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1. How much does it cost to buy a Cessna 150-152 ? |
2. Do airplanes have "Blue Book" values ?
3. How do Cessna 150-152's compare to the
ownership cost of cars ?
4. What are the typical costs of owning a
Cessna 150-152 ?
5. What do taxes and registration fees
1. How much does it cost to buy a Cessna
Like cars, the sales prices of
Cessna 150-152's are determined by the airplane's condition and how it is
equipped. In 2010 the average sales price for a Cessna 150 in good condition was
$18,000. Cessna 152's were slightly more valuable, their average price was
$22,500. Airplanes with expensive radios, paint jobs, and/or larger horsepower
engines typically sell in the $25,000-$30,000 range. The market for these
upgraded Cessna 150-152's is quite small because it's possible to buy a low
budget 4 seat airplane for around $30,000.
While it is possible to find "deals" on a Cessna
150-152, the likelihood of buying an airplane in good condition for under
$15,000 is very small. It is common to find Cessna 150-152's on eBay or
elsewhere for sale in the $12K-$15K range. These airplanes are often
neglected or have engines that have been "used up". The cost of restoring the
engines in these airplanes can easily exceed $10,000, turning a $15K airplane
into a $25K airplane that is worth about $18K.
Occasionally we find a nice
Cessna 150 or 152 that is advertised well below it's real value. This is
typically the result of an owner's need to quickly resolve a financial hardship,
or perhaps an estate sale, where the heirs are anxious to cash out, or may be
unaware of the airplane's real value. These "Deals" are exceedingly rare.
In most cases, if a "deal" seems to be too good to be true, IT IS. An airplane
that seems unusually cheap requires very careful inspection and historical
research to make sure it doesn't have expensive skeletons hiding in it's closet.
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2. Do used airplanes have "Blue Book" values
Yes. They are called Vref values.
AOPA members can perform free Vref evaluations on the
Unfortunately, the Vref system is optimized for the insurance industry, and is
notorious for undervaluing less expensive airplanes.
Here's the problem: Since the
airplanes are used and condition varies widely, their value is quite subjective and difficult to quantify.
The insurance industry would prefer to err on the low side, so Vref evaluations
are typically $4,000-$7,500 below what the airplanes are actually selling for.
In the case of a $200K Mooney or Bonanza, this is only a 2-4% reduction in true
value, but in a $20K Cessna it's a whopping 20-40% undervaluation.
insurance companies use Vref to calculate replacement value, a new owner has to
"prove" that his airplane is worth what he paid for it when purchasing insurance
by making an official statement that it is in better than average condition etc.
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3. How do Cessna 150-152's compare to the ownership
cost of cars?
It is very tempting to compare the cost of buying
and owning a Cessna 150-152 with a car. It's possible to purchase a decent
Cessna 150-152 for about the same price as Honda or Toyota sedan. Unfortunately,
this is an apples to oranges comparison, as any aircraft owner can tell you.
Though the purchase price is similar, that is where the comparison ends.
When purchasing a car, the sales price is the
largest consideration. Modern cars are normally quite reliable, and require very
minimal maintenance compared to airplanes. Once a car is purchased, all that is
required is fuel, oil changes, and an occasional tune up. In some states a smog
check is required every couple of years.
By comparison, the sales price of an airplane is an
important consideration, but only represents a portion of the cost of ownership.
Like most private airplanes, Cessna 150-152's are based on very old technology,
their engines and airframes were designed in the late 1940's. In addition,
airplanes are operated in a very different way than cars. For example, an
airplane engine is normally operated at 70-100% power most of the time. By
comparison, a car engine is loafing at 30-40% of it's power output at highway
speeds. Imagine how long your car engine would last if you drove everywhere in a
low gear at full throttle...
Most cars are driven nearly every day, this keeps
engine oil circulating, which is good for engines. The typical private airplane
is flown less than 100 hours a year, or less than 2 hours a week.
A modern car will happily go past 100,000 miles with
just occasional oil changes and tune-ups, but airplanes require a full
inspection every single year. This annual inspection is required by law, even if
the airplane has not been flown at all since the previous year. The cost of
these inspections on a Cessna 150-152 in good condition range from a low of
about $500 to a high of about $1,500. For an airplane with serious problems the
cost of an annual inspection can easily exceed the value of the airplane.
While car parts are quite cheap and plentiful, airplane parts are in limited
supply and very expensive. For example, a starter that might cost $75 on a car,
can cost hundreds of dollars for an airplane, even though it appears to be
nearly the same part. The difference is that aircraft parts must meet a very
rigid legal standard for quality and performance, and are produced in very small
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4. What are the typical costs of owning a Cessna
Costs can be divided into three
Operational costs: This includes fuel, oil, and replacement of things
like spark plugs, filters, tires and light bulbs. These costs remain fairly
constant, and can be estimated quite accurately. For example, an owner can
easily divide the cost of fuel and oil by how much of each is required for each hour
flown. The average operational cost for a Cessna 150-152 is between $40 and $50
per hour, largely dependant on the cost of fuel (both aviation and car gasoline
can be used with the appropriate approval.) In early of 2011 the average price
per gallon of aviation fuel was $4.92. A Cessna 150 with the stock engine
consumes about 6 gallons per hour, so the fuel cost per hour in early 2011 was
2. Fixed costs: This includes
insurance, required annual inspections, the cost of parking or hangar rental,
and loan payments. We won't address the loan question here, but our
worksheet provides a way to calculate the effect of loan payments on the
cost of ownership. The fixed cost remain about the same, whether the airplane is
flown one hour a year or a thousand.
3. Reserves: This includes planning
ahead for the most expensive of all ownership costs, an engine overhaul. The
engine in Cessna 150's is rated for 1,800 hours of use before overhaul, for
Cessna 152's the interval is 2,400 hours. The cost of overhaul varies widely,
but is at least $5,000 for a low budget job and may be as high as $15,000 for a
factory "like new" overhaul. Additional reserves are used for things like
keeping the airplanes radios up to date, paint jobs and interior refurbishment.
What's it all boil down to? For a typical pilot who
flies about 100 hours a year, the minimum cost per hour is about $50 for an
airplane with no loan payments, to a high of about $90 an hour for an airplane
with a $25,000 loan.
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5. What do taxes and registration fees cost ?
Government fees vary widely by state, county and
even by city. The good news is that FAA aircraft registration is very
inexpensive, only $5! Yes, really!
By comparison State and local government fees can be
downright oppressive. These kinds of fees are often cloaked as "Use Taxes" or
"Luxury Taxes". It's nice to know that state and local governments view owners
of $20,000 Cessnas in the same class as owners of yachts and Ferraris. Some
states even require an annual "license" registration. In a recent search of
Cessna 150-152 taxes we found an annual range from a low of $50 (Kenai,
Alaska) to a high of $528 (The City of Norfolk, Virginia).
Don't budget for aircraft ownership
without a full review of the taxes you may be required to pay to state, county
and even city governments!
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