more than a year ago sat at 23 aircraft for sale and has now dwindled to eight–with three of those tagged for sales pending. The current stock equals a scarce 2-percent availability, catapulting the aircraft out of price stabilization and onto appreciation. Right now there’s a $3 million spread between the highest- and lowest-priced Learjet 45s, which begin at $6.5 million and stop in the mid-$9 millions.

The market action has finally resuscitated buyer interest in the Learjet 60, which for 20 months had loitered either side of the 30-airplane mark. Now, for the first time in two years, the supply has dipped below 20, categorizing the Learjet 45 at a below-average supply at 7.5 percent of the 253 aircraft built to date.

Citation Vs have been garnering some attention from buyers of late. Two years ago inventory stood at 42 airplanes and averaged about 30 for all of last year before making gains to arrive at the 21 currently for sale, a number  the type hasn’t visited since August 2000. The Ultra too has begun to percolate back down after bubbling up to 27 six months ago; it has since fallen to 17 on the market, contracting to just 6-percent availability, or two percentage points lower than its predecessor.

The Citation II looks like the latest fad-diet victim: it had shrunk to 108 six months ago before yo-yoing back up to 120, a level it last struck two years ago. A million bucks will buy you a high-timer, circa 13,000 hours TT, while a late-model, relatively low-time airplane will command the mid-$2 millions. Similarly challenged is the Citation III, with more than 37 for sale out of about 200, representing in excess of 17-percent availability. That’s about where it has been perched for more than a year, but below its inventory peak of 51 aircraft 21 months ago. If you’re a betting man, based on the Citation VII market you would have to go long on the Citation III market.

The Citation VII, which does offer some enhancements over the III but is essentially the same aircraft, has only nine airplanes available out of a possible 119, translating to 7.5-percent availability. The dichotomy in availability is perhaps solely due to age, but if the VII market tightens further, it will shift more attention to its earlier variant.

Falcon 50s, at 51 for sale 15 months ago, sit at 27 today–a level the type hasn’t gravitated to for three full years. Not far behind, the Falcon 900B has returned to its two-years-ago level of 17 after peaking at 27 airplanes last year. Pricing among the 900Bs goes from the $15 million to $20 million range. The Falcon 2000 started the year with 14 choices and supply has since dwindled to eight units, or less than 4-percent availability. The 2000s are priced in the $15 million to $16 million area.
The only late-model Falcon 2000, a 370-hour 2002 model owned by Dassault, carries a $19.25 million asking price.

Gulfstream IV/IV-SPs continue to be one of the hottest properties in town, currently offering just 10 aircraft for sale out of a total fleet size of 286. Considering two are for lease and two have sales pending, the number is more like six, representing just 2-percent availability. Pricing begins at $20.5 million and extends to $27 million. The GV is almost as hotly pursued, with only seven choices offered out of 193 built, equating to roughly 3.5-percent availability. Right now prices in the GV market begin at a tick under $30 million for a 1996 model and run to about $36.5 million for a 2002 model.

Challenger 604 inventory ratcheted down from 20 a year ago to 15 today, equating to 5-percent availability. It had fallen to 10 aircraft in February before bouncing to the current level. Prices run from just under $16 million to just under $20 million. The Challenger 601-3A has shown renewed signs of life, paring nine aircraft since November and coming within shooting distance of what is considered a normal supply. Dropping from 24 to 15 in a seven-month period brought inventory to 11-percent availability.

The signals are clear that a sustained recovery in the pre-owned market has taken place. A further tightening of newer aircraft is undoubtedly the catalyst needed to bring the senior aircraft off the sidelines to partake in the rally. This may not be far off. While historically the upcoming summer season hints at a slowdown, the fall could pave the way for some second-tier aircraft to reverse course.