What is cheaper, a new airplane or an old one?

dcat127

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I'm referring to operating cost. Everyone seems to know that a newer airplane is cheaper to operate than an old one. But is this actually the case? Presume we are talking about a 4 place trainer, i.e. C172 or Cherokee 180 or similar. Lets presume that we are talking about keeping the airplane long enough that both cases would need an engine replacement.

Particularly interested in any info that is supported by data.
 
Are you asking about a brand new Skyhawk from the factory, or just newer vs older?

If "Newer" vs "Older" I would say how well it has been maintained is the over ridding factor. A "newer" 172 - say a 2000 model - that has been sitting for 20 years would be in much worse shape than a well maintained 1970 Skylane that has flown for 100 hours a year.
 
I dunno - how do you separate the acquisition costs from operating costs? Unless you pay cash for the airplane? And ignore the opportunity costs for that money? I'd guess you are correct, newer might be cheaper to operate - fewer annual surprises, maybe - but older may be cheaper to insure, say, comparing a 1980s C-172 to a 2015 model. . . newer might retain a larger percent of it's value if the avionics are modern. . .good question.
 
Are you asking about a brand new Skyhawk from the factory, or just newer vs older?

If "Newer" vs "Older" I would say how well it has been maintained is the over ridding factor. A "newer" 172 - say a 2000 model - that has been sitting for 20 years would be in much worse shape than a well maintained 1970 Skylane that has flown for 100 hours a year.
I suppose I was thinking newer airplane rather than brand new.
 
I think a brand new one shouldn’t have as much mx cost, and even so there is a warranty. The parts last quite a while, it’s after time that they start to break.
 
I think a brand new one shouldn’t have as much mx cost, and even so there is a warranty. The parts last quite a while, it’s after time that they start to break.

Maybe, but if that was true, why are flight schools not all operating brand new 172's?
 
Many of the larger flight schools do operate new (restart) 172s for thousands of hours then sell them to the next level down schools. Have seen them out there with 8-12000 hours. Still pricey at that point.

All restarts are 24V two wire airplanes with well integrated avionics and systems. Fit and finish are much better than in the last. And they are corrosion proofed/epoxy painted on the inside as well. They cost a fortune though.
 
A brand new 172 costs $432,000. Used ones run from $30K to near $200K, say $132K for round numbers. It will take a LONG time for the operating cost difference to add up to $300K.
 
A brand new 172 costs $432,000. Used ones run from $30K to near $200K, say $132K for round numbers. It will take a LONG time for the operating cost difference to add up to $300K.

About a thousand hours for no-maintenance no depreciation return on 200k. Busy school can do that in 18 months. For them it's worth it. For an individual thinking of training and then selling, not so much. Though the resale is probably pretty good. While not Cirus finish, the overall improvement in the cosmetic and comfort quality vis-a-vis an old one draws in the students.
 
I'm referring to operating cost. Everyone seems to know that a newer airplane is cheaper to operate than an old one. But is this actually the case?

Steady state/marginal *operating* costs will be about the same; they consume gas, oil, paint, overhauls, etc. at the same rate. TCO, however, will probably be a U shaped curve. Old planes have a low acquisition cost + higher mx cost. New planes have high acqusition cost + lower mx cost. Sweet spot probably somewhere in the middle. Pay me now or pay me later...
 
A brand new 172 costs $432,000.


Holy crap! Wow! $432,000 for a plane whose redline speed is less than my cruise speed, and costs 4 times as much? Other than flight schools, does anybody actually spend that kinda money for a 172?
 
Holy crap! Wow! $432,000 for a plane whose redline speed is less than my cruise speed, and costs 4 times as much? Other than flight schools, does anybody actually spend that kinda money for a 172?

Didn’t a flight school just have a brand new 172 ferried to Hawaii from the mainland?
 
Weak trolling but I'll play: The very old one of course, pretty self evident for me at least, given i couldn't even fit a new one into my budget strictly on the capex basis. I've said it a thousand times, it's not the insurance, gas or chute pack of a TKS SR-22T the part i cannot afford, much to the discord of the "dUH pURcHasE iS tHe chEePest pArt uf OWnuhn" peanut gallery.

A higher qualitative value means nothing to me if it prices me out, which is why highlighting the material improvements of the new airplane is a red herring. No different a fallacious misdirection than proferring the existence of healthcare i cannot afford as resolution to a grievance of lack of access.
 
I'm referring to operating cost. Everyone seems to know that a newer airplane is cheaper to operate than an old one. But is this actually the case? Presume we are talking about a 4 place trainer, i.e. C172 or Cherokee 180 or similar. Lets presume that we are talking about keeping the airplane long enough that both cases would need an engine replacement.

Particularly interested in any info that is supported by data.
If that were true, then everybody would be buying a new plane and trashing their old planes. But if you have the means go buy a new one. You don’t need our permission.
 
Perhaps asking the question in a different way may result in more helpful responses.

I am a member of a flying club that has several 1970's era planes. Several of our members are convinced that the reason for our high maintenance costs is the age of the planes. While I would love for this to be true, and start shopping for a "new" airplane, I feel that it actually is incorrect, any maintenance savings is simply deferring the cost till later. But all this is simply a feeling on my part rather than evidence.

I was hoping someone would respond with "I run a flight school and we have a 2010 and a 1975 172 and the maintenance expenses for each were ______ for the last 5 years...
 
Perhaps asking the question in a different way may result in more helpful responses.

I am a member of a flying club that has several 1970's era planes. Several of our members are convinced that the reason for our high maintenance costs is the age of the planes. While I would love for this to be true, and start shopping for a "new" airplane, I feel that it actually is incorrect, any maintenance savings is simply deferring the cost till later. But all this is simply a feeling on my part rather than evidence.

I was hoping someone would respond with "I run a flight school and we have a 2010 and a 1975 172 and the maintenance expenses for each were ______ for the last 5 years...


Must be the same club I belong to. I don’t think I the data you look for is available. I still believe maintanance costs are a function of the hours flown and how well the plane is kept up.

Always other factors. What if your newer 2010 skyhawk had its non wass G1000 die? That’s going to be expensive vs a 1975 DG and/or AI that needs work.
 
I am a member of a flying club that has several 1970's era planes. Several of our members are convinced that the reason for our high maintenance costs is the age of the planes.
Talking about operating cost without also talking about acquisition cost does not make any financial sense to me.

Unless of course your rich uncle is trying to decide whether to gift you (and your club) a brand new 4 seater off the factory line vs gifting you the same model 4 seater he has had out in his barn for the past 45 years.

Trying to compare a club to a school is not really apples to apples.
 
Obviously some of the MX cost increases with age. But rate of depreciation decreases with age! Any maintenance savings on the front end are priced in and then some. Then there’s a luxury premium on the new planes.
 
Talking about operating cost without also talking about acquisition cost does not make any financial sense to me.

Unless of course your rich uncle is trying to decide whether to gift you (and your club) a brand new 4 seater off the factory line vs gifting you the same model 4 seater he has had out in his barn for the past 45 years.

Trying to compare a club to a school is not really apples to apples.

I have a rich uncle, but there is 0 chance he has any interest in gifting me anything. :(:(
 
Perhaps asking the question in a different way may result in more helpful responses.

I am a member of a flying club that has several 1970's era planes. Several of our members are convinced that the reason for our high maintenance costs is the age of the planes. While I would love for this to be true, and start shopping for a "new" airplane, I feel that it actually is incorrect, any maintenance savings is simply deferring the cost till later. But all this is simply a feeling on my part rather than evidence.

I was hoping someone would respond with "I run a flight school and we have a 2010 and a 1975 172 and the maintenance expenses for each were ______ for the last 5 years...
I can say that for ten years and ~1K hours the out-of-pocket repair costs (that is, stuff that wasn't an improvement like a radio, or normal maintenance/annual, or covered by insurance 'cuz I pranged it) for our 172F were about about $14,000. New mags, insurance deductible for me bending a prop, tires, batteries, lots of little things. We did have the engine overhauled when we bought it, and new radios, had no major issues at all; it lives at a flight school now.
Sold it at the bottom of the market, but bought it so as well. Looking at depreciation and resale of a 172 when I bought this versus when we sold it, it was far cheaper than buying new. But then again, we bought it from a corporate pilot who lost his medical, and he was an A&P with IA.
 
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I purchased my PA28-181 new in 1980 and was very happy with my early inexpensive annuals. I recall being shocked when things, like magneto service, really increased that annual. However, those annuals became only sporadic. Fast forward 35 years and I can’t t seem to get an annual for less than $5 thousand + in todays dollars. Obviously many more issues to address on older planes, although I have used the same IA for 40 years, and my dispatch reliability, for the way my plane is used, is excellent given its preventative maintenance.

The OP’s question is hard for me to answer with inflation differences over so many years and the many variables of ownership and use from schools, clubs and high flying hour individuals. I will say that it seems harder to afford those higher priced annuals, since I don’t save in advance for them, and my income is not keeping pace as I get older. New plane prices seem ridiculously high from my current financial perspective as well.
 
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…Several of our members are convinced that the reason for our high maintenance costs is the age of the planes....

I’ve got a decade’s worth of detailed financial reports in the 1975 C172M I’m a partner in. We average 175hrs/yr. Annuals and oil changes have been a fairly stable expense. Highest costs are the years the FBO did all the oil changes and annuals. Saving $1000+ annually by doing owner oil changes cut required maintenance expenses by 30+%.

Our single biggest ‘maintenance’ expense was ADS-B. That effectively put a new avionics stack in. Coming in second was our 2012 overhaul/160hp upgrade. After that was a dual G5 upgrade. Those three expenses alone doubled our ‘maintenance’ costs and drove 1/2 of our hourly operating cost over that decade+. The other half was routine maintenance and an overhaul reserve that we are well enough capitalized on to do an exchange on instead of sending off the motor and waiting for it to come back.

We’re looking at changing our income structure next year though because we’ve found we’re actually charging ourselves too much right now.
 
I’d take that extra and get ahead of things. Got a GTN 650 Xi? How’s the interior and paint?
 
To date I have flown a
1994 TB9 Tampico which had minimal maintenance cost and it was a flight school plane with 7000 hours on it. - I think they are just built tough as nails personally and Lycoming engine.
2001 Cirrus which had the highest maintenance cost - I think it is because all Cirrus pilots are rich and Continental engine burns through cylinders and EGT / CHT probes constantly.
1972 Grumman Traveler. Very low maintenance cost - Very simple plane. Well built, Lycoming engine.
1961 Comanche Maintenance is expensive mostly due to rarity of parts and it has a lot of quirks as it is built a little different.

Get something with a Lycoming engine.

The problem with comparing these things is maintenance is not standard. I had a fuel tank leak on the Grumman that cost 1600 dollars and not much else other than annuals.
I need to overhaul the landing gear on the Comanche which will run me 10-15k and I had to add shoulder harnesses which was 5K
Cirrus has engine and electrical gremlins that all have to be replaced by the Cirrus shop which charges a premium.
Cirrus had exhaust eat a hole through the composite belly and the belly had to be repaired by a composite specialist.
TB9 only ever needed a prop balance.

I don't think you can really say the age of a plane affects maintenance cost that much except for a scenario like my Piper which they don't make parts for anymore.
Probably more impacted by how well cared for the plane is and that it has a Lycoming engine.


#Lycoming.
 
I feel like there is a lifecycle curve here that goes sorta like:

New - high capex, higher opex due to taxes, insurance (high hull value), reduced access to used/salvage parts, and sometimes reduced access to experienced maintenance

Middle aged - moderate capex, low opex, improved access to used/salvage parts, and improved maintenance ("specialists" are known, or the type is common enough to have lots of experience in the field)

Vintage - low capex, higher insurance or unobtainable insurance, spares might be all used up or hard to come by, experienced maintenance may be nonexistent.

I think for a lot of planes, that "sweet spot" comes at about 20-30 years of age, where there are a bunch of wrecks to pull parts from, not many active planes have used up those parts yet, mechanics are familiar and skilled with the things, hull values are moderate vs new, etc.

I don't think there is any "data" on the subject, only anecdata. :)
 
I purchased my PA28-181 new in 1980 and was very happy with my early inexpensive annuals. I recall being shocked when things, like magneto service, really increased that annual. However, those annuals became only sporadic. Fast forward 35 years and I can’t t seem to get an annual for less than $5 thousand + in todays dollars. Obviously many more issues to address on older planes, although I have used the same IA for 40 years, and my dispatch reliability, for the way my plane is used, is excellent given its preventative maintenance.

The OP’s question is hard for me to answer with inflation differences over so many years and the many variables of ownership and use from schools, clubs and high flying hour individuals. I will say that it seems harder to afford those higher priced annuals, since I don’t save in advance for them, and my income is not keeping pace as I get older. New plane prices seem ridiculously high from my current financial perspective as well.
$5,000 annual seems really high unless that includes repair/replacement of whatever they found.

Isn’t the annual 20-25 hours x $100 or so =$2,500?
 
Interest and insurance payments on a new airplane alone would pay for my flying of an old one.
 
Its different for flying schools as a new C172 or Pa28 will come with a 180hp Lycoming O-360. So you get new airframe reliability and what is probably the most bullet proof engine in the industry.


The schools will run those engines right through to 4000 hours then overhaul them. When the airframe has about 10 to 12K hours on it which will be just before the 3rd overhaul they will sell it on and buy another new 450K aircraft.


At the end of the day its better and cheaper for them.
 
I own a 1978 A36 Bonanza, and I also fly a 2004 Cirrus SR-20 in a flying club where I have visibility to the financials.

The SR-20, though less than half the age of the A36, is significantly more expensive to maintain. It seems there's always something not working 100% on the Cirrus with its more complicated systems. Annuals have been consistently north of $10K, more than three times of what I'm used to paying for the A36 on average.

(In fairness, the SR-20 also flies about twice the number of hours each year.)

- Martin
 
$5,000 annual seems really high unless that includes repair/replacement of whatever they found.
Yes. Hard to fly your aircraft legally if you don’t fix the discrepancies discovered on annual, and you are just asking for a problem if you don’t stay up with preventative maintenance.
 
Cirrus which had the highest maintenance cost - I think it is because all Cirrus pilots are rich and Continental engine burns through cylinders and EGT / CHT probes constantly.

Cirrus has engine and electrical gremlins that all have to be replaced by the Cirrus shop which charges a premium.
Cirrus had exhaust eat a hole through the composite belly and the belly had to be repaired by a composite specialist.

I just assumed Cirrus would be less expensive. Learn something new everyday.
 
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Newer airplanes can get a lot more expensive to maintain with newer/modern equipment. A well maintained older airplane be cheaper overall .
 
Just do like a lot of owners, ignore maintenance and seek out the infamous $200 annual, and then bandaid fix things by seeking out "expert SGOTI" advice on how to repair behing closed hangar doors.

After a few years sell, and advertise it as a "creampuff".
 
There is no such thing as a cheap airplane.
You pay up front for new, then pay forever after.
 
Pay $150k+ for a newer aircraft vs $70k or lower for an older one. That $80k+ could have payed for a lot of repairs. And if you pay over $300k for an almost new one (I believe a brand new Skyhawk & Archer are over $400k now), that could’ve bought an engine overhaul, avionics upgrade, and a new paint job.

Of course, if you know you want an IFR aircraft, you’re better off paying more for one that already has the avionics vs. getting a cheap one with steam gauges and upgrading it later.
 
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