Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cessna 182 Operating Expenses

There are more costs for operating an airplane than the fuel it burns and the original purchase price. When I was thinking of owning, I saw some breakouts that helped. I thought I would share how my expense have been going for the 4 years I have owned the plane. If you are considering renting vs owning you might also want to look at my past blog entries on renting and owning.

Repair Costs at Annual and Other Times

Many repair costs appear at annual inspection and at other times. See my other post about my latest annual inspection. I fly about 120 hours a year and this probably influences how much repair typically happens. My plane is a 1974 C182P. Age might make some difference, but I have heard of new planes with similar expenses.

Here is a list of different repairs and improvements I have done:

1/11/05 prop control: $204
Known needed to be fixed at purchase of plane.
1/17/05 labor prop control, cylinder head probe: $406
5/13/05 Filter adapter: $437
6/7/05 annual + nose strut+ cowl flap hinges + carb heat+filter adapter install: $2701
8/15/05 cylinder fix: $1158
11/18/05: vor indicator fix: $65
2/13/06: EI UBG-16 engine analyzer: $1465
3/29/06: new muffler, exhaust: $3363
3/29/06: EI install $900
7/5/06: annual + tires +brakes+aileron rod+ mixture cable: $2445
vernier mixture cable improvement portion was: $271
12/14/06: pitot-static, vor indicator fix: $422
5/11/07: attitude indicator $1097
6/19/07: GNS430 Waas upgrade $2001
8/14/07: annual + cylinder + engine mounts + baffling + fairing fix = $4224
cylinder portion was about $928
11/16/07: short in instrument lighting (found in EI install): $401
9/5/08: annual + cylinder + carb box + spin bulkhead + mags = $3800
cylinder portion was about $900

In order to come up with a yearly budget, I will consider that some of these items are from the first years of owning (such as the exhaust fixing and prop control). I will also not include the cylinder fixing in the normal plan, but it should be considered as possible. The annual inspection is around $1200/ year as well.

This totals to about $3272/year including the inspection. For simplicity, we will say $1200 is for the inspection and $2000/year is for general maintenance.

Also keep in mind a budget for upgrades. I ended up spending $5038 total for 4 years upgrades plus fixing a short in the EI install. These were relatively small upgrades. Interior, Paint, and many avionics upgrades are much much more.

Keeping costs in control is very important. If you are not careful, I could see maintenance costs doubling. I recommend taking Mike Busch's Savvy Aviator Seminar and joining the Cessna Pilots Association or a club for your type of plane and ask lots of questions. The more you are involved with understanding the maintenance, the better.

Overhaul Costs

Planning for a potential engine overhaul is something you should do and it is a major expense. As Mike Busch indicates in his Savvy Aviator Seminar, I would recommend using TBO as a guideline, but not a requirement.

But how much does an engine overhaul cost? I am still trying to figure this out. One spot to look is Aviation Consumer. They have an article onverhauling shops. There are a number of things that I think are left out from the costs listed there such as overhauling the prop and governor and the removal and reinstallation of the engine. But it is a starting place.

So for purposes of this analysis, I will use engine overhaul of $24,000 engine + $2400 R&R. Prop overhaul of $2500 prop + $2000 governor. Both of these to be budgeted for 1500 hours.

Yearly Fixed Costs

  • Annual Inspection: $1200
  • Repairs during annual and other times: $2000 (sometimes a cylinder fix for $900)
  • Hangar: $290 * 12 months (some hangars are much more expensive)
  • Insurance: $1277
  • Loan or the cost of money in the plane?
  • Improvements in Avionics, Interior, and Paint?
  • Total = $7777
  • If you fly 120 hours a year and do not add for a loan, $64.80 / hour

Hourly Costs

  • ~13 Gph at maybe $5.50 = $71.50/hour
  • Oil change every 40 hours = $75 oil+filter + $22 oil analysis + do labor myself = $2.43/hour
  • Engine overhaul budget every 1500 hours: $24,000 engine + $2400 R&R = $17.60/hour
  • Prop overhaul budget every 1500 hours: $2500 prop + $2000 governor = $3/hour
  • Total = $94.53 / hour

Combined Fixed + Hourly Costs

  • For 120 hours / year is: $159.33 / hour.
  • For 50 hours / year is: $250.07 / hour

Compared to Renting

At our field, there is a Cessna 182 for rent for $155 / hour. It is not as nice as ours and is not hangared which can be nice on cold days. Having the plane available when you want is worth something that is hard to count. The $159.33 / hour cost also does not account for a loan or the money you have paid for the plane. If you are not flying 120 hours per year, the rental looks better and better.


Hopefully this helps for anybody thinking about owning. If you have a different experience, please feel free to share.



Trevor said...

Brian, thank you for your no BS post about your operating expenses. I've asked many times and I've gotten answers from as little as $500/year and as much as $25,000 per year.

I will be finishing my PPL soon so of course I'm already shopping for my own plane :)

Brian said...

Glad to hear it helped! I wish I had something similar before I bought my plane.

It is nice to hear positive feedback.


JRB said...


Great post, I love the detail. I'll sum up my costs and post a similar post once I hit the one year mark and hopefully update it each year.


Anonymous said...

Your comments have help a great deal even down here in Mexico.
Simple and down to the point...


Adolfo B.

Jeb Butler said...

Great post. Tremendously helpful and refreshingly free of self-justifying BS. Thanks.

Brian said...

This year I had roughly these expenses:
- $3700 general maintenance (this year's main extra item being a elevator trim actuator fix)
- $270 extra for oil, oil filter, and oil analysis.
- $3800 fuel for 106 hours
- $3700 hangar
- $1700 insurance (A little high due to commercial use)

Millz said...

Thanks very much for this post! I'm trying to decide rent vs. buy and this is a tremendous help - been looking for a clear breakdown like this for a while!

Anonymous said...

how about property tax? do not see that in your list.

Brian said...

In Colorado, we don't pay property tax on planes. Just sales tax when you purchase it which is a lot and is annoying. But I do hear some states have property tax. That would be something important to check for your state.

gellie said...

very interesting post :D


Robert B Evans said...

I have owned a 1969 182 for about 10 years. My personal opinion is that if you do not like to work on your plane, you probably should rent. It is like a boat, half the fun is taking care of your baby and talking with other pilots about their problems. Also, it is nice to just go down to the airport and shoot a few landings if you feel like it.

Anonymous said...

I have been losing sleep over a 182 or a Maule M7-235. I like the 182 for size of cabin, wt (smoother ride) and a bit easier to work on. The Maule only has 1 big drawback. You have to fold yourself in and out of one like a pair of scissors. The door rail is at seat level and my wife has lyme disease and her hips are really bad. Expense wise the Maule wins but needs more maintenence because it's cheaper thus flimsy parts. I am an A&P and have worked on both.

Jay said...

Thank you so much for this info. I am in the initial stages of purchasing and airplane. I was thinking of getting my feet wet with a nice low time 152 before stepping up. However, I started thinking about how slow it is and how little I can carry, then I started thinking of the 172, and then the 182. Your figures obviously show that renting is far better than owning, but it is so hard to find a rental airplane that isn't just completely roached out.....all I can find out there is just junk. So, I will continue to sit on the sidelines for a bit longer before making this big decision.

Anonymous said...

Excellent breakdown. I am doing the sums as well, but for a syndicate of 4 people. (182N)

The main thing between renting and owing is the amount of hours. From my calculations, you need to do at least 150 hours per year, to make owing viable, or cheaper than renting.

4 people gives you that extra amount of hours, or at least 40hours per person per year would suffice.

metal`axiz said...

Bloody Awesome post. & also Very helpful. Thanks!
aviation enthusiast from Sri Lanka. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post! My husband and I are looking to get a couple friends together and go in on a plane, offering it for rent to private pilots to offset ownership costs. My husband is a CFII and recently lost access to the Bonanza he managed and flew (company went bankrupt) so we were looking at a 182. Thank you for this article!

Brian said...

I believe insurance costs go up especially for a rented plane. You might check with a plane insurer about that.

If it is flown enough, it will work out fine. And partnering is a way. Insurance might be lower for a partnership, but you have to work out that part.


Anonymous said...

Great exchange folks. I have owned a 182S for 6 years and I fly about 75 hours annually. I totally agree with the costs of ownership posted here. My comment would be this. I can't imagine renting a plane unless you are still not sure flying is for you. If you have a reason to use your aircraft regularly for business or fun, like me, the flexibility of owning your own plane is priceless. I don't think it's a matter of rental vs ownership costs. If you love to fly and will use a plane often for more than pure entertainment, buy your own that will work for your budget even if it means smaller and slower. You will never regret the fun of ownership.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know if the costs shown are close to Canadian expenses? I am looking at possibly buying a high time 182 and getting the engine rebuilt. Any thoughts? What cost
I truly looking at? Thanks

ronnie said...

i am just about to go in for a 182P. i plan to use her with autogas as it has a STC.cost is reduced.
son, is planning to do his IR and CPL with the aircraft and some of his mates have agreed to use it for time building.

any thoughts !!!! appreciated

Phil Howie said...

Brian, Thanks very much for your original post, I appreciate it's a few years old now but has given me the information that I needed on deciding whether to go through with my dream of a PPL and owning my own plane, but thanks to you I feel you have saved me a lot of money and heartache in the long term, so it looks like continuing with commercial flights for future holidays, once more thanks.

Trevor said...

Phil, I wouldn't give in yet. I decided with the limited flying hours I have per year it's not quite cost effective for me to buy over rent but that doesn't mean a PPL will go to waste. Check out your local airports and find their rental costs. Also, look around for flying clubs where you'd become something like a 1/20th owner of a couple planes.

This is a trip we did this summer:

We rented a Cessna 172 from our local airport and flew it to a small island in Lake Erie. It was a fantastic trip and we were only charged for the plane while the engine was running.

I think if you want to fly you should do it. If you're worried about costs maybe start with a Sport Pilot license instead.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post; thank you for sharing your valuable insights!

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Four of us (3 are a&p) bought a 182Q year and a half ago. Engine-wise 0470-U is a 2000TBO. So when we broke down the O/H cost per remaining hours, we ended up with $22/hr. We rounded up to $25/hr for oil.

We each pay for our own fuel. I take it as $75/hr for fuel.

The simple is $100/hr. Tough to beat.

The complex is we do all the maintenance(minus IA for annual). Parts are parts... airplane = expensive. Whether it's a fuel bladder ($800 each), a seat rail ($55 each), or interior plastic ($stupid for what it is grrr).

What is nice is we are able to share these upgrades. Either out of necessity like bladders or for cosmetics like seats recovered ($1200). We are putting equity into the plane and sure makes it nice.

On owning. Nothing like having your own bird. Our hangar is like a backyard. Tiki bar. We have BBQs at the airfield. It's a nice environment to invite spouses and have kids ride bikes around. Since it is a big financial expense, I feel it is important to have the other half involved.

Cheers! John

Anonymous said...

If it floats, flies, or fornicates, rent it, is cheaper in the long run.

Unknown said...

I am a mechanic and IA. I teach aircraft maintenance. One service I provide is Owner assisted maintenance. there is a lot of maintenance that can be done by an owner pilot. this can bring your maintenance cost down substantially. But more important, it will make you a better pilot with a better understanding of your aircraft. This is a very good article. You plane sounds very nice a 430 with a waas is better equipment than most rentals. Other than geographicle and insurance variables. Again my advise is to always get to know your mechanic and whenever possible participate in your maintenance. An older wiser mechanic gave me the advise "you will learn a lot about your airplane by washing it"

Anonymous said...

Wow! That answered every question I had. And it was extremely well presented. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Another thing to factor in is the depreciation of the plane. Your cost per hour could go up dramatically when you sell it for $20k or more less than you bought it.....

Anonymous said...

Good for thought for sure. Thanks.

Andreas said...

Hello everyone, and hello Brian. Thank you for the original post, great info... I am looking at buying a 182Q as well and was looking at info regarding operating cost... if you or anyone else is still tracking the experience, it would be nice to see an updated list... almost 10 years since your original post and prices have changed quite a bit...

Thank you in advance.

Kym Lesley Morton said...

ANother cost to add is the cost of registration with CAA or FAA. In South Africa it can cost over ZAR 10 000 a year ( US$666) just for the paperwork to use for hire and fly or training.

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