The base price of a new plane can range from $8,000 for an ultralight aircraft model to upwards of $300,000 for a luxury small aircraft. This does not include the price of a hangar rental space, insurance, and the price of an annual inspection, which can add up fast.
Among air travelers in the upper middle class and upper class, there is a new trend of avoiding mainstream airlines, and honestly, who can blame them? Air travel is expensive, and with the ever-increasing likelihood of witnessing an “air rage” incident, it can even be a bit scary.
As a result, more and more air travelers are starting to travel by private plane—even going so far as to get their own pilot’s license. But how much does a small plane cost, and is it actually worth the money? Let’s take a look at the details of small plane ownership to get a better idea of what it could cost in the long term.
How much does a small plane cost?
When it comes to owning a small plane, the biggest question is obviously how much money you would have to spend on the plane purchase itself. Assuming you have a budget in the tens of thousands of dollars, a plane purchase price can be surprisingly easy on the wallet depending on what type of small plane you choose:
- Ultralight aircraft. These are single-seat planes designed to fly shorter distances. The price of a new ultralight aircraft can range from $8,000 to $15,000.
- Single-engine planes. Single-engine planes can seat two to six people. These small planes start at $15,000 and can go for as high as $100,000.
- Multi-engine planes. A multi-engine plane can fit a larger group of passengers. These are generally thought of as luxury planes and range in price from $75,000 to $300,000.
Loan options for small planes
When it comes to financing, airplanes are a lot like cars. The total cost of owning a plane can be a bit overwhelming, so lenders will offer specialized loans to help cover the upfront costs of a plane purchase.
When shopping for loans, numerous elements will determine how much money you will be able to borrow. A high down payment may seem less affordable up front, but it can also mean a lower interest rate and a higher overall loan value, so be sure to weigh your options before signing on the dotted line.
The annual maintenance costs of owning a small plane
Similar to the financing point above, the costs of owning a small plane are not unlike the costs of owning a car, albeit significantly more expensive. The average small plane owner spends thousands of dollars to maintain their aircraft, even if the plane remains grounded. If you plan to buy your own plane, these are the additional costs you will need to consider:
- Annual inspections. By law, you must regularly ensure that your airplane is airworthy. This means that your plane will need to undergo annual inspections by an authorized inspector to ensure that its safety is up to par. This can cost you anywhere from $600 to more than $1,200 every year.
- Hangar fees. Unless you happen to own a ridiculously large field, you will need to house your small plane in a hangar. If you plan to keep your plane in a hangar with a tie-down, the average hangar cost will set you back at least $250 per month.
- Aviation fuel. This tends to be the most significant of the operating costs involved in plane ownership. In general, airplane fuel is pricier than automotive fuel. Much like gasoline for cars, the price of jet fuel fluctuates, but as of April 2022, the cost reached an average of $3.58 per gallon. How much you will spend on fuel for your plane will depend on the length of your flight and the size of the aircraft.
- Insurance. Much like car insurance, anyone who owns and operates an airplane must be covered by aircraft insurance. This covers most of the costs incurred if your plane damages another aircraft, property, or people. Annually, aviation insurance can cost as little as $500 but more often leans into the thousands.
- Pilot licensing. In most cases, it makes sense to be a pilot of your own plane. This means you will have to pay fees to take flying lessons, obtain a pilot’s license, and join a pilots’ association, all of which can cost thousands of dollars.
- Standard maintenance costs. Airplanes, like ground vehicles, need maintenance. Some costs may be unexpected, but it’s worth budgeting for oil changes and standard repairs before you buy a plane.
Cost of aviation insurance
As mentioned above, aviation insurance is an unavoidable expense for aircraft owners. You are going to be liable for any damage caused if you get into a crash, so when you shop for small aircraft insurance, it probably wouldn’t hurt to splurge a little.
Talk to an aircraft insurance salesperson to find out how to get the best possible coverage. The type of small plane you plan to buy will likely affect your rate; for example, single-engine recreational planes tend to be easier to insure than private planes that see regular use.
Renting vs. owning a small plane
Whether it’s better to rent or own a small plane depends on your situation. Most pilots go by the “100-hour rule”: if you intend to fly more than 100 hours a year, it’s generally cheaper to buy a plane than it is to rent one.
How to calculate your monthly plane ownership costs
Sooner or later, your small plane is going to need repairs, and a trip to the repair shop can cost thousands of dollars. However, the cost of standard upkeep is fairly easy to calculate. Here’s how to estimate how much it will cost to maintain your plane on a monthly basis:
How to calculate the monthly cost of owning a plane
- Start by running the numbers on how much it costs to finance a plane. If math isn’t your forte, you can have a rep from a financing company help you with this.
- Ask local flight schools how much it costs to get a pilot’s license. In most states, a representative will be able to tell you this information flat out.
- Talk to a local insurance agent to get a monthly quote. Make sure that you mention the make and model of the aircraft you want to buy.
- Call your local hangar to find out how much hangar fees would be. You don’t have to disclose that you’re simply doing research, but you should mention how much room you will need to house the plane you intend to buy.
- Check your state’s flight inspection fees. These can range from as low as $600 to upwards of $1000. Annual inspections for aircraft upkeep are easier to plan for when you know in advance how much money to set aside.
The total cost of owning a small plane
Here’s a breakdown of the estimated total cost of owning a small plane, including the initial purchase price of this plane and annual operating and maintenance costs:
|Type of Plane||Example||Average Plane Purchase Price||Estimated Annual Cost|
|Ultralight one-seater||Kolb Firefly||$15,000||$2,500–$5,000|
|Single-engine plane||1997 Aerocruiser||$60,000||$22,500–$35,000|
|Multi-engine plane||1980 Cessna 421c||$525,000||$400,000–$500,000|
The most affordable way to fly
If you’re hoping to save money by avoiding standard airline fees, flying your own plane might not be the most affordable option. When you take maintenance costs and storage fees into consideration, owning a small plane usually only makes air travel cheaper if you frequently make day trips over short or medium distances.
Most of the time, traveling by plane is cheaper via a commercial airline, so buy a plane ticket if you’re planning to travel soon.
What is the cheapest plane to buy?
If you want to go for a typical starter plane that remains popular among the flying crowd, the best private plane to buy would be a Cessna 150. This 1970s plane costs an average of $15,000.
What is the cost of one plane?
The price of a single plane can vary widely, especially when it comes to upfront costs. A typical single-engine plane will probably cost between $15,000 and $100,000. If you’re looking into multi-engine planes, however, then the aircraft can easily cost more than $250,000.
How much do pilots earn?
Pilots earn a fairly good wage for the hours they spend flying. In May 2021, the median wage for a commercial pilot was $99,640. It’s worth noting that pilots earn their salary based on flight time, and their wages can increase or decrease based on experience.
How much is a helicopter?
As of 2022, the average price of a helicopter is approximately $1,800,000. This makes a helicopter far more expensive than a plane.
- A small airplane can cost from $6,000 to more than $300,000 depending on the type of aircraft you want to purchase.
- Your plane will also come with additional costs, such as hangar fees, annual inspection fees, aircraft insurance, and regular oil changes.
- You will need to find an air center that offers covered spaces for your plane when it’s not in use.
- You should expect to pay several thousand dollars in annual fees to maintain your plane, but these can vary based on the type of aircraft you own.
- Airplanes are generally worth the cost if you intend to put in at least 100 hours of flight time per year.
- Single-passenger airplanes are more affordable than planes built for multiple passengers.
Whether you genuinely love to fly or simply want to brag that you own a private jet, you’re not alone. Both urban airports and rural airports are receiving an increasing number of calls for hangar space to house private planes.
Regardless of why you’re interested in owning a plane, however, you should still be knowledgeable about flying. Check out SuperMoney’s guides on companies in the capital goods field, including the aerospace industry, and the cheapest days to fly on a commercial airline.
View Article Sources
- Aircraft Operating Costs – Federal Aviation Administration
- Operating Costs and Financing – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
- Hypothetical Operating Cost Calculation – Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
- Airline Fuel Cost and Consumption – Bureau of Transportation Statistics