How Much Does It Cost to Own a Plane – Is It Worth It?

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How Much Does It Cost to Own a Plane - Is It Worth It?

How Much Does It Cost to Own A Plane

Have you ever considered owning an aircraft? You are not alone as owning can be one of the most amazing experiences one can have. Being able to travel on your own terms is a luxury experience, no more waiting lines in terminals or checked bags, the aircraft waits for your arrival.

Even with the many upsides, it is important to understand the costs associated. Are you in the market for an aircraft or looking to see whether it’s a viable option? You would be happy to find out that aircraft ownership is actually a fairly affordable pursuit.

Initial Costs

The cost of an aircraft greatly depends on what type of aircraft you are looking for. Once you understand your needs and your goals you will have to decide what is most suited.

The most common associated aircraft types are:

Light-Sport Aircraft

Light sport aircraft are a cheap category of aircraft that you can purchase used on the low end for around $15,000 – $25,000. The cheapest Cessna aircraft is a Cessna Skycatcher (according to business insider) which is classified as a light-sport aircraft. These do not require a regular pilot’s license to fly which opens the barrier to entry. However, light sport aircraft come with reduced functionality in terms of weight and allowed flying conditions.

Single Engine

Single engine aircraft are the most popular choice for people purchasing their first aircraft. These are surprisingly affordable; you can usually get a Single Engine Aircraft for around $20,000 to $50,000 which is not much different than owning a car.

Multi-Engine

Multiengine planes are an interesting category that appeals to people looking for redundancy and speed. However, these are some of the most expensive options to get into when purchasing an aircraft. Multi-engine aircraft can range from $70,000 to $200,000 depending on the type and age. In addition, with two engines, maintenance costs can double, we will discuss this further below.

Jet

Jet Aircraft are the most expensive of the bunch. A Jet Aircraft will set you back anywhere from $700,000 – $4 Million upfront. Jet engines are also different from pistons that usually dominate the other categories. Maintenance rules are more strict and variable expenses increase dramatically.

These 4 vary drastically in price range and have a far range of different use cases.

Insurance

Just like a car, aircraft need insurance to guard against any cost associated with damages. Insurance is a huge factor when buying a plane as it varies drastically based on the history and safety record of an aircraft.

In addition, the more complex an aircraft is, the higher the insurance may be. Small aircraft insurance runs about $1,000 to $2,000 per year but can go much higher depending on the value of your aircraft.

Variable Costs

Variable costs are defined as costs that constantly change when it comes to aircraft ownership. Generally, these costs are associated with Fuel, Oil, Filter Changes, and any other upkeep items that don’t have a solidified price structure. At a really good time of the year, 100LL Aviation fuel can cost anywhere from $3-$5 per gallon. At the outset, this may look cheap however a Cessna 172 has a 50 Gallon tank. Average oil costs can be around $3 dollars and vary wildly per engine specs.

Assuming one flew around 100 hours you can see that this adds up but still stays relatively affordable

  • $378 monthly cost
  • $3.50 / Hour Average Gas cost x 100 = $350
  • $2.50 / Hour Average Oil Cost x 100 = $250

The biggest question is whether aircraft ownership is worth it, and the bottom line is, it depends on your needs and purpose for purchasing an aircraft. Buying an aircraft can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. However, whether that’s worth it depends on a variety of factors and your use case.

Airworthiness Directives

Another hidden cost that people don’t factor are airworthiness directives. Many aircraft have airworthiness directives issued by the FAA or the aircraft manufacturer. Airworthiness directives are similar to recalls for aircraft, however instead of the manufacturer paying it’s the responsibility of the aircraft owner.

Airworthiness Directives are generally aimed at the safety and operation of an aircraft and are required in order to keep the aircraft in an airworthy state. These costs vary drastically however some require modifications that cost in excess of $20,000

 

Maintenance and Overhauls

A big factor that people forget is routine maintenance and overhauls. Maintenance varies per aircraft and complexity however regular maintenance is needed for all. This is probably the largest expense that aviators will come into overtime. It’s recommended that pilots keep a separate fund for maintenance costs. Generally speaking, Pilots will allocate a certain amount of money per flight hour. These rates can cost anywhere from $40-$60 into an escrow fund and are calculated on a per aircraft basis.

Here is a neat calculator that defines these variables.

Additionally, aircraft have annual procedures called Overhauls. Overhauls are required by the FAA and the aircraft manufacturer. These are routine checks that ensure your engine is in good condition. Aircraft overhauls are based on engine time and vary differently based on engine type and performance. Aircraft engine overhauls can usually range up to $25,000.

Finance or Lease

One of the most universal questions to ask is what are your budget parameters. This can be a huge determining factor when choosing the category and class of your aircraft. It’s important to understand the extensive financing opportunities or leasing arrangements available to us as pilots.

Partnerships are also a factor in choosing a budget parameter. Many pilots decide to co-operate their aircraft with a friend or business partner. If you decide to go 50/50 on an aircraft ownership this may increase the category and class of the aircraft you select.

AOPA offers an amazing aircraft loan calculator that should give you an idea of where you stand.

Check it out here https://finance.aopa.org/loan-calculator

Is it worth it?

Are You a Frequent Traveler?

Do you find yourself traveling often in a business or personal capacity? Do you see yourself flying for more than 100 hours per year? Owning an aircraft may be just the perfect option for you as to when you start to fly over 100 hours you will see the cost-efficient savings of owning your own aircraft.

Scheduling on your own time

We all dread the airport experience, especially when we are late for a flight. Owning an aircraft allows you to fly on your own terms, whenever you so choose. No more waiting in line at the airport for people to check their bags. Once you come to the airport you can walk directly to your aircraft no questions asked. The aircraft waits for you, missing flights will be a thing of the past when you own your aircraft.

You Know Your Aircraft

When you own your own aircraft, you know the ins and outs. You will never need to worry if a student damaged the landing gear, or stressed the airframe in harmful maneuvers. The aircraft and history are yours; this can give you peace of mind when traveling.

Flying during a pandemic

Last but not least, flying privately during a pandemic can be one of the major leading factors in your purchase to buy your own aircraft. These days flying in a commercial aircraft can be a potentially dangerous experience. Many aircraft have the capability of seating over 200 people within the small confined space of an airline cabin. Often the turnaround procedures on these flights don’t allow staff and crew enough time to perform a thorough cleaning of the aircraft. It’s important to keep the health benefits in mind when seeking to buy an aircraft.

It is no secret that 2020 was a huge change for our society, so much so, that we need to keep in mind health and safety in our deciding factors. Operating your own aircraft can potentially prove to be safer for your health and security which overrides any of the previous factors stated.

The Bottom Line

Owning an aircraft is not as expensive as most people believe. With a Single engine, Cessna 172 flying for around 100 hours per month may amount up to $150 dollars per hour. Making sure you are well prepared and educated with the costs associated can ensure smooth and enjoyable ownership of an aircraft.

Check out our Buying vs Renting article here where we dive deeper into the comparison of owning versus renting your own aircraft.

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Check out our blog post on 5 Easy and Cheap Ways to start flight school, in which we also discuss how contracting a personal flight instructor can prove to be significantly cheaper in your own aircraft.

Are you interested in purchasing an aircraft? Check out some of our listings below, as you can see the prices are on par in comparison to buying a new car.

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