We thought about doing a blog for 2023 on this same topic, but quickly realized two things:
- Our original post still holds weight.
- Sometimes, less is more.
So, after a brief review and a few tweaks, we’re pleased to present you with our updated 2023 guide to the most affordable personal aircraft for just about every budget. We've seen a signifcant price increase for the aircraft that we previously wrote about. While we still think you can find exceptional value in a used aircraft, you're certainly going to pay a lot more than you did just a few years back.
While we all wish we had unlimited funds and that price was no factor in our choice of personal aircraft, the reality is that most would-be aircraft owners must stick within a certain budget when choosing their next plane.
Even pilots who are blessed with more generous funds want to ensure that they make a smart choice and reserve plenty of cash for maintenance and operating costs.
Today we will explore the most affordable options that are available in different fixed-wing categories including single engine piston, twin engine piston, turbo props and jets.
Ready to discover your next aircraft? Let’s see what’s out there.
Single Engine Aircraft
The most affordable personal aircraft category is a single engine piston. For new pilots, a single engine piston plane meets their needs for affordability and economical operation coupled with good speed and cruising range. Single engine aircraft start out very small with room for just the pilot, but for today’s rundown, we will include planes that have room for you plus at least one passenger.
Here are our best value choices for the single engine category:
Aeronca Champ 7AC
The original Aeronca Champ is a classic, inexpensive tandem plane that used to be a common choice for trainer aircraft. This plane is perfect for enjoying relaxing low, slow flights. With a 4-5 gallon per hour fuel burn, your fuel budget will go a long way. The Champ is a great example of an affordable personal aircraft both in terms of purchase price and operating costs.
- Cruising speed: 85 mph
- Maximum range: 201 mi
- Passengers: 1
- Average starting price: $29,000
The Ercoupe is well-known for being one of the easiest to fly and safest single engine planes around. When it was first released in the 1940s, the Ercoupe’s design was revolutionary. It was the first GA plane to have a nosewheel and to be certified “non-stallable and non-spinnable.” Like the Champ, the Ercoupe is economical to operate as well, with just a 6 gallon per hour fuel burn.
- Cruising speed: 95 mph
- Maximum range: 300 mi
- Passengers: 1
- Average starting price: $29,900
There is a reason that the Cessna 150 has a history of being used as a primary training aircraft. It has excellent handling qualities with generous stall warning and aerodynamic stability. The 150 is an excellent choice for new pilots who want to stick with an easy to fly aircraft that they are familiar with.
- Cruising speed: 124 mph
- Maximum range: 349 mi
- Passengers: 1
- Average starting price: $34,500
Twin Engine Aircraft
Once you get your multi-engine rating, you will naturally be excited to move up to a larger, faster, aircraft that is capable of flying at higher altitudes, that carries more passengers, and that offers an extended range compared to the single engine you initially trained on.
Here are our favorite twin engine piston aircraft:
The Piper Aztec has smooth, easy handling that make it a favorite multiengine trainer and new owner aircraft. The Aztec was designed with extra passenger and baggage space in mind. Its superior short-field performance coupled with generous fuel and cargo payload capabilities have made it a perennial favorite in the twin piston category.
- Cruising speed: 226 mph
- Maximum range: 713 mi
- Passengers: 5
- Average starting price: $99,995
The Cessna 310 was introduced shortly after World War II, and production continued until 1980. The purchase price for the earlier models will of course be lower than the newer ones, just be prepared for higher maintenance costs. The 310’s overall handling and performance is good with the aircraft feeling more substantial than other light twins.
- Cruising speed: 223 mph
- Maximum range: 790 mi
- Passengers: 5
- Average starting price: $95,000
Beechcraft A55 Baron
The Beechcraft Baron is a light twin that has been around since 1961. The original A55 model is still in production today, and Beechcraft has earned a reputation for its quality builds and performance in the light twin category. The big brother Model 58 is also a quality aircraft, but the 55 continues to be popular thanks to its entry level pricing.
- Cruising speed: 219 mph
- Maximum range: 857 mi
- Passengers: 5
- Average starting price: $219,000
Upgrading to a turboprop offers the larger cabin and range of a jet while retaining short field performance, fuel efficiency and simplicity.
Here are our top choices:
Beechcraft King Air B200
The Beechcraft King Air B200 is one of the premier corporate turboprop aircraft choices. This medium size turbojet features a roomy cabin, expansive baggage area and lavatory which are among its key selling points.
- Cruising speed: 316 mph
- Maximum range: 1,772 mi
- Passengers: Usually 6-9
- Average starting price: $895,000
Commander 690 A/B
The Commander 690 is an affordable choice for an owner-flown turboprop. The 690 has room for 8-10 passengers plus all their baggage, making it stand out amongst the other entry-level turboprops. When it comes to handling, the Commander 690 is known for excellent short-field performance and stability. Its rugged construction will serve you well if you plan to fly into unimproved airports.
- Cruising speed: 325 mph
- Maximum range: 1,673 mi
- Passengers: 8-10
- Average starting price: $525,000
Piper Cheyenne II
One of the most affordable options in the turboprop category is the Piper Cheyenne. AOPA reports that twin turbine aircraft used to be considered unaffordable for private owners, but that perception is changing thanks to lower purchase prices for aircraft like the Cheyenne. Cheyenne owners also appreciate the lower maintenance costs that are more on par with a piston twin than other turboprops.
- Cruising speed: 291 mph
- Maximum range: 1,302 mi
- Passengers: 5
- Average starting price: $460,000
When people hear the word “jet,” they immediately think “luxury” and “expensive.” It’s true that jets are the most expensive of the fixed-wing aircraft categories, but there is a massive price range within the jet category. If you are in the market for a more affordable jet, consider a very light or light jet.
Here are our top choices under $2 million (including one option under $600,000):
Beechcraft Beechjet 400A
The Beechcraft Beechjet 400A is an entry-level light jet designed for executive business flights. You will see both the Beechjet 400 and the 400A on the market. When comparing the two, keep in mind that the upgraded 400A offers significant efficiency, performance and comfort upgrades compared to the 400. If you go with the 400A, you get increased payload, higher service ceiling, increased maximum landing weight, a larger cabin, rear lavatory, improved cabin sound proofing and 150 pounds more fuel capacity.
- Average cruising speed: 504 mph
- Maximum range: 1,704 mi
- Passengers: 7-8
- Average starting price: $990,000
Cirrus Vision Jet SF50
The Cirrus Vision Jet SF50 was introduced in 2015 and was hailed by Business Insider as “the cheapest private jet in the world” and “a true game changer.” This very-light-jet has a unique appearance with its distinctive v-tail. In another first, and one that saves owners money on maintenance costs, Vision Jet is the first private jet to house a single engine.
- Cruising speed: 345 mph
- Maximum range: 1,380 mi
- Passengers: 5
- Average starting price: $2,295,000
Dassault Falcon 50
If you are looking for a larger cabin and increased range while staying under the $2 million price tag, the Dassault Falcon 50 delivers. This SuperMid category jet is roomy and was the first private jet capable of intercontinental range. Prospective owners should be aware that the range and payload capacity capabilities are thanks to a three-engine configuration, so maintenance costs may be higher. Still, the Falcon 50 offers a lot of aircraft for the price.
- Cruising speed: 484 mph
- Maximum range: 3,590 miles
- Passengers: Usually 8-10, but can be modified for up to 19
- Average starting price: $1,950,000
Embraer Phenom 100
The Embraer Phenom 100 is an entry-level very light jet that debuted in 2008. Pilots who appreciate simple, intuitive, automated systems built with rugged construction will love the Phenom 100. This is also one of the main aircraft of choice for owners looking for single pilot jets.
- Cruising speed: 416 mph
- Maximum range: 1,394 miles
- Passengers: Usually 5
- Average starting price: $2,950,000
In the market for an aircraft? We recommend reading books from our "Maintenance & Ownership" collection.
Where's the Cessna 172?
While it may not have made it onto our initial list, this legendary aircraft deserves a special spotlight for its unparalleled simplicity and remarkable performance. Join us as we delve into "Cessna 172: 10 Things You Need to Know" and discover the fascinating world of this aviation marvel!
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