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How Much Do Airplanes Cost? 

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What pilot hasn’t dreamed about owning their own plane? 

Imagine driving to the airport ramp and pulling up to your craft, hopping in, and flying wherever you like, whenever you like. Can the fantasy ever be a reality for most of us? 

Obviously, planes are expensive items. 

But with some research and planning, you might find that some aircraft are more affordable than you ever imagined. Here’s a look at airplane prices, with everything from light sports to Airbuses—and everything in between.

Airplane Purchase Prices

Let’s start with rough numbers for the private pilot who dreams of flying off into the sunset. 

As a rule of thumb, you can get a clean but very old (40+ years), four-seat, single-engine air for around $60,000, depending on the make, model, and its exact conditions and features. The same plane, new off the assembly line, would be $500,000, or possibly much more. 

Thanks to sites like Controller, Hanger 67, and Trade-a-Plane, it’s easy to do a little online shopping. 

These are classified services for aircraft sales, so you can browse to your heart’s content and see what fits your budget. There’s also eBay, as older used planes are often sold pilot-to-pilot. 

Brokers usually handle newer and more expensive models, so getting prices for these aircraft is a bit harder. 

By looking at some of these sites, we can draw some similarities between types of planes, their ages, and the rough price ranges they are being listed for today. Keep in mind that prices you see online are asking prices. Chances are, most sell for prices about 80 percent of these values.  

  • 1970s two-seaters (C152, Grumman Yankee, etc.) $50,000 – $80,000
  • 1970s four-seaters (C172, PA28-140/150, Grumman Cheetah, etc.) $60,000 – $90,000
  • 1990s – 2000s four-seaters (C172, Diamond DA40, PA28-180, Socata TB9/10, Grumman Tiger, Cirrus SR20, etc.) $100,000 – $400,000
  • 2010s two-seat LSAs (C162, SportCruiser, Pipersport, Tecnam, etc.) $100,000 – $200,000
  • 2020s newer four-seaters (DA40NG, Cirrus SR22, etc) $600,000+
cost of a piper seminole

To further break things down, let’s examine how much a Cessna 172 costs. A new 2023 C172SP is listed at about $402,000. Cessna has manufactured the C172 since 1956 and built over 44,000 of them. 

So, there are quite a few on the used market. You can pick up one from the 1960s for around $60,000 or a newer 2000s model for around $170,000. 

Factors Affecting Purchase Price

As you might expect, airplane prices are slightly more complex than that. 

Here’s a look at some other things you’ll need to consider as you flip through those dreamy yellow pages of Trade-a-Plane. Some of the factors that affect plane prices include:

  • New vs. used
  • Complexity, speed, and capacity
  • Maintenance and aircraft history
  • Avionics installed

New vs. Used Aircraft Purchases

We’re all familiar with the car market and the idea that you can save a few bucks when buying used. If you buy new, you’ll spend more upfront but get a warranty and some assurance of fewer maintenance hassles during the first years of ownership. If you buy used, you will save some money on the purchase, but you know it will spend more time in the shop. 

All of that holds true for aircraft, except that the price gap between new and used is larger than with cars. There are also far more used airplanes on the market since general aviation airplanes are regularly maintained and lightly used. 

It’s not uncommon to see planes built in the 1940s or 50s holding their price on the used airplane market and not solely for their collector’s value.

Complexity, Speed, and Capacity Mean Extra Expenses

Planes are often grouped by price with other makes and models of similar performance. 

The cheapest planes you can find will be older two-seat trainers. 

There are many models to choose from, but the original Cessna 150/152 and the Piper Cherokee 140s are the perfect example. Along with these, there are other options like the Grumman American Yankee or the Beechcraft Skipper. You could find something vintage but flyable in this category for around $40,000.

Today, these planes are called Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs). The new classification means there are new, modern options if you want a two-seater. To give you an idea, you can find a modern LSA brand new for $300,000 or one a few years old for around $150,000. 

Going one step up are the bigger four-seaters. The Cessna 172 and Piper Cherokee 150/160s are the prime candidates but don’t forget the Grumman Tiger, Beech Sierra, or Socata Tobago. 

Those are all great first airplanes, but the next step will be something with a little more performance. This is when it might be time to talk to your CFI about a high-performance sign-off! 

The Cessna 182 and Piper Cherokee 235 are great examples. These planes now have six-cylinder engines and might be turbocharged. Planes in this category are even more expensive, so you probably won’t be able to find one for any less than $150,000.

Finally, modern designs of planes that have only been around for 20 years or so will be some of the most expensive on the used market. Mostly made of composites, these planes will feature many modern features and performances that the old designs did not have. The Cirrus SR 20/22 and Diamond DA40 are examples. You aren’t likely to find one for under $200,000, and new ones are closer to $600,000 or more.

Complex and mult-iengine airplanes get you even more performance, but it comes at a substantial price. It can be hard for pilots to get insurance on these types of aircraft, so many times, private owners opt for simpler airplanes with more power. One reason you don’t see too many complex airplanes on the used market is that fixed-gear singles are cheaper to operate and easier to insure. 

Avionics increase cost of an airplane

Maintenance and History

One key to understanding variations in aircraft prices is looking ahead to a plane’s future. If there’s a big (sometimes really big!) repair bill on the horizon, the purchase price will be substantially lower. 

For private-use Part 91 aircraft, there are no strict overhaul requirements. But engine manufacturers have a suggested Time Between Overhaul (TBO) schedule. For most normally-aspirated four-cylinder aviation engines, this is usually 2,000 hours. If the engine is higher performance or has a turbocharger, it can be much less.

Aircraft ads usually include the time SMOH (Since Major Overhaul). If you see a plane with 1,000 SMOH or TSN (Time Since New), you can bet it has about 1,000 hours to go until it needs one. If you see a plane with 1,800 or 1,900 SMOH, you know a repair bill is coming soon. Total time (TT) on the airframe is another thing to consider. 

Another thing to consider is the aircraft’s history. A plane that has been in an accident or had major repairs will always be worth less than one with a clean history. On that same note, a plane’s logbooks are extremely valuable since they are the only official record of what has happened to a plane. If there are gaps in the history or the logs show spotty maintenance, the plane’s price will be lower to reflect this. 

Before purchase, you will want to get a pre-purchase inspection done by a mechanic familiar with your type of plane. They’ll go through the logbooks and maintenance history of the plane with you and alert you to any upcoming issues or costs. They’ll also “look under the hood” and ensure everything matches those records.

Avionics

The equipment in the plane matters to the price. A fully IFR-equipped and certified plane is worth more than a VFR-only plane. One with an IFR GPS and autopilot is worth more than a VOR-only IFR plane. 

One with updated glass avionics is worth more still. A full glass cockpit aircraft is worth the most. 

Many older “bargain” aircraft will have original avionics onboard. This might include fully analog instruments and old-style VHF comm radios. 

In most cases, these work fine. But if you want to upgrade, expect the bill to be large because avionics are expensive!

Certified vs. Experimental Kit Planes

You might notice quite a few kit planes on the used market. For decades, kit aircraft have represented a way to get a larger or higher-performance plane for a fraction of the cost of the standard Cessna or Piper. 

Kit planes get their airworthiness certification under the Experimental category. 

For this to work, most are completed with owner assistance at the factory, under the supervision of professional builders. 

Other Costs with Aircraft Ownership

Buying the plane is only the first step. You’ll also face two other types of costs associated with ownership: fixed and variable. 

Fixed costs include insurance, tie-down or hanger fees, loan payments, and annual inspections. Variable costs occur per hour and include fuel and interval maintenance.

To determine your annual cost to own, an important step in comparing one plane to another, you’ll need to figure out how many hours you plan to fly each year. Then you can tally fixed and variable costs over that many hours to see a realistic cost for each hour you spend in the plane.

AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) has excellent tools and calculators online to help you pin down these costs. They also have some excellent valuation tools and help for aircraft buyers. 

Cost of an Airbus A380

What About the Prices of Bigger Planes?

Here’s a glimpse inside the world of purchasing and owning larger planes. 

Remember that planes of this class are generally operated as business assets—they are seldom simply status symbols or weekend drivers. 

As a result, crunching the number for a plane like one of these is a matter of looking at annualized costs and revenues. Best call your accounting department before proceeding!

While the purchase price of these airplanes might be large, it’s nothing compared to the operating expenses. 

To own one of the bigger planes on this list, you’ll need a full-time staff of pilots, cabin crew, and probably an aircraft manager to do scheduling and maintenance planning. Parking a large plane is no small matter either, and expect to pay a large sum for hanger space. 

Maintenance on large planes is also done slightly differently. Planes are tracked using cycles (one takeoff and landing) more than flight hours. 

Price Examples of Various Large Aircraft

While Controller lists quite a few corporate aircraft, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find prices for heavy transports. Guardian Jet has some great online brochures listing operating costs for some models. Here are a few examples from across the web.

Light Piston Twin: Beechcraft Baron $250,000 – $1.2 mil

Turboprop Single: Pilatus PC12 $2.7 – $4.5 mil

Large Turboprop Twin: Beechcraft King Air $750,000 – $4 mil

Small Corporate Jet: Cessna Citation (500 or CJ-series) $600,000 – $4 mil

Large Corporate Jet: Gulfstream G-550 $14 – $40 mil, new G600 $54 mil

Small Transport: Boeing 737 or BBJ $5 – $40 mil, new B737-800 $124 mil 

Large Transport: Airbus A350 $152 mil, new A350-900 $317 mil 

Which Plane Is Right For You?

One mistake new pilots make is immediately purchasing the plane they’ve trained in or that their flight school uses. Planes are like cars—you have a lot of options. 

A Sport Pilot or Private Pilot license allows you to fly a certain category and class of aircraft but does not limit you to a specific type. 

Single-engine airplanes of similar performance fly much the same, so it benefits you to shop around, look at all your options, and kick some tires. Remember, the qualities that make an outstanding trainer might not make the perfect plane for you, your family, or your business. 

No matter what plane you choose, you’ll get a thorough checkout from an experienced instructor to meet insurance requirements.

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