Expected operating costs?

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Contemplating a first-time aircraft purchase.
Trying to iron out the associated costs.
For a Cirrus SR20, Diamond DA40 or Cessna 172 (types of aircraft)-

-what type of necessary maintenance is typical the first and
subsequent years?
Instead of pretending to know anything, could you generalize when
the maintenance is done, what would it generally involve, and how
many hours of work occur?
(I'll find a labor rate to plug in later).
I'm figuring about $25,000 for the overhaul at 2000 hours.

-any estimates on monthly hangar rental in the pacific northwest
(Portland, OR area)?

-expected insurance rates for a 100+ hour pilot?

Even an estimated range would suffice for some answers, if necessary.


-- Ronald Baxa, August 7, 2006


Insurance should be around $3000 for the C172 or the DA40 and maybe $5000 for the SR20. Hangar rental should be $500+/month. Assume $3000/year for maintenance and the annual inspection, if you're flying less than 200 hours/year. The overhaul will probably cost closer to $30,000.

-- Philip Greenspun, August 7, 2006

Can't speak for a Cirrus or Diamond, but might be able to shed some light on 172 ownership. Let's assume you're buying a USED, single-engine, non-complex 4-cylinder aircraft, such as a 172. Your mileage will definitely vary for larger aircraft with more seats, cylinders, or complexity. Expect the first year to be one of the most expensive. This is the time you *and* your mechanic get to know the airplane. Undoubtedly, little maintenance items have been deferred and piling up for years, which is probably why it was for sale in the first place. These could be annoying little things like intermittent lights and switches, old radios, decaying interior, to more serious things like a cylinder(s) with weak compression, a vacuum pump with 1000 hours on it ready to blow, etc. If your mechanic is thorough, he may find all sorts of things to make your wallet cringe. Try to avoid buying a used plane that comes "with a fresh annual" where the seller's mechanic does all the work. This is seldom a deal. Instead, insist on having your own trusted a&p do a thorough pre-buy. You could work it out with your shop to make it a full annual should you decide to buy.

FIXED COSTS - things you will pay for even while the plane sits. - Tie-down/hangar. Can't speak for the northwest, but my experience in the midwest is anywhere from $20-50 per month for a tie-down, and $150-250 per month for a hangar. - Insurance. Varies wildly based not only on the pilot, but on the airplane. It comes in two parts: hull coverage and liability. In short, the more expensive the plane, the higher the hull premium. The less experienced the pilot, the higher the liability premium. Buying a $250k Cirrus is going to command a steep insurance premium even for an airline pilot. Shortly after getting my private pilot license, I bought a small Cessna, had about 100 hours total time and less than 50 hours in type. My insurance ran almost $1000/yr. 400+ hours later in type, a commercial license and IFR rating, it's about $700. Then I bought a Mooney, which cost more than four times as much as the Cessna. Even with 700 hours total time and a commercial IFR ticket, my insurance was almost $1900/yr. But then, I had zero (0) hours in type. Remember if you're shopping around for insurance for a 172, that there are $40k 172's, and there are $140k 172's (and more). - Annual inspections. Should run about 15-20 hours labor *just* to do the inspection. That cost does not cover fixing anything they find. Again, retractable gear and c/s props can add 10+ hours to this number. - IFR inspections. This is the pitot/static/transponder certs that occur every two years. Mine have been running about $250. - Data subscriptions. Something I never would have thought of until I bought a plane with a Garmin 430 in it. These days, if you plan to fly IFR, you're going to want an IFR-approved GPS (this is a given in glass panel cockpits). What they don't always tell you is you have to update the nav data every 28 days. A yearly check to Jeppesen for about $300 should cover it. But, if you want in-cockpit XM weather, that'll cost extra. - Property taxes. If you unfortunately live in a state that levies such a disgusting tax on things like boats, airplanes, etc., be prepared to write another check. This tax is usually value-based, so the more expensive the airplane....

DIRECT COSTS - things you pay (or should budget) by the hour for. - Fuel. That depends on the fuel burn of the plane, of course. - Oil. Don't forget about this one. My experience has been that a *good* running engine will burn about a quart every 10 hours. It might not seem like much, but tack a good 50 cents per hour to your "rate". And don't forget oil *changes*. Throw in an extra $75-100 for an oil change every 25 or 50 hours, depending on the airplane. You might be able to cut that number in half if you do them yourself. - Maintenance. Budget about $6-8 per flying hour to cover engine and airframe maintenance items that might pop up at annual or during the year, based upon about 100-150 hours per year. If you buy a bird in particularly neglected condition, you might up this number. You might up this number for the first year anyway, just to dampen any surprises. Tack on another $2-3 per flight hour for avionics maintenance. This won't buy you a new Garmin 530, but it might fix that old KX-170B with the sticky knob. - Engine fund. I just overhauled the engine in my Cessna, and it came in around $16k. Your mileage may vary, but a normally-aspirated 4-cylinder Lycoming that makes it to TBO should be in the same ballpark. Bigger engines, fuel injection, constant speed props, etc., will pad the bill considerably. For a mid-time 4-cylinder Lycoming, I'd figure $15-20 per hour. Less for lower time, more for higher time. Something else to pay attention to when buying a used airplane is how *much* the plane has flown and when the last overhaul was done. Don't necessarily be afraid of a Skyhawk with 1400 hours on it that was overhauled 6 or 7 years ago. That plane has been relatively busy, which means it's been kept up. On the other hand, be cautious of a similar plane with 200 hours since overhaul, and the overhaul was done 10 years ago. Low time isn't all it's cracked up to be. - Prop fund. Not much of an issue unless you have a constant speed prop. You can "overhaul" a fixed pitch prop for a couple hundred bucks, but honestly, it only entails inspecting and repainting the prop. A c/s prop, on the other hand, can cost a couple grand to overhaul. Most seem to have shorter TBO's than the engines they hang on. I don't have any experience with this yet, though.

-- Tim Keen, August 7, 2006

Times may have changed since some the earlier responses, but I have an 03' Cirrus SR22 (its not almost 2010) and my costs are much lower than what some on here have said. You could find an unheated T-hangar for about $350 per month. In addition, I am a 150 hour pilot, but when I got my first insurance quote, I had 50 hours total with 0 time in a Cirrus. My premium was $3,900. I suspect it would be lower in a SR-20. But it would also be more the newer the plane is. I have yet to have an annual done, so I can't give prices on that.

-- Christopher Kelly, November 2, 2009


Let me start by stating that the words "around,"approximately," "about," and other such vague terms are useless to anyone trying to estimate a cost. If you do not know, then don't offer up anything. If it is between $300 and $350, just say so. Nobody knows your margin of error when you write "about." Think about it this way: where can you cash a check I write to you for "about $300?"

Now, Avemco sells a $100k body, $100K prop, $1M per occurence, $50K hull for $1700 for a 1980 Archer and a 500-hour pilot.

A nice hangar in Salem, OR, goes for $200/mo., +/- $30/mo. Annual $1200.


-- Frank Puente, January 22, 2012