Originally written by RV-6A owner Paul 'Rosie' Rosales.
Actual Operating Costs (Updated August 2014)
With ~4000 hours in our RV-6A, I feel 'qualified' to share with you our cost per hour of flying. I've included a different 'look' to operating costs of an RV.
Our plane took 5 years to build, and during that time, working two jobs, I was able to earn (save) 35K and also borrowed then paid off 35K (I used the pink slips on our cars and boat to secure a 35K personal loan that we paid off in 4 years while we built our plane).
Our 70K plane was paid for the day it flew so I do not figure that money into our operating costs.
Tom Prokop once said and it is worth repeating since it is SO true: "I think you are fooling yourself if you think owning is cheaper than renting. But there are not many airplanes that perform like the RV that you can rent. On the other side, my hangar is my clubhouse. I can go there any time and gaze at an airplane that is always ready for me to fly it. It is always clean and has no maintenance squawks. The quality of the people you find in the RV crowd is just amazing. And, of the 40 or so models of GA airplanes I have flown, none match the RV in total performance. The feeling of accomplishment and true satisfaction from building and flying my RV is substantial. It's just way too much fun. **** the cost, I wouldn't have it any other way!"
I couldn't have put it better Tom...
The costs that I use for our RV-6A are either FIXED or HOURLY, and here's how I break them down:
FIXED costs per year:
Insurance, property tax and hangar. Whether I fly or not, these fixed costs have to be paid. These numbers will vary widely as insurance, property tax and hangar will vary greatly...
**Hangar, park outside if you wish but our 'baby' goes inside.
**Property Tax, I know of only one RVer who does not pay this and it's because he flies off his dirt strip in the middle of nowhere...I'm guessing the State will eventually catch up to him by N number.
**Insurance, you can 'uninsure' your plane if you don't fly it but if the hangar falls on it or someone runs into it if you keep it outside, you are SOL. Gary Sobek can tell you all about cars hitting RVs...
Fuel, oil/filter/analysis, engine reserve.
**Fuel, gotta buy it unless you are nuclear powered.
**Oil/filter/analysis, whether your plane flies or sits, you have to change the oil. I take an oil sample at every oil change for peace-of-mind.
**Engine Reserve, one day you'll need $10K-15K to rebuild your tired engine.
Note that I do NOT
include any hourly costs for anything maintenance-related since I really don't know what is going to need replacing....the cost for a part that breaks could be $1 to $1000: You don't know how much until it breaks. Thus, it's very hard to include this in a per-hour cost until the end of the year when you add all the other things together. Our plane was paid for on the day it first flew.
At the end of your 'year', figure these in to get closer to your per-hour cost but for now, 'you can't fix it if it ain’t broke'. For a new RV with a new motor, our maintenance costs in 4.5 years has been mostly tires/tubes/oil/oil filters. Yes, I've had some repair costs for other than these items: New Mags: $1500, 4 Alternators: $50/each, replace MAC servo; $70, Starter Repair: $100, Radio Repair: $400 and these numbers have been factored in to my actual yearly costs below.
Ok, here are the numbers and my 'approach' to how much it costs to own and fly our RV-6A:
FIXED (per year):
Insurance $1200 (Full coverage, 75K value)
property tax $600
hangar $1800 ($150/month)
TOTAL FIXED: $3600
Note: This fixed cost of $3600 is $300/month, which is much less than the cost of a monthly car payment. I think of it as a $300 per month 'plane payment', paid every month, for as long as we own our plane (roughly $10/day forever whether you fly it or not)
Fuel at ~8gal/hr @ $2.50/gal is $20 (Fuel was cheap when I first wrote this...)
Oil/Filter/Analysis $1 (it's about $50 after 50 hrs of flying)
Engine Reserve $5 (after 2000 hours, you'll have 10K in the bank: Could make this $10 to be safe)
TOTAL HOURLY: $26
THE PUNCH LINE: HOUR #1 COST IS $3600 (fixed) + $26 (hourly) = $3626
The VERY first hour of the year
we fly costs us $3626 and after that, we fly by the hourly rate, which is approximately $26/hour.
Obviously, everyone will have a different cost for your first-hour but the overall hourly cost may not be far off. Your mileage may vary, offer not valid in Mexico, void where prohibited... Yes, everything can be cheaper or cost more but I use these numbers as an average...
Also notice that these costs do not include any spending money, show entrance fees, souvenirs, rental car, hotel, food etc. for the time after your arrive at your destination. I don't care about those numbers as they are 'incidentals' to flying. I don't track them anywhere, and I don't want to know what they are. Those costs are the 'frosting on the cake' after you work your butt off on your plane and start flying it! Why fly a plane somewhere if you can't afford it when you get there!?!
Here are actual costs for our RV-6A since we started flying on July 4, 2000.
2000: $25.57/hour flying 300 hours ($7.7K for Jul-Dec)
2001: $25.49/hour flying 510 hours ($13.6K/yr)
2002: $26.21/hour flying 450 hours ($11.8K/yr)
2003: $25.68/hour flying 450 hours ($11.5K/yr)
2004: $36.50/hour flying 300 hours ($11.9K/yr)
2005: $84.15/hour flying 310 hours ($26.1K/yr: Includes new EFIS, SL-30, C/S prop)
2006: $52.57/hour flying 140 hours ($7.4K/yr: Spent $$$ on having our skypark home
built with 'free' hangar space ;-)
2007: $104.54/hour flying 250 hours ($26.1K/yr: Includes engine overhaul at 2500 hrs ;-)
2008: $53.27/hour flying 125 hours ($6.6K/yr: The price of avgas was big $$$ so we stayed home like the rest of you :-(
2009: $51.08/hour flying 210 hours ($10.7K/yr: Includes new TruTrak A/P)
2010: $47.18/hour flying 175 hours ($8.2k/yr: Includes new cylinders from the ECI cylinder AD)
2011: $60.94/hour flying 160 hours ($10.9K/yr: Includes new CDI, TruTrak ADI III)
2012: $68.51/hour flying 130 hours ($8.9K/yr: Includes new upholstery with heated seats :-)
2013: $54.31/hour flying 225 hours ($12.2K/yr: Oil, tires, brakes and tubes)
2014: $63.69/hour flying 95 hours ($6.5K thru August 2014)
Our average monthly cost to fly for 2013 was approximately $1,020/month. From 1990-2007, (6yrs not building, 5yrs building, 6yrs flying), I worked two jobs (sub-teaching school by day, Lockheed by night). School ALMOST kept up with the flying as I made anywhere from $800-$1200/month. Lockheed promoted me to dayshift in mid-2007 so I now substitute 2 days/month (and donate the $200 back to the school ;-)
Yes, I owe money to Phillips 66 every month but that's Ok because WE FLY! As Tom Prokop wrote, '**** the cost, I wouldn't have it any other way!"
So now you all see why I worked two jobs! It was a 15-hour workday but it was ALL worth it! We have a credit card bill just like everyone else. The only difference is in total hours flown...and flying to 49 states & the Bahamas & the Turks/Caicos, Lesser Antilles (16 islands) and the Cayman Islands :-)
You will LOVE your RV when you finish!!!!
I hope that I've shed a 'different' light on the costs of owning an RV: One hour is expensive, and the rest are cheap! If you have other questions, e-mail
Keep poundin' them rivets! Rosie
PS: I confess...I don't have 10K in the bank