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- The true cost of owning a Cessna 150 should include finance costs, depreciation, and a sinking fund for overhauls.
- The cost of a used Cessna 150 depends on a number of factors including how much time is left before a major overhaul is warranted.
- Before making a purchase, weigh the qualitative factors of ownership against the quantitative cost factors of owning an aircraft.
- Consider the tax implications of owning an aircraft in your state.
The Cessna 150 is one of the oldest aircraft models built by The Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas. First produced in 1958, it retailed at $7000.
Cessna ceased production of the C 150 in 1977, the same year it began manufacturing a variant, the Cessna 152. Its last Cessna 150 cost approximately $12,000. Adjusted for inflation, that is approximately $60,000 in 2022. A used C150 built in 1977 can be found for $40,000 today.
As an MEI who primarily teaches my students in the Cessna 150 and its younger brother, the Cessna 152, I have found the C150 to be a stable and reliable platform to train students. Its operating costs are relatively inexpensive, as are its maintenance and ownership costs.
Cost of Aircraft Ownership
Pricing a Cessna 150 for ownership requires two areas of consideration. Broadly, you need to consider the purchase cost and all the costs that are associated with that, including financing cost or opportunity cost. While looking at a $400,000 price tag may not seem like a whole lot, it is always wiser to do the math as there are things that will creep in over time.
Financing costs are a large issue. Financing costs are not just the cost of a loan that you take from your bank. It can also be the opportunity cost of liquidating an investment to pay for the aircraft in cash.
Another cost that most people forget to calculate is the cost of evaluation before purchase. Once you go on a hunt to buy an aircraft, you might see three or four aircraft before you make a decision. It would be best that you have a mechanic with you to look under the hood and audit the logs. That will add to the cost.
Determinants of the Cost of Purchase
The price you pay for the aircraft is a function of three factors you should be aware of. The age of the aircraft forms the basis of valuation. From there, its avionics and upholstery determine a premium or discount, followed by its exterior condition. Finally, its price is also determined by how long it has before its next overhaul.
Take, for instance, a 1972 Cessna 150 with just under 6000 hours of total time and an engine with 1200 hours before its next major overhaul (TBOH) can be found for $62,000. Compare that to a 1974 Cessna 150 with its engine passed its TBO asking for just $40,000. Even though the latter is newer, its price is almost 30% lower than the older model.
There are two kinds of finance costs that you should be aware of. The first, and the most obvious is the cost to borrow the money. The second, as mentioned earlier, is the opportunity cost of the money you use.
Forty thousand dollars is not as large a commitment as four million dollars for a used private jet. Most people who consider an aircraft purchase can swing forty thousand but you have to ask yourself, how much of that is eating into your retirement savings, your investment portfolio, or your interest on savings? This is what my economist friends would call an opportunity cost and as such, should be considered as part of your decision-making process.
In addition to the two kinds of finance costs that will come into play, you also need to consider the resale value horizon. Assuming you purchase a Cessna 150 for $60,000 and plan to sell it in five years for $50,000. You find that if you financed it, the cost of borrowing 80% of that amount will be $20,000 for the entire period.
This would mean that your cost over those five years would be $60,000-$50,000+$20,000 which will be $30,000 for a five-year period. On average your annual purchase cost will then be $6,000.
Based on the state you register the purchase, there could be a state tax that is levied. Please check with your accountant before choosing the domicile of your aircraft registration since some states view aircraft as luxury items.
Fixed Annual Costs of Aircraft Ownership
Once you take possession of the Cessna 150, two costs will instantly kick in. The first is insurance. Check on the AOPA website for insurance agents. You will be able to get a quote on your model before you even close on the sale. $1,200 for a Cessna 150 is about average.
You will also have to consider if you want to leave it tied down on the ramp, or you want to hangar it. Tie-downs on the ramp average about $150 at my local airport and hangars are $350 per month.
Let’s say you tie it down, that works out to be $1,800 per year.
In total, Fixed Annual Costs for your Cessna 150 will be $3,000 per year.
Admittedly, if you live or choose to hangar your C150 in a particularly expensive area (such as a local commercial-GA airport rather than a GA airport), insurance, hangaring and tie-downs might cost you as much as 50% extra, so ensure you do research into your local airports beforehand.
When considering the costs of a Cessna 150, there are two kinds of maintenance you will want to think about. One is time-based. The other is use-based.
Time-based costs include maintenance that happens at specific fixed intervals. An annual inspection is one of them. Annual inspections for a Cessna 150 average about $1500. Remember that this inspection would have to be conducted even if the aircraft is not flown all year.
Use-based maintenance includes 100-hour inspections for commercial aircraft. But if you are using it for personal flying, you won’t be required to do this. And while a 50-hour inspection is not mandatory, it is good practice to have it, so we will include this in the cost. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A typical 50-hour inspection and oil change for a Cessna 150 will cost about $250. A good way to determine this would be to walk into one of the FBOs near you and talk to the mechanic. Once you have a good estimate, divide it by 50 hours and put that aside. So in this case $250/50 = $5 per hour.
The biggest item that you will face in maintenance is an overhaul. Overhauls depend on the engine. Cessna 150s has a Continental O-200 engine that puts out 100 horsepower. They come with a factory-prescribed TBO of 1800 hours. And it typically costs $15,000 to get an overhaul.
It is best to apportion these maintenance costs to hourly flights. As such, $15,000 for 1800 hours results in $12 per hour. It is best to put aside this $12 for every hour of flight time so that when the time comes, the overhaul is paid for.
It’s really not that difficult to calculate the hourly cost of a Cessna 150. As it stands, our hypothetical maintenance cost has already come up to ($5 + $12) $17 per hour.
There is one more cost you should add to this and that is engine oil burn. This is not to be confused with fuel burn. Every engine burns or leaks a little bit of engine oil. You will figure this out from experience. My Cessna 150 needs a quart every 5 hours of flying. A quart runs me $10. I can reliably consider that $2 ($10/5 hours) as part of my hourly cost of flying.
In total now that brings my Cessna 150 up to $19 per hour.
Direct Flying Costs for a Cessna 150
The final thing you need to consider is the cost of fuel. The fuel at my airport sells for $8 per gallon and I burn 6 gallons per hour in the pattern, or as low as 4.5 gallons per hour on cross-country flights. That brings my hourly cost to $48 per hour.
Putting it all together, we have the hourly costs add up to $48 + $19 = $67 per hour.
Added to that you have the Annual Inspection cost of $1500 added to insurance of $1200, and parking of $1800 for a total of $4500.
If you recall you also have your finance cost of $6000 per year for a five-year ownership horizon.
Now let's assume you fly 200 hours a year. With $6000 a year in finance cost and $4500 a year in finance and insurance cost, that’s $52.50 an hour.
This brings your true cost of owning a Cessna 150 for five years, flying two hundred hours a year to $112.50 per hour.
If you make a quick call to the FBOs in your area, you will find that their hourly rentals, wet or dry, are typically lower than this. The question you have to ask yourself then is if the qualitative factors of owning a Cessna 152 outweigh the quantitative benefits of owning one.