Can I Afford a Private Jet?

Can I Afford a Private Jet?

Are you a frequent flyer? Do you find even airlines’ first-class service more frustrating than fulfilling? 

You can charter a jet, needless to say, but the greatest freedom comes when you own one. Before you buy, though, you have to consider whether an outright investment in one to call your own is truly justified. Depending on size, range, model and features, a private jet can set you back anywhere from $3 million to $90 million. Much like used cars, private jets are subject to serious depreciation. If you are looking for a bargain buy, second-hand ones come much cheaper.

Key Takeaways

  • It has been estimated you will achieve the lowest operating cost, per flight-hour overall, if your annual flight time is above 240 hours
  • Ongoing expenses can include routine maintenance, unforeseen repairs, hangarage, crew salaries, and aircraft insurance. 
  • Consider alternatives to joining the private jet set––get a charter for a specific trip, purchase a partial ownership, or buy jet-cards/block-time for flight hours.

The Hourly Rate

The first logical question that comes to mind is: How much do you fly?

Aircraft vendors will probably tell you that if you spend 200 hours a year in the sky, it justifies the outright purchase a private jet (because they want to sell you one). Aircraft brokers who offer fractional ownership in a plane (similar to a timeshare in a house or condo), will say it’s more like 400 to 600 hours (because they want you to join their program).  It has been estimated you will achieve the lowest operating cost, per flight-hour overall, if your annual flight time is above 240 hours. 

Travel Routine

The type of travel for which a private jet is intended (versus mere air hours) is possibly an even more important consideration.

If for instance, you frequently fly one way (known as “dead-heading”), you’re also responsible for sending the plane and its crew back to the original destination. Similarly, if you plan to remain at a particular destination for say a week or more, the pilots, crew and the plane itself must be accommodated for that entire period of time or sent home. In both cases, once added up, those costs may very well outweigh the benefits of buying in the first place. 

Ongoing Costs

Regardless of where and how frequently you intend to fly, jet owners are faced with a barrage of ongoing expenses, which begins with routine maintenance, including on-the-ground downtime. Then there are the unforeseen repairs: A blown tire can cost $2,000 to $3,000 to replace; a cracked windshield can command anywhere from $45,000 to $70,000. There’s also hangarage (parking in a hangar), crew salaries and aircraft insurance. As the owner, you have to cover everything. Overall, expect to pay around $500,000 to $1 million annually in operating costs. 

There’s no hard-and-fast formula for adding up the numbers for or against buying a plane. But you’ll find a number of nifty aircraft cost calculators online. One site even breaks down the expenses involved with specific models and brands of jets.

Other Options

If the running costs weighed up with initial outlay simply don’t work in your financial favor, there are several routine (and far less expensive) ways to join the private jet set. You could get a charter for a specific trip, purchase a partial ownership, or buy jet-cards/block-time for flight hours… all of which provide the custom-craft experience without the management hassle, complication and associated costs. There’s a fleet of charter, fractional management and sales dealers out there, so it pays (literally) to shop around.

The Bottom Line

Unless money is no object, the steep annual costs of running a jet mean investing in one is only cost-effective for high-frequency users with certain flight patterns and needs. If you do decide to take a flyer (literally), a number of aircraft management companies and buying consultants, such as Integral Aviation Solutions, can coordinate the purchase and (for a fee) keep your plane in the sky. 

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