There’s a big difference between “cheap” and “affordable,” and many first time buyers underestimate the cost disparity. For example, the $500,000 jet with a roomy cabin may need $2,000,000 in upgrades if it’s going to be flying in two years. And of course, it’s always important to be in an aircraft that meets your mission—runway limitations, number of passengers, and range requirements. We’ve identified a few models that we feel comfortable recommending according to their size category.
But before an aspiring private jet owner begins her search, it’s important to understand all the factors that make up an aircraft’s “cost” instead of “price.” The following are the major considerations:
- Operating costs- What is the hourly fuel burn? How many crewmembers do you need and what is the typical salary? What airport has available hangar space and how much does that cost? The day-to-day operating costs of keeping a jet flying are high. It’s important to understand the scope of these expenses with eyes wide open.
- Purchase price- It’s a little easier to compare the purchase price of a private jet than it is to quantify factors such as operating and maintenance costs. However, once you’ve determined which aircraft best fits your needs and budget, it’s good to research the best one for the money.
- Engine life- Engines can be one of the biggest expenses on an aircraft. Many aircraft are on engine maintenance programs where the owner pays a contracted amount per hour flown. This account then funds the inspections and overhauls, as well as any unanticipated service bulletins on the engines. If the engines are not on a program, you can expect to pay anywhere from $200,000 to $1M+ per engine for overhauls. Be sure you understand when those big expenses are due.
- Maintenance requirements- The engine and aircraft manufacturers have established maintenance guidelines that are approved by the various federal aviation authorities (FAA in the US). You’ll need to understand when any major maintenance or inspections will be due for the aircraft so you can budget for those expenses.
- Necessary updates- When regulations are passed that require avionics upgrades, the FAA usually gives several years notice. Be aware of what may be coming up—such as ADS-B out—and what the limitations may be for flights without certain compliances. Aircraft without RVSM, for instance, cannot fly in certain airspace (so between a 30 and 40 thousand foot altitude).
Considering all of these factors, our recommendations regarding the most affordable private jets are as follows:
- The Citation Jet- A legacy Citation Jet could possibly be purchased for as little as $1 million. The Citation Jet is a light jet that is not only fairly inexpensive to purchase, but also has relatively low operating costs.
- The Learjet 60- A mid-sized business jet, the Learjet 60 is a very popular charter jet that can be bought for as low as $2 million. This aircraft burns more fuel than a light jet and requires two pilots. However, it can travel a lot farther than any light jet.
- The Citation X- This is a super-mid jet with an entry price as low as $3.5 million. The Citation X has been voted best in its class and is the fastest private jet available.
- The Legacy 600- This is a large jet that won’t need too much maintenance thanks to the fact that it is a fairly new model. Legacy 600s can be bought for less than $10 million.