View Full Version : What's the cheapest, propeller powered 2 seater airplane you can buy in the U.S.?

08-05-2002, 01:33 AM

08-05-2002, 01:38 AM
Not quite sure what the cheapest you can buy is but if you're just looking to save money I think the cheapest way to go is to build your own. You can get kits for fairly cheap (like $1k or $1.5k I think?) or get plans even cheaper and use your own parts.

08-05-2002, 01:46 AM
try this:



the mini 500 (helicopter) is widely regarded as a deathtrap.

08-05-2002, 01:47 AM
Originally posted by Cisco
Not quite sure what the cheapest you can buy is but if you're just looking to save money I think the cheapest way to go is to build your own. You can get kits for fairly cheap (like $1k or $1.5k I think?) or get plans even cheaper and use your own parts.

You can build a legal, powered 2 seater airplane for $ 1,500 or is this just for the plans ?

I'm really thinking more the Piper Cub sort of airplane. Possibly it's an irrational prejudice, and I'm reasonably handy, but I don't think I would trust my life in the air to something I built in my backyard, but that's just me.

08-05-2002, 02:19 AM
I just looked on eBay and found a Cessna 150 and another 152, for around $15k each.

You could probably find a Cessna 150 for about $10k if you looked hard.

Good luck!

08-05-2002, 03:11 AM
Sounds like the new Sport Pilot certificate is right up your alley. There will be a few inexpensive new airplanes available once the details are hammered out.

Details of the new pilot certificate:


Links to some airplane companies that are expected to make Sport Aircraft:


The most cublike airplane I can think of is the Rans S-7 courier. They got it certified not too long ago, price is expected to be around $50,000-55,000 dollars.

Build it yourself, and you can get a NICE 2 seater for $30,000.

I am looking at a Rans S-12 or Searey myself.

Johnny L.A.
08-05-2002, 06:42 AM
I haven't checked the prices, but I think the Ercoupe is frequently the cheapest. A Cessna 150 is faster though.

08-05-2002, 07:18 AM
I need parameters.
Is an ultralight good enough or do you need a real(tm) airplane?
Is used good enough or does it have to be new?
Does it have top be completed or some assembly required OK?


Sam Stone
08-05-2002, 11:58 AM
Building a new kitplane will NOT be the cheapest way to go. There aren't very many kits out there that can be built for under $20K, and if you are going to figure in your 1000-2000 hours of labor, much, much more than that.

Then there's resale value. If you buy a certified aircraft, you have a known quantity that will bring a higher price when you want to sell it.

I bought a Grumman AA1 in 1991 for $11,000. Flew it for 8 years, sold it for the same price we bought it. The airplane actually appreciated in value enough over the years that I owned it that the engine time I burned off was paid for. So I flew for 8 years for the cost of gas and oil.

An AA1 is a 2-seat, low wing, bubble canopy airplane that can fly 135 mph and has a range of about 400 miles. The nearest kitplane to that level of performance will cost a lot more than $11,000.

What do you want to do with the airplane? Fun flying? Business travel? Flight instruction?

One advantage of a certified plane is that it can be used for flight instruction. So if you're looking at getting a pilot's license and buying an airplane after, you could consider buying something like a Cessna 150 and hiring an instructor to teach you to fly.

How many hours a year are you planning to fly? Owning your own aircraft has some pretty high fixed costs (at least a couple of thousand a year), so you have to fly a lot of hours before owning an airplane makes more sense than just renting. It also depends where you live and what kind of parking is available.

If you own your own airplane, you better have the financial resources to be able to handle a catastrophic maintenance issue. My Grumman AA1 was $11,000, but a new replacement engine for it is about $22,000. If you do an annual and find a crack in the crankcase, you're going to be out at least $10,000. If a cylinder comes up flat, you're looking at a replacement cylinder, at least $1K. Airplanes are regularly hit with Airworthiness Directives which can cost you a fair amount of money. You can have a perfectly good airplane, but because one of the same model that crashed was found to have corrosion on the crankshaft, suddenly the government will mandate that you have your crank inspected within the next 50 flight hours. That might be $1,000, and if any corrosion is found, it's an $11,000 rebuild.

So there are risks. And they exist for homebuilts too - too many people think that owning a homebuilt means you don't have to worry about expensive maintenance. You do, it's just that the government won't mandate it. The laws of physics, however, do.

I'm not trying to scare you off, and when I bought my aircraft I couldn't really afford it if any of that expensive stuff had cropped up (it didn't). But in my experience, if someone is looking for the absolute cheapest way to fly it usually means they can't afford to own an airplane and are better off renting.

And that Mini-500 helicopter IS a death trap. Only an idiot with a death wish will get in one of those things and try to leave the ground.

08-05-2002, 01:35 PM
The OP asked for the cheapest plane. If the REAL question what the cheapest way to fly, then renting may be the answer.

Also consider a partnership or a club.

I belong to a club. We own 3 planes and have about 20 active members. I've never had problems getting a plane (and rarely had trouble getting the one I want). There are monthly dues, but if you fly more than an hour a month its cheaper than the local FBO.

And amending my 1st post I see that astro doesn't want to home build.

Brian (PP-asel)

Llama Llogophile
08-05-2002, 03:04 PM
Piper Colts can be had cheap. Fun planes.

Sam Stone
08-05-2002, 03:08 PM
Looking at the OP again, I'm not sure what he's asking. If he means the cheapest NEW airplane, then that would probably be something like the Maule M-5, but it has four seats. I'm not aware of any cheap certified 2-seat airplanes. The cheapest seem to be the new composite training planes, but they are over $100,000. I think you can get a new Maule for about $80,000.

If he means used, then I suppose the candidates would be some old, high time planes like an Ercoupe or a Piper Colt. The older Grumman AA1's may fit in the 'cheapest' category as well.

Cessna 150's aren't as cheap as some of the other older 2-seaters because there is still a high demand for them for flight training. If you want a real cheap airplane, better off to find some orphan model that no one really wants.

But cheap to purchase doesn't necessarily equal cheapest to fly. Airplanes are not really depreciating in price, so the only real 'cost' related to purchase price is the interest you could have earned on the money. But if you buy a mechanical lemon, it may be cheap to buy, but it'll put you in the poorhouse from maintenance.

My guess for the overall cheapest way to fly would be to find an airplane with good resale value and high demand, and find a well maintained example. You'll pay a slight premium for that, but it's worth it. It's always better to let someone else rebuild an engine and then buy the airplane from them than it is to buy a cheap plane with a run-out engine and do the rebuild yourself.

So if I were looking at the cheapest way to fly, I'd probably look at something like at good condition Grumman Cheetah or Tiger, or maybe a Piper Archer. These planes will be $30,000 plus to purchase, but you'll get all that back when you sell it, and then some.

Incidentally, this is a good time to buy an airplane. Used prices took a beating directly after 9-11, and haven't really recovered. Some models are more than 20% lower than their pre-9/11 prices.

08-05-2002, 05:09 PM
Holy crap.

I looked up the Mini 500 on Google and I found this:

Sam Stone
08-05-2002, 06:47 PM
Yep. The thing is a death machine. That's been known for a long time.

The really shocking thing is that there are still people finishing them and trying to fly them.

The root problem with the Mini-500 is that it uses a cheap 2-cycle Rotax engine, and runs it at greater than 100% power. Those engines are just not built to take that kind of punishment, and they fail regularly.

Now, in a well-designed helicopter, an engine failure generally means a forced landing somewhere. Unfortunately, the Mini-500 doesn't auto-rotate worth a damn, and apparently requires lightning-fast reflexes when the engine fails to keep everything from going completely to hell. 'Lightning fast reflexes' generally doesn't describe the average middle-aged Mini-500 builder, who probably hasn't flown much while building, and who may not have much time in helicopters in the first place.

Plus, the thing is just a piece of junk. Approved aircraft construction methods were not followed in its design. For example, nuts in aircraft are generally cotter-keyed or wired into place. The Mini-500 designer decided on his own that cheaper nylon-lined nuts would be an acceptable replacement. That's a crazy decision to make in an airplane - in a helicopter, subject to the amount of vibration that helicopters have, that decision was insane.

And if you read through those reports on the linked page, you'll see a lot of complaints of really shoddy manufacturing. A lot of parts arrived from the manufacturer that didn't fit or which had cracks or other problems.

Moral of this story: If you're thinking of building a homebuilt aircraft, do your homework, and don't let your desires cloud your judgement. Look how many people lost their money and their lives over various Bede projects, like the BD-5. The man has never bought a successful aircraft design to market, and yet people still line up to give him their money because each airplane he designed looks really cool and has specs on paper that look fantastic. Too bad it's all lies.

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