Flying into the Green: The Costs of Owning an Airplane

You love the feeling of piloting, the freedom it provides. And you’ve been eying that small airplane for sale, but you’re unsure of any other costs owning an airplane might entail.

While soaring through the skies is anyone’s dream, you’re right to pause. Airplanes—even small ones—come with expenses beyond the upfront costs. We’ll break the most pressing down for you here.

Pilot’s License

To fly a plane, you must first hold a license. There are three basic types:

Private – Holders can fly a single-engine aircraft without restrictions on distance, passengers, and weather. This license costs about $9,900.

Recreational – Pilots can fly within 50 miles of his or her home airport. They may only have one passenger. A recreational license costs approximately $7,700.

Sport – Pilots may fly only at daytime and in good weather. Planes are restricted to light sports aircraft. A sport license costs around $4,400.


If you think gas for your car is high, you might want to reconsider purchasing an airplane. The national average for aviation fuel is currently $5.08 a gallon. The fuel burn rate varies considerably depending on the jet type, but pilots should expect about $50 an hour spent in fuel, sometimes more.

Luckily, more fuel-efficient planes have been added to the market.


It’s common practice for some of the money a pilot puts toward payments (as well as the down payment) each month to go to an escrow fund. These funds are a convenient way for flyers to pay for any maintenance overhauls or emergency expenses.

According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a rough calculation of routine maintenance can be found by halving the hourly cost of fuel and oil, then multiplying by hours flown.

Furthermore, the plane must be inspected every 100 hours of flight and annually. Prices fluctuate according to plane type

“These regulations are in place for the pilots’ and passengers’ safety,” states an attorney from Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert, Preito LLC, which handles cases involving aviation accidents. “Routine maintenance is obligatory on the road, but in the air, it’s even more essential.”


Just like for your automotive, insurance is required. For personal planes, insurance typically runs around $1,500 a month but varies according to model and location.


If pilots can find an outside tie-down spot, they will cut storage expenses in half. Hangar costs can range anywhere from $50 a month to $500; as a good rule-of-thumb, expect about $250.

The Cost of Flying

Is it expensive? Yes. A 1975 Cessna 172M Skyhawk can cost over $20,000 a year for 100 hours of flight. But sometimes, the expenses are worth it.

You don’t have to wait in a line to show someone your ticket. No more security checks or last-minute cancellations. And gone are the days where you’re having a silent elbow fight with the passenger next to you.

It’s just you, a well-chosen passenger and the open sky.