While certainly not as prevalent as motorcycles or traditional automobiles, small planes are increasingly favored for personal use or extended family trips. Their remarkable affordability compared to full-size aircraft also fuels this growing trend!
Nevertheless, the cost of small planes can still vary considerably depending on brands, designs, and engine types. The Wright Experience team has conducted thorough market research to provide the most accurate estimates. Keep scrolling to learn more!
In this article:
How Much Do Small Planes Cost?
The price of small planes usually ranges from $8,000 to over $300,000, with ultralight aircraft (one seat, one engine) being the most affordable option. Multiple-engine versions charge the highest, while single-engine and multiple-seat models fall into the middle of the spectrum. Other factors like taxes, registration fees, storage, and maintenance also contribute significantly to the total cost.
- Ultralight Aircraft: These single-engine, single-seat recreational models are available at $8,000-$15,000 of up-front cost.
- Single-Engine Planes: Designed to accommodate at least two people, they are more cost-effective in maintenance and operation than multi-engine versions. The average price usually fluctuates from $15,000 to $100,000.
- Multi-Engine Models: As the most expensive option, they charge you anywhere between $75,000 and $300,000.
- Higher-end models like turboprop aircraft or light jets are priced at $500,000 to millions of dollars.
But here’s the great news: higher price tags usually come with better safety measures. Let’s say one engine loses its power mid-flight; the remaining engine(s) still enable pilots to maneuver towards a safe landing spot. Their superior performance and speed are some other great competitive edges!
Aside from the up-front cost, how much small planes are also depends on:
Small planes must be placed in outdoor storage or hangar space for 100% safety. If you cannot find any suitable nearby place for that purpose, renting airport space is the only logical solution.
According to our 2021 research, hangar rentals averaged around $350 a month, sometimes with an additional $100 for extra tiedown gears. Unfortunately, their prices have surged even higher in 2023 due to rising demand, cost inflation, and regular facility upgrades.
Annual Inspection and Maintenance Costs
Though often overlooked, maintenance services play a more significant role than you would think. According to Aviation Pros, they account for 10-45% of the annual cost based on the class and model type.
Yearly inspections are just as crucial for personal planes, usually falling between $750 and $2,000. If your model features specialized or customizable landing gears, you should expect to pay more for these inspections.
According to our research, fuel expenses for small planes tend to be much higher than standard automotive fuel. They average around $5 per gallon, accounting for 70% of the overall operational expenses.
Of course, fuel efficiency varies based on the specific aircraft model you purchase. For more detailed and accurate information, we suggest consulting with the manufacturers.
All the key factors we discussed above are also associated with insurance expenses. While not mandatory, title insurance is also highly recommended, as it offers good coverage against unforeseen title claims on your aircraft.
From our observation, insurance premiums for small planes are influenced by their age, flight hours, and parking arrangement (hangar or tiedown). Therefore, it would be better to consult a reputable insurance company. If the total costs exceed your budget, consider acquiring extra certifications or regular training to reduce those expenses.
Registration Fees and Taxes
Registration fees and taxes also impact the total purchase price, as outlined in the Pilot’s Guide to Taxes by the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). We also suggest consulting a local tax professional for more tailored advice.
On another note, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires the plane to be re-registered every 3 years at $5. Several regions also issue their own registration prerequisites and related fees, so it is important to research those specific requirements thoroughly.
What Are Some Of The Cheapest Planes to Buy?
Aeronca Champ 7AC
This classic tandem aircraft is designed for relaxed, low-altitude flying and only consumes 4 to 5 gallons an hour.
- Max range: 201 miles
- Cruise speed: ~ 85 MPH
- Passenger: 1
- Starting price: ~ $29,000
This Ercoupe model has earned critical acclaim as one of the safest and simplest single-engine airplanes. Back in the 1940s, its design was considered groundbreaking, being the first GA aircraft to include nosewheels and be certified as “non-spinnable and non-stallable.”
Like the Champ, 415-D’s operation is economical, only burning 6 gallons of fuel per hour or even less.
- Max range: 300 miles
- Cruise speed: ~ 95 MPH
- Passenger: 1
- Starting price: ~ $29,900
The Cessna 150 has long been used as a training aircraft due to its exceptional handling, generous stall warnings, and robust aerodynamic stability. It is a great choice for novice pilots looking for an easy-to-operate model that can boost their confidence.
- Max range: 349 miles
- Cruise speed: ~ 124 MPH
- Passenger: 1
- Starting price: ~ $34,500
Is It Legal to Build Your Own Private Aircraft To Save Costs?
Yes, you can build and fly your own model. If it is an ultralight plane, you do not need a pilot license or airworthiness certificate.
Still, you must obtain an Experimental Aircraft Builder Certi from the Federal Aviation Administration (or FAA) before starting. It’s also crucial to strictly follow specific FAA guidelines.
Should You Buy A Used Plane To Save Costs?
Used planes certainly come at a lower cost than brand-new models. However, their maintenance expenses tend to be quite high, and the total flight hours (within safe limits) are also relatively subpar. Whether or not these models are suitable entirely boils down to your circumstances and priorities.
The Wright Experience has detailed how much a small airplane costs and outlined several influencing factors to keep in mind. Building your private plane to save cost is a great alternative, but ensure you have obtained the necessary builder certificates from the FAA beforehand!