How Much Does a Private Pilot License Cost?

How Much Does a Private Pilot License Cost

How much does a private pilot license cost? We break down each expenditure so you know what to expect and how to earn your license. [Credit: CanvaPro]

Having the skills to fly an airplane is a great accomplishment, but just how much does a pilot license cost? Earning your license will include several areas of expenditures from tuition and materials to aviation insurance.

Get a look into the total cost of earning your private pilot license and important considerations before starting the process.

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How Do Private Pilot Licenses Work?

As of 2020, there are more than 160,000 individuals who hold a private pilot license. A license permits you to fly to and from a civil airport. You could go for lunch to another city or use your license to get to your vacation destination faster and on your own schedule instead of relying on commercial flights.

A private pilot license enables you to operate a single-engine airplane. Just know that you cannot operate the plane for hire or compensation. The only way you could earn money from your private pilot license would be as a salesperson demonstrating an aircraft to a potential customer.

But you could do many great things with a private pilot license. This might include:

  • Mastering a new skill
  • Flying friends and family for leisure
  • Taking part in aviation festivals
  • Flying for business
  • Donating your time and skill for charity
  • Traveling to international locations
  • Doing some sightseeing in a whole new way

Private Pilot License Requirements

Before you register for private pilot license training, learn the requirements. Here’s a look at what you must do before you can earn your license according to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR)

  • Be at least 17 years of age
  • Speak, read and clearly understand English
  • Get your student pilot certificate
  • Undergo flight training and have a logbook from an authorized instructor
  • Complete the required 40 hours of flight time, including 10 hours of solo flight where at least 5 hours are cross country
  • Undergo 3 hours of instrument training
  • Fly for at least 3 hours at night
  • Get medical clearance by passing a medical exam
  • Pass a knowledge test
  • Pass a flight test

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Private Pilot License Cost Breakdown

Earning your private pilot license will include several areas of expenditures. But the total private pilot license cost will be approximately $10,000-$20,000 depending on where you attend flight school. The bulk of the expenses come from completing your training hours.

Take a look at how these expenses break down as you prepare for earning your license.

Personal Gear / Pilot Supplies

To work toward your private pilot license, you’ll need some supplies. This includes a headset, iPad, kneeboard with pen and paper, flight bag, snacks and water, charging cords, sunglasses, fuel tester, extra tools, first aid kit, pulse oximeter and flashlight. 

With the right tools, you can make sure you stay safe during your air travel. Pilot supplies averages $500-$1,000.

Textbooks / Workbooks

Part of your training to become a pilot will include studying to pass your written test. Your flight school will likely require that you purchase a workbook for the ground school training portion of your education. 

You might also need a pre-flight checklist, plane manual and logbook. On average, be prepared to spend $100 on your textbook or workbook.

Medical Examination / Student Pilot Certificate

Before you can begin flying, you’ll need to complete a medical examination with an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME).  The Federal Aviation Administration maintains a database of AMEs to make it simple to complete this step. 

On average, this exam costs $125.

Ground School Training

Passing the FAA written test means taking some ground school training. You could complete self-study with a textbook to pass your written test, but it’s best if you take a course to make sure you’re well prepared. Online training is ideal as it’s much more affordable than in-person education with a certified instructor. 

Online training costs about $350. In-person training depends on the hourly rate your instructor charges, but most charge $50 an hour or more and it takes several hours to prepare for the written exam.

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Flight School Training

Flight school training is the most expensive part of getting your private pilot license and will vary greatly depending on how many hours it takes for you to receive the skills necessary for flying alone. The FAA requires 40 hours but states that most individuals complete 60-75 hours of training.

Depending on how many hours you spend in flight school training, you could spend $8,000-$12,000. That’s because it costs $100 an hour to rent a plane. And a flying instructor costs $50-$60 an hour, which makes this part of your training fairly pricey.

FAA Airman Knowledge Test

The written test with the FAA costs $175. This is in addition to the money you spent preparing for the exam either through an online course or reading a textbook or workbook. 

FAA Practical Exam

The FAA practical exam is like the driver’s test to get your license to operate a vehicle. This test consists of operating a single-engine plane while an FAA official observes and ensures you’re prepared to operate such a vehicle.

The FAA practical exam costs $650.

Aviation Insurance

Before you take to the air, you’ll also want to purchase aviation insurance. Renting planes means assuming some risk. Just like you need financial protection when renting a car, you need insurance for renting planes. 

$60,000 of renters liability insurance, also known as hull coverage, costs about $600 a year.

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How To Pay for Private Pilot License

As you add up the total private pilot license cost, you might be worrying about how you’ll pay for this accomplishment. You have three main options for how to pay for a private pilot license.

Private Student Loans

Some flight schools offer payment plans or other payment arrangements that make the schooling more affordable. Using one of these plans could help you fund the program over the course of several months with no interest.

Otherwise, you can seek out private student loans through a bank or credit union. Check with your primary bank to see if they offer loans and if not, look into other locations near you to find one with low interest rates to ensure fast payoff. Some aviation school scholarships are available to eligible students.

Personal Savings

For some people, earning a private pilot license is a lifelong dream and you have the savings to make it happen. Others set the goal and start saving to attend flight school down the road.

Although flight school isn’t inexpensive, it is possible to pay for it using personal savings. You can also get your flight hours slowly and steadily over the course of many months to make the process more affordable instead of paying out your training in just a few months.

Federal Financial Aid

Federal financial aid is often available through accredited programs. Federal loans have much lower interest rates than standard loans. For some types of loans, you might need to demonstrate financial need. Others do not require such proof.

Another type of federal financial aid is a federal grant. You can complete a FAFSA form to see if you’re eligible for financial grants. 

Managing Costs to Earn Private Pilot License

The more you know about aviation, the more affordable it will be for you to get your private pilot license. For example, if you study on your own, you can save a few hundred dollars on the written exam, making your pilot license more affordable. 

Likewise, if you memorize the instrument panels before going up for your hours with the flight instructor, you can build confidence to get your license with the minimum number of required hours. Follow FLYING Magazine for regular industry updates and information to prepare for obtaining your license.



Can you make money with a private pilot's license?

A private pilot license does not permit you to carry passengers for a fee or get hired professionally. The only way to make money with a private pilot’s license is to work as an airplane salesman, which can mean solid income depending on the commission plans. 

Can you fly passengers with a private pilot license?

Yes, you can fly with passengers with a private pilot license. However, you cannot charge the passengers for their flight when your license is a private pilot license instead of commercial, though you can share the expense of flying with your passengers.

Is a private pilot license worth it?

A private pilot license can be an entertaining and adventurous hobby or provide more convenient travel options for work or leisure. Evaluate your reasons for obtaining a license to decide whether it is worth it for your purposes or not.

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