A Used Exotic Supercar Will Cost You Twice as Much as Owning an Airplane
In my mind, owning an airplane is a hobby for the ultra wealthy. And it certainly isn’t cheap. But when I wondered whether a small airplane or entry-level supercar cost more to own and operate, I was shocked to find that the airplane cost half as much. Here’s how the numbers break down.
Let’s start with the supercar. I know many “exotic car enthusiasts” swear by their McLarens or V8 Aston Martins. And I would never knock these more sensible sports cars. But for the sake of this comparison I hunted for the cheapest recent car with an engine larger than a V8 from a brand that is inarguably an exotic supercar company. I came up with the Lamborghini Gallardo (2004-2014), which had a V10 and came as either a coupe or convertible. The older Gallardos look to be nearing peak depreciation. The special edition 2008 Gallardo pictured went for $140k on Cars & Bids. But Car Gurus reveals that the average used Gallardo is currently listed at just $110k.
So, how much would it cost to finance one of them? Edmunds calculates that if you can put $10k down and have “good” credit, you can get a 7.6% interest rate. Let’s say you get a 72 month loan and pay 6% sales tax. You’ll end up financing $106,700 and you monthly will be $1,853.
So what’s it cost to run your new Lambo? First of all, to keep costs as comparable to a small plane as possible, let’s say you only drive your Lamborghini one day a week, and just for six hours.
AutoInsurance.org says supercar owners pay $250 to $450 per month. If you’re just driving it one day a week, you should be able to negotiate for the lower end of that, so we’ll say $250. Your registration will be $30-$50 a year, like any other car. The members of the Lamborghini Talk forum found that after 13 years of Gallardo ownership, average annual maintenance came out to $1,837. That’s $153/month.
Now, how much gas will that bad boy go through? Lamborghini advertised 14 mph around town, but forum members have reported 8 mpg with a heavy foot. If you’re out enjoying yourself for six hours, you can certainly expect to burn through the Gallardo’s entire 21.1 gallon tank. With premium at $4/gallon, that’ll cost $84 every weekend.
All told, you’re looking at $2,592 to own, enjoy, and maintain your Lamborghini. I’m assuming you already have a garage where you’ll store it and you’ll clean it yourself, but obviously if you pay monthly for those your costs will go up. The occasional track day will also add to your cost considerably.
Another way of looking at your Gallardo costs is $108 per driving hour. But this number won’t mean much until we break down small plane costs.
Zach Blackburn is an aviation enthusiast. He helpfully broke down the monthly and hourly costs of ownership for his Cessna 150 on his Instagram.
You can get into a Cessna 150 for just $40,000. Yup, that’s right. “Trainer” class planes are shockingly cheap. They also last a surprisingly long time, Zach’s Cessna is a 1959. So it’s common to see a 10-year loan on a plane. At 7%, with 20% down, you’ll pay just $370 a month on that Cessna 150.
But you do have some big expenses with a plane. These include maintenance and annual inspections. Your annual will run you between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on the plane and year. You also need to hire a $100 transponder check every other year. You calculate engine overhaul/maintenance costs per hour, not by year of plane life. So for the Cessna 150 you’ll be spending $15 on maintenance per hour of flying time.
What about insurance? You definitely need that for flying. For a $40k plane, insurance will be $1,200-$1,800 a year. And with a plane, you’ll have to pay up quarterly.
Because you can’t just park your Cessna in your driveway, you’ll have to pay for storage at the airport. Outdoor “on the ramp” storage is $50 a month, or you can ball out and get your own little hanger for $300 a month.
Finally, there’s the fuel burn. Pilots measure that in gallons per hour. Your new Cessna 150 will go through six gallons per hour, and that’s aviation fuel which costs $7/gallon.
Let’s assume you spend the same six hours a weekend flying. You’ll need to drive to the airport, do pre-flight checks, then land again with enough time to put the plane away. I’ll assume you’re spending 15 hours per month in the air. Let’s also assume you’re storing your plane out in the open. You’re looking at $520 per month plus $57 per flight hour. With our 15 hours a month, your out of pocket is $1,375. Or half the amount the Lamborghini would be.
Another way of explaining the cost of the plane is $92 per flight hour. And if that sounds closer to the same number for the Lambo, remember that you are probably taking the plane out for fewer actual hours every month. Aviation enthusiasts know that flight schools can charge you $150/hour+ to take their trainer planes up. So if you are doing a training flight every weekend, getting your own plane might make financial sense.
Obviously, there are many other scenarios to consider. Let’s say you want a little speed in your life: Upgrading your commuter to a used V8 muscle car will cost you much less than buying an entire plane. You may even have enough left over for a flying lesson every month or two. But in a true head-to-head, of adding an exotic supercar or small plane to your life, it looks like the plane comes out ahead.
A couple more comparisons: The Cessna 150 has 100 horsepower to the early Gallardo’s 493 horsepower. The later Cessna 150’s top speed was 100 mph, while the Lamborghini can do 192 mph. Both have just two seats and a smidgeon of cargo space. But while the Cessna’s service ceiling is 14,000 feet, the Lamborghini is limited to–you know–road level. This also means that the Cessna will beat the Lambo on most “road trips” because it can make for your destination…as the crow flies.
Which would I choose? It looks like for the price of a Lamborghini you could easily afford a small trainer plane and a more sensible sports car like a Lotus, Miata, VW GTI, Audi TT, or BMW E46–with money leftover for flying lessons. And that would be one sweet fleet.
Next, find out which state has the most deadly plane crashes or see some of the planes you can buy under $100k in the video below: