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Key Takeaways

  • Renting a Cessna 172 for the weekend is not as simple as it may seem. There are a number of factors to consider.
  • Be clear if the rental is wet or dry.
  • Understand if there is a minimum per day hours you have to put on the plane before you check it out.
  • Determine if the aircraft has an overnight charge.
  • Consider purchasing an aircraft, leasing it back to a club, and then renting it whenever you want to fly it.

Renting a Cessna 172 is a simple process at most FBOs. They typically need to see your pilot’s license and log book, and everything’s fine, you can go up!

A Cessna 172 would cost about $180 per hour for a weekend. A flight instructor will cost another $50 per hour. For a weekend rental, the elapsed flight time will determine the cost which is then multiplied by the hourly rate. But most FBOs would impose a minimum flight time on the rental.

As a C172 pilot who can often be found hanging around my local FBO, I constantly come across new faces looking to rent aircraft for weekend getaways. Unless they come at the last minute or the planes are scheduled by others, it’s often an amazing weekend.

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Rental Rates

Rental rates depend on several factors, and depending on how far you are prepared to go, there are ways to bring the price down.

The east coast has different rates than the midwest, which has different rates than the west coast. Rental rates also depend on the condition of the aircraft and the avionics it carries. A VFR-only aircraft will be cheaper than a fully equipped aircraft certified for IFR.

If you are not instrument rated and are just going out on a clear weekend, you don't need the plane with the two-axis autopilot and weather map. Take the one that's less decked out, and consequently cheaper.


The cost of 100LL also plays a part in the price of the rental. When the aircraft is rented ‘wet’ then the rate of the rental will fluctuate with fuel prices, since the aircraft’s owner and operator pays for the price of the fuel.

However, since you are planning to take it away for the weekend, let’s assume that the flight would take you somewhere distant. And if so, the price of 100LL could be significantly different. You might wonder who pays for gas then?

Typically, if you pay for wet rates, and fly somewhere where you have to refuel, the operator would reimburse your fuel bill up to a certain price. That price is typically based on the price of gas at the airport the operator is based.

Before you take possession of the aircraft, you should confirm the operator’s policy on fuel reimbursements.


Some operators rent out the aircraft dry. This means that you will pay a lower rental rate, but you’d have to pay for the fuel you use. In some cases that works out better for everyone since a skilled pilot will know how to manage his fuel better and therefore have better fuel consumption rates.

Most FBO operators price their wet rates on pilots running the engine lean at all times, operating the aircraft at 3000 feet. This is typically so for FBOs that conduct flight training where the aircraft consumes about 10 gph on average.

An experienced pilot knows very well that flying a Cessna 172 at 9,000 feet, with power set at Best Economy can bring the fuel flow rate down to 7.5 gph. If you are paying for the fuel, this could save you 25% of your entire fuel bill for the weekend.

It also makes a sizable difference if you are headed to an airport where the price of fuel is significantly lower than the place you rented the 172.

So, how Cessna 172 costs for the weekend would depend on the policy of the FBO regarding wet or dry rentals and reimbursement practices.

Per Night Fees

In addition to the wet or dry rates, some FBOs charge a per-night fee. So if you leave Friday and return Sunday, that’s two nights you’d have to pay the extra fee for. The per-night costs are not too painful. Sometimes being as little as $30 per or as high as $100 per night.

Minimum Flight Time

Other FBOs tend to rent Cessna 172s out for a minimum of hours per day. So, if you are going to take the plane for 48 hours (leave Friday, and be back Sunday) then you’d have to put at least the minimum time on the Hobbs.

In most cases, FBOs require just 3 hours per day. That would apply if you took the plane for the entire month as well. I find that the best way around some of this is to talk to the owner. If they aren’t busy, they ar not going to be so strict about the minimum flight time.

In the event you took for the weekend, but you were flying to a location four hours away, then your total flight time of approximately nine hours will be more than enough to meet the minimum flight requirement.

If you are just going somewhere that’s an hour away, then you will have to pay for the six hours they require for the weekend. That’s an additional four hours than what you flew.

If the rate is dry, then it's not too painful, but if it's wet, then you’ll be paying for fuel you’re not burning. So, if you have a minimum flight time to satisfy to take the plane away for the weekend, then rent it dry whenever possible.

Flying Club Vs Flying School

How much does it cost to rent a Cessna 172 for the weekend? Well, aside from all the factors discussed above, it also determines largely by where you rent it from. If you rent it from a flight school or an FBO that has flight training, then the minimum rates could be a little higher.

However, there is the option of joining a flying club.

Flight schools have a lot of costs to think about. Paying for the maintenance of the aircraft as well as the cost associated with it, which includes the cost of financing its airplanes. If someone rents their aircraft for the weekend and comes back with only two hours on the Hobbs, it becomes financially perilous for them. It’s why they have to charge minimums.

But a flying club is different. They have a different structure altogether and typically charge members whatever the Hobbs or Tach time reads on check-out and check-in.

Whenever possible, if you are planning to make frequent trips and keep the plane with you for the weekend, then joining a club might be worth investigating.

So, at a club, how much does it cost to rent a Cessna 172 for the weekend?

Clubs have two costs you need to think about. First, there are membership dues. This can be anywhere from $20 to $200 a month. The price is usually determined by all the extras you get. There are simple clubs that have no frills, and cost the lower end of that range, while the upper end has all kinds of frills you can enjoy.

At clubs like this, pilots typically get to rent the plane for however long they want and pay just what’s on the Hobbs. But there is an unwritten rule that you don’t abuse the system. Taking the plane away for a month and bringing it back in just an hour is not nice.


When it comes to leasebacks, how much does it cost to rent a Cessna 172 for the weekend?

This is by far the cheapest option frequent flyers have. Leasebacks are the middle ground between owning and renting. If you owned an airplane, you could, of course, take it wherever you want. However, the aircraft would cost money as it sat on the ground.

If you entered into a leaseback with a club, now when you are not using it, the club would rent it out to other club members. The asset now becomes more efficient. As the owner, you will receive part of the rental income while the club will receive a smaller portion of it, plus the dues they charge.

When you enter into a leaseback with a club, there are also a number of perks you get as the owner. One of them is the ability to rent the aircraft without having to incur minimum per-day rates.

Another benefit of leasing it back to a club is that clubs usually have their own maintenance department with an IA on staff. As an owner, you get preferential rates on maintenance, which can be significant when the time comes for an engine overhaul.

If you choose this route, find a club in your area where there is heavy traffic and your aircraft can be productive when you are not using it. You will find that the total cost of ownership drops significantly and also reduces your hourly cost of flying.