Finding A Good 172 For Under 100K

The key is vintage ‘60s, a low SMOH, and just a touch of glass.


SPONSORED CONTENT — In a world filled with half-million-dollar used Cirruses and Piper Malibus, how does the budget-minded aviator get off the ground? Some quality time with the classifieds yields interesting data, which, like the tea leaves, can help find a way.

As part of our ramp-up to AVweb’s new classified system, we decided to take a close look at a market segment that first arose when The Beach Boys were singing Good Vibrations—1960s-era Cessna 172s, which were clouding the skies back then, and helping to make a lot of pilots.

We found interesting examples dating to that period, and if you can tolerate total time between 4,000 and the high 5,000-hour range, there are some low SMOH airplanes with interesting upgrades that certainly deserve a look. All the usual caveats apply: A clean airplane inside and out, a solid pre-buy inspection by a competent third-party AI, and scads of paperwork and logbooks. When you are talking about airplanes from this epoch, a lot of things might have happened along the way, and solid documentation (including FAA Form 337s) is mandatory.

First up, we like “inexpensive” not “cheap.” There are Cessna 172s on the market dating from this period with total time of less than 1,500 hours that match their time since major overall. That smells like a hangar queen and a low price doesn’t mean a great value.

On the other hand, we found a 1962 C model in North Carolina with, yes, a high TT of more than 5,200 hours but an engine overhaul only 480 hours ago. This owner added a Garmin 345 audio panel and a pedestrian but workable GPSmap 496. What we really liked was the plethora of STCs for everything from a Great Lakes single-piece windshield, to Cleveland wheels and brakes, to seat stops. Price? A very fair $87,500 for a lot of airplane, in our opinion.

We also liked a Charleston, SC-based 172 with a somewhat elderly but certainly workable Garmin GNS 430, and a navcomm with a second glideslope. (All of these observations, incidentally, assume ADS-B in/out compliance, which is now law of the land.) So too, we liked a ’57 Chubby Checker-era 172 with an 830 SMOH, relatively recent ’98 paint job and a windshield replacement.

So, go into these examinations with certain yes/no stops in your decision tree. We like thoughtful ownership represented by solid upgrades, supplemental type certificates, and a meaningful nod to the current century in terms of avionics.

As we roll out, we’re hoping there’s a cream puff out there waiting for you. If you’re a seller, we applaud you, and we hope you are moving on up. Early listers get the first two months free. Go to to learn more.

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