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Being able to fly any time you want is one of the best parts of becoming a pilot. But is it better to buy your own plane, rent a plane, or join a club?
Let’s be honest from the start — flying is not exactly cheap, no matter how you decide to go about it. Whether you’re buying a plane for yourself, renting one whenever you want to fly, or joining a club and flying those planes, it’s going to cost you a decent amount of money. That’s why you need to compare the pros and cons of each to determine what’s best for you. So is it worth owning your own plane?
Owning a plane gives you the most freedom to fly anytime and anywhere. But it’s also by far the most expensive option. Renting is a great alternative if you don’t want the responsibility of owning a plane. Joining a club can be the most affordable option, plus you can meet other pilots!
When it comes to owning an airplane, there are three main options: buying, renting, and joining a flying club. Each option has its own set of pros and cons, so it can be difficult to decide which is the best option for you. In this article, we will discuss each option in detail and help you decide which is the best choice for you.
At SkyTough, we know the kind of answers that you’re looking for and we know the type of information that’s truly helpful to you. That’s because we’re just like you. We’re pilots that have a passion for all things aviation. We’ve all owned planes of our own at some point in our lives, so we’ve been in your shoes. So let’s walk through it together and figure out if you should own, rent, or join a club.
How Much Does it Cost to Own a Plane?
Since the goal of this article is to determine whether or not it's worth it to own your own airplane, let's start by talking about how much it actually costs to own an airplane. You might be thinking that the only cost involved with owning your own plane is the price of the plane itself. The truth is, there's actually quite a bit more to it than that. But let's start there.
The cost to buy your own airplane will vary greatly depending on the type of plane that you're in the market for. For example, if you're talking about buying a commercial airplane, you better get ready to spend $10s of millions or even $100s of millions to own one yourself. But I'd be willing to bet that if you're considering buying a plane, you're thinking more along the lines of something like a Cessna that you can fly around at your own leisure.
Even among smaller, personal planes like that, the prices will vary quite a bit. But if you're looking to get into an airplane for as little as possible, I recommend you check out our complete guide on the cheapest planes to buy and fly. That article goes into detail about some of the most affordable planes on the market including their prices, their details, and more, so you're sure to find a great option in that article!
For what it's worth, you can buy something super affordable like a Cessna 150/152 for about $15,000 or so if you find a good deal. But that's just about the cheapest airworthy plane that you'll find. More realistically, you should plan on spending at least $20,000 to $25,000 to buy a plane of your own. But like I said above, that isn't the only cost involved in owning a plane.
Once you have a plane of your own, there are additional costs that you need to account for. In short, there are two categories: fixed costs and variable costs of airplane ownership. We've gone into detail about how much you can expect to pay for these costs in detail in other articles, so I'll spare you the details here. But it's important to still know what these costs are just to give you an idea.
The fixed costs involved in owning an airplane are:
- Purchase price
- Airplane insurance
- Financing costs
- Hangar rentals or tie-downs
- Annual inspection fees
The variable costs of owning an airplane are:
- Repairs and maintenance
- Oil changes
- Landing fees
- Airplane cleaning
As you can see, there are some serious costs that you have to account for if you're planning on owning your own airplane. Even though it can be expensive, there are also some big advantages to owning a plane that you can take out whenever you want. So let's take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Buying Your Own Plane
We’ll run through the pros and cons of each aspect of this article (owning your own plane, renting, and joining a club) so that you can more easily decide which is best for you. Let’s start with owning your own plane.
The biggest advantage of owning a plane is that you can fly whenever you want. That might not seem like a big deal, but it actually is. If you have your own plane, there's no need to schedule around someone else or worry about whether or not the plane will be available when you want to fly. You can just go out to the hangar, hop in your plane, and take off!
Another big advantage is that you can customize your own plane however you want. If you want to make some modifications or improvements, you can do so without having to get anyone's permission. You can also add whatever accessories or features that you want in order to make your flying experience more enjoyable.
Lastly, owning a plane can be a great investment. If you take care of your plane and don't fly it too much, the value of your plane will go up over time. So if you ever decide to sell it, you could make a decent profit.
The biggest downside to owning a plane is the cost. As we discussed earlier, there are a lot of costs associated with owning a plane. Not only do you have to pay for the purchase price of the plane, but you also have to pay for insurance, hangar rentals, annual inspections, and more. And then on top of all of that, you have to pay for the variable costs like fuel and repairs.
Another big downside is that you're responsible for all of the maintenance and repairs. That means if something goes wrong with the plane, it's up to you to fix it. And depending on the problem, that could be very expensive.
Lastly, owning a plane can be a lot of work. You have to make sure that it's clean and in good working order before each flight. And then after each flight, you have to do a thorough inspection to make sure that everything is still in good condition. If you're not willing to put in the work, then owning a plane might not be for you.
How Does Renting a Plane Work?
Now that we've gone into detail about owning your own airplane, let's talk about renting. Renting an airplane is a great option if you don't want to deal with the hassle and expense of owning your own plane but still want to be able to fly whenever you want. It's kind of like renting a car when you go on vacation - you're just using it for a short period of time and then you give it back.
So how does renting an airplane work? After all, you're not just going to go to your local Enterprise and drive off the lot in a new plane.
There are two ways that you can go about renting an airplane. One way is to rent from a flying club, but we'll touch on joining a club in the next section. The other way is to rent from an FBO, which stands for Fixed Base Operator. An FBO is a business that provides services related to general aviation. They typically have their own fleet of planes that you can choose from, and they also offer services like fuel, maintenance, and storage.
What Does it Cost to Rent an Airplane?
The cost of renting an airplane varies depending on a few different factors. The first is the type of aircraft that you want to rent. A small, single-engine plane is going to be cheaper to rent than a large, multi-engine plane.
Another factor that affects the cost is how long you want to rent the plane for. If you're only looking to fly for a couple of hours, then you'll probably just pay by the hour. But if you're looking to fly for an extended period of time, like a week or more, then you might be able to get a discount by paying for multiple hours upfront.
Lastly, the cost also depends on where you're renting from and what kind of services they offer. If you're renting from an FBO, they might charge a higher hourly rate but include things like fuel and maintenance in that price. Whereas if you're renting from a flying club, they might charge a lower hourly rate but require you to pay for your own gas.
So as you can see, there are a lot of factors that affect the cost of renting an airplane. But in general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $500 per hour. That said, the price will vary greatly depending on the type of plane you're renting, where you're located, and which company you rent it from.
Pros and Cons of Renting a Plane
Now that we've gone over how much it costs to rent an airplane, let's talk about some of the pros and cons of this option.
The biggest pro is that you're not responsible for any of the maintenance or repairs. That means if something goes wrong with the plane, it's not your problem. You also don't have to worry about hangar fees or paying for insurance.
Another big pro is that you can try out different types of planes before you buy one. That way, you can get a feel for what kind of plane you want without making a long-term commitment. AS you saw above, buying a plane is no cheap endeavor, so being able to try one out before buying it is a huge bonus.
Of course, there are some downsides to renting an airplane. The biggest one is that it can be more expensive in the long run than owning your own plane. If you're someone who likes to fly often, it might make more sense financially to buy a plane instead of renting one each time you want to take to the skies.
Another downside is that you might not always have a plane available when you want to fly. If you're renting from a small operation, they might only have one or two planes and both might be in use when you want to fly. That's why it's important to book your rental in advance if you can.
Lastly, you also have to be careful about how you fly when you're renting a plane. You're responsible for any damage that you cause, which can be expensive to repair. That's why it's important to follow all of the rules and regulations set forth by the rental company.
So, is renting a plane right for you? It depends on your flying habits and what you're expecting to get out of the plane. Now let's move on to the final option in this guide: flying clubs.
How do Airplane Flying Clubs Work?
We've looked at buying your own plane and renting an airplane when you want, so now let's talk about flying clubs. Flying clubs are a great option for pilots who fly frequently enough to make owning their own plane worthwhile, but not so frequently that they can justify the high cost of buying or renting one.
So, how do flying clubs work? Essentially, you become a member of a club and have access to the club's fleet of planes. You pay an annual membership fee as well as hourly rates for the time you spend flying. The hourly rates cover the cost of fuel, maintenance, and other operating expenses.
There are a few different types of flying clubs, so it's important to do your research and find one that's a good fit for you. For example, some clubs have a fixed base of operations, while others are more like time-sharing arrangements where members can take a plane from any airport that has one of the club's planes.
Is it Cheaper to Join a Club Than to Buy or Rent an Airplane?
The cost of joining a flying club varies depending on the type of club, but it's generally much cheaper than buying or renting your own plane. For example, membership in a flying club with a fixed base of operations might cost $500 per year, plus an hourly rate of $50. That's a lot cheaper than the cost of buying or renting a plane!
So is that all there is to it? If it's arguably the cheapest way to fly, is joining a club the best way to fly? Unfortunately, it's not that easy to answer.
Pros and Cons of Joining a Flying Club
As with anything, there are pros and cons to joining a flying club. Let's take a look at some of them.
The biggest advantage to joining a flying club is the cost. As we've seen, it can be much cheaper to join a club than it is to buy or rent your own plane. After all, you don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on the purchase of a plane like you would have to in order to own one if you just join a club.
Another advantage is that you have access to a fleet of planes. This means that if you want to fly a different type of plane, you can usually arrange to do so through the club. This is great for pilots who want to get experience flying different types of aircraft.
A final advantage is that you can often fly from a wider variety of airports when you're a member of a club. This is because clubs often have planes located at multiple airports, so you're not limited to flying out of just one like you would be if you owned or rented your own plane.
Of course, there are some disadvantages to joining a flying club as well. One is that you have to be a member of the club in order to fly, so if you only fly occasionally, it might not make sense to join a club.
Another disadvantage is that you have to schedule your flights around the availability of the club's planes. This means that if you want to fly on short notice, you might not be able to do so if all of the club's planes are already booked.
A final disadvantage is that you might have to fly with other members of the club. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if you're not comfortable flying with others.
What’s Better: Buying, Renting, or Joining a Club?
Now that we've looked at all three options, it's time to decide which is best for you. If you're a casual pilot who only flies a few times per year, then renting an airplane is probably your best bet. It's affordable, you don't have to worry about maintenance, and you can fly pretty much whenever you want.
If you fly frequently enough to make owning your own plane worthwhile, but not so frequently that you can justify the high cost of buying or renting one, then joining a flying club might be the way to go. In addition to the ability to fly the club's planes, you'll also get the chance to meet some other awesome pilots that can potentially become friends for life!
And finally, if you fly often and can afford the high cost of buying or renting your own plane, then owning or leasing your own aircraft might be the best option for you. After all, owning your own plane gives you by far the most flexibility in terms of when and where you can fly.
No matter which option you choose, always do your research and make sure you're getting the best deal possible. Happy flying!