If you’re thinking about buying your first private airplane, you’re probably full of questions about the process.

How much does a personal use aircraft  cost? What should I expect in the form of operational costs? What is the difference between fixed costs and variable costs?

It can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but we’re here to answer those questions!

How Much Does a Personal Use Aircraft  Cost?

The cost or value of an aircraft depends on a variety of things. Obviously, a little airplane that is intended for personal use is going to cost less than a commercial jet that flies across the Atlantic every day.

However, even within the aircraft industry, there are several factors that come into play when determining how much a plane will cost.

When considering how much is a small plane, you will have to take into consideration both the actual purchase price of the aircraft as well a the other expenses that come with owning a plane. These are known as the operational expenses.

It sounds like a lot, but let’s break it down.

Purchasing Price

So how much does a plane cost?

Well, what type of plane is it and how old is it? How well has the plane been maintained? What kind of engine and avionics package does the plane have?

Investopedia breaks down the up-front costs of the three main airplane types like this:

  • Ultralight aircraft (single seat, single engine small airplane): $8,000 – $15,000
  • Single-engine planes (holds 2 or more people): $15,000 – $100,000
  • Multi-engine planes: $75,000 – $300,000

You can simplify the process by thinking of it as being similar to buying a house. Plan to put down a 15-20% downpayment of the aircraft’s upfront cost. Depending on your particular situation, your monthly payment on an aircraft loan might be around $400 a month.

Operational Expenses

The operating costs are the costs of actually owning and operating the airplane. Things like fuel, inspections, insurance, aircraft maintenance, hangar fees, and aircraft accessories are all examples of operating costs.

Operational expenses of an airplane can be divided into two categories: fixed costs and variable costs.

Fixed Costs vs. Variable Costs

Fixed costs are costs that remain the same over a period of time. These include costs such as:

  • Loan payment
  • Insurance
  • Hangar rental
  • Taxes
  • FAA registration fees
  • Books, charts, or other materials
  • Aircraft accessories (such as headsets, engine covers, etc.)

Variable costs, on the other hand, are costs that fluctuate depending on the usage of the airplane. These costs include items such as:

  • Fuel
  • Oil
  • Landing fees
  • Catering

Some operational costs might fall into either one of these categories. If you pay an aircraft crew, for example, their salaries might be either a fixed cost (if they are paid a set salary) or a variable cost (if they are paid per hour).

Aircraft maintenance is usually considered a variable cost; an airplane that gets flown more will usually need more maintenance hours, and thus cost more. However, certain maintenance items (such as annual inspections) do fall under the fixed cost category.

Engine Programs are also something to highly consider like the ones offered by PistonPower, not only are the unscheduled expenses mitigated by the program (that means no more check writing for surprises) along with your overhaul and accessories (I know my wife hates when I ask permission to spend money so why do it?) but it also means that your aircraft just went up substantially in value by enrolling. Why? Because aircraft on 100% paid engine programs are deemed to be zero time since overhaul for valuation purposes.

Final Things to Consider

So how much does a private jet cost? As you’ve seen, it depends on a variety of factors — but depending on your own personal financial situation, these costs may be worth the benefits that come with owning your own jet.

When shopping for a plane, check out our appraisal services to find out the true value of any aircraft you’re considering.