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Is it time for you to buy?

There’s nothing quite like being an aircraft owner. The joy of going out to the airport and visiting your baby, even if not to fly, is a privilege few people can understand. But before diving into the complex world of ownership, make sure it’s right for you.

For many of us, the question of whether to own an aircraft comes down to primarily a financial one. Is it cost-effective to buy? What will it cost? How can I predict expenses? These questions are just the beginning of what should be a long list on the road to ownership.

Often pilots in a position to buy their first airplane are either in training or fresh out. They are likely renting from a local flight school or fixed-base operation (FBO) and want to potentially save some money, or perhaps have more flexibility. The decision whether to continue renting or to buy varies based on financial conditions, but AOPA’s Pilot Information Center does offer a guideline. “If you rent more than 100 hours a year, buying may save you some money,” says PIC Senior Technical Specialist Rodney Martz.

“It’s much like the difference between renting an apartment or buying a house,” Martz says. “Ownership expenses are much less predictable than those associated with renting.”

Remember that with aircraft, you are subject to not only the basic maintenance requirements, but also the sometimes unexpected expenses such as airworthiness directives, which can be surprise maintenance requirements from the government.

Luckily there are many options when it comes to owning. If money is an issue, consider taking on a partner. AOPA offers a wealth of advice on multiple ownership scenarios through its online guide.

“Also consider joining a flying club,” continues Martz. “They are often quite inexpensive but usually offer more flexibility than traditional rental situations.” This is because clubs should be chartered to not make a profit, and the overhead is low. AOPA also offers information on how to operate a club, how to strengthen its financial health, and even how to start from the ground up.

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