The Cost Of Getting A Private Pilot License

Many people want to learn how to fly, but the the cost of training has been one of the biggest gate keeper into aviation. When I started flight training five years ago, I was fortunate to have the means to do it. Yet I was completely clueless as to the actual cost in time and money. My private pilot training took roughly 15 months (double the projected time) and almost $30,000 (double the budget) to complete. It was a very challenging situation, but I learned much about the training industry that I can save you the time and heartache.

So if you are just getting started, here are some things to expect, and best to build a budget around these costs:

  • Aircraft rental = $160/hr (budget for at least 70 hours)
  • Flight instructor = $60/hr (budget for at least 70 hours)
  • Medical = $80
  • Written Exam = $150
  • Checkride exam = $750
  • Car Gas/Lunch = $10/ flight hr
  • Headset = $200
  • Books/Charts/Learning materials = $250

A healthy budget for a Private pilot license would be approximately $17,530

Other cost you may not consider is time. Your time during this process is actually the most important variable. Make sure you’re able to:

  1. Take charge of your own training. The worst thing you can do is leave your fate at the hands of a flight school. These guys may be there to help but schools thrive off of you flying more, and lots of CFIs are only there to build their own time for the airliners or a corporate job.
  2. Make sure your flying is consistent. Fly at least twice a week consistently. And have some days that you only dedicate to GROUND. Work with your CFI or other pilots. Meet outside of school if you can, buy them lunch, whatever you have to do.
  3. Do not change aircraft if you can help it, even if it’s the same year, model or make. Make sure that whatever aircraft you start training with is the same aircraft you fly into checkride. Don’t change that airplane at any point. This also means that you have to be on top of scheduling the aircraft ahead of time.
  4. Weather will likely play a big role in your training. So try and stay on top of the weather too. For example if there’s a time of the year where you have more rain, clouds or thunderstorms, then save your money and just focus on ground work. Wait until all the gloomy weather passes and get back in the air.




Written by MG Staff


Leave a Reply
  1. Nice guide Mike, I think your figures are quite reasonable and a good reflection of real-world costs.

    Unfortunately the China coronavirus is decimating the aviation industry and everyone’s got less money so I don’t think there’s gonna be many people lining up for flight training in the foreseeable future.

  2. I got my private pilots license about 4 years ago. Cost will be 10-12k for the average pilot. You only need about 40 hours with an instructor as you will be soloing at about 30 hours and practicing on your own for most of the time afterwards. Most 172’s cost 135-150/hour wet (meaning with fuel included). Instructor will be 45-60/hr depending on where you learn.

  3. I think these costs are high. If the student flys twice a week as you recommend, which is a great recommendation, then it should not take 30 hours to solo or 70 total hours. Also, you do not fly the entire time with an instructor, You have 70 hours of instructor time. I think a more reasonable estimate is 50 hours and 30 of that with an instructor and 20 hours solo. That would run, as Jonathan says below, closer to $10k – $12k tops. When people ask me what it cost today compared to when I learned (35 yrs ago) I tell them “the same”. When they express disbelief I clarify by saying, yes, about the cost of one year at a public university. A sharp student could beat that!

Leave a Reply

I’m Building My First Airplane: A Sling TSi

5 Lessons Every Pilot Must Learn