New pilot considering ownership

Have you regretted airplane ownership?

  • Best choice ever

  • It's ok. I fly some, but not as much as I planned when I bought.

  • Wish I wouldn't have done it

  • Absolute disaster (unexpected costs, don't fly it, etc.)

Results are only viewable after voting.


Sep 28, 2019
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New pilot, first post. Trying to decide between just renting for a bit, or biting off a purchase. My goal is to build time and get my instrument rating. I want to fly it for 2 years (150-200 hours) to see if I want something bigger (or sell because of limited use or unexpected costs). Would like to get a SR20 or most likely a C182 to learn on, something with good avionics and less than 500 hours on engine. Budget is $135k. I am 40 years old, with a wife and 2 kids under 6. Initially it will be me and my 90lb German Shepherd in the plane.

I am talking myself into this, but maybe that is ok. I also may be better off renting for a bit to see how much I fly and what type of aircraft fits my mission. I am scared of large unexpected costs (over $5k). Any advice from anybody that has been down this path with a good or bad experience? Bonus question- would a 90lb dog fit into the baggage door? I am worried about getting him in and out without injury or damage to plane. The dog is a big factor, as he goes everywhere with me. Another reason I am considering ownership over rental. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
I think your model/hours requirement to budget may need some adjustment.
If you enjoy flying, and plan on flying quite a bit, especially to travel to places where you might want to leave the plane for a few days, then owning can make sense. Ownership is more about convenience that saving money. You won't save money by owning. It is important not to underestimate your budget. You are just beginning after purchase. There is maintenance, storage (hangar), and inevitably, avionics upgrades. Something on the order of 4X fuel is what it will cost to own and operate after purchase. More if your avionics are not up to par.

You can buy a pretty nice plane for $135K, suitable for VFR time-building and IFR training, with a full fuel useful load for 2-4, but probably not a Cirrus. I'd figure on the purchase price paying for any necessary avionics and mechanical upgrades as well as the aircraft to make it suitable for your mission. There should be quite a few appropriate used aircraft in that price range. Whether or not you can (or should) put the dog through the baggage door depends on the make and model you choose. For any plane with a door a dog should be able to ingress through the door relatively easily.

It might be a little clumsy in an AA-5X with a sliding canopy, but if your dog can hop over the sidewalls, the Grummans fold down into a cavernous cargo configuration with a large, flat compartment behind the front seats that would easily accommodate a dog or a pet crate.
Just get a REAL prebuy, should be the most intense inspection you ever put the plane through, like a super annual. Make sure you are in the plane right, watch the marker to figure a price and adjust that price based on the prebuy.

Don’t be ham fisted, learn and take part in the mx, research and buy your own parts, get on the type groups online.

I’ve had two planes, VERY happy.

Also helps to not buy a 172 or PA28 or something you can rent anywhere, some of the people you are the happiest owners get plane you won’t see on the rental line.
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Rent for a while. See what you do 90 % of the time (or at least you want to do), then find a plane that fits that role. Rent for the other 10%. The breakeven rule of thumb is 100 hours a year. Also look at already flying Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) planes for your best aviation bang for the buck.
Let me start off with...I was 300% sure that I would like flying because I was around it enough to know. We purposely bought a fixed gear 182 so that I could learn in it and that the 4 of us (wife, daughter, dog and myself) could fly places together. So here is my advice:

Figure out your medical. This is really, really important. The last thing you want to do is go through all the hassles of buying a plane and then find out you can't get a 3rd class medical. At the same time do not rush. If you have even a single question on the MedXpress form come back here. You can answer yes to just a thing or two and kill all hopes of flying.

Find a way: be sure you want to fly enough to own. Get some rides. Find a couple of flight schools or FBO's. Find one with Archers or Cherokees. Find one with 172's or 150's. And find one with Diamond if you can. Get a log book. Get an hour in each and think about which one you find the most comfortable and would want to learn in. This might cost a bit over $200/hr for each light but it will be money very well spent.

At this point you may be a little less sure about flying which should make you even less sure about ownership. If this is the case, spend the $7K-$12K and just rent and do your Private Pilot (PPL) lessons at the school with the plane and instructor that you liked.

Okay you made it are hooked and you want to buy and learn in your own plane. If you like low wings I would search out a Dakota/Pathfinder. Its fixed gear but 235HP and can haul everything you have listed. If you like high wings search out and find a older Cessna 182 (Skylane). For either, try and set you budget around $85K or less. Have at least $7K set aside for the first annual. These two planes are selling kind of high right now but they will also re-sell easily later on. You are just too new at this to buy a run motor so try find something with between 10%...50% of TBO. At this price range they won't have the best avionics but it will be good enough and you will have $$,$$$ to spare for upgrades. You just might like this plane enough that it will be your last plane. Since avionics are pretty important, favor the older plane with newer avionics if possible. If the avionics are old, then favor one that has been recently painted and/or interior upgraded...each of these categories are $$,$$$$. And you may be surprised that some of these 35-60yr old planes are still in darned good shape with less than 2000hrs and you just might be able to live with the 70's colors and interiors in favor of modern avionics :)

When it comes time to buy you are going to need to have some beginning of a relationship with a A&P and you will need to figure out parking/hangar. The hangar thing can be a huge PITA. Your goal is to have great A&P that will look out for you on the pre-buy. Another option might be to use a broker. Not sure if they will play at these older ages and lower prices vs turbines and $500K planes.

Often the first annual will run you between 4%...10% of the purchase price. So that is why I said budget $85K for the plane and another $7K for the first annual.

You also need to find a instructor (CFI) that you will gel with and someone that will respect your plane. They are out there. Some really like sitting in a more spacious cabin (182) or like having the extra power and cruise speed of a Dakota. And both of these are great IFR platforms so you might continue on with that instructor (CFII) for your instrument rating.

Then learn in your plane. Yes, the first lessons will beat it up a bit but the gear on 182's and Dakota's are solid. And you just might find a plane with less than 1500hrs that has hardly been broken in yet.

Please note: training in your plane will not necessarily save you a ton of money. If a 172 rents wet for $150/hr you will chuckle and say my Dakota/Skylane only needs 11.5gph or about $65/hr to fly. But you should also put away about $30/hr for the motor rebuild fund and you are now at $100/hr and haven't talked insurance or hangar rental or financing fees.

Dogs: Our 70lb golden retriever just jumps right in the plane. We never let him sit up front as a dog near the controls would be high risk (my opinion only) so he just curls up on the back seat or on the floor. I think he could jump into the Skylane baggage door but its a bit small. And he wouldn't want to be back there anyway. He is part of our crew and rides with us :)

Good luck. You might like this flying thing even more than you can imagine. That old Skylane/Dakota might serve you well for years with no loans or big surprises. Or maybe you'll fly it 200hrs and upgrade to a super comfortable SR20 or something. You won't take much of a loss moving up from planes like those.

I would think if you had time and could budget in a league more like $300K+ you would find a Cirrus and start there. Maybe that number could be smaller but just my opinion.

Ask more questions. I suspect the consensus will be to get your PPL first and then become an owner. Most do it that way. Nothing wrong with that, especially knowing you won't really save that much anyway.

Get out to those airports. Start talking to instructors, sitting in planes and learning more about this ridiculous addiction.
Buy long as you do not overpay you can always flip it and still be way ahead of rental prices.

Budget can get you a well equipped 182...I bought my 182 post PPL and used same as you...built hours then IFR and now I would likely fly a fraction of what I do if I had to rent.

While an engine can blow up any time, that is no reason to be scared of ownership. My highest Mx year was $3500 and low $1200...and that was with hangar and insurance. I don't play the "cost per hour" amortization game as those are all fixed regardless of flight time. While it will almost always be cheaper to rent then are buying convince, availability, familiarity and the pride in ownership of your own plane vs a rental in who knows what condition.

I am also a firm bellower in buy once, cry once and buy your second airplane first...not a "see what I will want" down the road holdover.

Seems the 182 will fit your mission for quite a while. While I would love something sexier and faster like the SR-22, the usefully load and interior space if the 182 WELL makes up for the few times I wish I could go faster.

The old adage applies here as well...better, faster, cheaper...pick two.
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It might be a little clumsy in an AA-5X with a sliding canopy, but if your dog can hop over the sidewalls, the Grummans fold down into a cavernous cargo configuration with a large, flat compartment behind the front seats that would easily accommodate a dog or a pet crate.

My two 80lb Labs gladly enter my Tiger via the cargo door on the fuselage...they raise up to get their head and shoulders on board and I thereafter boost their hindquarters in. The dog accommodations are quite commodious.
I would start with renting, as long as you have options somewhat nearby. Any rentals would likely not want a dog in the plane. That goes double for a ‘German Shedder’.

Overall plane ownership is like most any ‘discretionary’ hobby/spending. The total budget & family spending plan needs to be considered.
How come there isn't an option in the poll for "all of the above"?
Stick with a high wing like a 182 if the dog is coming along. Largish dogs and wingwalks are a bad combination. And if you are bringing the dog along all the time, stuffing it into baggage is not likely to prove what you really wanted, compared to the rear seat or rear floor area.

With two kids under 6 assess how much flying you really have time for (beyond your lessons) at this stage in your life. If you plan to travel wth your wife and kids, great. Then owning something like a 182 could make sense.
Why less than 500 hours on the engine if you are just going to flip it later? I bought mine with 1200 on it and it runs super well. Will probably get well past TBO on it. Of course any engine can grenade, but don't be afraid of mid-time engines. Price it in and feel better that it got way past infant mortality.
Join a flying club for a year. That will give you an idea of the unexpected costs associated with ownership. Dont try to stuff a 90lb GSD thru the baggage door of a 182. Let him ride in the back seat where he belongs. Both my dogs ride with me. I have to pick up the older 70lb APBT and put her in, but the young man just jumps up in. Both settle quickly and go to sleep.

I will say, although I love my airplane, ownership stresses me out. Its the single biggest expense in my life currently.
I have 2 kids under 8. I rented for the first little while, then joined a club, then bought.

Rental: Very hard to schedule for any kind of real trip, but the airplane is someone else's problem, and if one plane is down for mx, there's usually another.

Club: Nicer planes, easier scheduling, unplanned expenses have been rare and modest.

Ownership: There's nothing like flying your own plane. That said, you're buying a commitment. The airplane will be down for mx. Large unplanned expenses have happened. Large planned expenses have happened too. In the grand scheme of things, they are a drop in the bucket compared to taxes/mortgage/childcare costs, but the uncertainty has a cost.

If I had a do over, I would have looked at a club from the start. I think a 182 club would suit your needs well. With two little kids, there's not a lot of time to fly, but it's hard to put a price on hearing "daddy, I love flying with you" in the headset.
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Considering buying a plane is a little like considering taking up a cocaine habit.
At this point you don't know what you don't know. I have been flying for 27 years and I'm still asking questions... Lots of good advice already given, I would recommend joining a club or renting at least through PPL and possibly Instrument rating if you're going to go for that. Good Luck, have fun!
I can’t vote because I have more than one choice. I bought my Arrow for $77,000 last October. It is easy and fun to fly, the gear goes up, and I can beat the airlines on 500 mile or shorter trips (in price and time). On the other hand, my 1300 SMOH engine needed to be OH’d less than 6 months after I bought it. I was not expecting that, and my $77,000 Arrow is now my $130,000 Arrow (I did buy a brand new prop and engine monitor to go with the reman engine). But as I was flying along above the clouds this morning, I couldn’t have been happier (plus I put 3.2 hours in the logbook for the cost of 24 gals of 100LL).

If I could do it again, I probably wouldn’t have picked the same plane (knowing the engine was about to break), but I don’t regret owning the plane. My ultimate goal is an ATP rating with a little bit of fun along the way, so 8-9 gph and 120 knots is plenty for me.
My input-
Get half way through your PPL, then decide. That way you have your medical done, or should, and most of your bad landings done in someone elses plane. Then ask your instructor if you can bring your SO with one longish trip and see if she will really be a passenger. She may not like the experience, or she may want something nicer.

My journey so far as one guys example-
Lessons with a school plane
quit for a few years due to a personality clash with the instructor
joined a club and finished my PPL
continued renting until they sold the one plane I was checked out in 2 days before I had a 4 day trip planned and booked. No recourse or attempt to make things right with me
joined another club
one of the 2 planes I was checked out in went down for 6 months due to a annual that turned into a new interior
the other plane was a good training plane, so I was told to not do any overnights with it
quit renting and flying before deciding on ownership
Bought my Bo
First annual was 25% of the purchase price and 5 months

With all that said, I cannot see myself ever renting again. The "quiet" that comes from not checking with anyone, or getting an email that your scheduling has been cancelled when you have been studying the weather all work week and seeing clear skies finally, or seeing how people leave rentals when they are done, makes me either a sole owner or in another hobby.

I realize I had bad luck and not the norm, so please dont think this will happen to you. Just that crap happens and your path wont be a straight line.