Seeking Anec-Data (or actual): Cost of Ownership (GA Singles)

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Those of you who own or have owned airplanes currently or in the past, specifically piston-singles.

I've been toying with the idea of buying an airplane for the purposes of both time-building and be-bopping around for fun on a regular basis - I figure I'd keep it for 200-400 hours or a couple of years, whichever came first.

It appears that you can find a lot of nice taildraggers (Champs, some Citabrias, Stinsons, etc) and C-150s for well under 35K, which keeps the market nice and broad while still being affordable. I know you can get beater 172s that are IFR certified and just fugly at that price point if you're willing to do that, too.

I know that, roughly, you figure your cost of ownership by computing the fixed cost (storage, insurance, loan payment [if there's a note on it]) plus your consumables (fuel, oil, TBO reserve and - optionally - improvement reserve) and then you 'pay yourself' that operating cost per hour for the airplane.

How does one guess at the cost of the annual? What things are common with piston singles that are 'unexpected' items? If you guys have owned something along these lines before, what kind of costs did you face that I'm not thinking about here?

I may be making the case to the wife in the next year or so why I'd like to buy an airplane, and how it should be theoretically cheaper than renting, but I also know you need to fly a certain number of hours per year for that to be true and I want to try and figure this accurately.

Thanks, in advance.
 

doog

Well-Known Member
I own two airplanes, a single and a twin. The single is a Citabria and it's cheap to own, maintain and fly. The twin is a Baron and it is much more expensive, but obviously much more capable. I wouldn't expect owning your own plane to be cheaper than renting, even if your rental rates are high. Maybe if you did a 3 way partnership it could be cheaper. There is always something that needs to be done. For inexpensive fun flying you can't beat the Champ.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
I own two airplanes, a single and a twin. The single is a Citabria and it's cheap to own, maintain and fly. The twin is a Baron and it is much more expensive, but obviously much more capable. I wouldn't expect owning your own plane to be cheaper than renting, even if your rental rates are high. Maybe if you did a 3 way partnership it could be cheaper. There is always something that needs to be done. For inexpensive fun flying you can't beat the Champ.
What are your costs like on the Citabria? What unexpected things have popped up on you?
 

milleR

Well-Known Member
I think it takes a certain personality to own a plane and be happy with it. If you like the idea of spending free time at the airport hanging out and tinkering then ownership might be a good fit. The expenses are a lot more palatable when you derive enjoyment out of simply being around airplanes because you get to play with your airplane. There's a certain tree-house effect to having a hangar.

The most important phase of ownership is the pre-buy. Miss something there and the costs can skyrocket. Annual costs should be pretty predictable, the first one is usually the most expensive. Most airplanes have owners groups online, so just about anything you want to know should be available with some searching. When I bought my P210 the Cessna Pilots Association was a great resource.
 

z987k

Well-Known Member
Those of you who own or have owned airplanes currently or in the past, specifically piston-singles.

I've been toying with the idea of buying an airplane for the purposes of both time-building and be-bopping around for fun on a regular basis - I figure I'd keep it for 200-400 hours or a couple of years, whichever came first.

It appears that you can find a lot of nice taildraggers (Champs, some Citabrias, Stinsons, etc) and C-150s for well under 35K, which keeps the market nice and broad while still being affordable. I know you can get beater 172s that are IFR certified and just fugly at that price point if you're willing to do that, too.

I know that, roughly, you figure your cost of ownership by computing the fixed cost (storage, insurance, loan payment [if there's a note on it]) plus your consumables (fuel, oil, TBO reserve and - optionally - improvement reserve) and then you 'pay yourself' that operating cost per hour for the airplane.

How does one guess at the cost of the annual? What things are common with piston singles that are 'unexpected' items? If you guys have owned something along these lines before, what kind of costs did you face that I'm not thinking about here?

I may be making the case to the wife in the next year or so why I'd like to buy an airplane, and how it should be theoretically cheaper than renting, but I also know you need to fly a certain number of hours per year for that to be true and I want to try and figure this accurately.

Thanks, in advance.
If you want a cheap airplane to build time in get a short wing piper. If you don't intend on landing off airport, get the tricycle gear because they're even cheaper yet. If you wait for a deal you can get a Piper colt for less than 15k with a mid time engine and good fabric. You can get a Tripacer for under 20. They're generally faster and cheaper to fly than a 172 plus they're one of the fugliest airplanes around. Good cheap 2 seat options include a luscombe and a taylorcraft. Both should be less than a 152. Find one with a C85 or O-200 and fly the crap out of it on autogas at like 4gph. The O-200 models even do well on floats! About as reliable as a hammer to, so simple and there's almost nothing that can break. As my A&P friend says, a walk around is pretty much an annual.
 

doog

Well-Known Member
What are your costs like on the Citabria? What unexpected things have popped up on you?
Knock on wood, but the Citabria has been basically perfect. The annual was about $1200. So far just had to replace the tires, that's mostly because I thrashed the 8.5 inchers a lot doing T&G's over and over again while learning to fly a tail dragger. The plane really wants to be on grass. That was about $600 for the tires + install. Otherwise no real maintenance issues at all, it's a simple airplane and there are not a lot of systems like on the Baron.
 

KKochan

Well-Known Member
Whatever you do, get a tailwheel. Lots more fun, more capable, and require more attention to fly.

C120, C140, C170 maybe, the 6 would be more to maintain.

Pacers can be found pretty cheap.

Citabrias.

A Champ is a pretty capable airplane with one person on board. Even with the 65.

Cant comment on the cost of ownership, but would agree that you should enjoy tinkering with it and hanging around the airport.
 

drunkenbeagle

Gang Member
I would also recommend the tri-pacer. It isn't easy to fly enough to make owning cheaper than renting, but if you are going to get a bunch of ratings in a relatively short period and sell it, you might come out ahead. If you make friends with an A&P and don't mind turning some wrenches, it will be an even better deal. The fabric covered Pipers are pretty easy to work on and generally rather simple. I've heard that some A&P's will take the wings of and trailer them back to their home garage when they aren't flying...

I don't own an aircraft directly, but rather as part of a club. Generally, the more cheap and simple the thing is, the better the economics look. The fewer things installed, the less it will cost, fewer things will break, and you will end up using it more. Basic VFR instruments are all you really need. (Most of my time now is in aircraft lacking electrical systems or vacuum systems. They fly just fine.)

If you can find a partner in the plane, your costs will be at least half, and it isn't likely that either partner will fly enough that availability will ever be an issue. I have a partner in my sailboat (who is also a pilot), works out to be a great deal. Plus, stuff gets fixed way faster. The privately owned aircraft I see flying the most tend to have a few partners as owners. Less money going to the fixed costs leaves you more money for avgas and oil. Hell, I'd buy oil futures now to lock in the cheap gas for as much as you plan to use it in the next few years. :)
 

drunkenbeagle

Gang Member
Whatever you do, get a tailwheel. Lots more fun, more capable, and require more attention to fly.

C120, C140, C170 maybe, the 6 would be more to maintain.
As much as I love flying taildraggers, may not necessarily be the best to own. They can be more expensive to insure, and it is harder to add other pilots to the insurance. Not saying don't buy one, but look at the costs first and how you plan to use it. I've got enough time in them to say they aren't any harder or easier to fly, but they do land and taxi differently. Takes some time to get used to.
 

KKochan

Well-Known Member
As much as I love flying taildraggers, may not necessarily be the best to own. They can be more expensive to insure, and it is harder to add other pilots to the insurance. Not saying don't buy one, but look at the costs first and how you plan to use it. I've got enough time in them to say they aren't any harder or easier to fly, but they do land and taxi differently. Takes some time to get used to.
Good point on the insurance. Absolutely true that it will most likely cost more for that.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
Yeah, the insurance issue is one of the reasons I have considered a 150 or 152. I would prefer a Taildragger for all of the reasons cited above, but money, ultimately, determines the realm of possibility.
 

milleR

Well-Known Member
Yeah, the insurance issue is one of the reasons I have considered a 150 or 152. I would prefer a Taildragger for all of the reasons cited above, but money, ultimately, determines the realm of possibility.
That should be a one time expense. After the first year (assuming you fly a fair bit) the insurance should drop with time in type.
 

Roger Roger

Paid to sleep, fly for fun
I'm another vote for a tripacer. You WILL NOT find another certified 4-place airplane that is as cheap to acquire and operate. They are stupid simple to fly too. You may say "I don't need 4 seats" but iirc you have a wife so if the two of you ever want to take anyone else flying, or if you want to take a little gear with you, the extra room and useful load is great.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
That should be a one time expense. After the first year (assuming you fly a fair bit) the insurance should drop with time in type.
Perhaps. I'm a lousy pilot though. Probably would break the airplane.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
I'm another vote for a tripacer. You WILL NOT find another certified 4-place airplane that is as cheap to acquire and operate. They are stupid simple to fly too. You may say "I don't need 4 seats" but iirc you have a wife so if the two of you ever want to take anyone else flying, or if you want to take a little gear with you, the extra room and useful load is great.
You're right.

It's just that they're so goddamned ugly...

:)
 

wheelsup

Well-Known Member
Look into the Velocity series. About the cheapest most economical you can get while being fairly roomy inside.
 

killbilly

Vocals, Lyrics, Triangle, Washboard, Kittens
So is the A-10 ;)
Y'know, I KNEW you would post within seconds of me saying that....wasn't sure what you'd say, but I knew you'd be there.

Seriously, though. If it becomes cheaper than me buying a truck over a year or two, I may be able to do it.
 
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