Chris Stevens

Aviation. Tech.

How Much Does an Airplane Cost Anyway?

Most people I talk to don’t know much about general aviation.  The closest I usually get is that somebody’s dad was a pilot or airline pilot or they rode in a “cessna” once (yup, that’s a lowercase “c” as if it encompassed an entire genre of vehicles).  It’s a mysterious topic to most people, so I always try to relate it to something a little more mainstream, like cars.

Being the Statesman that I am, I’m not going to lie to you.  Airplanes are expensive, like house or boat or Aston Martin expensive.  But! That’s not to say there isn’t some wiggle room. The older and less capable you go, the more affordable plane you can get into.  Most of us mere mortals will only ever be able to eek into a “well-loved” older model of flying machine, if at all, and that’s more than adequate.

How about some numbers from the “mere mortal” class, but you’ll have to reach back about 30 or 40 years…

1960-1970 Cessna 172:  $30,000 – $50,000 1960-1970 Mooney:  $35,000 – $75,000 (we have a 1965 Mooney)

Now if we move up to something really nifty and new (made in the last decade)…

2006 Cessna 172S:  $199,000 2005 Mooney Ovation 2: $300,000 2005 Cirrus SR-22 GTS: $270,000

I typically like to say that a “well-loved” airplane is roughly equivalent in purchase price to a sports or luxury car:

2008 BMW 6-Series 650i: $53,000 (Ebay motors) 2008 Z06 Corvette: $59,000 (Ebay motors)

Of course, the purchase price is only one of the costs of aircraft ownership and it can often be mortgaged out to 15 or 20 years.  You probably already have a place to park your cars, but you’ll need a hanger or tie down on an airport.  Inner-city airport parking typically comes with a premium just like anything else in the city (it is valuable real estate, after all). We are fortunate to have a great little airport just outside of the city that is easy to get to and from during the crazy DFW rush hour.

Beyond those big items, you’ll have other fixed costs like maintenance, training, and insurance; charts and database subscriptions so you know where you are and how to get home; electricity for the hanger if want lights at night. (We don’t have lights at night.)

Often, it is the prospect of paying all of these fixed costs that really gets people interested in shared ownership.  There is a lot to like about shared ownership and we may try that someday.

In the next post, I’ll talk about our ownership experience here in the DFW Metroplex and a few of our typical trips.