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9 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

60 views | By Hangar.Flights | Last updated on May 09, 2022

Affordable personal aircraft is a pilot’s dream because they provide a cheap, long-term flying experience at a meager ownership cost. Cheap airplanes constitute the vast majority of general aviation aircraft, and these include second or third-owner planes flown by sports pilots, which are the mainstay of flight training schools.

By affordable aircraft, we mean single piston-engine airplanes with decent performance, range, and low operating costs. Most new (and old) pilots typically have limited budget funds when buying their next plane, which increases the pressure when looking through used plane ads.

10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

We will stick with single-piston engine airplane deals under $15,000 and above $30,000, which is the budget of most small personal airplane owners, and leave the six-figure airplane options to the wealthy dentists. We will also provide a list of things to consider to help you purchase your next plane.

So, why don’t you strap yourself in place and prepare for take-off?

Things to Consider When Shopping For An Affordable Airplane

You don’t walk into a dealership and buy the first vehicle you set your eyes on. You should not purchase an airplane without doing your research beforehand. Remember, a plane’s ownership costs start after you pay for it. Find out all you can about the airplane before writing that check.

The brand – People tend to purchase popular airplanes not just because they are great planes, but they also tend to hold their value due to high demand. Less popular airplanes may have excellent performance and low running costs, but be prepared to take a financial hit when you want to resell due to low demand.

Running costs and maintenance – High running costs can drop an airplane’s value faster than a sack of bricks. What makes an affordable personal aircraft isn’t just the sticker price. Instead, it combines low fuel consumption, reliability, and cheap parts. It is vital to find out hangar storage costs for your airplane type.

9 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Parts availability – For me, this is a deal-breaker, and it has little to do with the plane’s age. Parts for some newer planes can be challenging to get, while some older aircraft have spare parts in abundance. So, check if your airplane manufacturer has the model’s parts in stock.

Insurance – Yes, airplanes do have insurance. You think insurance costs for the least expensive airplanes are cheap, right? Not necessarily. The odds of something going terribly wrong on an older plane is higher than on newer models, and the insurance man knows. However, insurance premiums on older airplanes with good reliability and safety records can be lower than on other cheaper airplanes.

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Condition – As we said earlier, knowing all you can about an airplane’s used history before buying seems a piece of awful good advice. Great deals often mask lemons, and even popular planes with years of hard use can hide several expensive problems. Also, buying a newer model airplane at a massive discount to fix it up can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in mechanical and airworthiness certification costs. Purchasing an older but well-looked airplane with extensive service history is always good. There are still good cheap aircraft deals available; you just have to look for them.

The Most Affordable Airplanes Starting From $15,000

Most airplanes in the $15,000 to $30,000 category are forty-year. You may see vintage post-war planes in excellent flying condition, but those are getting rarer with time. Planes in this category are the best budget buys for any sports pilot with average means looking to snatch an affordable personal aircraft.

#1. Luscombe 8

#1. Luscombe 8 - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $16,000

  • Manufacturer: Luscombe Aircraft
  • Year of introduction: 1946
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, one passenger
  • Cruising speed: 120 mph (190 kph, 100 kn)
  • Range: 500 mi (800 km, 430 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Continental C90 air-cooled flat-four piston engine, 90 hp (67 kW)
  • Number built: 5,867

The Luscombe 8 series is a range of high-wing monoplanes based on a 1936 design by Donald Luscombe. It is a single-engine airplane with two side-by-side seat arrangements and a taildragger undercarriage. Today, the Luscombe 8 series is one of the least expensive airplanes and depending on the model, the average price of a used Model 8A Luscombe Master is $22,000. A model 8C in decent condition costs around $17,000, while the average asking price for a high-performance Model 8F is $26,000.

Operating Costs – low operating costs are why the Luscombe 8 remains one of the most affordable airplanes. Its fuel burn rate is between 4.2-4.8 gallons/hr, with variable hourly operating costs of $52.78, and annual inspections cost around $200.

Insurance costs – Annual insurance estimates for Luscombe 8 airplanes with a million dollars liability coverage range from $500-$650 for qualified pilots and $635-$740 for pilots with lesser certifications and less than 10 hrs in make/model.

#2. Piper Cherokee 140

#2. Piper Cherokee 140 - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $20,000

  • Manufacturer: Piper Aircraft
  • Year of introduction: 1960
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, three passengers
  • Cruising speed: 124 mph (200 kph, 108 kn)
  • Range: 535 mi (861 km, 465 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Lycoming O-320-E2A 4-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston engine, 150 hp (110 kW)
  • Number built: More than 32,778

The Piper Cherokee 140 is a variant in the PA-28 More family of low wing, single-engine airplanes built by Piper Aircraft since 1960 and designed as a low-cost alternative to the Cessna 182 Skylane. The two or four-seat aircraft has a tricycle undercarriage that owners can replace with floats. Used Piper Cherokee 140s are excellent trainer aircraft, with the majority of the PA-28-140 fleet being operated by flight schools across the globe. The average retail value for a used forty-year-old unit is $25,000, and they tend to hold their value at that point due to their vast popularity.

Operating costs – the Cherokee 140 is a cheap aircraft to run with a fuel burn rate of 7.5 gallons per hour. The aircraft’s variable operating costs are between $50-$55/hr. The annual maintenance bill for a Piper Cherokee 140 with over 1,000 flying hours is around $3,000.

Insurance – The Piper Cherokee 140 is one of the least expensive airplanes to insure. A typical premium for a non-instrument pilot with 180 flying hours is $960 per annum.

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#3. Beechcraft Skipper

#3. Beechcraft Skipper - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $20,000 

  • Manufacturer: Beech Aircraft Corporation
  • Year of introduction: 1979
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, one passenger
  • Cruising speed: 121 mph (195 kph, 105 kn)
  • Range: 475 mi (764 km, 412 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Lycoming O-235-L2C flat-4 engine, 115 hp (86 kW)
  • Number built: 312

Flown by recreational pilots worldwide, the Beechcraft Skipper is a low wing, T-tail, two-seat cheap airplane powered by a single-piston engine and equipped with a fixed tricycle landing gear. The aircraft was designed for flight training, but its excellent performance and above-average handling led to flying schools rejecting the Beechcraft Skipper as a pilot trainer. Only a few hundred Beechcraft Skippers were produced, and today, these affordable aircraft are used for aerial tours and personal flying. Finding a used Skipper for sale can be challenging, and when one pops up, prices tend to hover between the mid to high twenties. 1980, one owner aircraft is currently listed for $29,950 on Trade-a-plane.com.

Operating Costs – The Skipper is definitely one of the least expensive airplanes to own, considering its performance. It burns 7 gallons of 100LL per hour and has a variable cost of $71.24/hr or $0.73 per mile.

Insurance – insuring premiums for the Beechcraft Skipper will be similar to comparable trainer aircraft. Estimates for a new pilot with zero hours can be $1,200 to $1,500.

#4. ERCO Ercoupe

#4. ERCO Ercoupe - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from: $22,350 – $30,000

  • Manufacturer: Engineering and Research Corporation
  • Year of introduction: 1940
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, one passenger
  • Cruising speed: 95 mph (153 kph, 83 kn)
  • Range: 300 mi (480 km, 260 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Continental C75-12 4-cylinder air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston engine, 75 hp (56 kW)
  • Number built: 5,695

The Ercoupe is a low-wing monoplane with a tricycle undercarriage first produced in 1939. Several manufacturers have made the airplane under different names, with the Mooney M-10 being the final production variant in 1970. Marketed as the safest airplane in the world at its launch, Ercoupe featured revolutionary “non-spinnable and non-stallable” technology with car-like controls making it one of the easiest planes to fly. There are several variants of the Ercoupe, and you can pick up a pristine 1946 415-D for $22,000.

Operating Costs – The cost to run an Ercoupe airplane is reasonably cheap. Fuel burn per hour is 7 gallons/hr, and its annual maintenance and hangar fees are similar to planes of comparable size and performance.

Insurance – Insuring an Ercoupe is cheaper than other affordable personal aircraft with similar engine configuration and performance. Annual rates for low-hour pilots can range from $550-$600.

#5. Cessna 150

#5. Cessna 150 - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $29,000

  • Manufacturer: Cessna
  • Year of introduction: 1957
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, one passenger
  • Cruising speed: 94 mph (152 kph, 82 kn)
  • Range: 480 mi (780 km, 420 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Continental O-200-A air-cooled horizontally-opposed piston engine, 100 hp (75 kW)
  • Number built: 23,839

Designed as a replacement for the Cessna 140 airplane, the Cessna 150 is a two-seat high-wing single-engine pilot trainer and personal plane with a fixed tricycle landing gear. The Cessna 150 popularity is evident in its high production numbers, making it the fifth most produced aircraft ever built. New pilots love the Cessna 150’s aerodynamic stability, including its remarkable handling, and used 150s are the best affordable personal aircraft for new pilots. Prices of used Cessna 150s have gone through the roof recently, and decent examples under $30,000 can be hard to come by. But you can find an older, low-budget Cessna 150 under $30,000. I found two Cessna 150 listings on Trade-a-plane.com; a 1969 Cessna 150-J for $25,000 and a 1966 Cessna 150-F for $25,999.

Operating Costs – Hands down, few airplanes can outmatch the Cessna 150 fuel economy and low operating costs. It burns 6 gallons/hr and costs $40 to $50 per hour to run, depending on AVGAS prices. An annual inspection cost on a Cessna ranges between $500 and $1,500.

Insurance – The Cessna 150 is a cheap aircraft to insure with annual basic liability coverage of $150-$250 and full hull coverage of $450 to $1,100 yearly.

The Most Affordable Airplanes From $30,000

Airplanes within the following budget range tend to be newer models of popular used airplane models. While your average wealthy dentist or real estate developer will prefer more expensive models, these are suitable for the average Joe who’s just looking for an affordable personal airplane for an occasional fun weekend flying.

#6. Aeronca Model 7 Champion

#6. Aeronca Model 7 Champion - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $35,000

  • Manufacturer: Aeronca/Champion Aircraft/Bellanca/American Champion Aircraft
  • Year of introduction: 1945
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, one passenger
  • Cruising speed: 85 mph (137 kph, 74 kn)
  • Range: 270 mi (430 km, 230 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Continental A65-8 four-cylinder, horizontally opposed piston aircraft engine, 65 hp (48 kW)
  • Number built: 10,000+

Also known as the “Champ” or “Airknocker,” pilots consider the high-wing, single-engine Aeronca Model 7 Champion as one of the least expensive airplanes to buy and own. The Model 7 champion features a tandem two-seat design with a taildragger landing gear, and it is one of few aircraft with a production lifespan spanning over five decades. The long production run means you can buy older used Model 7 Champions for bargain prices. The average price of well-maintained examples on trade-a-plane.com is $35, and fully restored Model 7 Champions can retail for well over $50,000.

Operating Costs – The Aeronca Model 7 is a cheap plane to buy and run. Its lightweight design ensures a low fuel consumption of 4.5 gallons per hour, with a hundred-hour variable cost of $48.61/hr or $0.66 per mile.

Insurance – The Aeronca Model 7 is a cheap plane to insure, depending on the type of coverage. The annual cost of a $1,000,000 liability coverage is between $225-$350 for qualified pilots and $345-$515 for pilots with low flying hours.

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#7. Piper Tomahawk

#7. Piper Tomahawk - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $32,000

  • Manufacturer: Piper
  • Year of introduction: 1978
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, one passenger
  • Cruising speed: 115 mph (185 kph,100 kn)
  • Range: 539 mi (867 km, 468 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Avco Lycoming O-235-L235-L2C air-cooled flat-four piston engine, 112 hp (84 kW)
  • Number built: 2,484

The Piper Tomahawk was primarily designed as a pilot trainer and an affordable personal aircraft for recreational pilots. It features a cantilever low-wing with two side-by-side seating arrangements and a fixed tricycle landing gear. The Tomahawk is a highly maneuverable aircraft designed to enter spontaneous, controlled spins for pilot training purposes. Used Tomahawks are hardly available, and the average price of Piper Tomahawk listings is around $35,000. However, we were able to find a 1978 Piper PA-38-112 on trade-a-plane.com for an asking price of $32,000.

Operating Costs – TPiper Tomahawk airplanes are 8cheap to own and operate with an average fuel consumption rate of 7 gallons/hr. The variable cost for 148.1 is $69.57/hr or $0.64 per mile.

Insurance – the annual premium range ($1,000,000 liability coverage) for a pilot with 300 flying hours is $225-$275. Pilots with lower flying hours with similar coverage will pay an annual premium ranging from $325-$530.

We actually did our own Private Pilot flight training in a Piper Tomahawk! You can read about it in our story series Getting Your Private Pilot License.

#8. Grumman American AA-5 Traveler

#8. Grumman American AA-5 Traveler - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $34,000

  • Manufacturer: Grumman American
  • Year of introduction: 1971
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, three passengers
  • Cruising speed: 139 mph (224 kph,121 kn)
  • Range: 789 mi (1,270 km, 686 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Lycoming O-360-A4K air-cooled, 4-cylinder horizontally-opposed piston engine, 180 hp (134 kW)
  • Number built: 837

The Grumman American AA-5 Traveler is an airplane model in the successful AA-5 family series of four-seater light airplanes designed for pilot training and weekend recreational jaunts. It is derived from the American Aviation AA-5 Traveler and upgraded into the Gulfstream American AA-5A Cheetah. Asking prices for used AA-5 series starts from the high thirties and can get up to six figures for recent model aircraft. However, used AA-5, an AA-1s which needs a bit of work may fetch between $34,000 and $39,000

Operating Costs – The Grumman American AA-5 Traveler is an affordable personal aircraft with an average fuel cost of 8.5 gallons/hr and a variable cost of $88.50/hr or $0.69 per mile.

Introduction – AA-5s and AA-1s insurance costs are relatively low compared to other aircraft of similar size and performance. Expect a yearly premium between $450 to $640 for a low-time pilot.

#9. Beechcraft Bonanza

#9. Beechcraft Bonanza - 10 Affordable Personal Aircraft for Airplane Buyers on a Budget

Price from $49,900

  • Manufacturer: Beechcraft
  • Year of introduction: 1947
  • No of crew and passengers: One pilot, five passengers
  • Cruising speed: 203 mph (326 kph, 176 kn)
  • Range: 824 mi (1,326 km, 716 nmi)
  • Engine: 1 x Continental IO-550-B, 300 hp (220 kW)
  • Number built: 17,000+

Early Beechcraft Bonanzas had a V-Tail configuration which earned the airplane a reputation for killing its well-heeled owners, including wealthy dentists. The Bonanza is a fast, low-wing, all-aluminum single-engine airplane with six seats designed by Ralph Harmon as a rich man’s weekend playtoy. Still in production, the Bonanza has achieved a loyal cult following among its owners and admirers devoted to its classic styling. Prices of model Beechcraft Bonanzas have stabilized in recent years, although they are still higher than those of other affordable aircraft. We found a listing for a 1949 Beechcraft 39 Bonanza in flyable condition on trade-a-plane.com.

Operating Costs – A Bonanza burns 15 gallons/hr at cruise speed and has $281.33/hr total annual costs.

Insurance – Beechcraft Bonanzas are among the cheapest airplanes to insure, with an annual premium range of $550-$75 for pilots with over 300 flight hours.

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Conclusion

When buying an airplane, it is an excellent idea to focus on the engine’s condition and electronics rather than dwelling on its age. Planes are built to higher standards than automobiles and are designed to last for several decades with good maintenance.