How Much Does a Private Pilot License Cost?
Obtaining a private pilot license is a big undertaking and one that should be taken seriously. Paul Sallach, president and chief flight Instructor of All in Aviation in Las Vegas is an expert when it comes to flying. He shared an insider’s look at what the process of becoming a private pilot truly entails, including one of the biggest factors worth considering: the private pilot license cost.
The cost is not the only hurdle you may face on your quest to obtain a private pilot’s license, though. (Although we do offer a few ways to cover your costs with a loan.) You’ll need to be mindful of general requirements for your license and consider the various ways you may obtain a license.
- Requirements and costs for a private pilot license
- Minimizing your cost for a private pilot license
- 3 options for paying for your private pilot license
Requirements and costs for a private pilot license
There are multiple private pilot license requirements that must be met. “The biggest hurdles are time, money, and being a student again. Becoming a pilot requires a commitment to the process, and allowing time, energy and money in learning all there is to know about airspace, aerodynamics, regulations and aircraft,” Sallach noted.
General private pilot license requirements include:
- Complete 40 hours of flight time (20 of which must be from an instructor and 10 of which are solo flights).
- Have a clean criminal record.
- Be at least 17 years old.
- Be able to read, speak and understand English.
- Pass a medical exam. You must pass the aviation medical exam or obtain an aviation medical certificate.
- Obtain a student pilot certificate. You can get your student pilot certificate and aviation medical certificate at the aviation medical examiner’s office. Or you can go to an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and submit an application to obtain a student pilot certificate.
- Take the FAA Written Exam and the Checkride (FAA Practical Exam).
According to FirstFlight, a virtual flight school, you can generally expect the following average costs:
Airplane rental rate per hour: These rates will generally vary depending on the flight school, age of the airplane you fly and whether or not the cost of fuel and oil is included.
Instructor hourly rate: Again, these rates will vary based on your school of choice. This cost will also vary depending on if your flight instructor charges for briefing and debriefing time. If they charge for this, it means you may pay for more hours of instruction than you actually spend in the air.
Medical coverage: Some schools charge for medical coverage and insurance.
Equipment: You may have to purchase equipment such as an aviation headset. A headset generally costs $100, but the price can rise if you want a newer model. These costs will vary based on your chosen school.
Why pilot license costs vary greatly
The costs outlined are average breakdowns, so you can gauge what the private pilot license cost may be. Sallach noted that the costs of obtaining such a license can vary greatly depending on your goals, “There is a wide array of ways to become a pilot.”
For example, your costs may vary depending on:
- Which type of school you attend
- Aircraft you use
- Experience of the instructors
- Training location
- How much time you spend on training
Career-oriented training programs that require daily attendance or commercial certification, can have higher costs, starting at around $25,000. Sierra Charlie Aviation estimates costs for fight school can range between $8,000 and $15,000.
Minimizing your cost for a private pilot license
For those without professional flying aspirations, Sallach recommends going down a less costly road. “The most cost effective and common way for achieving a private pilot license is to rent an old, vintage aircraft and could be done for as little as $7,500,” Sallach estimated.
Scholarships are another option worth considering to help you fund a private pilot’s license education. The following scholarships may be available to you.
3 options for paying for your private pilot license
A personal loan can be used to fund your aviation education. Personal loans, also known as signature loans, can be used to finance almost anything. They are unsecured, meaning they aren’t backed by collateral.
Personal loan lenders carefully review your credit score and financial history to determine your eligibility. Your income, current debts and other factors can determine the amount and rate a lender is willing to give you.
Obtaining a personal loan is easier if you have a stable work and education history, as well as a good credit score. Your loan terms and rate will also vary based on your financial history. While the average APR for personal loans in Q1 2019 was 33.38%, the rate for those with credit scores over 720 was 7.27%. Borrowers with subprime scores (580 to 669) generally had an APR of 85.92%.
There are many benefits to using a personal loan:
- Fixed interest rates: Generally personal loan interest rates are fixed, so the rates won’t change at all during the course of the loan. Making it easier for you to budget for your loan payments later.
- Fixed monthly payments: Personal loans come with a payment schedule that you will follow. Meaning you will know exactly what you owe and how long it will take to pay off. You can’t add to this debt like you could with a credit card.
- Improve your credit score: Credit score issuers like FICO prefer when borrowers carry a mix of credit types responsibly. Taking out an unsecured loan may improve your credit score if it diversifies your credit report.
Using a credit card to cover private pilot license costs may be an option if you are able to repay the balance by the due date. If you don’t repay the debt in full, you’ll have to pay high interest costs.
Lenders occasionally offer new card promotions such as 0% APR for a set period of time if you have a good credit score. Meaning, you’ll be allowed to borrow interest-free as long as your repay your debt before the introductory period is over.
Credit cards typically have higher interest rates, so it’s best to avoid making late payments. If you’re taking advantage of an introductory APR and make a late payment, your credit card company might cancel your promotional rate.
A peer-to-peer loan is an option for those who can’t work with a traditional lender like a bank or a credit union. You can borrow money from investors and individuals through peer-to-peer (P2P) lending marketplaces. LendingClub, Peerform and Upstart are examples of such marketplaces. Generally, lenders who don’t qualify for loans from other financial institutions pursue these types of loans.
Similar to a personal loan, P2P loans have a fixed interest rate. They also have set monthly payment schedules. The qualifications for obtaining one of these loans, and the rates you receive, varies based on the platform you choose to use. But you can expect a lender may check your credit score, education, and work history, as well as other factors.