For many pilots or those who want to experience the joys of private air travel, the dream is to own a plane. But do you actually know how much a plane costs?
Well, it can vary significantly, depending on the size and model you want, ranging from several thousand dollars for ultralight planes all the way up to the hundreds of million of dollars for private jets. Planes also have high maintenance and operating costs too, which can quickly add up.
Let’s take a look at how much it costs to own, operate, and maintain a private plane, commercial airliner, and military jet, as well as if it’s better to buy new or used, or maybe if it’s even just better to rent instead of buying a plane.
How Much Does a Plane Cost?
Ultralight vs. Single-Engine vs. Multi-Engine Planes
- Ultralight planes are the least expensive since they’re the smallest and simplest. A new ultralight plane has an up-front cost of between $8,000 to $15,000.
- Single-engine planes carry two or more people, and there are many types of single-engine planes, with some more expensive than others. As such, the cost can vary between $15,000 to $100,000.
- Multi-engine planes are the largest and most expensive of the three, and like single-engine planes, there are different types of multi-engine planes. A multi-engine plane can cost anywhere between $75,000 and $300,000.
Related: How Much Does a Jet Engine Cost?
Of course, the costs don’t stop with just the purchase of a plane. You also have to pay for maintenance, insurance, fuel, storage, and possibly a pilot or crew.
Most plane owners establish an escrow fund for their plane’s maintenance. They pay small fees for maintenance over time, saving money in the long run. Legally required inspection costs between $600 to $1,200 depending on the size of your aircraft.
Aviation insurance covers any damages your aircraft suffers, as well as any damages your aircraft causes. The exact cost of aviation insurance depends on the type of aircraft. Usually, for small private planes, it costs between $1,200 to $2,000. For larger aircraft, the cost can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Most people depend on the bank and other financial institutions to finance a plane purchase. The interest charged depends on an individual’s credit history, location, and the plane’s cost.
Planes are either stored inside hangars or left on runways. The cheapest option is to park a plane in a field or private airstrip. Airstrips are generally much cheaper to rent than hangars, although the exact cost for both will depend on the region.
The average cost of a hangar is $275 per month and another $100 for tie down gear.
Fuel and Oil
Smaller aircraft need oil changes every four months or after 50 flight hours. Typically, a small plane uses between 4 and 10 gallons of fuel per flight hour. The exact field price varies by region, but the average price of jet fuel is around $5 per gallon.
Pilot and Crew Salary (If Applicable)
Many people who purchase larger planes also hire their own pilot and crew. The cost of hiring a pilot or crew depends on the complexity of your needs, with the cost ranging from a few thousand dollars to several tens of thousands of dollars per month.
The Cost of Private Jets vs. Commercial Airliners vs. Military Jets
Prices of Private Jet
A new private jet costs between $2 million to $500 million depending on the model.
Maintenance of a Private Jet
The average private jet maintenance cost is between $500,000 to $1,000,000. If you’d like, you can use AircraftCostCalculator.com to calculate the maintenance cost of a specific private jet model.
Prices of Commercial Jet
A commercial airline jet costs between $90 million to over $400 million.
Maintenance of Commercial Jet
The cost depends on the model and manufacturer of the plane, but the average commercial airline plane costs $3 million in maintenance.
Price of Military Jets
Military jets can cost between $25 million to close to a billion dollars depending on the country making the purchase, the country providing the jet as well, as the jet’s model and generation.
The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, for example, costs a staggering $737 million.
Maintenance cost of Military Jets
Military jets have high maintenance costs. Even an economical jet like the F-16 costs has a $30,000 maintenance cost per flight hour. Governments sometimes spend tens of million of dollars on a military jet’s maintenance over its lifetime.
Is It Better to Rent or Buy a Plane?
Advantages of Buying a Plane
When you buy a plane, you have the freedom to choose the model you want. You’d also have full-time access to your plane, in addition to being able to customize and alter it. Buying is a good choice if you want to fly often and, of course, have the funds.
Advantages of Renting a Plane
Renting a plane is much cheaper than buying it, especially since you won’t pay maintenance fees. Renting is a better option for people who intend to fly occasionally rather than regularly.
Where Can You Buy a Plane?
Airplanes can be bought through licensed brokers and online markets. Depending on where you live, purchasing a plane usually involves passing through several legal regulations.
Brokers typically assist their customers with the paperwork. After you’ve received a proof of sales receipt, you’re now officially a plane owner.
Buying New vs. Used
Used planes are inevitably cheaper than new ones. The wear, tear and depreciation that used planes experience naturally lowers their value.
Older plane models are cheaper to purchase up-front, but they are typically difficult to maintain because their parts are harder to find.
Typically, the older a plane is, the less it will cost, but older planes will almost always have higher maintenance costs.
The better an aircraft’s overall condition is, including the integrity of its airframe, equipment and engine, the higher it will cost.
- Total flying time
Since planes that have spent more time flying will incur more wear, which increases their maintenance cost, they cost much more than planes with fewer flying hours.
Aircraft with no incident histories cost more since they’re in better condition.
- Maintenance status
The better maintained an aircraft is, the higher it costs. In the long run, it could be cheaper to purchase an aircraft that’s less well-maintained.
The more modern an aircraft’s equipment is, the higher it will cost.
Wrapping us, airplanes are expensive, but the biggest expense isn’t necessarily purchasing the plane itself so much as its long-term maintenance costs.
Michael is an aircraft engineer and aviation expert with an insatiable passion for all things aviation-related.
With decades of experience and knowledge under his belt, Michael is an authority on the intricacies of private, commercial, and military aircraft.
Michael has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Business Insider, The Observer, Next Big Future, HowStuffWorks, CleanTechnica, Yahoo, UK Defence Journal, 19FortyFive, as well as referenced on Wikipedia.