If you’re not nervous about buying your first airplane, you’re not doing it right. It’s almost certainly among the top three investments you’ll ever make: Home. Airplane. Car. And not necessarily in that order. But if you’ve been renting up until now, you’re better prepared to buy than you might fear. Think about it. Every time you sit in that rental, you fantasize about the airplane you’ll own one day, don’t you? If you are serious about buying, you’re in the perfect position to look at each flight as part of an ongoing and fun research project, starting with how you are going to use your plane. Your rental experience can probably answer the most basic of all questions that will determine what you buy, even more, basic than what you can afford. Does your spouse, partner, or kids like flying with you? If they do, then perhaps long cross-country overnight trips are in your future, so speed, range, number of seats, useful load, and maybe IFR capability become legitimate wants. But if your campaign of trying to get the family to come along in the rental has been a bust, then you’ll likely end up with a different kind of flying.  If they don’t like flying in the rental, they’re not going to like flying in the plane you just purchased with the college fund.  That will put a lot of pressure on you to justify the purchase. And you may be relegated to breakfast runs with your buddies on a VFR day. This can be a painful case of bursting your balloon, but the time to get real is before you have your heart set on an airplane that ends up being an expensive case of overreach.


Renting can teach you something about the cost of ownership, too. Pay attention to what the FBO does to keep your rental flying. Pilots are notoriously unrealistic about things like maintenance reserves, fixed and variable costs, and insurance premiums. It’s a good idea to talk with the mechanics who maintain the rental fleet. Give your insurance company or agent a call. They will be happy to provide you a heads up on what it will take in terms of money and experience to insure your dream plane.


Of course, there are many reasons to own a particular aircraft. You may have your eye on earning advanced ratings. Or a hankering to fly aerobatics. That could be the silver lining to a family that doesn’t want to fly with you. Leave ‘em on the ground and go for a Citabria.  It’s harder to find aerobatic airplanes to rent unless you look at it as an opportunity to spend some time with an instructor in an airplane you would never have had a chance to fly otherwise.


How much experience have you had renting different makes and models? If you learned to fly in a Cessna 172, that might be all you’ve ever rented. There is a whole world of variety waiting to be flown, and much of it can be rented. Until you’ve flown a Piper, Diamond, Cirrus, or Beechcraft, you won’t know what you prefer in terms of flying qualities or capabilities. It’s not cheap to get checked out in different rental airplanes, but it’s a lot less expensive than buying something that’s not really what you need. Besides, it can be a lot of fun and a great excuse to fly. Search on your phone or computer for “rental airplanes near me” and you might discover some options at area airports. 


The more you rent, the more you learn about what to buy. Plus, the more experiences you’re giving yourself keep flying fresh, fun, and, not coincidentally, make you a better—and safer—pilot.


With 60 years of experience, our Aviation Specialists are happy to answer any questions you have about transitioning into a new airplane! Give us a call at (800) 638 8440.


Avemco does not provide technical or legal advice, and is not affiliated with companies whose products and services are highlighted, advertised, or discussed in content contained herein. Content is for general information and discussion only, and is not a full analysis of the matters presented. The information provided may not be applicable in all situations, and readers should always seek specific advice from the FAA and/or appropriate technical and legal experts (including the most current applicable guidelines) before taking any action with respect to any matters discussed herein. In addition, columns and articles solely reflect the views of their respective authors, and should also not be regarded as technical or legal advice.