Well, Lt Dannnnnn, “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’
Sorry, couldn't resist!
I just went through the first time buying process myself. I'd never owned any airplane before and had only a few flights in RV-7s and -8s. I was looking for either a RV-4 or RV-8 with a strong preference for a -4. With the help of my -8 owning brother-in-law and Vic Syracuse, I found a great airplane and am very happy.
I'll list some of the things that were important to me but the most important thing, by far, is to get a good pre-buy inspection from somebody that knows what they are doing. There are several folks on here that can do that for you. I highly recommend you use Vic Syracuse if he's available. He's close enough to you to make the trip and will provide you with superb value for your money. If there are issues, he'll give you the leverage necessary to negotiate as his word is like the word of the almighty in the RV world. You can reach Vic here, by private message or phone at - (404) 307-5133, or (770) 898-2222. You can also check out his website at www.baselegaviation.com
. Best of all, Vic stand's by his pre-buy customers through the entire purchase and initial flying process. I had a ton of questions after I acquired my airplane and Vic was always a phone call away.
Now, to that RV-4. Things to consider / inspect:
- engine weldments (as you've already mentioned)
- cracks in gear legs / engine mount
- fuel tanks condition - NO SLOSH, NO LEAKS
- avionics (a big deal for me - get a glass panel or plan on upgrading - ADSB 2020 compatibility)
- rear seat controls - beyond a stick, do you really care?
- paint condition, exterior and interior
- quality of installation and condition of all wiring
- fuel leaks - look closely
- tail wheel spring / mount type / condition
- presence of trim tabs, especially aileron (rudder tab expected, ailerons not so much)
- aileron and elevator bushings - no vertical play
- elevator cross tube play - hold both sides and try and move in opposite directions - little to no movement allowed
- compliance with all service bulletins
- consistent flying history - an engine that has sat is potentially worse than a higher time engine.
- read every page of every log book. Is the history well documented?
- read the airworthiness certification - did the builder certify the airplane for the regimes of flight you intend?
- ANY damage history. IF you accept any, make sure the repairs are fully documented - you'll have to explain it to the next buyer.
- Prop strikes are especially common - while A&P's differ, most want a fully overhaul of the engine, especially if a metal prop was involved.
- age and condition of tires, wheel's and brakes
- metal or plastic brake lines
- types and condition of lights - check to make sure they work
- canopy opening / closing mechanism - a "taxi stop" is essential for controlling cockpit temperature on the ground.
- battery and alternator age and condition, type of regulator
- type and location of throttle / prop / mixture controls - formation flight?
- engine hardware condition - all control linkages, hoses, exhaust attachments
- cowl attachment condition / ease of removal
- search the FAA and NTSB database by N number for history
Just a few of the things that came to mind.