It’s an aviation reality that pilots understand all too well. Just because an airplane has four seats (or six or eight or 19) doesn’t mean you can fill them all, top the tanks with fuel, throw your baggage in the back and still hope to remain within legal weight and balance limits.
For pilots with growing families (or golfing buddies they want to take along on trips), a six-seat airplane can make perfect sense. You’ll be able to carry most everything you need, the costs typically don’t rise to astronomically high levels for a used step-up airplane and you’ll probably even be able to fly a little faster, higher and farther in the higher-performance model.
A used six-seater such as a Beech Bonanza or Cessna 206 might also be the ideal step-down airplane for a pilot who flies, say, a TBM but can no longer justify the costs of fuel, maintenance, hangar and insurance. You can still take the spouse and kids, but you’ll be able to rest easier knowing your costs of ownership are greatly reduced.
Either way, a used six-seat airplane — whether a piston single or twin, a turboprop or even a light jet — can offer exceptional utility and, with the current state of the used-plane market, often a great value as well.
Here are our choices for the best used six-seaters your money can buy.
BEST USED PISTON SINGLES
Beechcraft Bonanza A36 (above)
Beech produced several variants of the Bonanza over the years, but the A36 reigns supreme. Developed from the earlier Model 33, it features a 10-inch-longer fuselage, starboard rear double doors for the aft cabin and a 285 hp Continental IO-520-B engine. In 1979, Beech introduced a turbocharged version, the A36TC, with a three-blade propeller and the 300 hp turbocharged Continental TSIO-520-UB. The Model 36 remains in production to this day, upgraded in 2005 to the G36, an acknowledgement of its standard Garmin G1000 avionics system.
Typical Used Price: $100,000 to $375,000 Years Produced: 1970 to 2005 Engine: Continental IO-520-B (285 hp) MTOW: 3,600 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 2,100 pounds Useful Load: 1,500 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 170 ktas Max Range: 765 nm
Cessna 206 Stationair
You can think of the 206 Stationair as a flying SUV. Introduced in 1964, it was essentially a fixed-gear version of the popular Cessna 210 (also a worthy choice for used-plane buyers) with a redesigned wing and bigger flaps. Power originally came from a 285 hp Continental IO-520-A engine but was soon swapped out for the 300 hp Continental IO-520-F, which provides a max-takeoff-weight increase. A big clamshell door at the rear allows for loading of bulky objects, making the 206 a favorite of commercial operators. Cessna built the 206 until single-engine production stopped in 1986. After a 12-year hiatus, the Stationair returned to production with a Lycoming TIO-540 engine and is available as a new airplane today.
Typical Used Price: $100,000 to $225,000 Years Produced: 1964 to 1986 Engine: Continental IO-520-F (300 hp) MTOW: 3,600 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 1,850 pounds Useful Load: 1,750 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 145 ktas Max Range: 730 nm
Piper Cherokee Six
If the Cessna Stationair is the aerial equivalent of an SUV, you can compare the Piper Cherokee Six to a minivan. Introduced in 1965 as a longer and wider variation of the PA-28 airframe, the PA-32 Cherokee Six is more than 4 feet longer and 7 inches wider than its four-place cousins. In other words, it’s huge. It was originally powered by a 260 hp Lycoming O-540, but a fuel-injected 300 hp version of the engine soon became the preferred power plant. In 1980, the Cherokee Six morphed into the Piper Saratoga, which remains in production to this day.
Typical Used Price: $50,000 to $175,000 Years Produced: 1965 to 1980 Engine: Lycoming IO-540-K1A5 (300 hp) MTOW: 3,400 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 1,780 pounds Useful Load: 1,620 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 148 ktas Max Range: 700 nm
Piper Malibu Mirage
The PA-46 Malibu is the only pressurized piston single to make our list, and undoubtedly it’s the most refined as well. Introduced in 1983 as the PA-46-310P Malibu, its power came from the Continental TSIO-520-BE engine, rated at 310 hp. As the popularity of the new model grew, Piper introduced the PA-46-350P Malibu Mirage in 1988, which boasted a more powerful turbocharged Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A engine and a new wing. The model has remained in production ever since, becoming the Piper M350 in 2015.
Typical Used Price: $250,000 to $500,000 Years Produced: 1988 to 2015 Engine: Lycoming TIO-540-AE2A (350 hp) MTOW: 4,300 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 2,790 pounds Useful Load: 1,510 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 215 ktas Max Range: 980 nm
BEST USED PISTON TWINS
Beechcraft B55 Baron
Prices for used piston twins have plummeted for a variety of reasons — increased complexity and higher ownership costs chief among them — meaning they can be had for less money than many high-performance singles. If you’re in the market for a used light twin, let us suggest you consider the B55 Baron. A shorter version of the B58 that many know as the “baby Baron,” the B55 offers respectable useful loads that make it possible to carry a family of six, bags and enough fuel for four-hour legs with reserves. Best of all, the B55 sells for significantly less than a used B58, which remains in production as the Garmin G1000-equipped G58.
Typical Used Price: $75,000 to $175,000 Years Produced: 1964 to 1983 Engine: (2) Continental IO-470-L (260 hp) MTOW: 5,100 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 3,075 pounds Useful Load: 2,025 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 188 ktas Max Range: 830 nm
Piper Turbo Seneca II
The Piper Seneca II isn’t quite on par with the Beech Baron in terms of build quality or performance, but what it lacks in these areas it makes up for in operating economics and cost of ownership. Introduced in 1975 as the PA-34-200T, with turbocharged Continental TSIO-360-E or -EB engines, it offers improved handling and performance compared with the original Seneca I. In addition to its docile flying characteristics, the Seneca’s counterrotating engines eliminate the critical engine limitations of other light twins, making it more controllable in case of an engine failure.
Typical Used Price: $50,000¬to $150,000 Years Produced: 1975 to 1980 Engine: (2) Continental TSIO-360-E/EB (200 hp) MTOW: 4,570 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 2,840 pounds Useful Load: 1,730 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 167 ktas Max Range: 900 nm
Introduced in 1954, the 310 was Cessna’s first twin produced after World War II and made an immediate impact with its sleek looks and performance that easily beat out the best-selling light twin of the day, the Piper Apache. So popular was the 310 that it remained in production for 26 years. Early versions had five seats, with a sixth added in the 310G model introduced in 1962. The later 310R and T310R turbo models are the most desirable. The addition of three-blade props, a longer nose with a bigger baggage compartment and a 200-pound MTOW increase make it hard to beat.
Typical Used Price: $75,000 to $175,000 Years Produced: 1975 to 1980 Engine: (2) Continental TSIO-520 (285 hp) MTOW: 5,500 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 3,725 pounds Useful Load: 1,775 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 223 ktas Max Range: 840 nm
BEST USED TURBOPROPS
The Piper Meridian, based on the Malibu Mirage piston single, is perhaps the ideal entry-level turboprop. Benefiting from the legendary reliability, performance and operating economics of the Pratt & Whitney PT6A, it is an airplane many pilots of high-performance piston singles will step up to and feel right at home. Early models are fitted with Meggitt Magic avionics or, somewhat more recently, the Avidyne Entegra system. In 2010, Piper introduced G1000 to the Meridian. An STC lets buyers upgrade the gear in older airplanes to Garmin’s aftermarket G950 system. More recently the Meridian has morphed into two all-new versions, the M500 and M600.
Typical Used Price: $650,000 to $1.5 million Years Produced: 2002 to 2015 Engine: Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-42A (500 shp) MTOW: 5,100 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 3,400 pounds Useful Load: 1,700 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 260 ktas Max Range: 1,000 nm
People often forget that the sleek and sexy TBM 700 traces its lineage to Kerrville, Texas, the home of Mooney. In fact, TBM stands for “Tarbes-Mooney;” the TBM started as a joint development between Socata, which had its factory in Tarbes, France, and the storied American lightplane manufacturer, still based in Texas. The original TBM 700A featured Bendix/King avionics. It was replaced in 1999 by the 700B, which offered a larger rear door, an optional forward pilot door and increased gross weight. The TBM 700C1, which included a reinforced structure and other enhancements, was certified in 2003. The TBM 700C2, featuring new avionics and an increase in MTOW to 7,394 pounds, remained in production until the TBM 850 superseded it in 2006.
Typical Used Price: $750,000 to $1.25 million Years Produced: 1990 to 2005 Engine: Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-64 (700 shp) MTOW: 6,600 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 4,100 pounds Useful Load: 2,500 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 290 ktas Max Range: 1,350 nm
King Air C90
The King Air family ranks among the most successful general aviation airplanes of all time for good reason. With more than 6,000 produced, the planes define a category of big, reliable, economical twin turboprops. The six-seat King Air 90, introduced in 1964, has remained in continuous production for more than 50 years, and is sold today as the King Air C90GTx. In all, Beechcraft has produced 20 different models of the King Air 90. The one we like best is the C90, especially those that have undergone avionics retrofits and aftermarket performance upgrades. In 2005, Beech introduced the C90GT, the first of a greatly modernized version of the model, sold with highly capable Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics.
Typical Used Price: $300,000 to $800,000 Years Produced: 1971 to 2005 Engine: PT6A-21 (550 SHP) or PTA6A-135 (750 SHP flat rated to 550 SHP) for the C90GT MTOW: 10,100 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 6580 pounds Useful Load: 3580 pounds Cruise Speed (75 percent power): 290 ktas Max Range: 1,350 nm
BEST USED JETS
Cessna Citation Mustang
The Citation Mustang is a Goldilocks kind of airplane if ever there was one. It represents Cessna’s attempt to create the industry’s first true personal jet, a powerful enticement for pilots moving up from the piston and turboprop ranks into the rarefied realm of jet routes and the upper flight levels. It’s not the biggest or the smallest VLJ, it doesn’t fly the fastest or go the farthest, but it’s an excellent all-around small jet for the money. With its G1000 cockpit, many move-up pilots will feel right at home in the Mustang’s front office. Owners we’ve spoken to say they love their airplanes.
Typical Used Price: $1 million to $2 million Years Produced: 2007 to present Engine: (2) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615F (1,460 pounds of thrust each) MTOW: 8,730 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 5,600 pounds Useful Load: 3,130 pounds Cruise Speed: 340 KTAs Max Range: 1,170 NM
The CJ1 is the follow-on to the successful Citation Jet series, offering all of the advantages of the original but with improved economy and performance that make it a worthy contender for those in the market for a six-seat jet. While previous Citations used a straight wing, Cessna upgraded the Citation Jet with a natural-laminar-flow wing, providing improved lift-to-drag characteristics for greater speed and efficiency. Its fuel-efficient Williams engines make it a standout in the light-jet segment. Its standard avionics package is the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 system.
Typical Used Price: $775,000 to $1.75 million Years Produced: 1998 to 2005 Engine: (2) Williams/Rolls FJ44-1A (1,900 pounds of thrust each) MTOW: 10,600 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 6,770 pounds Useful Load: 3,830 pounds Cruise Speed: 377 ktas Max Range: 1,121 nm
The original Eclipse Aviation, founded by Vern Raburn, is no longer around, but before the company went bankrupt it built more than 200 of these diminutive jets in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thanks to its fuel-efficient Pratt & Whitney PW610F engines, the Eclipse 500 burns less than 70 gallons of jet fuel per hour, giving it a lower cost per nautical mile than many turboprops. It’s small on the inside, with about half the interior volume of a King Air 90 and a payload with max fuel of about 500 pounds. If you can live with the compromises, the Eclipse is a great little personal jet. Today, One Aviation, a corporate joining of the re-emergent Eclipse Aerospace and single-engine-turboprop developer Kestrel, supports the airplane and sells new airplanes based on the original.
Typical Used Price: $600,000 to $1 million Years Produced: 2006 to 2008 Engine: (2) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F (900 pounds of thrust each) MTOW: 5,950 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 3,550 pounds Useful Load: 2,400 pounds Cruise Speed: 360 ktas Max Range: 1,125 nm
Embraer Phenom 100
The Phenom 100 broke new ground for Embraer, which was known more for its regional jets than business jets at the height of the VLJ craze a decade ago. Though it’s often pitted as a competitor to the Citation Mustang, the Phenom 100 belongs more in the class of Cessna’s CJ1+. With its Prodigy flight deck, based on the G1000 avionics system, it’s a single-pilot-friendly twinjet and a joy to fly.
Typical Used Price: $1.75 million to $2.25 million Years Produced: 2007 to present Engine: (2) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW617 (1,730 pounds of thrust each) MTOW: 10,580 pounds Standard Empty Weight: 7,195 pounds Useful Load: 3,385 pounds Cruise Speed: 380 ktas Max Range: 1,178 nm