Should I Buy or Rent an Airplane?
In previous posts, we’ve talked about the benefits of owning your own plane. Owning an airplane can open the door to freedoms you never thought possible. Airplane ownership, however, comes with its own unique set of responsibilities. Much like owning a car, owning an airplane means dealing with maintenance, insurance, taxes, storage, and a whole range of other concerns.
These facets of aircraft ownership are really no different than what we’d endure with any other sort of property ownership. For some, just having an aircraft to call their own makes it all worthwhile. For others, the pros are outweighed by the cons and they’ll gladly pay a rental fee and then hand an aircraft back to the owner when they’re finished with it.
In the end, this decision can be made by one person and one person only: the pilot. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give you a little food for thought.
First, let’s talk to the new pilots. Realistically speaking, how much flying do you really think you’re going to be doing? Try to put some of the excitement of your accomplishment aside and realize that you probably won’t be in the air every weekend and every holiday. Weather, finances, and just life in general can put the brakes on a trip at any time. Some pilots fly frequently, some fly less frequently, and some fly so little that they find themselves in a last-minute rush to accumulate hours just to keep their licenses and certifications current.
If you’ve been flying for a while, however, look back through your history and use that as an indicator for how much you’ll fly in the future. Do you plan on flying more? Less? Consider the long term but don’t neglect short term trends either.
If you’re not flying frequently, owning a plane may not be in your best interest. Remember, the cost of the plane is just the first expense. There are still taxes, insurance, and storage fees to consider.
Odds are that when you were looking at planes to buy you noticed that, as a general rule, the cost went down as the age of the aircraft went up. An older plane is likely to require more maintenance than something newer and, unlike buying an old car, there are limits to what you can and cannot legally repair and maintain on your own aircraft. The FAA has strict guidelines pertaining to aircraft maintenance performed by owners and the circumstances under which maintenance is permitted.
All of this is just the start. Depending on the laws in your area, taxes could be assessed on the value of the aircraft in the form of personal property tax. Additionally, the aircraft needs a place to stay when you’re not using it so some sort of hangar fee will be a factor. You’ll also need to think about insurance costs.
Looking at all of this, you’re probably thinking that there’s no possible way that owning a plane could be beneficial. You’d be 100% incorrect. Aside from the other posts we wrote detailing the benefits of owning your own plane, the fact is that owning a plane could, in fact, put you in a better position than renting.
Aircraft rental can be expensive, especially for multi-day events. Your hangar doubles as a shop and storage facility (depending on the airport policies). Insurance rates vary.
Renting also leaves you at the mercy of the equipment and avionics that come with the aircraft you rent. If you like to stay current and use the latest advances in cockpit technologies like Garmin avionics or ADS-B, you may only be able to do this with an airplane that you own.
So, as you can see, there really is no cut-and-dry answer to this question. Again, it comes down to one person. We mentioned it at the start of this post…remember who it was? That’s right – the pilot.
Consider buying a plane if:
- you plan on flying a lot
- you plan on flying many multi-day trips
- you want control over maintenance and repairs
- you want to use the latest glass cockpit technology
Consider renting a plane if:
- you won’t be flying frequently
- buying is cost prohibitive
- you don’t want to worry about maintenance and repairs on a plane
- you want to keep your tax liabilities low
If you’re reading this and you own your own plane, drop us a note in the comments and tell us when you made that decision and what made you decide that ownership was for you. If you prefer renting, tell us what keeps you from making the decision to buy. We’d love to hear from you.
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