General Aviation


Many pilots rent their aircraft, some others prefer to buy. There are definite pro’s and cons for owning vs. renting and we’ll look at some here.

Renting – like renting anything – reduces your initial cost to do that thing (like fly). You can pay per hour and have someone else bear the cost of purchasing the plane, maintaining it, storing it etc. There are a couple of things to think about though …

Renting, hour for hour, is more expensive than owning ** (keep reading) ** Also, renting restricts the use of the aircraft. Let’s expand on this.

When you rent an aircraft, you pay either “dry” (without fuel) or “wet (fuel included). A wet lease is more usual these days but both are often available. You often pay for hourly “Hobbs time” which is the time the aircraft engine is in operation (not necessarily airborne time). This can change however, depending on how long you intend to use the aircraft.

Imagine you’re in Toronto and you want to fly to lovely Killarney for fish and chips at lunch (highly recommended by the way). It could be a 1.5 hour flight there and the same back – so three hours. That’s a wonderful day’s flying and you can figure out your cost – BUT – the aircraft will be gone from its home base longer than three hours. Depending on the facility renting the plane, you may also be charged for when the aircraft is away – meaning on top of the 3-hour Hobbs-time, the 1 hour fish and chip meal and 1 hour walking it off, could cost hundreds!

You’ll need to check with the school or club as to their rules, but for certain, overnight stays and vacations take the aircraft away from potential renters and will incur charges regardless. It restricts your use of the plane and therefore your flying. This may be just fine with you and many (many) pilots love flying around for an hour or two and returning home – a great day.

Now to explaining that hourly cost. In basic calculations we have done, the break-even point for rental vs. buying for a common rental plane (say Cessna 172) is 50 hours. This means that if you fly over 50 hours a year, you’re better to buy and if less, you’re better to rent. It’s not a perfect calculation (see above for the greatest caveat on trips away) as it depends on may factors – but it’s a decent rule of thumb.

So – if you’re flying often and you want to go places and stay, owning is good (if you have the bucks of course). If you’re a “local” flyer and want to fly around your patch and maybe shoot-off for a $100-hamburger (this is what pilots call flying somewhere close for lunch) – then maybe renting is best.

Again – this is simplistic. There are many factors for owning vs. lease and there will be articles here or coming that will address some of them. Most pilots start renting and own later – some own from their first day of training in their own aircraft – it’s up to you, your bank account and your interest.


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