Long lines at airports, delayed flights and packed planes have made commercial air travel an unpleasant chore. And with COVID-19 still running rampant, you might be looking for fewer people on your next flight.
While flying by private jet used to be a privilege reserved only for the ultrarich, more people are taking private jets now because they’re becoming more accessible. But make no mistake: Buying or chartering a plane can still climb into the tens of millions of dollars.
- New private jets can cost anywhere from $3 million to $90 million.
- The cost to charter a private jet can be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per hour.
- If you’re considering purchasing a private jet, you’ll have to factor in maintenance, fuel and staff salary costs.
- You may be able to fund a private jet purchase through personal loans, leasing options or private jet memberships.
How much does it cost to buy a private jet?
The price for a brand-new private jet ranges from $3 million to $90 million. Though secondhand jets are cheaper, they still cost millions of dollars. For perspective, a pre-owned Gulfstream G450 costs around $14.75 million on the Gulfstream website. With extras and customization, the price can soar to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Given the costs, it’s easy to see why so few opt for private ownership. The purchase price of a private jet represents only a fraction of the cost of owning one. Maintenance and repair costs depend on the size of the aircraft but typically range from $500,000 to $4 million per year.
The price of a private jet depends on its size, the number of passengers it can hold and the distance it can fly. Because of that, fuel is one of the highest costs for jet owners. Planes with larger fuel tanks for long-range flights require more fuel. For example, the Bombardier Global 8000 has a fuel capacity of nearly 50,000 pounds. Depending on how much the plane is flown, fuel costs can reach $400,000 to $900,000 per year.
How much does it cost to charter a private jet?
While renting a private jet is considerably more expensive than flying on a commercial flight, it is still much cheaper than buying your own jet. Flights on private jets are charged by the hour. Prices vary depending on the size of the jet, length of the flight and the number of people on board. The typical cost is between $1,000 and $10,000 per hour to charter a private jet. Renting a jet for an entire weekend can run $100,000 or more.
However, unless you spend at least 150 hours a year flying, renting is probably a better option than buying — that way, you avoid many of the yearly maintenance costs.
“With on-demand charter, you don’t incur costs such as hangar fees, maintenance fees, crew salaries, insurance, depreciation, interest, not to mention the cost of tying up capital in a multi-million dollar asset,”says Justin Crabbe, CEO of private jet charter company Jettly. “Less than 100 flight hours per year the math is quite clear that chartering is much more cost-effective than owning an aircraft outright.”
How much does it cost to book a seat on a private jet?
According to Crabbe, private jets usually sit about six seats for a “light” flight. To find out the cost of a seat, you need to find the hourly rate of the aircraft, the total flight time and how many seats are on board.
For instance, a six-seat jet that’s $5,000 an hour — or $15,000 for a three-hour flight — would cost each seat about $2,500.
While this cost could be much higher or much lower depending on the company, it shows you the difference between flying on a private jet versus a commercial flight. For bookers who prefer first or business class, it might not seem like much of a difference to go on a private jet. But for commercial flyers in economy, this price might seem very high. It depends on the type of flyer you are.
What is a private jet card membership?
Private jet card memberships are services that allow you to access and benefit from your provider’s aircraft. Different companies offer different levels and tiers of membership. For Jettly, the Jet Card membership will cost you almost $1,000 a month.
“The jet card membership opens a secure designated trust account in the member’s name with funds deposited by the member that can be used to charter aircraft anywhere in the world,” Crabbe says.
For near-constant flyers, this might seem like a great perk. But for travelers who fly only a few times a year, this might not be worth the investment.
How do private jet apps work?
A private jet app is similar to a regular flight booking app, where you put in where you’re leaving from, where you’re going and your travel dates and get matched with private jet booking options. You might need to create a login, but this lets you sign up for notifications and deals. Membership isn’t always required, but for some companies, it might get you an additional discount.
You can browse by the type of jet you’d like, how many seats you’d like on the plane and when you plan to depart. When you find your selection, you add your credit card and check out through the app.
What are empty leg deals and how do they work?
Empty leg flights are planes that are leaving a destination without any passengers. These flights are open to everyone, since the jet is set to fly with or without passengers in it. And booking these jets can save you some cash — sometimes up to 75 percent on the cost of a conventional private jet charter, Crabbe says.
Many private jet companies and apps let you search for empty leg flights and sign up for notifications on when one is at an airport near you.
This lets you book a private jet at a fraction of its original cost. But you need to be extremely flexible. For instance, you might get notice of an empty leg flight only 24 to 48 hours before it’s set to leave (although some flights are available a few days from when you search). And you’ll need to find your own way back. Empty leg flights are just that: one leg of the journey.
Can you afford a private jet?
Before you buy or charter a private jet, it’s important to evaluate the factors that influence the full price tag of a jet. Think ahead to the types of trips you want to take and the frequency at which you’ll take them; long trips with many people will likely require a more expensive plane than shorter, infrequent trips. When determining the overall cost of a jet, also make sure to factor in things like fuel, insurance, storage and maintenance.
When considering whether you can afford a private jet, think through these factors:
- How many people will fly: Is your plane for you and a buddy or is it how you plan to travel with your family? The number of people on the aircraft will determine the size of the plane you’ll have to look for. The more people you need to fit into your plane, the costlier it could be compared to a smaller plane fit for a couple of people.
- How often you will fly it: Some planes are good for quick getaways and others are made for longer trips. Take into consideration when you plan to use your plane. If you think that you’ll use it every few months, you might fly a different type of aircraft than someone who flies every weekend.
- Where you want to fly: Are you on the East Coast and hitting the Bahamas? Are you in California and wanting to head up to the Pacific Northwest? Shorter trips mean using an aircraft with a smaller fuel tank. If you’re heading overseas or on a trip with many stops, consider getting a plane with greater fuel capacity.
- If you’re buying new or used: The cost of a brand-new plane might be higher than that of a used plane. However, the model and size of the plane also determine the cost. In general, older planes cost significantly less than newer ones, although keep in mind any additional maintenance, insurance or upkeep costs.
- The number of staff members on board: You will also have to factor in the cost of hiring pilots and flight attendants, whether you’re buying or chartering your jet. According to Aviation Voice, you’ll have to budget upward of $200,000 per year for a skilled crew. You can find a crew through an aircraft management company or through the company chartering your jet.
- How much maintenance you’ll need: In addition to fuel costs and flight crew salaries, you’ll need to budget for regular — and sometimes unexpected — maintenance expenses. A cracked windshield or a mechanical issue can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and that price may be higher for older models. Minor maintenance should be performed regularly, just like with a vehicle.
How to finance a private jet
If you do decide to purchase a private jet, you’ll need to determine how you want to pay for it. Very few people can afford the cost of a jet in full, so it’s possible that you’ll have to borrow money.
With a personal loan, you can borrow money from a bank or credit union to pay for the jet upfront, then repay the loan over time. However, getting a personal loan for a private jet is much more difficult than getting one for a new car. Even the cheapest private jets can cost millions of dollars, and only select lenders will approve a loan for that much money.
If you approach a bank for a private jet loan, make sure that you have a great credit score and a solid financial history. You can also look into getting a secured personal loan, which would require you to put down a valuable asset, such as your home. If you can’t repay your loan, the lender would be able to legally seize your asset.
Some lenders cater specifically to loans for private jet financing, including JetLoan Capital, JetLease Capital and Global Jet Capital. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association also offers an online loan financing calculator to help estimate your monthly payments.
If you’re not quite ready to purchase a private jet, consider leasing, which has many of the same benefits of owning a private jet. Leasing a private jet is similar to leasing a new car, with the option to sign a lease from several months to several years. Most aircraft companies allow you to choose between a few different types of leases:
- Wet lease: The lessor pays for the aircraft itself and at least one crewmember. Wet leases are a more expensive option because of the added cost of paying for a pilot or crewmember services.
- Dry lease: The lessor pays for the aircraft without the cost of a crew but is required to use their own crewmembers. This is a cheaper option if the lessor already has a pilot and crewmember they can hire for flights.
Leasing a private jet is also a great way to test out different aircraft before making the full investment in purchasing one. And because lessors don’t legally own the aircraft, they don’t have to deal with depreciation or reselling the plane if they decide to purchase a new one.
Private jet memberships
Another way to fly on a private jet without having to own one is to invest in a charter flight membership. With these clubs, people pay for a single seat on a plane rather than the entire jet, but it’s still a very pricey option. For example, Wheels Up, a popular jet charter company, charges members between $3,000 and $30,000 to join and $2,500 to $15,000 per year after that to get access to shared flights. Memberships in these clubs come with some advantages, though, including guest passes and discounted deals for an entire family.
Where to buy a private jet
If you’ve decided on owning a plane over chartering one and have figured out the type of plane you want, there are a few places you can browse through selections:
- AeroTrader.com lets you buy or sell aircrafts. Potential buyers can browse by size, location, aircraft condition (new or used), manufacturing year and even price range.
- Controller lets you search for planes by state, manufacturer and aircraft certification. If you’d like, you can search for multiple models at once rather than searching for one model at a time, giving you the option to compare different options at a glance.
While many websites let you browse for planes near you, you can also do a broad search of private jets in your area. Some sellers don’t list their planes on all websites, and you may find more luck reaching out to individual owners through businesses or marketplaces. If you have a specific model in mind, some companies like Gulfstream also advertise pre-owned aircraft on their websites.
The bottom line
Purchasing a private jet is an enormous expense that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if you travel frequently for business or pleasure, it will be decades until the cost of a private jet is less expensive than that of flying commercially. Before making the investment, it’s important to make sure that you can afford not only the upfront costs, but also the long-term expenses associated with gas, crewmembers, insurance and repairs.
If you are going to purchase a private jet, think about getting a personal loan from a reputable bank or explore your options with aircraft-specific lenders. As you would with any loan, shop around and get quotes from multiple providers to ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible.